|Smith Street - 2014|
Abraham Floyd's Dreams
Exhausted, Abraham Floyd arrived at his office one morning and somewhat annoyingly had a lot of trouble opening the back door. He preferred the rear entrance because it happened to be a bit quieter. That way he could slip up the stairs unnoticed making his way into his office before he called his first patient for the day. However, on this day he seemed frustrated as he wriggled the key for a few moments and every turn sent a painful jolt through his aching body. Abe had been dreaming a lot lately and consequently he was sleeping poorly. Each night his dreams seemed more and more vivid.
Abe’s old office of twenty years was gone and had moved down the road into a new building. How could he not have noticed? The building he was trying to enter was now derelict and waiting to be knocked down for the new development, which even he had been anticipating. There was absolutely no one about except for a few birds using their beaks to toss around scraps of paper in the morning sun.
After a hasty and embarrassed retreat during which he hoped no one noticed him, he made his way to his new office. He was half an hour late and the waiting room was packed. He was apologetic and made a moderately loud announcement for all his patients to hear that he had been caught up getting to work. The patients look bored and restless shuffling magazines and looking at their watches. They were not interested. They just wanted him to get on with his day.
Antonio Corelli was the first patient. He wanted Abraham to write a letter. He told Abraham that it was a very straightforward matter. It was just a letter addressed “To whom it may concern”, followed by an outline of Antonio’s general health.
Antonio, he knew, was a builder and a well-known Mafia boss about town. He sponsored a national football team and had a hand in various gambling venues. Abe had known him for many years though only superficially through his annual health checks and not much more. Some had said to Abe that Antonio was a good connection to have, though Abe had always been wary of him. Once though, Antonio’s son Johnny had come asking for a prescription for testosterone injections to help build up his muscles but Abe had politely declined the request after explaining the risks of steroids that included cancer. Johnny never came back after that.
‘It’s just a simple letter’, exclaimed Antonio in his thick Italian accent. ‘I’m getting a bit older and I want to start going to the gym again. These people, they are so risk worried these days, about every little thing, that I might sue them if I die on the tread mill, so that when I went for my first session they told me that I needed a clearance from doctor saying that I was fit for the gym. Ridiculous, huh…’ he went on. ‘That’s fine Antonio’ replied Abraham calmly, ‘however I cannot do it right at this moment as I am running a little behind, as you can see. Not that that is your problem, I understand. I will do it in the afternoon and post it to your secretary. She will have it in no time’. ‘Fine, fine…’ replied Antonio, picking up his hat and leaving.
Abe thought about writing the letter immediately but instead and on instinct called his next patient Paul who came in with his father Michael who worked in the Ford factory though by now Abe imagined he had probably lost his job. A stream of patients followed and Abe became absorbed in their exhausting lists of problems that seemed endless and beyond solution. As the day wore on Abraham felt increasingly nervous, though why he could not calculate. That afternoon he chose not to write the letter that Antonio had asked for but rather, he decided, to think a little more about it over night and do it the next day, perhaps.
That night his dreams were once again vivid but he could not establish if they were more or less vivid than the night before. He dreamt that he had broken his leg in a car accident and was then arrested in the aftermath of the collision. He had been trying to maneuver his car into a small lane into which it did not fit, that have had been designed for motorcycles and bikes. The police arrived and after examining the scene would not offer him the medical assistance that was necessary. Instead they kept calculating the possible damage bill and putting it to Abe. It seemed that he was at fault for the accident. The situation seemed hopeless until some reassurance came to him when he realised that he may escape any trouble by threatening to sue the police for not offering vital medical assistance for his broken leg but rather insisting on interviewing him and performing mundane calculations about the damage bill.
When he awoke he thought more about this troubling dream and reached for his left leg to make sure that it was not injured. In doing this he recalled that there was some confusion about how the injury had occurred. The broken leg had not come about during the accident after all but later that day, hours later, when some goons, from God-knows where, had arrived and assaulted him. His anxiety abated when he reminded himself that it was just a dream.
Abe’s work that day was fortunately uneventful, as the restless night had made him tense. There were no peculiar phone calls and he saw mostly regular patients though a couple were new to the practice. Abe had a few good experiences and smiled at the secretary as he left the office at the end of the day. He had his dinner at the continental restaurant in the company of close friend. Abe chose the steak tartare off the menu but immediately regretted the decision because he thought the raw meat, though he loved it so much, might affect his dreams. Following this, he went to bed fearfully.
In the morning he awoke in good cheer for he either had no dreams at all or he could not remember them. Either way he was satisfied. He arrived at work a few minutes early and thought again about writing the letter for Antonio, however, his attention was absorbed by other matters and so he procrastinated further for what he thought were good reasons.
It was Wednesday, the day that he would always take a long lunch break. He caught the tram to Smith-Bridge Road where he sat down to eat Sushi at his usual place and had a glass of green tea. He decided he would wander up the street a little further to explore his old surgery a second time and to work out why he made the mistake two days earlier.
‘Of course’, he thought to himself as he saw the construction vehicles arriving for the demolition. ‘Antonio is knocking it down to build a huge apartment complex and shopping precinct. How could I have forgotten? In fact, I had been renting the old building from him for years!’
Suddenly he became confused again by his dreams and could not recall whether the goons had come and threatened him at his home after his dreams had finished the previous night or whether they had in fact been in the final ending to the dream as he had first imagined. The goons had certainly not broken his leg because he was walking fine and felt no pain. ‘That was certainly part of the dream’, he exclaimed. He stopped walking for a moment and thought further on the matter. The threat that they may have made was uncertain. What had now become certain to him though, as he looked over his shoulder, in case any one should be following him, or perhaps preparing to make another threat, was that this was no ordinary letter that Antonio was asking for but in fact it was a favour.
Abe thought more about the situation as he moved away from the demolition site. ‘What on earth could he want a letter from me for?’ He could not for a moment imagine what lay in his power that Antonio could possibly need. Antonia was a rich and powerful man. He owned most of the buildings on Smith-Bridge Road. ‘If only he would leave me alone! Why has he chosen me to bother in his quests? I am a mere civilian!’ And with that thought he quickened his pace, hopped onto the tram and made his way back to the office to continue with his afternoon session. Abe felt increasingly overwrought as the afternoon wore on. He arrived home in a state of panic, poured himself some cognac with ice in a tumbler, toasted himself and watched the evening news, as was his habit.
That night his sleep was worse. Firstly, he couldn’t get to sleep. His mind was racing. He tried many a trick he had ever offered any insomniac that had ever passed through his office until the fatigue of effort finally dragged him off to sleep. He awoke feeling more tired than when he went to bed. He thought he heard someone in his house. Perhaps footsteps. It is only my cat being playful, he thought to himself. It can’t be Antonio’s goons. Surely?
Abe suspected that Antonio might have been threatening him by way of the goons because he needed the letter for something, however, he was adamant that he would not write the letter. Abe was certain that there were illegal goings-on and he wanted no part in them and by writing the letter he too would be an accomplice in these crimes of which he knew nothing about.
‘Antonio will ultimately be caught because he and his family are fools’, he muttered to himself, ‘and then I will be unable to practice medicine because of the letter I wrote for him. Fancy that! Such stupidity. Why should I write such a letter?’ He heard more noises in the house. ‘It could be Antonio’s goons’, he thought to himself.
Abe was divorced, freshly. He had two young girls whom he adored and wished to provide for. Antonio was going to ruin all of this. Furthermore, perhaps Abe could meet a new woman and fall in love, but who would marry a doctor who had lost his license to practice because he had been a co-conspirator with a petty inner city chapter of the Mafia. All these possible disastrous outcomes were one thing but his mind kept coming back to the letter. That was the problem. The idea that he could not provide for his daughters because of the letter that he had to write for this Mafioso was so abhorrent to him that he felt he needed to go to the bathroom and vomit. For a moment though he feared leaving his bedroom as he thought that the goons might still be in the house. He must wait until there are no further sounds, proof that the goons had gone, and then he could do what was required.
He lay in bed thinking. ‘Why does he send his cronies around to my home and threaten me. Do I have to go out there and plead with them.’ Completely wrought with fatigue and burnout, Abe was unable to determine whether this had really happened or whether he dreamt it. ‘Of course’, he reassured himself, ‘there is no-one in the house, it is all in my imagination.’
He jumped out of bed and dressed himself quickly in a suit and tie. ‘I will go to Antonio’ he pronounced in front of the mirror, ‘and apologise for being unable to write the letter.’ Abe felt an air of confidence spread through his body. ‘I will be honest and open and that will solve everything. I will say, “I am sorry Antonio but I cannot write the letter. Please excuse me now, I have to go!” And that is that.’
He rushed out of the house, caught the ‘812’ tram and got off outside the offices of Mr. Antonio Corelli. He rushed up the stairs and pleaded with the secretary that he needed to see Mr. Corelli right away. The secretary seemed perplexed and told him not to worry, pleading with Abe to calm down.
Mr. Corelli was in a meeting and as Abe waited his thoughts transformed themselves until he was no longer certain about anything. What he did know, though, and of this he was certain, that no matter what Antonio had wanted the letter for, what ever petty purpose Antonio had in mind, it no longer mattered, for he no longer feared Antonio, his son or his cronies. He would walk straight into the office and tell Antonio this. That he no longer feared the Mafia and what it might do with him if he did not comply. Oh no! He was a man of integrity and he had a spine. What was the worst Antonio could do, shoot him? Go ahead! Abe was beyond fear at this time. He would go in to the office and cry out to Antonio that he feared him not, come what may…