It took a day or two, but, when I was finally down off the mountain, and free of the Boy Scouts, the muscle bound bobsled pushers, and a horde of other busy bodies I met on the train; when I was finally braceleted, numbed, stitched, disinfected, bandaged, medicated, hooked and unhooked to a half dozen machines; my insurance number, social security number, and emergency contact number all extracted; once I was free of all the people only trying to help, placed in an expensive, over-regulated hospital bed, and neglected; I began to feel better.
Then my daughter visited.
“I…I…I…I,” said I.
The doctor had said it was a minor stroke, a transient ischemic attack, TIA for short, but that’s not why I was having trouble speaking. Most of my symptoms had already cleared up. I couldn’t speak because Natalie wouldn’t stop talking.
“What were you thinking…I was worried sick…you can’t go doing that in your shape…I’m putting you on a diet…and getting you one of those smart phones where we can keep track of you…and maybe one of those I’ve fallen and can’t get up buttons…maybe you need a nursing home….”
The doctor had figured it all out, too: I had a stroke first and then tripped over a rock, gouged up my face, and got so many bruises that they overlap. I looked at Natalie with one eye because bandages covered half my face, like the Phantom of the Opera.
The funny thing was: I felt great. Oh, I was banged up plenty, but I had a new lease on life. Actually, I owned life, free and clear, with no easement, impediments, or mortgage. There weren’t even any zoning laws. And I knew things. I had come back from the dead and was ready to tell everything. I was an honest to goodness prophet, in the real sense of the word. Not the kind that foretold the future, but the kind that could report from the other side. I could answer all their questions, if I could only get a word in.
“..Mom always said you were difficult…but I figured that was just her…she can be such a bitch sometimes…I told her we spread Paul’s ashes and you disappeared. She said, ‘Oh that’s just like your father….’”
The doctor had gone on and on also. “You are morbidly obese… you have high cholesterol… atrial fibrillation.” He had about as many good things to say about me as my ex-wife. “The A-Fib caused your TIA. How long has it been since you’ve seen a doctor?”
I told him I had just been in the hospital. Everyone thought I was having a heart attack, but it was just nerves.
“They probably missed the A-Fib then,” he said. “It might’ve converted before they hooked you up to the EKG. You’re going to need a PCP, and a cardiologist, a physical therapist, and a nutritionist.”
I told him I was going to need a lawyer. Half of my face grinned; the other half was behind the veil. He was not amused.
“I thought you got caught in the wildfire,” continued Natalie. “Kim and Sam had to pack up their valuables and they’re waiting to hear if they have to evacuate…”
All the nurses were glued to the TV sets, gorging on news about a fire that had started in the mountains and was threatening the city.
Yes, I knew, I wanted to tell them. I had seen it. I had seen it all.
It was hard to get the nurses to respond to calls. They were keeping me for observation, but no one had paid me the slightest bit of attention. Not that I needed any attention. I was fine, but I wanted to tell them not to worry. Everything was going to be all right.
I reached out for Natalie’s hair. It was no longer manic panic vampire red.
“Oh, right, my hair! I’m gunna be working! I’m so psyched! You know how I knew Paul had died before anyone told us? Well, I’m psychic. I saw how psychics make a lot of money, so I’m gunna start doing readings. I had to dye my hair black. Psychics can’t have red hair.”
She grabbed my hand and stretched out my palm.
“I can tell you everything you want to know. Let me just look at your lines.”