A Box of Chocolates

Sometimes You Don’t Know What You’re Going to Get, or What to Do Next.


Chester sat up in bed. He wanted some more painkillers. He wanted something cold to drink. He had an itch somewhere on his ass that he wanted to scratch but he couldn’t reach it. But more than anything, he wanted to get out of this fucking bed and walk the hell out of here. He wouldn’t be doing that anytime soon. Not without legs, he wouldn’t. He looked down at the bandaged stumps where his legs used to be. He was cut off above the knees. The right one was itching. Maybe the leg was itching and he just thought it was his ass, or maybe it was the other way around. He pressed the buzzer again for a nurse. What he wouldn’t give for a cold beer.

The door opened and a doctor came in. He was holding a box under his arms. He sat down in the chair next to the bed. Chester looked at him for a second then looked back absently at his absent legs. Hell of a thing to happen, the doctor said. Chester squinted, as if squinting might help him to see his legs. Tell me about it, Chester said. Neither of them spoke for a few minutes. Chester looked back at the doctor. Got a smoke? he asked. Now it was the doctor’s turn to squint, as if squinting might help him remember whether or not he smoked. Sure, the doctor said. He reached inside a pocket and produced a pack of Camels. He shuffled two smokes out of the pack, put one in Chester’s mouth and one in his own. He lit them. They sat there watching the clouds of smoke waft around the room, playing in the sun gleaming through the window.

Where you take it? the doctor asked. Fallujah, Chester said, exhaling a plume of smoke. Hell of a thing, the doctor said. Chester took a drag. Tell me about it,he said. He looked over at the doctor and the box sitting on his lap. What’cha got? The doctor looked at the box like he just now realized it was there, or maybe he just forgot it until Chester mentioned it. Box of chocolates, he said. He took a drag. You ever see that movie? Chester looked at him. What movie? Chester asked. The doctor smiled. You know. Life is like a box of chocolates, right? Chester wasn’t much amused. Oh, he said. Then he said, That what you come in here for? He looked over at the doctor. Why don’t you fix my legs? he said. The doctor shrugged. Some things can’t be fixed. Chester lay back on his pillow. Then what’cha come in here for then? he said.

The doctor looked at him. He took the box off his lap and opened it. An assortment of dark balls of different sizes and shapes sat in a plastic tray. Which one you want? the doctor said, holding the box over the bed so Chester could get a good look. Chester had just about run out of patience about now. Look, Doc, he said. I got an itch on my ass I can’t scratch. My legs are killing me even if I don’t see them. I can still feel them. I’m thirsty and I can’t get nobody to answer this damn button. They just cut off my damn legs and left me here to rot. Might as well kill me. Might as well been killed off in Fallujah when they took my legs. Ain’t much of me left worth living for. I want to blow out my brains, and you come in here bringing me chocolates?

Been a lot of that lately, the doctor said. Chester looked at him. A lot of what?The doctor squinted. Men in here blowing their brains out. Seven in the last week. Chester stubbed out his smoke. Well, can’t say I blame them. The doctor put out his own smoke. Me neither, he said. He laid the chocolates on Chester’s belly and stood up. You need anything else? the doctor said. Chester looked at him. A cheap hooker. The doctor smiled and turned to leave. When he got to the door Chester stopped him. You ain’t no doctor, he said. The man smiled. Enjoy your chocolates, he said, and left. Chester felt the heavy weight of the box on his belly. He lifted out the plastic tray. Underneath it was a .44 caliber pistol, loaded and cocked. Chester slowly put the tray back down, picked out a round ball covered with coconut, and put the candy in his mouth.