30 July 2010

i do know what to do

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You won't let me.


Emmy-Louise Pratler found the phone in her hand before she'd even realized it had rung. Her Yorkie was startled out of her soft snoring and starting to scramble up from between the pillows to stand on Emmy's well trussed breasts and find out who the heck was calling at six fifteen in the damn morning.

It was the rest home calling to say they thought Mr. Pratler was having a stroke and they were sending him to the local emergency room. He was crying and leaning over funny. His hands were puffy and he was shaking. So better to be safe than sorry. Emmy hung up the phone and swung out of bed, having to stop herself and give Cookie her good morning belly scratch, a quick one, before letting her out to pee. She grabbed her robe and padded out to the kitchen where all the phone numbers for everything in her life are arranged crazily on an ancient erasable ink board and assortment of post-its. She called the ER. They told her they would call her back when they knew what was up.

She waited two hours and called again. Same story.

She called Bridget Fairly and asked her to fill in for her collecting everyone's cash for the weekly Rotary lunch, as it was becoming clear she was not going to make it today. Another hour passed and the hospital still had not called. She decided to awaken her nearly dead daughter who was snoring loudly with her head dangling off one side of the cement slab in the guest room and her feet dangling off the other.

"Oh, well, look at you! You're sideways! What in the world.... They think your father's had a stroke. You better get up because I am going to have to miss Rotary and we will have to go to the hospital. I have to be at my hair appointment by eleven and so you better start putting yourself together."

Her daughter's face was completely obscured by her mop of hair, but it was clear she'd heard her and so Emmy went off to try calling the hospital again. Same response. Emmy and her daughter walked out the door at quarter to eleven and the hospital still had not called back. Everyone at Marnie's Snip and Set was suitably alarmed to hear of Mr. Pratler in extremis, but it did not ruffle the steady rhythm of shampooing and styling. Nosirree. The women of Lake Konocti have this down to a science. You wear your hair a certain way or you are one of those. Possibly if the salon were burning down this would interfere with the well-scheduled tempo, but only possibly... possibly if the fire department's truck wouldn't start or something.

Emmy and her daughter arrived at the ER on the other side of the lake promptly at noon. Despite its new facade, the little hospital looked forlorn. A very, very loud blower blew directly over the entrance to the ER and everyone in the tiny waiting room winced whenever the doors swung open to admit another prospective waiter. They waited. An ambulance drove up and they carted a man all trussed up with some sort of clamp on his head on a stretcher off to a special entrance for completely wrecked persons coming via ambulance, but the door to the waiting room kept opening every time it sensed the guys swabbing the bloodied decks of the ambulance and the blower blew ambulance exhaust in to wait with the increasingly miserable people who were somewhat lower down the line of triage than those coming in on stretchers. After about a half an hour of this, a nurse came out and told Emmy that Mr. Pratler had not had a stroke and they'd already sent him back to the rest home.

He was naked in his bed, and the aide was explaining that this was how he wanted to be, and he was being very slow about his lunch, would only take a couple bites every ten minutes or so. Emmy immediately set about putting his laundry away. The aid took his lunch to the nuker to see if he'd like it better warm. Mr. Pratler was crying as his daughter was kissing him all over his cheeks and mouth and forehead and shoulder. He took a few more bites of glop when she forked them up for him and was not enthusiastic about the faux lemonade.

Emmy was having a fit about how the aids kept putting her husband's wet-pads on his roommate's bed. "I bet they're using our Depends on Bob too. His daughter doesn't keep up with it." She swished out of the room to go speak to someone about this completely appalling state of affairs.

"I bet you had yourself one rotten morning today, Poppa."

"They're all rotten."

He'd eaten about half his tuna noodles and wouldn't touch the slimy okra. His daughter took the plate out to the cart in the hall, and ran down to the vending machines across the building. She bought him a couple root beers and a big bag of M&Ms, snatched up a bendy straw and went back to her father's side. It took him a minute to muster the right suction on the straw, but she held the bottle steady for him, its coolness glancing at his left shoulder as he drank. He drank the whole thing down without stopping. Emmy's eyes were wide. The aide's eyes were wide. Next his daughter opened the bag of peanut M&Ms and started popping them in his mouth one at a time. He chewed greedily until the whole bag was gone. The other two women were staring in wonderment the whole time.

"He loves soda pop. He loves chocolate, especially chocolate with nuts."

She made the aide promise to give him the other root beer with dinner, since her father had fallen asleep and Emmy-Louise Pratler was anxious to leave.


The secret of fiction is that it's never fiction.


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