Sunday, April 6, 2008

we've come for your dead

And we've got defibrillator's. Here is the next post of Jeff and my hospital series. Again, Jeff wrote the dream sequences and I composed the fiction (yes, I used the word composed; I felt like it; fine; I don't care; go ahead if you want to; whatever; sure, right, okay then; well okay then). Enjoy.

Elderly Head Nurse

Sheila took off her terry-cloth robe and removed her glasses a moment. What was it her Harold said earlier? ‘Take your time?’ ‘Take it easy?’ She was unsure, but sipped her coffee, and pulled her focus back on. I am the only nurse here tonight, she reminded herself for the seventh time, and spun around in the computer chair. Dizzy dizzy, she halted herself and got up.

The sole patient in the post-op intensive care unit was named Samuel. The last name was a mystery to Sheila (she refused to read surnames for her own reasons). Samuel’s face was covered in white bandage, his whole body in fact, and he could barely move. He had had major surgery, his spine and his heart. His hands were calm beetles, nestling at his sides, sheets tucked and tucked.

Sheila stood before the patient, watching somewhat breathlessly. He was hooked into tubes and IVs, breathing apparatuses, a pacemaker, and too many kinds of sensors. His body, thought Sheila, was a cocoon. His eyes were slippery stones. Sheila glanced over the frame of the man and placed her hand on his barren foot. Cold to the touch, she withdrew.

On nights where she was the only nurse in the post-op ICU, Sheila would wonder of the hospital’s true age, of spirits, things left unturned, old babies, children stuck in dumbwaiters. She imagined Jack Nicholson hopping mad with an axe and an orderly’s uniform. She imagined her Harold rampaging about in his puppy dog slippers. The bells and whistles beeped and Sheila removed herself from Samuel’s presence. A few winks, maybe, she imagined, and hid away in the ICU lounge area. She set the alarm on her cell phone and proceeded to shut her eyes.


The creek outside Sheila’s brother’s house in Tennessee was empty. Her
brother and his wife were digging in the muddy river bed. They yelled,
“Treasure!” She walked over flaming coals to get to them. When she arrived
the river was no longer empty. The dead bodies of her brother and
sister-in-law bloated and blue, floated for a moment, then they disappeared.


Sheila awoke slowly, not with any sense of urgency that an intensive care giver might usually possess, but with deliberate glacial pace. A happiness was hanging over her head. It was time to crack her dictionary and read, to cite words of random importance and draw the web of all meaning around their faces. Sheila, it was well known, was a woman of strong faith, not in god per se, but in the chaos of the world. She had once seen majestic beauty spread about the cancer of a woman’s stomach. She had seen the miracle of a hip replacement. Pondered the significance of a burst appendix at forty-two. Sheila had even marveled at the daily ritual of shaving an invalid’s legs. Comatose patients were the most darling, and Samuel was not much of an exception. Before cracking open her book, Sheila stopped by to visit her resident.

Something seemed to have changed in the man. His limbs were still frozen, eyes dead, feet bare and smooth. But something had changed, she was certain. Maybe this too was the alert level of living she had always desired. Harold told her she should have been born a peach, a silk worm, or a mystery novelist. In her heart, Sheila smiled and winked. Samuel did not move, of course, but he moved.

Sheila retreated once more and found her way to the computer chair, her book, the glide of the tiny white fan that blew around the particles of the room to cool off her neck. There was sound of a distant radio playing the popular hits of the eighties and nineties filtering the void of the background. If I float off right now even, she thought to herself, and opened her book and stuck her nose in. Several moments later, she had fallen asleep again, no alarm. Oops, she snored.


The boat rocked back and forth. Sheila was alone waiting for someone to row
her back to shore. She was in a parking garage. A man she had once loved had
driven off, leaving her behind. The city was instantly unfamiliar. She ran
out of the garage toward the downtown lights. Her emotions were bruised; tears
welled up in her eyes. She trampled someone’s rose garden trying to make a bus.
The bus drove away. A sensation of urgent urination gripped her.

1 comment:

Chris S said...

By the way, the building in the pictures is of a hospital I worked at in Charleston.