Wait Times

by Livingston Edwards


Geoffrey’s watch read 8:38pm.

The hallway filled with the sounds of blaring monitors and the coughs and groans of the sick and injured around him. He saw splatters of blood on the wall, rusted wheelchairs blocking the aisles, and toddlers wiggling in the laps of their parents.

“Oh, c’mon,” the man whispered. His left wrist throbbed and he pressed it into the warmth of his motorcycle jacket, gritting his teeth. Geoffrey bent his fingers slowly and a sharp pain flared inside his thumb. “Where the fuck is the doctor?!”

A few heads turned his way with blank, lidded eyes, and he sank back into the chair, hiding his face. Geoffrey tapped his sneaker on the cracked linoleum floor.

The green doors opened with a screech and Geoffrey glanced up, his heart racing. Over the pink heads of a dozen coughing newborns, he saw the nurse squint down at her clipboard.

Her lips, painted green, opened and he leaned over, straining to hear her words.

“Jeff—” An alarm drowned out the rest of her words. Geoffrey leapt to his feet, stumbling twice with a wide smile on his face. He waved his free hand into the air twice and the nurse’s eyes met his. His wrist throbbed as he picked a careful path through the chairs.

“Here, I’m here!”

“Jeff Hathaway?”

Geoffrey faltered; the grin dripped off his face.

“You’re Jeff Hathaway—”

“No, Geoffrey. Geoffrey Clark.”

The nurse glanced down, pursed her green lips, and tilted her head.

“No, Geoff-rey.”

“Oh. Well, just take a seat until we call your name—”

“I’ve been sitting,” said Geoffrey, clenching his jaw, “for the past six hours, all right? This is ridiculous! Six hours for a busted wrist?”

“I’m real sorry, but as you can see we’re understaffed tonight. Just take your seat, sir, and I promise you’ll be called soon.”

Geoffrey shook his head, returned her wide smile with one halfhearted, and turned around. His wrist ached with every step back to his seat.

“Jeff Hathaway?” she shouted after him.

His watch read 12:44am.

The green doors screeched open again and Geoffrey glanced at the green-lipped nurse standing between the columns.

“Geoffrey Clark?”

He sighed and pressed his head against the cushion.

“Geoffrey Clark?”

Geoffrey bolted to his feet and shoved his way through the wheelchairs and hospital beds littered around the aisle.

“I’m here!” he shouted and she waved him into the empty corridor behind the green doors. Behind him, the sounds faded into silence. Geoffrey flexed his sore fingers as he followed her down the sloping hall to two yellow doors.

He hesitated as they neared the doors. She pushed them open and the corridor filled with the sounds of blaring monitors, coughs, and groans. He stared into the sea of sick and injured packed into the room, horrified.

“Just take your seat, sir, and I promise you’ll be called soon.”

Geoffrey’s watch read 5:19am.

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