Posted: November 7, 2011 in Fiction, Test Subject

I slide my feet into my shoes. “If you really want a long term position out of this, showing that you can’t handle a pinprick is not a good way to show it.”

“What exactly does this long-term position entail?” She doesn’t answer. The laptop beeps and I can see a notification pop-up. I can’t read it from this distance. The doc picks up a paper and a pen and turns to me. I take the paper and start reading. “A non-disclosure agreement?”

“It’s more than that. You are expressly forbidden from talking about what goes on in the lab, and the lab will deny any connection to you if you are traced back to it.” She’s watching me intently.

“How do I pay taxes if I can’t talk about work?”

“An unimportant detail. If you want the position, you will have assistance.” Those green eyes feel like the barrel of a gun. I look back to the paper. The legal-ese isn’t impenetrable, but it’s close. My stomach rumbles. I wasted a lot of time asking questions when the answer would always be yes. I take the pen from her other hand. I scribble my name and the date.

“Hey, doc, uh, Doctor Allison, aren’t we leaving out the psych eval?” It’s not that I’m not grateful that she’s asking me to come back, and I’m not really worried about my mental health. It’s more that she’s been pretty thorough on everything else.

“I’ve seen what I need to see for now.” She hands me a business card that’s blank except for an address. “Tomorrow. Nine o’clock.” I take the card and pocket it.

“What should I wear?”

“Do you have a favorite shirt, Brinks?” She’s looking into my eyes. I can’t hold the gaze, so my eyes wander around the room.

“Uh, yeah.”

“Don’t wear it.” She gestures to a gap in the far wall. “Get your cash and get some food. Next!” She sticks a sheet of paper in my hands. I grasp it without looking at it. Doctor Allison grabs me by the shoulders and steers me through the gap. I don’t resist. Something is suddenly bothering me about this whole thing. I can’t really put my finger on it, but it nags me as I’m borne through the gap and out into another series of lines. The smell of unwashed people is back, invading my nostrils and blowing away my train of thought. I look around.

The lines all funnel together to a desk with five receptionist-types at a long grey counter. Behind them is a police officer. I guess they aren’t counting on everyone being on their best behavior. The people around me are clutching pieces of paper as well. I look at mine. It’s the scrawled results of my exam. I scan it with my eyes. Great. A piece of paper that says I’m basically healthy. I look back to the counter. Each person is showing the paper and being handed an envelope. Okay, so it’s a piece of paper that’s worth fifty bucks. It’s like a reverse parking ticket.

I let the line bear me along, and in what feels like only minutes, I’m squinting in the daylight. The car exhaust smells almost sweet by comparison to the atmosphere inside the building. There’s another cop standing outside the building. Good. The last thing I want is to be rolled because of my little windfall. I tuck the envelope deep into my pocket and start walking. As soon as I think I’m out of earshot of anyone else who’s just been examined, I pull out my phone. That nagging feeling hasn’t really gone away. I scroll through my contacts to the one person I count on when I think something’s wrong, and press the phone to my ear.

“Brinks speaking.” A man’s voice answers almost immediately.

“Hey, Dad, you got a second?” I ask. A bus flies by in the instant there would have been a response. The roar of the diesel engine is all I can hear for a second. “Dad?”

“Yes. I’m here. What?”

“What do you know about physicals?”

“I know you need to stop calling me when you’re walking down the street.”

“Dad, c’mon.” He sighs heavily. It sounds like static in my ear.

“I know a little. I know that the non-invasive prostate exam they keep promising is bullshit.” I laugh. “Sure, it’s funny now. Wait til you have to start getting checked, then tell me how funny it is.”

  1. I loved this line.. “Those green eyes feel like the barrel of a gun.”

    Nice piece!

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