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Wednesday, June 8th 2005

Refill: A Short Short Story

At the end of the day there are a dozen messages to be sorted through. As if the days in clinic don’t try your stamina enough.

You flip through them looking for the one’s you can ignore until tomorrow or the next day or a week from now when they’ll call back angry. You thank God they can’t see you roll your eyes (and you understand why video phones never took off).

Five messages in is the one you really want to ignore. You stop at it though. Mr. Jones has dropped his pain killers down the sink. You would go grab his chart or call the pharmacy but you know he’s weeks from his next scheduled refill.

Two weeks ago Angela told him to bring in a police report if he wanted a refill, after he claimed his pills were stolen out of his car. Kind of amusing. Kind of sad.

There’s no use grabbing the doc. Mr. Jones doesn’t want the surgery, and the decision has dropped him well down the priority list. You, however, can’t personally fault anyone for not wanting to go under the knife.

You could call him back now. He knows he can’t have the drugs early but he still gets angry. You could call him though, with the best intentions. You could run through a list of rehab treatment programs and pain management specialists.

“Goddamnit, can’t you just give me the peels?” You can hear him draw out the i, like he was educated in the backwoods. That wouldn’t surprise you so much, and you chastise yourself for thinking that. “I can’t make it another week and a half!”

You’ve never seen him in here with any family and his emergency contact’s relationship is “co-worker,” scribbled in almost childish letters on his chart. Even if there’s someone close to him, you can’t tell them your suspicions. You pray there is someone anyhow and that they’re starting to notice.

Life would be easier, for you at least, if you would just call in the prescription. Then when you came into work tomorrow there wouldn’t be a new message from Mr. Jones waiting for you.
Angela pops her head in to tell you she’s leaving for the night. You ponder chasing her down the hall and asking her to tell Mr. Jones he can’t refill his meds yet.

You strum your fingers and stare at the phone instead. You’re not fearful of the call. Not really. You’re ashamed you decide. You’re ashamed you can’t help him. Isn’t that the reason you got into this profession in the first place?

You pull some rehab clinic brochures from a drawer. You try to imagine Mr. Jones smiling like the people on these things. And surprisingly, you can. The man has perfect teeth you remember.

You pick up the phone and return the call. You’re calling with the best of intentions.