A Wrench In The Gears

I was quite thrown off balance by Connor’s hypersensitivity to the slight temperature change I had made the night before and the physical signs he claimed to experience as a result of my other activities. I made a mental note to make sure that the first thing I did when I got back to my office was to write ‘SLOW DOWN’ across the top of all my documents. I was obviously moving too quickly, too soon, in my eagerness to finally be underway.

“If it makes you feel better,” I told him as we began to make our way back to the building, “I’ll have the air quality in your room tested today. We here at the Institute place top priority on the health of our guests.”

“Oh, thanks Doc - that would definitely help me sleep easier tonight! And the temperature, too?”

“Sorry?” The man was constantly keeping me on my toes, I’ll admit that in a heartbeat.

“Can you get the room temperature checked too?”

“Of course,” I said after the briefest of pauses. “In fact, I’ll do it myself. Is there anything else I can do for you that will make your stay with us more comfortable?”

“I don’t suppose you can do anything about the food?” Connor asked with a nervous laugh as we reached the main doors.

“Oh my heavens, if only I could Connor,” I said as the older Grim swung open the door and eyed us silently. “If only I could. Dwayne, please see our guest back to his room and have one of the janitorial staff do an air quality check in there this afternoon.”

Dwayne’s right eyebrow raised half a millimeter at this request before he turned his attention to Connor, who suddenly seemed to be doing his level best to disappear. I made note of this as well, with no particular use in mind for it quite yet.

“After lunch we have time set aside for recreation - playing cards, chess, TV, that sort of thing,” I told Connor. “We allow the… safer patients to intermingle for a while, as social interaction plays an integral role in recovery. Do you think you’ll be up for it today?”

“Absolutely Doc Esco! I play a mean game of chess,” he said proudly as Dwayne began to lead him away.

“That’s great Connor,” I told him with a small wave. Then, just before turning away, I added, “Just don’t play too mean. We do have some rather delicately balanced guests here.” From across the room I heard the distinct sound of a nervous lump being swallowed.

I returned to my office to find lunch waiting on my desk, which I ate absent-mindedly as I updated my notes and played my taped conversation with Connor back. As it reached the end of the tape I realized I needed to figure out a way to fake my way through a room temperature check.

I briefly contemplated telling Connor that I’d done it while he was out of his room that afternoon but knew before the thought was finished that it wouldn’t work. He’d insist on being there and seeing the reading himself. I dug the palms of my hands into my eyes and muttered, “Who knew this was going to be so much work?”

“What do we have here?” The unexpected question very nearly caused me to gouge my eyeballs out but I think I recovered smoothly. “Doc Esco getting so invested in his work that he’s actually getting stressed out? I thought I’d never see the day.”
“Helena,” I told Doctor D deliberately (I said I have a poetic side, didn’t I?), “if you continue sneaking up on me like this you’ll surely succeed in giving me a heart attack. I realize that you wish to rid the Institute of my presence but if you’d like to do so without killing me in the process, I’ll have to ask you to try another method.”
“Oh Simon, don’t be so dramatic,” she said as she slipped into my office, uninvited, and sat in the chair opposite me, equally unsolicited. I surreptitiously closed all of the folders on my desk and clicked off my monitor before leaning back in my chair, folding my hands behind my head, and regarding her openly. “I have no desire to see you out of here, you know that. I just wish you’d be more open to working collaboratively – I think our work, and more importantly the patients, would see great benefit from it.”
“The last time I worked with another doctor was in university,” I said with a look that matched my condescending tone. “But if you really need me to look at some of your work, I’m sure I can squeeze it into my rather crowded calendar.”
“Actually,” she replied with a fierce look, “I’m more interested in studying your cases. One, in particular: Connor Steely.”
“Why are you so fascinated by that young man? Feeling a bit lonely these days and in need of some male companionship?”
“I can assure you that my interest in Mr. Steely is purely professional,” she said with what I considered unnecessary heat and stood up, her cheeks flushed. “I trust it won’t interfere with your efforts to rehabilitate him if I join him for his recreation time?” Stunned, I had no response ready for such a proposition. “Excellent. I will let you know what I think – that is, if you would lower yourself to hear my analysis.”
“I hope you know how to play chess,” I called after her as she stormed out of the room, her curly brown hair bouncing excessively, and slammed the door behind her. I stared at my door for a minute or two in shocked silence before it fully sank in. “This is not good. This is not good at all.”

The End

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