The Day Of The Flat Head
Wentworth Falls, New South Wales
I looked at the clock again for the umpteenth time—thirty minutes had now elapsed. I confess I was now becoming frantic. Why did I ever come here? I looked around at the sterile, white tiled surroundings and a vague sense of foreboding came over me. My wife sat nearby, giving me that “Oh God, here we go again” look on her face—not that I blamed her. We’d been down this route before. The kids looked happy enough, but they, of course, had had a feed of chips. They didn’t realise what was at stake…
It’s rather a sobering moment when your GP tells you that it would be a good thing to get your affairs in order; take plenty of money and go and do the things you’d really like to do. Not only is George Sandown my GP, he is also a close friend whom I’ve known for over thirty years. Consequently, I knew that he was giving me the best advice possible.
‘Take my advice Bert, it’s the best place to go for a flat head.’ He had said seriously. ‘You know that I wouldn’t send you to just anywhere. They do good work and their reputation is second to none; not a flash place but first rate facilities and great surgeons too, if required. Incidentally, I refer all my patients there, ’cause the clinic’s nearby. Haven’t had one die on me yet!’ He added with a laugh. ‘I’ll even make the booking for you!’ George has a reputation for black humour. You’d think he was giving me a recommendation for some boutique hotel, instead of … anyway, I gave him what I hoped was an enigmatic smile. ‘Okay,’ I sighed, ‘give us the address and phone number—I’ll call myself; I don’t suppose I’ve got anything to lose now.’
The clock had now advanced another fifteen minutes. My nerves were on edge. It was noisy in the waiting area and now the kids were becoming fidgety. We’d managed to grab a small table and the kids now had their pencils and bits of paper out. My wife was no help whatsoever, ‘I honestly can’t believe George sent you to such a place for a flat head; we could have done better back in the city. Honestly, look at that woman over there—do you think she deserves a flat head? No, of course she doesn’t …’ that set my head reeling!
Personally, I thought that was a very insensitive thing to say. However, I put this down to the stress we were both under. Nonetheless, I was determined to see this procedure through … I just had to know the truth; whatever the cost. Some music came through the speakers set high on the walls, Red Sails in the Sunset if I wasn’t mistaken. Humph … very appropriate! Is it someone’s idea of black humour? Probably George’s! Next they’ll play The Codfish Ball! Just then Finn, our youngest, said ‘Daddy, when’s it our turn?’
I snapped, ‘Your turn?’ I practically snarled back at him. ‘You mean my turn don’t you?’
‘Go easy sweetheart,’ cooed my wife, ‘it’s not his fault. Just be patient a little longer.’
Patience—what a concept! My mother always told me that I had no patience and my son, from my first marriage, was always asking me ‘What are you getting yourself so stressed about?’ He never seemed to comprehend that it was him that was causing me angst.
I glanced over at the huge aquatic display, and wondered vaguely if they serviced the tank themselves—the fish were multi-coloured and they didn’t look too happy either. I looked up at the clock again; another five minutes had passed. Perhaps it was George’s intent to distract me. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d thrown a “red herring” to put me off the scent. There was the time, for instance, when he’d insisted that … just then, my wife dug her elbow into my ribs and said, ‘Heads up, there’s somebody coming towards us; looks like the results under her arm.’ I looked up to see an earnest young woman approaching us. I hoped it was good news. I had been nil by mouth since early this morning in expectation of this day’s operation (just in case) and now I was ravenous.
‘I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting so long,’ she said all apologetic and condescending, ‘we’re so busy as you can see and we had a bit of an emergency, so please …’
I held up my hand for silence; I couldn’t stand it any longer; the chips were already down; it was crunch time. I blurted out, ‘Well, have I got a flat head or is it something worse?’
The young woman fell silent for just a moment. She looked askance, even crestfallen some might have said. ‘Well sir … yes, you do have a flat head and it’s imperative that we operate without further delay!’ My wife groaned. My head was reeling again. It seemed as if I was in slow motion or under water. Then her face brightened, she laughed and said, ‘Actually, we’ve had such a run on flathead tonight, we’ve run out. But we could do you a nice piece of cod, flounder or surgeon if you like. How were the chips?’
Bio: Bert has been sent to a specialist clinic … or is it? Either way it’s important to find out if a Flat Head is on the agenda. Check out other examples of James’ work here.