Progress Notes

by Grace Jamison

History of present illness.

Mr. H. Zimmerman is a seventy-one year old well-known violinist with the city orchestra, who presents with decreased sensation in his fingers, which diminishes his vibrato.


Four years old, he sits at the table. Bach and cinnamon are in the air. The cold window splashes light onto the lace that covers the table. A familiar small case shaped like a coffin sits open and is lined with a red cloth. It tickles his fingers when he rubs it.

She has grey shoes and a strong left shoulder. She paces behind him, pushing and pulling her bow. Lavender and rosin. She stops and hands him something warm to eat.

She taps the belly of her violin and says the woodcutter tapped the tree with his hatchet years and years ago, listening to see if the tree had been patient with the cold, harsh weather.

As she plays the methodic voice of Bach, he traces with his small fingers the four lace roses on the table's cover, one in each corner. Although the roses look identical, his moving fingers learn that each rose has its own possibilities, moving from the outside of each rose inward, tracing all the smaller and smaller roses within each one. He names the four roses G, D, A, E. Memory drips from his fingers. Her hair is black as she walks away.

Last evening, his wife lifted his left hand from their mahogany table, as he traced over and over, the dirty blue of his wrist moving, showing her the exact pattern of his G rose that lies untouched in his memory. His wife reminded him, "Speak English at the doctor's tomorrow."


On physical exam.

A grey suit of fine wool is draped carefully over the chair.

His gifted hands rest quietly on his paper-gowned lap. I write "-tattoo on dorsal aspect of left forearm: 13589-" He sits with his bare legs punctuated with dark socks and stares at my pregnant white coat with the stethoscope resting on top of my floating baby.

"A boy?" he asks, looking at my eyes. He offers his hands and says he cannot remember his mother's face.


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Grace Jamison is a physician living in Dallas, where she organizes writing workshops for teenagers at The Highland Park Literary Festival.