When the Doctor came in, Hooter was in the process of attaching another rubber glove he'd blown up to the plastic skeleton standing in the corner. Hooter looked at him defiantly, daring him to say something about the latex udders.
“Well Hooter, the nurse tells me your blood pressure is higher than we'd like to see,” said Dr. Nathaniel Knippleton, scanning his clipboard and motioning for Hooter to take a seat on the examination table.
“Do you doubt it?” said Hooter, raising his voice. “The appointment was scheduled for 10 a.m. I showed up 10 minutes ahead of time, figured it was the courteous thing to do. I finally got in to see your nurse 30 minutes ago. Since then me and Oscar here have just been hanging out having a ball. What time does Mickey say on your watch? Well?”
“Hooter, we've gone down this road in the past. You know…”
“Humor me, Doc. What time is it?”
“Just to speed this along it's 11:35.”
“11:35! By my math, that's more than an hour and a half. If I had shown up about now for my 10:00 appointment, how likely is it I'd get in to see you today?”
“Hooter, that's not the point…”
“That's exactly the point. You make me come in here for no good reason, just so I can get you to keep filling the prescription you yourself gave me, keep me waiting this long, then have the audacity to reckon how my blood pressure is higher than it needs to be.”
“Hooter you haven't been in here for three years. I can't just keep issuing you medicine without monitoring your health. A lot can change in that period of time.”
“I don't know,” grumped Hooter. “So far, this is exactly the way I remember it being the last time I was here.”
All through the tirade, the good doctor was busy peering into Hooter's ears, taking his pulse and studying the charts. “Are you about through, Hooter?”
“Yes, I am. It's just that it's not right and you need to know that.”
To say that Hooter's visits to the doctor were infrequent would be akin to saying jackrabbits find it tough to stay home. It didn't take many of those infrequent visits, however, for Dr. Knippleton to figure out the most efficient way to deal with Hooter was to let him vent his frustration with the system, while continuing the examination as if they were only passing the time of day.
“Are we still chewing, Hooter?”
“No, WE are not still chewing, but I am,” grumped Hooter.
“You know what I meant. And, if memory serves, you told me last time you were in that you were considering giving it up.”
“Give it up?”
“No, considered it.”
By now, Dr. Knippleton was listening to Hooter's internal thumping and gurgling via stethoscope. “I'm not going to harp on the subject, Hooter, but you really should think about quitting. Even at your age the body can still do remarkable things to heal any damage that has been caused.”
“At my age!” sputtered Hooter as the doctor tried to wedge a tongue depressor in his mouth. Hooter pushed his hand away. “If my life was a flag race, I'd barely be past the first barrel…”
“That definitely is not the point. You know very well what I mean.”
“I'll consider it,” said Hooter, folding his arms and glaring at the doctor. They both knew better.
Satisfied with the interior of Hooter's mouth, the doctor motioned for Hooter to take off his shirt. He scanned his charts again. With a wry smile: “Well, I see we've put on some weight since you were here last.”
“WE don't doubt that, either,” said Hooter. He started digging into his pockets, plunking loose change, pocketknife; spare 30-30 shell, pliers, etc. on the exam table.
“What are you doing?” wondered Knippleton.
“Like I said, Doc, your little nurse wouldn't even let me unload my pockets before she took my weight. So, I don't doubt it looks like I gained weight. If I figured shrink like you weigh people I wouldn't have any customers left.”
“She would have weighed you the same way before.”
“I didn't used to carry near this much stuff,” said Hooter.
The doctor began to poke and prod Hooter's mid-section. “Tell me if any of this hurts…Speaking of shrink, I've been meaning to call you. It sounds like this may be an excellent time to find me a pen of cattle to feed again.”
“Depends on how you look at it,” said Hooter. He wearily remembered the last time Knippleton had convinced him to hook him up with a pen of cattle. That had been almost three years ago. They were good calves bought right, fed right and they still lost a boatload. Knippleton had whined to Hooter about it for six months. “Like we talked the last time, though, you got to have the right kind of mindset to feed cattle. If you're going to worry what the market's doing every day they're on feed, you probably shouldn't roll the dice. And, if you aren't willing to stay in the market every turn, you have more of a chance to lose than win on average.”
Knippleton lit up like a Christmas tree, momentarily stopping his exam. “Yes, turns, the turns of cattle. That was the terminology I was trying to remember just the other day when I was visiting with Nora Beth about the possibility.”
“Like I said if you do it this time around you've got to be willing to accept the risk.”
“Yes, risk. That was another term I was trying to remember.” And he began probing again.
Hooter was looking at him like he was from another world. Then, “Oowwwww!”
“Does that hurt?”
“No, not at all, just decided to shriek. Quit poking me there.”
The doctor grabbed his chart and jotted a note with a frown of concern. “This might be problematic.”
“Doc, like I told you, nothing's changed. That sore spot was there three years ago, just like it is now. When I take those pills it feels better. When I don't, like for the past two weeks because I couldn't get my doctor to refill my prescription, it feels worse.”
“Could you elaborate?”
Hooter pointed to the general area where his belly hurt: “Like I said, it gets to hurting here.”
The doctor was looking at past notes. As carrying on a conversation with himself, he said, “I really wish you would have come in two years ago like you said you'd do when I gave the prescription to you initially.”
“Well, it's not like Apache Flats is just a stone's throw from here,” said Hooter. “In order to make that 10 a.m. appointment that got delayed better than an hour I had to leave home at 7:30. It ain't like we've got a Walgreen's on every corner, either. I still don't see why Doc Henry can't get my prescription filled.”
Knippleton raised his eyebrows and stopped his scribbling. “For one thing, Doctor Henry happens to be a veterinarian. For another, anyone issuing the prescription to him for you would be breaking the law.”
“Sure would save everybody a lot of time,” said Hooter, looking sidewise at the doctor. “And given how long it takes to get in here, we could use some extra time.” The doctor let it pass.
“Well, Hooter, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that I see no reason not to refill your prescription for the time being. The bad news, at least I'm sure as far as you're concerned, is that I want you to come back in next week so we can run a few additional tests.”
“Why can't you just do them now?”
“We hadn't scheduled the time to do them. If we did it now, we wouldn't be able to see everyone who already has appointments today.”
“But, I've got an appointment. This is it.”
“It is, but not for that,” said the Doctor. “I might also suggest that you seek to stay away from stressful situations that could aggravate your condition.”
Hooter was past red. He was past mad, too. It was all so ridiculous he just shrugged back on his shirt.
“Oh, before you go, we never did finish our conversation about feeding a pen of cattle. Might I call on you?”
“By all means. I'd be happy to meet with you,” said Hooter, eyes beginning to sparkle like a pet coon. “Let's say this Friday. I'll pencil you in for 10—you might want to pack a lunch.”