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Chapter Ten 


 

The White Haired Doctor

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            An hour later Reid sat in the waiting room under the low ceiling trying to recall exactly what had happened. The air was thick with the stench of sickness and cleaning fluid thick, too claustrophobic to think clearly. The ceiling was supposed to be white but was stained yellow from decades of nerve-wracked smokers. In the corner there were some children throwing around toys and people spoke to each other in loud voices. The television was loud and oppressive. He could hardly sit still. He didn't feel grief, only a numbing impatience. Taylor had biked down from the house after Reid had called him but he didn't say much because there wasn't much to say. Reid had also called Drake's parents.

            "Reid McFetridge," someone said. He jumped to my feet. From the waiting room a nurse led him to a small room with an armchair and some cheap paintings hanging on the wall. There was a Bible under the lamp beside the chair that looked like it had never been opened. Three doctors stood in the room as he entered, but it was the white-haired doctor who spoke to him.

            "Reid, I'm Dr. DiLeo." Reid didn't catch the name nor did he care who he was. He sat in the chair across from him but couldn't look at him in the eye for some reason.

            "I know this must be painful... Drake is breathing now with the help of a machine. He was what we call D.O.A. Do you know what that means?" Dead on Arrival! His stomach churned and he could feel the dried sweat becoming moist again on his forehead. He nodded.

            "Could you tell us what happened?" he asked. "You were out running and..." His paternal voice sounded caring and wise. He trusted the voice so he lowered my head and told him everything that had happened. There were no interruptions while he spoke. Only his voice resonating against the four walls, the three doctors and God. After he finished, the doctor spoke softer to him.

            "Did you know of any health problems Drake had?"

            "None. He's the fittest guy I know. We've been running together for years." The doctor didn't say anything. "He never complained of anything, and I don't think he had any injuries, at least none that I know of." Again there was a silence that deafened. Reid couldn't take the silence. "What happened to him doctor?"

            "He suffered a heart attack."

            "Heart attack!" He felt a chill go down his spine like piano keys. "That was a heart attack?"

            "We don't know what caused it, Reid. He appears to be a healthy, strong young man with no previous history of heart trouble." The white-haired doctor dipped his chin towards the floor and sighed, and then one of the young doctors spoke.

            "Did you attempt C.P.R.?" His question made Reid shake suddenly, adrenaline stirring. He looked at the young doctor and wondered if he knew those words would remain in his mind for the rest of his life.

            "No," he replied to the white-haired doctor. "He was contorting too much. I mean his whole body was in spasm to breathe. I couldn't have given him CPR." The deadened pause caused him to struggle for air. His lungs suddenly felt like lead.

            "We're not saying you should have son," DiLeo assured him. He could feel beads of sweat covering his upper lip. "Drake is in a coma." A deep pang of guilt shot through him to the far reaches of his soul.

            "Coma? I, I don't understand." All of it defied logic.

            "Neither do I Reid," said the sad blue eyes under the bushy white eyebrows. "Neither do I."

  

Chapter Eleven 

Mortally Wounded

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            The next morning he woke up on his bed still fully clothed and with his shoes on. Images of the night before paraded through his mind like the rat-tat-tat of a machine gun, the taste of whiskey still burning his tongue and throat. It was Taylor who kept buying the drinks last night. The last thing he remembered was yelling at the waitress because Taylor kept buying drinks and she never bothered bringing him his change. Taylor was rich and the guy was medicating him pretty seriously but she was blatantly taking his money. Taylor didn't bother asking for change because he was more concerned about Reid. He said he needed to ‘mourn' but instead Reid just got really drunk and huffy as hell at the waitress. He couldn't remember her face but he remembered the black roots of her peroxide-blonde hair, which was classic poser headgear. She was trying to be someone she wasn't. That was probably what got his goat the most. She was a poser.

            Getting out of bed and saw his running clothes beside his desk, stomach cringing with a thousand shards of glass. A tidal wave struck his nose that watered the eyes. His stomach raw and torn, he noticed his left hand shook. Grabbing it with his right hand, the pinkie was shaking. He whispered the word palsy in his mind, but the pain was in his stomach. It felt as if it was bleeding.

            There was no rowing practice because it was Sunday so he put on his winter coat and left the house. He walked to the campus cafe and bought two big muffins and a large coffee, relieved he didn't see anyone he knew. He left the cafe keeping his eyes down as he walked towards the hospital by the lake. When he finally got there, he wasn't prepared to enter so he walked to the water's edge and sat down on the rocks. It was cold - colder than usual for late October. He had left his gloves at his place so he ate his muffins quickly and washed them down with coffee. Hot java warmed and soothed his barroom-weathered throat, and fortified his spirit. He savoured the coffee, something he never drank back in high school. Trying to keep his mind away from Drake, he looked across the water to Wolfe Island, beautiful, rocky and rugged, named after General Wolfe who had liberated Canada from the French and mortally wounded on the battlefield. Mortally wounded. Why didn't they just say he was killed? So many little things like that he couldn't understand. 

            Under the grey skies the leafless trees shivered in the biting wind beside an old two-story limestone lookout tower. Everything had been normal only twenty-four hours ago. Drake's parents would be there, which scared the hell out of him so he procrastinated as much as he could until the coffee was gone and an icy gust cut into the marrow of his legs. Looking at the empty cup in his hand, he wished he had more hot coffee to stare out at the frozen water and escape to the other side.

            It was like returning to the scene of a crime. The Ketchums were both standing beside Drake in the intensive care unit. Mrs. Ketchum's eyes were puffy and red, and she held her son's hand, while Mr. Ketchum stood on the other side of the bed, pensive and brooding. His striped dress shirt stuck out against the dull white hospital walls. Mrs. Ketchum walked up to Reid when he entered the room and gave him a hug.

            "Oh Reid, it will be all right," she said. Her breathing was irregular and her eyes swelled with tears.

            "How's he do'in?" he asked. Unable to emote, his tone had a mild cheerfulness, which caused Mr. Ketchum to look at him curiously.

            "Better," he answered. It frightened him at what he saw. Drake had tubes running through his nostrils and his mouth, both held in place with surgical tape on his chest. The only thing that was audible was the breathing of the machine that kept him alive. It was the same noise that Reid had seen a hundred times on television but this was different. Everything smelled sickly. The Ketchums had been told what had happened by the doctor, so they didn't ask him anything about the run. The three of them stood around Drake for what seemed like an eternity. The large plastic tube that went into his mouth was the respirator that kept him breathing, and the small plastic tube that ran through his nose was the nasal gastric hose that fed him. The liquid that went through his nose went directly into his stomach, and the intravenous hooked up to his arm nourished him with fluids. He was also hooked into a catheter to drain his urine. From these four contraptions, Drake's life was sustained. Strangely, Reid was fascinated by the entire apparatus, which seemed to still his heart and divert his mental energy away from the tragedy. But the monotony of the respirator began to hypnotize him causing him to loose focus. When the reek of human sickness passed through him he felt light-headed. Claustrophobia overwhelmed him like a wave of panic. He was suddenly thirsty from the dry air of the hospital.

            "Why don't you go out and get some fresh air, dear? You look a little pale." Before he left he glanced at Mr. Ketchum, who gave Reid a glaring look that suffocated. That was all he needed to flee from the hospital and not look back.

  

  

Table of Contents

1.     The Student Ghetto
2.     The Living Tree Principle 
3.     Overcoming Neophobia 
4.     Socrates' Big Swinging Ice Pick 
5.     Life As An Adjective 
6.     The Timestealer 
7.     Range of Multiplicity 
8.     The Banks 
9.     The Means is the End 
10.  The White Haired Doctor 
11.  Mortally Wounded 
12.  Visigoth Code of Ethics 
13.  Cognitive Dissonance 
14.  The Chinese Laundry Café 
15.  Catching a Crab 
16.  Sheer Recklessness 
17.  Shattered Glass 
18.  In His Father's Voice 
19.  The Dreamstealer 
20.  The Vine of Resentment 
21.  The Golden Mean 
22.  The Altered Eye Alters All 
23.  Missing the Middle Part 
24.  Anima 
25.  Taylor Not Afraid 
26.  Beyond the Monoperspectival Norm 
27.  The Grip 
28.  Visigoths in Tweed 
29.  The Unseen Hand 
30.  Dislocation 
31.  Pouring Heavens of Valhalla
32.  So Then...       
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