Bemoaning an appointment, Billy joined his mother in the study, sat down and put his head on the desk. The mantle clock gonged half past the hour.
“Billy, don’t you think it’s time to go?” his mother asked, setting her knitting aside. “You only have twenty minutes.”
“Yes, mother. So, you’re really not going with me?” he questioned.
“No, son, you can do this on your own.”
Billy stood, walked to his mother and gave her a soft peck on the cheek. He went to the foyer and grabbed a jacket. With a heavy sigh, Billy swung open the large door and embarked on a dreaded journey.
“You’ll be fine,” his mother called from her perch beside the fire.
“Billy Waters…” called a friendly voice.
Absorbed in a story, Billy glanced from a Highlights magazine and blew out a breath. Pushing to his feet, he joined the smiling nurse.
“Good morning, Billy. How are you today?”
“A bit nervous.”
“Right this way,” she motioned, to an awaiting scale. “Step up here, please.”
She jotted a note, and turned with Billy in tow. She marched down a hallway and with a grand gesture announced, “You’ll be in exam room 6.”
Billy hopped up on the bed, white paper crinkling under his weight. The nurse slapped a blood pressure cuff on his arm and took his temperature.
“Normal,” she commented. “Billy, what brings you in here today?”
Billy cleared his throat and waited for the nurse to plop down in a chair, facing a monitor.
“Mother says I need an inoc…an inocah…”
“An inoculation?” she helped.
“Thanks. I never could say that word. Yes. Mother wants me to get a flu shot.”
She typed in more information. Billy noticed the tapping keys reminded him of popcorn popping at the circus. He found himself daydreaming about the Big Top; even the clowns were less frightening than being stuck by large needles.
“You have a very wise mother.”
Billy jerked to attention. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”
“Your mother is a very wise woman,” she said peering over her monitor. “Do you have any concerns?”
“Well…yes. I’m scared of needles. In fact, this is the first time mother hasn’t come to hold my hand. She told me this morning that it was time that I do this on my own.”
Wringing his hands, Billy slipped to the floor and paced.
“This really does make you nervous, doesn’t it?” the nurse asked, typing in another notation.
“Yes,” Billy’s voice croaked.
The nurse stood and placed a reassuring hand on Billy’s arm. “If you want, you can hold my hand as the doctor administers the vaccination.”
“I’d like that,” he said, forcing a smile. “But I thought nurses gave the shots.”
“Usually…but I think in this situation, the doctor will make an exception. Now, get back on the exam table,” she directed. “I’ll let the doctor know we’re ready.”
The nurse slipped from the room momentarily and returned with a white-frocked physician toting a small tray.
“I hear we don’t like shots,” she said.
“Billy, don’t worry… me either. That means I’ll make it as quick and painless as possible. Does that sound good to you?”
“Yes,” he nodded.
“Are you ready?” the doctor asked.
Billy reached into his back pocket and retrieved a sleeping mask and strapped it on his head, covering his eyes.
“I don’t want to have any idea when you’re going to stick me,” he explained.
The doctor stifled a snicker. “Before I give this, I need to verify your date of birth.”
“June 3, 1971.”
The doctor prepped Billy’s arm with a swab.
“Hey, that wasn’t bad,” he announced.
“That was the alcohol,” the doctor informed.
“Oh,” he moaned.
The nurse grabbed Billy’s hand. He grimaced. In seconds, it was over. Billy ripped the mask off and stole a peek. Staunching the blood flow, the nurse pressed a cotton ball over the spot and reached for a band-aid.
“Wait,” Billy said. “How about a Sponge Bob Band-Aid? The kids will get a kick out of it.”
“Sure thing, Mr. Waters. How are the wife and kids, anyway?” the nurse asked.
“Suckers?” she inquired reaching into a wide-mouthed jar.
“Better make it four…all grape. And thanks...to both of you.”
“You’re welcome,” the doctor responded. “See you next year.”
Waving over his shoulder, he admired Sponge Bob one more time. “Yep, mother’s already penciled it in.”
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