Tuesday, January 29, 2008


The adventure continues: Another excerpts from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. The action in the story resumes immediately after my last post of two days ago. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

June 2004

A week after school was out, a large group of extended family got on the plane for Houston. They were bypassing the Denver visit this time. Margie was planning to go to Outward Bound four days after they returned, and she said she wasn't that eager to see Helen, anyhow, which was enough for Ginny. Allie had arranged for 24 hour care for her mother that week, and Edwina insisted they get a Winnedyko with two distinct sleeping areas so Margie could stay with them in air-conditioned comfort. It was clear to Ginny and Myra that what Edwina was really doing was making sure Margie felt unfettered access to all of her family, including Allie, and they were deeply touched by it.

Ginny called Patty to invite Carly and Truitt, and at the last minute, she extended the invitation to Pat and Patty as well. Myra, listening from her desk, had an expression of complete horror, but Patty declined for her and Pat. Ginny said later she knew she would -- if they were having relationship issues, Patty would welcome the chance for a week alone with Pat. In the end, Truitt declined as well, opting instead to go to basketball camp. Gillam was giddy at the prospect of showing Carly his childhood vacation territory, as well as extended "batching" with them and David on the screened porch.

They met David in Houston and crammed into a rental SUV for the ride to the Winnedyko place. Margie of course opted to ride with Allie and Edwina after that. They made the usual stops for beach gear, fishing supplies, ice, and food, as well as lunch at Gaido's where Gillam bragged about Texas beef to Carly, then urged him to order the chocolate bread pudding.

Harm and Gary were at the house when they arrived, changing sheets and doing a last-minute cleaning after the previous renters had left. They were persuaded to stay for dinner, and while Myra cooked and Gary helped, the artists established their eyrie on the porch, Edwina and Margie set up the Winnedyko, and Carly and Gillam joined Harm in making rope swings in the two oak trees.

Over red snapper in ginger sauce and a bounty of fresh vegetables, they caught up with the adventures of Gary and Harm's extended family. They all seemed to be entrepeneurs, coming up with a multitude of small-scale businesses that flourished over time.

"I noticed a big new supermarket in Jamaica Beach as we drove through" remarked Ginny. "I hope it's not competing with our regular grocery."

Harm sighed. "It's puttin' a fucking hurt on ever small bizness in town. That's what comes of incorporatin' and askin' in the developers" he lamented.

Myra felt a niggle of worry. "Does that mean you're feeling pressure to sell this property for development?"

"I bin approached, yeah" admitted Harm. "But I ain't innerested. If I ever give this up, it won't be so's they can suck dry what water table there is irrigatin' some pissant golf course. Who in their goddamned right minds goes to a beach so's they can ride around in carts and whack at balls?"

Gary spoke up, his accent just as thick as Harm's despite having been born in Vietnam. "And that new fancypants division they've put in just west of here -- you ain't seen it yet, it reeks of asphalt and Bush tax cuts for the rich -- well, it was built right smack dab on a Karankawa burial ground."

"Like in Poltergeist?" asked Gillam. Ginny looked at him -- when had he seen that movie?'

"Yep. I'm hoping them sonsabitches get haunted just like that, too" replied Gary.

Margie asked about the Karankawa, and Myra launched into what she remembered from seventh-grade Texas history. "And most accounts say you could tell when they were in the area because the mosquitos were godawful here, even worse than they are now, and the Karankawa used rancid fish oil as an insect repellant. Their odor traveled in front of them. I'd just pass that off as the usual racist crap from early explorers except apparently Esteban the Black gave it a try when he and Cabeza de Vaca were sheltered by Karankawa. He said you got used to the smell, and it did keep the mosquitos away."

"As well as anything else with a nose" said Allie, making Margie giggle.

Myra concluded, "They were more vulnerable than some tribes to European diseases carried in by the Spanish and French, and by the mid 1800s, I think, they were all gone."

"I allus heard they was cannibals" said Harm.

"Yeah, well, every time white people met up with natives in a new place they planned to steal, they avidly asked where the cannibals were, and sometimes folks were ready to tell them their neighbors whom they did not like were flesh-eaters, yes indeedy. But it's never been documented, not any of the stories about cannibals around the world, as far as I can tell" said Myra.

"Except for Christians" added Ginny. "Only religion I ever heard of that has ritualized cannibalism as part of its most sacred ritual."

The children stared at her, and she said "Communion. Supposedly it turns into Jesus's manmeat in your mouth."

Which sent Harm and Gary into hysterics. David just shook his head.

Over dessert, Allie asked "Anything in the water right now we need to watch out for?"

"Nope. I hear tell Padre's got an unusual number of stingrays buried in the sand this year, but it ain't a problem this far up" said Harm.

Carly and Edwina both looked alarmed. Allie turned to Edwina and said "One year -- when you were nine or was it ten, Margie? -- the fishing was just plain terrible because there were these huge schools of mullet right in the surf. All I could catch was mullet. When a wave rose up, you could see dozens of 'em silhouetted in the water. But what we didn't know was that following the mullet in to shore was a healthy concentration of sharks. We swam and splashed just like usual that year, and didn't find out about the risk we'd been running until we were on our way home."

Gillam jumped in "Except when Mama had been swimming at mid-chest level, she was standing and that thing brushed against her calf."

Myra burst out with "I told you, all of you, it was way too big to be a mullet, but none of you believed me, you just thought I was being hysterical."

"When Myra found out about the shark, I thought she was going to pass out" Ginny told Edwina.

"And how sure are you of these current conditions?" Edwina asked Harm nervously.

"Absolutely sure. I got cousins out in the water ever day" he reassured her.

"If I'd known about the sharks, I coulda used small mullet as bait and caught us a feast that year" said Allie regretfully.

Later that night, during the first fire circle, Gillam had to persuade Carly for a while before he was willing to risk a night swim. Once they and Margie were rampaging the surf with Allie, Myra turned to Ginny and said "See? Jaws didn't traumatize them a bit."

Allie and Margie got up at dawn to fish, so there was a plate of delicious crispy filets in the oven when Myra and Edwina shared breakfast together. A second small table was crowded into the artist's end of the porch where Edwina could sit and work on research papers. The Jamaica Beach phone system had recently added on DSL, and Myra had paid for the beach house to be plugged into the internet before they arrived so Edwina could use her laptop without limit.

Perversely, Myra missed the days when she would have been entirely responsible for the children's entertainment. Margie had a folding lounge in the yard where she applied SPF in increments to develop a tan, and either read magazines or dozed listening to music through earbuds. After extracting an oath from Gillam and Carly that they would not go into water deeper than waist high or swim without an adult present, they were allowed to roam up and down the beach on their own. Ginny had brought pre-gessoed canvases for her and David, and they were already engrossed in painting.

Allie came in and searched through the refrigerator, then went to the cupboards on a search.

"Whatcha looking for?" asked Myra.

"Do we have any cranberry juice? Like, the real thing, not mostly sugar?" asked Allie.

Myra went to the shelves on the back porch where she stored extra drinks and found one bottle of cranberry extract. "You'll have to mix this with water, and ice to cool it off" she said. "Why this in particular?"

"I'm having to pee a lot more than usual, but it's small amounts, so I think I might be getting a bladder infection. I had a fever last night for a while" said Allie.

Myra looked at her closely. "You look a little puny -- your color's off. And you look like you might've lost weight" she agreed. "Do you want to try to find a decent local doctor?"

"Nah" said Allie, mixing her juice. "Let's see if I can scour it out with this. I've been going full time for a while, I'm just plain wore out. All I really want to do is sleep."

"Tell Margie you'll go fishing with her in the late afternoons instead of getting up early" suggested Myra.

"Maybe" said Allie. Myra took a Sharpie and wrote "For Allie only" on the label of the juice before putting it back in the fridge.

Myra did prep work for lunch, then sat down with a second draft of her latest novel and a cup of sharpened pencils. After half an hour, she began to get drowsy. She went to the back porch and found the 3-liter bottle of RC Cola she'd hidden there while putting away groceries. She filled an enormous glass with ice and cola, and sat back down, her pulse already picking up. She worked for three hours without moving, and only stopped when Margie wandered in, smelling strongly of cocoa butter, to ask "When's lunch?"

The boys arrived late, Gillam with his shirt off so he could carry an assortment of washed-up treasures in it. By the end of the meal, there were no leftovers. Myra made a note to up the quantities of what she made -- sea air, she supposed, plus two new mouths. As David and Edwina began the dishes, Myra drew a chore chart that relied heavily on the children. Looking over her shoulder, Gillam said "Hey, listen, there is so much plastic crap washed up on the beaches here. Could we take trash bags with us and pick up whatever we come across? Can we find a place to recycle nearby, you think?"

Myra was inordinately pleased. "Sure thing. If the quantity is more than you can carry, you can stash it away from the traffic lane and I'll drive you at day's end to pick it up in the car. That's a super idea, boychik."

Gillam grinned, then said "Well, I've got another favor to ask."

Margie snorted, and Myra said "Did I just get set up?"

"Maybe" said Gillam. "We were looking at the topo map, and straight back from us, not too far, is an inland bay, like a lagoon. We'd like to hike back there and explore. There's a road, and a few houses, but we'll stay away from what looks like private property."

Ginny, heading back to the porch, stopped and said "Let's see where you're talking about on the map."

Gillam's face showed resignation as he got the map from the nearby shelves. When Myra and Ginny spread it out on the table, Ginny began laughing incredulously. The bay Gillam was referring to was named Snake Cove; at one end of it was Snake Island. Across the larger inlet were Alligator Point and Rattlesnake Mound. Ginny looked at Myra with her lips pressed tight together.

"You realize, don't you, that these dunes are full of rattlers?" began Myra.

"Yeah. We figured we'd wear boots and long pants, and take a snakebite kit with us" said Gillam earnestly.

"Have you ever used a snakebite kit? Do you know how it works?" asked Myra.


"And do you know how to watch for snakes?" Myra continued. Ginny was staring at her.

"Never step where you can't see clearly, never turn over a rock or board with bare hands, don't sit on rocky outcroppings, walk slowly and listen carefully" recited Gillam.

"And what if you hear a rattler?"

"Freeze, stay calm, figure out where it is and back away slowly" Gillam said, a tinge of hope in his voice.

"Can water moccasins strike under water?" Myra asked.

"Yes. And drop down on you from trees, although I don't think there's any trees around here" said Gillam.

"Which snakes will chase you if they're pissed off?" Myra was thoroughly testing how well he'd listened over the years.

"Cottonmouths and copperheads. And copperheads tend to bite more than once" said Gillam confidently.

"What's a snake's striking distance?"

"The length of its body, to be safe" said Gillam. Carly was trying to absorb all this new information.

"Well, Gillam....I'll need to give you a lesson on how to handle a snakebite emergency first, and you two will have to carry one of the cell phones with the GPS locator, but I'm inclined to let you prove you're old enough to assume this responsibility" said Myra. Ginny stood up and stomped out to the porch. Allie followed her, putting her hand on Gillam's shoulder as she passed.

Margie said "I can't believe you're going along with this! What about me?"

"What about you? You want to go hiking in the dunes? Find someone to go with you, under the same restrictions, and it'll be fine with me" said Myra equably.

"But you -- what if I'd wanted to do it two years ago, when I was his age?" argued Margie.

"I'd have agreed to it then, under the same conditions. You really do have more freedoms than he does, Margie, and you will until he's 18, when it will even out for you both."

Margie rolled her eyes and headed for the porch. Myra got the snakebite kit and gave both boys a long, heavy-handed training in what to do in every instance she could imagine. Eventually, properly attired, with a pack holding cell phone and bottles of cold water, Carly and Gillam pushed excitedly out the back screen door. At the last minute, Myra called after them "And if you see a coyote, it's likely to be rabid, stay the fuck away from it!" They waved at her but hurried on.

She sat down at the table and put her head in her hands. "Oh, god, what have I done?" she said softly. David, wiping his hands on a dishtowel, said "No matter what happens, it was the right time to take this step. They're ready. Frankly, more ready than Margie would have been at their age."

She looked at him gratefully. "Convince Ginny, okay? My afternoon is going to be spent waiting for an emergency phone call."

After half an hour of trying to write, she gave up and wandered to the porch. Allie and Edwina had gone to their trailer for an afternoon siesta. Margie had moved her lounge chair into the shade of the porch and was sacked out again, this time without earbuds on. A fine sheen of sweat was on her face. Myra went back in the house and got one of the box fans, setting it where it would blow on her and plugging it into Edwina's extension cord. As the breeze hit her, Margie's eyes opened briefly. She grinned dopily at Myra and said "Thanks, Mom."

Myra walked over to Ginny and gave her a kiss on her cheek. Ginny looked at her and said "I just get scared, is all."

"Me too, Mamasan. Down to my bones. I never thought I'd wish they'd be babies again, but this afternoon it would be fine with me to be tied down to diapers and feedings."

Ginny grinned at her and said "Have you ever known someone who got bit by a snake?"

"Three. One was my little brother when he was Gillam's age. But he was rooting around under an abandoned barn with his arm, not even looking, and he just plain asked for it. He and Gillam are nothing alike in that regard" said Myra.

Ginny had stopped grinning. "What happened to him?"

"He panicked. He ran across several fields to get home, instead of going to the nearest place for help, and he pushed venom all the way up his arm. Plus we lived 20 minutes away from the nearest hospital. By the time we got to the ER, he was unconscious and he nearly died. Lost the tissue on his hand. But, Ginny, he did everything wrong you can name, and that hospital was terrible, and still he survived. Some kids learn the hard way, and my brother was one of them. Gillam -- well, frankly, he's like me and you. He's brave but not stupid. And hopefully this adventure will only reinforce it."

Ginny leaned against Myra briefly, then said "Have you checked to make sure the cell is on?"

"Several times. I'm going back in, see if I can write. Our children are extraordinary, Ginny, and their flights out into the world are going to be more risk-taking than the average braindead suburbanite their age. I'm managing this one today, but you'll have to take the next one, okay?"

"Deal" said Ginny.

As Myra went back into the house, she realized Margie had been listening to every word. Well, it couldn't hurt.

She made herself another infusion of cold caffeine and sat down to her draft. This time she was able to find her way back into concentration.

When the cell rang a few hours later, she literally jumped in her chair, then lunged to answer it. She heard the staccato sibilance of a rattler's warning, with muffled giggling in the background. She paused for a second, then hung up. Ginny was standing at the end of the table.

"It's them. Gillam decided to imitate a rattler" Myra said, trying to keep herself from passing out.

The cell rang again. Myra let it ring twice before she answered.

Gillam was contrite and definitely nervous. "I'm sorry, Mom, it just seemed so funny -- "

"Where are you, and why are you calling?" she demanded.

"We're at a house over here, drinking some cold tea and trying to cool off. The reason I'm calling is, there's something here you'd like to maybe look at, and, well, could you come pick us up and give us a ride back?"

"Are you all right?"

"Yeah, we're fine. But -- well, on the way over the dunes we saw two snakes, Mama, one of them coiled up ready to strike. And it's getting close to evening, when they all come out, and well, we'd just rather not walk it." Gillam was apologetic.

Myra said "I'm glad to hear that kind of sense from you. Let me look at the map -- can you tell which house it is?"

There was a bit of conversation on the other end, then Gillam said, repeating what he was being told, "Take the two-lane out front west to the first main dirt road heading to your right, the north. There's a sign advertising acreage for sale at that corner. Follow that road north until it dead ends into another dirt road along the bay. Go right again, and the second house on your left, it's blue with a propane tank out front, that's where we'll be. We'll wait for you outside."

"Okay, be right there." She told Ginny what was up, and Ginny said "You know what, I'll go with you. I'd like to see the bay back there."

Margie elected to tag along as well. They found the house easily, with Gillam and Carly astride the propane tank. Gillam motioned her into the driveway and leaned on Myra's window to say "The woman who lives here, Ms. Corpening, they keep a miniature kind of chickens called bantams, but they also have peacocks. It's way cool, she said we could show them to you if you want."

Myra, Ginny and Margie got out of the car and went to introduce themselves to Ms. Corpening. She led them on a tour of her mini-farm, with a long pen of Hampshire pigs between the house and the chicken run. "Pigs are great at killing snakes, and rattlers are drawn to henhouses, so I keep 'em out of the back yard here with the pig pen" Ms. Corpening explained.

Ginny, wearing flip-flops, began to walk very slowly, scanning the grass around her. As they were approaching a shady side yard, a blood-curdling scream rent the air, making everybody but Ms. Corpening jerk and cry out.

"That's a peacock!" said Gillam in delight. "Sounds just like a person, doesn't it?"

Ms. Corpening sold her eggs at a farmer's market, so Myra bought two dozen, plus three pounds of home-made pecan pralines. She thanked her effusively for being so hospitable to their boys. On the way home, they drove along the bay for quite a while, Margie noting possible places to fish, Gillam and Carly talking about getting a canoe and exploring some of the small islands. Ginny looked at Myra during this last discussion and Myra shook her head unobtrusively.

After dinner, Myra used some of the fresh eggs to make ice cream, and crushed pralines to sprinkle on top. Gillam and Carly told them, for the third time, about their adventures in the dunes as they all licked their bowls clean before heading to the beach for singing and nighttime dips. Around the fire, Allie told Margie she wanted to beg off getting up early the next day, saying maybe sleeping in would help her feel better. Edwina, sitting behind Allie, felt of Allie's forehead and said "I think you're fever is back. C'mon, I'm giving you some ibuprofen and we're going to bed now." When Allie didn't protest, Ginny looked over at Myra with a worried expression on her face.

Once Allie and Edwina were in the trailer, Myra said "I'll check into doctors tomorrow. If she's not better, we'll drive into Galveston if need be. I think she needs antibiotics."

Margie stopped looking sullen about the change of fishing time and her expression became worried, also. After a minute, she said "I'll get up and leave the trailer quietly, fish without her. That way, when she wakes up, she can still have a great breakfast, provided by yours truly."

David said "You know what, I'll join you. I'm not very good at it, but you can teach me the ropes, right?"

Margie's face lit up. "You bet!"

The next morning when Myra got up, flounder had been caught and eaten, but the two filets remaining were being saved for Allie. Myra made sausage and biscuits, then cream gravy from the sausage remnants. There was a plate of leftovers from this as well. When Allie got up at 10:00, she was stuporous but declared fever-free by Edwina and said she had slept without interruption. She ate both plates of leftovers, along with another big glass of cranberry juice, and settled on the porch in a chair with a book instead of working at her table. She dozed off in the chair, with brought Myra's worry back to the surface.

At noon, Carly and Gillam came in from the beach saying "Can we go for a swim before we eat? It's low tide and the water is really calm, it looks great out there."

"I'll hold off the meal for half an hour, but you have to get an adult to go with you" said Myra.

Allie's voice from the porch drifted back, saying "I'll go with you. I don't feel like swimming much, but I'd like to get wet and cooled off."

Gillam and Carly rushed to put on their suits, while Myra continued to worry. She was relieved when she heard Edwina say "I'll go too". Edwina went to put on her suit as well. Allie chose to stay in cut-offs and her cotton shirt, saying she was only going to wade. Margie waffled back and forth, finally opting to stay on her lounge in the yard.

Myra boiled some shrimp and potatoes, planning to make a collection of salads for their lunch. She finished them all and put them in the fridge to chill as much as they could before the swimmers returned. She then borrowed Edwina's laptop to do a search for local physicians or clinics. It seemed to be pretty slim pickings. Even the local ambulance service originated in Galveston. She was sitting at Edwina's table on the porch, talking over these options with Ginny and David, when Carly burst into the yard screaming "Edwina says come, bring the car!"

Myra ran into the house to grab her keys and cell from the shelf by the door as Carly, between gasps, said "Gillam got caught -- in a riptide -- Allie saved him -- now she's passed out -- both on the beach".

They all leaped into the SUV, Margie with her earbuds dangling, and drove where Carly directed, at least a mile east on the beach from where Allie and Edwina's trailer as parked. As they got close, Myra's vision clouded when she saw Gillam lying on his back a few feet up from the surf, Allie also prostrate beside him, her head in Edwina's lap. Two fishermen from several yards down were standing over them.

Ginny reached Gillam first and pulled him into her lap. His eyes opened and he said weakly "Hey, I'm okay, I'm just so exhausted I can't move". He was still wet and his skin was very pale and a little cool.

Allie, however, looked ghastly. She was ashen, and her skin was chilled. She was unresponsive, no matter what Myra or Edwina did. Edwina said "Gillam swam into a rip current and it began hauling him far out. I didn't understand what was going on, but Allie did, began running along the beach following him, yelling at him to not fight it, to let it take him out until it turned, then to swim parallel until it let him go. She ran all the way down to here, and he finally got loose out there. She went into to get him then, because he was having trouble swimming. She carried him to shore, and I got here then -- I stayed to get Carly out of the water, we ran down here together -- and right after she laid him down, she sat down and then fell over." Edwina was frantic.

One of the fisherman, the fatter one, said "Sounds like a heart attack to me, does she have heart problems?"

"Not that we know of" said Ginny, taking Allie's pulse while keeping Gillam in her lap.

Myra said to Gillam "Did you swallow any water? Are you having trouble breathing?"

"No. I just -- wore out" he said slowly.

Myra began dialing the emergency number she had just been reading about. The dispatcher who answered asked a few basic questions -- yes, Allie was breathing, her pulse was 64, she had not vomited, her airway was clear, there were no wounds -- and said a helicopter was on its way.

The other fisherman offered a bottle of Coke to Gillam, and Myra nodded at Ginny: "He's tapped out his adrenals, it'll give him a small kick." She looked around at the group and said "Any of us know CPR? I mean, trained in it?"

"I took it last semester in swimming" said Margie.

"If Allie stops breathing, you start it, tell us what to do" Myra said, looking levelly into Margie's eyes. Margie nodded. Ginny kept her hand on Allie's wrist, following her pulse.

Myra turned to Carly. "Are you really okay? How did it it get Gillam and not you?"

"I don't know" he said miserably. "We were swimming out above our heads, and suddenly I was on a sand bar, I could stand up chest deep. It was wacky. I yelled back to shore, to Allie, saying for her to look, and Gillam, he was at least ten yards ahead of me, he suddenly stood up too, he was on a sandbar too. Then he started back for me, and Allie, I don't know how she knew, but she began screaming at him to stop, but suddenly he was gushing out to sea despite swimming all out. She kept yelling for him to stop fighting it, and Edwina waded out halfway to me, telling me to come straight in. Allie took off, chasing Gillam, yelling the whole time."

"It was so weird" said Gillam wearily. "You know those conveyor walkways at the airports? It was like that, only faster. I couldn't stop. And I went so far out, I couldn't see the shore over the waves. But I could hear Aunt Allie, isn't that strange? I could hear her saying to go with it, it would eventually stop, and when it turned direction, to swim alongside the beach, not toward it, to not fight the current. It was hard to not fight it -- I did, some, I couldn't help it. But her voice kept reaching me, out in the middle of nowhere, and I did what she said, and eventually, poof, it was gone, I was just back in regular surf. But my arms were like stones, and I was mostly just letting the waves coast me in, until she reached me. She carried me, Mama, in the water like I was itty bitty again. She totally saved my life." He began crying thinly. "Oh, god, please don't let her die, don't let me have killed her!"

"You didn't kill her" Myra and Ginny said in unison. At that moment, Allie jerked and her eyelids fluttered. She cried out "Gillam, Gillam, hang on!"

Edwina clutched her tight and said "Allie, he's safe, you're on shore, we're all here. Look at us, sweetheart."

But Allie faded back into stillness.

Two minutes later, Myra heard a rhythm somewhere, and looked down the beach to see an orange helicopter flying low toward them. "Thank you god" she muttered. It landed beyond them as Edwina cupped her hands over Allie's face to keep out the blowing sand. Two paramedics, hunched over, ran toward them with bouncing bags of gear.

Myra gave them a synopsis as the male paramedic began checking out Gillam, the female telling Edwina they needed to get Allie flat on the ground. The woman said to Edwina, "Are you her sister?"

"I'm her wife" said Edwina. Myra added, "I'm her sister, we're all kin, we know her medical history and have power of attorney. Plus she's fully insured." She was torn between the two exams going on. After checking Gillam's blood pressure and other vitals, the male paramedic said "He's okay. Go ahead and take him to the ER, let them check him out, but he's going to just need fluids and rest. Gatorade would be good." He transferred his attention to Allie as well.

The female paramedic said "BP is 60 over palp, temp is 96, pulse thready at 68." The male spoke into a radio headset, repeating the information to someone on the other end, and he said "Let's get a strip on her." The woman said to Edwina, "We need to undo her shirt to put electrodes on her". Edwina unbuttoned Allie's shirt and took the towel to wipe her down thoroughly. A case unfolded into a piece of heart equipment, complete with a tiny paper strip coming out a slot, and a few minutes later the male paramedic was saying "Sinus, no ST-T abnormality, normal V1 and V2."

As he conferred, the woman was punching at Allie's fingertip with something and reading a small LED screen on it. She said to the man "33." They both suddenly looked like they understood what was going on. The woman leaned over and sniffed of Allie's breath, sat back and said to him "Definite DKA." He repeated this into his mic as Edwina demanded "What does that mean?"

The woman overrode her question to ask "When did she last have an insulin shot? When did she eat last?"

"I -- she doesn't take insulin" stumbled Edwina. "She doesn't have diabetes."

"Her mother does, and her grandmother did" said Myra. "She ate two hours ago, a heavy meal."

The woman said "She's in diabetic ketoacidosis. We have to get her to the hospital right away."

The man had stuck a needle in Allie's arm and hooked it to an IV with a bag of clear liquid. He said to the woman "I'm going to start with 10 units Lantus, we have to check her in 10 minutes." They began putting equipment back into bags.

"I'm going with her" said Edwina.

"Just one of you" said the woman.

"Here, Aunt Edwina" said Margie, pulling off her T-shirt to reveal her swimsuit underneath. She removed her shorts and flip-flops as well, and gave them all to Edwina, who got dressed numbly.

"We'll be right behind you" said Myra. "We'll get your wallets and insurance cards, and clothes, and get there as fast as we can drive." The paramedics were running back to the helicopter with their bags and returned with a stretcher.

Myra bent over to kiss Allie's cheek beside her ear and whisper "You stay with us, Allene Billups. Gillam is okay, we're all okay, so you hang in there, come back to us."

As the paramedics carried Allie to the helicopter, Edwina right beside them, Myra and Ginny got Gillam to his feet, his arms over their shoulders, and all but carried him to the back of the SUV. He lay down on the flat cargo bed and Carly hopped in beside him.

At the house, Myra turned to David and said "Can you clear off the porch, get everything inside, as well as change?" He nodded.

"You boys stay in the car, we'll get what you need" she called back. Striding to the house, she said to Margie "Go to the trailer, pack a bag for the three of you, including toiletries. Grab their wallets and keys. Put everything that's outside back into the trailer and lock it up before you leave. You've got five minutes." Margie took off in a run.

Ginny said "I'll get clothes for all of us, and bedding for the back."

Myra said "Okay." She went to the back porch and grabbed a cooler, filling it with ice from the freezer, then cold drinks, bananas, peanut butter and bread. She changed her shirt, put on shoes and socks, and slid both cell phones, the chargers, and their wallets into her pack. She locked the back door and joined Ginny at the SUV, where she was laying down quilts on the cargo bed, adding pillows and a second quilt to go over them. Carly and Gillam were changing clothes, standing in the yard, Gillam leaning against the car to dry himself.

Margie flew up, breathless, and handed one suitcase plus a pack to Myra. She added it beside their bag along the side in the back and said "You and David will have to keep the cooler between you in the rear seat."

As they drove away, Myra said "We need to stop for gas and I'll get Gatorade then, we don't have any. In the meantime, David, will you give Gillam and Carly water plus bananas? Potassium will help."

Ginny had her Rescue Remedy and handed that back for David to administer as well.

"What is diabetic keto -- whatever it was?" asked Margie, her face constricted with fear.

"It's an insulin crisis. Insulin helps our bodies process sugars, starches. I'm not sure, but I think when you flat run out of insulin, you go into a coma. I think that's what it means" said Myra.

"Is she -- will she be okay?" asked Margie.

Myra looked at her in the rearview mirror. "They're giving her insulin and fluids, and that's good." It wasn't an answer, but she didn't really have the answer Margie wanted.

Ginny had the map out, to give Myra directions to the hospital. David sat sideways in his seat so he could keep an eye on Gillam. After eating, both boys lay down and Gillam went to sleep almost instantly. David regularly checked his pulse and his forehead, nodding reassurance at Myra and Ginny.

At the convenience store where they stopped for gas, Myra let Ginny pump and went in for Gatorade. She returned with bottles of milk and sandwiches for them all as well -- "They're crap, but it's something to put in our bellies."

Myra got them to the UTMB Hospital in half an hour, despite city traffic. She pulled into the ER bay and David said "You take him in, I'll go park the car." Ginny and Myra walked Gillam in, Margie and Carly following with their pack and Allie's bag. After getting Gillam signed in and being told to wait, Myra switched her focus to Allie. After a bit of argument, claiming she was family and pulling out Allie's wallet, she was taken to the ICU where Allie was already in a bed, hooked up to lines and monitors, in a gown and looking not quite so pale grey. Edwina was beside her, holding her hand.

"What did they say, how is she?" Myra asked urgently.

"It is diabetes, diabetic shock" said Edwina. "But she's responding to the insulin, and her heart is stable."

Allie's eyes flickered open. "Hey" she said expressionlessly.

"Gillam's fine, we're all here" said Myra. "You're going to be okay, you hera you."

"He's my boy" whispered Allie.

"He's completely your boy" said Myra, her eyes tearing.

"Ah gots the sugar" said Allie.

"Just like your Nana" replied Myra. "Doesn't seem fair, you being the only one of us who's skinny."

A faint smile came on Allie's face. "I feel like shit."

"I just bet. But this ain't no cracker hospital, it's one of the goodies, so you're in great hands" said Myra. "And I'll learn how to feed you right by the time you get out of here, no sweat."

Allie's lids closed again, the residue of a smile on her face.

Myra set their bag beside the bed and reached into her pack. "Here's your wallets, Edwina, and Ginny's cell, I've got mine. Plus the charger. And here's our platinum card -- I know, you both have credit cards, but ours doesn't have any limits, so tell 'em to put it all on that, we'll sort it out later. That's our extra, don't lose it. One of us will be back soon to stay with you, but I need to go tell them that she's okay. You need anything else?"

"Just -- company. Will they let Margie come in here, you think?"

"We'll tell 'em she's 18" said Myra. "She's out of her mind with worry."

"I keep telling everyone I'm her wife, I don't know what Allie will have to say about that" whispered Edwina.

"She'll love it. And, that reminds me, here's the paper giving me durable power of attorney for her. I know you two haven't had time to draw that up between you, but I'm handing it over to you for now. I mean, if you want it" said Myra.

Edwina's face was flooded with emotion. "I do want it." She gave Myra a tight hug and said "Go let them off the hook."

Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

letsdance said...

Woman, you can write! I start reading one of the chapters you post and I can't stop. And, when I re-read a chapter, I'm just as captivated!