Slipping Away


When the front door opened the suitcases were prominent – sitting there – mocking him. Bright red, shiny, defiant.

The happenings over the last few weeks had caused Dr Doug to lose track of some events, but a trip to anywhere was not on any of his mental lists. The penny dropped – my wife is leaving me.

It was the final kick in the guts.

Every sentence needs a full stop.

It was worth a try, “Are you spending a few days with your mother. Do you want me to drive you?” Dr Doug was projecting his voice into his cavernous mansion. He didn’t remember ever wanting a mansion, but now he had one and a mortgage that could flatten a small city.

“No Doug, I’m leaving you. You can have the house. I’ll take the beach shack and the Merc. You’re a disappointment, Doug. I had a plan for my life and I thought you were a part of that, but apparently not. We are getting a divorce and don’t think about contesting it; my family will eat you alive.”

“Do I get a turn?”

“What’s the point. What could you possibly say? It’s over Doug.”

Dr Doug’s wife picked up her shiny red suitcases as though they were feather pillows.

That gym membership is working, thought Dr Doug.

The bags went into the Merc and she was gone.

Dr Doug was still standing in the hallway –- moving seemed like a waste of time.

It got dark and an indeterminant amount of time had elapsed. By now he had made it as far as the three seater leather lounge. He stopped along the way to collect the bottle of scotch from the sideboard — no need for glasses, drink out of the bottle. Glenmorangie goes down smoothly. Half a bottle and he no longer cared about his fatuous wife or the mortgage, or he’s dwindling business. Sleep was close at hand, but before then there was a feeling like despair.

When he woke it was daylight and his head hurt – a lot. There was something strange about the light. A clock would come in handy – small problem, Dr Doug’s eyes refused to focus. There was a magnifying glass in the top drawer of the sideboard, just below the drinks tray. Doug sat up – big mistake. His headache went from a lot to galactic.

“Fucking lightweight, wifeless, jobless, loser.”

Each word hurt worse than the previous one, but he still had the energy for emphasis when he got to loser.

Dr Doug fell off the couch and as he hit the floor he realised what it was about the light – it was afternoon light – late afternoon light. He had visions of a waiting room full of impatient patients. Then it dawned on him, “I don’t have any fucking patients,” which wasn’t entirely true – Mrs Norris was due at 3 pm – his only appointment for the day.

“I wonder if she did her homework?” She hadn’t, but she made a special effort before her next appointment.

Dr Doug’s secretary liked her job. She liked Dr Doug and she liked being in the one place. She longed to remove the word temporary from her job title.

“Good morning Dr Doug. Can I get you a coffee? There are a lot of phone messages; I put them on your desk. Your first appointment cancelled.” Dr Doug winced every time he heard the word cancelled. “Your next appointment is at 1 pm. Is there anything you would like me to do till then? I really like this job and if you decide to stay on and fight through this, I would say yes if you offered me a permanent position.” She held her breath.

“Why would you want to be here? This ship is sinking. If you stay with your temp agency, you will land on your feet when the lights finally go out.”

“I don’t care about landing on my feet. I want to work for someone I respect.”

Dr Doug was hung over and very close to tears. “I’m going to go into my office and sit in the dark and wait for my headache to subside; hopefully. While I’m sitting there, I’ll think about your words. You don’t have to sit at your desk. Please take the morning off and come back after lunch.”

“I’ll wait at my desk. It’s my job.”

“Okay.” Dr Doug walked slowly into his office, drew the blinds and turned off the lights. He lay down on his couch and fell asleep.


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