“Futures” by Pat Foran


I haven’t been myself, or at least I think I haven’t, not for a while. I couldn’t think it through and I didn’t know how to articulate what I meant, but I have what I think is a pretty good relationship with my doctor, so I called and left her a message.
She called back and said it could be any number of things.
She also looked at my charts and discovered I hadn’t been keeping up with my blood work. “Come on, get with the program, get in here,” she said. So I’m here, I’m at the lab, I checked in and settled into what I think was the last available seat in the waiting area.
It’ll be a few minutes, the receptionist says. They’ll call me. They’ll call my name.
I had to scrunch into this chair so I wouldn’t nudge the people sitting on either side of me. It’s not an easy thing to pull off, this not-nudging. Not in this room. Everybody’s got coats on.
This voice, it sounds like a cornet. Two of them, actually. Like something regal or royal or important is going to happen.
A phlebotomist appears from behind the reception desk.
“Oh! — that’s me!” the woman sitting next to me says, leaping to her feet. “Sorry I didn’t answer right away, but my Mom is the only one who calls me that. I’m Rosalind, or Roz. Like the Roz on Night Court?”
Roz slips out of her hooded bubble coat and shakes the phlebotomist’s hand. The two disappear behind the reception desk.
Something there is about the paintings that hang on the walls in this room. They’re meadow scenes. All of them. Green and yellow grasslands that lean and lurch, unfurling like flags of undiscovered nations that are peopled with confidence games and question marks.
“Fred? Is there a Fred?” the phlebotomist asks.
“Here,” says a little boy in a double-breasted suit that’s waaaayyyy too big for him. It’s propping him up.
“I’m Fred — Fred the livestock market analyst,” the boy says. “I’m here to talk hog futures.”
“Did you have an appointment?” the phlebotomist asks.
“No, but it’s always time to talk hog futures,” the boy says.
Fred, the phlebotomist and a guy who heard Fred mention hog futures disappear behind the reception desk, Fred’s pant legs trailing in a train I think I wish I was on.
“You know, hog prices can vary quite a bit from year to year, even day to day,” says Fred, his high and sort of whiny voice fading with every shuffling step toward the back of the lab. “With that kind of volatility, opportunities arise, and there might be something there that you want to be thinking about …”
All around me, the coats are frowning or cheering or popping cough drops.
“Who does that kid think he is, coming in here without an appointment,” the receptionist says.
“Let me tell you something — that little dude knows who he is,” says Roz, bounding out from behind the reception area, her blood freshly drawn. “You can just tell.”
Can you? How? is what I want to ask her, but I’m not sure I know how to phrase the question.
My turn to rise from the sea of coats.
Turns out the cubicles where they draw the blood are warm and welcoming.
“Which arm?” the phlebotomist asks as I shed my peacoat and take a seat.
My left arm extended across the length of the fold-out table tray, I remember holding my newborn brother, trying not to do anything to mess with the soft spot on his head a month and a day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. I remember listening to music in the middle of the night until I no longer heard crickets in the middle of every conversation I had. I remember loving without expecting to be loved in return, and when I was loved — when I was loved in return — I remember not getting so fucking weird about it.
“I need you to check the labels for me before we send the results to your doctor,” the phlebotomist says. “Is this you?”
The labels are green and yellow, and flap in a breeze of uncertain origin. My heart is racing down the track.
“Yep,” I say. “This is me.”


Pat Foran is a writer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His work has appeared in such publications as WhiskeyPaper, MoonPark Review, Unbroken Journal, and FIVE:2:ONE #thesideshow. Find him on Twitter.

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