By Fern Driscoll
Please see Chapter 1 for disclaimers and contact information
Chapter 3: Can I Help it if I'm a Sucker for a Googoo Cluster?
Officer Edmar Winslow lumbered slowly from the ER cubicle, absorbed in composing his accident report. Spelling was not his strong point. In fact, spelling, grammar, punctuation, penmanship - you name it, anything to do with putting words on paper was a struggle. Thus devoting all of his mental faculties to the job at hand, his fine-tuned senses failed to notice the tall, dark, menacing figure lounging against the corridor wall, just outside the cubicle.
Citation, huh? Wouldn't that just be the icing on the cake. . .
"Well, Edmar, upholding the law in your own inimitable fashion, I see," spoke the figure.
Officer Winslow performed a comical double take, going so far as to throw his hands up in front of him in the manner of a startled melodrama ingénue.
"Geez, Kate, don't sneak up on a guy like that! An' what are you doing here anyway? This here's a restricted area," he added, attempting to regain some dignity.
"I didn't sneak up on you, Edmar, I've been standing right here for the past five minutes. You just seem to have a hard time walking and thinking at the same time. What's that you're concentrating on so hard there?"
"Aw, I gotta write the accident report an' all for that crash. The rest of the guys got away too quick for me and I got left with it. And stop calling me Edmar," he added as an afterthought.
Kate smiled, knowing the effort paperwork was to him. They had known each other since the second grade, when Kate was six and Edmar eight. Back then, Kate had been a friend and defender of the somewhat slow, oversized, and unfortunately named boy, whose parents, both of them strong-willed and stubborn, had refused to give in to the other on their chosen names for their firstborn son, instead compromising on a combination of Edward and Marvin (his grandfathers' names). Thus christened, Edmar had attempted throughout his 31 years to introduce various nicknames: Ed, Win, Butch - but for some reason his was just not a nickname personality, and no one ever called him anything but his full given name.
"Maybe I can help you out then. Nobody's taken my statement yet," Kate offered, with an innocent smile.
"But. . . you weren't a witness or nothin', Kate," Edmar got out, more baffled than usual.
Kate threw an arm around him, and walked him down the corridor. "Sure I was, it was on my property, wasn't it? I was standing right there in my front yard, wasn't I, when the whole thing happened? Here, let's sit down and I'll dictate nice and slow to you."
"And so, Miss Jackson, we are really very lucky, a few centimeters lower on your tibia and I would have to insert a rod in order for your ankle to properly heal. As it is, you have two fairly clean breaks, to the tibia just above your ankle and to the talus a little lower. We should have good success with just the cast," concluded Dr. Prabat Singh, the St. Anne's Chief Orthopedic Surgeon.
"Thanks, Dr. Singh. Always happy to avoid surgery - uh, no offense, I mean. . ." Cam found herself babbling a little, the painkiller she had been given earlier still making her a little fuzzy around the edges. She was relieved that her injuries were not as serious as it had seemed upon her initial examination in the emergency room. The ER doctors had paged Dr. Singh, and prepared her for possible surgery. But the bones had cooperated, and everything was now aligned properly and her leg encased in a bulky, fluorescent green cast from her toes to just below her knee.
The slight, jovial doctor laughed and responded, "No, no, Miss Jackson, believe me, I am not offended when patients do not choose to avail themselves of my surgical services. Well, I will leave you now to get some rest, I will be checking on you tomorrow. Good afternoon, Miss Jackson."
Cam, although fading in and out, did pick up on the "tomorrow" part of the conversation. "Tomorrow? You mean I have to come back? I need to get some things done, I don't think I -"
Dr. Singh, already halfway down the hall, paused and glanced back over his shoulder " Oh, no, no, Miss Jackson, you are going to stay here for at least another day, we need to keep an eye on you for another 24 hours. I am admitting you, you will be taken to a room very soon. Goodbye!" he sang merrily, and was gone.
Great, she thought despondently. Just keeps getting better and better. And I really need my bag so I can make some calls - I wonder if that woman is really going to bring it? Just my luck she was just saying that, or forgot, or… And, so occupied in digging deeper into her depression, Cam was borne away to the recesses of the hospital for yet more x-rays.
Kate stood just inside the dimly lit hospital room, suddenly feeling rather shy. She had waited until Cam was settled on the orthopedic floor, making a detour for snacks from the meager offerings in the hospital vending machines. Cam looked small and pale, almost childlike, between the metal bars on each side of the bed, lying very still with her head turned away. Kate gave herself a mental shake, and approached the bed, after a few steps realizing that the blonde woman was sleeping. She hesitated, then quietly put down the bag of snacks and the black tote bag on the bedside table, and turned to go.
Her feet, however, did not seem inclined to move towards the door. She glanced back again at the petite figure, feeling her heart jump as Cam stretched and turned, still sleeping. As though mesmerized, Kate reached out to brush back a shaggy lock of blonde hair from Cam's cheek. As her hand hesitated in mid-air, Cam slowly opened a misty green eye.
"Hi." Cam turned more fully towards her, and her lips formed a small smile.
"Oh, uh, hi, I just was bringing you your stuff, and uh. . ." Kate nonchalantly, she hoped, snatched her hand back and began fumbling with the snack bag.
"Mallomars? Cheez-its? Goo-goo cluster? Day-old cheese sandwich?" Kate held each item up enticingly as she removed it. "I kinda got an assortment out of the vending machine, I was getting a little hungry, and you must be too - it's past lunch time."
Cam pulled herself up on the metal side bar and peered at the assortment.
"Oooh, googoo clusters! I didn't know you had those up North here! Great! I am a little hungry."
Kate laughed, relieved that her aborted caress had, apparently, gone unnoticed. "I'd hardly call this the North, ma'am, in fact them's fightin' words in some parts around here."
Cam watched her, struck again by her rescuer's casual loveliness. She must know how beautiful she is, she thought. But she acts so unaware, almost. . goofy. Like she's shy, even. She gave the tall woman an encouraging grin, and replied, " If I remember my American history, Maryland fought on the side of the Union in the War of Northern Aggression?"
"Partly right. Maryland was a border state; the northern counties all went with the Union. But quite a few of the good ol' boys from southern Maryland went across the river to Virginia to fight for the Confederacy. From Baltimore on down, we still consider ourselves the South."
Cam grinned again. Kate was a little more relaxed, now. Good. She suspected, of course, that Kate had been about to touch her hair when she woke up, and she wanted to convey somehow, without letting on that she had seen, that it was alright. My run of bad luck just keeps on, doesn't it? She thought. I had to open my eyes just then. . She indulged, for a moment, in imagining that touch on her cheek.
And came back to the moment, reluctantly. "Well, then, sister, hand over that cluster!"
The two spent a companionable half hour sharing the snacks and discussing the events of the day. Cam learned that Kate had already gotten a report on her injuries. It appeared that Kate knew a lot of people around here, she thought: apparently one of the ER nurses had obligingly filled her in on Cam's condition. So much for patient confidentiality. But she was surprised to find that, far from minding, she actually felt a warm glow that Kate had gone to the trouble. She was also pleasantly surprised to learn that she wasn't going to get a ticket, after all. How that had happened, she wasn't exactly sure: Kate had just said something like, "I think they reviewed the accident report and decided not to cite you", but Cam had her suspicions that Kate had had a hand in that, as well. Yes, things were definitely looking up.
Kate found herself in the unfamiliar position of wanting to prolong a social occasion. While not exactly a recluse, since returning to Hellman's Corner she had begun to enjoy the company of her garden, and Fred and Ethel, more than that of most humans. Today, however, everything was all turned around: she hardly knew what to expect from herself. She had fully intended on delivering the bag to this troublesome woman (she told herself), and returning to salvage what she could of her ravaged flower-bed. Yet here she found herself whiling away the afternoon in the company of the flower-bed-destroyer, and finding it difficult to leave. Under the guise of offering to contact Cam's family, Kate had found out, to her secret relief, that Cam was not married to the man in the picture: he was her brother. And the other picture, as Kate had surmised, was of Cam's parents. It seemed that both father and son were Navy officers, the father recently retired.
Finally, however, Kate could find no excuses to stay any longer. Cam's nurse had come in to administer various tests, and looked carefully at her patient's pupils before giving her another painkiller shot. "The doctor is still concerned about possible concussion from that bump on your head" the friendly nurse explained, "but it doesn't look like you have anything to worry about." Now the drug was obviously working its way through Cam's system; moment by moment she became visibly more relaxed and unfocused. The tiny crease that pain had etched between her eyebrows disappeared, and her eyes took on a dreamy quality.
Kate rose reluctantly from the hard hospital chair. "Well, I'd better let you get a little rest, and I do need to get back and see what I can do about my front garden," she said with a rueful smile.
Cam leaned suddenly forward from where she was propped up on the half-raised bed, catching herself at the last minute before she lurched to the side "Whoa, lucky for me they have these guard rail thingies," she giggled. Peering up at Kate with a blurrily seductive look, she slurred, "Whass yer hurry, sweet cheeks, we're jus' getting to know each other," and attempted a wink, but soon gave up on it.
Kate hid a smile, and replied, "Yeah, right, Cameron, but somehow I don't think this is the best time for that. You need to get some rest, and I'm going to get back to my garden. Maybe I could give you a call later tonight?"
The fact that Kate was leaving, despite her protests, filtered into Cam's befuddled brain, and she did not take well to the realization. "Get back to yer garden? Whass so important about a buncha damn weeds, anyways?"
Kate became very still. "No one insults my garden," she said, very distinctly, turned, and walked out.
Continued in Chapter 4
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