Slim's Broken Leg, Part 7
Maybell closed her eyes, looked like she was going under. I spoke quickly. “If you believe they're out to kill you, Maybell, how come you came to the hospital in the first place?”
She swallowed. “What—?”
“I said how come you—?”
“Wasn't my idea. Beldon put me in here.”
“My son. It was Beldon's idea. He's one-a-them. He's in on the whole thing. I was doing just fine at home. Then, Beldon showed up.”
“No you weren't doing fine, Maybell,” Lila interrupted. “By the time the ambulance got to your house, your heart had stopped.”
“It's true, Maybell,” Darwin said. “They had to shock you back to life. It's lucky your son called when he did.”
Maybell made a sound like she was gargling. Suddenly, her head rolled to the side, her eyes opened wide, fixed on Lila and Darwin, like a voodoo priestess. They, in turn, stared back, as she spoke in spurts. “YOU’RE ALL GHOULS!” Maybell shrieked. “They've taken over your brains! Now, they got my son. The goddamn liberals! You got him, don't you! DON'T YOU!” She gagged briefly.
Then, her head rolled back. She looked at me, spoke quieter. “He thinks I don't know, Slim. But a mother knows these things. I seen a PBS tote-bag hangin' in his closet. I wasn't born yesterday. I know what marijuana smells like. That boy stays higher than a kite seven days-a-week. He's probably gay, too.”
She hesitated, made a gurgling sound. Lila and Darwin closed in. Lila said: “I think we need to intubate.” Lila picked up the air-tube. “Oh, m' God!” Maybell cried out. “Don't let 'em kill me, Slim! Don't let 'em kill me!” Her hand shot at me like a claw. I backed away, as Lila hovered with the tube. Maybell lay there with her eyes squinched tight, her jaw clamped like a vice. Lila couldn't get her mouth open. “Darwin!” she hollered.
Darwin stepped in. He looked around. “Where's the Hallam gag?”
“I don't know. I think Suarez has it.”
Both of them were now trying to pry open Maybell's mouth with their bare hands. Without the proper medical device, they couldn't do it with a crowbar. Even at death's door, the old girl was strong as an ox. If she had that much stamina, I thought, how come she needed the ventilator? Maybe Darwin was right. Then I remembered people in fear of their lives were sometimes capable of incredible feats, such as lifting a car or ripping through walls with their bare hands. Apparently, Maybell still had a few shots of adrenaline left in her bank account. Through clinched teeth, she went on jabbering, delirious. “Tucker! Tucker! Where are you? I want my Tucker. He's a real man. More my son than my own son. My son married the devil.”
“Who is the devil, Maybell?” I quickly asked, fearing she might slip away any second.
“Oh, Slim, you know, don't you? Don't act like you don't know!”
“Who? Who is it, Maybell? WHO IS IT?!”
“HILLARY CLINTON!” she gasped. “Child eating pedophile! Oh, God! My son! My son's a cannibal! That evil bitch turned him into a cannibal! Oh—arrghh!”
That last sound was Darwin finally forcing Maybell's jaws apart. He remembered the break-stick he carried in his back pocket at the vet's clinic, which he used to pry open the jaws of pit bulls when they bit down on something or someone.
As soon as they got her mouth slightly ajar, Lila shoved in the breathing tube. They'd have to wait for Dub to give her the anesthetic, so they could run the tube on down her throat. Till then, Lila held it in with main strength. Meanwhile, the old girl was tossing and twisting and grunting like a roped walrus. “Tape!” Lila called out. Darwin looked around. “There!” Lila pointed at a roll of duct tape sitting on a shelf, marking the first time I'd ever seen duct tape in a hospital situation. But Darwin couldn't reach for it because he was now holding Mary Lu's arms. I grabbed the tape, tossed it to Darwin, who let go in time to catch it.
“Hold her!” he said. I took over Mary Lu's arms while Darwin peeled up the end of the tape, stuck it to the bed rail, then wrapped her arms a couple of times. Now her arms were secured, but her legs continued to flail. I moved to her legs. Darwin started unspooling the tape, passed it around and under the bed. Holding her with one arm, I reached down and caught the roll as Darwin handed it off, continued unreeling it over Mary Lu's chubby legs, handing it back to Darwin, repeating the process a couple more times. Mary Lu was still squirming, but her legs and arms were now secured. Darwin peeled off another four feet or so, stuck it to the vent tube, brought it around Mary Lu's head and stuck it again. The tube was now anchored in Mary Lu's mouth, so she couldn't spit it out. Cautiously, Lila relaxed her grip, slowly backed away as if from a trapped tiger.
Just then, Suarez walked in—“Dr.”—if he really was one. Darwin was right. He didn't match his name at all. Tall, blonde, with the spooky blue eyes of a Weimaraner, he looked more Norwegian than Hispanic. No hazmat, no mask, just a face shield and a big toothy grin.
“Well, what have we here?” he beamed. For a moment, he looked lost. “Is this the same patient I saw awhile ago?”
“Yeah, same one, Doctor,” Lila replied.
“If you say so,” he grinned. “I can’t tell one from another! And who are you again, Miss?”
“Uh. . .Nurse Coomer.”
“Oh, yes, you were in here before, right?”
“And. . .?”
“The vet's assistant!”
While this interrogation proceeded, gutteral sounds continued uninterrupted from Mary Lu. “Unggg. . . mmm!” Meanwhile, Suarez turned to me. “And who's this?”
“Call me Slim.”
“He's new here, sir,” Darwin said.
“Ah! Well! Very good! Welcome aboard, Slim!” He offered his hand. I shook it. “I think you'll find this a really challenging and exciting opportunity!”
“I hope so, sir!” I tried to match my enthusiasm with his.
Peering closer at me through my hazmat visor, he said, “You look kinda up in years, there, Slim.”
“Old, but wise,” I replied.
“Oh. I like that! Old but wise—heh heh heh heh! And how's our little patient doing?” He had at last stepped closer to Mary Lu, his voice rising a notch.
“Mm, uh, mm!” she grunted in answer, which I interpreted as— “Not too good.” Or “Jump up my ass, you insane motherfucker!” She was still twisting and squirming under the duct tape, reminiscent of Houdini trying to shake off a straitjacket.
Suarez turned to Darwin. “She seems a little stressed, Lockwood.”
“Well, she's. . .”
“I think she's having an adrenaline surge, Doctor,” I offered.
Lila and Darwin looked at me in mute surprise at my speaking up. Suarez fumbled a moment with his stethoscope. “Adrenaline, huh?”
“A. . .a fear reaction, ” Darwin put in.
“Fear reaction?” Suarez frowned.
“Scared? Of what?”
“Of the—the machine, there.”
“The ventilator,” Lila said.
“The ven—? Oh! The ventilator! Of course! Ha ha ha ha! Well, who can blame her? I'd be scared, too! Out of my wits! Ha ha ha ha ha! Now, uh, um . .”—frowning again, he glanced at her chart—“Mary Lu! Can you hear me, sweetheart?”
“Mm, mm, mm!”
“A little scared, huh? Oh, well, that’s all right, you’re in good hands.”
“Uh, uh, mmm!”
“That's right. Perfectly normal. Nothing to worry about! Everything's gonna be just fine!” He looked around. “Where's Dub?”
“I don't know,” Darwin replied.
“Caught up with other patients, I imagine,” Lila added.
“They keep that boy busy, don't they?” Suarez beamed. “What would we do without him? Huh? Good old Dub!” he grinned.
“Yeah, good old Dub,” Darwin mumbled. Suarez glanced at his watch.
“Well! Uh. . .I see you got the tube started. That's good. Very good thinking! Duct tape, huh? I’ve never seen that particular application. Is that something new?”
“Brand new, sir,” Darwin replied.
“Well, well, that’s certainly. . .”
“Uh, Doc?” I spoke up.
“I don’t mean to question your judgment, but, do you think the ventilator's really called for, here? I mean, in this particular, uh. . .?” I glanced at Lila and Darwin, who stared back, their eyes wide as silver dollars.
“Hm. . .Why do you ask?” Suarez went on smiling.
“Well, I mean, she seems to have quite a bit of fight left in her, yet. Don't you think so, Doc?”
“I see what you mean, Slim. But looks can be deceiving.”
“Absolutely. Take this case here, Slim. This is what I call—“situational ambiguity.”
“Yeah? What's that?”
“Well, in brief, she could go either way. Think of it like this: You're perched on the edge of a cliff, all right? Now, you lean over for a better look. But in that moment, Slim, let's say you lean just a little too far. What do I mean by 'too far?' Well, you—surpass your center of gravity! Not by much! Maybe just a hair. Is it enough to seal your doom? Or can you still save yourself? That's the question, here. After all, it's such a thin margin, you may not even know you're in trouble. Your brain has yet to catch up with the fact that you have just, um, fumbled the ball, as it were. Heh, heh, heh, heh. In other words, Slim, you're teetering. Now, to the average onlooker, it may initially appear as if nothing is wrong. Only a trained expert, such as myself, can read the signs—the sudden intake of breath, rapid eye-blink, the flicker of panic. Now, Slim, and—and you others—step in here. That's it, get in here close.”
We all closed in on Maybell, at which, her writhing and grunting seemed to swell with increased urgency: “Mm! Mmm! Mmmm!”
“I invite you to look at this patient, here. Look closely! If you're really paying attention, I think you can easily see—the signs are all here. The groaning, gasping, dilated pupils, the whites of her eyes—see that?—positively gleaming!” Lila and Darwin nodded. I stood there with a studied frown. And what conclusion do you draw from these signs? —Darwin?”
“Uh. . .teetering?”
“Yes! Definitely teetering. She may be able to pull back on her own. Or she may not. I leave it up to you, Slim.”
“Up to me—?”
(Next—Slim’s Broken Leg, Part 8: Slim’s Decision)