PAIN Chapter 2As he stared at the water bottle, Alex turned his hand as though to grab it.  ‘OK, easy now,’ Alex thought to himself, as he watched the bottle line up with his reaching hand.  It was almost within his grasp when he was distracted by Luke waking up.  The bottle started to fall like a rock and Alex just barely caught it.  Thank goodness his mother replaced the cap or he would have been soaked.  He opened the bottle and took a few sips when he felt some movement next to him.

“Hi Alex!  Are you better?  Can we go home now?”

“Haha… not yet, Sport, but I’m feeling a lot better than I was when I got here.”

“Mommy was crying a lot.”

“Yeah, I can understand that, Luke.  I must look pretty beat up and bruised.”

“Nope!  You look like you always do when you wake up.”

“Really?  Hey Sport, I’m gonna get up and go to the bathroom.  Do you have to go?”

“Yes!  Can I go with you?”

“Let me get out of bed first and we’ll find the bathroom together.  OK?”

“OK.”

So Alex looked around to see if he had any tubes or anything else connected.  He saw some wires connected to a monitor; the monitor that was beeping.  He didn’t know if he should take the wires off, so he just eased his way out of bed and tried to stand.  As his feet touched the floor, he heard Luke start to giggle.

“What’s so funny, Sport?”

“Hahaha… I can see your butt!”

‘Darn hospital gowns!’ Alex thought.  “Thanks for telling me, Luke.  It would be embarrassing if Mom or the nurse saw that.  Hehe.”  And he reached around and tied the loose ties.  “How’s that look?”

“All fixed!”

About that time, the nurse came rushing into the room with Alex’s mother close behind her.

“What are you doing out of bed?!?  You could hurt yourself!”

“Well, I didn’t want to pee on the mattress, and Luke needs to pee, too.  Where’s the bathroom?”

“I’ll take Luke,” Lily said.  “You do what the nurse says.”

“Mom, so far she’s only asked me a question.”

The nurse walked over and checked the monitor.  “Well, everything looks OK.  I can’t believe that you’ve been here for 12 hours and as soon as you wake up all your readings are normal.  I think we better have the doctor check you out.”

“Yeah, but until then, can I pee?”

“OK.  Let me disconnect the cables first.”  The nurse went to the monitor and removed the eight color-coded cables that were connected to Alex.  She took the cables and hung them around Alex’s neck. “OK, now you can go; the bathroom is that door behind you.”

“I want to go with Alex!”

“OK Sport, c’mon with me.”  And the brothers disappeared into the bathroom.

A few minutes later Alex and Luke returned.  “OK, hook me up, Nurse.”  And Alex returned to his bed.  Within minutes the eight cables were replaced and the monitor was beeping away.

“Mom, what happened to me?  I gather from what’s been said that I’ve been here for 12 hours, but what’s wrong with me?”

“Son, it’s a miracle.  You were totally uninjured.  We don’t know how, but we’re not complaining.”

“Well, what about the rest of the passengers?  Are all of them OK?”

“Alex, there were 38 people on the bus; you were the only survivor.  All the others were brutally injured, but you didn’t have a scratch on you.  The bus rolled over at least a dozen times; you didn’t have so much as a bruise.  They cut your blood-soaked clothes off of you to see where you were bleeding, but you weren’t.  When you were brought in, you looked like you were in a trance.  They took X-rays from head to foot and they couldn’t believe that so much carnage happened to the other passengers, but you were physically uninjured, so they ran a CAT scan and it came back with the same results.  Then you woke up and your monitor readings went off the scale, so the nurse put you back under to calm you down. That was six hours ago.”

“Mom, I feel fine.  I remember the bus rolling over, but I felt like I was floating.  Then it got dark.  The next thing I remember was waking up and feeling a needle in my arm and then sleep.  But I had some very confusing dreams; I’m still trying to sort them out.  In fact, when I woke up a few minutes ago I thought it was just another dream, until Luke woke up.  I wasn’t sure who I was or where I was, but seeing Luke brought it all back to me.”

“Honey, you had me scared to death, but you’re looking much better now.  Nurse Wilson here and I were just talking with Dr. Fowler.  He still has a few tests to run, but the equipment isn’t free until 1:30.”

“Oh great!” Alex said with sarcasm dripping from his lips.  “Mom, you’ve been here for hours.  Why don’t you go home and come back later?  I still feel tired and there’s no reason to stay here and watch me sleep some more.”

“Are you sure, Hon?  I’d be happy to stay…”

“Nah, go home and relax a bit.  Luke doesn’t have anything to do either, so he’ll eventually get bored.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” Mom chuckled.  “OK, I could use a shower and a change of clothes, and I’ll bet Luke could use a bowl of Cap’n Crunch.”

“Cap’n Crunch!” squealed Luke.

“I’ll be back before your tests start, and I’ll bring you some clothes.”

“Sweet!  Thanks, Mom.  Be a good kid, Luke!”  And Lily and Luke each gave Alex a hug and a kiss and left for home.

Nurse Wilson showed Alex how to control the bed and the TV and told him how to operate the call button.  Then she wrote down the readings on the monitor and took his temperature.

“Alex, breakfast will be served around 8:00 AM, and you’ll be on your own ‘til lunch at noon.  Either I or one of the other nurses will stop by a few times to make sure you’re doing OK, but for now, we have several patients who are a lot worse off than you, so please don’t call us just because you get bored or lonely, OK?”

“Got ya covered,” Alex responded with a smile.  And Nurse Wilson left the room.

‘Hmmm… it’s only 7:30.  Now what?’ Alex thought.  Then he saw the bottle that he had replaced on the table next to the bed.  ‘Maybe some ‘training’ is in order…’

Alex stared at the bottle and nothing happened.  He tried to remember what he was thinking when he moved the bottle with his mind before, but it was coming up blank.  Then he remembered.  He had closed his eyes and imagined himself reaching out and grasping the water bottle and when he opened his eyes, it was almost to his hand.

So again he closed his eyes and pictured the bottle.  First he got a clear image in his mind, then he stretched out his hand to grab it.  Suddenly, he felt the bottle in his hand; he opened his eyes and there it was!  He was holding the bottle!  He took a sip of water as a reward for his efforts.  Then he tried to put the bottle back on the table.  This was a little more difficult.  He had to try three times before he got it right; the first two times the bottle tipped over and rolled onto the floor.  He used his new-found power to pick it back up and try again.  The third time, he was able to gently set the bottle down.  After practicing a few more times, he was able to do it easily, both to pick it up and set it down.  He could even do it with his eyes open now.

‘I need a new challenge,’ he thought.  Then Alex noticed the doorstop that was holding the door open.  He concentrated on the doorstop and mentally pulled it back… gently.  The door closed.  Now he really had a challenge: he had to mentally turn the doorknob and pull the door open at the same time.

First he practiced turning the knob and when he was satisfied that he was doing it well, he attempted to pull the door open.  It was almost working, but not quite.  ‘I need to visualize what I want to do,’ he thought and he closed his eyes.  Now he imagined the door and his hand grabbing the knob.  Next he twisted the knob, and finally, he pulled the door open.  ‘It works!’ he said to himself.  ‘Now I just have to practice…’

For the next three minutes he opened and closed the door several times.  ‘Now for the final part… holding the door open and replacing the doorstop.’  Holding the door was easy, but Alex had to visualize using his foot to put the doorstop in place.  ‘It worked!’

Pleased with himself, Alex reached for the water bottle and it shot to his hand like a rocket.  ‘Whoa!  Slow down, dude!  There’s a big weight difference between a door and a bottle of water.’  And he practiced for another few minutes.  He was finally getting the hang of it when there was a knock at the door and breakfast was brought in by a gorgeous guy who looked about his age.

“Hi, breakfast is here,” he said smiling.  He set the tray on Alex’s table and rolled it so it was over the bed.  Alex was already sitting up, so he just pulled the table closer so he could eat.

“Thanks!  How did you know what to bring me?”

The boy looked at the order slip and said, “It was ordered by Nurse Wilson 30 minutes ago.  Don’t you like it?” he asked.

“No! It’s perfect.  I always have cereal for breakfast.  I was afraid I’d get rubber eggs and warm milk.  Haha,” replied Alex.   “My mom must have told her what to order.”

Then he said, “Aren’t you a little young to be working?  Oh yeah… I’m Alex, by the way.”

“Hey Alex, I’m Jason.  I’m 16, so it’s legal, and this is actually part of my high school program.  I work at the hospital kitchen three hours a day, three days a week, and I’m in classes the rest of the time.  Usually they have me doing dishes and scrubbing pots and pans, but one of the full-timers called in sick, so I get to do her rounds.  This beats the heck out of doing dishes,” Jason laughed.

“No kidding!  I hate to do dishes and there’re only four of us at home.  Doing dishes for a hospital must really suck.  Which high school do you go to?”

“Haha.  Tell me about it!  That’s why I pray for people to call in sick.  I go to West Side.”

“No kidding?  That’s where I go!  I’ll have to look for you there.”

“Excellent!  Hey, I have to get going, but it was good meeting you.  Will you be here long?”

“Nah, I think I’m going home after some tests later today.  Nice meeting you too, Jason.  Thanks for breakfast.”

“My pleasure.  Later, dude.”  And he left to finish his rounds.

After breakfast, Alex continued his practicing and was finally able to do all the tasks while watching, rather than having to close his eyes to visualize.  About 10:15, he decided to take that nap he told his mother about.  A couple of hours later, an orderly came in with his lunch.  Alex was feeling refreshed and enjoyed the hospital food as much as was possible.  As he was finishing, his mom and brother returned and Luke climbed up to give him a hug.

“Are you going to eat this cookie, Alex?”

“Nah, I’m stuffed!  Do you want it?”

“Yes!”  And he made a lightning strike and grabbed it.

“Haha!  Slow down, Sport!  I’m not gonna take it from you.  Hi Mom.  Did you get a nap in?”

“As much as possible with Luke playing on the bed, but it was better than nothing.  Oh, here are the clothes I brought for you.”  She handed me a grocery store bag with a shirt, pants, underwear, socks and shoes.  There was also a toothbrush and toothpaste.

“Wow!  Thanks, Mom, my mouth feels like a thousand rats ran through it and the last 200 pooped.  Hehe.”

“Graphically stated, Alex.  Thanks for that picture.”

“You’re welcome… What tests are they going to give me?”

“I think they want to give you a blood test so they can check for toxins, and an MRI to make sure nothing is broken in your head.  We can leave after the tests; they’ll call me with the results.”

“Cool!  I get a day off from homework!”

“Not so fast, young man.  I called the school and one of the students is going to bring an assignment list.  He should be to the house by 4:30.”

“OH MOM!  You didn’t!  Please say you’re kidding.”

“Not this time, Alex.  You have homework to do tonight.”

“GAH!  Thanks, Mom.  Who’s bringing it over?”

“They said some boy named Jason.  Do you know him?”

“Jason?  I don’t think so, but I met a guy named Jason from West Side this morning; he brought my breakfast.  If he’s the one who brings it, all is forgiven.”

Before she could ask him what he meant, an orderly came in to get Alex for the tests.  After removing the contacts from his chest, he had him get into a wheelchair and took him to the lab.  Alex was parked while the orderly talked with the people at the desk while they read the requirements written on the forms.  The lab technician, a pretty blonde in her 20s, came over and checked Alex’s name and other information on the forms against the info on his wristband.  Alex wondered what mistakes prompted these checks.  All was good and then she asked him what his name was.  Alex told her and she wheeled him into a large cubicle and took three vials of blood, covered the extraction site with a bandage and brought him back to the orderly, who thanked her.  Then they were off for an MRI.  After checking the information on his wristband and asking him his name, Alex was placed on a table and his head was held in place.  The lab technician told him not to move his head, or the test will take longer.  Wanting to go home, Alex complied.  The MRI was louder than he thought it would be; it sounded like metal bricks tumbling in the dryer.  The test was over in about 15 minutes.  Again, the orderly thanked the lab tech and after getting Alex back into the chair, wheeled him back to his room.

“Can I go home now?” he asked the orderly.

“The nurse will bring you your papers in a few minutes and will let you know,” he said.  “For now, you can change into your clothes.”

Alex grabbed the bag from his mother and changed in the bathroom.  He also brushed his teeth quickly.

A few minutes later, Nurse Wilson reappeared and, after telling Alex and Lily that a preliminary look at the tests was negative, gave Lily some papers to sign.  Then another orderly appeared and wheeled Alex to the main door.  Once there, Alex was allowed to get out of the chair and walk with his mom and brother to their car.

“We better hurry, Mom, or we’ll miss my homework delivery boy,” Alex said sarcastically, although he was hoping it was his new friend Jason who would be delivering it.

“Right.  Don’t worry, Sweetie, we have plenty of time.  It’s only 3:10.”

Alex strapped Luke into his car seat and sat next to him for the ride home.  Twenty minutes later they arrived.  Alex helped Luke out of his car seat and the three of them walked into the house.

“Mom, can I have a snack?  Hospital food is the pits!”

“Sure Alex, why don’t you and your brother each have an apple?  Slice Luke’s for him, please.”

“Will do.  Thanks.  Is Dad home yet?”

“He was home earlier, but he went out before I left.  I don’t know when he’ll be back.”

“OK, thanks.”

“I think I’m going to start dinner.  Would you peel some potatoes and carrots, since you’re out there?”

“OK,” Alex laughed.  It seemed to him that he was starting dinner.  “Do you want me to rinse the vegetables for the salad, too?”

“Oh, would you?  I think I’m going to lie down for a bit; I didn’t get much sleep last night.”

“OK, Mom.  I’ll send Lucas in when he finishes his apple.”

“Thanks, Hon.”

Alex could tell by the sound of her voice that she was already in her room.  Luke soon finished his apple and, after washing his hands and face, Alex sent him in to take a nap with his mother.

As he was preparing the vegetables for dinner, the front door opened and his father came in.  Alex looked up.  “Hi Dad!  How was your day?”

“Not very good… I have to work an extra job to pay YOUR hospital bill!”

“Dad, I didn’t turn the bus over, I was just a passenger!”

“Don’t raise you voice to me, you ungrateful punk!”  And then he hit his son in the chest and knocked him across the room.

The next events happened pretty fast.  Luke came back and saw what happened and said, “Don’t hit Alex, Daddy.”

Mark turned instinctively and swung at the child.  Alex closed his eyes and said, “Dad, STOP!!!”  And he pictured himself grabbing his father’s wrist.  When he opened his eyes a fraction of a second later, he saw his father in mid-swing, but his arm seemed frozen in place.  Alex knew that he was causing this, but he didn’t think his father knew.

“Luke, go lie down with Mommy, bro.”  And Luke walked away… unaware of how close he came to injury.

Mark was standing there with his arm still frozen in mid-swing.  Alex saw that his own right hand was closed, as if he was holding something.  When Luke had left the room and was safe, Alex said, “Thanks, Dad,” and he opened his right hand, releasing his father.

“You didn’t think I was going to hit Luke, did you?  He’s a baby, for Christ’s sake!  Fuck it!  I’ll be back later.”  And he nervously left the house.

‘Whoa!  What just happened?’ Alex thought.  ‘I guess today’s practice paid off!’

Then the doorbell rang.  Alex looked around for his father’s keys.  ‘Did he lock himself out?’  Nervously, Alex walked to the door…

Published October 1, 2011

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