The anaesthetist was patient with me, smiling, soothing away my nerves, reassuring me with a gentle touch of his hand. He’d been briefed by the nurse already that I didn’t like long words or clever people, and that I was very afraid of this operation, of what it would add to me.
“I’m going to give you some anaes— some numbers,” he said. I looked at him, grey eyes in a weather-beated, lined face. He reminded me of my English teacher from five years ago, who’d since been arrested for child-abuse. “They’ll put you to sleep for a little while.”
A cat-scratch on my hand, a line of pain that didn’t end, but didn’t get worse.
“Can you count back for me?”
I tried to nod, but it’s not easy when you’re lying on your back, so I spoke instead: “Yes.”
There was a moment’s silence, and then,
“Can you count back out loud for me? From ten?”
“What base?”
He started, and then raised an eyebrow.
“Base 16.”
“10… F… E… D…”

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