In the morning, he goes to the hospital for a chest X-ray because he’s told the doctor he’s worried he can’t breathe and now the doctor’s worried, too, listening to him six ways from Sunday and finally sending in a technician to do some spirometrics. It takes him longer to walk into and out of the hospital than it does to sit for the required exposures; the radiologist, apparently only about fourteen years old, is chirpy, energetic and efficient. On the way out, he pops into the pharmacy to pick up his new prescription—there being a new prescription each time he visits the doctor these days—and to buy a replacement for the knee brace he lost on vacation.
He adds it all up and comes to the obvious conclusion: it’s time for coffee. The bookstore café beckons. When he gets there, the regular crowd of late-morning geezers has already gathered and, although they still do not offer him a seat at their tables, when he comes limping in they shoot him a longer glance than usual, which seems to confirm, he imagines, an increased likelihood of imminent inclusion.