doctor is not in

The Doctor Is Not In by

“It would have been good if you had come to see me in time. Now, unfortunately… you know that saying about ‘I have good news and bad news, which would you like first?’ ”


“Well in your case, there is no good news.

“The only news is you’re going to die. I expect you will consider that to be bad news.”

“That’s not news. You could say that to anyone. We’re all going to die. But what am I going to die of?”

“In a case like this, I prefer not to tell you anything more. What will happen will happen. Your condition is terminal. And knowing the details will only make you worry more ahead of time. No need to suffer twice.

“You could, of course, go on a merry chase from doctor to doctor, looking for a better answer. But why? It would just be more tests, more pain, and more expense. And pretty soon the insurance company would be on to you and would start wanting their money back. No, just let it be.”

That was 20 years ago. I’m still waiting. And worrying.


Peter A. Hempel is the author of the recently published The Contract – A Novel (“Erica Jong, meet Jean-Paul Sartre”), and a short story collection, The Jump – Stories for Uncertain Times. His stories have appeared in The Princeton Echo, Red Fez, Every Day Fiction and Vestal Review.

Photo credit – Peter Hempel

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