The gaunt, unsmiling nurse led Lawrence down a maze of gray, fluorescent-lit hallways and into a small, somewhat chilly examination room. The heavy stench of disinfectant in the room failed to fully mask the underlying odor of blood.
"Have a seat, Mr. Talbot, and Dr. LaBoeuf will be right in. I'd stay with you but I've really gotta run if I'm gonna beat the rush-hour traffic. There's a full moon out tonight and the Hutch will be jam-packed with lunatics!" The nurse favored Lawrence with a less-than-heartfelt smile and made her exit, closing the door behind her.
On the back of the door was a full-color poster of the human digestive tract, various glistening and gaily-colored organs spilling out of a headless, limbless torso. As he studied the poster, Lawrence palpated his own midsection, amazed at how many organs were packed in such tight, dark quarters.
On average there are twenty-two feet of small intestine, thought Lawrence, reading a sidebar. Imagine that.
He jumped when the door suddenly opened and tall, portly Dr. LaBoeuf strolled in. Either his white lab coat had shrunk or Dr. LaBoeuf had packed on an extra fifteen pounds or so since Lawrence's last visit.
"Lawrence, me boy, how's life treating you?" said the doctor with a big grin. With his rosy cheeks, gray beard and ample girth, Dr. LaBoeuf had always reminded Lawrence of Santa Claus.
"Just fine, doc," said Lawrence, managing to smile despite his pressing health concerns, "just fine. And thanks so much for staying late to see me."
"Not a problem," said the physician, plopping himself down on a stool and picking up Lawrence's chart and a pen. "So . . . what can I do you for?"
"Well, the last couple of weeks, I've been having the most peculiar symptoms," said Lawrence. "I've been really achy and tired, I've got this annoying rash on my face, and I've been having nightmares like you wouldn't believe. In one of them I was running through the forest at night, on all fours, no less!"
Dr. LaBoeuf chuckled at this and then leaned in to get a good look at Lawrence's face. "Hmm," he offered and then he scribbled in Lawrence's chart. "That rash has me worried, it looks a little like the typical butterfly rash we see in lupus. Have you noticed any particular hair loss?"
"Odd you should bring that up, doc," said Lawrence. "Not only have I not been losing hair, I've been sprouting it like crazy, all over my back, on my feet, on my knuckles. I even have hair growing on my palms!" He showed the doctor his palms and sure enough, there were small patches of hair here and there, the hair much darker and coarser than Lawrence's head hair.
There was real concern on Dr. LaBoeuf's face as he carefully examined his patient's hands and then jotted down more notes in his chart. "New and excessive body hair usually indicates an increase in testosterone, something we generally don't associate with lupus," said Dr. LaBoeuf. "I have to ask you this, Lawrence. How's your sex life?"
Now it was Lawrence's turn to chuckle. "Funny you should ask that, doc. Thelma and I have had more sex in the last three weeks than in the prior three years put together. I just can't seem to get enough. My wife says I'm an animal!"
"I see," said the physician, frowning. "Lawrence, we're going to need a full blood work-up and a comprehensive hormone screening as well. Hopefully it will rule out any pituitary disorder." As the doctor scribbled orders for the various lab tests, Lawrence found himself staring at the man's considerable gut and wondering just how many feet of intestines were packed within. And how they would taste.
He jumped when the doctor asked him a question and said, "'Scuse me?"
"I said have there been any major changes in your diet, any new or strange cravings?"
Like wondering what color, size and shape your liver is? Lawrence wisely decided to keep this thought to himself. "As a matter of fact, doc, I seem to be losing my taste for vegetables and starches. All that really appeals to me lately is meat. I had a pound of bacon for breakfast this morning. Uncooked."
Dr. LaBoeuf flinched at this. He got up, lumbered over to the window, drew the blinds and looked out. The sun had already set, the lights had come on in the tony little town of Scarsdale, and in the distance, a full moon was slowly rising.
"Lawrence, let me give it to you straight. We're going to have to run a lot of tests to be sure, but you have all the symptoms of a brain tumor. Hormonal imbalance, fatigue, bad dreams, strange appetites and loss of impulse control."
The good doctor walked over to his patient and rested his hand on Lawrence's shoulder. "Before I send you to the hospital for tests, are there any other symptoms I should know about?"
"Well . . . I was gonna see my dentist about this --" Lawrence found himself staring at Dr. LaBoeuf's double chin and imagining all the rich fat deposits lingering just beneath the surface. It was becoming increasingly hard to concentrate. "I know it's impossible but . . . my teeth seem to be getting, um, bigger. Longer."
"Hmm," said Dr. LaBoeuf, leaning in. "Let's have a look."
Lawrence opened his mouth and the doctor gasped. "My God! I've never seen teeth like that, why . . . they seem to be getting longer before my eyes! And your ears, they're sprouting hair! And your eyes, Lawrence, dear God, what's happening?"
Those were Dr. LaBoeuf's last words, there was only screaming after that, followed by the wet, squelching sounds of a large carnivore feeding.
One month later to the day, Lawrence entered an office on the other side of town from the medical complex where the late Dr. LaBoeuf had hung his shingle. He walked up to the receptionist, who was putting on her coat, and said, "It's so good of Dr. Porco to stay late and see me."
"That's the kind of guy he is," said the receptionist, buttoning her coat. "Dr. Porco would never say no to someone with a toothache. Before I go, have there been any changes in your health, Mr. Talbot?"
"No, Suzy," said Lawrence, careful not to smile. "None at all."
"In that case, I'm heading home and the doctor will be right out to get you." The young woman crossed the waiting room, opened the door and then hesitated. "By the way," she said confidentially, "You look great with that beard!"
"Thanks, Suzy," said Lawrence, licking his chops. "Safe home."