The Sweetest Man in the World

It started one afternoon on his way home from work. George stepped awkwardly between two pavers, slipped and strained something in his ankle with an audible crunch. He didn’t think much of it at first, but when it didn’t show any sign of healing after a week he went to visit his doctor.

— It’s just a sprain. Give it a week or two. In the meantime, take some aspirin for the pain.

A week later he accidentally closed his front door on his hand. It hurt more than anything he could remember, and the hand swelled to three times its normal size. The next day, when the doctor was looking it over, one of his fingers snapped off in his hand.

— Argh! What’s going on, doctor?

— Well, you’re not getting any younger. Do you mind if I keep this? I want to send it to the lab for some tests.

The next day he unwrapped his still swollen hand to inspect it, only to find a kind of flesh colored powder beneath the bandages. The stump of his wrist was as red as blood, but smooth and dry and shiny. He used a broom to sweep the bits of hand into a plastic bag, mixed himself a drink and called the office.

— Louise? I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it to the office this week. Cancel my meetings. Yes. Thank you.

His doctor have him an appointment for four o'clock the next afternoon.

George was on the bus the when he noticed a woman staring at him hungrily. It was flattering at first, but then she started licking her lips, which was more than a little bit creepy.

When he got off at the stop by his doctor’s office, a dog ran up to him, tail wagging. He reached down to stroke it, and it began licking his hand, which started to melt everywhere the dog’s tongue touched. He ran, as best he could, up the steps and into the doctor’s office, which was — for the first time George could remember — empty of customers.

— Ah, George! We’ve been expecting you.

The doctor led him back to the examining room, where George handed him the baggy full of hand-dust.

— O, thank you, George. I’ll just give this to Nurse Crabtree for… testing.

He called her in and handed her the bag, which she rushed down the hall.

— So, George, how are you feeling?

— Not well, doctor. I mean, look at me, I’m going to pieces!

— Don’t exaggerate, George. It’s not that bad. Now, let’s get a look at that hand. O, it’s almost gone! How’s the other one? Still intact?

— Yes, so far, though a dog had a go at it outside of your office.

— Sorry to hear that, he said with a look of real concern on his face.

The nurse came back into the office with a tray.

— Doctor, I’ve got the tea here.

The doctor turned to George.

— Tea?

— Yes, please.

— Milk, sugar?

— Yes, both. No cakes, I don’t suppose?

— No, not today, sorry. Now just you drink up while we prepare some instruments.

George started to feel drowsy a few minutes later. The last things he saw were a metal saw, a shiny translucent hand being dipped into a mug of tea and the ecstatic faces of the doctor and nurse.

This entry is part of my journal, published January 25, 2011, in New York.