Dr. R_____ was standing in the corridor as I stepped off the elevator. He wore the omnipresent white coat with the stethoscope around his neck. He was looking at the nurse’s station, telling a funny story to the nurses and pointing off at nothing, and he was laughing.
I know a doctor’s job is hard and that he needs release. Hell, I’d seen M*A*S*H and knew all that business about “they laugh so they may not cry.” Nevertheless, it felt like Dr. R_____ was laughing at me.
“Hey,” he said.
Like the others I had been writing about, Mr. Abrams was a cat who could change into a person if needed. He didn’t do it very much. He liked being a cat. But when no one else was around, he had no problem speaking to me in my own language.
“How’s your Dad?” he asked.
“Getting worse,” I replied. “He’s thin and he’s weak, and he doesn’t know I’m there half the time.”
“Too bad,” said Mr. Abrams.
“He hasn’t eaten in eight weeks. Can you believe that, as much as the man loved food?”
“Your Dad’s a good man,” said Mr. Abrams. “Sure doesn’t deserve to go out like this.”
“No,” I said. “He doesn’t.” I looked at the screen and asked: “What are you watching?”
“Hey, I want to ask you about a scene,” said Mr. Abrams.
He took his furry white paw and pressed a button on the DVD remote. The screen flickered to the menu, and then he pressed another button, trying to position the pads of his paws just so to make it work.
“I saw him again today,” I said.
“Dr. R_____,” I said. “The stupid bastard who talked Dad into having the surgery that made him like this!”
I plopped on the sofa next to Mr. Abrams and pounded my fist into my hand like Burt Ward as Robin on Batman!
“I want to hurt him,” I said.
“Good thing we’re watching Dexter then,” said Mr. Abrams. “It’s all about hurting people. Hey, check out this scene.”
He found the scene he was looking for. Special Agent Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine) was tracking a serial killer, who happened to be Dexter. Frank Lundy liked to listen to music when he worked, to put him in a “peaceful place” so he could think, and he always had to find the right piece of music for each case.
He was listening to something in this very scene.
“What’s that music?” Mr. Abrams asked. “It’s jazz or something, right?”
“Sounds like Miles Davis,” I said. “I’m not sure. Did you check the end credits?”
Mr. Abrams fast-forwarded and checked the end credits. Sure enough, it was Miles Davis, a little conversation called “So What.”
“Do you have that song anywhere?” my cat asked.
“Not at present.”
“Too bad. It’s pretty cool.”
“It is cool,” I said. “Really cool.” I cracked open my wallet and looked inside. I had a $20 bill. “What say I go to the record store and buy it?”
“Sounds like a good idea to me.”
“That’s from Kind of Blue,” said the kid behind the counter, who looked young enough to be my son. “It’s only like the biggest selling jazz album of all time, man.”
He went and found the CD. I looked at the price--$11.43.
I have this weird habit I inherited from my Dad. I like to analyze numbers. Dad was a math teacher, and he loved equations. Me, I just dig the numbers, especially the primes, and I always wonder what they mean. In this case, 11 was Dad’s birthday, and it was prime. As for 43 … well, I knew it was prime too because I ran it through the prime tests in my head, the very tests Dad had taught me.
I bought Kind of Blue. The sales tax was 7%.
The total with tax was $12.23. I gave the kid my $20 bill. He punched the total in his register to figure my change (because kids that age don’t know how to do math in their head or count change back), and the total change on the screen was …
How odd, I thought.
I took the CD back to the house and put it in the stereo. “Weirdest thing,” I told my cat. My change for the $20 was $7.77.”
“Well, it wouldn’t have been $7.77 if there hadn’t been sales tax on the original price, and sales tax is 7%.”
“All those 7s, that’s all,” I said. “Dad would appreciate it.”
“That he would,” said the cat.
The melodious strains of “So What” began. I turned the CD case over and looked at it. “How do you like that?” I said.
“What now?” asked Mr. Abrams, adding his trademark humph because I was interfering with his enjoyment of the music.
“What’s an album?”
“This CD, I mean. Listen to this lineup. Miles Davis on trumpet, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley on sax, Paul Chambers on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums, and Bill Evans on piano.”
“So what?” Mr. Abrams asked.
“7 musicians,” I said. “7.”
“Here we go.”
“What do you think it means?”
“Maybe it’s something in the Bible,” said Mr. Abrams.
I went the internet and Googled “significance of 7 in the Bible.” It sent me to a Wikipedia page. There were all kinds of 7s, but one in particular caught my eye:
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to 7 times?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not 7 times, but 77 times.”
“Okay,” my cat growled, “but when you’re finished, start the CD over. I want to hear it all without the ‘added pleasure’ of your voice.”
I read the Bible verse to Mr. Abrams. “Meh,” he said. “Doesn’t surprise me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Geez, man, you’re thicker than paste. Why do you think I showed you that scene from Dexter?”
“You wanted to know what the song was.”
“No, I wanted you to hear the song,” said Mr. Abrams. “So you would buy the song, see all the 7s, freak out, and do what you humans always do when something doesn’t make sense.”
“What do we always do when something doesn’t make sense?”
“You read the Bible.”
“I don’t always read the Bible when something doesn’t make sense,” I said.
“No, but your father does,” said the cat. “Like you said earlier … Dad would appreciate it.”
“You knew all this would happen,” I said. “You knew that the CD would be at the store, and would be $12.23 with tax, and that I would have a $20 bill so the change back would be $7.77.”
“I knew it all,” said Mr. Abrams. “All of it.”
“We cats just know things, Matt. We see things in the world you people don’t pay attention to. You know that old saying, ‘Cats are just angels in disguise’?”
“What does it mean?” I asked.
“It means,” Mr. Abrams replied, “that each time you see that doctor you want to hurt, you need to forgive him.”
“What happens when I get past 77?”
“Then you can hurt him, I guess.”
I went to the hospital every day to see Dad, and every day I saw Dr. R_____ in the hallway. Sometimes he was smiling, sometimes he was frowning, often he was laughing. Every day, I wanted to hurt him, and every day I silently forgave him as he walked by.
This went on for two and a half months.
The last time I saw Dr. R_____ was the day my father died. He was standing in the hallway as they took Dad out, and he wasn’t laughing at anything. In fact, he looked very, very sad.
It was the 77th day.
After that, I never saw Dr. R_____ again.