Sunday, March 11, 2012
A little taste of "The Lunch Club"
I thought you might enjoy an excerpt from ny upcoming release, "The Lunch Club." The story concerns four women who have been friends since their kids were in kindergarten. Their friendship has been limited to bragging about their kids and then their grandkids, but now each is facing a personal crisis -- and they learn what being friends really means.
Harriet was disappointed that Melody had already left when they wheeled her back to her room. The floor nurse said she had left a few minutes earlier and conveyed the message that both of her children had been notified and were on their way.
“I didn’t mean they were supposed to come running,” Harriet said. “I just thought they ought to know. What in the world did Melody tell them?”
But the nurse had no idea. Instead of answering, she straightened Harriet’s blanket and offered her a sip of water.
“How about a good, strong cup of coffee?” Harriet asked, but without much hope. She shut her eyes, trying to doze a little. No use. Her mind kept replaying her agonizing crawl down the hallway toward the cell phone. She remembered reaching it after what seemed an eternity and dialing 9-1-1, but not much afterward. Someone had given her a shot after they got to the hospital, and the rest was a confusion of dreams and reality until she awoke in the morning.
She gave up and opened her eyes. Dr. Lentz was sitting there, shuffling through some papers in a manila file folder, so Harriet figured she must have dozed some after all.
“About time you got here, you old coot,” she said.
“I was here last night, but you were out of it,” he said. “Is this the thanks I get for having my dinner interrupted?”
“You could stand to miss a few dinners,” Harriet countered. Winthrop Lentz was grossly overweight. Win, as he was called by everyone but his mother, was also short, had large, rather bulging eyes and a wide, thin-lipped mouth, all of which combined made him resemble a fat frog. Harriet loved him to death.
“Harriet, you’ve been seeing me for what? Thirty-five years or so?” he asked now, turning serious.
“About that long,” Harriet agreed. “I started when the bank insisted everyone get an annual physical.”
“You have a very slim file,” he said. “All I show is the annual visit and maybe a little blood work.”
“I’m never sick,” Harriet said with a touch of pride. “A cold now and then, but nothing I couldn’t handle myself.”
He nodded, his eyes thoughtful. “I have a note here I told you to start taking a calcium supplement and vitamin D. Are you?”
Harriet shook her head. “You also told me to start estrogen replacement therapy, and I refused. And see how that turned out. All those women getting breast cancer. I don’t put anything in my body God didn’t intend me to.”
“A glass of milk day? Yogurt?”
“Lactose intolerant,” she replied. She was getting annoyed. He should already have known her history.
Win shook his head and turned his attention to a length of paper resembling a computer printout. Maybe the printout was the results of her X-rays, which she suspected had been sent to some technician in India to read. She tried to see, but he held the paper out of her line of sight.
She thought of all the visits she’d made to Dr. Lentz’s office. The first time, they discovered they shared a birthday, right down to the hour. They spent the fifteen minutes allowed by Win’s HMO chatting about coincidences. The first visit set the pattern: she’d go in, have her blood pressure checked and her heart and lungs listened to and tell him she wasn’t having any problems. Then they’d talk until her appointment time was up. Win wasn’t a doctor who rushed his patients; they were paying for fifteen minutes of his time and fifteen minutes was what they got, unless they needed more. Once he advised her about a car she was thinking of getting, but most of the time her appointment consisted of just two friends, chatting.
Win cleared his throat and she snapped back into focus. “You were in my office eight months ago and never mentioned you were having trouble with your hip, and yet you told the ER doctor it’s been hurting for over a year.”
“Why should I? You’d send me to a specialist and do blood work and I’d come back for a follow-up and you’d tell me the pain was caused by arthritis and to take Aleve. I took the Aleve and saved us both a lot of trouble.”
“Harriet, you are the most obstinate, opinionated woman I have ever met,” Win said, looking heavenward as if hoping an angel would descend and pound some sense into his patient’s head with a golden harp.
“That’s a nice thing to say to a sick old lady,” Harriet said. “So when are you going to set this hip so I can go home?”
Harriet is in for a surprise when she hears the answer.