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The Program


"Ok. Let's get another one in here. Stat. This one's already gone."

A pause.

"Christ. I told you to hurry, didn't I? He's not going to hold out long without someone else. It's already been five minutes. Ten and he'll be gone too."

I open my eyes to see an irritated medic standing over me, fumbling with tubes that I can feel imbedded in my body.

"It'll be alright in a few minutes, sir. We've found you another one."

Two days later I'm well enough to receive visitors. My wife is ushered in amidst warnings to "not disturb or excite him. He's still very weak."

She says things are looking up. "We've all been so worried about you. After the accident we thought you were dead. The doctors told me there was nothing they could do for you. I asked for anything. Anything. (her voice grows a little shrill.) She clears her voice and continues. "So then they told me about this special program. They said it might not work because it was still being tested and all, but here you are. Alive. Her eyes fill with tears, her nose grows red. I've always hated it when she cries. I look to the right. The man in the bed next to me doesn't seem to be doing well. He closes his eyes for the last time, it seems. A beeeeeep, and nothing.

My wife seems to wake up from her reverie. "I'll go get you another one." A frog in her throat tells me she's not done crying yet. She talks to the nurse on duty.

"Well, then, you've noticed." She remarks, seeing me eyeing the dead man next door. "It's just part of the program, dear. The doctor had all these fancy medical terms to explain it, but you know I was never good at science. Do you remember when we had biology together in high school, and we just flirted the whole time?" She laughs nervously, clutching the necklace I gave her last year for our anniversary. "Anyway, the basic gist of it all is they take some one off the streets, hook them up to the same tubes as you, and somehow everything gets taken care of. You're going to be OK. That's all that matters." As she speaks, the dead man is wheeled out.

My replacement arrives moments after his predecessor leaves for good. He shuffles in. He grins toothlessly and whispers to me confidentially, "Fer this I'll have enuff cash fer a lay." I close my eyes. The nurse tells me that in a few days I'll be well enough to go home.

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