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It was nighttime inside the clinic and within his heart, which
was hot, black and wet with a terrible fungoid softness unlike
the cool white tiles of the clinic between which the dark cracks
reverberated. — Again and again you come here! laughed the
nurses. Soon you must get the bad disease and die! Why always
come here? — The ache was in his bladder and scrotum this time.
The medicine would make him vomit for two weeks. It would be six
months before he knew whether he had the disease. His wife, whom
he’d now infected, went in with the lady doctor and closed the
door. A small child wai’ed him with politely clasped hands,
and the mother laughed. He had always been able to joke
and laugh defiantly, but this time, shamed and beaten, he sat
sweating and blushing, his head wilting on his weary neck. His
wife came back and put her sandals back on. — I’m so sorry, he
said. — Never mind, she whispered. — He paid the sneering
nurses, stood up straight, and said to them as grandly as
MacArthur: See you next year.

William T. Vollmann