No longer bleeding you
Dead, an empty vessel
Laid waste but now reborn
Better than before
Life, love… filled anew
Haunted no more
I followed the mysterious man to an unmarked black van a block and a half away. I noticed the van had no windows in the back, the type they used for kidnapping in all of those movies.
Another, slightly older man stood nearby, waiting expectantly. He was dressed similarly in a suit and tie and held my bag under an arm.
“I need to call the hospital.”
Neither man acknowledged my statement.
Damn it. I reached into a pants pocket for my cell phone and started to dial, bloody hands and all. At least the blood was dried now. Maybe I could clean the phone sufficiently later with some alcohol wipes…
The first man snatched the phone out of my hands just as I was hearing the ringing on the other end. He shut it off and put it into his own pocket.
“You will not be working today, Dr. Benton.”
My heart was racing. Simply not showing up to a shift in the ER was an egregious act, not easily forgiven. In fact, it could cost me this job and many future jobs. There is nothing more pathetic than an out of work doctor, fired for not showing up to work. That one event would haunt me for the rest of my career. A good Samaritan could be forgiven for late but not for failing to show up at all.
A door opened on the van and two more suits got out. One was tall, the other short. Both had dark brown hair. Clean shaven. I caught a whiff of after shave.
“Who are you people?” I reached for my bag but the fellow holding it pulled it away. I needed that bag. Not having my work computer could also get me fired. HIPAA laws and all of that.
“Come with us,” he responded, motioning to the van.
“Are you fucking crazy? I’m not going anywhere in an unmarked black van with a bunch of strange men even if they are dressed in suits.”
They were nice suits, though. Well made. They showed off all of those bulky arm and chest muscles….
I stopped and tried to clear my head. What was wrong with me? I was possibly in mortal danger and here I was lusting.
“We can do this the easy way, where you get into the van, or we can do this the hard way, where you still end up in the van…”
“Who are you?”
All four eyes glowered at me.
The older one spoke up first. “We could tell you but then we’d have to kill you.” There was silence as we all regarded each other.
I looked around. Should I scream for help? The street was strangely deserted. Where were all the people? This was downtown Chicago for crying out loud. There were always people about.
Screw the computer, I decided, I was going to run.
Then they all laughed. Not a sinister laugh. No. Full on mirth-filled belly laughs. The guy with my bag slapped the taller man standing next to him on the back, smiling.
What the fuck?
So, I am postponing the posting of the next installment in Impact, my new Friday Fiction serial, until tomorrow. This new EHR (electronic health record) is kicking my butt. Please accept my abject apologies! Patients and family come first and my hobbies, no matter how much joy I derive from them, must come second.
My father is a bully.
He learned early to compensate for his crippled legs from childhood polio by aggressively verbally attacking anything that crossed him. If he barked loud enough, then maybe he wouldn’t have to fight physicially, a contest that he would surely lose.
I was terrified of my father as a child. Eventually, though, I grew up and left that house. I moved on. He doesn’t scare me anymore.
My mother, however, is still there. As his dementia worsens his verbal violence is magnified by paranoia and fear as he is unable to process even simple tasks. He clicks on phishing emails and gives out his social security number. He gets lost driving. He refuses his blood pressure and seizure medications. And my mother is beside herself. She does not feel she can make him do anything as he lashes out at her in the most appalling ways for minor infractions.
I don’t know how to help her. Or him.
She silently prays that things will get better, believing God will hear her and answer her prayer. In her world, that is her hope.
He insists there is nothing wrong with him, that the bitch he is married to is simply making things up, telling lies. In his world, this is his truth.
My mother has no voice. He stole that from her decades ago. She now looks to me to speak for her but he will not listen to me, either. I am the girl-child and inconsequential.
It is going to be a terrible battle….
“The per patient expenditure for your assigned patient panel the last quarter was up by $XYZ, so we will be dropping your rating on our website from five to four stars. Your patient satisfaction and preventive care scores remain outstanding. We will re-evaluate your rating at next quarter.” A letter from one of the big insurance companies a few weeks ago.
You know what? Bite me. To my knowledge I am not wasting money. I take appropriate care of my patients.
But then it occurred to me, do patients even know that this is what those stars mean? How much money they and their physician cost the insurance company….
I gave my daughter the Lime Chiffon doll that I played with as a kid. Lime Chiffon was friends with Strawberry Shortcake, and the only doll out of that collection I ever received. Remarkably, it still has its pink shoes and green and white striped stockings still intact. My daughter carries it around with her everywhere. To the mall, to church, to the opera….
A doll that is about 35 years old.
You know what is depressing about that? A mere toy, a plastic doll for crying out loud, has held up better than I have. Just when I think I am at peace with the whole aging thing, a toy reminds me just how old I am and that I am not going to get any younger.
Would you judge me harshly for wanting to scream, “You bitch!” at the doll?
Well, I didn’t do it. But I sure did want to.
I have some consolation, however: The doll is not likely to survive the love of this new little girl. Not for long anyway.
(Death to the plastic toy!!!!! I will have my revenge…)
Now, back to the opera. Did you roll your eyes when I threw that into the opening paragraph? Did you think I was trying to be snooty? Let me say a few words about that…
I love the opera. It is a fantastic place for people watching. Generally an opera is good for a couple of entertaining scenes. The rest of the time it would be boring as hell except that the people in attendance are so much fun. I love the people who attend operas!
My kids know that mommy attends the opera from time to time and that she really dresses up for it so it holds some mystique for them. There happens to be a series of operas put on for kids so I took mine for the first time this weekend. I wasn’t sure what they would think but it thrills me to no end that I can give my kids cool experiences like that. What kind of person would I have grown up to be had I been able to go to the opera as a kid?
Um, don’t answer that…
Fortunately, this opera was only 30 minutes long. These people are not fools. They know you cannot hold a kid’s attention on opera for much longer. Bless them for that.
What did my kids think?
They said they loved it. But turns out, it wasn’t the opera itself that they loved. Oh, no. It was the chandelier going up into the ceiling before the performance that was so frickin’ awesome. That, and the fact that we spent the entire morning of singing everything in “opera”.
Life. Life is a perpetual lesson in humility. Once you have learned that lesson, you die.
Engrossed in my phone again, I checked a news app, scrolling through the stories. More election drivel. I gave up and slipped the phone into a pocket. There were a few seconds of dysphoria after I looked up as my eyes took in the surroundings again and my brain processed where I stood.
The corner of Harrison and State Street.
The light changed.
I started to walk. People parted ways ahead of me, some going right and some going left. Some stopped and stared. I kept walking until I finally registered that something blocked my way. A dark figure lay sprawled in the intersection, his right leg bent weirdly.
Someone behind me screamed.
The man lay so terribly still on the asphalt. There was a bright pool of crimson growing around his mangled leg, a gory halo of sorts, offset further by the sliver of morning sunlight that crept between the skyscrapers to fall across the road exactly where he rested.
This was going to make me late for my shift. Again.
A man stood nearby with a 911 operator on speaker phone.
I could just keep walking. No one would know who I was…
Like I could do that.
I stepped forward and knelt by the body, checking for a pulse. It was thready. Instinct took over as I dropped my leather bag and worked to stabilize him. He was barely breathing. I ripped his gashed pants leg and found the artery in his leg that was severed, holding it tight with my fingers. He had a large gash over his left cheek that exposed the bone. His belly was rapidly distending, no doubt bleeding internally.
His eyes looked through me, unseeing.
Within minutes I could hear the sirens, though they were still far away. I looked down at my blood covered hands and then glanced up at the crowd of faces staring down at me. I saw shock, concern, hope…
But there was nothing more to be done. Not here in the middle of the street at least.
His eyes focused on me for a moment of lucidity, knowledge flickered across his face as he understood he was dying.
“Tell her….” The sounds came out barely audible as he formed the words around the blood bubbling over his lips. “Tell her it was the pearls in Paris.”
Wife? Girlfriend? Who?
“Sure, I’ll tell her,” I soothed. No further sounds came. His chest moved rapidly as his breathing quickened, getting more and more shallow as the belly expansion pressed against his diaphragm.
I hope they hurry. He needs a hospital STAT…
I checked his pockets with my free hand after wiping it on what remained of his suit coat and found a wallet and phone.
Why don’t I carry gloves?!?!!?
No photographs in the wallet. No one ever carried real pictures anymore, did they? His driver’s license. Joseph Spellman. A stack of business cards. Mr. Spellman was a computer consultant. I slid a business card into my pocket.
There was the hushed whisper of a voice behind me, “Did she just steal his money?!?!” I turned my head to make eye contact and glared at the elderly man who had spoken. He hung his head guiltily.
All of a sudden the area was crawling with police and EMTs. I stood and stepped back as they took over, stretching. My knees hurt from kneeling on the asphalt. I looked around for something to wipe my hands on, then noticed that my bag was gone.
A man in a black suit touched my arm and pulled me back. “Ma’am. Could you come with me please?” His voice demanded compliance, his face stern.
I needed to call the hospital to let them know I was going to be late.
“Wait. My bag…”
“I already have it.” He pulled on my arm again.
“Where are they taking him?” The man shrugged. I turned to an EMT standing at the background. “Where are you taking him?”
I nodded. My hospital. I could find out what happened to him later.
“Ma’am. You must come with me.”
“Do you have something I can use for my hands?”
Why does adaptive equipment have to be so costly? Check out this post about Sue Vincent’s son, Nick Vernon.
What would you give to make a dream come true if you woke to find yourself living a nightmare?
What would you feel if you could never again walk on a beach? Or go out alone in the snow…feel the stillness of a wood or cross a field?
And then, you found a way…
In 2009, my son was a successful young man with a bright future… until he was stabbed through the brain in an unprovoked attack and left for dead in an alley.
He was found almost immediately by passers-by who saved his life. By the time we arrived at the hospital, Nick was being prepared for emergency brain surgery. We were allowed to see him, for a few minutes, to say goodbye. He was not expected to survive…
Over the past couple of years, many in the blogging community have come to know my son and know…
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“I want to lose weight.”
“How are you doing on your diet and exercise?”
“Well, Doc, I do have a Fitbit,” she offered, then shrugged.
“Are you using it?”
“Sure! I do challenges all the time,” she said enthusiastically. “My friends and family all do it.”
“How many steps are you averaging per day?”
“Well, I don’t know actually…” Her voice trailed off. Then she brightened. “Sometimes I get in 10,000 steps, though!”
Ah, that magic number….
“Are you counting calories? Eating plenty of fruits/veggies? Decreasing portion sizes?”
“Nah. That’s waaaaaayyyyyy too much work. Don’t you have a pill you can give me?”
“You know, we are going to have to work on the diet portion of things. The weight isn’t going to come off without it.”
She looked me up and down critically, then glared. “Whatever, Doc. What do you know? You’re already skinny. I can’t lose weight.”
I get this all of the time. I just sighed.
Just so you know, I am not a wisp of a woman. I have hips. And a butt. Some might call it a large butt. AND she has no idea what I have looked like in the past, no idea how hard I work to keep my size where it is. I count calories obsessively. I exercise daily. It is incredibly hard. I come from a long line of morbidly obese people and it is a daily fight. It doesn’t come easy.
I understand more than my patients realize.