Poles Apart by Chris Tattersall

His test results were good. Despite years of smoking heavily and drinking far too much, it appeared that there had been no negative impact on his health. The doctor, with all the resources of a twenty first century health service at his disposal had confirmed such. Life would go on. Thank god. 

The longstanding cough which he and his wife struggled to remember the genesis of, combined with increased breathlessness and a more recent symptom of occasional blood in his sputum was evidently just a result of old age. Maybe he had an immunity to carcinogens? Maybe he was just very lucky? He resolved to change his ways for their future, just in case. He had dodged a bullet and he knew it. 

The doctor sat in front of his desk not behind, like a counsellor rather than a physician but the anomaly didn’t register with him as the relief of his results took precedence. He smiled at the doctor, a wry smile that said ‘Yeah I’m a lucky bastard, and I know it.’ 

Yet the expression on the medic’s face was contrary to his – solemn and awkward. He noticed a quick glance and eye contact between the doctor and his wife. 

“The results, I’m afraid it’s not good news Mr Walsh.” Reiterated the doctor. 

“But, my results, they’re positive, you said yourself doctor, my test results are pos…..” 

It was the squeezing of his hand by his loving, long suffering wife which told him to stop talking. He had felt such communications from her before, usually at family meals when she sensed he was about to say something inappropriate. However, this squeeze was slightly different from his previous experiences, this was lingering, tight, slightly trembling. A touch that told him he was wrong, very very wrong. 

His gaze lowered, settling on a ridge of dust on the corner of the desk. All he could hear was his own breathing, all he could feel was his heartbeat, all he could focus on was the dust. Surely he couldn’t have misunderstood at such a crucial time? The longest of pauses lasting mere seconds allowed a replaying of the conversation in his mind but he couldn’t trust his memory, he could only recall a sensation of relief. 

Any hope disappeared as his wife squeezed harder and simply asked: “How long doctor?” 

Chris is a Health Service Research Manager from the far west of Wales, UK. He is a self-confessed flash fiction and nano-fiction addict. He also hosts his own flash fiction Facebook competition. 

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