Will looked up at the growing line of ill and infirm hostiles waiting to be addressed by an emergency room intake nurse. Nurse? Nurse? Wherefore art thou, nurse? Will’s soul was rolling its eyes since he could not do it outwardly. With three call-offs and no travel nurses available, Will was the de facto receptionist. And he’d likely be the muscle when this ragtag group of emergencies turned mob. He sighed.
Hospital security wasn’t for the faint of heart. Just yesterday he’d delivered a baby. A woman came in unaware of her delicate “condition,” complained she had stomach discomfort. Her ear-splitting shrieks from the restroom had rocketed Will from his desk. The woman had the presence of mind to unlock the stall door. Will could see the baby’s head crowning. The disturbing thought that if he missed, the little thing would fall into the toilet, took his adrenaline to new heights. Plus, it was his first midwifery experience. Add it to the resume.
But that was yesterday. Today, Will was all that stood between these people and their God-given, constitutional right to quality health care on demand. The hate radiating from their eyes was palpable.
The sliding glass doors opened; a stench permeated the room. People in line shrank away and hugged themselves. Will crinkled his nose. Reflexively, he rose to his feet and lay his hand on his firearm. The intake nurse appeared at that moment and addressed the stranger. He had Gandalf’s hair and Steve Buscemi’s misaligned teeth. A Metallica t-shirt and thin jeans hung from his bony frame like silk drapes. His cowboy boots had ages of barn dust in the creases and seams.
No one complained that he skipped the line. The man gave his name: John Doe. The nurse nodded, scribbled, and didn’t ask for his other, real name. Her eyes watered, but she was trained. No mention of the rot coming off him in waves.
“Come with me,” she said.
Ew. Will was glad he was not an intake nurse.
They were gone for hours. The people standing in line plopped to the floor, cross-legged, heads in their palms. Not a peep of complaint. No one else came in. Strange, because before the stinky man appeared, they’d been coming in droves.
Will’s shift ended. He considered telling O’Deens to keep his eyes open, that things could get dicey, but the docile lot of sheep camping out in the waiting room would make that statement ludicrous. O’Deens put a piece of spearmint gum under his nose and sniffed; the man could take care of himself.
Anyhow, Will’s girl was waiting for him. They had dinner plans at her favorite place to celebrate their one-year-since-they-met. And Will was starving, even with that lingering funk in the air.
Which was why he didn’t give a rip about the hitchhiker on I-71. Normally, he’d stop and ask if he could give the guy a ride, maybe give a PSA that hitchhiking was illegal on the interstates. But after the bizarre day he’d had, Will wasn’t down for any more strange, even just a stranger.
The hair was familiar though.
Just like the guy from the ER. Metallica shirt and everything. Couldn’t be. He’d been in with the nurse when Will left. Had this man done her harm and walked out another exit? Will’s conscience would not let him drive on. He pulled onto the berm and reversed.
Yep, same guy.
Will rolled down his window. Holy mother of stench. He did his best not to breathe. “You were at the ER.”
No emotion. “So were you.”
“I work there.” Why was he defending himself? His Glock was pointed at the stranger. He could shoot him right through the door.
“I work here,” the man said.
“That gun ain’t gonna help you.” And with that, the Gandalf-hitchhiker’s face was inside the window. His impossibly long and scaled tongue had come out and, even as Will squeezed off a volley of shots, he felt a searing penetration in his left eye. The crooked-toothed smile. Between those yellow teeth was Will’s eyeball.
More shots. The magazine was empty. The Gandalf man bit Will’s eyeball in half. Some dropped into his lap, the rest he chewed and swallowed down. “Told you.” He reached down and retrieved the other piece. It had some nerve hanging from it. He chewed slowly, and pink spittle leaked from his lips.
Will’s phone buzzed with a text from Hot Girl: You’re late.
Gandalf man saw Will’s screen. “Hot Girl, eh? I’ll say. Bet she’s tastier’n you.” His eyes gleamed.
Will had barely registered the threat when a deafening metalic screech drowned out the world. With it came the lurching of Will’s car and a spritz of something warm on his face. Darkness blocked out the driver’s side window, a truck whizzing by. Had to be pushing a hundred miles an hour. It fishtailed, throwing up clouds of gravel. Something was caught beneath it. Something broke off. A cowboy boot. Something else: a longish piece of fabric. No, an arm.
Will called 9-1-1 to report the hit and run and request paramedics. He was amazed by the control in his voice when he talked to the dispatcher. Then he called Hot Girl.
No hello. Just, “This had better be good.”
He could tell by the lilt in her voice she wasn’t really mad, that she understood sometimes cops got fisted and had to stay late. This was a fist to the gut alright, but not what she imagined. With his remaining eye, Will watched the truck get smaller and smaller until it disappeared.
True: Will Saxon attended my oldest daughter’s surprise 16th birthday party. He was a great sport about the fact that my daughter was NOT digging a surprise party at the Chalet. Some of the young men went down the toboggan chute coatless and shirtless in the sub-zero weather. I’m not sure if Will was one of them, but I am excited that he enjoys horror and that he keeps the peace at the Cleveland Clinic. To my knowledge, Will has not delivered a baby in the bathroom, but if the need arose, I trust he would. I got that little gem here.
Also true: Will gave me a serious challenge: he wanted to see how horrible things could get AND he wanted a happy ending. So he lost an eye? At least his girl wasn’t mad at him for being late when he picked up a hitchhiker (his fact!).
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