Sunday, February 27, 2005

Pecaw's Gift / Chapter 26 - Pools

"Physical Therapy, Eva; may I help you?” The soft friendly voice sparkled into the phone. Dr. Chatterly listened for a moment, smiled inside himself; then made arrangements for a schedule, tailored especially for Sinclair.

“I have a patient coming down in about half an hour. He will need to have someone with him at all times for the first two or three days. Will that cause much of a problem?” He knew that their staffing was already stretched to the limit. The new hospital budget had sliced away most of the service oriented personnel. They had laid off half of the house keeping staff, records, and were looking for others “pink slip”.

“How are you doing Doctor Chatterly?”, Eva recognized him and continued, “ ‘haven't heard from you in a while. You need to take me out for lunch. You know; a sizzling steak with all the trimmings sure would taste good.” She laughed to let him know that it was all in fun; that there was no obligation. “Now who is it that rates getting this special favor?” Her voice tapered off; she quietly worried that she might be slated for the unemployment line. The secretary who had been helping out in the Emergency Room by writing the log entries and making the plastic patient ID cards was told that she was no longer needed; the nurses could do that job in their spare time. It was only a matter of time that Eva would be looking for a new job. Maybe she could be a receptionist in a doctor’s office. She was an exceptional employee. He wished his practice was large enough to justify adding on a clerk.

“I have a policeman who’s hankering to get back on his feet. Check with the therapist and see how he can fit another one in. This guy wants to get back to work.” He turned to Sinclair; placing his hand over the phone as he redirected his attention.

“That’s a good one.” Sinclair shook his head and chuckled back. The idea had not occurred to him that one day soon he would be back at work. His goal up until now had been simply to survive.

“A cop, huh? Well I guess we can make room for him. Is he . . .”, she thought hopefully for a moment, “ . . . by chance, single?”

“Sorry my dear; this one’s out of reach.”

“Can’t hurt to ask.” She breathed out the missing portion of her life into the receiver.

“A pretty girl like you? . . . There must plenty of young men lined up outside your door.”

“Yea; but they’re, . . well you know. . .”, a hint of disappointment crept into her voice as if to infer the quality of her pursuers.

“Hey; one of these days the right man will. . .”

“I know; I just hope its soon and that he has some money. ‘ just got another card from the bank. The car note is two months late. I dropped my insurance last week so I could pay the rent.” Stopping to collect herself and feeling ashamed at having scattered her problems to the wind, “Didn’t mean to bend your ear so much. Wheel him up here and he can start today.”

Dr. Chatterly wasn't sure if he should say anything. He had a pretty good idea of how hard life was on Eva. It wasn’t easy being a single parent and he knew that her income was below the poverty level. Many times he wondered how he could make room for her on his own staff. He had several friends; one of them surely must need a good worker.

“I’ll have him there in a few minutes”, hanging up the phone. He stood quietly as he thought to himself; a sort of inventory of blessings. How was it that his life was so well off while those around him, those he cared for, were on the edge of disaster? Was there a ledger book containing a list of those who would be successful, another for those who would struggle? Considering the thought; he tossed it aside. He had sweated out many hard years of schooling; it had been no picnic. He hoped that things would work out for Eva; concerned in brotherly way.

“So how long will I be assigned to the torture chamber?” Sinclair had a firm recollection of the misery involved when he had torn his knee ligaments. The intense exercise program he had undergone three times daily had been painful; painful to the point that he had begun to limit his softball involvement. He grimaced at the thought of having to put himself through it again.

“Just relax and enjoy it. The first week is in the pool. You only have to float around and look like your walking.” Dr. Chatterly wanted to take most of the weight off Sinclair’s legs and get him accustomed to natural movement. The buoyancy would make the adjustment tolerable.

“Sounds good to me. I suppose it was no accident that Bev left these swim trunks?” Sinclair slipped into the pale blue shorts and noticed the extra fabric. Months of avoiding donuts and midnight hamburgers had left him several pounds shy of his former self.

“Stay away from the diving board.”, not that there ever was one; but it was clear that such activity would strain the limits of decency as Sinclair gathered the draw string tighter.

“All this time I thought it was sugar water in those IV's. Now I come to find out I was on the liquid grapefruit diet.” In his own way Sinclair was providing the best medicine, laughter.

“Is this how Tommy Lasorda lost all his weight?”

“Who ?” Dr. Chatterly casually ignored the name.

“You gotta be kidding. . .”, a blank expression along with a shrug of the shoulders seemed to give him away. “You really don’t know who Tommy Lasorda is, do you?”

“Sorry, the name sounds familiar; but I don’t know that many police officers.” Dr. Chatterly continued to dead pan, then slipped on a smile; unable to keep a straight face.

Turning his head slightly to watch the subtle changes, the patient/doctor relationship fell aside. The serious facade dropped away, momentarily exposing the human side of Chatterly. It was a curious, almost angelic transformation that permitted the youthful smile to grace the rigid lines of age. The strain of responsibility and position removed itself and the exuberance of life escaped. It hung in the air between them for only a few seconds; shared moments that they had long ago relished in their separate yet similar experiences.

“Yes, I know who he is.”, still laughing as he helped move Sinclair into the wheel chair. “Will you be wanting to take the computer with you? I can put it here.”, pulling a
pouch like fold of heavy Naugahyde on the back panel.

“Please, it has become so much a part of me.” Sinclair was more than accurate as he described his dependence on the small portable electronic box. Carefully packing the
several odd units into the pouch as the patch of wires continued to activate the speech
synthesizer, Dr. Chatterly checked to make sure that all was in order. He was himself
amazed at how much technology was crammed into such a small space. It had not been
that many years ago when the first practical computers took up the entire floor where his
father had worked. They were heavy, bulky, slow and had a very limited use in those
days. His father had helped to usher in the new age of computers. Were he still alive, it
would have blown him away to see the impact that computers had on the world?

“Could you cover it with some plastic wrap? Being near the water . . .”

“I’m way ahead of you.” Dr. Chatterly eyed a dress that Bev had brought back from the cleaners. Peeling the thin plastic cover from the hanger and at the same time admiring the tailoring of the dress, he carefully stretched the protective layer over the computer.

Sinclair reached down and lifted his legs onto the metal foot plates. The effort of lifting them as individual units continued to be far beyond his ability. As the two made their way down the hall to the elevator, Sinclair felt the adrenaline rush at the thought of once again being free. He looked at everything, the fluorescent fixtures, gauges recessed in the enamel gray tile walls, and all that had been out of his reach for the past few months. He peered into each room in passing, catching a glimpse here, a glimpse there. Like the little boy on his train ride, the vignettes of other people’s lives paraded in front of him. His momentary presence made no difference; each continued to exist within his own sphere. In one room a nurse was changing sheets on a bed, oblivious to his attentions. She had half the bed made while managing to move the patient at just the right moment to allow completion of the chore. Moving down the hall, Sinclair watched as the janitor collected a mountain of soiled linens. The charge nurse stopped from her paper work to wave at him, acknowledging the general feeling of accomplishment that she was witnessing. He nodded back, not speaking; not needing to.

Dr. Chatterly pushed the “up” button as they waited for the elevator. A couple of doctors walked by; involved in their thoughts, greeted Dr. Chatterly professionally, and then walked into one of the several rooms down the corridor directly opposite the elevators. Sinclair looked over his shoulder and noticed that Dr. Chatterly had lapsed back into his professional mold; the iron face of dignity once again cloaked the man. The doors opened and they made their way to the back of the elevator. Sinclair again felt the excitement from within as they waited for it to reach the eighth floor. Sinclair was glad to have a robe on; quite sure he was the only one wearing a bathing suit.

“Remember what I told you; just relax and enjoy yourself. There will be plenty of time in the weeks ahead for you to work those muscles; today is just a freebie.” Dr. Chatterly kept it very low key as he wheeled Sinclair down the hall and parked him at the main doors of the Physical Therapy Department. As the double wide doors opened, exposing the glassed in atrium style room, Sinclair was surprised to see so many tropical plants and hanging baskets. Dr. Chatterly walked in, letting the door close behind him. Sinclair felt a little slighted by having to wait in the cold hallway.

Eva was sitting at the front work station talking on the phone as Dr. Chatterly walked in. She looked up, motioned with her hand and smiled at him; continuing to write down a few short notes on the top corner of the desk pad. It was a most pleasant way of being told to wait.

“ ‘ Be right with you; gotta finish up with this first.” There was a freshness, something delightsome in her attitude that most people had lost in the way they handled their everyday chores. Watching her as she sat, one leg crossed under the other; he wished that he had more time to spend in that area of the hospital. There began to be some confusion in his mind regarding his association, his feelings toward Eva.

“Okay, so where’s this cop; or is he invisible?” Her whole face was fun to watch as she tugged at his professionalism. He found that when he was listening that her eyes accentuated each word. He was afraid to look into her dark brown eyes, as if by doing so he might find her soul looking back. His feelings, though honorable from the start, had drifted past a mere casual interest. He had to admit to himself that she was an
attractive person; it wasn’t just her striking appearance. Had he been seeking a meaningful relationship, which he wasn’t, then Eva would certainly qualify. He quickly considered how important his lovely wife and his marriage meant to him as he fought to keep his thoughts pure.

“Dr. Chatterly. . .”

“I’m sorry . . . “, for a split second he found himself lost for a valid reason to be at her desk, like a school boy who had a crush on the teacher; “. . . he’s just outside. I wanted to go over this schedule with Eugene. Is he available?”

“Eugene’s in the back working with that patient that has the burns. You remember that car wreck from the freeway last month? The one where the tanker loaded with gasoline blew up?”

“So he made it; that’s great.” , relieved to change the subject to a professional topic.

“Yea, he don’t look so pretty, but he made it.” Eva’s countenance diminished as she absorbed some of the pain into her own life. She had such a simple way of expressing her thoughts; it was disarming.

“About the only thing that might cause any problems. . .”, thinking of a way to explain Sinclair’s use of the portable computer, “. . . will be keeping his electronic stuff from getting wet. Other than that. . .”

“What kind of electronics are we talking about? Is there a way we can wrap them?”

“He has this computer pack . . . uhhh, why don’t you take a look. He doesn’t have to be hooked up to it, only near it.”

“Near it ?” Eva could not visualize how it would help. Hearing the words as they bounced off her forehead and trying to imagine how it must sound, “Does that make any sense?”

“Not really, why does he have to have it if he’s not hooked up to it? What’s it do?” She had seen many patients come in with all manner of gadgets; but in every instance the device had some physical connection to the patient.

“It’s his voice synthesizer; but on a much grander scale than I can explain in just a few minutes.” Actually it was a miracle and couldn’t be explained at all.

“We could put it on a table while he’s in the pool. Would that be okay? How close to it does he need to be?”

“Anywhere in the room is fine; as long as you can hear the speakers.” He was having trouble explaining Sinclair’s ability.

“I gotta meet this guy.” Eva got up and walked out from behind the desk. Dr. Chatterly opened the door and held it as Eva encouraged the courtesy. “Thank you, Sir.”

“ A pleasure.”, thinking to himself how dangerous it was to be so close to her.

“Mr. Dosilmeyer I’m Eva. Dr. Chatterly tells me that you are here to use our facilities.”, extending her hand gracefully to show off the comfortable surroundings.

“Nice to meet you.” The voice throwing routine was one of his best; the words sprang from the back panel of the chair.

“Oh, I like that.” Eva held her smile, trying to figure out how Sinclair had enunciated his words so well, never having moved his mouth at all.

“I can do it while drinking a soda too.” Sinclair winked at Eva. He opened his mouth, exposing the fact that his tongue was clinched between his teeth the whole time he was talking.

“Pretty neat trick, huh?”

“I thought you were a co . . . policeman?”, changing words in mid sentence as she reminded herself to choose the proper title out of respect for his profession.

“He is; but once in a while one slips past the psychiatrist and makes it on the force anyway.”

“Thanks a lot Doc. I’ll remember that when it comes time to pay the bill.”, Sinclair ribbed back.

“Wheel him over there.”, pointing to the edge of the pool where there was a sling suspended from a stainless steel support beam. “Why don’t you just leave your
electronics package in there?”

Sinclair thought for a moment, “Sure; why not. No reason why that shouldn’t work.”

Eva had worked with the patients almost as often as Eugene; about the only difference was the pay scale. She reached over and had the harness in place, snug and secure, quicker than an eight year old can tie his shoes.

“If he gives you too much trouble, dunk him.”

“He looks pretty tame, but I’ll keep that in mind.” The sling lifted Sinclair out of the wheel chair effortlessly and lowered him gently into the luke warm water.

“Ahhhhh! That feels so good.” Sinclair closed his eyes as the water swirled and lapped at his withered body.

“Let your legs move about as if they were supporting you. That’s it. The harness will keep you from bearing any weight on them.” Sinclair looked into the pool at his legs; the image being dispersed by the moving water.

“You want to see something strange?, pointing to his legs as the ripples bent and broke their natural symmetry. The sun danced in the water as it spilled past edge of the bent glass solarium.

There was no reply at first and as Sinclair glanced up he noticed Dr. Chatterly standing off to the side, studying her every move. When Eva spun around, catching him off guard, there was no place to turn. He found it hard to breathe as he was swallowed by the deep brown pools of her eyes.

“She is kind of nice to look at, isn’t she Doc?”

“Is it that obvious?”, thinking to himself; yet not fully understanding. He had not intended to fall in love; fighting off the unwanted feelings that battled within his heart.

“I thought you were supposed to be relaxing; so, relax in there!” Dr. Chatterly tried to avoid the spot light of attention as he heckled Sinclair.

“My legs are messed up; not my eyes Doc.” Needling him for a change.

“I didn’t mean to stare, honest.” Dr. Chatterly was beside himself on what to say next. Tossing her head back as she removed a kink from her neck and letting her dark wavy hair softly settle onto her sweater; he looked once more into her eyes. It was time to leave quickly, to escape before it was too late.

Eva sensed that something was wrong as Dr. Chatterly backed away from her; his eyes looking only at the mosaic tile floor. He stumbled into a large ceramic potted philodendron plant and almost lost his balance at the edge of the pool. He managed to right himself; trying desperatley to avoid falling. He got to the doors, pushed them open and slipped out. Dr. Chatterly leaned thankfully against the cool grey wall; his legs trembling.

“Thank you Sir; it won’t happen again.” He looked up, past the suspended ceiling tiles, past the steel supports of the roof and into the eternities.