Saturday, June 7, 2008

more from the white palace

Hey guys, here's the next installment from the 'hospital' series. Also, turn in tomorrow for the first post of a new arm of the austinnewblog.

icu nurse

Cliff overhead one of the patients hacking a fit in the next room. Mr. Jones, admitted for a faulty heart. Cliff peeked around the doorway to see the tiny, hairless man choking in his dreams. He rumbled and tussled in his sheets. Cliff stopped slowly and held his hand atop the patient’s wrist. “It’ll be okay,” he chanted, again and again. The white folded towels of the bedside table, the heart monitor blip green, the overcast night sky beyond the window, the tepid breath of the air duct. Cliff was careful, he did not want Jessie, his shift co-worker, to hear him in such manner. Compassion, read his bracelet, but to be true and secret were his deeper desires. Cliff rubbed a hand through his brush of red hair. He imagined Mr. Jones at play in a field of green ivy, unadorned and nude, frolicking in the mince of vegetation over flesh. Clifford recited a humble prayer, willing this man to live another day, perhaps two, and yielded the wrist back to the support of the mattress. Everything in the room was spotless except for the old man; Clifford wondered about his mind. An area of blistering white encapsulated by night shadows, Cliff waded away from Mr. Jones and left him to his dreaming.


Though gray was the color turquoise was all he could see. The stars
that hung over him seemed to talk even as he stared down the hallway. The
floors creaked under his feet and he saw a woman in a rocking chair knitting in
a small room to his right. He felt like he had been in this space before. He
continued walking. Johnny Cash said hello to him from a staircase out of
nowhere. He looked out a dirty window and saw ducks chasing a young girl.
Where the hell was he?


Cliff removed himself a moment from his book to glance over the still-dreaming old man in bed number seven. Could he see strange gallops of legs invisible in the dark hovering over Mr. Jones? Clifford placed his book down and removed himself from the icu. He wandered and found some windows to peer off this eighth floor. The four am landscape was hungry, it wanted to burst the engines from old autos, to climb the cataract windows of the very meek and very small. From on high, Clifford felt divine, but he too had a hunger. He left the windows.

All computer screens, all monitors and vacant faces, blinked in the wake of Cliff’s presence. He did feel a magic to the halls this early in the morning. Something beckoned. He needed to return to his icu. On his way, he saw a small girl standing on her bed in a random room. He did not go in; he watched. She turned, smiling, then began to jump on her bed. Her hair was red, her knee was scuffed. Clifford passed on, smiling himself.

Back in the icu, Jessie was collapsed at the front desk, arms tucked under her head supporting her sleep. Cliff laughed, then caught himself, chuckling quietly. Cliff wanted to find a cup of water and pour it over her head. He left her to her and spied upon Mr. Jones. The old man’s eyes were open, but he wasn’t present. Clifford thought about the sanity of such places, of rubber wheels and plastic tubes and glass beakers. At times he wanted a lakehouse and a red boat. Cliff wandered into the back supply room and sat atop the counter. He felt the tug of sleep wash over him too. He leaned back, set his wristwatch for ten minutes, then slowly let himself fade away.


The river was full of naked women. All ages and sizes. They swam
freely and even tried to tip the boat Cliff felt himself in. The landscape of
tall trees and jungle vines made perfect sense to him. The sounds of ancient
languages seemed to echo, but he saw not a sign of indigenous people. Only
this river of naked women. His boat finally hit the beach and he stood up.
His penis was erect and he felt several pairs of soft tiny hands touching him.
His eyes closed and he yelped with erotic pleasure waves zipping through his
body. Tigers and birds and snakes and monkeys gathered on the beach. There
was a fire burning.


The buzz and tic of Cliff’s watch kicked, and he woke abruptly. He shook and nearly fell from the cheap tile counter. He kicked his legs; he shook post-dream cobwebs. He slipped out of the supply room and found the icu exactly the same as he left it. His sleep was a passing wind. Mr. Jones lied with his eyes still open. Jessie remained splayed over the keyboards and phones. Cliff yet wanted to spill a glass of water over her head. He flicked loose coins around in his pocket and sat on the opposite side of the front desk. Cliff picked up his book but found he was unable to read it. He merely began to laugh again, quietly.

Suddenly a siren went off on the other side of the icu. A burn victim named Georgia had suddenly gone into cardiac arrest. “Jessie!” Cliff screamed, but she was already awake. “Bed 10!” Cliff shouted and jumped from his stool. The book landed sloppily on the floor. Jessie dashed over the phones and key board and followed fast on Cliff’s heels.

They saw Georgia and guessed a singe of flesh, terrible eyes, a habit of wanting to fail. Her heart had given way to an attempt at the peace of not being. Cliff readied the defibrillator and Jessie tore away the woman’s cheap hospital shirt. She squirted a gel over Georgia’s heart. “Ready?!” Clifford screamed and pressed the cool metal conductors to her flesh. The body jumped with a jolt, but it was not enough. The blackened flesh creeping down the left half of Georgia’s body did not dance. Cliff zapped her again. Still there was no reaction. Jessie could feel the taste of copper in her mouth. Cliff fired another shot into Georgia’s body. A tiny blip over the heart monitor registered. She had a pulse. Cliff rubbed sweat away from his forehead with the back of his hand. “Jesus,” he said in whisper, holding the defibrillators like paint brushes. He turned to say something to Jessie but forgot what. They traded silence. Jessie escaped the room, leaving Cliff to watch the woman in her new slumber. All these times spent dreaming, he imagined a greater castle than this hospital. He placed the defribs back on their ports and hushed himself a stillness.

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