Jerry’s throat felt like he’d sucked in flames. His head was trying to crack open from pressure. He opened his eyes.
The white room was festooned with tubes and wires. His muscles twitched as he tried to stretch his lanky frame. He was in a bed with side rails. Things were jammed down his throat and up his organ. He tried to talk but a bulbous something jammed his mouth open. A huge white moth fluttered around the bed. He squinted and focused—the moth wore glasses.
The moth jumped.
“You’re awake! Sweet Jesus, you’re conscious.”
Figured him for dying.
“You were in a car accident.”
And jumbled up your brains like fried potatoes.
Jerry’s head was held in place, but he rolled his eyes around following the nurse’s bustling.
“Don’t try and talk now, just rest. I’ll let the doctors know you’ve regained consciousness.”
And tell the shift I had a Lazarus.
Jerry faded out.
He came to again seven hours later. He attempted to focus, but it was like writing with his off hand, scrawled and cryptic. The clock on the far wall said two, early morning, judging by the darkness outside his window. The room smelled faintly of urine, the only sounds his ragged breathing and the beeps of monitors. Hurts and aches competed for his attention.
Another white shape entered his room, darker complexioned and without glasses. He raised his right arm and let it drop.
“You’re awake, good, I’ve got so much to get you ready for.”
If you’re not too much of a vegetable to understand it.
“Your wife is coming today, isn’t that wonderful?”
Wife. Jerry’s mind had to take detours to recover her memory. Cathy. Salt on open sore pain at thinking of her. Arguments he lost because he hadn’t been supporting them. Mechanical sex which he performed with guilt and she was unreactive to.
“Mrumph,” he managed.
Over the next three days, as he got increasingly stable and lucid, hoses, tubes and needles were pulled out of him. He still heard the second, lower voices, usually when he asked a question. After a few intrusive blunders, Jerry learned to lie about the unspoken words.
When Cathy visited her inner voice rasped with anxiety. She said soft, soothing things, but all that registered was the sting of her thoughts.
God he looks terrible, all skinny and bruised.
I can’t tell him now, not fair to him.
I can’t support you anymore. Shit, I can’t even love you.
Don’t say anything about it yet.
He squeezed his teeth together to keep from yelling at her. For all the emotional hurt, he understood. His scalp and part of his face would always be a surgical road map. There was no way to pay the hospital bills. Cathy, his Cathy, was with someone else, and contradicted her encouraging words with every thought.
Jerry desperately needed diversion after Cathy’s visits, and found it by baiting the staff so he could glimpse their inner reactions. He developed a reputation as the nastiest patient in the ward, and the nurses and aides avoided him.
Jerry pulled himself out of a troubled doze.
“Mr. Thompson, you’ve had a remarkable recovery. The surgery to repair your brain trauma and neural connections appears to have been successful. You have memory, coordination, focus, the works.”
Should I write it up for the AMA journal?
“You’ve got my permission, doctor.”
“Pardon! Oh, for treatment. At this point it’s just recuperation. We hope to release you in a few more days.”