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The Doctor is Waiting
The streets were still wet from the rains. The air was heavy with the hot, dank feeling that follows a summer rainstorm. It was not a rain that would cool the night. No, the night would be hotter for the dampness that filled the air. The bus screeched to a stop, the door opened and a man with white hair stepped to the curb. He extended a hand to his wife and helped her down from the bus. The door closed and the bus continued on without comment or parting salutation, empty save for the driver. The man's wife bent as she stood on the curb, holding the bus-stop sign for balance. The man stood by her, holding her, comforting her. “Come, Etta, the doctor is waiting.” The wife slowly nodded and began to walk, still holding onto the man's arm. She had trouble keeping food down for the past two nights. She hadn't slept in that time. They had put off calling the doctor, they wanted to be able to pay him rather than beg for terms, but Etta was ill and it was time for the doctor. On the phone, the doctor was nice; he said he would be waiting, to come immediately. It might have been the last bus, the man thought, it was that late. The doctor's house was three blocks from the bus stop. He dreaded those three blocks. The first was not bad, nor the last, but the one in the middle was ill-lit and uncertain; they girded themselves to walk as quickly as possible through the dark 1
The Doctor is Waiting street to the doctor's door. “Raymond,” said the man's wife, “I have a bad feeling about this.” “Don't be like that, it's just indigestion, something you ate that was bad. I'm sure he'll smile and give you a prescription for something and that will be that. He'll have a sample of some cure that'll put you right as rain.” “I hope you're right,” she whispered. “You know, I'm right, dear,” comforted Raymond. “Hold it right there!” came a harsh voice from the shadows. A man in a hooded sweater stepped from the alcove of one of the houses onto the sidewalk and in front of them. He was holding a pistol. The sight of it made Raymond's stomach queasy; Etta gasped and clung to her husband's arm as he tried to appease the robber. “We have no money, only bus fare back to home, if there is a bus. We are going to the doctor's office. I was going to write him a check, so I have no cash. I could write you a check, but it won't be for much.” “Don't be funny,” said the man with the gun. He took a step forward, putting the gun into Etta's face. “You have something of value: rings, watch, something. Otherwise, say your goodbyes now.” As the man raised the gun, pointed directly at Etta's face, he began to cough. He coughed and convulsed, loosing focus. Raymond felt something snap inside of him and he reached out, striking the man on the face and taking the gun from his hand. To his surprise, the man dropped to the pavement unconscious. Raymond stood over the man, still holding the pistol, in shock, not knowing what to do. “Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!” Another man stepped from the shadows of the alley next to the building where they stood. He was a younger man, strangely dressed. He was clapping his hands with a slow and measured pace, looking rather pleased at what had just happened. 2
The Doctor is Waiting Raymond and Etta move closer to each other as if to form a united front against the man. The pistol in Raymond's hand was forgotten in the surprise of the moment. “What do you want? You already heard, we have no money.” “No, I don't want money, and I'm not here to hurt you. In fact, I have been waiting a long time for this opportunity. I know you're not going to believe what I am about to tell you, but it is the truth.” Raymond looked back over his shoulder to the street beyond, the doctor's house stood out from the others with the lights burning in the lower windows. He looked back to the young man. “I am from the future, 26 years, in fact. I am a student. It has been a year that I have waited for this chance, the chance to see an event that shaped my very life. You see, I'm your son.” Etta and Raymond looked at each other, disbelieving that they were even standing there hearing this. They had tried for children, but none came. Now that they had given up and reconciled themselves to be childless. The possibility that this could be their son was more unbelievable than being from the future. “Yes, I know, you don't believe me. But it's true. Time travel is only one of the many things that became possible as I was getting an education. How often I heard of the night that you brought my mother to the doctor only to find that she had morning sickness, that she was pregnant – with me.” The young man smiled broadly. He took another step forward and the light showed that he was wearing a one-piece suit that was silver from head to toe. In his hand he held a head covering with a removable face-plate of fabric-like material that appeared to be see-through, like soft glass. “The reward money for the criminal you caught was more than enough to cover all the costs of my birth and to raise your standard of living, so you see, tonight was a very important night for all of us. I wanted to witness it, and it took me more than a year to get onto the list for such a trip. I can't believe I'm actually here. This is wonderful. Mother! Father!” 3
The Doctor is Waiting The young man stepped forward, arms wide open to embrace the couple. He put his arms around the frightened and surprised couple, squeezing them lovingly. Then his composure changed. He drew back from them and as he did, he took the pistol from Raymond's hand. Stepping back, the look on his face turned more sinister. “Pretty good, taking advantage of his illness to knock him out and take his gun. It was a story I heard over and over. It would have been easy to rob you, but for that, and it ruined my life.” “What? I'm confused, but what you said,” Raymond pulled Etta behind him, hoping to shield her from the young man who was now holding the pistol. “Oh, I'm from the future, all right, and it took me a long time to get this trip, but I'm not your son,” said the young man, with an evil snarl, “I'm his.” The young man pointed to the unconscious man on the sidewalk, still holding the gun on the couple. “I don't understand,” cried Raymond. “I was conceived this very night, just after my father returned home and just before the police arrived to arrest him. You called the police and gave them a description of the man who tried to rob you. Because of you I grew up without a father, he was in jail. I've traveled back in time to make sure you never make that call.” The man on the pavement stirred, waking up. “All we did was to save ourselves from an armed robber,” said Raymond. “My father!” cried the young man, raising his voice, his eyes wild. “But we only wanted to save ourselves, the police asked for a description, we were fearful he would come after us.” “And now I have come after you. You took my father from me before I was even born.” The young man's father began coughing again, caught in a wild fit that sounded like it would end him. 4
The Doctor is Waiting The young man was distracted and reached a hand to him, but also began to cough. Raymond stepped forward to take the gun from the young man's hand. He stepped back and held the pistol on the two men. “It seems you have inherited your father's susceptibility to the damp night air,” said Raymond. “You won't kill me,” the young man said, “only moments ago you hugged me as your own son.” “You're right,” said Raymond, “I have too much compassion to kill you. But I also have my wife to think of.” Without hesitation, Raymond turned the gun to the man huddled on the ground and pulled the trigger. “No!” cried the young man, throwing his arms around his father. The man slumped in the arms of his son and fell limp. The young man looked up at the older couple with surprise and disbelief. “You've killed him, you've killed my father!” But the voice grew thin, the young man began to fade, he became pale and paler still until there was nothing left at all but a man slumped on the ground. Raymond put the pistol next to the man on the ground and put an arm around his wife. Together, they began walking toward the light of the house in the next block. “Come, Etta, the doctor is waiting.”
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