ADVENTURE THE 20TH: TANGLED WEBS
DISCLAIMER for the first time reader:
For those unfamiliar with the posting structure of a blog: postings appear in the order they are made by their author, not necessarily in the order that would most benefit an ongoing series such as the one you are about to read. Since the purpose of this blog is to be an ongoing thriller, simply removing the previous chapter to alleviate confusion is not an option – since no one coming to the series after the first chapter had been removed would be able to follow the story line.
Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.
For those savvy to the blog world – this disclaimer may seem redundant, and for that no apology is made. This disclaimer is meant to better acquaint new readers in how the entries in this blog will be posted and how best to follow the series from this point on. And now…
Adventure the 20th:
I lay in the eclipse of half light sifting through dusty blinds, staring up at a daily crew of faces and white coats that came to jabber, poke at my veins and empty the discharge from my catheter and bedpan. Not a glamorous existence, I’ll grant you, but existence nonetheless.
None of them stayed to get to know me. Then again, I really had nothing to say. Not that I could have said anything. My mouth was as parched and dry as the Sahara. Every now and then a portly little thing masquerading as a nurse would come to hang a new drip and shove a few meager ice chips between my cracking lips.
“Now, now,” she’d say, brushing aside the loose strand of mane that refused to stay off my brow, “We must have hope, mustn’t we?”
‘You keep it attached to those wobbling fat clogs of yours,’ I thought to myself, ‘One good black ice in a snow storm and you’ll be resting comfy next to me in a body cast.’
I could joke then. It was all still fresh.
Paralyzed. From the neck down – with only the dead memory of what it used to be like to walk the rainy streets at night and feel the smooth paper shell of a lucky rolling between my finger tips.
Paralyzed - without promise or hope or even fleeting fantasies about ever setting one foot onto the pavement again.
By day three I wanted to scream ‘get me outta here.’ And some guys live a lifetime like this. But not me.
By day five I had it all planned out. I’d bribe one of the orderlies with whatever was left in my bank account for a sharp razor. Or maybe they could just pump a little clean air almost by accident into one of my veins the next time they shot me up. I wouldn’t squawk…much. And it’d be over. Quick hopefully, but final and done.
I saw the rest of my life played out in patterns on the ceiling; motorized wheel chairs and physiotherapy with some guy who talked like he knew it all as he hauled my captive ass into a sling or rigged me to some muscle building machine – only afterward he bolted for a sandwich and to diddle the nurse from ‘3B’…just as free on his own two stilts as the next guy who had electrons firing from the neck down.
I’d like to tell you I was the brave one. That I took it head-on like the guy I thought I was. Only I’m not that guy.
For maybe only the second or third time in my life I was scared – completely, like that kid who is left home alone for the night at thirteen and accidentally locks himself outta the house. So he’s got to hide in the smelly cold garage until mom and dad come home after eleven, hearing all sorts of strange noises till then that he thinks are axe murderers and pedophiles come to call.
Only, come to think of it, there wasn’t much noise in this place to keep my mind that active. It was pretty quiet all around. Every once in a while the faint echo of footsteps would pass back and forth and with it, that vague reflection of a shadow through a frosted glass pane. But beyond that, I was left to listen to the sound of steam heat crawling through the pipes in my room and the faint echo of my heart beating somewhere inside a chest I couldn’t feel.
I lost track of time after day seven…or was it six. But a few sunrises later a new nurse came to check on me. She was tall and slender and she wore a mask.
‘Hey baby,’ I thought to myself, ‘Give this cripple a thrill. Let’s see what’s cookin’ behind that veil.’
She had my daily dose of whatever prepared in a syringe. Only a funny thing happened. She didn’t give me the shot. Instead, I watched outta’ the corner of my eye as she meticulously drained the liquid into a small paper cup from the washroom before spilling the contents down the drain. Then she picked up the pen and marked my chart paid in full. Looney dame, but I liked her.
Pressing her soft index finger to the spot on her mask where lips ought’a be, she smiled through her gauze and whispered, “Ssshhhh! It’s our little secret.”
‘Hey,’ I thought as I tried to smile back, ‘It’s alright by me, baby. But if I start getting the willies or a lot’a pain, you and every other quad’ in the whole damn place is gonna hear it.’
But by the time that thought was finished, she was gone. I wouldn’t see her again until the following day.
. . .
My deviant angel of mercy returned like clockwork the next afternoon and followed the same ritual as before. Her mask didn’t seem so neatly fixed this time and I thought, for just a minute that I glimpsed a bit of black stocking as she passed around the bed – hardly nurses’ regulation. About an hour after ‘sweet n’ mysterious’ disappeared from view, the boys in white came calling for their usual clean up.
“What are you doing tonight?” the first asked.
“I dunno,” the second replied with the lingering smell of peanut butter and jelly on his breath, “Suppose I’ll watch the game, drink a little, try and forget this place.”
‘Yeah,’ I could almost hear myself say, ‘You and me both.’
Either these guys didn’t know the severity of my injuries or they just didn’t care. Because in order to change my sheets they had to move my carcass to a gurney, and boy, do those buggers know how to toss. One under the armpits, another around the ankles and WHAM!
No wonder patients wind up with bruises they can’t ever explain. It wasn’t until after they left that I suddenly had my first thought that seemed clearer than most. I almost thought I felt the imprint of squeezing hands lingering under my arms.
. . .
The rain began to fall around seven. It turned to snow by eight and from there on kept falling at a pretty good click until almost midnight. There’s no reason why I should remember the hours, only some janitor just beyond my door had his radio fixed to a station playing Christmas carols, and every hour on the hours a congenial voice that probably belonged to some fat hillbilly’s wet dream would chime in – ‘You’re listening to your Christmas favorites on Z28.7 FM. Happy Holidays. It’s eleven o’clock. Do you know where your children are?’
And all this time I thought they were snug and nestled in bed!
. . .
I don’t remember when my eyes finally decided to mimic the rest of my body and shut down for the night, but I do remember one thing. They hadn’t been closed for very long when I felt a soft warm breath close to my ear. Opening a sleepy lid I made out my Edith Cavell with a fresh syringe in her hand. This one had something in it, and I was made acutely aware that whatever it was, I could feel it going into my arm.
“Feel that, don’t you?”
“It won’t be long now,” she said, then whispering again, “Ssshhh. It’s our little secret.”
I thought she was serious. But after a few minutes, my nurse disappeared like all the times before and I found myself slipping back into that sweet temporary coma that made me forget where I was and how long I had been there.
. . .
The next morning was bright. The blanket of new fallen snow had turned into a glaring crust that reflected the sun’s beams like an blazing anvil through the slits of my bedroom window.
The usual mix of daily visitors stopped in to read my charts and check my vitals. But as the orderly slipped the blood pressure cuff up my arm I felt a tingling – like the cheap fizz in a Coney Island float evaporating into the air.
“Well, not much change here,” the orderly wearily muttered to some invisible assistant or his God or maybe just the air. I didn’t flatter myself to think he had me in mind for anything but duty.
Florence Nightingale didn’t show up for her usual four o’clock prick but neither did anyone else with my juice. By the time it started to get dark my bag of liquid protein was severely depleted and for a few minutes I thought maybe I had been forgotten. Then something miraculously happened.
I felt a crick in my neck, sharp and wonderfully painful and more to the point, an indication that some feeling had begun to return to my body. I pressed my lips together and found that I could mouth a few loose syllables without gagging on my own phlegm.
Before I could rejoice, my miracle worker was upon me, but looking frantic and concerned.
“No, no,” she whispered, “This isn’t right.”
“I…” I forced the word out to let her know something wonderful had begun to happen.
“Quiet,” she whispered, slightly annoyed and disappearing from the room for a few long moments, but with the sound of metal casters on tile growing stronger in the hall by the second.
A moment later, she appeared with a wheelchair and a blanket.
“I’ve got to get you out of here,” she said, raising my head up with the bed crank and sliding my legs over the side.
They hung like a pair of loose swinging pendulums. She propped me with pillows like an overgrown slumped Raggity Anne doll. I watched her slip a pair of shoes onto my bare feet, throw my trousers and shirt that had been hanging somewhere in a closet on top of my crumpled hospital gown, then thrust me into the wheelchair with all the finesse of a polar bear whacking a baby seal with the back of its paw. I winced but was glad because it hurt.
“Sorry,” she said, wrapping me up in the blanket she’d brought and hurriedly steering us both in the direction of the elevator. It was the first time I’d seen the hall – empty, desolate and without any sign of life. Where was I and how did I get here?
My guardian slid one of her hands down by the base of my neck, saying, “I know you can feel this. Don’t worry. It won’t be long now.”
But only a few feet from the elevator, the sound of footsteps trudging up the stairwell caused my savoir to stop in her tracks. Thinking fast, she opened the door to a nearby broom closet, spun my chair around and filed me neatly into that smelly cavity where old mops and cleaning supplies stay before closing the door on me.
I listened intensely but couldn’t hear a sound. Not even footsteps. Then suddenly the door flung open and there appeared in the frame, with a faint trail of confusion and shock about his visage, the ungodly essence of a misshapen unshaven janitor.
“What the fu….” he began.
But his thoughts were interrupted by my darling, quick-thinking angel, a cloth doused in chloroform as her weapon of choice. He had only a few sniffs, but fell dead away at my feet.
‘You are an angel’ I thought to myself, ‘With long dirty fingernails.’
Kicking the limp remains of the janitor into the closet and locking the door for good measure, she wheeled me into the elevator. I couldn’t see her face as she pushed the button marked ‘down’, but I could almost feel the tension in her arms. When the doors opened again we were in a parking garage.
But any idle thoughts that I was home free were quickly dashed when she opened the trunk of a near by Ford Escort. Leaning the chair into her bumper, she unceremoniously dumped my body in the trunk, pausing only seconds to flip me over and smooth away my tousled hair. The last thing I remember I will surely never forget. My savior pulled off her mask and smiled, saying “Well flyboy – we’re off to the races.” It was Mico.
Are you kidding?!? –
Eddie Mars will return in his next big adventure:
THE WHITE ACRES on Dec. 8, 2006.
@Nick Zegarac 2006 (all rights reserved).