Wordcarpenter Books

Travel Fiction

No More Waiting to Die


Chapter One

The Divine Elbow

Houston, Texas, USA

June 2011


            The walls were a sickly off-white color and the worn tile floor waxed and shiny yet still appeared dirty, the fresh wax not able to hide its scars, but it was the oppressive smell that oppressed him the most. A mixture of sickness, medicine, body odor and over-used cleaning products had created a pungency in the hospital's stagnant air. Made him impatient. Didn't matter though. If it was one thing he was good at it was ignoring unpleasantness. He had been doing that for nearly 50 years.

            "Mr. Noble?" The doctor was one of the few he had found who had any idea of what my symptoms meant. It was the sixth doctor he'd seen.

            "Yes." Just wanted his medication so he could leave. In this day and age there was a cure for everything.

            "From the last round of tests we've been able to pinpoint the problem." It was the doctor's eyes that made him put down the surf magazine and listen. "The inflammation and discoloration, and the stiffness and pain are the symptoms of a rare disease called Scleroderma." Like a master Buddhist he showed no reaction.

            "Scleroderma. Derma. Something to do with the skin? But what about the hardening of my fingers and the swelling?" The doctor, whose name he had already forgotten, nodded.

            "It is a systemic anti-immune disease that characteristically affects the hands, arms and face."

            No matter what tricks of the mind or skill of ignoring employed, he knew at that moment that this was exactly what he had. Ran his finger over an elongated spot below the skin on his cheek that was hardened, like a long island of semi-hard rock.

            He nodded.

            "There are two types and I'm rather sure, due to your shortness of breath and the increased heart rate you have described, as well as your description of the difference in the color of your urine and whatnot, that you have what is called Diffuse Systemic Scleroderma. Unfortunately there are no known cures."

            The silence that followed was a flurry of random thoughts: Damn it there has to be a cure! No cure? Fuck it. Carpal Tunnel yeah sure. Major elbow by God. It means no more work. Don't have to do that bloody report. What about my retirement fund? Can finally do what I want. I gotta live before I die.

            "So then what's the treatment?"

            "There is no treatment."

            "So then how do things play out with this? I eat more fruit and take more vitamins and some pills and it stops?"

            "I'm afraid not Mr. Noble. It will progressively worsen, affecting your major organs. You kidneys, your lungs and your heart. The hardening of tissue will continue." For some reason he laughed.

            "So this isn't a case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?" The joke fell flat. Butterflies attacked his stomach and could feel sweat on his forehead.

            "So then how serious is this Derma piece?"

            "Scleroderma is fatal." He looked at my swollen hands and wrists, the bruising and little dark bubbles that had begun to cover both hands. Straightening his hands the knuckles and joints changed to a dull green color.

            "Umm, how fatal is fatal? I mean talk to me here. What the fuck do I have?" Voice raised, jittery, an aggression emerging.

            "From what we know, five-year survival rate is 70 percent. The ten-year survival is 50 percent."

            "You mean I'm going to fucking die from this?" Noble walked to the far side of the room, turned and glared at the doctor.

            "It is likely you will. Whether in five or ten years, or fifteen or twenty. It is a progressive fatal disease Mr. Noble, so it will kill you eventually. Or if you're lucky, old age will. But the affects can be horribly debilitating and painful." That's nice. That's really fucking nice.

            "Listen, I know you're a good doctor but are you sure about this?"

            "Yes. We're sure. I had my suspicions but from the results of the last round of tests, this is our confirmed diagnosis. Only when we're sure would we give this kind of news to a patient. You understand."

            Such a clean and safe life I've lived! No. Posture straight. Strength returning. There was no way this could be right.

            "And what causes this Derma?"

            "Scleroderma has no known causes. It affects men and women between the ages of 30 and 50. We don't know what triggers it."

            "No cure. Fatal. And no treatment. Anything else?" Grabbed his bag from the chair.

            "I would like to see you in two weeks for some pulmonary tests. When it hits the lungs it is the most dangerous. See, your cells in these organs die off, along with smooth muscle cells, and are replaced by collagen. Without getting too technical, healthy cells die, harden and eventually cause organ failure."

            "Right." Impassive. Indifferent. Knapsack over his shoulder. "Well then I'll see you in two weeks." He walked out the door but turned around and went back to the doctor to shake his hand. "Thank you doctor. Thank you for being honest and direct." Looking deeply into his eyes, somewhere in his mind Noble knew it would be the last time he would ever see him.



Table of Contents

  1. The Divine Elbow
  2. Just Surviving As Noble Intent
  3. Surpassing Neophobia
  4. The Middle of the World
  5. The Dane
  6. The Religion of Sfauism
  7. Celebrating Chemistry
  8. Connected Columbians
  9. Stuntmen and Dakar Motorcycle Groupies
  10. Into Amazon Waters
  11. A Beautiful Repressive Niche
  12. Canalazo de Naranilla
  13. Cajunes el grande
  14. A Noble Doppelgänger
  15. Reno Finds His Footing
  16. How to Make a Bomb Out of a Light Bulb
  17. The Impossible Black Lily
  18. The Boy Fascist
  19. Artistas
  20. The Art of Death
  21. The Earthquake Virgin
  22. Lambaster of Laughter
  23. The Sweet Cadence of Scheudenfreunden
  24. Matador: the Agent of Destiny
  25. Overfilling
  26. Mobile Piping
  27. Aristotle’s Character Years
  28. The Great Pilgrimage
  29. A Purpose for Your Sins
  30. Errol Flynn
  31. The Better Man
  32. The Addict’s Ladder
  33. The African Club
  34. The Dutch Hair Piece
  35. The Swiss Army Knife
  36. The Scent of Ammonia
  37. At the Mouth of the Amazon
  38. Broken and Renewed
  39. Seizing the Moment
  40. A Recent Past Discovered
  41. Pinned and Threatened by Fate
  42. Twice as Much in Half the Time
  43. The Assassination
  44. The Pledge
  45. Slandering Hamlet
  46. Stealing Time
  47. Hannibal at the Gates
  48. On the Old Contraband Trail






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