The Van Man stood in line at the pharmacy, prescription in hand. He was happy. The end of the cough was near, he just knew it. Earlier that day, he had an appointment with the doctor. Finally. Universal Healthcare was going to rescue Van Man from the throes of a demonic cough possession. Enough was enough.
He awoke that morning and gave a good choking hack as he wiped down the icy van windows. "Last fuckin' time", he quietly muttered to The Cough. "Enjoy it muthafucka". The Cough had been around so long and had been so disruptive, Van Man perceived it as his sworn enemy. A foe for the ages. But that saga was ending. The cold engine warmed. The van was awake.
Van Man walked into the lobby. A receptionist confirmed his appointment and handed him a clipboard full of paperwork to fill out. And before he could finish, a nurse was hustling him down the hall, onto scales and into a private room. It was fast service that Van Man was not accustomed to. They don't fuck around here, he thought as he waited for the doctor. And Van Man smiled when The Doc walked in. He was Asian. Van Man had learned many things in life. One thing was that it was always better to have an Asian doctor. They cared more. Another thing was to always try and date nurses. His Father told him that one. "Nurses are dirty, boy. Dirty."
Van Man explained his situation to The Doc. Brief and to the point. Then Doc had a few questions.
"You say the cough's been going on since..."
"July. Mid-July", replied Van Man.
"Are you depressed?", asked The Doc. Van Man looked at him. I'm a broke actor living in a van, he thought.
"Um, no. I mean, you know, I been coughing for a long time, so I'm sure that's done a number on me."
"And how long have you been homeless?"
"Uh, about a year and some change", replied Van Man. The clinical reality of Doc's question set in. The Doc did not see the world in greys. Only blacks and whites. One had to if one wanted to save a life. Guy don't fuck around, thought Van Man.
"Have you recently spent time with any people that might have TB? Tuberculosis?", asked Doc. Van Man was taken aback and amused. He did not have to be a great actor to read the subtext of that question. Doc wanted to know if Van Man hung out with diseased tramps and hobos.
"No. None of my friends have that."
The questions ended and Doc prescribed him some strong medication. The technical jargon bored Van Man. He knew what was being said. They were ass-kicking drugs. The kind that cleansed the body of demon sickness. Father Karras pills. And he was fine with that.
Van Man waited at the pharmacy for his prescription to be filled. He sat in the only available chair, the seat of a blood pressure testing machine. Packages of menstrual pads filled the display next to his face. Across from him were shelves full of aspirin and ibuprofen. Perfect sense, he thought as his name was called. He jumped up. The end of The Cough had arrived. No more vomiting hacks and sore ribs. No more worries about violent coughing during a show. He was about to start a new chapter. The Van Man approached the counter and smiled.