William And His Body
A doctor’s surgery.
Dr. Passwater sits on one side of the desk, a file full of notes in front of her.
William sits on the opposite side of the desk, nervous.
DR. PASSWATER It’s grown.
DR. PASSWATER It’s now the size of a grape.
WILLIAM What was it last time?
DR. PASSWATER Cherry.
William takes this in.
WILLIAM Why does it always have to be fruit?
DR. PASSWATER Looks good on the charts. For the kids.
WILLIAM Can you operate?
DR. PASSWATER Me? No. I’m a consultant.
WILLIAM I mean. Can they operate?
Dr. Passwater grimaces.
DR. PASSWATER I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘can they operate?’ As if it’s as easy as that. Easy peasy.
WILLIAM Well no. I just.
DR. PASSWATER I mean, it’s not rocket science! But it is brain surgery.
WILLIAM I wouldn’t. Suggest.
DR. PASSWATER Thing is, you cut out a chunk of someone’s brain and something tends to stop working.
WILLIAM How do you mean?
DR. PASSWATER We start digging around in your cerebral cortex and all of a sudden you’ve forgotten how to read. Hack off a frontal lobe and you can’t recognise your own wife. That kind of thing. It’ll be like us spilling coffee on your laptop.
DR. PASSWATER Truth is we won’t know until it gets to clementine. Whether it’s safe I mean. Chances are it’s not.
DR. PASSWATER It’s after lycee. On the chart.
William rubs his face.
Dr. Passwater checks her watch.
WILLIAM So, what? Am I going to die?
DR. PASSWATER Absolutely.
WILLIAM From the tumour?
DR. PASSWATER Oh!
Dr. Passwater laughs at her mistake, shakes her head.
DR. PASSWATER Probably.
WILLIAM Is there anything we can do?
DR. PASSWATER At this stage? Absolutely nothing.
WILLIAM What about chemotherapy?
DR. PASSWATER Apart from chemotherapy.
WILLIAM So that’s a possibility?
DR. PASSWATER Yes and no. Mainly no. We have one machine, and there’s a priority list in place.
WILLIAM Priority list? What are you saving it for? Mangoes?
DR. PASSWATER No need to be facetious.
WILLIAM Bloody watermelons?
DR. PASSWATER Celebrities actually.
WILLIAM I’m sorry I don’t quite.
DR. PASSWATER People of fame or repute. Or particular wealth.
WILLIAM Famous people? You save the chemotherapy machine for famous people?
DR. PASSWATER It’s a PR thing. For the clinic. We’ve got that guy from Emmerdale in this afternoon. You know the one with cancer. He’s bringing a reality TV crew with him.
WILLIAM This is insane.
DR. PASSWATER We might’ve been able to squeeze you in tomorrow morning, but Dale Winton’s found a lump. Then Thursday we’ve got Gale Porter.
WILLIAM Gale Porter has alopecia.
Beat. Dr. Passwater consults her file.
DR. PASSWATER Hmmm.
WILLIAM Can I have her slot?
Dr. Passwater thinks for a second. She sighs and takes out a questionnaire.
She clicks her pen.
DR. PASSWATER Age?
DR. PASSWATER Sex?
WILLIAM Uh. Male.
DR. PASSWATER Life insurance?
DR. PASSWATER Blood type?
WILLIAM O Negative.
DR. PASSWATER Nice. Ever suffered from arthritis?
DR. PASSWATER Palsy?
DR. PASSWATER Polio?
DR. PASSWATER Gout?
DR. PASSWATER Heart failure?
DR. PASSWATER Angina, chronic, acute or otherwise?
DR. PASSWATER Asthma?
DR. PASSWATER Eczema?
DR. PASSWATER Appendicitis?
DR. PASSWATER Brittle bone disease grades 2-7?
DR. PASSWATER Rickets?
DR. PASSWATER Lazy eye?
DR. PASSWATER Wandering eye?
DR. PASSWATER Eye of the Tiger?
DR. PASSWATER Parkinson’s disease?
DR. PASSWATER Wogan’s syndrome?
DR. PASSWATER Norton’s Infection.
DR. PASSWATER Tennis elbow?
DR. PASSWATER Dancer’s ankle?
DR. PASSWATER Rambler’s hip?
DR. PASSWATER Fencer’s shoulder?
DR. PASSWATER Jogger’s nipple?
DR. PASSWATER Housewife’s jaw?
DR. PASSWATER Plasterer’s radio?
DR. PASSWATER Sub-cutaneal lipo-disfigurement?
DR. PASSWATER Acute nervous retinal detachment?
DR. PASSWATER Advanced seasonal cognitive misappropriation?
DR. PASSWATER Extreme spontaneous dental hydroplosion?
DR. PASSWATER Di-nitrotoxic plasmo-psychosis?
DR. PASSWATER Cyrrosis of the liver?
DR. PASSWATER Osmosis of the kidneys?
DR. PASSWATER Inertia of the colon?
DR. PASSWATER Protrusion of the rectum?
DR. PASSWATER Answer the question.
DR. PASSWATER Gall stones?
DR. PASSWATER Kidney stones?
DR. PASSWATER Flint stones?
DR. PASSWATER Overactive mucus gland?
DR. PASSWATER Underactive prostate gland?
DR. PASSWATER Hepatitis A-G?
DR. PASSWATER Erectile dysfunction?
DR. PASSWATER Projectile misfunction?
DR. PASSWATER Premature emasculation?
DR. PASSWATER Heart murmur?
DR. PASSWATER Kidney whisper?
DR. PASSWATER Stomach growl?
She looks at him. Ticks the form.
DR. PASSWATER Syphilis?
DR. PASSWATER Hysteria?
DR. PASSWATER Phantom pregnancy?
DR. PASSWATER M.E.?
DR. PASSWATER M.S.?
DR. PASSWATER T.B.?
DR. PASSWATER Any S.T.I.s?
DR. PASSWATER P.M.T.?
DR. PASSWATER S.A.D.?
DR. PASSWATER R.S.I.?
DR. PASSWATER It’s a very serious condition.
WILLIAM Oh. No.
DR. PASSWATER Cancer of the liver, lungs, colon, pancreas, bone, blood, heart, testes, prostate or throat?
DR. PASSWATER And finally, any brain tumours?
Dr. Passwater ticks the form.
DR. PASSWATER Yes.
DR. PASSWATER Brackets, grape.
She takes out a calculator.
DR. PASSWATER Bear with me a moment. She consults the questionnaire and starts making calculations.
WILLIAM How long can I expect the treatment period to last?
Beat. She calculates.
WILLIAM Just thinking whether I need to apply for sick leave. I hear the effects of chemo can be. Pretty.
Dr. Passwater finishes her calculations. She writes down two figures on a piece of paper and puts them in front of William.
WILLIAM What are these?
DR. PASSWATER The one on the left is how much you’re costing the state as a sick person. That’s tax losses when you leave work, incapacity benefits, the cost of consultations, cancer drugs, chemotherapy and, in later weeks, hospitality.
WILLIAM Oh my goodness. And what about the one on the right?
DR. PASSWATER Well, that figure is.
DR. PASSWATER No don’t be alarmed, it’s not as macabre as it seems.
WILLIAM What isn’t? What does it mean?
DR. PASSWATER Just take a deep breath.
WILLIAM It’s bigger than the other one. What is it?
DR. PASSWATER Please try and see things from a.
WILLIAM For god’s sake just tell me what it is.
DR. PASSWATER The figure on the right is how much you’re worth. Dead.
DR. PASSWATER As you can see, it’s nearly four times higher.
WILLIAM Dead? I don’t. I don’t.
DR. PASSWATER Organs can be sold to independent research clinics around the world. Hair can be sold to wig makers. Blood to the Red Cross. Eyeballs to specialist surgeons in China. Teeth to gypsies for jewellery. I could go on. Your testicles are a delicacy in.
WILLIAM I get it. Thank you.
DR. PASSWATER You have a young family, is that correct?
WILLIAM A. A little girl.
DR. PASSWATER That’s nearly half a million your next of kin stand to inherit. Minus our fee.
WILLIAM This is. Ridiculous. I mean.
DR. PASSWATER Give it some thought.
WILLIAM You’re saying I should. What, kill myself?
DR. PASSWATER Not kill yourself, no. We have a team of. It’s all on the leaflet.
She takes out a leaflet and puts it on the table.
WILLIAM This. This is. I’m sorry, is this a joke?
DR. PASSWATER No.
WILLIAM Because I find this in very bad taste. I don’t know who you’re trying to amuse here.
DR. PASSWATER I want you to think long and hard about what difference it would make if you were dead. Financial implications aside.
WILLIAM What difference? Well it would make a pretty bloody big difference to me!
DR. PASSWATER I had one of my assistants compile a report just in case. It makes for interesting reading.
WILLIAM What do you mean, report? What report?
She opens another file.
DR. PASSWATER Your supervisor rates your productivity at around 54% and your value to the company at 46%.
WILLIAM What is this?
DR. PASSWATER Your earning power is below average for your age group.
WILLIAM You have got to be kidding me.
DR. PASSWATER Your current contribution to charitable organisations is zero.
WILLIAM No. I’m sorry, no.
DR. PASSWATER It’ll take Victoria an estimated 38 weeks to find a new partner. And another 55 weeks to remarry. Furthermore, you’ll leave behind no direct descendents.
WILLIAM What? Direct. What about Isabelle?
DR. PASSWATER Isabelle.
WILLIAM Yes my daughter Isabelle.
DR. PASSWATER Your daughter?
Dr. Passwater consults the file.
DR. PASSWATER I have the DNA results in front of me right now and they don’t. You’re not.
WILLIAM No. No.
DR. PASSWATER Isabelle was conceived in the last week of May three years ago, whilst, according to this, you were on a business trip in.
DR. PASSWATER And your wife was staying with.
WILLIAM Steve. Oh my god.
DR. PASSWATER Try not to think of it as losing a daughter, so much as gaining a niece.
Pause. Dr. Passwater nudges the leaflet closer.
DR. PASSWATER Have a long think about your next move. You have just over a month before it reaches lemon. By which I mean terminal.
WILLIAM Thank you for your help, doctor.
DR. PASSWATER That’s what I’m here for.
WILLIAM Do you. Take care.
DR. PASSWATER Everything. We take care of everything.
WILLIAM I think I know what to do now.
DR. PASSWATER Good. Feel free to make an appointment at reception on your way out.
Beat. He doesn’t move.
DR. PASSWATER On your way out.
WILLIAM Am I really as useless as all that?
DR. PASSWATER You’re a very valuable human being.
William stands up, slowly moves to exit. Turns, picks up the leaflet, exits.
Dr. Passwater presses her intercom.
DR. PASSWATER Sandra, can we confirm Dale for tomorrow morning please? Has he actually found a tumour this time, or is it another lump of Brylcreem?