Dr. Marcus Clifford has resigned himself to continuing the underground medical clinic unexpectedly willed to him upon his uncle's death. Unfortunately, the Changeroom Clinic has not only cost him his marriage, but also his prominent medical career; now he is disgraced and a social pariah. Seemingly destined to complete his life's work among the bowels of society, Dr. Clifford precariously balances roles as chief surgeon, supply clerk, and after-hours janitor, dolefully treating the uninsured and downtrodden in his neighborhood.
Behind closed doors of the basement clinic, Dr. Clifford's assistant and bodyguard, Tony DeMarco, fights a daily battle to keep some semblance of order as violent, sexually exploited, and drug-addicted patients wait side-by-side for limited care. As the disastrous results of unethical plastic surgeries begin to flood the clinic, along with the usual complaints of broken limbs and lacerated tissue, Dr. Clifford is assisted by his former colleagues, Nurse Olga Heinz and Dr. Martin Hood. Yet even as the clinic's waiting room bursts with a diverse group of characters who desperately need help, Dr. Clifford's dwindling energy forces him to reevaluate his abilities.
In this compelling tale, a once-respected physician now known as a slum doctor must battle his own inner demons as he secretly wonders how much longer he can remain true to his Hippocratic oath.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.98(d)|
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Cures for CashWhere would you go if traditional medicine was out of reach?
By Lynne Martin
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Lynne Martin
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
—The Wizard of Oz, 1939
Justice stared down at the admittance form and nervously debated how in the hell he was going to fill in all the empty blanks. Penciling in his name and home phone number alone had taken him longer than most. Justice was the type of man who worked with his hands and usually left the books and pencils to his wife. Unfortunately, he'd made the trip to the medical clinic on his own. Now he was now forced to complete any necessary paperwork somehow, without his wife's assistance.
"Done with my board?" the muscle-bound attendant demanded from his chair.
"Not quite," he answered back, forcing himself to rise to his feet and make his way across the clinic's floor. "I ... I'm just not really good ... you know, good with ..."
Tony leaned across his desk and snatched the clipboard from the young man's outstretched hand. After scanning the nearly empty form, he picked up his own pencil and began quizzing the potential patient. "Mallory is your last name?"
"Yup," Justice answered, pivoting his head side to side to see if anyone was eavesdropping on their conversation.
"What's your address?"
Gaze shifting to the ceiling, Justice repeated his complete street address and zip code from memory, quite pleased with his mental accomplishment.
"Yes sir," Justice vigorously nodded his head, silently offering a prayer that the doctor would take care of everything during this initial visit.
"I mean what kind of surgery? I got to write out a description for the doctor so he knows what kind of procedure you're looking for."
Justice knew exactly what he wanted done, but was by no means comfortable enough to describe the details to a total stranger.
"Listen up. You've got two choices, bud," Tony explained in the same monotone voice he reserved for all the Changeroom's uncooperative patients. "You can either fill in the blanks yourself, or explain it all to me. Which is it going to be?" he demanded, offering Justice his own pencil.
"I want to be fixed. We can't afford no more children," he admitted with a sigh.
"VAS ... EC ... TO ... MY," Tony spelled out as he completed the form. "How you paying?"
Without hesitation, the young man pulled out a rolled wad of twenty-dollar bills wrapped with a single elastic band.
Tony penciled the word cash into the final blank. "Now sign this." He pushed the clipboard back across his desk.
Justice obliged as if following his boss's instruction down at the greenhouse.
Ripping the single page off the clipboard, the clinic's attendant shoved it into a recycled manila folder and motioned for the young man to return to his seat. "Grab a chair. I'll call you as soon as the doctor's ready."
Gratefully returning to the waiting area, Justice slumped down into one of the plastic patio chairs, releasing a huge sigh of relief.
"Hey bro," a hooded teen called out from across the waiting room. "Nice gansta roll. What'd ya do, roll up on your mama?"
"Hey buddy, stuff a sock in it," Tony yelled out across the clinic's floor.
"Chill bro, just checking out white bread's roll."
"Mind your own business," Tony barked for the last time before rising up and heading back between the clinic's swinging doors.
* * *
"You've got to try and relax." Dr. Clifford attempted to soothe the patient on his table, worried that her continual fidgeting might hamper his ability to balance the collagen injections in her bottom and top lips.
"Howww's it wook," the woman managed to force out through her numbed tissue. "Need morrre?"
Dr. Marcus Clifford, the Changeroom's sole owner, chief surgeon, supply clerk, and after-hours janitor, stood back and assessed his patient's symmetry. "I could possibly add a little to the upper right," he turned to pick up a mirror, "but I think you should have a look first." The doctor took a moment to stretch the aging muscles in his lower back.
Taking her time with the hand mirror, turning her face first to the right and then to the left, the patient carefully appraised her new look.
"Now, you understand that your lips are somewhat swollen from the procedure," the doctor warned. "But after twenty-four hours, the resulting fullness will be permanent."
"Wooks good," she smiled, the puffiness of her swollen mouth giving her face cartoonish features. "Howww bout?" she pointed to her bumpy and obviously disfigured cheekbones, "da wessst?"
"The rest of your face is a whole other problem." Dr. Clifford set down his syringe, adjusting his bifocals as he leaned in for a closer look. "The lumps are dissipating a little," he announced, gently pressing down on the fluid-filled pouches. "Maybe in three or four months we'll be able to do something. Right now, I think we really have no choice but to wait it out. Alright?" he asked, looking into her eyes for confirmation.
Silently nodding her head, the patient set down the mirror and began to prepare for her departure.
"I just have to ask you," the doctor couldn't help but speak his mind. "Why'd you let some quack inject your face with God knows what? You know you could have ended up in hospital with a range of conditions brought on by blood poisoning, and toxemia, and ..."
"Doc pwwease," the woman attempted to silence him with a wave of her hand. "He wass cheeeppp," she slurred.
"I understand. Cheek implants are upward of three thousand dollars, collagen injections somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen hundred, so the doctor you picked probably just injected saline for a couple hundred cash. But I must tell you, his symmetry was all off." Dr. Clifford slowly moved his head, continuing to appraise the lopsided bumps now adorning both her cheekbones. "I can't understand his logic regarding the positioning."
"First off," Tony interrupted the conversation, "she ain't talking about a doctor. She's talking about that nut that works out of the gym on fourteenth, and I bet it isn't salt water either. I heard the guy's injecting motor oil instead of collagen or saline."
"You know this guy?"
Tony set down the folder and snapped on a pair of rubber gloves before beginning a quick clean up of the empty syringes and dirty gauze littering the stainless steel tray. "I don't know him, I just know of him," he answered without lifting his face from the task.
"But why motor oil?" Dr. Clifford struggled to comprehend the information.
"Doesn't absorb easily into the surrounding muscle, stays liquid, and it's dirt cheap."
Leaning in for a third time to inspect his patient's distorted facial features, the doctor couldn't help himself, making a verbal prediction before he realized what he was saying. "If you don't have this foreign material removed as soon as possible, I'm afraid your appearance and your physical health are only going to worsen."
"Howww?" she demanded, not sure whether the doctor was genuinely concerned about her physical well being, or just pumping her for further business.
"Well, it appears that the motor oil was injected at varying depths and locations on each side of your face. That's one of the reasons you're finding the swelling and plumping of surrounding tissue totally uneven."
"Sooo," the patient mumbled, attempting to pucker her newly injected lips in the handheld mirror.
"So, if you don't have it all removed from your face as soon as possible, you might..."
"Nnnough!" She threw down the mirror. "Goin' hooome," the patient abruptly announced, then turned and marched out of the surgical room.
"Don't worry about her, Doc." Tony finished his clean up. "She's a crack ho who works the street, and a couple c.c.'s of motor oil in her cheeks is really the least of her problems."
"We've both had a hell of a day. Why don't we take one more and then call it a night?" Martin suggested, leaning against the counter as he stripped off his rubber gloves.
"We've got a vasectomy that you could wrap in twenty minutes. Want it?"
"Why not?" Dr. Clifford shook his head. "Two hundred bucks is two hundred bucks."
"That's right," Tony agreed. "And tonight, on the way home, I'll stop by the mall and pay the clinic's late phone bill," he promised, realizing that the elderly doctor was much too tired to personally make the stop.
* * *
Julia dug both plastic bottles out of her knapsack, and unceremoniously dropped them on the bathroom counter. After quickly unscrewing the first lid, she swung the open nozzle up toward the running tap. Testing the water temperature with her fingers, she decided the water was sufficiently warm, and filled the clear plastic container.
"Julia. Hey Julia? It's me, Keith," her male co-star abruptly shouted from outside the bathroom door. "Do you know where that Serena chick is hiding her ass?"
"Well, she sure as the hell ain't in here with me," the young woman yelled back, simultaneously wiggling out of her tube dress and g-string underwear.
"Serena's first up, and the little bitch is AWOL. Now the director's ready to whup her ass, and everybody's blaming me for holding up production. Could ya help me find her?" he called out one last time before disappearing back down the hallway.
"Amateurs," Julia hissed, slamming her plastic bottle back down on the counter before yanking a clean bath towel out of her knapsack.
Wrapped in bleached white cotton, Julia angrily threw open the bathroom door and marched down the hall to the basement stairs. Determined to find the bitch and get the day's shoot back on track, she headed for the one place she thought she might be hiding.
"Serena, are you in there?" Julia pushed open the furnace room door.
Unwilling to answer, Serena fumbled with her lighter in a vain attempt to ignite the moistened end of her freshly rolled joint.
Julia stood her ground, repeatedly blinking to adjust to the low light. Finally comfortable with her surroundings, she carefully dropped to a crouching position and evaluated the darkened shapes occupying the opposing corners. "Look kid, I'm just here to help you out. But if you'd rather I just piss off and tell the director where to find your little ass himself, then I'll go."
"Don't leave me," the girl managed to croak out from behind the furnace, forcing herself to rise on unsteady knees. "I've never done this before, I've never ..."
"You're not a fucking virgin, are you?" Julia demanded; standing to her full height as she adjusted the towel wrapped snugly underneath her arms. "Cuz trust me honey, this ain't the time or the place to pop your cherry."
"I'm not a virgin," Serena barked back, some of her strength returning as she stepped forward to defend her position. "I showered, and shaved, and brushed my teeth, but the make-up lady said I was supposed to go clean up. I don't know what else she wants me to wash." The girl threw her hands up in the air.
"How old are you?" Julia demanded, hands on her hips.
Serena stood her ground, eyes never leaving Julia's face. "I've already been on my own for three years," she brazenly announced, unsure whether she was speaking to a friend or a foe.
Not satisfied with the answer, Julia began to think aloud. "Well, nobody works around here unless they're at least seventeen. The director's pretty careful about that shit since he was nailed with statutory two years ago. So tell me, you been seventeen for a couple months, or you're gonna be seventeen in a couple years?"
"Six weeks," Serena chuckled to herself. "That's when I met Keith, a month and a half ago, at my seventeenth birthday bash."
"What a gift," Julia muttered under her breath.
"Is the director really pissed at me?"
"Well, he ain't sending you roses. Hell, what'd you expect? It's time to shoot, and you're not ready. Exactly what's the hold up again?"
Finally succeeding in her repeated attempts to light the joint, Serena yipped with excitement when the tip finally ignited into a small orange flame. Quickly sucking up the acrid smoke, she inhaled as deeply as her lungs would allow, only opening her eyes after circulating the smoke through her nose. "Want a drag?"
Accepting the joint, Julia pinched off one side of the rolling paper between her fingernails and repeatedly sucked small drags from the unfiltered tip. "You really don't have a fucking clue what the problem is, do you?" the veteran croaked while holding the smoke down as long as humanly possible in the confines of her lungs.
Shaking her head side to side, Serena chose to accept Julia as her friend and honestly admitted her ignorance. "I don't have a fucking clue what that lady wants."
Joint finished, the roach ground into the concrete floor of the furnace room, Julia grabbed Serena by the hand and dragged her up the basement stairs. Sequestered once again behind the bathroom door, she turned to face the questioning eyes of her young protégé. "I'm not much good at explaining," Julia admitted, "so I think it'd make a lot more sense if you just saw what I was doing and did the same."
Nodding, Serena watched as her tutor picked up an empty plastic bottle, filled it with warm tap water, and then shoved the nozzle straight up inside her vaginal cavity.
"Make sure you get it all the way up inside before you squeeze," Julia warned, "or trust me, it'll just end up running all down your legs."
Serena continued to nod.
Julia set the empty bottle back on the countertop before dropping down to the toilet seat and releasing all the liquid back into the bowl.
"You're cleaning out your twat, right?" the young girl's face lit up in excitement. "That's what she wanted me to do?"
Reaching for the toilet paper, Julia patted herself dry before rising back up to her feet. "Can't blame them, who'd wanna go down on a dirty box?"
Serena picked up the bottle and turned toward the tap, shoving the plastic under the faucet to rinse off the nozzle before refilling the canister. "We don't use soap or nothing else?"
"Soap?" Julia shrieked. "Never let anyone tell you to douche with soap. You'll burn for days and the guys will hate you. They said it's like going down on a box of Tide. But if you're just off your rag and feel a little dirty, put about an inch," she pointed to the bottom of the bottle "of vinegar in with the water and that'll really clean out any leftover blood or lingering smell."
"Thanks," Serena smiled, twisting the nozzle back down on the filled bottle. "My turn?"
"And don't use my bottle," Julia snatched the container from Serena's fingers. You can buy them cheap at any dollar store." She turned and pulled a new container from her own bag.
"Thanks," she accepted the gift. "I'll get you another one as soon as I can."
"Well then, you better get at it," Julia encouraged her. "Hey, are you booked for anal, too?"
"Yeah, I think so," Serena shyly admitted as she ripped open the package before unscrewing the lid. "They said it was an extra hundred bucks."
"Well then you better hurry up with that." Julia waved her hands. "You're going to have to douche your ass, too. Don't want any of the guys dipping in and pulling out a chocolate bar, do you?" She winked.
Nodding her head in agreement while attempting to comprehend the analogy, Serena followed suit and awkwardly bent her knees. Nervously gliding the unforgiving plastic tip up past the fleshy tissue of her vaginal lips, her fingers bore down on the thin walled bottle, flooding her innermost cavity with clean, warm, tap water.
* * *
The kids had almost finished cleaning their plates and were already clamoring to be excused from the kitchen table, when Annette finally realized that her husband wasn't coming home for supper, again.
"Chocolate cake," all three begged in unison.
Annette relented, sending the children to their playroom with the evening's desert.
"Smells good," her husband suddenly called out from the front door, making a beeline straight toward their bedroom. "Guess you ate without me," Wally announced before disappearing out of his wife's sight.
"You never called; I didn't know how long to wait," she bluntly stated, desperately trying to filter out any pangs of disappointment from her voice. She called after his retreating back, "I saved you a plate of extra crispy chicken though. Want me to nuke it?"
"Sure, sounds good," he called out from behind the bedroom door.
Annette quickly re-set her husband's place at the kitchen table, complete with a separate fork for his salad, and one or his desert.
"Kids sleeping?" Wally asked. He casually patted his wife on her bottom as he squeezed past her. He reached into the refrigerator door and pulled out an open bottle of white zinfandel.
Excerpted from Cures for Cash by Lynne Martin Copyright © 2012 by Lynne Martin. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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