A long wait


<Editor’s Note: Columnist Ben R. Williams recently visited the doctor to get his foot examined after injuring it while getting out of bed wrong doing something heroic. After more than an hour spent waiting in the examining room, Williams stretched out on the examination table to take a nap, whereupon he spied a small piece of yellowed paper sticking out of a crack in the wall. The letter that he found, which is dated Feb. 20, 1920, is printed below in its entirety.>

My dearest Margaret,

I summon the last of my strength to write you this letter, which, out of necessity, I have been forced to scrawl on an advertisement for Lord Affordable’s Digestive Biscuits that I tore from the pages of a Sears and Roebuck catalogue. I hope that this letter does not find you in low spirits, lower even than the remarkably low price of these digestive biscuits, which apparently cost just three cents per pallet due to their high sawdust content.

Perhaps you wonder where I have been these last few days. My woes began when, while at work, my employer Mr. Bagarius pushed me down a flight of stairs. This is his way of establishing a rapport with employees, and he has pushed me down the stairs many a time, laughing heartily all the while, only this time I landed strangely and injured my foot. Mr. Bagarius informed me that he would be forced to dock my pay should he be inconvenienced by watching me limp about the office, and so I sent a wire to the nearest orthopaedist to request a full examination. I received a telegraph in return informing me that I could arrive at 10 a.m. for my appointment.

After arriving a full 30 minutes early, I was ushered into the examining room and informed by a nurse that a Dr. Godeau would be arriving within moments. I thanked her for her kindness and proceeded to thumb through a copy of “Flickershow Follies,” which is my favorite periodical concerning the goings-on in Hollywoodland. I found myself totally immersed in the articles within, including a fascinating piece about the slapstick stylings of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (will his star ever stop rising?).

Shortly after I finished the final article, a ludicrous piece positing a future in which films “talk” to the audience (yet further evidence of the dumbing down of the cinema), I happened to glance at the clock upon the wall. I was startled to discover that it was nearly noon, and almost two full hours had passed without sign of the doctor.

I stepped into the hallway and considered walking to the front desk to inquire about the doctor’s whereabouts, yet I was struck by two fears, the first being that my questioning would only irritate the nurses and they would prolong my wait out of retaliation, the second being that the doctor would coincidentally enter the room as soon as I stepped away. The only safe course of action, I wagered, would be to continue waiting quietly.

Having read the lone periodical in the examining room, I began reading the labels on the bottles of pills and tonics lining the room’s shelves. It proved a fine way to kill an additional half hour, yet once a man has read the back of one bottle of Dr. Winthrop’s Opium Toothdrops for Children, he has read them all.

Next, I discovered a jar of leeches in the cupboard, and I decided to pass the time by naming them. Two hours later, Dr. Godeau still had not arrived, yet I had managed to stage a quite impressive all-leech production of Hauerbach’s musical comedy “The Fascinating Widow.”

Eventually, I had to face the facts: I had been forgotten, and the doctor was not coming. I realized this shortly after 5 p.m. when I ventured out of the examining room and discovered the building was dark and the front door had been locked from the outside.

It is shortly after 8 p.m. as I write this, dearest Margaret, and I fear I will not make it to sunrise. I skipped breakfast this morning and I suspect I shall die of starvation. I have already eaten my shoes, my wallet, and my belt. The lucky club sandwich I carry in my pocket remains safe, but I cannot say for how long.

Please know, beloved Margaret, that in my final moments, I thought only of you. Know too that I died without regrets. Except for the regret of coming to this doctor’s office. That one does sting a bit.


Eustis Colquhoun

more recommended stories