Copyright 2016 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
All Rights Reserved
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Mario V. Farina
Email: [email protected]
I’m older than most persons but I’m still employed full-time with a State agency. At the end of their work shift, most co-workers disappear like snowflakes on a hot summer day. I linger at my workplace for several minutes because I don’t like scurrying to the parking garage, then waiting in line as the cars creep down the ramp out to the street. I prefer to leave when the way is clear. Even then, I’ll take a last glance at my work station to make sure the computer has been shut down and papers are put neatly away.
Something happened today that I’d like to tell you about. When four o’clock came, I walked to the door leading out to the street where I work and found that the elevator was ready for use. I work on the first floor and usually take the elevator to the second floor because I don’t like climbing even one flight of stairs. Exercise is not my thing. I avoid it religiously. I feel that any exercise beyond brisk walking is harmful to health.
I entered the elevator, rode to the second floor, and exited there. Then, I began the short walk that led past the nearby convenience restaurant to the enclosed bridge over Fulton Street. I like taking this walk especially when there isn’t anyone around because this is “Think Time.” My thoughts turn to favorite topics like space technology, the nature of numbers, the origin of language, and the like. I don’t enjoy idle chit-chat with others about which team is going to win this or that game. I don’t care for sports.
I was lucky today. There was only one other person ahead of me and she was almost at the far end of the bridge. There were no sounds behind me and I felt my thoughts would probably be uninterrupted. There were large windows on both sides of the narrow bridge, and I was pleased to see that the sun had just emerged from the heavy clouds that had covered the area all day. I was pleased that my short ride home on this mid-July day would not be marred by gloomy weather.
The parking garage was at the other end of the bridge and the Mini Cooper was within easy walking distance. I knew that it took four minutes from my desk to the car. I had timed the trip many times in the past. I also knew how long it would take to drive home. I live a little over a mile from the office. My home is on a pleasant street at the top of a hill. The trip from the garage to home takes about six minutes. The weather doesn’t matter much. I can leave the office at quarter after four and be home in time to enjoy half an hour of Judge Judy on Channel Ten. Tonight wasn’t going to be any different. At least, that’s what I thought.
The garage was nearly empty and I was by myself as I traveled down the short slope that led to the exit. In the past, I had sometimes had to wait at the exit for traffic to clear before I could make a left onto Fourth Street. Tonight I could see cars on the left and right but nothing that would impede my turn. I made the left turn. Now, it was only a short distance to the traffic light on Sage Street. I got into the rightmost lane so that I could make the turn there. Again I was fortunate. The right arrow was lit and I went around while observing the long line of cars waiting at the end of the Greek Island Bridge. To this point, my trip home had not been delayed by anything. This was unusual. It was only a block to the next light. This was at the intersection of Fifth and Sage Streets. Here, traffic is directed in four directions. The wait could be as long as two minutes. As before, I was lucky. The light was green and I breezed through the intersection with ease. There was news on the radio but I wasn’t paying much attention to it.
Next came the steep-half mile uphill climb leading to 15th Street. On Fifteenth, I would have turned right, traveling a couple of blocks to Bouton, turned left, and arrived at Tibbits where my home is located. The light at Fifteenth was green and I would not have had to wait a moment. What fantastic luck! All the lights were going to be green this evening, I thought. “Could it be that there is an invisible hand controlling what is happening?” This momentary thought flashed through my mind. Though I immediately rejected it, I didn’t realize how eerily accurate it would turn out to be.
Curiously, at the intersection, instead of making the right, as I had planned, I drove straight through! “Victor,” I hollered to myself, “why did you do that? How could you have been so stupid?” Now instead of getting home earlier than usual, it was going to be later. I would have to continue on Sage until I reached Burdett, make a right, drive to Tibbits, then make another right. Suddenly amused, I smiled at the way I had scolded myself. There wasn’t anyone who could do this with more fervor than I.
I drove to Burdett and found that the light was green. I wasn’t surprised! Tonight was going to be special. Inexplicably, when I got there, I didn’t make the right as I had planned, but a left! Again, I berated myself. Why was I doing this? Had I lost my mind? Now, I would have to make a U-turn somewhere. Ahead was Samaritan Hospital. I would go into their parking lot, and make the turn, I decided. Well, at least, traffic was light. This wouldn’t take long.
At the entrance to the hospital, I made a left and began driving down the long passageway that led to the Emergency Entrance. Suddenly, without warning, a weird indefinable feeling overcame me. I felt myself becoming lightheaded. “I’m fading,” I said to myself as I lost consciousness. I had passed out. When I came to I found myself in a hospital bed. There was no one else in the room. “How in the world did I get here?” I wondered. I felt fine I was about to rise, when the door opened and a short, thin man, well dressed in a blue striped business suit, entered the room. He was carrying a doctor’s satchel in the old-fashioned tradition. He was wearing a gray hat. “Nobody wears hats anymore,” I thought. I recognized the thin face, with deep, navy-blue eyes. It was a face I hadn’t seen since I was a youngster.
“Dr. Lyons,” I muttered. He smiled. “Yes,” he said. You remember me? I assume you had a pleasant journey getting here.”
“We arranged it that way.”
“We?” I asked. He continued to smile, making no response.
“All those green lights? You did that?” I asked incredulously.
“ ‘Twas no problem,” she said. “How do you feel?”
“Fine,” I said. “But how can you be Dr. Lyons? You look the same as when you used to come to the house fifty years ago!”
“Well, I was your family doctor,” he said with a glint in his eye.”
“You used to come when someone in the family was sick. You took out my tonsils when I was a child – on the kitchen table.”
“Of course! And now, I have to make your final journey, as pleasant as possible.”
“What final journey, Doctor? I don’t need a final anything. I need to go home, if that’s what you mean.”
He came closer. The smile was gone from his face. There was a solemn, purposeful, seriousness instead. “This will be an easy journey,” he said. “Just as your trip here was.” He placed a heavy white cloth over my face. I tried to cast it off, but found that my arms were paralyzed. I tried to protest, but my voice could utter no sounds. Within seconds, I smelled the pungent odor of ether, the same as I had experienced so many years ago on the kitchen table. I felt myself losing consciousness again.
“I’m fading,” I thought for the second time. Without my consent, I had an embarked on a journey I had neither expected nor desired.
I thought about it afterwards. This had been an unearthly experience. In all my years, I had not had any like it. In my musings, I had come to realize that there had been a lesson in it. We, none of us, know when our own Dr. Lyons will guide us on our final journey. It has often been said, and we need to be reminded of it again and again. We should live our lives as if every day were to be our last.
Oh, yes, I forgot to mention. This had all been a dream. Otherwise, how could I have described it to you if it had been anything else?