Nessy dragged me to the car. I couldn’t quite remember why I was angry at her, so I pulled in the opposite direction toward our waterside mansion where I’d rather be in front of my big-screen TV. Almost bowled her backward at one stage. Poor old girl. I was stubborn as an old nail, and I wasn’t coming out for her. Not today. My shows were on. She was making me miss my shows. San Tracey Murdock was about to shoot the bad guy, and he’d been aiming all season. Damned if I’d miss it. Damned woman!
‘Get in the car, you buggar!’ She pulled my arm. Strong grasp this one. I taught her that. Was all right to be a strong girl. Nothin’ wrong with being able to beat up the fellas. She pushed me toward the silver Mercedes. My fault she could handle me like Raggedy Andy. Some strange guy came over to us and helped Nessy put me into the passenger seat.
‘Who are you?’ I demanded.
‘I’m your driver. Harry. Harry Carmichael.’ He had a familiar face.
‘Harry’s been driving us for five years, Bill,’ said Nessy as she climbed in the other passenger-side door.
‘Where the hell’s Reggie?’ I demanded.
‘Shush! Have some respect,’ Nessy whispered harshly. ‘He died. And Harry’s his son, so be quiet and have some compassion.’
‘Oh,’ I said. Shame that was, Reggie being dead. Good guy he was. That’s why Harry was so familiar – looked like his dad. Didn’t matter he’d been driving me for five years. Some days I didn’t even recognise my own face, let alone my bloody driver.
Nessy strapped herself in. ‘Now, Bill, you need to be on your best behaviour. Do you hear me?’
‘Stop treating me like I’m seven, Nessy! I’m bloody-well 66 years old. You treat me with some respect, woman!’
‘You’re 74, Bill Bins. Keep your voice down.’ She was calmer than usual, believe you me. Nessy wasn’t called Nessy for nothin’. It came from her name Vanessa, but it also came from her brothers when she was knee-high, and she stomped around like the Lochness Monster.
‘What’s going on?’ I studied her close. ‘You takin’ me to a doctor?’
‘I’ve already told you, and if you can’t remember, then shuddupaya face and read the paper.’ She threw the Sydney Herald at me, and glanced out the window, as we pulled out the front gates. The paper said April 8th, 2015. Geez, time flies.
I flicked through the pages. Some poor woman might have been murdered by her boyfriend, and a neighbour saw the suspect throw her laptop into the canal the night she went missing. Yep – obviously him. Next page was a story on a politician, Bill Shorten (with the massive forehead). He was up for investigation – something about flaws at the ballot. I flipped back to girl – a young, English drama teacher. I hoped they found the body and put away the bastard who did it.
I glanced up at Nessy. If anyone ever hurt her … well, I’d probably be useless, but I’d give it a crack. I smiled at her. She was a beauty. We pissed each other off all day long, but I loved her. She loved me, too. Nessy glanced over and her cheeks flushed. I caught a sparkle in her eye and a tiny smile danced on her lips. She turned away to hide it. She was still supposed to be mad at me. We were never good at stayin’ mad. Probably why we’d been together since the fifties.
We drove into the city, and when we pulled up to some fancy building, Nessy put her hand over mine. ‘We’re here.’
‘Where?’ Couldn’t believe I hadn’t asked yet. Too stuck in my own damn head. Or had I?
‘Dr Hossain is resuming some test trials today,’ she said.
‘You’re taking my to a doctor called bloody Hossain? Are you nuts, woman?’
‘Bill! Stop it. You say one word, again and I’ll leave you on a sidewalk in Sydney at three in the morning with nothing but the clothes on your back, you hear me? DON’T embarrass me again today.’
I smiled. ‘How many times have I embarrassed you with Dr Hossain, Nessy?’
She attempted a frown but there was a smile hiding under it. ‘Too bloody many. Now let’s go.’
The skyscraper we pulled up to was unexpected. Why would a doctor’s surgery be situated in this area of the business sector?
The city put on the usual, daily show of suits and pencil skirts, with a few colourful individuals dotting the black, grey, and white. I was ushered from the car, almost swept up by the crowd, and shoved past the threshold of the automatic, glass doors. The air conditioner hit me like a bucket of ice in the face, which was welcome after the few seconds of Australian, mid-summer heat that assaulted me during the 10-metre walk from my car-door to Hossain’s giant funhouse. Roll up, roll up! Is it the GP’s office, or is it the bloody Hilton for Docs who charge too damn much?
I was getting softer in my old-age. I didn’t like the heat, and I didn’t like the cold, and I didn’t like pizza on any day but Tuesd’y. But this was uncomfortable. People were bustling around like we were in an episode of Suits. I studied the place as Nessy walked me past a bunch of people, a bunch of elevators, and a bunch of doors that led to places I was far too nosy to ignore. It was in my nature to explore, so when my lovely wife kept going, I veered into an open elevator and made my way up with some random cleaner who decided floor six was the one to be on. I was good with six. I didn’t do heights too well. Besides, Nessy had been with me most of my life. She should know better than to let me walk behind her in places I didn’t want to be.
A mop of shaggy hair sitting on top of a speckle-nosed youngster, with earplugs from one of those IPoks, or whatever they were called, caught my attention. He sat on his own, arms folded, staring into the abyss. He bounced his knee like he was nervous. Probably didn’t like doctors – couldn’t blame him really. When I approached him, he smiled at me, and took out his earplugs.
I took a seat next to him. I’d never been afraid to annoy the youngsters. They often showed more respect if you treated them like little humans. ‘Are we in the doctor’s surgery?’
He kept smiling, which was kind of odd, but nice. I smiled back. Polite thing to do, right? ‘I guess you could say that,’ he said.
‘Damn it. I was trying to avoid this place. I don’t much feel like being poked and prodded today. Well, I suppose I won’t get into too much trouble when my wife finds me. I can say I went ahead and have been waiting for her since. What’s your name, lad?’
The boy frowned. ‘Um … uh. It’s Tim.’
‘Well, nice to meet you, Tim. I’m Bill.’ I leaned over and we shook hands. He was still frowning. Perhaps he was here to get something for his mood swings. ‘Timothy. What a great name. A good, strong name. Not like these bloody ridiculous things they’re calling kids these days. Sunshine, and Blade, and friggin’ Tigerlilly.’ I snorted.
‘Tim’s short for Timon.’
‘Oh dear, is it? That’s terrible.’
Tim grinned. ‘My mum was a big Lion King fan.’
‘Oh, buggar, even worse!’ I said. That got a laugh out of him. ‘So what are you in for? Corns, bad hip?’ I said.
‘No, nothing like that. I’m in the program.’ Tim studied me as if I’d know what he was talking about. Maybe I should’ve.
‘The who and the what now?’ I said.
‘The GLB46?’ He switched off his music, and put his thingy in his bag under the seat.
I shrugged. ‘Never heard of it.’ Tim shifted uncomfortably and I wondered if he was just embarrassed about being sick or something, so I tried to lighten the mood. ‘GLB46. Well it sounds like a gay and lesbian thing, but I’m cool if that’s what you’re into.’
He shook his head but there was a sparkle in his eyes. ‘Very funny. The GLB46 is my community service, Bill.’
‘Shit. Sounds serious. Whad ya do? Steal an Ipok?’
‘Actually, I stole a car. Now they’re taking chunks out of me for it.’ Tim sighed.
‘You’re being literal. What kind of chunks?’
‘You name it. Blood, brain-tissue, skin.’ Tim lifted the sleeve on his shirt to show bandages. He then lifted his mop of hair to show a scar on the side of his head.
‘Jaysus! Are you kidding me? This is some kind of … that barbaric.’ I didn’t know what else to say.
‘Tell me about it. They’re risking my life to save others. It doesn’t seem right to me, but the whole word doesn’t seem right to me anymore, Bill.’
‘Why do you come to the appointments?’ I shifted in my chair. Poor kid. It wasn’t right.
He stared at me for a while then shrugged. ‘Because it’s this or Juvey.’ He leaned over and whispered. ‘Plus, if I do this, I might get my record wiped clean.’
‘Bill!’ Nessy called from the elevator doors. ‘What on God’s green earth are you doing?’ She stormed towards me.
‘Gee, she found me fast. Nice knowing ya, Tim.’ He waved at me and as I went to meet my fate. Tim looked more frightened than I felt.
Nessy huffed at me. ‘Bill Bins.’ I could see she wasn’t really mad. Just tired. I was exhausting – always had been. I turned back to look at Tim, but he was walking away with a doctor.
‘What’s up with this GLB46 program, Ness? It don’t seem right. This kid over here had a chunk of brain taken out of his head or something!’ She gulped a little. Not much, but just enough. ‘Ness?’
Her mouth twisted. ‘Um, I’m not quite sure. Let’s go, sweetheart, or you’ll be late for your appointment.’
Bullshit, I’m not sure. What was that all about?
She dragged me all over the place, until we came to a room that looked familiar. A simple, white-walled, silver-tooled, fit with single bed covered in paper, and doc’s desk with two standard chairs, room. The familiar thing was the framed child’s picture on the wall. Three giraffe-necked humans with footballs for heads were labelled, Mummy, Daddy, Sissy, and Me.
‘We’re here for an injection. Just one today.’ Nessy leaned on the chair I decided to sit it.
‘I hate needles.’
‘You always say that. That’s why I didn’t tell you until now, or I’d never got you through the door, darling,’ she said. She was right, too.
‘Bill!’ The doctor came through the door with a plastic grin on his dark face. His teeth were too perfect.
Doctor Hossain took his seat. ‘How have you been, Bill?’
‘Well, I’m a bit hungry. Got a snack?’
‘Bill.’ Nessy shoved me. ‘He’s been excellent. In fact, it’s working. Still. He’s improving, doctor, he really is.’ Nessy was getting all choked up. ‘It seems like each time we come back, I’m getting a piece of him. There are seven more treatments after this, right?’
‘Seven left, yes. The GLB46 program looks like it’s going to be a huge success!’ Doctor Hossain froze and stared at Nessy who must have been giving him some kind of signal behind my back to shut Hossain up. As if I wouldn’t notice.
‘Tell me more about the program, Doc.’
‘Ah perhaps another time. Wow, you really are improving, Mr Bins. You’re coherent. You … tell me, what do you remember about where you are right now?’
Changing the subject. These people think I’m still a blubbering idiot. ‘I remember footballs and giraffe’s, Doctor. Footballs and giraffes,’ I said with a smile. Doctor Hossain nodded and Nessy squeezed my shoulder empathetically.
‘Can we talk outside for a second, Doctor,’ Nessy said.
‘Sure.’ They left me there, thinking I’d suddenly lost my marbles again. I pulled open the doc’s top drawer and rummaged through. Nothing. I went for the last drawer, but it was locked. I could hear muffled voices outside the room.
I lifted Hossain’s keyboard, and there was the key. Stupid fool. It’s where I woulda left it, too. Opening the drawer I expected to find worse, but there was nothing much there of interest. There were condoms, though. Sure he still needed those with wifey and two kids… Dodgy bastard.
I picked up a newspaper from the drawer and on the cover was a huge picture of one ugly, and very familiar mug.
It was mine. Along with the fancy title:
BINS GIVES LIFEBLOOD FOR ALZEIMERS
GLB46 stood for ‘Give Life Blood.’ And that’s what the program did, took life for life. A flood of memories hit me as I read.
As Hossain and Nessy came back in I had the drawer locked and was sitting pretty. I hadn’t read the whole article, but I’d read enough. I also wondered if I’d read it before. My metacognition was coming back, along with a whole heap of memories I wasn’t sure I wanted.
According to the paper, I was curing myself. With blood. Kid’s blood. Plus other bits and pieces, apparently. The GLB46 program was mine. My baby. After taking the test that confirmed I’d one day have Alzheimer’s, I’d started working on the program. And here I was now. Doctor Bill Bins. Old fart extraordinaire. Up to his old tricks for shits and giggles.
I remembered that I knew young Tim from the waiting room, too. He was my donor. Blood transfusions, brain chunks, and skin grafts from the kid were the reason I was getting better. Damn it! He was a good kid. Community service, huh? The only thing that worried me was the fact it was working. Seven more treatments? How much could they take off a kid?
If the GLB46 could restore me, if it could regenerate brain, muscle, and cells, what kind of monster had I created? If the elixir of life came in the form of young blood … well, I didn’t even want to think about the repercussions. The Black Market.
The paper said I was the first human trial. When Nessy and Dr Hossain walked back in, they smiled at me. ‘All right, Bill?’ said Nessy.
I had to think quickly, and make my decision. I leaned forward. ‘I would be all right, sweet cheeks, if I knew who the bloody hell you were.’