He glanced upwards and scrutinized his visage in the bathroom mirror – dense stubble grew on his cheeks and dark circles enveloped his weary hazel eyes. It was a stirring sight: a sight that clearly exhibited that despite the fact he did not work, he was tired, that despite the fact he had all the time in the world, he didn’t shave.
He was a slothful man – a man who had learned to enjoy material comforts, obtained without working his ass off from 9 to 6. His father was a rich man, a very wealthy man indeed – so what was the need for him to work? Having all those girds of fresh money at his disposal, coupled with a Porsche and an opulent apartment in Central Park Avenue, it was almost mandatory for him to be apathetic. However, his sluggishness was unique – he was a lazy bum of highest degree. He was so slothful that he had to muster all his will power to just drag himself for a leak.
He chuckled slightly, his double-chin rolling as he did so – somehow, his laziness had always amused him, it being almost hilarious to see that he was the lone, indolent son of his hard-working, punctilious father.
Alan slouched out of the bathroom and threw himself on his plush bed. The room showed the signs of slothfulness – as sleek gadgets were crammed on a small table, stale food was strewn on a larger table and the entire furnishings of the room were helter-skelter.
Alan nicely coordinated with the disheveled room.
A few moments had passed, when the snores of the man echoed through the room.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” he muttered anxiously.
“I’m okay. Don’t worry, Kevin!” Alan said to his friend, who often joined him at the apartment.
“You don’t seem so. You have vomited thrice since I arrived here!”
“Its just indigestion – you know how much I love food. It must be the Chinese I ate for lunch – I know I shouldn’t have trusted to have it delivered from the Hung-Lao Restaurant that has recently opened in downtown. It’s my fault! So I would bear its consequences now too!” Alan sighed, regret patent in his voice, as he gulped some aspirins to dull the headache that had risen in his head.
“You know, aspirins can be pretty harmful!” Kevin informed his sluggish friend – he was rapidly gaining weight and Kevin was worried about his friend’s health.
Alan merely waved his hand in dismissal.
His friend tutted and shook his head.
He was never going to understand.
Alan groaned as a pain shot across his stomach – it seemed as if his bowels were being wrenched. He had never thought the indigestion would give him so much trouble. Funny enough, the pain was quenched whenever he ate something.
Upon finding a remedy to the pain, he was swollen with pride or more exact to say swollen with the fat that had accumulated in his body due to the fervent over-eating.
He had abstained to tell his friend about the pain because he knew Kevin would fuss and force him to see a doctor. But he would be too slothful to visit the doctor and would keep on postponing the appointment – he and Kevin would have a huge argument and he would win. He didn’t need doctors for a pain for which he had already devised a remedy. So you better stay shush about the pain when Kevin is around, Alan thought ruefully.
He groaned again as another shot of pain bolted through his bowels.
“What now!? I just fed you some lasagna didn’t I!?” he shouted in the direction of his stomach.
With fumbling hands he reached out for the aspirin bottle and swallowed a few tablets.
He had read somewhere that they provided relief.
“Why didn’t you tell me before!?” hollered Kevin, as he looked, horrified, at his friend who was sprawled on his bed, clutching his stomach. He had come over for a chat – and had been shocked to see Alan in such a condition.
“Get me something to eat!” his friend moaned.
His eyes wide open, Kevin grabbed a handful of chocolate cookies stuck in the snarl that coated the table and handed them over to Alan, who immediately started gobbling them, eating as fast as he could – crumbles of cookies coating his wrinkled shirt.
Kevin perched on the bed by his friend but withdrew to the edge of bed, with a revolted look on his face.
“God, Alan you’re practically stinking! When did you last take a bath?”
Alan, who had been devouring the cookies, paused a minute to reflect.
“Uh – maybe a month or so!” he returned and began eating again – the frantic eating was doing its magic: the pain was subsiding.
Kevin shook his head.
“C’mon, Alan you can’t be that lazy to not even wash! You smell like shit, man, seriously!”
“I know. I know,” was the uninterested reply.
“You’re going to bath. And you’re going to see a doctor now. Stop being lazy for once!”
“I’m alright! See the pain is gone. I just have to eat and bam! It’s gone!”
“Oh no, I’m not about to believe that. Since when did it start paining?” Kevin inquired.
“Uh, five months.”
Kevin shook his head again and standing up from bed, asked,” Where is the phone?”
“Must be somewhere around,” Alan said, amid a yawn.
Kevin rummaged through the mess littered around the room and finally extracted the phone from the back of the couch with difficulty.
Punching some numbers, he raised the phone to his ear.
“Hey, who are you callin’?” Alan inquired suspiciously.
Kevin ignored him and continued to talk on the phone.
“Yes, yes, he would be there. 11 am, right? Okay I would see that he reaches on time. Thank you very much,” Kevin conversed and after saying thank you, disconnected the call.
“What was that all about?” Alan probed – instinct told him that his friend had just set him up for an appointment with some nosy doctor.
“Tomorrow, 11 am you have an appointment with Dr. Burleson, pioneering gastroenterologist, practicing in 31st Bellevue Street —“he raised a hand to silent Alan who had his mouth open to protest,” No you’re not dying because of your laziness, you get me? I will not let you kill yourself. Don’t even speak a word of protest!” Kevin said firmly as he glared at Alan.
Alan pulled a long face and mumbling,” It’s just damn indigestion … “slumped back on the bed.
Kevin eyed his friend with worry.
The alarm clock started bleeping on 10 am.
Mumbling, in half-sleep, Alan stretched his arm and closed the darned alarm clock that had disturbed him.
Not surprisingly, he missed his appointment – due to his own laziness.
“Oh my God! Oh my God!” Alan stared in horror at the blood that he had just vomited.
Panicked, Alan stumbled out of the bathroom and groping the walls for support, reached out for the phone that lay on the cluttered table.
His face drained of all color, he dialed Kevin’s number.
“So you take aspirin or any other analgesics on regular basis?” the staid doctor asked, as he gazed serenely over his glasses at the young man that sat before him.
Alan nodded – he had not yet been able to forgo the image of blood that he had puked out.
“Hmm. Do you regularly intake spicy or piquant food?” Dr Burleson queried.
“Yes. I love spicy food,” Alan gravely replied.
The doctor contemplated for a few seconds and uttered solemnly,” Since six months, you’ve been experiencing nausea and pain in stomach but you refused any medical care and continued to implement your own remedy of eating as much food as possible. And now when you discovered blood in your vomit, you come to me. Am I correct about these facts, Mr. Gravelle?”
Alan nodded meekly.
“I had a look on these test reports and I have every reason to believe that six months back you had developed a condition called Peptic Ulcer due to excessive intake of ANSAIDs and spicy food, which then upon your negligence and refusal to entertain any medical help, culminated into stomach cancer, and hence, the blood in your vomit,” the doctor pronounced, sifting through the reports – his eyes though attuned to the reception he generally received when he pronounced that the patient had cancer, did not in any way curbed or lessened the pain he felt in delivering the ill-fated news.
As the crushing news poured on his shoulders, Alan sagged and aghast placed his head on the table. It was devastating to know – that he had brought this on himself. He had been lazy. He had been slothful. He had neglected to visit the doctor altogether. He had lied to Kevin that he had himself checked – but he had overslept and had neither gone for the appointment nor rescheduled it.
This was karma. And he had called it upon himself.
He raised his head and biting his quivering lips, he asked the question whose answer yet held some hope for him.
“Is there any treatment?”
He might live through this predicament. He might survive this cancer.
“I’m very sorry to say, Mr. Gravelle but you have reached the terminal stage of gastric carcinoma. Chemotherapy will prove to be ineffective, since the cancer has spread throughout the stomach. We can however, have you to undergo a procedure, total Gastrectomy – by which your stomach shall be removed and esophagus will be connected directly to intestines. But this procedure has very low success rate, and even if it has been successfully performed, it has extremely low survival rate,” Dr Burleson returned soberly.
A tear rolled down Alan’s cheek as he heard doctor’s shattering words.
There was very little hope.
It was a small piece in New York Times obituary section named as “Peace, Perfect Peace, and Loved Ones far away!” —
“Alan Gravelle, son of Gravelle Mereborn, passed away on 23rd November 2009. His funeral shall be conducted at Averred Parlor at 8:00 pm on 24th November and he shall be buried in the adjoining cemetery. All friends and family are invited to pay their last respects.”