An Excerpt

by Joseph Lezza

All the nurses and doctors and specialists knew his name. Even if he hadn’t bothered to learn theirs, Samuel had racked up enough points over the years to be a rewards member. During a past visit, he’d even seen fit to joke around, holding a Blimpie card out to one of the attendings, a teenager if he was a day. “Tenth one’s free, eh doc?” The pimple-popper had just cleared his throat, read the charts and asked why a man with alcoholic cardiomyopathy had half a pint of whiskey flowing through his veins.

Whiskey was cheap, he wanted to say. Whiskey was cheap. But, again, Samuel said nothing, mostly because no matter what he said, it wouldn’t change the way they looked at him, the way their eyes from behind their computers and clipboards saw some variation of the same thing: drunk, liar, leech. If their intention was to shame, though, their efforts were wasted. And, if they wanted answers – really wanted them – they could ask each other. They could ask the paramedic he’d told about the scar on his hip, the scar from the bullet he took on a munitions supply run through Thừa Thiên–Huế in ’68. Or the radiologist who spotted his two herniated discs while performing a chest MRI, discs nearly crushed when a falling dock plate at the cold storage company put him both out of work and on permanent disability. Maybe they might take a minute to chat up the shrink who wrote him the Valium scrip after his wife up and left in the middle of the night. For a laugh, they could even check in with the social worker who couldn’t seem to understand why a fifty-year-old man forced to sell his home and move in with his mother might want to swallow a fistful of pills.

All around this hospital were pieces of his story, little threads that people could string together if they wanted to. The answers were there; he’d done his job. But no way in hell was he about to do anyone’s work for them. Let ‘em believe what they want, he thought. In a way he understood, though. The truth is never as exciting as what’s made up. And, if no one around him cared to learn it, then he didn’t much care to tell it.

To read all of “Wasted” by Joseph Lezza, buy The Canopy Review Issue 2 from the store.

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