Story Go Round 10/24/2010, #2

Patient Lore

(pre-titled by John)

A faint moan. A squeak. A rustling shuffle. Listening carefully, Jane stepped out of the closet and into the hospital bed. She hated strange places, and it had been two days in the room with a stranger in the other bed. It always unnerved her to have to breathe another’s air, to have to wallow in the deal skin particles, the germs and gas of another human being.

“Find what you were looking for?” asked the other patient. She still didn’t know his name.


“The closet. You just–“

“Oh, right, I did, thank you.” Jane didn’t tell him that it was her phone she had checked, and the lack of calls from her husband and kids – despite the length of her stay.

“You’re welcome to use the closet any time,” he replied knowingly. “I’ll probably pop in there myself in a few.”

Was he mocking her? But a couple minutes later the guy stood up, shakily from his bed, and gimped over to the closet. “Don’t wait up,” he said with a wink, and closed the door. That was odd enough, but the noises and odors Jane detected over the next few hours made her buzz for the nurse several times. No one came. So she crept over to check on him.

Just as she reached a plastic glove covered hand out to the door knob, the closet door began to open open, very slowly. As she waited to see inside, biting plastic-glove covered nails thru her sterile face mask, the fluorescent tube lighting overheard began to flicker and buzz. And then it went out.

Only then did Jane notice that there was no light out in the hallway, leaving the room almost pitch dark. As her eyes adjusted, she beheld the other patient sitting on the floor of the closet using the light of her cell phone to operate… on himself. With her cuticle kit.

Don’t look,” he said without looking up at her. “I wanted it to be a surprise.”

Jane wasn’t exactly staring. She felt that if you looked at another person too long you were liable to see something you’d regret. So she aimed her eyes about two feet to the side.

“You’re–“ Jane stammered, “you’re doing this for me?”

“If this is the kind of thing you like,” he said. She was thinking that since she had just had gall bladder surgery, he showed camaraderie by removing his. But no, she realized after allowing her eyes to flicker over him a few more times as they adjusted to the dark, he was working too high to access the gall bladder.

So by the time she realized where he was working, he was already holding it out to her. Thump-thump, thump-thump. “Don’t you need it?” Her voice quavered.

“The moment I laid eyes on you,” he said evenly, “it beat only for you. I’m Carl.”