Donald looked at the address again and reluctantly rang the doorbell.
“How the hell am I going to ask him?” he wondered. He shuffled his feet and stared at the number on the door. “Maybe he’s not in,” he thought eagerly, half-turning, but he remembered the importance of his mission and stood waiting.
The door opened a half inch and an eye peered out at him. “Yes?” came a voice muffled by the door.
“Hello,” said Donald cheerfully. “May I come in?”
“Who sent you?”
“A man by the name of Cappy Williams–said he knew you in the old days.”
The eye looked at him carefully. “Anybody with you?”
The door opened wide enough for Donald to squeeze through. Nobody saw him enter. The door snapped shut quickly behind him, catching a corner of Donald’s seersucker jacket.
“Hey, my jacket’s caught in the door.”
“Well, pull it loose. You’re not catching me opening up that door again.”
Donald tugged at his jacket. It was jammed in tight.
“Bother,” said Donald. He pulled again. There was a slight ripping sound. “Think I’ll just take it off and let it hang there,” said Donald with a weak smile. He skinned out of his jacket. “Get it when I leave.” The jacket flopped against the door, two pens and a fifty cent piece falling out of the pockets and clattering on the floor.
“Jesus, cut the racket. Want to wake up every bull in the neighborhood?”
“Oh, no,” said Donald. “Are you Irvin Montague?”
“Well here I am,” said Donald cheerfully, looking around.
The living room in which he was standing looked like any other except there was a corpse over in a corner with a sheet half over it. Beside it was sitting a man with a fedora pulled down over his eyes, snoring slightly, a bandaged leg up on a stool. Donald had expected at least a few test tubes–maybe even an X-ray machine.
“You are Irvin Montague–a doctor of sorts?” he asked.
“Well, this is a matter of some delicacy,” continued Donald looking at the man with the fedora.
“Don’t be bothering yourself worrying about that bum,” said the doctor. “Talk up, Mac. What’s your trouble? An abortion, maybe?”
“Oh, no,” said Donald.
The doctor looked crestfallen. “Gunshot?” he asked severely.
“Why, what would I want that for?”
“Look, mac,” said the doctor. “I ain’t got much time. What the hell do you want?”
“Well,” said Donald softly, watching the man in the fedora hat. “I’m a student out at the college. Got an exam tomorrow in Geography–the geography of South America. Three hour exam. Got the picture?”
“Yeah,” said the doctor.
“Well, the truth of the matter is I’ve only been to one class this year–a class on the resources of the Upper Amazon basin–sugar, rubber, you know. But about the rest of the course, I just don’t know beans.”
“Beans. So I’m bound to flunk. But if I can get an excuse to miss the exam I can take it again next fall, see? Study all summer and really smash it for maybe a C.
“Well, I was talking to Cappy Williams the other day, and he told me that long ago you used to mix up some sort of drink for students in my predicament that would make ’em pretty sick right in the middle of the exam. Drink it, you see, and then be carried out. Fine medical excuse. No trouble with the dean’s office. Perfect.”
“And you want me to mix you up a mickey?” The doctor started to laugh. “After all these years–Holy Christ,” he sputtered. The man in the fedora stirred slightly and his eyes opened. “Cut the honking, Montague. You want to wake up every bull in the neighborhood?”
The doctor’s laugh stopped as though he’d been choked. “Sorry, nipper, boy. Take it easy.”
“What do you say, doctor?” asked Donald. “It means everything in the world to me. Just can’t go on probation again. I don’t know what my family would say.”
The doctor took a step towards him. “Clear outa here, punk. Blow.”
“Hold on, Montague,” interrupted the man in the fedora. “Out on probation, eh, kid?” Donald was asked, “Who are you gunnin’ with?”
“Leave him be, nipper,” said the doctor. “Just a young college punk.”
“I like his style,” said the man in the fedora. “Fix him up, Montague, with what he wants.”
“Brother, anything to get him the hell outa here.” The doctor walked quickly across the room through a door to what Donald decided must be the examining rooms.
“I certainly do appreciate it, doctor,” Donald called after him. “Perfectly willing to pay you.” Donald sat down in a chair. The world looked pretty bright, he thought.
“The doctor’s a neat guy, isn’t he,” he asked the man in the fedora.
“That punk? Give him half a chance and he’d turn state’s evidence. Damn stoolie.”
“My, that’s too bad,” said Donald. He started to hum a tune he’d been picking up on the saxophone. “La-te-dum-te-dum-te-dum.”
“Cut the honking, punk. Wanta wake up every bull in the neighborhood?”
Donald laughed and shook his head. “My dear man, we’re in the middle of the city. No bulls. La-te-dum-te-dum-te-dum.”
“Cut it!” the man in the fedora bellowed. “Wanta get blasted in the guts with a .45?”
“Uncouth beast,” thought Donald as he hummed a quick ending flourish to his tune.
“What a fresh punk.” The man in the fedora shook his head. “They’re sure turning ’em out pretty fresh these days. What’s the doc doin’ in there for ya?”
“He’s mixing me up a drink. You see I’m taking this geography…”
“Soup, eh? Going to blow a safe. Pretty good for a kid your age.”
Donald took an orange lifesaver out of his trouser’s pocket and popped it into his mouth. “You watch the football team play this year?” he asked.
“I’m not in the bookie’s racket,” said the man in the fedora. “Gotta spend all my time planning capers. If you don’t plan your caper you get it in the gizzard like this poor sap here,” and he pointed at the corpse in the sheet.
Donald peered across the room. “I suppose that’s one of the doctor’s cadavers,” he said. “Sure would like to take one home with me and stick it in Peter’s bed. Peter’s my roommate. What a card.” He started to laugh. “Oh my.”
“Cut it, punk.”
Donald stopped. “Bulls?”
What a lovely day for an exam, thought Donald. He wrapped his fingers lovingly around the doctor’s little bottle as he walked into the examination room. The worried eyes and the tremulous voices delighted him. Punks, he thought. Bulls. He now rather liked the word. “Bulls,” he said half aloud.
He looked each proctor in the eye. Ten minutes from now, one of them would be assisting him from the room. He hoped it wouldn’t be the big proctor with the glass eye. But then he could hardly be choosey.
He took a seat in the back of the room. Taking the bottle from his pocket, he uncorked it and drank it quickly. “Peppermint,” he whispered.
He had a moment of panic when he couldn’t find his pencil. But it turned up in the lining of his coat and in a big scrawl he wrote his name across the blue book.
Perfect, he thought. Ten minutes to go–no after-effects–go out tonight with young Edith and blow my saxophone at the moon.
The examination arrived. Donald picked it up daintily between thumb and forefinger and read, “Discuss for three hours the resources of the Upper Amazon basin.”
“Oh, bother,” said Donald. “Oh dash it.” He picked up his pencil but it dropped from his trembling fingers and rolled on the floor.