Though only one-half ethnic Arab and a Canadian by birth and residence, the medical attaché is nevertheless once again under Saudi diplomatic immunity, this time as special ear-nose-throat consultant to the personal physician of Prince Q ———, the Saudi Minister of Home Entertainment, here on northeastern U.S.A. soil with his legation to cut another mammoth deal with InterLace TelEntertainment. The medical attaché turns thirty-seven tomorrow, Thursday, 2 April in the North American lunar Y.D.A.U. The legation finds the promotional subsidy of the North American calendar hilariously vulgar. To say nothing of the arresting image of the idolatrous West’s most famous and self-congratulating idol, the colossal Libertine Statue, wearing some type of enormous adult-design diaper, a hilariously apposite image popular in the news photos of so many international journals.
The attaché’s medical practice being normally divided between Montreal and the Rub’ al Khali, it is his first trip back to U.S.A. soil since completing his residency eight years ago. His duties here involve migrating with the Prince and his retinue between InterLace’s two hubs of manufacture and dissemination in Phoenix, Arizona U.S.A. and Boston, Massachusetts U.S.A., respectively, offering expert E.N.T. assistance to the personal physician of Prince Q ——— . The medical attaché’s particular expertise is the maxillofacial consequences of imbalances in intestinal flora. Prince Q ——— (as would anyone who refuses to eat pretty much anything but Töblerone) suffers chronically from Candida albicans, with attendant susceptibilities to monilial sinusitis and thrush, the yeasty sores and sinal impactions of which require almost daily drainage in the cold and damp of early-spring Boston, U.S.A. A veritable artist, possessed of a deftness nonpareil with cotton swab and evacuation-hypo, the medical attaché is known among the shrinking upper classes of petro-Arab nations as the DeBakey of maxillofacial yeast, his staggering fee-scale as wholly ad valorem.
Saudi consulting fees, in particular, are somewhere just past obscene, but the medical attaché’s duties on this trip are personally draining and sort of nauseous, and when he arrives back at the sumptuous apartments he had his wife sublet in districts far from the legation’s normal Back Bay and Scottsdale digs, at the day’s end, he needs unwinding in the very worst way. A more than averagely devout follower of the North American sufism promulgated in his childhood by Pir Valayat, the medical attaché partakes of neither kif nor distilled spirits, and must unwind without chemical aid. When he arrives home after evening prayers, he wants to look upon a spicy and 100% shari’a-halal dinner piping hot and arranged and steaming pleasantly on its attachable tray, he wants his bib ironed and laid out by the tray at the ready, and he wants the living room’s teleputer booted and warmed up and the evening’s entertainment cartridges already selected and arranged and lined up in dock ready for remote insertion into the viewer’s drive. He reclines before the viewer in his special electronic recliner, and his black-veiled, ethnically Arab wife wordlessly attends him, loosening any constrictive clothing, adjusting the room’s lighting, fitting the complexly molded dinner tray over his head so that his shoulders support the tray and allow it to project into space just below his chin, that he may enjoy his hot dinner without having to remove his eyes from whatever entertainment is up and playing. He has a narrow imperial-style beard which his wife also attends and keeps free of detritus from the tray just below. The medical attaché sits and watches and eats and watches, unwinding by visible degrees, until the angles of his body in the chair and his head on his neck indicate that he has passed into sleep, at which point his special electronic recliner can be made automatically to recline to full horizontal, and luxuriant silk-analog bedding emerges flowingly from long slots in the appliance’s sides; and, unless his wife is inconsiderate and clumsy with the recliner’s remote hand-held controls, the medical attaché is permitted to ease effortlessly from unwound spectation into a fully relaxed night’s sleep, still right there in the recumbent recliner, the TP set to run a recursive loop of low-volume surf and light rain on broad green leaves.
Except, that is, for Wednesday nights, which in Boston are permitted to be his wife’s Arab Women’s Advanced League tennis night with the other legation wives and companions at the plush Mount Auburn Club in West Watertown, on which nights she is not around wordlessly to attend him, since Wednesday is the U.S.A. weekday on which fresh Töblerone hits Boston, Massachusetts U.S.A.’s Newbury Street’s import-confectioners’ shelves, and the Saudi Minister of Home Entertainment’s inability to control his appetites for Wednesday Töblerone often requires the medical attaché to remain in personal attendance all evening on the bulk-rented fourteenth floor of the Back Bay Hilton, juggling tongue-depressors and cotton swabs, nystatin and ibuprofen and stiptics and antibiotic thrush salves, rehabilitating the mucous membranes of the dyspeptic and distressed and often (but not always) penitent and appreciative Saudi Prince Q ——— . So on 1 April, Y.D.A.U., when the medical attaché is (it is alleged) insufficiently deft with a Q-Tip on an ulcerated sinal necrosis and is subjected at just 1800h. to a fit of febrile thrushive pique from the florally imbalanced Minister of Home Entertainment, and is by high-volume fiat replaced at the royal bedside by the Prince’s personal physician, who’s summoned by beeper from the Hilton’s sauna, and when the damp personal physician pats the medical attaché on the shoulder and tells him to pay the pique no mind, that it’s just the yeast talking, but to just head on home and unwind and for once make a well-deserved early Wednesday evening of it, and but so when the attaché does get home, at like 1840h., his spacious Boston apartments are empty, the living room lights undimmed, dinner unheated and the attachable tray still in the dishwasher and — worst — of course no entertainment cartridges have been obtained from the Boylston St. InterLace outlet where the medical attaché’s wife, like all the veiled wives and companions of the Prince’s legatees, has a complimentary goodwill account. And even if he weren’t far too exhausted and tightly wound to venture back into the damp urban night to pick up entertainment cartridges, the medical attaché realizes that his wife has, as always on Wednesdays, taken the car with the diplomatic-immunity license plates, without which your thinking alien wouldn’t even dream of trying to park publicly at night in Boston, Massachusetts U.S.A.
The medical attaché’s unwinding-options are thus severely constricted. The living room’s lavish TP receives also the spontaneous disseminations of the InterLace Subscription Pulse-Matrix, but the procedures for ordering specific spontaneous pulses from the service are so technologically and cryptographically complex that the attaché has always left the whole business to his wife. On this Wednesday night, trying buttons and abbreviations almost at random, the attaché is able to summon up only live U.S.A. professional sports — which he has always found brutish and repellent — Texaco Oil Company–sponsored opera — which the attaché has seen today more than enough of the human uvula thank you very much — a redisseminated episode of the popular afternoon InterLace children’s program ‘Mr. Bouncety-Bounce’ — which the attaché thinks for a moment might be a documentary on bipolar mood disorders until he catches on and thumbs the selection-panel hastily — and a redisseminated session of the scantily clad variable-impact early-A.M. ‘Fit Forever’ home-aerobics series of the InterLace aerobics-guru Ms. Tawni Kondo, the scantily clad and splay-limbed immodesty of which threatens the devout medical attaché with the possibility of impure thoughts.
The only entertainment cartridges anywhere in the apartment, a foul-tempered search reveals, are those which have arrived in Wednesday’s U.S.A. postal delivery, left on the sideboard in the living room along with personal and professional faxes and mail the medical attaché declines to read until it’s been pre-scanned by his wife for relevant interest to himself. The sideboard is against the wall opposite the room’s electronic recliner under a triptych of high-quality Byzantine erotica. The padded cartridge-mailers with their distinctive rectangular bulge are mixed haphazardly in with the less entertaining mail. Searching for something to unwind with, the medical attaché tears the different padded mailers open along their designated perforations. There is an O.N.A.N.M.A. Specialty Service film on actinomycete-class antibiotics and irritable bowel syndrome. There is 1 April Y.D.A.U.’s CBC/PATHÉ North American News Summary 40-minute cartridge, available daily by a wife’s auto-subscription and either transmitted to TP by unrecordable InterLace pulse or express-posted on a single-play ROM self-erasing disk. There is the Arabic-language video edition of April’s Self magazine for the attaché’s wife, Nass’s cover’s model chastely swathed and veiled. There is a plain brown and irritatingly untitled cartridge-case in a featureless white three-day standard U.S.A. First Class padded cartridge-mailer. The padded mailer is postmarked suburban Phoenix area in Arizona U.S.A., and the return-address box has only the term ‘HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!,’ with a small drawn crude face, smiling, in ballpoint ink, instead of a return address or incorporated logo. Though by birth and residence a native of Québec, where the language of discourse is not English, the medical attaché knows quite well that the English word anniversary does not mean the same as birthday. And the medical attaché and his veiled wife were united in the eyes of God and Prophet not in April but in October, four years prior, in the Rub’al Khali. Adding to the padded mailer’s confusion is the fact that anything from Prince Q ———’s legation in Phoenix, Arizona U.S.A. would carry a diplomatic seal instead of routine O.N.A.N. postage. The medical attaché, in sum, feels tightly wound and badly underappreciated and is prepared in advance to be irritated by the item inside, which is merely a standard black entertainment cartridge, but is wholly unlabelled and not in any sort of colorful or informative or inviting cartridge-case, and has only another of these vapid U.S.A.-type circular smiling heads embossed upon it where the registration- and duration-codes are supposed to be embossed. The medical attaché is puzzled by the cryptic mailer and face and case and unlabelled entertainment, and preliminarily irritated by the amount of time he’s had to spend upright at the sideboard attending to mail, which is not his task. The sole reason he does not throw the unlabelled cartridge in the wastecan or put it aside for his wife to preview for relevance is because there are such woefully slim entertainment-pickings on his wife’s irritating Americanized tennis-league evening away from her place at home. The attaché will pop the cartridge in and scan just enough of its contents to determine whether it is irritating or of an irrelevant nature and not entertaining or engaging in any way. He will heat the prepared halal lamb and spicy halal garnish in the microwave oven until piping-hot, arrange it attractively on his tray, preview the first few moments of the puzzling and/or irritating or possibly mysteriously blank entertainment cartridge first, then unwind with the news summary, then perhaps have a quick unlibidinous look at Nass’s spring line of sexless black devout-women’s-wear, then will insert the recursive surf-and-rain cartridge and make a well-deserved early Wednesday evening of it, hoping only that his wife will not return from her tennis league in her perspiration-dampened black ankle-length tennis ensemble and remove his dinner tray from his sleeping neck in a clumsy or undeft fashion that will awaken him, potentially.
When he settles in with the tray and cartridge, the TP’s viewer’s digital display reads 1927h.