Instruments clatter in the tray, the kidney-shaped tray. The nurse is holding it an angle, an angle slightly less than thirty degrees, and the instruments have obeyed the implacable law of gravity and slid to one side. They have clattered together as they have done so. Dr. Verfuegbar looks angry, and I wish he didn't. He's holding a marker pen.
"Nurse!" he says. She starts, and I wonder how she can look so unsexy in a nurse's uniform. The fabric is cotton, and it's stretched in all the right places, but yet it does nothing for me. Then the doctor's pen comes back into my eyeline.
"Try to be quieter," he continues, now that he's got her attention. "I am drawing on the patient. These will be incision lines, and it is important that they are in the right place."
The nurse looks at me, and there's something cold and alien in her eyes. She looks like she thinks I'm not real.
"Dr. Verfuegbar?" Her voice is glutinous, like the words are caught in mucus in her throat and have to pull themselves free. "Dr. Verfuegbar, you're half-way through drawing a copy of 'Portrait of the Artist as a Spoon'."
That would explain why he seems to have been using the marker-pen on me for ages.
"What? Oh. That can't be right," says Dr. Verfuegbar. "How invasive is the surgery this patient is having? Am I removing a particularly difficult tattoo?"
"No-o-o-o." There's a pause while the nurse finds my notes; she'd put the kidney-shaped dish down on top of them. "Ah. He's here to have a verruca removed."
"Really?" Dr. Verfuegbar looks puzzled. "Why have we given him a general neural block then?"
"We haven't," says the nurse. "It's a partial block from the neck down. He's still awake, just insensate."
"Hmph. Makes me feel like a vet when you do that," says Dr. Verfuegbar. "Do we have any of those worming pills left?"
"I'm afraid not," says the nurse. "The last delivery was blown-up a half-mile from the hospital."
"No, just shelling. It might have been bad luck."
"Everything's broken here, nurse," says Dr. Verfuegbar. "Do you even remember why the war started?"
"I can't remember why the war's continuing," says the nurse, and things beneath her tight cotton jacket shift. The wrong way.
"Do we have an eraser?" asks Dr. Verfuegbar, staring at me. "I think it might be wise to remove some of these incision lines in case I don't perform the surgery. It would be bad if we removed healthy tissue."
"What's so unhealthy about a verruca?" I suddenly realise that I hate the nurse.
Dr. Verfuegbar stops looking on the tables for the eraser and stands very still. I hope he's thinking.
"That's a very good question," he says slowly. "Perhaps we should be removing the patient from the verruca? After all, keeping the verruca alive is cheap and easy, whereas the patient is costly and will take weeks to recover."
I really want to say something now, but my throat won't work. I can just about breathe fractionally more heavily if I try very hard. No-one seems to notice.
"How big is the hospital incinerator?"
"I'll have to go and measure it, Dr. Verfuegbar," says the nurse. She sets my notes back down, unfolds an extra pair of insectile arms from the front of her nurse's shirt, and leaves the operating theatre. Dr. Verfuegbar looks down at me, and his eyes are cloudy with cataracts.
"What was I doing?" he asks to the room in general, his hand reaching out for a scalpel.