Friday, March 28, 2008


Another excerpt 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 post three days ago. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

Ginny changed direction so she could look Myra directly in her eyes, holding both her hands. With a voice thickened by emotion, she said "Okay, Myra. Now we know what's wrong. We're going to fix this. We've got another doctor on her way, and I'll get Nancy in here as fast as I can. Do you understand me? Am I making sense?"

Myra paused, then said "Okay."

"I need to know this is getting through, Myra. I need some way of you telling me so I know we're actually communicating" said Ginny.

Myra stared at her and wet her lips. Ginny thought she saw something different in Myra's eyes -- she suddenly realized Myra's blankness had been stark terror. After a long minute, Myra's mouth curved into a slight smile and she said "Me and you, Ginny Bates."

Ginny sobbed once, shoving the rest down. "That's exactly right, Myra. That's my girl. Okay, what do you need most? If you can't find the word, maybe you can sign it, or we can guess things until you nod -- "

Myra said "Home."

"You want to go home? Oh, god, me too. All right, to get you out of here, you have to be eating. Do you understand me, Myra? I know how bad things taste, it turns out it's a chemical side effect from one of the drugs you're on. We're not going to give you any more of that drug, but you have to start eating anyhow, before it all gets better. And my darling, I know how hard it will be for you, I know about your glass stomach. This is going to have to be mind over matter, Myra. Your mind is still there, and your Amazon will. Think of the taste in your mouth as just a construct -- like gender, or race. You can shape this reality. Can you try to eat? You have to keep it down."

Myra's eyes were more alive than they had been in days. She nodded and said "Not destiny."

Ginny fought back another wave of tears. She turned and saw that Velda was watching them. "Gillam, cut a very small piece of that lasagna -- "

But Myra shook Ginny's hand and said, after another long pause, "Shabbos -- shabbos."

Tears were leaking down Ginny's face despite her best efforts. "All right, my angel, you're right of course. Margie, set up the candlesticks. Let's open those blinds, see the sun setting." She turned to Velda and said "We're Jewish. This is our sabbath, we do this every Friday night. You're welcome to join us."

"I can't stay long" said Velda.

"It's not long" said Ginny. Edwina opened the wine, saying "This is non-alcoholic, just grape juice, basically." Gillam unwrapped the challah, then returned to the bedside to grab one of Myra's hands. Ginny took her other hand and extended her arm to Edwina, who took it. Velda stepped forward and took Gillam's free hand. Margie lit the candles and began pulling the flame toward her with her long, beautiful hands as they sang and prayed. Myra's grip was like iron.

When it was time for wine, Ginny dipped her finger into her own glass and said "Just a taste, Myra, on your tongue." Myra opened her mouth and, although revulsion crossed her face as the wine reached her, she kept her jaw taut. Gillam pulled off a thread of challah and fed that to Myra as well. She swallowed it, clenching her throat against the gag.

"Oh, Myra, you are forever my hera" said Ginny. "Ready to try lasagna?"

Myra nodded. Ginny said to Velda "This is one she made and froze. It's got spinach from our garden, and my marinara, and Myra's recipe of cheeses -- if she can eat anything, it'll be this."

"Worth a try" said Velda. "But only a tablespoon or so for now. Her system has to adjust."

With a superhuman effort, Myra took and kept down four small bites. She waved off the plate after that and said "Dogshit." Gillam laughed loudly. The rest of them ate, gathered around Myra, and even Velda took a serving before leaving for other patients.

As Gillam was throwing away the paper plates and washing the forks he'd brought from home, Dr. Maxwell came into the room, suddenly interested in introducing himself to everyone present.

"Well, I hear there's been progress" he said. Ginny looked at him incredulously. "She's eaten?" he said.

Myra spoke up, startling him. "Lasagna." He looked at her but still did not direct his conversation to her. "And her renal panel has normalized" he said, looking in the chart. "How's her pain issues?"

Ginny tried to unclench her teeth. "Once we found the decubitus, she's not complained again." She turned to Myra and said "Honey, do you want to stay on the Demerol or would you like to try not taking the IV pain meds tonight? See if that helps you with the goddamned brain damage we just got a diagnosis on?"

Myra almost grinned. Dr. Maxwell had frozen. She said "Not hurting. Let's stop 'em."

"All right, you heard her. She's extremely sensitive to chemical assault because she never takes more than an occasional ibuprofen" said Ginny.

"Uh...then we'll give a try, but I'll leave orders for a return to Demerol if her pain breaks through. She can also have Tylenol for minor discomfort -- "

"Tylenol has never worked on her, and given her kidney issues, I'd rather she not take that. Let's stick to ibuprofen, shall we?" said Ginny.

He was going to argue automatically until he looked at her face. "I'll write it for ibuprofen, then. If I may ask, how did Dr. Lefkowitz come to know about this case?"

"Long-time family connection" said Ginny. Gillam raised his eyebrows.

"Well, she's certainly highly regarded. And I agree with her choice of neurologist. We'll await her recommendation, then, push fluids and nutrition, and I'll check back with you in the morning."

Ginny was not going to shake his hand. He looked at Myra and said "Keep up the good work, Ms. Josong." Myra said "Bates-Josong. I'm partnered."

Ginny saw a flicker on his face. After a second, he said "I think my wife has read some of your books." I just bet she has Ginny thought. When no one answered, he nodded and left the room. Margie was whispering to Gillam about who Jules Lefkowitz was, and his face looked like he wanted to doubt her. But Myra got all their attention by roaring like a lion, and nodding her head in the direction of the door where Dr. Maxwell had just exited. Ginny burst into laughter and lay down gladly beside Myra, kissing her face and saying "You got that right. I'm one aggravation away from going into berserker mode."

Myra stared into Ginny's eyes and said "Don't leave me." Ginny said "I won't." She turned to Margie and said "I'm going to need another change of clothes tomorrow, when you come, and I would fucking kill for a salad from home."

Edwina said "I'm going to spend the night with them again. But Allie left a message, she got mine and she's leaving right after the closing event tonight, driving straight through. She said she was coming here first."

"Allie" murmured Myra as she lay back and closed her eyes. They all grew silent, found chairs and sat, watching Myra. When Ginny's cell rang on the bedside table a few minutes later, they all jumped -- except for Myra. As Ginny reached for it, she said quietly to Edwina "I don't think she's hearing bells, she hasn't reacted to any of the higher-pitched sounds around here."

It was Chris. Ginny stood up to talk with her a few minutes. Chris kept swearing, with no humor at all in her voice, and three times she said "I let her down, god fucking dammit." Ginny said "I don't think you could have kept her oxygen supply intact in that operating room", and Chris said "You don't know that." Finally she asked to talk with Myra. Ginny had to shake her -- she was actually asleep. She took the phone but didn't say anything for a while, only shaking or nodding her head. Ginny bent over and said "You have to make words, Myra, she can't see you. Say words to her."

Myra said "Kash-Kash, where are you?" After listening again, she said "Sima's mother died? Oh, no, that's so sad." Her tone and expression were muted, not the grief she had shown the first time she'd heard the news.

After another minute, she handed the phone back to Ginny. Ginny talked to Chris again, saying "Yeah. I know. It's okay, Chris, Allie's going to be here in a few hours, we've got an emergency neurology visit on the way, and, well, I'll call you after that, when we know more. Sima's between a rock and a hard place, I think you two are doing what you have to do, I just wish we could be more support....Okay, if it can be moved up, fine, but otherwise we're on it now, Sunday night will be soon enough...You need a ride from the airport? Okay, I'll call you when I know more, I promise. All our love to Sima."

Myra's eyes were closed again. "She looks like Buddha" whispered Gillam.

"How are they?" asked Edwina.

"Sima's got an estate agent coming to her mother's place tomorrow to make a final inventory. They've sorted through all the personal stuff, but Sima's sister is staying put in New Jersey so it's all on her shoulders. Chris said it had hit her harder than they expected -- Sima, I mean. Lots of what-ifs coming up for her. And Chris is blaming herself for not being here -- which I do hope she's not saying in front of Sima, that's not something she needs to hear right now" said Ginny, her voice starting to get raspy from exhaustion.

Margie picked up the bedside carafe and took it to the bathroom to fill with water. She poured a glass for Ginny, who drank it down, then refilled it and said "Mama? A few sips, as often as you can stand it, would really help you get better faster."

Myra sat up, took the glass, and slid her free hand into Margie's with a clenched grip. She managed three sips before a consulsive gag almost did her in. Margie retrieved the glass hastily and said "Great job, way to go."

Myra looked at her and said "I love you, Marjorie Rose." Margie's reserve broke. She began crying brokenly, saying "Oh Mama, I love you so much, I can't stand what's happened to you!" Ginny came around the bed and pulled her into her arms. Myra watched them expressionlessly. Edwina took Gillam's hand and said "How about you, boyfriend? You need to let the dam burst, too?"

"Not right now" he said hollowly.

"Kudos on the lasagna. Like magic from the skies, it was" Edwina said. He smiled wanly.

Right before visiting hours were up, a short white woman with light-brown hair in braids and a walk like a farmgirl came into the room. She set down a small nylon bag and introduced herself as Dr. Hilary Reading. Ginny leaped to her feet and made introductions of her family, leaving Myra for last. She said "Myra, this woman is a neurologist. You need to convey as much as you can to her."

There was a sudden intensity in Myra's eyes. Ginny thought it must be hope. Dr. Reading had the chart in her hands, and Gillam stood up to offer her a chair. She accepted, reading through the pages in the thick silence around her. When she was done, she looked up and said "How verbal are you usually, Myra?"

Margie said "Like, totally. She's written a dozen books, she's the most brilliant writer in the world, she talks constantly, there isn't a word she doesn't know -- "

Ginny put her hand on Margie's arm. "Let's leave answering to Myra, if we can, okay?" she said gently.

Dr. Reading said "I don't mean to shut you out, but I think this exam would go better if Myra had no distractions. Could I ask you to wait in the hall?"

Everyone looked at Ginny for their cue. She said "Go on, the doctor's right." As they were filing out, she said to Dr. Reading "But not me. She's asked me not to leave her side. I'll stay out of view, sit over here by the wall and not make a sound, I promise."

Dr. Reading agreed. As Ginny made herself small, Dr. Reading sat down beside Myra and began leading her through a series of physical tests -- following a finger with her eyes, responding to taps on her arm and leg, then to sticks with a blunted pin. She asked Myra the date. Myra said she did not know, even when asked if she could name the month or year. She could give her name and that she was in a Seattle hospital, but could not name the hospital.

Dr. Reading was patience personified. She said "I'm going to test your memory. I'm going to name three things, and you say them back to me. Okay?" Myra nodded. "The three things are: firetruck, ball, kitten. Now, you tell them back to me."

Myra said "Kitten...." That was all. Dr. Reading tried several times with different trios of words, but Myra could never retain more than two for the next few seconds. She could not count backwards by 7's from 100; she could name a pencil but not a wristwatch; and she could not repeat "No ifs, ands or buts." However, when Dr. Reading pointed toward Ginny and asked who that was, Myra said "Virginia Leah Josong-Bates." There was strong emotion in her voice, and Ginny reminded herself to not grab Myra's hand.

Dr. Reading handed her pencil to Myra with a pad and asked her to sign her name. Myra took the pencil, adjusted her fingers, and put the lead to the paper, but stopped. Her breathing increased noticeably, and there was panic in her voice as she said "I don't -- I can't remember."

"That's all right" said Dr. Reading calmly. "How about if you write your name in block letters?"

Myra pushed on the pencil and a wobbly line trailed to the edge of the paper. She stopped again and said "I can't." Ginny closed her eyes and clenched her own hands together.

After several more questions, Dr. Reading's unflappability keeping Myra from becoming distraught, Ginny raised her hand. When Dr. Reading looked at her, Ginny said "I don't think she's hearing bells. Like, the phone, or the alarm on her bootie things."

Dr. Reading took some tuning forks from her bag and tested Myra's hearing, striking the fork and placing it at various positions on her head. She pulled a placard out and asked Myra to read the top line of letters. Myra struggled, but got through the line. Dr. Reading pointed to a word and asked Myra to read that. "Book" said Myra after a couple of seconds. Dr. Reading turned the placard over and asked Myra what word she had just read. Myra paused, too long, and said "I don't know."

Dr. Reading began putting items back into her bag and said "Thank you, Myra, you were very helpful." She looked at Ginny and said "Do you want me to tell you alone or do you want the rest of your family in here?"

Ginny slid over next to Myra and said "Just us, I think."

She looked at them steadily to say "There's definitely been an impact on your short-term memory, Myra. We need to get some more tests. A CT scan of your brain, since this hospital does not have an open MRI and you won't fit in a regular one. An echocardiogram and enzymes to rule out a myocardial infarction, although I don't think it's cardiac because your EKG post surgery was fine. Your electrolytes are not quite right, which could be explained by other things, but we need to tweak them because potassium or sodium abnormalities could be playing a role. I see you're being taken off Demerol, and that should help. Since it's mostly just memory, and there's little or no evidence of brain compromise involving your physical function, I think this could be a transient cognitive insult. This means it will pass in time. I can't promise that, but that's my impression right now. I'll order the tests and get back to you."

She stood up. Ginny said "Is -- should we be doing something?"

"Don't worry around her. It won't help. Let her body bring itself back to normal. Keep conversing as much as you can, language is a wonderful tonic. I'll talk with you both soon." She shook Ginny's hand and left.

When her kids flooded back into the room, Gillam had a couple of Luna bars in his hand. "I found these downstairs, and I know there's some sugar in them, Mom, but you were willing to try candy and these are a lot healthier, just for tonight, a bite or two -- "

"Good idea" said Ginny.

"What happened?" demanded Margie. Ginny filled them in, as Myra leaned against her side and seemed to go asleep again. Gillam's face drained of color when Ginny said Myra couldn't read or write at this point. Ginny felt unable to shield her children, and when she saw the comprehension on Edwina's face of how bad this could be, she had to look away. She was handling all she could at the moment.

Velda came in and said kindly "We really have to ask visitors to leave the floor. I'm going off shift, it's going to be Francine for the night." Margie and Gillam gave long hugs to Myra, Margie promised to bring what Ginny needed the next day, and they all left. When Francine came in to apply the booties, Ginny said "Her -- sister, Allie, the black woman who was in here the first day -- she's driving back from Canada tonight and I think is going to come right to our room. I hope you'll let her check in with me, we need to confer immediately."

"I'll keep an eye out for her" said Francine. "Dr. Maxwell said it was all right to give her a Restoril for sleep" -- she pointed at Myra.

"Let's try without it. I think actually she stands a better chance of solid rest tonight than so far."

After Francine left, Ginny coaxed a few bites of Luna Bar into Myra, along with a half glass of water. She ate the rest herself, brushed her teeth, dimmed the lights and got into bed. Myra turned to kiss her forehead, and Ginny felt a wave of grief almost undo her. She tucked herself under Myra's blanket and listened to her breathing until she knew Myra was wholly asleep. She dropped off herself at that point. When the booties began beeping, she could not wake up completely; she was beginning to feel disoriented. Francine came in to adjust them, change the IV, check the catheter bag, keeping the room dim and quiet.

Not long after 2:00, Ginny woke up to Allie shaking her gently and saying "Hey. I'm here, pal."

Ginny stood up, her legs like wood, and they went to the bathroom to talk in whispers. Allie looked strained and off color, but once in the light she said "My god, Ginny, you look like hell."

"My current residence" said Ginny.

"I talked with Edwina on the phone while driving and got the latest, I think" said Allie.

"She's sleeping better tonight. Ate a bit more before going to sleep" said Ginny. She was having trouble focusing her vision.

"Gin, you have to take a break. Listen, I parked my car at the edge of the garage, away from traffic. There's a blanket and a pillow in the rear seat, and the front passenger seat will lie all the way back. I want you to go out there and sleep."

"I told Myra I wouldn't leave her" protested Ginny.

"If she's awake when we go back in there, we can tell her. Otherwise, I'll be there beside her, and I know I'm not as good as you, but I'll do. You sleep until you can't any more. If you're not up by the time the kids get here, I'll send one of them to come get you." Allie was insistent. Ginny couldn't think how to make this decision, so Allie repeated "It's okay. This is the right thing to do, you can trust me." She walked with Ginny back to Myra's bed, where Myra was snoring, the first time Ginny had heard her snore, which meant she was in deep slumber. Ginny put on her shoes and coat, took her cell, and whispered in Myra's ear without Myra waking up. Allie was pulling off her belt and jewelry. Ginny hesitated again, and Allie said "I wouldn't let you go if there was any risk. But she needs you rested." She drew a quick map of how to find the car, not sure Ginny could remember instructions, and gave her the keys.

When Ginny left the room, she felt a moment of panic and had to force herself to go on. She stopped by the cafeteria on the way and got a cup of herbal tea laced with milk. She drank it on the way to Allie's car.

Inside, it was wonderfully quiet and still a little warm from Allie's drive. Ginny took a sweater from the back seat and hung it over the passenger window to block out any light. She found a comfortable position, tucked the blanket around her, and that was all she remembered.

Until a persistent rapping at the glass behind the sweater finally brought her, stiff and chilled, to consciousness. She moved the sweater with apprehension, not sure where she was, and saw Margie's face grinning at her. Margie mimed unlocking the car door and Ginny obeyed, letting in a blast of morning cold and light.

"What's wrong, is she okay?" demanded Ginny.

"She's fine. She slept, she ate some eggs and toast without hurling, and she'd like to see you before they take her for the CT."

Ginny was scrambling out of the car. "What time is it?"

"About 8:30. The CT is scheduled for 9:00, they said."

Ginny was nearly running, and Margie grabbed the keys from the dash and locked the car before loping after her. In the hospital room, Myra was sitting up and her face flooded with relief when she saw Ginny. Ginny kissed her several times before her bladder needs intruded. She took a quick pee, washed up, changed into clean clothes, and rushed back to Myra, where Margie had claimed the spot next to her and was combing Myra's hair.

Edwina had her arm through Allie's and said "Ginny, I need to take this one home to bed." Allie began protesting but Ginny said "I agree, we'll take turns relieving each other. It's your turn to recharge now. I'll call and leave a message when we hear anything else."

Gillam motioned to a bag on the tray table. "We brought you applesauce from home, your home-made cottage cheese, and there's some challah left over."

"Heavenly" declared Ginny. She sat down and ate hurriedly but with real pleasure. She persuaded Myra to take a bite each of the applesauce and the cottage cheese. "Is the foul taste getting any better yet?" she asked, and Myra shook her head vehemently.

Myra was put into a wheelchair for transport to the CT scanner, and Ginny accompanied her. Myra looked jittery and pale once she was out in the halls, and Ginny kept murmuring reassurance. It took a long time, and by the end Myra was clinging to Ginny's hand as they returned to the room.

Velda was back, and suggested Myra try sitting on the regular toilet in the bathroom. Myra was able to move her bowels again, to much praise from Velda. Ginny could hear Gillam giggle around the corner. Ginny took the sponge bath materials from Velda and washed Myra thoroughly. Myra stood at the sink to brush her teeth, looking at herself with wide eyes in the mirror for a couple of minutes.

Back in bed, Myra dropped off instantly. Margie had brought a salad from home for Ginny. Ginny sent them to the cafeteria for lunch, asking them to bring her back as big a container of mint tea as they could get. Not long after they left, Dr. Maxwell stopped by. Myra didn't wake up, even though he talked in a normal tone of voice.

"Her renal function is holding well, the preliminary read of the echo is normal, and her electrolytes are back to baseline" he said. "If she keeps on this course, I can discharge her tomorrow morning. Physical therapy is coming by this afternoon, and wound care, to instruct you in how to care for her at home."

"What about the CT scan?" asked Ginny.

"Dr. Reading will review those results and get in touch with you" he said.

"And the pathology from her hysterectomy?" persisted Ginny.

"Uh...I don't see them here. But Dr. Desai will be back tomorrow, she'll call you with those, I'm sure."

Ginny was not going to thank this man. After an awkward pause, he said "Well, keep up the good work" and left. He had not even looked at Myra's incision. Maybe that was being left up to the nurses, but Ginny wished she could divert half his fee to them as well, they were clearly doing all the real work.

Ginny called Allie's house and left a message, then called Chris and Sima's hotel, leaving a message there as well about the small but significant progress. A lunch tray was brought for Myra and she ate two bites of everything, plus drank all the cranberry juice, with an effort Ginny could only call superhuman. Margie returned with two large containers of tea and a deck of cards. Ginny said "I don't think we should ask her to try playing games -- "

"No, this is for us. While we keep her company."

But Gillam pulled a small stack of books from his pack and set them on the nightstand as he claimed the space beside Myra on the bed. He chose a small, battered book from the pile and began thumbing through it.

"What you are doing?" demanded Ginny.

"Well, since she's going to have to learn to read again, I thought I'd bring in books from her childhood" said Gillam.

Myra said "My mama. That was her book."

"Yep, her poetry book in high school, I remembered" said Gillam, looking into her face. "I thought we'd begin with 'The Highwayman', okay?"

Ginny said "Oh, Gillam, no. I know that's your favorite, but it's a complicated piece -- "

"It's not because I love it, it's because it was the first poem she remembers her mother reading to her. When she was a baby. She learned the lines before she could read, didn't you know that?" said Gillam earnestly. Ginny shook her head. "Yeah, so I thought we should go to the bottom of the pile, the deepest part of her memory, and work our way back out. Here, Mom, I'll put the book so you can see the page, and I'll point to the words as I read them, just like you did with us, okay? Do you want to do this, Mama?"

Myra nodded eagerly. Gillam's soft, expressive reading voice began "The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees..."

Fighting tears, Ginny sat down opposite Margie and said "Spades or gin rummy?"

"Gin" said Margie.

After Bess's ghost plaited her last red love-knot into her long black hair, Gillam asked Myra which poem she wanted next. She took the book from him and began trying to read the index. Her face was screwed up in concentration. "Get her the reading glasses from that drawer beside you" commanded Ginny. Gillam put them on Myra's face, and they helped a little, but not enough.

"Let me help" said Gillam tenderly. "What poet?"

"Vincent" said Myra.

"Okay, they've got three of her poems -- it is a sonnet or not?"

Myra nodded. Gillam said "Yes, a sonnet? Then it must be 'Love Is Not All', is that the one? Ah, great choice." They settled back and he began reading again.

But this time Myra's face was on Ginny, and Ginny looked back. When Gillam reached the end:

It well may be that in a difficult hour,
pinned down by need and moaning for release
or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It may well be. I do not think I would.

Myra's eyes had tears standing in them. Ginny stood and crossed to her, saying "It's all right, my darling, I'll hold you safe, you can let it go." Myra wrapped her arms tight around Ginny's middle but did not cry. Ginny thought If she's lost the ability to cry, I don't know what we'll do.

Myra closed the book when she leaned back again and said to Gillam "More later." He gave his spot to Ginny and went to play cards with Margie. Their bickering brought a small smile to Myra's face as she dozed off. Her naps were interrupted often. A wound care nurse came to change the bandages on her incision -- this time, all three of them looked on, though Margie said "Guh-ROSS" -- and teach Ginny how to continue care for it after discharge. A young physical therapist walked Myra up and down the halls until she was shaky and tired, and talked over exercises and yoga allowable at home, Margie taking notes and vowing to be Myra's helper in this.

During the late afternoon blood draw, Allie and Edwina returned. Myra called out "Allie!", then turned to Ginny in sudden concern and said "You're not leaving, are you?"

"No" said Ginny. "I'll sleep with you tonight, I got almost six solid hours last night thanks to Allie, I can make it through on that until you're discharged."

Allie sat down on the edge of the bed, picked up the Ripley action figure from the nightstand and held it in front of Myra. "I brought you this as a get-well present. Can you tell me who it is?"

Myra's face blanked. "I don't know."

"Let's have a little multiple choice quiz." Allie was sweet. "Is this (a) Wonder Woman, (b) Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley of the USCSS Nostromo, or (c) Xena Warrior Princess?"

Myra's face showed recognition. "Ripley."

"Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!" said Allie. "Correct. Now, was she in the movie Alien, Star Wars, or The Incredible True Adventures of Two Girls in Love?"

Myra was grinning now. "Alien"

Allie said, "Although in Alien Resurrection Winona Ryder wanted her so verra verra bad, it was almost two girls in love, eh? For the final question, let's up the stakes. If you get this one right, I promise when you get home, I'll watch any one of your godawful Doris Day movies with you. Here it is: In the original Alien, the actress who played Navigator Lambert was Veronica Cartwright. Her younger sister Angela was a child actress in the 1960s in two very popular series. Can you name either one of those series?"

Myra's face was beginning to glisten. Small drops of sweat were on her upper lip, and her body was stiff as if she were straining. She did not speak.

"I'll give you a clue: In both series, she had a brother with red hair. In the earlier series, her brother was Rusty, and in the later series, he was Will." Allie was leaned into Myra, encouraging.

Myra looked over at Gillam and Margie. Gillam turned his hands palm up, saying "Got no clue, Mom, we don't get Nick at Night."

Ginny, almost in Myra's ear, began whistling Londonderry Air. Allie gave her the evil eye as Myra said "The Danny Thomas Show!" Allie kept her gaze on Ginny as she said sternly "Cheaters never prosper." Then she turned back to Myra, her face breaking into exultation, and she gave her a high five. "Right ON. And since I am an honorable woman" -- she mock-scowled at Ginny -- "I am now committed to letting you moon on about fluffy blonde white girls who only want to make their hubby happy."

She turned to Gillam and Margie. "For the peanut gallery: The Danny Thomas Show was also known as Make Room for Daddy. Danny Thomas was the father of Marlo Thomas. The second series was called Lost in Space, a space-age remake of Swiss Family Robinson. There was an annoying robot on that show who was constantly crying out 'Danger, danger"."

"That's where that comes from" said Margie.

"Please Don't Eat The Daisies" said Myra.

Allie said "God help me, I knew that's the one you'd choose." She held up the action figure again. "Now that you know who this is?" She waggled it.

Myra said "Lieutenant Ellen Ripley".

Allie went on "I want you to keep this close to you, dig?" She pressed the figure into Myra's hand. "Channel your inner Ripley." Myra's face showed comprehension. She twisted the figure to make the plastic flame on the flame-thrower shoot in and out.

When the dinner tray came, Myra did her best but could only get down one bite of each item. Allie tasted the greens and the turkey and said "You know what, these are really crappy." As Ginny coaxed more juice into Myra, Allie left the room. Half an hour later, she returned with a Burger King bag.

"I can't believe they've got fast food in a hospital, but let's see if it makes a difference" she said. She unpacked an Angus burger, onion rings, a chocolate shake, and a small Coke. Ginny didn't even raise her eyebrows, saying "Myra, whatever works."

Myra rejected the Coke after one sip, saying "Nasty" which Ginny couldn't help but respond to with "I quite agree". She ate one onion ring, but over half her burger and all of the shake. Ginny handed the kids money and told them to go get dinner wherever they wanted, only bring her back something that wasn't made with processed ingredients.

Velda was back for the night shift. When she came in, Gillam was massaging Myra's feet and Myra said in a clear voice "I'd much rather have you doing that than those fucking booties." Velda laughed and said "I see what I've been missing."

"Her words built our world" said Gillam, a slight break in his voice.

"You're a writer, I hear" Velda said to Myra.

"Poet. And novels" said Myra.

"My oldest granddaughter has read all the Skene books" said Velda. "I'm not supposed to say things like that, it's a HIPAA violation, but I want you to know, she'd be beside herself if she knew I'd met you."

"What's your granddaughter's name?" asked Ginny.

Velda paused, then said "Carolann." She helped Myra get up and go to the bathroom. While Myra was on the toilet, Ginny standing watch beside her, Velda returned to change the sheets and said to Allie "I think I recognize you, too. You wrote the bus book my youngest grandchild loves so much, I think."

"Yes, ma'am" said Allie, moved.

Ginny bathed Myra again and even washed her hair. Back in bed, Myra wrapped her hand around Ripley again said "I feel stronger."

"You're on the mend" said Velda. She looked at Ginny and said "Thanks to you."

"No, it's her" said Ginny. "I just channeled back to her what she's been handing out for years."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

letsdance said...

Yay! Myra is on the mend!!

Thanks, Maggie....