Hiram glanced around the unadorned waiting room. Yeah, these rooms all look the same, smell the same. He wouldn't be here now if he hadn't put his name on the prayer list in Sunday School several weeks back. Just his luck, Dr. Charles Moss had been there that day and not out playing eighteen holes.
He and Charles Moss went way back. Back to high school, back to “Chuck” and long before Doctor. Just like Chuck to read something into the fatigue and hoarseness. Chuck needed a patient more than he needed a doctor. They both were well into their seventies, so what's the big deal?
Hiram's pacing the floor had his heart fluttering and his hands sweating. Chuck had called him last night. Got to go over the test results. Just like a doctor. Get you in the office, run up the bill, pay for the country club membership.
“Come on back, Hiram.” Tall and lean with bleached-white teeth, silver hair and dark tan, Dr. Charles Moss was an impressive figure.
“How much is this gonna' cost me? Aren't you rich enough yet, Chuck?” Hiram couldn't help teasing his old friend a bit. But, he knew just how dedicated he really was. He had witnessed it first-hand seven years ago when Gayle had her first heart attack and everyday for two years as they tried unsuccessfully to keep Gayle alive.
“No retort? Man, Chuck, you're beginning to scare me a little.”
“It's not good news, Hiram.”
Neither man spoke for a minute. By now Hiram was seated in the well-worn leather chair across the desk from Chuck.
Hiram shivered a little. “What is it about doctors' offices being as cold as a meat locker? Something they teach you in medical school?”
“Hiram... it's cancer. Esophageal cancer. You've had it awhile. It's causing the weight loss, fatigue, hoarseness. My professional opinion... it's stage two. I've made you an appointment with...”
“No. No specialists, no chemo, no radiation, no feeding tubes, no wasting away fighting a losing battle. I won't do it.”
“Didn't expect to live forever, not here anyway. I've outlived my wife and most of our friends, lived to see my kids grown.”
“There are treatments that can buy you some time, Hiram. Don't make a rash decision. You need to see this through. If it were me...”
“It's not you. It's me. My decision, my body. I won't become an invalid for my children to take care of. I won't. I know where I'm going, Chuck. Been missing Gayle a lot anyway. So, that's it. How long?”
“Without treatment...a year, at the most. With treatment, you have a chance to extend it to five.”
“Thank you, Chuck. In spite of it all, I know this couldn't have been easy for you. It'll be alright. God knows what He's doing.”
“God gave us medical knowledge, too, Hiram.”
Hiram started up his dirt drive before he noticed Brooke's red Jeep in the driveway. She was sitting on the front-porch steps waiting on him. His curly-haired, eighteen year old granddaughter was the light of his life.
“Brooke, sweetheart...what is it? What's wrong?”
“Papa, I'm in trouble. You're gonna hate me. How could I be so stupid? Oh, God...”
Hiram sat down beside her and put his arm around her trembling shoulders. “Nothing will ever make me hate you. We'll get through it together, whatever it is. Talk to me.”
“Benny robbed Booker's gas station! I didn't know he was...I was in the truck, Papa! We were supposed to be goin' to the movies. He's no good just like you told me! I'm so sorry. I got out and ran. The police think I'm involved! Papa. I'm so scared...I don't want to go to jail!”
Hiram held her. “It's okay, Brooke. We'll work this out. I'm gonna call my attorney and then we'll go down to police headquarters. You're gonna tell them the whole story, the truth.”
“What if they don't believe me? Will they arrest me? Please, don't leave me, Papa!”
“We have to make sure they believe you. If not, then a jury will have to. These things take time, Brooke. The wheels of justice move slowly sometimes but, in the end...”
This is going to take more than a year. I'll have to call Chuck.
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