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Saturday, May 3, 2014

A Big Tipper

Le Meredien on La Cienega had a firm policy against recommending a doctor. This does not mean it never called, only that a call from Le Meredien means a guest making trouble, and the harassed employee had chosen Doctor Oppenheim as the lesser of two evils:  the greater being burdening his boss with the problem. This happened long ago.

 “I’m here for the gentleman in 499,” I informed the concierge.  “Is there anything I should know?” 

She made a show of checking her computer. “That would be Mister Al-Akbar. He’s been asking for a doctor. Repeatedly. The Kuwaiti consulate had your number."

Concealing my pleasure at that news, I thanked her and headed for the elevator. 499 stood at the end of the hall, the largest suite on the floor. Its door stood open. Knocking, then pushing it further, I encountered the smell of alcohol, never a good sign when the patient is Moslem. No one was in sight, but a doorway led to the bedroom and the prince, 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

“Pain. Terrible pain,” he announced loudly.

“Where is the pain, Mr. Akbar?”

“Kidney. I have kidney stones in my kidney.” He threw the covers to one side and pointed to his right flank. “My doctor prescribes Dihydroco, but I have no more.”

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

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

“Do you just need a prescription?”

“Also a shot. The pain is unbearable.”

I examined the prince and tested his urine for blood. Everything was normal but this can happen with a kidney stone. I thumped his back over his kidneys, and he groaned. I was not convinced. Le Meredien wasn’t a potential client, so I could expect no advantage from pacifying the prince, and no damage from a complaint.

“I don't carry narcotics, but I can give you a Toradol injection.” A legitimate pain remedy, Toradol is similar to Advil but probably not what he expected.

“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 the prince’s buttock muscle the consistency of wood. I forced the syringe down and delivered the injection. Anticipating the pleasures ahead, the prince clutched my hand in gratitude.

Yanking open the drawer of the bedside table which turned out to be stuffed with hundred-dollar bills, he snatched a handful and pushed them into my grasp.

Grateful the guest had forgotten his request for a prescription, I thanked him and hurried out. Later I counted fourteen bills. We bought a Chinese rug for our living room.

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