• CHAPTER FIFTEEN: The Book of Les

    Norfolk General Hospital

    Waiting is hard when there is nothing to do. Sitting in a doctor's office, Craig nervously look around for a book or a magazine or a pamphlet, anything...just to give himself something to do.  Les is sitting in his chair.  He is calm.  He isn't moving.  He has no interest in reading.  He turns his attention to his son, who insist on fidgeting in his chair.
         "Son, I will knock you out and leave you here if you do not sit still."
    Craig stops moving about and turns to his dad.
         "Pop...I feel like I should be doing something.
         "What? Would it pain you to be still for a moment?"
         "Actually, yes. You know I don't like doctors and hospitals and whatnot. Haven't been here since..."
         "Son. Be still."

    The two men sit quietly for a moment.  Les is perfectly still, looking straight ahead.  Craig is still for 1...2...3...4....he last 5 seconds and then begin digging in his pocket for his cell phone.
         "Lord, my son has ADD, ADHD, and XYZ. Can't sit still for one minute with his old man."
         "I'm just checking for messages from 'the yard'. The Magnolia is going to be finished next Friday. Pop...she's a beauty. She's for mom."
    Slowly a soft smile creeps up over Les' face.  Seeing this, Craig sits still, takes in his father's show of pride, smiles himself and lowers his head as he feels himself blushing and not knowing what to do with this rare show of approval from his dad.  Les whispers,
         "Lift your head up, son."
    Craig slowly sits up in his seat,
         "Yes sir."
    The two men share a sweet chuckle with each other.

    Dr. Alex Harris enters the room, breaking up the father-son moment.  He enters the office with some urgency, but slows as he approaches the men.
         "Gentlemen. Thank you for coming in on such short notice."
    Craig speaks up,
         "Sure thing doc. Your call sounded pretty urgent and Pop only has one speed."
         "I never rush. No need. Nothing requires me to be in a hurry."
    The room is quiet.  Craig and Les sit looking at Dr. Harris, who pauses to find his words.  He opts to turning on the flat screen monitor on his desk.  He then presses a small green button on the Dracel Card reader on his desk. It's the small rectangular box the size of a cell phone, connected, wirelessly, to the monitor.  Dr. Harris looks up at Les.
         "Mr. Dracel, may I have your card?"
         "It'll be a lot easier to explain if I can pull up your medical history and walk you through..."
    Craig interrupts,
         "Wait a minute wait a minute wait a minute...what's this about doc?"
         "If your father would just swipe his..."
         "My son asked you a question."
    All three men are motionless, especially Craig, who tries to play off his surprise reaction to his father's words,
         "I'm not giving you my card until you answer his question. What do you want with my card?"

    The three men sit quiet.  Dr. Harris is uncomfortable.
         "Mr. Dracel..."
    Craig interrupts,
         "Mr. Dracel? Dr. Harris, you've known our family over 30 years..."
    Dr. Harris never takes his eyes off Les,
         "Mr. Dracel...without papers, a chart, or this monitor to help me explain your case,"
    Craig interrupts again,
         "His case? Doc, what is goin' on here? His case..."
    Les still doesn't move. Dr. Harris only looks at Les.  Les speaks,
         "How long?"
    Quiet falls over the office, silencing Craig immediately. Dr. Harris takes in Les' question,
         "You know?"
         "Knows what?!"
         "Is that why you won't let me swipe your card?"
         "Why? So you can tell me when I'm going to die?  Who wants that news flashing up on a screen?"
         "We could have began treatments earlier. We could have started chemo...created a plan..."

    Les takes his wallet out of his jacket.  He slowly opens his wallet and takes out his card. The doctor reaches for the card.  Les holds it closer to himself.
         "How did you know? I haven't...I haven't been in for a physical in some time. It's been a couple years. Why did you call me in here?"
    The doctor pauses and then replies,
         "The card called us."
    Craig says quietly,
         "The card...called...you?"
         "How in the hell....did the card...call...you?"
    Dr. Harris adjusts himself in the seat and takes off his glasses,
         "It's an software adjustment within the card.
    Craig looks confused,
         "Within the card?"
         "Yes. Each of these readers are connected to the main server at the USA Corporation headquarters in Atlanta. If there is an update in the software, if the card needs to gain a new feature, the update is sent to the reader.  It only requires a swipe of the card and the card's software and functionality are updated."
         "So, the cards can be altered...at the reader?"
         "Yes...and no. It's still incredibly secure.  No one can access another person's information without their card and consent. At any rate, the card has undergone its first update and so far it's proving to be a great success. The USA Corp partnered with the Center for Disease Control and created a library....a database...of DNA."

    Craig is so put off by this conversation with Dr. Harris,
         "Man...please...don't do this. Don't go down some crazy science road neither one of us can follow. Keep it real simple. You'll find that monitor and that card reader thing thrown up again the wall and into a thousand pieces and I won't give a damn because my name is on it...so...speak plainly."

    The doctor continues,
         "Ok. The USA Corp has created a DNA bank cataloging the DNA of all Americans to be used medically, historically, legally.  This DNA information can be used as prolifically as how we once used a driver's license.  This is medically beneficial because the DNA profiles allow us to see all types of diseases and ailments most people are prone to develop as it relates to their lineage.  The card helps us catalog an entire family and see what issues we should red flag, offering preemptive care. We may be able to treat diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's...well before they show up.  It's a great advancement for medicine.  Not so great for insurance companies, the private, profit sectors of the health care industry, or the pharmaceutical companies that profit from treatment...I mean...it's hard to make money off the diseases you cure.  For those of us who believe in wellness and want to cure cancer, fight diabetes, maybe even give the CDC some insight on how to arm ourselves against contractable viruses and diseases, this technology is...well...it's nothing short of miraculous."
    Dr. Harris looks to Les,
         "Mr. Dracel...Les...I hope you understand what your son has done...by creating this card.  Jameson, gave the world a fighting chance against...everything."
         "Except me."

    Quiet again.  Craig looks at his father. He switches his focus to Les' card, which Les is still clutching,
         "How did the card call you?"
         "Well...the silver thumb reader has a nanoscopic biotone calibrator in it."
    Craig and his quick "I will break ALL this shit" look prompts Dr. Harris to begin again.
         "The silver thumb reader has a tiny razor that pricks your skin once a month. It happens so quickly that you won't feel it and because the razor line matches the contour of your finger print, your finger will look red for a few minutes but not bleed. It reads the slightest amount of blood and send data into the mainframe. This is an advancement in card security, preventing non-citizens from creating counterfeit cards...and it gives physicians a monthly look at our patients.  So...when they choose not to come in for a regular check up, we can see them anyway.
         "So then...why ask for the card? You get the information anyway."
         "We don't get everything. We don't get the patient. We use the card to pull up your information so you can know you carry all of the information with you. You can do additional research. Follow your own progress."

    Craig addresses his dad, hoping to encourage him to give his card to Dr. Harris,
         "Ok...well, Pop, that doesn't sound too bad..."
    Les puts the card back in his wallet...his wallet back in his jacket.
    Craig looks at his father, who continues to look ahead. Craig keeps his focus on his father but addresses the doctor.
         "Doc...what is it?"
    There is silence over the room again. Dr. Harris looks at Les, searching in his face for an answer or an allowance to answer Craig. Les gives him nothing. Les speaks,
         "Once, there was a man.  He was simple.  Didn't have much.  He enjoyed a very simple life.  He enjoyed his family...his kids...his wife.  This simple man had a home.  He had acquire a little wealth.  A man of good health.  And then one at a time, he lost all that was important to him."
         "Pop...you are not Job."
    Les looks at Craig,
         "No...I am not.  I am not Job.  Job had private talks with God.  Job held on to his dignity as his faith was restored.  No...I am not Job."
    Les looks to Dr. Harris,
         "When I give my card to you, you can have it.  I don't need a swipe of a card to tell me I'm dying.  I knew that was going to happen anyway.  Why spoil the surprise ending?"

    Les stands up, takes his card out one final time and places it on the doctor's desk.  He looks back to Craig,
         "Now...take me to 'the yard'. I want to see The Magnolia."

    Les walks out of the office, leaving both Craig and Dr. Harris in their seats. Craig slowly gets up and begins for the door. He stops, turns back to the desk, slowly picks up his father's card, holds it for a second,
         "Show me."


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