THE AUTHORIZED PRACTITIONER

Time:  The near future.  Place:  An operating room in a hospital.  We hear music/sound here— pointed, specific and cold; experimental music, or the sounds of breath and machinery.  Lights up on a surgical team surrounding Harry.  The sounds fade as the surgeon begins to operate.  Harry turns his head and talks to us.

HARRY

It was strange to be able to watch the surgeon cutting me open, but I didn’t feel a thing.  How do they do that?  And soon, I didn’t know where I was or what I was.

(Harry rises from his bed with some ease.  If possible, he could actually float.)

At times, I thought I was flying; weightless.  It was as if I was a balloon that floated to the top of the room and made its home in a corner; hovering between the shelves of equipment, the ceiling and the wall.  I found myself watching them work.  God, they were good.  Such precision!  Not a wasted move!  I just sat down and watched the show.  Sat down?  How could I sit?  There was nothing to sit on.  I was crouched.  Crouched into a fetal position.  And for a moment, I forgot why I was there.  Then I saw me.  I didn’t like the way I looked; ugly and pasty; a lifeless piece of white, bloody meat.  I imagined myself roasted with carrots, potatoes and onions all around me, and my stupid relatives feasting on me.  My nephew, Andrew, with my drumstick, making a pig of himself; blood, grease and small pieces of my dark meat and crispy skin on his face.  Everyone thinks he’s so cute and they cheer him on, applauding him for every stupid little thing he does.  Eating, being the biggest crowd-pleaser of all.  And my sister, Liz, chewing on thin slices of my breast meat, complaining how dry it is.  And my brother-in-law, tossing my roasted testicles in the air and popping them in his mouth.  Idiots!  All of ‘em!  Stuffing their stupid faces with old meat, fat, sugar and salt.  Me!  God, I hate them.  It surprises me how much.  I never intended to become a hateful person, but there it is.  Even the little ones, who I have no business hating yet, they’re horrible, too.  Their greedy little faces, they want everything and everyone.  We’re all there, just for the taking.  Maybe this is what getting older is about?  After a while, you hate the world and what it’s become… and soon… it’s time to leave it.

(The lights fade and come up on Harry in a hospital bed.  He’s hooked up to machines that buzz and beep and ding and ring and hum and seem to respond to Harry’s condition.  His good friend, Bennett is visiting.)

BENNETT

How are you feeling today?

 

HARRY

As well as could be expected under the circumstances.

(The noises from the machines get a little louder.)

 

BENNETT

What the—?

HARRY

It’s nothing.  Your presence has raised my blood pressure and the machines…

 

BENNETT

Yeah?

 

HARRY

—the sensors— are responding.

 

BENNETT

Oh.

(Silence.)

 

HARRY

You allowed this?

 

BENNETT

Harry.

 

HARRY

You let them move me to a room and be taken care of by machines?

 

BENNETT

You’re being unfair.

 

HARRY

Unfair?  I thought you were advocating for me?

 

BENNETT

I’m doing my best.

 

HARRY

Hmmmph.  Haven’t even seen a doctor.  No one’s come to check up on me.  No one.  Nothing.

 

BENNETT

That’s because you’re being monitored by an Authorized Practitioner.

 

HARRY

And what is that?

 

BENNETT

The person assigned to your care.

 

HARRY

Not a doctor?  How do you know?

 

BENNETT

Well, if it was a doctor, I believe they would’ve called it a doctor, but they didn’t.  They called it an “Authorized Practitioner.”  That’s how I know.

 

HARRY

Well, isn’t this wonderful!  See?  This is what I meant by advocating for—

 

BENNETT

Will you shut up about advocating?  There is no advocating anymore!  You get what you pay for and that’s it!  Have you forgotten the world in which we live?

 

HARRY

I haven’t forgotten.  Believe me.

 

BENNETT

You just want to blame everything on me!  Take some responsibility, damn it!  I’m ready to wash my hands of you!

 

HARRY

There’s the sink!

 

BENNETT

I wasn’t going to say anything, but—

 

HARRY

Here we go!

 

BENNETT

—this is all your own doing!  When Shirley—

 

HARRY

Ohhhhh!  I knew you’d dredge this up!

 

BENNETT

When Shirley came around with the Forms—

 

HARRY

You know how I feel about her!

 

BENNETT

I don’t care!  Your feelings have nothing to do with anything!  When Shirley came around with the Forms, we had to decide right then and there—

 

HARRY

With no preparation!

 

BENNETT

—in her presence—

 

HARRY

You don’t have to remind me!

 

BENNETT

—what level of care we were selecting—

 

HARRY

I remember!

 

BENNETT

Good!  Now, did you or did you not select Level Three Care?  PCC?  That’s Level Three.  PCC.  Did you select PCC?

 

HARRY

What the hell is P—?

 

BENNETT

Personalized Care and Concern.

 

HARRY

It was very expensive.

 

BENNETT

You did not select PCC.  Did you at least choose Level Five?

(Pause.  Harry is silent.)

 

HARRY

I don’t know!   What the hell is Level Five—?

 

BENNETT

BHK.

 

HARRY

What is B—?

 

BENNETT

Basic Human Kindness!  Don’t you know anything?

 

HARRY

You shouldn’t have to pay for that!

(A short beat.)

I suppose you selected Level One Care?

 

BENNETT

People like us aren’t offered Level One.  Look.  It’s very simple. You selected the cheapest plan possible and you’re lucky they didn’t let you die on the street.  Instead, you’re alive—

 

HARRY

More or less.

 

BENNETT

—and you’re getting RRC, too.  You should be thankful.

 

HARRY

RRC?

 

BENNETT

Remote Recuperative Care.

 

HARRY

Why didn’t you mention any of this to me before?

 

BENNETT

When?

HARRY

When I was admitted!

BENNETT

I knew how you’d react.  And believe it or not, a tiny part of me thought— hoped you might be aware of what was going on.  After all, you live in the world.  You’re an active participant, aren’t you?  Or do you just mindlessly float through?

 

HARRY

You shouldn’t have let them move me.

 

BENNETT

They would’ve moved you whether I let them or not.

 

HARRY

You don’t know that!

(Bennett prepares to leave.)

You’re leaving?

 

BENNETT

Yes. I still have to get to work.

 

HARRY

Hey, Bennett?  I’m sorry, I— I’m just a little… you know?

 

BENNETT

It’s okay.  I get it.  You just went through quite an ordeal.  I’ll see you tomorrow.  Feel better.

(Bennett leaves.  Harry calls after him—)

 

HARRY

Bennett?  You’re coming tomorrow?  Right?  Bennett!  Bennett?  I’ll see you tomorrow, right?

 

BENNETT

(He sticks his head in.)

Yes.  Yes.  You’ll see me.  You’ll see me.  Relax.  Enjoy the… peace.

(Bennett’s gone.  The lights change.  The Room is now bathed in a clear, white, bright light.  Harry finds a magazine on the table.  He picks it up, but it’s not to his liking and he puts it down.  He’s anxious and restless.  We hear a friendly, caring and cheerful, but artificial female voice.)

 

THE A.P.

Good morning, Harry!

 

HARRY

Good morning?

 

THE A.P.

I’m Nancy!  The Authorized Practitioner assigned to your case!  How are you today?

 

HARRY

I don’t know.

 

THE A.P.

Good!  I’m very happy to hear that!  We, here at Associated Medical, want to make sure you’re receiving the best care possible at this Facility!

 

HARRY

“Associated Medical?”  That’s who you are?  Where are you?

 

THE A.P.

Okay!  Let’s get started!  On a scale of one to ten, ten being you’re extremely satisfied with your care and treatment; and one being you’re not, how would you rate your experience here?  Just say your answer loudly and clearly.  If you’re having trouble speaking, just think of a number and our sensors will pick it up!  Okay?  Say or think the number now.

 

HARRY

Am I being released? Is that what this is about?

 

THE A.P.

(Pause.)

I didn’t get that.  If you’re having trouble speaking, just think of a number from one to ten and our sensors will pick it up!  Okay?  Let’s try again!  On a scale of one to ten, ten being you’re extremely satisfied with your care and treatment; and one being you’re not, how would you rate your experience here?  Remember “one” would mean you were not satisfied and “ten” would mean you’re extremely satisfied.

 

HARRY

I don’t know why I’m being asked these questions now.  Is there someone else I can talk to?

 

THE A.P.

(Pause.)

I didn’t get that.  Let’s try again!  On a scale of one to ten, ten being you’re extremely satisfied with your care and treatment; and one being you’re not—

 

HARRY

This is unbelievable.

 

THE A.P.

—how would you rate your experience here?

 

HARRY

One.

 

THE A.P.

Did you say “one?”  If that’s right, say “yes.”  If it’s not, say “no.”  Remember “one” would mean you were not satisfied—

 

HARRY

Yes.

 

THE A.P.

“Yes,” you are satisfied or “No,” you’re not satisfied?

 

HARRY

What?

 

THE A.P.

(Very short pause.)

I didn’t get that.  Let’s go on!  We can come back to that question!

 

HARRY

No, we can’t come back to that question! 

End of Excerpt

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