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Mr Pepo

 

Mr Pepo

By Duncan Leigh

Copyright 2015 Duncan Leigh

Shakespir Edition

Shakespir Edition License Notes

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For Tejinder ‘Tony’ Bhullar and William ‘Bill’ Dunnet

Mr Pepo

Mr Pepo followed the nurse as she waddled along the corridor. And people said he was plump! She had taken him by surprise when she’d called him through; it wasn’t often that he heard his Christian name, the name he had been born with. Even his own mother had called him ‘Jack’, for some reason, and he couldn’t recall being referred to as anything else. He’d wanted to ask her about it but the opportunity hadn’t really presented itself. He hadn’t had that sort of relationship with her anyway. To add to his confusion and disgruntlement, folk always seemed to think he was Irish. He wasn’t. No, he was about as plain, uncharismatic and unlucky as you could get.

Waddle.

Waddle.

She’s going to quack soon, Pepo told himself. An approaching porter moved to the side of the corridor, an anxious look on his face. Would there be room for him to get past? On seeing Pepo, the porter’s expression changed to one of curiosity. How Pepo envied the man. It occurred to him that he had been invisible, eclipsed by the swinging mass of the nurse, until they had drawn level. Pepo knew his appearance was somewhat abnormal, on the one hand, but hopefully that was about to change.

With the porter behind them, the nurse escorted Pepo to a nondescript door. It was identical to all of the other doors Pepo had seen on his short journey – this was a hospital, after all. He knew, however, that beyond this particular door there was perhaps something quite wonderful for him. If the specialist could help. The nurse knocked and waited.

“Hello!” came a cheery voice from inside. The nurse reached for the handle and Pepo continued to hold his breath. As the door eased open, he noted that the nurse’s legs appeared to have been removed and then stuck back on, upside down.

“Mr Pepo,” the nurse stated, simply. She only traded in names. A wiry man leaped out of his chair and thrust his hand out in greeting.

“Gourd!” the wiry man exclaimed boldly, a bit louder than Mr Pepo thought was necessary. It was a small room. “Do come in, do come in. Splendid. Splendid!” Mr Pepo was ushered in. He didn’t know what to do. There was an awkward pause and the nurse took the opportunity to disappear. She had done her job and was free to waddle back to the waiting area, on her upside down legs, where she would prepare to announce somebody else’s name. Then, she would command the corridors again, as she delivered the next customer to another unremarkable door, somewhere else in the hospital maze.

Mr Pepo really was no good in social situations. In fact, this was as close as he’d ever come to one. The surgeon, Gourd, was no such stranger, however, and quickly took control.

“Young man, young man…” he began, his eyes glinting with high intelligence, “Splendid that you’re here. Splendid! What can we do for you?”

Pepo surveyed the room. Like the doors, it was devoid of any appealing or unique features. There was nothing to say that Gourd was its regular inhabitant. A renowned surgeon, he probably travelled from hospital to hospital, city to city, so that he could jump around and shout in small rooms like this one. Each room would be unmemorable in its own clinical way.

“Mmmm…” Gourd continued. He had picked up Pepo’s file and was scanning it at speed. I bet he’s got a Porsche in the car park, Pepo decided. “Mmmmmmmmm…”

Such gravitas.

Pepo knew that he was a ‘Mister’ – the waddling duck had said so – but what was Gourd? Surgeons all seemed to be called ‘Mr’ as well but they were doctors, surely? Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been allowed to cut people’s heads open, would they? Pepo wasn’t familiar with the customs and etiquette of the medical profession and didn’t want to appear rude. He didn’t know how to address the surgeon. So Pepo just sat there. With a clap, the file snapped shut. Clearly, Gourd’s vast brain had already processed and grown tired of the contents.

“All very straightforward, my dear fellow, all very straightforward. Yes, I’ve done plenty of these.” Gourd eyed Mr Pepo curiously, before suddenly lunging towards him again. Pepo braced himself. He stared intently at Pepo’s scalp and appeared to hop from one foot to the other, as though the floor was hot sand. “Now, normally, we’d shave this area first.” He tapped Pepo with his finger and traced a line across the top of his head. There was not a single hair on Pepo’s whole body. This, he liked to think, was because he had evolved further than most. Gourd waved his hand and added, nonchalantly, “In your case, we might not have to bother.” Pepo sat proudly, observing that the surgeon himself was somewhat hirsute, if his forearms were much to go by.

“An incision would be made from here…” Gourd almost sang as he danced. “… to here.”

It was impossible to gauge his age. He certainly had a Peter Pan quality about him but the propinquity of doctor and patient at that moment permitted Pepo to make out some faint weathering on the lively face: furrows, laughter lines, crow’s feet. He probably had a taste for the finer things in life and, although there were no bags under his eyes, Pepo imagined that the surgeon hardly slept. It was gym sessions before work and tennis matches with pals after. On Friday afternoons, he probably enjoyed a round of golf with his fellow consultants. In spite of these exertions, he was still able to inspire his team and maintain a steady hand on the knife. Well, Pepo had lines too, all over, but he hadn’t exactly lived his life to the full. The mantra ‘work hard, play hard’ did not apply to him. Seeing those bright eyes and slightly manic grin at such close quarters, he gave in to the jealousy once more. Sensing something, the surgeon said, “Don’t worry, my dear fellow; we’ll put you out for this one. You will be fast asleep and won’t be aware of a thing; we’ve some super drugs these days, you see.”

Ah, what I wouldn’t give now for a good kip, Pepo reflected. It had already been a long day and the anticipation of the hospital visit had grown out of all control, keeping him awake for what seemed like countless nights. Although he didn’t show it, he had never been so excited or expectant before. The hope had definitely got the better of him.

“Of course, to give you what you want, there will have to be a compromise.”

Here we go, thought Pepo. He had heard the word ‘compromise’ before, back in his youth. When he’d still been a bit green. He had been faced with the dilemma of staying put, with his so-called ‘family’, or cutting free and finding a new patch. Security and boredom versus exhilaration and fear of the unknown. For a rare split second, the surgeon stood, motionless, with an eyebrow raised. Like a critical, expectant schoolteacher, he was trying to see Pepo’s very insides and workings. He would have to bide his time for that. There was no response from his customer, so he cleared his throat primly and resumed.

“To start with, when we wake you up you might feel a bit groggy. You will certainly feel rather lightheaded. There will be pain, too, once the anesthetic wears off. We can help you to manage this, however, and it will soon pass, I assure you.”

Sounds OK, so far.

“Some of the softer tissues will have to go; we’ll need the space to carry out the full procedure.”

No problem, I’ve tissues to spare. Pepo allowed himself an ounce of smugness.

“Yes, you’re going to weigh a bit less afterwards. Some of my customers see this as a bit of a bonus!” The grin and twinkly eyes were back. “On the down side, you will lose a degree of sensation. Imagine pins and needles or numbness. Over time, though, the feeling will come back. Those little nerves take a short while to sort themselves out.”

Is it those eyes, the rapid talk, the wit or his sheer energy? Pepo couldn’t be sure, but he was starting to like this surgeon.

“We’ll be getting you up and about as soon as we can, which will also take your mind off things. Gone are the days when you could just lie about, you know, doing word searches and eating grapes. Ha!”

Pepo hadn’t done a word search in his life. As for eating grapes, well…

Perhaps my enthusiasm for this doctor has been a bit premature.

Gourd continued, oblivious, “Now, when you first see yourself, you will look a bit different and possibly not quite how you were expecting. The new you might take a bit of getting used to…”

Well, the old me took a bit of getting used to, too.

“You strike me as a patient man, Mr Pepo; I’m sure you won’t rush things.”

You’re right there, doc.

“I am very confident that your quality of life will be hugely improved, sir, hugely improved. This will be, er, fruitful for you. Fruitful! Might I add that the risk of patients picking up any infections from my clinics is very, very small.”

That’s nice to hear.

“Splendid!”

Such a fine man.

Q

The wait nearly did for him. In the weeks following the hospital meeting, the anticipation had continued to build inside Mr Pepo. At one point, he thought he was going to burst; he simply couldn’t wait any longer. Thankfully, the big day did eventually arrive and, when it did, it dawned bright, warm and clear. It was the kind of day that filled the body with energy, the kind of day that led to growth and greatness. He would soon be meeting a destiny, to his mind one that was well-deserved and long-overdue, and it was so close now that he could almost touch it. The day was just a pup, but by the end of it he would be born again. At last, the waiting was over.

Pepo rolled into the hospital, as if in a dream. His arrival was processed and he was forwarded swiftly to the next stage. The hospital was a machine. Countless others had come before him and more would follow, all of them filled with the same hope, expectation and fear. He didn’t care about them; this was his time. Those well-oiled factory gears and linkages were running, in that instant, just for him. He had taken his place on the conveyor belt and, as it dragged him deftly forward, Mr Pepo pondered his fate. It was going to be a good result, he knew it. Finally, he was going to be complete. Even if he found himself in a wheelchair for a spell, he would not be leaving as a vegetable. That was for sure.

Q

“Good morning, Mr Pepo.” said the first white robe.

“Good morning!” echoed the second.

“We’ve got some super drugs for you today, Mr Pepo.”

“Some super drugs!”

A third robe breezed into the room and, before it spoke, Pepo identified it as Gourd. Those forested forearms were a dead giveaway. The eyes sparkled between the crisp hat and mask. “Mr Pepo. Mr Pepo! Splendid to see you again. Splendid!”

Gourd was upon him in a flash, scanning his patient for any possible last-minute drama. He simply adored last-minute drama. Yes, they gave him the chance to show his mettle and prove his worth as a surgeon but, actually, they just made the job that bit more interesting. Pepo was in good shape, Gourd had to admit. The better weather had clearly done this particular customer some good, his time outdoors had left him bronzed and turgid, and the prospects were very promising. In his professional opinion.

Squeak.

Squeak.

The feeling of the marker pen scratching and pulling at his skin was new for Pepo.

This is just the beginning.

The anaesthetists gazed at each other across the bed, their heads tilted slightly. They also had twinkly eyes, all of a sudden.

My time has nearly come.

“There! All set.” Gourd took a step back. “Splendid. Splendid!”

Pepo found himself looking up at the ceiling. The hospital’s strip lights seemed impossibly white, cold and quite unlike anything he was used to. He liked the textured finish to the tiles, though he wasn’t too struck by their sharp squareness.

“I’ll see you on the other side, Mr Pepo.”

Cheerio, Doc.

“A small scratch coming, Mr Pepo!”

“Just a small scratch!”

Pepo was vaguely aware of a distant sensation He kept on looking at the ceiling.

“Flushing through.”

“Flushing through!”

Pepo suddenly felt an icy wave passing through his body. It was not an entirely pleasant feeling, but he assumed it was necessary.

“Right, Mr Pepo, we’re ready to put you to sleep now.”

“Time for sleepy byes!”

I am ready, gentlemen.

“Can you count backwards from 10 for me please, Mr Pepo?”

“Count down, Mr Pepo!”

The ceiling tiles were devoured by a darkness from each side. The cold white narrowed into a thin strip and then disappeared altogether. Mr Pepo went under.

“Mr Pepo?”

“Mr Pepo?”

The anaesthetists gazed at each other once more. In unison, their heads tilted to one side, they paused, and turned away from the bed

Q

Life was good for Mr Pepo. Gourd had been right, of course, about the pain and transition. Boy, it had been worth it though. Why didn’t I do it sooner? Mr Pepo asked himself. At the same time, he knew that the ages of loneliness and inconspicuousness had all been part of his long journey. Would he have appreciated his new start had he not suffered? You’ve got to endure the rough to enjoy the smooth.

He certainly didn’t feel lonely anymore. Where folk had previously walked on, or not seen him at all, they now stopped and stared. They would point and smile. Some frowned and grimaced. In their excitement, people would talk about Mr Pepo as though he couldn’t hear their words, as though he were on the other side of thick glass. He didn’t care. In fact, he savored every single comment. Better to be remembered for something bad than not to be remembered at all. So taken were they by his new features that a few, children normally, even tried to copy him. All of this attention had taken a bit of getting used to but he was being noticed, for the first time in his otherwise uneventful, lackluster life, and he was determined to make the most of it. Just look what I’ve been missing.

Q

Mr Pepo sat out under the stars. It was a chilly night but there were plenty of people out and about and the cold was not about to dampen the smile on his face. His eyes twinkled – no, they burned – into the darkness and, without fail, passersby continued to gaze and marvel at him.

“Look Daddy, look!” said a girl in a pointy hat. “This one is my absolute favourite.”

She ran up to Mr Pepo, crouched down and waved in his face. She grinned widely, showing him all of her teeth – and some impressive gaps – in what Mr Pepo took to be an act of solidarity.

“Oh Daddy, he’s the best!”

“Yes,” said the father, “somebody’s done a good job on him!”

Mr Pepo shone. Thank you Dr Gourd.

And he was a doctor. There was no doubt about it now.

The girl waved again and stood up. Because she was so close to him, all Mr Pepo could see were her shiny black shoes. They stepped round him and vanished from his sight. A few seconds later, there was a knocking sound and, in the ensuing silence, Mr Pepo heard the girl giggle.

With a click and a swoosh, the door opened.

“Trick or treat?” the girl enquired.

Q


Mr Pepo

  • Author: Duncan Leigh
  • Published: 2015-12-28 23:20:06
  • Words: 2799
Mr Pepo Mr Pepo