Thursday, June 16, 2005


In honor of my current condition, here's an old story of mine...

Stoned, or, War and Peaches

“Shoot me. Shoot me now,” Chloris screamed. She paced the room, bunched up like a Channel swimmer with cramps one minute, quickstepping a hyperactive foxtrot the next. In constant motion, she was unable to land for even a second in her flight of agony. Al stood in the doorway watching, waiting to be needed. She couldn’t take much more no matter how hard she fought, but she wouldn’t give in until it became unbearable. Chloris hated the Emergency Room.

“Okay Al, let’s go.” She dug through the dirty clothes hamper, looking for her “fat” jeans, the ones that hung loose since she’d lost weight. They wouldn’t be as comfortable as her nightgown, but she wasn’t about to go out half dressed. After managing to writhe into her pants Chloris had to stop a minute. She perched on the edge of the bed, rocking back and forth, eyes fixed on the carpeting. Al thought she resembled a demented mother in the final stage of birthing a demon child. He kept the thought to himself.

“What are you standing there for?” she snapped. “Get the car out, I’ll be right there.” She wrenched herself off the bed. “And bring the bucket, I’ll probably barf.” She yanked the dresser drawer so hard it almost fell out. Hand on her side, over the pain, she tried to focus enough to pick a decent t-shirt. She rejected seven or eight perfectly good ones before settling on a green shirt with “Grand Canyon Trading Company” emblazoned across it. She looked great in green, and if she was going to die, which felt likely to happen soon, she might as well go out looking good.

“Is that what you’re wear-” Al muttered beneath his breath as Chloris reluctantly climbed into the passenger seat.

“What?! What did you say?” Her response was sharp as a splinter in the eye.

“Nothing. Let’s go.” He waited for her to settle into the seat.

Chloris looked at the steering wheel and started to speak, but Al shook his head.

“No way. You are in no shape to drive and you know it.” He stared back at her until she buckled up. “You know, I can drive a car too. There’s nothing wrong with my driving.” The mixture of hurt and pride and anger in his voice made her wince, or maybe it was just the pain. Al backed out of the driveway.

Chloris couldn’t decide if she wanted Al to drive fast and get there sooner, or drive slow so the journey would be smoother. With every turn she moaned, with every stop she grunted, and when they crossed the railroad tracks she screeched and gasped, grabbing at the dashboard and shooting Al a silent look worse than any curse.

“My God,” she cried as they pulled into the parking lot, “it feels like something inside me is exploding.” She turned to Al, who was idling in the loading zone by the entrance. “Park the damn car already.” He didn’t bother pointing out the ER door only steps away.

It took less than ten minutes to be seen by the triage nurse, who sent Chloris straight back to the treatment area. Al stayed in the lobby filling out forms, and arrived just in time to see Chloris, struggling to tie up the back of her hospital gown, fall off the narrow gurney-cum-bed. He waited until his snickering subsided and she’d gotten herself back up before stepping around the partition.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“How the hell do you think I’m feeling? I’m so nauseous it’s all I can do not to puke my guts out, and I haven’t even seen an actual nurse, let alone a doctor yet.” Chloris was shivering, trying to sit on the semi-reclined bed without squirming so much she’d fall off again. Al pulled the blanket up to her waist, tucking it in along her legs until she shoved his hands away. “Leave it, I don’t want it like that.”

He let go, but didn’t move away. Like it or not, she needed him. She always did.

When the nurse came to give her an IV, Chloris reached for Al. He held her hand tight and she focused on his eyes the whole time, holding her breath and thinking evil thoughts about needles and nurses and the world in general. She was surprised when the nurse gave her a warm, reassuring pat on the shoulder to show it was all over and hadn’t been that bad. Then she vomited.
She managed to signal the nurse just in time to get an emesis basin, but after the first round, she held it up.

“This is not going to cut it. I need something bigger. Now.”

The nurse brought a full-fledged bucket. “Oh God,” Chloris’s voice echoed as she stuck her head into it, upchucking again, “it’s like peaches in heavy syrup.” She hated peaches, slimy little pieces sliding down the throat, cloying odor pervading the nostrils. She gagged some more just thinking about it.

When the morphine hit her system Chloris finally relaxed. Al sat next to her, relieved by her relief. They would let her rest here a while. The kidney stone would probably pass on its own, as usual.

Al was slumped in his chair, drool slipping from his mouth, when Chloris woke up hungry. Between the morphine and the medicine for nausea, her sense and her speech were slurred. She had to tell Al three times before he finally shuffled off to the cafeteria. “And don’t screw it up like you always do,” she sniped.

He came back with a bowl of peaches.


Matt Getty said...

I love the way you use this little slice-of-life health crisis vignette to highlight some of the rougher yet deeply felt edges marriage. For better or worse indeed.

Sharon Hurlbut said...

Thanks Matt! Yep, sometimes it's for better AND worse.