Mugweru had not yet been granted the much needed off-duty with the week drawing to a close. Saturday was his best friend’s wedding day, an occasion in which he was not only the designated best man but also a key cog in the wedding committee machine. Missing the event was not an option.
That they were stretched bare back in the office didn’t need re-emphasis. Mugweru’s section was the worst hit by staff shortage with himself holding brief for two colleagues. His immediate supervisor had made it clear, though sympathetically, that it would be impossible to get a day off with the prevailing circumstances; peak period, recent transfers with no replacements, a few guys on maternity leave and such stuff.
Late Thursday, with only a day to go, he hatched up a plan. Sick leave! Que sera sera! After all, it was not his father’s company. If one day he woke up dead, a replacement would be in place even before his soul realized he had kicked the bucket and it was time to escape from the chest cavity or wherever it is that souls reside. The plan was to feign sickness in the morning and visit one of the city hospitals where he was sure to get a doctor’s recommendation for sick off and bed rest.
At 5.00 in the morning, Friday, the time he always woke up to prepare for work, Mugweru wished that he was sick. He canvassed his body from toe to forehead for any symptoms of sickness but he couldn’t feel any. He scanned again. This time he thought he felt some feeble stomach spasm that went away as quickly as it had come. He remembered having had an eye twitch the past few days. Wait! What did they say a twitching eye signified? That someone is walking on the place where you are about to be buried? This didn’t give much hope. For lack of anything better, he was going to capitalise on the stomach spasm for the time being.
Before taking a bath, he sent a text to his boss that he would be late by a few minutes having passed by the hospital. The text had to be sent early enough to appear grave. He regretted having not sent it in the dead of the night for maximum effect.
He left the house at exactly 6.00am arriving in the city forty five minutes later. He boarded a route 9 matatu and alighted at the hospital’s gate in Pangani.
There were no queues at the hospital. He was attended to without delay. The nurse did the standard procedure of measuring height, weight, pulse, temperature and blood pressure. Everything was okay safe for the weight that was threatening to shoot through the roof. The lady nurse emphasized with Mugweru who was clenching his teeth and clutching his stomach. “Kuja uone daktari”, she said leading the patient to the doctor’s cubicle.
The doctor, a young friendly fella, interviewed the patient while scribbling notes on a pad. Mugweru who was seemingly in agony answered the questions while still gritting his teeth in pain.
When did you start experiencing the pain?
The pain developed yesterday after lunch but it was manageable. It deteriorated when I went home after work. I ha…ve…n’t sle…e..pt… Doc.
What did you have for lunch yesterday?
Ugali beef and fruit salad.
Are you experiencing diarrhoea?
Hata usiseme daktari, I had a stool by the washroom throughout the night.
The doctor asked Mugweru to lie on the examination bed and untuck his shirt to allow assessment of the stomach by hand. The doctor pressed and depressed and squeezed and tapped the bulging stomach and scribbled some more on the prescription pad but before he was done examining, Mugweru shot from the bed and stormed out the door waddled awkwardly across the hall like a duck with legs tightly together. He went to the gents ostensibly to relinquish pent up poop before his bowels unleashed the gates of hell.
It took him ten or so minutes to finish his staged business in the toilet. He went back to the doctor who looked at him with a crinkled nose and lip turned upward in undisguisable disgust.
He seemed to say, “Jesus! men. Get out of here.” as he wrote something on a separate pad and asked Mugweru to take it to the lab. Mugweru was pleased that his show had the doctor sold on to his chicanery and deceit. He was sure he would get the much needed sick off. Lady luck had not broken into song yet but she was warming up her drum.
At the lab, they gave him a small plastic container and a roll of tissue paper asking him to provide a stool sample. Done, he handed over the sample to the lab guy. He was requested to sit at the waiting bay as they carried out the stool test.
The lab results were out after twenty minutes and to his dismay, the doctor said that there was absolutely nothing wrong with his stomach as far as the results were concerned. Mugweru protested. He tried contorting his face like Phil Jones (See Jones’ face in comments) in a bid to convince the doctor that he was sick but the doctor was not moved. The doctor advised him to take hot water saying that the discomfort would go away naturally.
Mugweru wondered what sort of a hospital in this age fails to make hay while the sun shone. They had the opportunity to milk the well loaded insurance card dry but here was the doctor refusing to prescribe ata Actal. Mugweru didn’t believe the doctor one jot. Was he even qualified?
Seeing that the doctor was not moved and was not going to change his mind, Mugweru thought of coming clean admitting that the doctor was spot on in his assessment and what he needed was a day off from work to attend a friend’s wedding. Who doesn’t get impressed by a few sifas here and there? But this would make him appear a fool with all the acting he had had.
As he sat with his face buried in his hands desolate and wondering what to do, the doctor in an unexpected change of heart told him that the only thing he could do was to recommend a day’s rest with him resuming work the following day. Mugweru pleaded and begged the doctor to make it two days. He told the doctor that Saturday was usually a half-day and there was no need to resume work just for a few hours Saturday. The doctor reluctantly made it two days. He thanked the doctor profusely. He also thanked God and reminded him to note the debt somewhere with the rest. One day he will repay.