“I don’t care what you want, Jer, I’m taking you to the free clinic. You’re sick and that scares the hell out of me,” Roy said in a tone of voice that brooked no argument.
“It’s just a cold,” Jerry said rebelliously and then he coughed so hard it sounded as if he’d loose a lung.
Roy waited until the coughing spell ended and then said, “Move it,” as he picked up his backpack and held out his hand to help Jerry stand. He stepped out of the deeply recessed doorway that was virtually hidden from view behind a large dumpster. It was their new sleeping place, at least for the time being until they were forced to move on again. There were two delivery trucks at one end of the alley. One was from a food warehouse. It stood with the rear door rolled up and no driver in sight. Roy was sorely tempted to see if he could snag something from it but another harsh cough from Jerry sent that idea right out of his thoughts.
It took them twenty minutes to reach the free clinic located in the back of a soup kitchen run by a local church. After standing in the shadows of a building across the street for a long while to be certain it was safe, they went inside. The line for food was long, as always, so Roy bypassed it for now, urging Jerry towards the clinic door. The waiting room was small and crowded. Just as they got into it a doctor came to collect the next person in line. As the man stood to go with him, Roy immediately snagged the vacant seat, telling Jerry in no uncertain terms to sit.
Forty minutes later a second doctor came out. He glanced around as he had the last few times he’d appeared and then pointed to Jerry, beckoning to him to follow.
As the doctor examined Jerry he asked how long he had been living on the streets. Roy replied to the question, saying they’d been homeless for nine months.
“And you are?” the doctor asked.
“Well, ‘brother’,” the tone of the doctor’s voice saying he wasn’t quite willing to believe that, “we have a small problem. Jerry has bronchitis, which could very well lead to pneumonia if something isn’t done immediately. I want him to go to the hospital clinic for testing. They’ll prescribe antibiotics once they determine for certain it is bronchitis.”
“As if,” Jerry muttered. He grabbed his shirt. “No hospitals.”
“If you don’t you could end up in one anyway, and not by choice.”