Suite 27: Drs. Metcalf, Pulaski, and Kumar

He shifts in his seat which causes the rest of the chairs in the row to shift as well. The fifteen year-old girl with the swollen belly glares at him from the end chair, lifts herself with exaggerated effort, limps across the room and thunks down into the empty row of chairs that butts up against the opposite wall. She licks her lips, but it is less of a come on and more of a child investigating its body.

He used to like going to the doctor. Sure the nurse pinched his nose and the pediatrician injected a variety of viruses trying to prevent infection, but Dr. Allen's daughter had painted a large undersea mural across the waiting room walls. Kelp and an octopus mingled together in stencil. Later they installed a small aquarium of goldfish. He raced cars around a miniature track with kids with chicken pox; kids with poison ivy; kids with hives; kids with eczema.

The thought of it makes him itch all over. The thought of it makes him itch in certain uncomfortable places he's trying hard not to think about. There is no mural in this office. A fresh layer of industrial white paint coats the walls. The muzaak falls silent and the nurse neglects to restart it. The chairs link together in an attempt to prevent theft. And there are no Hot Wheels.

There is one magazine in the office, a shredded copy of Reader's Digest. Also there is a Bible lounging on the seat two away from him. He grabs it and opens to a verse, then becomes distracted by the thin line of dirt underneath his thumbnail. He uses the vinyl corner of the cover to dig out the scum.

He shifts again and without the girl's weight to anchor the other end, the row pops up in a wave. He jumps up at the metallic sound that reverberates off the white walls. The door is even painted white. The whole room looks as if they are trying to cover up one big stain. He stares at the five walls, which in turn glare blankly back at him. They smelled chemical, not fresh and earthy like the tempera Dr. Allen's daughter used.

A loose pen rests above the sign-in clipboard. He eyes it wondering if the cheap paint will hold its ink. He walks to the clipboard, yanks the generic blue ballpoint out of the clip, and walks back to his seat. Making sure that no one is looking, or at least paying attention, he twists his body around and cocks the pen against the white. The ink comes out fluidly against the flat wall. He etches up and down, the absence of symphonic Billy Joel humming in his ears. He executes his masterpiece with a violence Pollock never imagined. An octopus becomes a spiral of ink, sea horses a repeated pattern of sharp lines.

He doesn't hear them call his name. He continues to work diligently trying to recapture Dr. Allen's mural, stabbing the wall with the pen. He doesn't realize they are watching him, until he hears the nurse's chirpy voice deadpan, "Looks like we're gonna need some more paint."

About the author:

April Bozada-Armstrong is not very clever.