Sunday, April 10, 2011

The room stood at the end of the hall, the largest suite on the floor. Through the half-open door I smelled alcohol and cigarette smoke, never a good sign. At my knock a voice urged me to enter. The room was empty, but this was the sitting room. A doorway led to the bedroom containing a small figure in a huge bed, covers drawn up to his chin. Balding and past forty, his disheveled hair was the single unkempt feature, and a goatee the only evidence of his foreignness. He was Prince Abdul-Aziz from Saudi Arabia. Arabian princes are more common than you’d think.

“I have pain,” he announced.

“Where is the pain, Mr. Aziz?”

“Kidney. I have kidney stones in my kidney.” He threw the covers to one side and pointed to his right flank. “My doctor prescribes Dihydrolex.”

“That’s not a drug I’m familiar with.”

“It is from London. I live in London.”

“Do you need a prescription?”

“Yes, but also a shot.”

I examined the prince’s abdomen and tested his urine for blood. Both exams were normal but this can happen with a stone. I thumped his back in the kidney area, and he groaned.

“I’ll give you a Toradol injection, but if the pain comes back, you’ll have to go where they can do some tests.”

“Many thanks.”

Any doubt about the prince’s drug consumption vanished when my needle jerked to a halt half an inch beneath the skin. Fibrosis from hundreds of injections had given his gluteus the consistency of a block of wood. I forced the syringe down a further inch and delivered the injection. Anticipating the pleasures ahead, the prince whirled to thank me, clasping my hand in gratitude.

“Remember what I said if the pain returns…” I repeated. “Should I ask the hotel to pay and put it on your bill?”

“No, no no. I pay!” Keeping a grip on my hand, he yanked open the drawer of the bedside table which turned out to be stuffed with hundred dollar bills. He snatched a handful and held them out.

Grateful the prince had forgotten his request for a prescription, I thanked him and hurried off. Later I counted fourteen bills. I gave them to my wife who bought a small Chinese rug for our living room.

The following day a rival hotel doctor phoned. “The Nikko wants me to see a guest,” he said. “Apparently you saw him yesterday, but you don’t want to see him again. Naturally I’m curious to know why.”

“I’m pretty sure he’s a drug abuser.”

“They said he was difficult. Is there any reason for me to see him?”

“He’s a big tipper.”

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