Joey

The young man scowled at his computer. Eyes focused on the agent’s tattooed forearm, Art waited at the license bureau to have his plates renewed.

“You a doctor, huh?”

Still not making eye contact, the man stopped looking at his computer screen and just pointed his finger to the MD on Art’s credit card.

Art’s wife had filled out the original credit card application and put in the MD.  He asked her to not do it again.

“Judy, I want to go about my business and just have as few people know I am a doctor as possible.”

“I didn’t think about it,” she replied. “You do like to help people. It won’t be that bad. But I’ll remember next time.”

The agent’s name tag said “Joey”. He was in his early 20s, with glasses, earrings and a small goatee. He had crooked teeth.

Under long brown lashes, he finally looked up at Art.

“So uhmm…can I ask you something as a doctor?”

“Sure,”

“I need a dermatologist.”

“Sure, I have some names,” he replied.

“I have an Angelica health policy,” Joey said.

“Is that health insurance?” Art asked.

Joey made a face.

“Nah, it means I can only go to this one clinic on Page Street and they gave me a referral to a dermatologist. But she can’t get me in for four months. They gave me some pills and I’ve been using ’em and something else which begins with a ‘h.’ But I’m almost run out of the pills. They work for the rash but when I stop them, the rash comes back.”

“Would you mind telling me what your skin problem is?” Art asked. He had nothing else to do this afternoon. It was raining outside.

Joey showed him a rash on his wrists and forearms. It was ugly, raised and red. Art’s mind now saw what his eyes had already noticed on the young man’s dark and tattooed skin.

“It looks like eczema,” he told Joey. “Did they tell you what they think it is?”

Joey fiddled under his desk and after some time, pulled out a brown bottle to show him. It was prednisone pills, a hefty dose of the powerful steroid.

“They gave me a hundred of these pills but I’m almost out.” Joey rattled the bottle, then opened it to show him there were only three pills left. “But these are the only thing that works.” His young voice grew pleading.

Then, he fiddled in his cellphone to try to find a picture of the over-the-counter cream he had been using.

Art and Joey went back and forth for some time with questions and answers. It turned out that the skin cream Joey was using was just over the counter hydrocortisone, too weak for his rash.

By the time Art was done, he had given Joey advice on skin care and a recommendation for a prescription cream to ask for from the clinic.

“Until you can see the dermatologist in four months…if the rash did not clear up.

“And stop those pills, Joey,” he added, giving him instructions to taper off the steroids with the three remaining pills, shocked that a young healthy man had been given that prescription.

“If you keep taking those, they can give you hypertension, diabetes and other problems,” he warned.

“Yeah, I notice they make me hungry all the time,” Joey said, his eyes opening wide.

When Art turned around, the waiting room was standing room only, people glaring at him for taking up so much time at the counter. But when he left the Drivers License office, he couldn’t wait to tell Judy.

“You were right honey.”

***

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