Dr. Ben Hamilton, known to his mainly affluent Surrey patients
as Dr. Yes, for reasons which will become apparent, hurried along to his
surgery; he only had five minutes before his first appointment, and he was a
conscientious man. The fact that being almost late could not be said to be his
fault Home Counties morning traffic, demanding at the best of times -
didnt detract from his sense of urgency.
Taking a job in such a well-heeled place had excited some
disapproval, particularly from one of his mates from Brum. Youll
make money, but theyre not your people, are they? Gibson wisdom
take note. Gibsons wisdom had actually led Gibson into private
medicine, giving his admonitions an empty feel, but Ben still knew what he
meant. He justified the comfortable life by being good and thorough, punctual
and attentive. Rich people were people too, he told himself; wealthy old
ladies ailments were no less than anyone elses, and if occasionally
they werent really ailments at all, he should counsel, not condemn. It
was called holistic medicine; still an ideal, whoever the clientele.
He hurried past the waiting room door, noticing several
regulars, and gratefully reached the consulting room. He was a lean, agile
thirty something, good-looking in a rather dishevelled, tousle-haired way, and
free of extraneous flesh mainly because he took his running and gym activities
as seriously as he took his job. Some patients would marvel at him still being
single, though most, thanks to the receptionists Helen and Beth, knew the
doctors seven year relationship with a young woman Kate had recently
ended, seemingly mostly because of the lack of a proposal from Ben, even though
Kate had shown little enthusiasm for marriage (I dont want to be
your chattel, Ben, which seems to be what its about). This had
shaken the doctors confidence in the significant other
stakes, though secretly he found himself quite enjoying some of the freedoms
which Kate had previously confiscated.
Annie Dermott was first in the queue, as she had a habit of
being. Annie in her sixties was large and growing larger, probably the source
of most of her problems, though the doctor was too gallant to say this in so
many words. Annie fixed an expression of martyrdom on her face and turned her
head slightly to simulate girlie like innocence, leading the two of them into a
Bothering you again, Doctor, and nothing earth-shattering
really, though you did say even the smaller problems still might need sorting
Yes. The Doctor nodded, keeping his eyes and
attention on Annies face.
Well, Im having trouble sleeping again, and you know
those pills you started me on last time?
They dont seem to have worked out too well, and I
really do need sleep, dont I?
So could we perhaps talk about trying something
Thank you; hope Im not being too much of a nuisance,
Yes I mean no, sorry. Lets look at what else
might be possible, then.
Annie nodded her satisfaction. Its nice to talk
frankly about these things, isnt it, Doctor?
Just a mile and a half away, in her penthouse on the edge of the
town, Mimi Stone, born Rhoda Karelski, ex Mrs. Edelman, Mrs. De Thaune and Mrs.
Callagio, was gazing out at her impressive view and, for once, deriving
precious little satisfaction from it.
Mimi, for all her sometimes effusive showbiz personality, was
neither a fool nor a fantasist, and she was still digesting the news which a
crestfallen hospital consultant had told her two days before. But it
wasnt the consultant she was thinking about, nor the daunting near future
his words had implied; it was Dr. Ben Hamilton.
Mimi generally steered clear of the NHS, having heard the
stories of trolleys in corridors and six-month waiting lists. Britain,
generally, she liked; people minded their business and you werent being
savaged by asshole shock jocks every time you dated another guy or needed to
unload another crumb bum of a husband. The downside she could live with, as
long as it didnt touch her, and the NHS didnt touch her at any
point. The kind of doctors she saw were smooth, Saville Row suited guys, with
properly carpeted offices and smiling receptionists who hurried her through as
soon as shed stepped out of the limo.
For some months, Mimi had known, right down in her heart and
soul, that something was wrong with her, and all these jerk doctors had soothed
and flattered her, regularly blowing smoke up her ass, to quote her first and
probably best husband, director Sam Edelman, womanising punk as he was. They
treated her like a neurotic old dame, wasting their time, if expensively, and
way back when, maybe she had been, but not this time around.
Eventually, in desperation, and having heard a bit about Dr. Yes
from a few girls she sometimes met up with in town, she got on his books and
saw him. And sure, he said yes a lot, but he also, quietly, firmly, with that
English smoothness which found you agreeing to stuff even before you knew what
the hell you were letting yourself in for, referred her to a place where they
did a lot of tests. Yes, she had to wait sometimes, and yes, some of the tests
were pretty intimate, but everyone was nice, even if the coffee was shredded up
shit and the tea even worse.
Now she was paying the price for not having been to Dr. Yes a
long time ago. Now she knew. And, because of all those ass-kissing pretend
doctors, it was too late. Six months, maybe nine if she was a good girl,
meaning giving up just about everything and more or less living on dry bread
and glasses of water. Soon after, the hospice. Soon after that, curtain down.
Dr. Yes, she thought, must know by now, and Dr. Yes was the kind
of guy who would manage to work this round to being his fault. O.K., Mimi
thought, she had no illusions left about guys as a general species, such as the
Nazi reptiles who chased her old Ma and Pa out of Poland, such as Edelman who
couldnt keep it in his pants, De Thaune who was always too soused to get
it up out of his pants and Callagio who mainly wanted to get into other
guys pants, but now and then, a goddam angel manifested itself into human
form and soft-talking Dr. Yes with the lovely eyes and the interestingly
tousled hair was one of them. She might have to beat herself up about what had
happened; he shouldnt, and, as far as Mimi was concerned, he wasnt
going to, and she was already sure she was going to go the hell to his place
and tell him.
His appointments finished, Ben got ready to go to the running
club, where he would do his regular distances, linger about in the shower and
then get himself an Indian meal delivered, strong and hot, one more little
bonus about being Kate-less. O.K., they were consolation prizes for the empty
bed and the echoing flat, but they were better than nothing.
His bleeper on the desk went off, and, as usual, about fifty
possibilities had already gone through his head by the time he picked it up and
answered it. Reception calling.
Doctor, theres an American
said the unmistakable tone of Beth Feltham, and the slight pause between
American and lady conveyed her opinion precisely. She is on your list -
recently, yes, but on it all the same, and she wants to see you urgently. She
is, apparently, unused to making appointments. Shall I tell her were not
and give her a time tomorrow?
Ben put his bag back down on the floor. Hed seen the
hospital report on Mimi Stone.
No, Beth. I know what shes here about. Send her
He was still on his feet when the knock came. He opened the door
come in, please. Sit down.
Dont you start Miss Stoning me, buster. Mimi will do
nicely. Im not a goddam Miss anyway. Im still technically married
to that faggot Callagio, though Ill be damned if Im carrying his
crummy name around with me.
As on previous occasions with this lady, Ben felt he was losing
the agenda almost immediately. He sat down beside her, rather than retreating
behind the desk, and the unexpected positioning did manage to quieten her
Mimi, Ive had the report from the hospital. Im
sorry about the news, and Im even sorrier that we didnt get to you
and sort this out earlier
Now that, doc, Mimi interrupted loudly, with a tone
and a raised admonitory figure which shut Ben up immediately, is exactly
why Im here. You, guy, should not be sorry; you, guy, are a goddam prince
besides all those horses pricks who kept on jerking me along with
indigestions and wind. Wind, for Chrissake. What in the hell am I, a walking
fan? O.K., the news aint good, but Ive had a hell of a time and I
dont want to get to be so old a broad that I cant get up off my ass
and Im dribbling in my pants. So what the hell? Anyway, I have a plan
do I ever have a plan, she finished, leaning forward and touching
the doctor on his bony knee.
A plan? Ben managed to say, resisting the urge to
edge his chair backwards.
You betcha. Doctor to hell with that, Ben, can I
call you Ben? Good Ben, Im loaded, son, still loaded right up to
bursting, however hard all the chisellers and swindlers have tried to get it
off me, Mimi has too much goddam savvy for any of them. In a few months, when
Callagio stops fooling around and settles, Ill be loaded some more. And
am I leaving it to three jerks, one female and two male, whove crept
their way out of my womb and been trying ever since to do the chiselling and
swindling themselves, because all of them are just like their goddam fathers?
No, the hell Im not. Ill tell you just what I am going to do.
Bens eyes opened wider and his mouth began to open, but
Mimi had already resumed, seeming to feel any interjected question was
Im going to hire a yacht, Ben boy, a big blonde
baby, with a skipper and a crew, and Im going to take my ass around the
world one more time, seeing it all and doing it all. Im going to need a
personal physician, and I do mean physician, son, I dont do toyboys and I
aint starting now. Come with me, Ben, and see the world while youve
got the chance, boy. Those two babbling broads at reception let it out that
youve just bust up with your femme fatale forgive me, son, but a
kid of four could get those two to blab their hearts out for two chews and a
goddam lollipop and youre free, and youre too good a guy to
be free for long. Dont believe the hype, son, we dont all prefer
jerks and bandits. This place can get in a what the hell is it
locum, for six months Ill pay for the guy myself if need be
and the sad old girls who come in here for their regular smoke up the ass can
live without you for that long. Tell me, now, Ben, what do you say, son?
Ben realised a smile seemed somehow to have slapped itself on to
Yes! he said.