The last game
    The small electric saw stopped rotating when the sternum
snapped. The saw´s teeth, painted red, kept spinning for a few
seconds longer, before slowing down gradually until it came to a
complete stop.
    Alvaro put the saw down and separated the
ribs. The red mass came into view, palpitating at a constant
    “It´s a very big heart.” The nurse said
    “ You’re not wrong there. But it has to come
out.” Alvaro said in a bored voice.
    He´d already done several heart
transplants and this one didn´t feel anything remotely like a
challenge. It was nothing more than routine procedure. The patient
would get a new heart and would spend the rest of his time trying
to prolong his life as much as he could. He would meekly comply
with an endless amount of rules, that would require him to give up
a great quantity of vices and activities that the vast majority of
people consider pleasant, and would fight to cling to this awful
world as long as possible.
    Alvaro envied him.
    “ Ok, let´s do it.” He said to the team
around him. “I don´t want a single . . .”
    The door opened suddenly, cutting the
conversation abruptly. Alvaro stared at the intruder and thought
about taking his mask off to speak. He wanted to make sure that
this person heard all the insults that he was about to throw his
way. Nobody walked into an operating theatre during an
    The intruder wasn ´t even wearing a surgical gown. He was wearing
street clothes and had walked in here as if it were nothing more
than a shop on the blocks outside the hospital.
    Alvaro put the saw down on the table and
approached the newcomer. His companion and the two nurses were so
surprised that they hadn´t had time to react. The stranger offered
Alvaro a black envelope with white edges that the surgeon grabbed
out of his hand. He had a fair idea what its contents were. The
messenger didn´t wait to watch Alvaro read it; he just turned and
left the room without saying a word.
    Without any doubt it was a court order.
Somebody wanted the operation stopped. Alvaro hadn´t paid
sufficient attention to the details of his patient’s personal
history. He vaguely remembered that there had been two women
fighting over what the right course of action should be. One had
been in favor of the transplant, his wife, if his memory didn´t
fail him, and the other, possibly the patient´s sister, was against
it. But maybe he was confusing who was who.
    In any case the medical report didn´t seem to have carried
sufficient weight to guarantee that the poor individual, who wasn´t
in any condition to decide his own fate, would receive a healthy,
new heart. Part of the blame for that lay with Alvaro; he hadn’t
offered his professional medical opinion. He’d checked the physical
condition of the patient, and recommended the transplant and then
forgotten about it while the two hags tore themselves apart in
their fight to show who loved the patient more, and who therefore
had more right to decide the outcome.
    He was sure that the loser had resorted to
legal means to get her way. Some foolish judge somewhere, someone who didn´t understand
anything about medicine had decided to stop the operation in its
tracks. The doctors would have to attend a hearing and explain the
need for the operation over and over again until the judge
understood what it was all about. There was no doubt that this was
what the letter was all about.
    Alvaro knew about a similar case a few
years before. It had
been an operation to amputate a leg, but the court order had
arrived late and the leg was no longer attached to the body. On
this occasion the patient only had his chest completely open.
Things were looking up.
    “ What is it?” His companion
    Alvaro sighed dispiritedly.
    “ I can imagine.” He said while he scratched
the envelope with his blood stained gloves. “It’s a pity it didn´t
arrive a couple of hours before. We wouldn´t have had to open the
patient up. He´s

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