editorial consultant and executive producer: dan leo
illustrations by rhoda penmarq and roy dismas
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"well, i just wish you had told me this before."
"the billing cycle doesn't come up for another week, i was going to notify you then."
"do you think he will give you any trouble?"
"i don't know. probably not."
"i can send somebody over. to be there when you tell him. i'm really sorry about this."
"no, don't bother. i can handle it. nurse johnson and i can handle it."
"yes, i'm sure."
"if you change your mind, let me know."
he took a flat pill container out of his pocket, opened it and took out a small blue pill, which he quickly swallowed.
then, with a sigh, he opened the door to the front sitting room.
"i hope nurse sherman didn't tire you too badly, sergeant."
"he'll be all right."
"yes, i'm sure. um, listen , mister brock , i just got off the phone with the representatve of your sponsor -"
"sponsor? what's this sponsor? what am i , a race car?"
"do you mind if i sit down?" the doctor edged toward a stuffed chair close to the sofa nurse sherman was sitting on.
brock looked at him curiously. "it's your place, isn't it? sit wherever you want."
brock thought for a few seconds. "i understand the idea. and so far i am taking your word for it that is the way it is."
"why? why are you taking my word for it?"
"why not? i will find out quick enough if you are telling the truth."
"how about radio?" brock asked. "hey, i know - how about television? that was the next big thing thirty years ago - i bet everybody has a television now."
the doctor shook his head. "ancient history. come and gone. remember, this is 1977."
"look, he doesn't to need to know all this stuff right now. what's this about je- about the sponsor?" nurse sherman stared at the doctor.
"and we are just hearing about it? when did this happen?"
"a couple of weeks ago. harris was going to tell us when the next payment was due."
brock yawned. then he yawned again.
"hey, you just woke up!" nurse sherman laughed.
the doctor didn't laugh. he looked intently at brock. "you know what this means, don't you?"
"no doctor, what does it mean?"
"no - you don't understand. there is no u s army any more. there is no u s any more. do you begin to understand?"
brock scratched his head. "not really."
the doctor laughed nervously. "you seem to be taking it like a philosopher, anyway."
"it hasn't had time to sink in."
"you are right, doctor," nurse sherman put in, " it hasn't had time to sink in. so why not leave him alone."
"leave him alone? but who - who is going to take care of him?"
"me. i will take care of him."
"you want to leave early? what about the report on mrs miller?
"you can't do it yourself?"
"oh, i guess so." the doctor exhaled and leaned back in the stuffed chair.
nobody moved. the doctor and the nurse looked at each other and brock looked at the floor.
"i sure could use a smoke," he announced after a while.
"maybe. i will see what i can do. it will take time. i can't make any promises."
"you can get him a steak?"
"you heard what i said. i said i could try."
"you never told me you could get me a steak."
"did you ever ask?"
"no, i guess not." the doctor leaned back and shook his head. "it never crossed my mind. i knew you were resourceful. i didn't know you were that resourceful."
"you know," said brock, "i thought the modern world and science and stuff was about progress. what kind of progress is it when there is less stuff, not more?"
the doctor forced himself up out of the chair. "an excellent question. i am afraid it is one i can't answer."
"you think so? it's bigger than most - i had it made special."
"get in." she opened the door on the left side.
"it's not locked?"
"no. get in."
"no money in it?"
"no money in anything. no money."
"now you've gone too far." brock settled himself in the right front seat, and gazed out the window. "i know you are kidding me now." he turned to face her. "hey! what the - where's the steering wheel?"
"what fun is this? could you drive it yourself if you wanted?"
"there's places you can go to drive cars around by yourself."
"well that's something. any around here?"
"but they are not that hard to get to."
"i guess not."