The Inhaler

[The end of the world’s longest, random-est sequence]

I had a doctor’s appointment the morning after the poster ‘session’. I was certain five days of coughing had fractured a rib or, at the very least, left me with a collapsed lung. So I drove the twenty minutes to my and the boys’ doctor in the northwest part of the city, dropping off the professor along the way: so he could print the alphabet poster.

Percy and I sat in the waiting room, feigning interest in a National Geographic while some other little boy talked about how hungry he was and dug inside his pants. Ah, the joys.

Finally my name was called and we were shown to one of the patient rooms. Minutes later, the quintessential nice-guy-Canadian doctor showed up. I explained that I’d had this [very debilitating] cough and was about to go to Chicago and I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to collapse in the Art Institute.

‘You’re going away,’ he confirmed, ‘just you?’ And I nodded. He laughed. ‘Wasn’t it your husband who, after you got back from a trip kind of threw the kids at you and said: I’m done!’ he reminded me of the last time I went to the Midwest alone. And returned to the sounds of the Gort tossing his Trader Joe’s cookies in the car and to find the Hen with a bandaged finger after being locked inside the bathroom and burning himself on the light.

We Johnsons certainly know how to make an impression.

‘Well, let’s have a listen,’ the doctor suddenly remembered the reason for my visit and pulled out his stethoscope.

I breathed. ‘What are you doing?’ my two year old sidekick demanded. ‘I’m breathing,’ I explained.

The doctor sat back in his chair. ‘Well, you sound really good,’ he observed and I felt that all-too-familiar feeling of: did-I-really-come-to-the-doctor-for-him-to-tell-me-there’s-absolutely-nothing-wrong?’

He asked a few follow-up questions, pretending I hadn’t completely wasted his time. ‘I could give you this inhaler,’ he finally offered as a consolation prize, and when I nodded my head, he left the room for a second and returned with a small sample box.

For a second I imagined him opening up the box and producing a candy inhaler.

The two year old and I left the office and headed for Starbucks, to pick up a latte and breakfast sandwich [read: bribes] for the professor. I pulled up to the curb on University Drive and handed over the snacks. He handed me the poster.

‘So, what did the doctor say,’ he asked before closing the door and heading back to his office. I looked at him with the sullen look of one who’d wasted time. ‘Diagnosis adorable?’, he guessed.

‘He said I sounded really good,’ I summarized, ‘and he gave me an inhaler.’

The professor laughed and was about to close the car door when he suddenly remembered something. ‘Just so you know,’ he reminds me, ‘I did not have to come clean about this. I could have kept quiet and you would never have known….’ And I, wondering what craziness he’d gotten himself into now, stared at him blankly as he pulled my [old, ‘I gave it back to you’] library card from his jacket pocket.

‘You owe me $5,’ I demanded.

‘Also, I had to shrink some of the pictures, so I might have inadvertently cut someone out,’ he remembered.

‘I’m sure it’s fine,’ I waved goodbye and he walked back to his office with his snacks.

I gave the poster a once over. Sure enough, he’d left off the Hen’s similarly named classmate, Henry.



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