The Hospital Bed or, Baby Steps

The man was completely immobilized from his right shoulder to his right set of toes. He could barely talk except for his multi-toned yeses and no’s that spoke volumes. There were also the curses that fired out with or without any provocation.

“Fuck you.” he said to a young doctor whom he’d tired of talking to.

“That’s great.” the doctor said. “The part of the brain that cuss words come from is separate from the speech center. So, this tells me that you weren’t affected there. That’s great.”

He left shortly after finishing his examination.

The boy looked at the man, “Well I’m sorry. You can obviously say ‘fuck’ as much as you want.”


The man laughed, “Oh shit…” he said and looked at the ceiling.

“But I don’t know about having a doctor that says ‘cuss words’ instead of ‘curse words.’” the boy said. “Made me feel like I was in the third grade again about to be told on.”

“Oh… hush.” the man laughed.

At his bedside was a water cup with a plastic bag in it. The nurses replaced the bag when they brought new ice. There was a urinal that held two pints. It was always yellow when he filled it. He barely drank any water in front of the boy and ate about five forkfuls of hospital food for the duration of his stay. Three days.

He only ate them when pressured by two or more people at once. He wouldn’t eat just for the boy. In fact, he’d ask the boy to eat it so that no one would hassle him when they came back for the tray. The boy always refused to run interference for him.

Also at his bedside were welcome notes from the hospital and a paperback copy of ‘Crazy Heart’ which the boy read to him twice a day or so.

They spent 10 hours in the emergency room before moving to this room. The man’s blood pressure had finally leveled off after reaching a high of 177 over 111 following his stroke. It now hovered around 144 over 91.

A new doctor came in to tell them that the man was scheduled for another test of some sort. The man raised the top half of his bed to listen to the doctor and say “Yes.” Then the doctor awkardly left to tweak every last minute dial and detail. The man dropped back into the bed and managed to look more sunk in than before he’d raised it.

He looked at the boy and his eyes were moistened apologies.

He was muttering, trying to say something that he meant, but all that came out was, “Goddamn… goddamn… goddamn…” They were ‘goddamns’ of regret and uncertainty. There was no anger in his whole being in that moment. He didn’t look like he’d ever looked before.

When the nurses came in to wheel him away the boy stood, ready to help, until they were in the hallway and the door closed behind them. Then the boy collapsed on the love seat under the window with its vertical blinds. “Goddamn…” he sighed.

10 cups of coffee a day did nothing to ebb the exhaustion inside him. These were usually consumed between 8AM and 4PM. The coffee machine was in a room with windows for the families of the sick to catch their breath. The boy went there after laying on the couch for a few moments covering his eyes. Per usual television was tuned to CNN and right now the anchors were having shit-fits on air trying to compare the newest hurricane in the Atlantic to Katrina and Sandy.

Hurricane Kandy.

When the man was brought back into his room the boy joined him at his bedside. The nurse assured him that everything went fine and thanked the man for being so good.

“We’ll bring you dinner soon. Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaay?” she asked cheerfully.

“Ok.” he said.

Not ‘yes.’ Or ‘fuck you.’ But ‘Ok.’

When she left he sighed and looked at the ceiling. The boy picked up the book and asked if he wanted to read.

“Ok.” he said and continued looking at the ceiling.

Tomorrow he would wiggle his fingers. Today that was only a vision in the patterns on the ceiling.

Educate yourself on stroke symptoms.


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