Matt's Friend Peter


Matt’s Friend Peter


 It’s Friday, and Matt has two tickets for a Thaiboy Digital concert in Poughkeepsie, New York, in two days. He places the two tickets under his pillow before he shuts out the light, exhausted after teaching all week.

            It’s a sunny morning, and he’s off from work, but his nose is red, and a running faucet when he wakes up. So he puts a bucket beneath it instead of grabbing a tissue every few seconds.

Thinking of taking a shower, mumbling to himself to move, groggy, Matt’s melting gum dragging over an ice-cold floor, getting into the shower hoping the steam from the hot water will clear up whatever is leaking from his nose, help him unstick from the floor.

            He stops the hot water and shivers from chills hugging the dry towel around. He blows his nose. He worries when his nose stops smelling. Tomorrow is the concert, and he needs all his senses. Walking from the mirror, his legs turn to spaghetti, forcing him to lean against the bathroom tile and slide down, saying the name of the friend he’s going to the concert with, Peter.


After passing out, Matt wakes and realizes what happened. He staggers up in slow motion. Unsure of himself, he heads for the bedroom, leaving all the lights on.

He falls onto the bed, his head breaking like glass when it hits the pillow, scattering it into pieces.

How is he going to put himself together in time?


            Hours after coming undone, Matt pieces his head back together with all he had at hand, boxing tape, orange juice, toast, and glue, before heading to a hospital.

His friend, Peter, is sitting next to him in the emergency room lobby, waiting to see a doctor. Phones are ringing, babies are screeching, mothers are crying, fathers and sons aren’t talking, and a pool of toxic waste is glowing on the floor.

“Thank you for taking me,” Matt says to Peter.

Matt shivers and shakes. Uncomfortable from the cold sweat on his back, he hunches over and continues telling Pete how thankful he is that he came along to help him.

Pete puts his hand over Matt’s mouth, holding his words from taking another swing of the ax at the dead horse. At this moment, Matt notices the dead horse, the bloody ax in his hands, and the horse's blood all over his lips. He closes them, wipes them with the back of his hoodie sleeve, and checks the green for any red droplets.

“Don’t mention it. These waiting rooms are good entertainment,” Peter says, dancing in his seat to nothing in particular, “it’s one of the nice things about limited employment. You get to be there for your friends.”

The older man sitting next to Matt goes blue in the face from his latest coughing fit. When Matt and Peter look at him and ask if he’s okay, the older man stares straight ahead, ignoring their concern.

“I once saw this lady’s lips sliding off her face here,” Peter says.

            Matt fakes a yawn and puts his hand in front of his mouth, ensuring his lips haven’t gone sliding off.

“Alright, who sweated this pool out?” says a janitor with a mop and bucket ready, either ignoring or hasn’t noticed the toxic waste glowing.

Matt sees his perspiration and says to himself, ‘If only I could sweat this out.’

            “I smell something funny,” Peter says.

“Maybe you smell something, but it isn’t me,” Matt says.

And then he thinks about how he can tell if he doesn’t smell when at the current moment, he can’t smell anything, not even the vomit that came out of a sick child's mouth in the same spot where the janitor had just mopped up a pool of sweat.

The automatic doors open, and a rush of heat comes in with a mother walking with a hatchet wedged in at the top of her blonde head, complaining about a splitting headache holding her child's hand.

            “I feel like my head’s splitting in half,” Matt says and then touches his forehead to make sure there isn’t a hatchet in his head. He couldn’t go to a concert with a hatchet splitting his skull. Although Thaiboy might appreciate it, he’d have a chance to meet Drain Gang. Matt imagines that. He is meeting the crew. He no longer feels sick, his strength feels like it's returning, and Matt goes to stand to present his inner strength only to fall back down into his seat.

He knows he's vulnerable when he’s sick, which makes him anxious about catching anything else. He needs to find out what’s wrong with him and get something to get rid of it.

“I need to see a doctor quick,” Matt says and looks over at Peter, who has danced into a pretzel.

As Matt pulls on Peter’s arms to help untie them, the older man sitting next to them coughs, hurting his heart. Nurses are in and out of rooms, and doctors argue about where they are going as a group to lunch, but no one pays the older man any special attention.

“Next,” the receptionist says.

            Matt and Peter look at each other.

“I think that’s you. Go up,” Peter says.

They walk up together with Peter, still twisted like a pretzel,  avoiding the older man’s heart.

“Yes. I’d like to see a doctor. I have insurance,” Matt says.

            “Great. One second,” the receptionist says, looking at the paperwork and filing it away, “First, you need to fill out these few forms,” she hands him a stack of papers that resembles a skyscraper with more than papers to fill out.

“Second, have you ever been here before?” the receptionist says.

“No. I’m not usually this sick,” Matt says.

“Okay, now you’re going to head down that hall to the east wing. Afterward, go straight to the elevator and take that to the west wing. You’ll pass a Starbucks and a McDonald’s,” the receptionist says.

Matt nods and carries all the papers with him down the hall. He was looking around them the best he could.

            “I’m his friend. I brought him here, and now I’m all wrapped up myself. I don’t have insurance,” Matt hears Peter say and looks back after the receptionist laughs.

Peter is getting worked on by her as she unties him as quickly as a shoelace.

            Matt looks forward, and the elevator gets closer. An out-of-order sign hangs crooked on the restroom doors. The elevator takes time to open and doesn’t open all the way. Matt enters a flickering light overhead, and all the buttons are missing. He wonders if it will automatically bring him to the proper floor. He hopes.

He gets off on the floor. It lets him off and ends up being a floor for doctor’s offices. So he returns to the elevator and goes to another bed, which is a floor for baby delivery. So he gets back on and off on a different floor, which seems correct, but he hasn’t seen any Starbucks or McDonald’s when he finds another receptionist that leads him to an empty room.

“The doctor will be in shortly,” she says.

            “Thank you,” Matt says.

            Matt isn’t even halfway done with the paperwork when the doctor enters the room minutes later with his glasses upside down and slapping a newspaper he’s waving in his hand.

“Alright. I’m a doctor. Doctor Seuss. What seems to be the problem?” the doctor says.

            “Um, what?” Matt says.

            “What are you foreign? I’m a doctor. I said. I said. What seems to be the problem? I said,” The doctor says.

            “Okay. Doctor Seuss,” Matt says.

            “In the flesh,” the doctor says, sitting back in the swivel chair before having to brace himself against the wall to keep his balance.

            Matt can’t stop looking at his glasses being upside down. They keep sliding down the bridge of the doctor's greasy nose, and he doesn’t fix them but lets them slide, pushing them back up his nose constantly instead.

“Right. The problem is my nose is a busted faucet. I’m going to see Thaiboy Digital, with Bladee and Ecco2k in the lineup,” Matt says and pauses, the thought of seeing his favorite acts rocketing across his mind like a space launch. If he misses this concert because he’s sick, he’ll curl up and die, and he’ll die a bug sprayed by Raid.

“I want to be able to smell it all and enjoy myself. I don’t want to feel awful,” Matt says.

            “” the doctor says.

The doctor looks Matt up and down.

            “Yes, Doc, sir. Doc sir. I can’t miss this,” Matt says.

            “Hm,” looking up from reading the sports section, “What are your symptoms?” The doctor says.

            “Didn’t I tell you?” Matt says.

            “You’re right. I was just testing your memory. But it sounds like you demand from life what everyone else does. That’s your problem. Life isn’t peaceful and harmonious. It is suffering and handling adversity,” the doctor says.

            “Aren’t you supposed to be making me feel better?” Matt says.

            “I don’t know. I think that is more up to you. Only you can make you feel better,” the doctor says.

            Matt doesn’t understand how that is supposed to make him feel better.

“Isn’t there a quick fix? There isn’t any new drug or remedy to help?” Matt says.

            The doctor looks up from the paper, this time reading the obituaries.

“I want you to drink lots of beer tonight, eat a huge dinner, smoke three American Spirits-

            “Okay, sounds good,” Matt says, exhausted, putting his hands into the front pocket of his hoodie, hoping the doctor will give him something or tell him something more so he can get out of there and back into bed.

            “As I was saying, three American Spirits and then pass out in front of the TV,” the doctor says.

            “In your honest medical opinion, you believe that will help me get over this bug?” Matt says.

            “Yes. I don’t know if it is a lack of creativity or if I’m sticking with something that has always been a remedy for me,” the doctor says.

            Matt puts out his hand to shake.

            They don’t.

“Sounds easy enough. I thought I was dying or something. I feel awful,” Matt says.

            “I think it may just be the common cold but stronger,” the doctor says.

            “Must be. Thank you,” Matt says and stands up.

            “You’re welcome,” the doctor says, and he stands up.

            Matt leaves the room.


Doctor Seuss hangs out in the room after Matt leaves and continues to read the paper when a knock on the door.

“Who is it,” Doctor Seuss says.

A heavyset nurse with pimples all over his face and a balding scalp enters.

“There you are, Miles. How did you get into this part of the hospital? I thought I tied you down,” the nurse says.

“Um, I’m a doctor,” Miles says.

“This is no longer a game. Miles, no doctor ever comes out and says he’s a doctor,” the nurse says.

“Well, I just did and helped someone,” Miles says.

“Okay. Miles, time to get you out of that coat before we get in trouble. We need to get back,” the nurse says.

“Back to the looney bin. I get it,” Miles says.


The next day, Matt feels mad, reeking of cigarettes, booze, and garlic. Then with anger, his vision goes squiggly, he did everything the doctor told him to do,  and he isn’t feeling any better.

Later, in the late afternoon, Peter comes over to check on Matt.

Matt hands him the tickets and tells Peter to go and bring someone.

“Hopefully, you can find someone on such short notice,” Matt says.

“Oh, don’t worry. I have someone,” Peter says and takes the tickets.


Peter brings the ER receptionist to the concert.




Mitchell Flanagan

Mitchell Flanagan is an artist, writer, and musician from Newburgh, New York. His poems appeared in The Chronogram in August 2010 and December 2011. His work appeared in Ariel Chart in April 2020 and April and December 2021. In addition, he's working on a collection of short stories, novels, and poetry books. His band is Cold Heaven.


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