Happy Halloween all.
A HALLMARK MOMENT
The clouds looked made of spider silk. Thin, white, wisps tendrilled out from underneath the bulbous extrusions in their slow parade across the sky. And there were stars, shimmering by the thousands. The sun was bright, the sky the bluest I’d ever seen, but there were stars.
The trees in front of me leaned back and forth in the wind, their leaves singing an autumnal hymn that sent the clouds to dancing. The bushes and tall grass waved like the waters of a great green ocean, breaking against the clearing in which I sat. I caught a scent of jasmine. And something else.
I wasn’t alone.
There was movement in the grass. Something swam toward me through the reeds and out from under the shadowy canopy of the forest. There were glimpses of color, all unnatural and foreign in this paradise.
The wind picked up, blowing my hair into my eyes. I couldn’t see. I brushed it aside and tried to focus on the movement that crept toward me. Again, my hair fell into my eyes. But it was odd. My hair wasn’t long enough to get into my eyes. Still, there it was, annoying and obtrusive. I brushed it away again.
The thing was closer. More wind. More hair. I had to clear my vision, see what was coming, but as I moved to brush my hair away again, my hand froze, unable to move. I struggled against whatever invisible force held my hand fast, but it was no use. It wouldn’t move. I couldn’t see and the thing in the grass moved closer. I could feel it near, watching me, stalking me.
It called to me. The beast in the rushes knew my name and called to me. I pulled at my invisible bonds but they would not break. I screamed, thrashing to get away from the thing that held me.
The wind disappeared, taking with it the sound of rustling leaves and flowing reeds. Now I could hear only the high hum of fluorescent lights. And people breathing heavily.
“Mr. Asher, you have to settle down.”
I tried to sit up, but a hand pushed me back down. I couldn’t see. There was light but I couldn’t see. Something was over my face.
“Get this off me!” My voice came out thick and heavy.
“Mr. Asher, please. Only two more stitches left.”
Stitches? Then I remembered.
“Let me up. Let me UP!”
I could feel three sets of hands on me, all pushing me down. “Sedate him.”
“Wait, stop! Just wait.” I eased back onto the bed and relaxed. I couldn’t afford to be knocked out again. “No more. Just finish this so I can get the hell out of here.”
The nurses and orderlies kept their hands on me while the person pulling at the hole over my left eye finished his work. I couldn’t have been out that long if they were just now finishing stitching my head.
I did a quick assessment of the rest of my body, first my toes and then slowly worked my way up. As I tensed the areas where my captors held me, they squeezed and leaned into me, obviously afraid I’d try to get up again. But when the tension passed, they relaxed their grip. Everything seemed to be in working order. A little sore and stiff, but nothing felt broken or torn beyond what a day or two of bed rest couldn’t fix.
When the gauze over my face was lifted, I squinted at the sharp light overhead. “All done.”
I sat up and turned to the man who had been sewing my face together with all the grace of an epileptic working a jackhammer. He looked 12. “Good. Now where’s my dog?”
“Mr. Asher, we’re going to be taking you back to a room. So—”
I kicked my legs over the side of the bed and brushed him aside. The nurses all rushed to restrain me but the kid doctor waved them off. “No. If he wants to go so badly, let him.”
I sneered at him. “Smart kid.” The boy in man’s clothing just smiled at me. I stood up, took a step and felt the world turn upside down. It seemed as if all the blood in my head had drained away to pool at my feet. I looked at the kid and said, “You smart-ass son of a…” then collapsed to the ground.
My head started to pound as blood flowed upward. I took a deep breath, sat against the wall and said, “…ow.”
“Would you like us to take you to your room now?”
If I wasn’t a quart low of A Pos, I’d bounce this brat off the walls. “No, I think I’ll stay here and bleed a little more.” I turned to the nurse on my right. “I can see up your skirt, you know.” She blushed and moved to unfold a wheelchair. “How soon can I get out of here?”
“Dr. Epstein will be able to answer your questions.”
I didn’t have the energy to press the kid, so I let the nurses ease me into the wheelchair and take me to my room where Dr. Epstein met me shortly after.
“Mr. Asher, how do you feel?”
“Like I’ve been skull fucked with a Volkswagen. But I’ve been worse.” The local anesthetic was starting to wear off and I could feel the length of the wound in my head.
“Yes, I know.”
“What?” I looked up and noticed that Dr. Epstein had a file a half inch thick resting on his clipboard.
“Cedar Sinai faxed these over. Makes for some interesting reading.”
“Yeah, well it made for some interesting living.”
The doctor chuckled. “I imagine. How’s your vision?”
Great. It was time for the game show portion of my hospitalization. Every time I’ve had blunt head trauma, the docs all asked the same questions: How’s your vision? What’s your name? Who’s the President of the
Dr. Epstein asked his questions and I gave him my answers. I’ve been banged on the head enough times to know whether or not it was serious and this little boo boo may have hurt like hell, but it was all superficial. My brain was still intact.
Twelve stitches and a headache. Not too high a price to pay for getting rolled in a car.
When he was done, the doctor scribbled on his notepad and said, “I’ll have a nurse come get you and take you down for some routine tests. In the meantime, the police have some questions for you.”
Wonderful. The lightening round. I wondered what prize THIS was going to get me.
Two uniformed officers came into the room and stood on either side of my bed. One pulled out a tiny notepad while the other rested her hand on her hip. The one with the notepad started asking questions: Did you see the kind of car that hit you? Do you remember seeing anyone follow you? Were you drinking?
No. No. No. It became a mantra. After about the eighth question, I’d had enough. “Look. I was stopped when something hit me. I didn’t see who or what it was. Now can you tell me, do you know what happened to my dog?”
The female officer said, “It was sent to the pound. Miracle the thing wasn’t killed.”
There was a polite knock at the door. A young blonde in a candy striper outfit poked her head inside and said, “I’m sorry, I’m looking for Mr. Asher.”
One of the cops gave the little girl a smile and nodded in my direction. The candy striper walked over to me and handed me an envelope. She stood next to me, shuffling from foot to foot as the cops and I all watched her. “There’s a little speech,” she said, “but I can skip it.” We all smiled and she left the room.
One cop said, “Mr. Asher, we believe this might not have been an accident. Do you know anyone who might have been angry with you? Someone who might want to hurt you?”
“Grab a phone book.” I knew exactly who did it and the second I got out of that damn hospital I was going to pay Mr. Benoit another visit. “Officer, I have a lot of people angry with me. But none of them live in Vegas.” My head began to throb. “What happened to my Jeep?” I asked as I started opening the envelope.
“Where? I need to get…I need to get some clothes out of there.” It was believable since my t-shirt was practically crusted over with dried blood.
The female officer smiled and said, “Don’t worry. The hospital will take care of—”
“No!” A spike of pain shot through my temples. “Look, I don’t like having my belongings just lying around.”
“Your stuff will be fine, Mr. Asher.”
“No, it won’t,” I mumbled.
“Is there something you’re not telling us, sir?”
I wanted to blurt out ‘Yes, you stupid cow!’ but I knew that I would never get out of Vegas if I did. So I tried to breathe through my nose, out of my mouth, and rid myself of this growing headache. “No. It’s just that I had some valuables in the Jeep and I don’t want them stolen.”
“Like I said, your stuff is fine. Your wife came in and picked up your things about an hour ago.”
The skin on the back of my skull went numb. “What did you say?”
“Your wife. You are married to a…” she flipped through her notepad. “…Darby Asher, yes?”
The numbness spread until the only thing I could feel was a tiny pinprick of pain over my left eye. Both of the cops stared at me, stone faced and unblinking. Then I noticed the get well card in my hands.
On the front of the card was a black and white photo of a young boy handing a colored rose to a young girl. But on the inside of the card there was no type, no charming or goofy pictures, no saccharin message lamenting the wonders of my existence. There was nothing except four tiny words scrawled across the inside in black ink:
‘Get well soon, motherfucker.’