Forget the Puma | an allography tapestry
Three doctors are waiting in the staff room of a hospital. Bob is pouring out the last of his coffee into the sink, Toni sits rolling her cigarette and Amir is idly staring out of the window. It is morning and their shift is creaking to it’s end.
Bob: I am going to sleep tonight!
Toni: Sleep? Sleep. Yeah. I remember that. In a – a -
Toni: Yeah. Bed.
The doctors continue to whittle down the remaining minutes. Bob begins to slowly wash his mug. Toni, finishes rolling her cigarette, neatly places it behind her ear and sets to work rolling a second cigarette. Amir leans his forehead against the window, looking out upon the people stumbling towards and gratefully leaving the hospital’s main entrance.
Toni: Hey Dexy!
Amir: Yes. What? Hi. What?
Toni: Plans. For the we-e-e-kend.
Amir: Maybe – Something – I dunno.
Toni: Hey Plato!
Amir: Jeezus Toni – just – fuck – I’ve done three fourteens in a row.
Exasperated, Amir goes to his locker, opens it, grabs his bag. He begins to check through it.
Bob: Has anyone seen the tea towel?
The door to the staff room open and in walks another doctor, Ruth. She walks over to the coffee pot and pours a shot into Bob’s mug and takes it. She begins to pace the linoleum floor.
A Silence holds. Ruth stops at the worktop, places the mug down and stares at its contents.
Bob: Everything ok Doctor Smalling?
Ruth: Bob. Shhhh. If you want a full and dedicated answer to that question -
Bob: Just small-talk. Small. Talk. At the end of the week, small is all I’ve got.
Amir and Toni laugh.
Ruth: What’s your honest opinion on stem cells?
Toni: Come on Ruth – It’s nearly chucking out time – I gotta -
Ruth: I’ve got this old bastard in 7. Certifiable asshole.
Toni: Yeah, I know 7 – MacCauley, McKelley.
Toni: Yeah. knew it started with a K.
Bob: Haven’t had the pleasure. He’s not the curmudgeon?
Toni: Yeah that’s him – “You’re no good to me! You’re as much use as a jungle pilot.”
Amir: I wait til he’s asleep before I go in there – talk your head off otherwise.
Toni: “Now lissun’a me son…”
Ruth: Says that to me too.
Amir: Maybe he’s blind
Ruth: Maybe he’s an asshole.
Toni: He’s not that bad, you ever listened to one of his?
Amir: Yeah. A chore. A bore and a snore. Type of guy I’d really miss.
Ruth: So did he ever tell you about Laos?
Amir: Laos? No. Unless it was the one with the leaping puma.
Ruth: No. The POW one.
Amir: Oh. Yeah. When he had to dig that poo hole.
Ruth: No fuckwit the escape.
Toni: No. No. Just – I’m not gonna -
Toni sticks the second cigarette behind her other ear, grabs her bag and heads out the door.
Ruth: Stem Cells.
Amir: Yeah, ok. What do you wanna know?
Ruth: Good. Bad. Indifferent. What?
Amir: It’s all part of science.
Ruth: So …
Bob: Depends on what you think about abortion.
Ruth: Alright. So what do you think about abortion?
Bob: Whoa whoa whoa. No. But. And I’m for stem cell research. Just – you know.
Bob: I’m an atheist as much as the next – one. Well maybe agnostic – but you have – like if we get it wrong, we get it very wrong – abhorently wrong.
Amir: But we’re talking about the eradication of diseases, surviving AIDS, cancer – only the continuing survival of the human race.
Bob: And that’s why I’m for it. But. Not without reservation.
Ruth: So “Yes”.
Ruth: And yes from me too. But that son-of-a-bitch -
Amir: Two days ago you were loving his stories – “At last, a patient with a bit of character” you said. “Makes Arthur Sullivan blanche like Blanche” – whatever the – it sounded like a compliment to me.
Ruth: I did – I do – I just – that dumb – he’s been in and out of here for – must be 5 or 6 years. The initial diagnosis wouldn’t have put him past six months.
Bob: Diagnoses can be wrong.
Amir: The tests haven’t changed that much.
Bob: So he’s scared of the op? The after effects?
Ruth: No. Not that guy – right so Laos.
Bob: Oh yeah, Laos.
Ruth: It’s a POW camp out in the middle of nowhere North Vietnam. He’s been there – what like thirteen months -
Bob: When was this?
Ruth: No idea. When was the war?
Amir: That’s sad.
Ruth: It really doesn’t matter. He was in his twenties. Anyway, they’re there and after a while they hatch this plan to get through the fences. They stockpile food, they work out their route, they wait for the cover of dark – the whole thing – and they make their break. Seven of them.
Ruth: And they huff it. I’ve googlemapped it and they go almost 2,000 kilometers to the southern-most tip of Cambodia.
Bob: Two thousand!
Ruth: That’s a 24 hour trip by car and a seven month journey by foot.
Amir: No wonder the stories. Must have gone insane just walking. All kinds of shit could have happened in those months.
Bob: Is this where the puma comes in?
Ruth: Five of them got out, two made it all the way South. Then they went their separate ways.
Bob: Man, do you think he heard from him again?
Ruth: Yeah, sure, they spoke over the phone until the other guy’s death in ’89. It was those two, an infantryman, a pilot and a chef. He said nobody else wanted to come.
Amir: A chef and a pilot – so the pilot
Ruth: “These drugs is as useless as a jungle pilot” – Yeah.
Amir: I thought he was – you know, being – nevermind.
Bob: How the hell did he survive?
Ruth: “Underneath the friendship, we had to break it down, man by man, to who we were, what we wanted. My answer was to be alive after the next step on the road.” And he’s been waiting for a cure in the same way.
Amir: But he’s not going to take the op?
Ruth: Nope. Shit.
Ruth picks up her now-cooled coffee and drains it in one. She toys with the cup before resting it on it’s side. She slowly rocks from side to side.
Ruth: Some people.
Amir: So he’s done?
Ruth: No. He says he’ll wait for the next one.
Amir: The next one?
Ruth: The next cure.
Amir: But if this works then we won’t -
Ruth: – I know. So -
Ruth’s pager starts vibrating. She checks it.
Ruth: Gotta go. You can’t take everyone I guess.
Amir at the sink. Bob staring out of the window.
Bob: Depends on where you’re taking them.
Bob: Thank you.