The doctor looked up from his clipboard and started tapping it with his pen. He studied me from head to toe for the thousandth time as I sat on the examination table.
“So?” I asked, wringing my hands together. “Is it good news or bad news?”
He ignored me and continued to tap, and began to circle like a vulture. Tap, tap, tap.
He hushed me with his hand and scratched his head with the pen. A brief pause. Then back to tapping. Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap. He came in for a closer look. Tap, tap, tap. I grabbed his pen and threw it out the window behind him, squaring my shoulders and cocking my head.
The doctor however remained unflinchable – he stared a while, until (my poise of self-assurance rapidly disintegrating) he reached into his pocket, and withdrew another pen.
Tap, tap, tap.
I raised my hands in surrender. “Doctor,” I pleaded, “what is the news, is it good or bad?”
“Bad news, you owe me a new pen,” he said.
“Okay, I’ll get you a new pen, but do you know what I’ve got?”
“Take a seat.”
“I’m already sitting.”
“Ah, so you are. Good. I am afraid you have ‘scribin forcashus’.”
“Scribin’ for whatsuss?”
“-forcashus,” he said, scratching his nose.
“You procrastinate like there’s tomorrow, have an enlarged ego (the biggest I’ve seen I might add), have constipated idea glands, and you spend more time ‘researching’ than flexing your creative muscles and writing. It’s a common, but much undiagnosed illness of the brain.”
“Is it terminal?”
“No, but you will probably die from it.”
“So it’s terminal.”
“Ah yes, that kind of terminal.”
“What other kind of terminal did you have in mind?”
“Well, does the illness itself end,” he said with a flick of his hands, ” ‘does it die?’ ”
“No, but you do.”
“Fantastic. How did I get it?”
“I’m afraid you were born with it.”
“Is there a cure?”
I put my face in my hands and wondered what I’d tell the kids. I felt an arm on my shoulder and looked up to see the doctor smiling at me. It was kind of creepy, and slightly reassuring…but mostly creepy.
“There is hope,” he said.
I shifted along the table away from him as he stood back, still with that smile which had quickly become more reassuring, less creepy.
“I fail to see that right now.”
“Honestly,” he said, with the utmost sincerity.
“You know what you get?”
“The chance to plan my own funeral?”
“No – although yes, that as well. But if you take the chance, the upsides are enormous.”
I paused for a second and then leaned in. “Go on.”
“You are in a prime seat of power, with the ability above others to discover new worlds! You can shape civilisations, change history! Bring into creation the most heroic of heroes or devilish of devils. You have something great within you, you just need to use it.”
“And how do I do that?”
The doctor went to his desk, pulled something from the drawer, and excitedly handed to me a pad of paper and a pen.
“Just write. Put pen to paper, and write like there’s no tomorrow.”
“What about all that other stuff I’ve got, idea constipation, enlarged ego, chronic procrastination or whatever.”
“None of that makes a difference. Just write, whatever the season, however you’re feeling, whenever you can.”
“And if I do this?”
“Funnily enough, you might live forever,” the doctor said helping me off the table.
Too much was going round my head to know what to think as he led me to the door. I turned as I went out into the corridor.
“So is it good new or bad news?” I asked again.
He smiled one more time.
“It’s whatever you make of it,” he said, shutting the door and tapping away with his pen.