The Remainders

By Matthew Arnold Stern All Rights Reserved ©


Chapter Thirteen: Lake Forest

It was my day to make the rounds at the hospital. I had to check on Mr. Ferrera who was recovering from pneumonia, Ms. Vasquez who had a gall bladder removed, and Mr. McAllister who believed what he saw on a drug ad on TV, tried tango dancing with his wife, and dislocated a disk in his lower back.

As I walked through emergency, I was surprised to see Mr. Marchenko on his way to being discharged. Actually, I was not surprised. Mr. Marchenko was the type of patient who made doctors, hospitals, and drug companies rich. He would come into my office for the slightest complaint or ER if his complaint frightened him enough. That day, he looked especially frightened.

“Are you OK, Mr. Marchenko?”

“I guess.”

His hands were still trembling. But at first glance, everything else about him seemed fine. His face and skin were a normal color. He seemed to be breathing normally.

“So, what brought you into ER?”

“I started exercising, just like you said I should.” His outfit proved it. He wore a red-and-black track suit and a pair of running shoes. They looked brand new.

“Then what happened?”

“I started breathing heavy, and then I got dizzy. I thought I was going to die!”

That was exactly the way I felt the first time I ran with Rachel.

“So, what did the doctors say?”

“They ran all sorts of tests. They said my heart was fine. I didn’t have a heart attack, or stroke, or anything like that.”

I smiled. “It was good that you started exercising and sought help when you had conditions that concerned you. I suggest that you start your exercise program gradually. Go with short distances at low intensity and then work up to more strenuous workouts.”

“But I’ve got to get myself in shape! I don’t want to wind up like my parents!”

“If you keep taking care of yourself, you can reduce the risk of having the problems your parents had.” I patted his shoulder. “Take care of yourself, Mr. Marchenko.”

“Thank you, Dr. Glass.”

The only thing that made the rounds bearable was seeing Rachel. She had just spent twelve hours helping a woman deliver twins. She shuffled down the hall in an exhausted gait. Her curls had tightened up and some were plastered by sweat to her forehead. Her green scrubs were stained at her armpits.

“Why don’t we meet in your office?” I spoke with a smile and low, soft voice.

I had her bent over her desk, her pants at her ankles, while I thrust away behind her. Even alone in her office, we had to keep our moaning to soft gasps. And we had to be quick...

Her phone vibrated on her desk.

“Damn!” I murmured.

She held up her right hand to tell me to be quiet. I froze in half-stroke.

She swiped the screen and brought the phone to the side of her face.

“This is Dr. Rosen...Yes, hello, Gwen.”

I couldn’t believe she could be so professional and polite with my penis still inside her.

“You’re sure your water broke?...OK, just go straight to the maternity center and have your husband take care of your paperwork. We’ll bring you right in...You’re welcome. See you soon.”

She tapped the screen to hang up. She then thrust her hips forward to force me out.

“I have to go.” She stood up and turned around. “Sorry.”


She looked down at my still hard and disappointed penis. She sunk to her knees. A few times rolling it in her mouth and a strategically placed tip of her tongue gave me relief. She swallowed and cleared her throat.

In one efficient movement, she pulled up her panties and pants as she stood up and tied her drawstring. Then, she swiped her phone off her desk and put it in her pocket. She did it all before I even pulled up my pants.

“See you tonight.” She kissed my lips.

I waited until Rachel was out of her office before I stepped out. As doctors, we learned how be discreet, especially when there were patients around. Before Rachel had her own office in this wing, we’d use any spare room or out-of-the-way space we could find. We once used a bed in the maternity ward. And the stirrups. Hours later, Rachel delivered a seven-pound four-ounce baby girl in the same bed.

“Sign this.”

A death certificate was thrust into my face by Dr. Morelli. He was a short bald man with thick fingers, but the most precise surgeon in the ward. I looked at the certificate on the clipboard and then at him.

“Don’t I get to see the body first?”

I didn’t need to read the death certificate to know how Leo Shelton died. I had been after him for years to do something about his health. I prescribed him medications he didn’t take, suggested diets he didn’t follow, and recommended exercise programs that he would stay on for a week or two before quitting. “You don’t know what a busy, stressful life I lead,” he always told me. I did know. I didn’t know any details about his personal life, but I could see he had the same harried, anxious feelings I had. The sense of drowning, of not being able to keep up. That his best wasn’t good enough, no amount of money would pay his bills, and life was a dark tunnel with no light at the end.

When Dr. Morelli pulled back the sheet, Leo looked as alive as the last time I saw him at my office. I walked around his corpse. There were no incisions. They didn’t even shave away the heavy thicket of black hair that covered his massive distended torso. Triage probably determine he was too far gone, or he had already died. I looked at his face. The facial muscles were still seemed knotted in a tense grimace. Not even death gave him peace. And he didn’t live long. He was only 45, a year younger than me.

“He went into full cardiac arrest. The paramedics did what they could, but the poor son of a bitch was dead before they put him in the ambulance.” Dr. Morelli wasn’t known for his bedside manner.

“You have his EKG?”

Dr. Morelli pulled the folded-up printout from behind the paperwork. It corroborated what he said. All flatline.

I looked up at Dr. Morelli. “What did you write down as the cause of death?”

“Primary, cardiac arrest. Secondary, advanced atherosclerosis. That’s because I can’t write down, ‘He ate too many fucking cheeseburgers.’”

I held out my hand and waved my fingers at Dr. Morelli. He handed me the clipboard and the death certificate. I flipped through the reports and gave them a quick glance. Then I reached into my shirt pocket for a pen.

“If you had put that down, you wouldn’t be far from wrong.”

I scribbled my signature and handed the clipboard and EKG back to him. I tucked the pen back in my pocket.

“You saw Dr. Rosen today, didn’t ya?”

He smiled. I tensed.

“How do you know?”

He sniffed. “I know.”

I exhaled and regretted not washing off.

He stared at Leo’s corpse. “It’s funny.”

“What’s funny?”

“You, banging an obstetrician. She sees them at the beginning, and you see them at the end.”

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