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Location: marengo, il, United States

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A Precise Prognosis

LaPrell leaned forward to glance down the dim-lit hallway. She thought it unusual for this many people to show up at sickbay on a Saturday morning. Then a slight wince crossed her face as she reached up to gently stroke at her tender ear lobe. She sat back to wait, and she rested her head against the wall behind her.

Several benches placed along both walls of the corridor held other vague forms afflicted with differing ailments. Some of the infirmities appeared noticeable by a cast or an obvious bandage covering some hidden wound. LaPrell had no such evidence to show unless one peered close in the low light to see the right side of her young face.

The infection had started bothering her two days ago. Today the throbbing had awakened her before the sun arose. A dose of aspirin helped ease the pain at the time, but the inflamed area convinced her that she needed to go see a doctor right away. This was not going to get better on its own, she had decided.

A door opened up further down the hall. Several heads turned and watched as a matronly woman holding a clipboard stepped out. The heavy door then eased shut on its own, closing with a muffled thump. Some of the huddled figures sat unmoving as her shoes clacked smartly on the tiny green tiles of the floor, echoing as she made her way toward the benches. She stopped in front of one vague shape to murmur a question. While that person spoke a reply in hushed tones, she scribbled a brief notation on her board, and then she moved on to the next patient, gathering more information.

LaPrell took her eyes away from the distant and inquisitive nurse, and felt her brow for several seconds. Then tilting her head forward, she slowly allowed them to close and she waited.

“Now, what’s wrong with you today, honey?”

The voice startled LaPrell. Instantly alert, she jerked upright. The woman in the crisp white uniform stood before her, pen poised at the ready. LaPrell leaned toward her and confided,

“My earlobe became infected, and it seemes to have gotten worse. It’s this one.” And she turned facing left as she pointed.

“Oh, that looks pretty bad, dear. Do you know how that happened?”

LaPrell glanced at the person sitting next to her before looking back up at the nurse. And then she spoke low with one hand cupped near her mouth.

“It’s from my earring, I‘m almost positive. I just had it put in last week, but it’s been like this for a couple of days now.”

The nurse scribbled on her pad, abbreviating the symptoms in her usual manner as,

“infect. in r. ear”

“Okay then. The doctor will call you in shortly, sweetie.” She offered LaPrell her best comforting smile.

The nurse then moved on to collect other maladies from the rest of the waiting soldiers, leaving the girl with her anguish.

Her sufferings were nowhere near done however, for soon she was required to stand up and be identified by all present when, after a prolonged wait, a fresh young military doctor stepped out into the gloomy corridor, glanced at the clipboard his nurse had provided him, and asked the hall with professional concern,

“Now who here has the infected rear?”

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