Ticking my finger against a page, tick-tick… the clock follows. I count the heads of sick bodies massing around me, “One,” I point and say, “two, three,” all the while jabbing at them with my finger.

“Six,” I count.

I jab the finger at myself and click my thumb back like on a pistol, shooting, “Head seven.”

And without an appointment, who knows how many sick heads will come and go and come and — and I’ll be waiting, sicker still.

Inside my head are rolling dice, rattling out the outcome for my mind’s next gamble: snake eyes.

“Goddamn that bitch, that boss, that house, that dog, this life, this wait…”

Stop. Stop. Stop.

Breathe… 1, 2, 3, 4… 1, 2, 3…

The dice seem stiller.

I close my eyes thinking, happy, happy, happy…

Head 2 is called in, “Miss Duczowksa, the doctor will see you now.”

Her eyes glint a flicker of dying fire.

Are mine extinguished?

I feel the dice jiggle.

Happy thought, happy thoughts… I whisper a breath.

Head 4 looks at me sickly.

Her eyes burn and illuminate mine.

Well, you’re no better, mine say.

Waiting, I feel like young, muscled meat being chewed and chewed and never fully swallowed. This waiting is making my dice roll.

I can hear the dice of the other sick heads too, rolling and rattling and hitting hollows walls. When they come out, the dice are silent.

The doctor will see you now.

The doctor will see you now.

The doctor will see you now.

I hear over and over as the sick heads walk in and out and in and sick and out and cured and —

“The doctor will see you now, RALPH FOLSTER!” a woman nearly screams.

I open my eyes and look at an irritated woman standing before me, her hands at her hips.

“The doctor will see you now,” she says again, very calmly.

“Ooh,” I squeak, then stand and look at empty chairs.

I look outside; the sun is gone and the snow is thick.

The woman turns viscously and I follow slowly.

I follow her into a room: very simple and smelling of alcohol… rubbing, that is, although I wish it were the other.

The doctor is a younger woman and enters shortly, sweeping her forehead of shoulder-length hair.

At any other time her hair would be in a bun, I know.

But it’s late now, and I’m her last patient.

“Is it really bad today?” the very familiar voice asks me.

“Pretty bad,” I say.

“It might not get better.”

“I know.”

“It’s going to come down even harder tomorrow,” she says, handing me a cup of coffee.

“I heard.”

“So I’ll see you then,” she says.

“I guess so.”

As I zip my jacket and turn to leave, I nearly forget, “Hey Sis. For Christmas, tell the family I’m in Florida.”

“I always do,” Doctor Folster says, wiping away a tear.

Jim Reine writes in Toronto.

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Every Day Fiction