I implanted these mesh tubes into this guy’s stomach- we’d just got them, boxes of them and really, I had nothing else to use. It was pretty much my only choice unless I wanted to chance it and just graft the membranes back together and pray… So I put these tubes in, blood sprayed up and out, me working away- no assistants anymore. I held the flaps of skin together, blood streamed everywhere, and finally I got his side sewn up. It was probably the worst job I’d ever done but when he woke up he thanked me like I was Jesus Christ.

Still, it’s those mesh tubes, I didn’t know how good they were, and he bounced around the office, caffeinated, peppy, and I couldn’t really smile although I tried hard to be cheery and normal. “Excuse me, mind if I use the men’s room?” he asked. “Isn’t that amazing- I can use the bathroom- thanks to this frickin genius right here! You’re a damned miracle!” I made my face tense up which should have produced something resembling a smile. He bounded off down the hall.

His wife leaned in. “What you do, doc?”

I looked at her. “What do you mean?” I asked. Sweat had plastered my shirt to my lower back.

“Doc,” she said, staring these little panicky eyes at me. “You fucked it up, didn’t you?”

“Mmm– no, no, no, no, no, not at all,” I said. I tried clutching the wooden armrests of my chair but my clammy fingers slipped off.

He didn’t come out of the bathroom. We stared at each other. We couldn’t avert our eyes or even say something. Finally her face got all twitchy and she looked away.

“I’m gonna go get him,” she finally said. She stared.

“I wouldn’t,” I said.

“I know you wouldn’t!” she screamed. She burst into a theatrical mess of sobs. I sat there sweating, looking toward the window, which was closed tight with Venetian blinds pulled.

Standing, I picked up one of the little mesh tubes from a plastic tray on my desk. “See this?” I held it up for her to see. “This creates a passage so blood can flow through.” She turned away, pushed up from her chair, and crossing out into the hall, not looking back.

As I went down the steps in front of the building I muttered to myself, “Well, I sure fucked that one up, didn’t I?” But my shirt had already begun to dry in the desert heat. As I crossed the parking lot I stared at my hands. They were deeply scarred but completely dry now, almost chalky.

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