The Third Corvette
by Sandy Cohen

 

When Casper Sadler was 14, he made the 1957 Corvette from a model car kit twice, and decided that for the third one he would merge it with parts from the model of a Sherman tank, making the tank’s cannon turret come out of the Corvette’s sleek trunk.  ‘Cassy’ (his nickname) was fitting a second axle to the Corvette’s rear suspension when a slip of the craft knife sliced into the index finger of his left hand, right across the finger print.  He put a band aid tightly on the wound, and continued fitting the axle into position without much thought about his injury.  Cuts happened frequently, and he always healed from them quickly.  However, on this particular injury, the bleeding wouldn’t stop.  Blood was getting on the model, making it hard to handle the little pieces.  At midnight, Cassy decided to take himself to the emergency room less than a mile away, so he hopped on his Columbia paperboy cruiser bike, turned on the chromed headlight, and pedaled off to have it seen to.

At the hospital Casper told his simple story to the admitting nurse, who put him into a cubicle.  Soon, a young intern, whose badge identified him as Doctor Howell Curtis, came to examine the finger, which was still bleeding. 

“That looks pretty deep, so I’ll put in a few sutures.  But, it will hurt.  That part of the finger has a lot of nerve endings, so you can feel things.  I better give you a little anesthetic first.”

He went off and returned in a few minutes carrying a stainless steel bowl containing the necessary items.

“Here, give me your finger.”  After swabbing it with alcohol he jabbed the needle in Cassy’s finger tip.

“Ouch!  That really hurts.”, cried Casper.  “This must hurt a lot more than the stitches ever will.”

Doctor Curtis jabbed Cassy’s tender finger tip several more times.

“There.  That’s finished.  Let’s let that get to work, and I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Left alone, Cassy shook his hand because his finger hurt more than it ever had.  It was the most pain he ever experienced. 

The emergency room was quiet.  Four nurses were at their station chatting about somebody’s new baby, as they made notes in their respective clipboards or notebooks.

Suddenly, Cassy saw the double doors of the emergency room burst open, and two anxious-looking ambulance drivers push in a gurney.  The station nurses immediately abandoned their notebooks and conversation and ran to the new arrival.  Dr. Curtis joined them.  He examined the patient quickly.  “Put her there” he commanded, and the attendants wheeled the gurney to the cubicle next to Casper.

Casper saw that the patient was an old lady, who looked asleep.  One of the nurses drew the curtain separating the cubicles, but Casper could still hear everything that was said on the other side.

A nurse peeked around the curtain and asked Casper, “how’s your finger feeling?  Does it feel numb, yet?  Looks like that lady over there attempted suicide.  The doctor will have to look after her for a while, but he’ll be right back.  You’ll be OK.”

Casper could hear Dr. Curtis tell the nurse to get the crash cart, and give other important instructions.  Two nurses whizzed past Cassy.

Dr. Curtis started to speak very loudly to the patient.

“Wake up, wake up,” he shouted.  It sounded like he slapped her quite hard.

Casper heard her groan.

“What is your name?
“What is your name?”

She moaned.

The nurses arrived with the equipment and items.  A third nurse assisted, and another nurse reported that she had made contact with the woman’s son’s ex-wife, Darlene.
“She lives in Mansfield, and has to find a baby sitter.  She won’t get here 'til morning, at the soonest.  The patient’s name is Dwyer, Frances Irene Dwyer, aged 67.  She lives in Barbermill.”

“Frances, Frances Dwyer.  Wake up.”

Cassy heard a sound like a vacuum cleaner, and the woman started to cough and retch.  Casper’s own stomach turned over.  He felt like vomiting.  A nurse peeked around the curtain and asked if he was OK.  Casper nodded weakly that he was.

A little later the doctor returned to Casper’s side of the curtain.

“Gosh, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get to you.  How’s your finger now?”

When Dr. Curtis pressed on the finger Casper didn’t wince.

“OK.  I can put the sutures in now.” He prepared the needle and swabbed Cassy’s finger.  “It’s fine if you don’t want to watch.”

“Mrs. Dwyer is coming around, Doctor Curtis.” 

“I better have a look,” and he immediately put the needle and swab back into the bowl and removed his gloves as he whisked around to her side of the curtain.

“Frances, you are in Children Hospital’s emergency room.  You passed out and your neighbor called the ambulance.  Tell me what you took.”  Doctor Curtis’ voice was now very commanding.  He still spoke loudly and slowly, but it was clear that he was very serious and demanded an answer. 

“My name is Frankie.  Don’t call me Frances.  It’s Frankie.  I ate a bottle of aspirins, and I had some whisky.  “My stomach hurts.  Leave me alone.  I want to sleep.”

“No, Frankie, you must stay awake.  If you fall asleep, you will get sicker and I want you to get better.”

“I don’t want to get better.  I want to die!”

Casper could hear the woman was now crying and sobbing.  She kept repeating that she wanted to die.

“Why did you stop me?  I want to die, right now.”

“No.  You are not going to die.  You are going to live.  I won’t let you die.” Doctor Curtis’s voice seemed insistent, as if there were no alternative.

“I can’t live anymore.  Everybody is dead or in jail, everybody hates me.  I have nothing to live for.”

One of the nurses ran by Casper crying, holding her stomach like she was hurrying to the bathroom.  Partly in sympathy with the old lady, and partly with that nurse, and partly because his own pain was returning, Casper suddenly began to cry himself.

Another nurse looked in on him.  She had tears in her eyes, too.   She came to him and took his wounded hand and held it gently and said, “That poor woman.  She really wants to die.” Casper and the nurse both burst into full-force crying, looking at each other, holding each other’s hand, and releasing this sudden shared emotion.

“Life is full of hope, Frankie.  You have no hope if you are dead.  I have to make you live.”  Cassy liked the warm tone in Dr. Curtis’ voice, now.

“What hope? My son is in jail.  He has no hope.  I lost the other son, murdered.  My husband is a no good drunken bum who lives with some god damn tramp.  There’s no money.  I have to report to his parole officer every Monday and tell lies.  If I don’t, they’ll throw his sorry ass in jail, too.  That no good drunken bastard.  I lost my house on the bail for my son.  He’s a drunken bastard, too.  They all are.  Hope.  What hope?”

The doctor was quiet.  There was silence.  Cassy could hear the woman moaning, more softly.  He could see another nurse return with a blanket and soothing words.  “Here Frankie, put this around your shoulders.  I brought you some hot coffee.” The quiet continued as Frances sipped the coffee and pulled the blanket over her shoulders.

Doctor Curtis came back into Casper’s cubicle.  The nurse, still holding his hand dried her tears with a hankie and returned to Frances’ side.  Casper wiped his eyes with his sleeve and sniffed, and tried to regain his manly composure.

Showing a grown up understanding of the situation, Casper said, “That’s quite some drama, over there.”  Doctor Curtis nodded toward the curtain.  Casper nodded back.

“I’ve never heard anything like that, like anybody really wanting to die on purpose, and with such good reasons.  I could hear her, and it sounds like she really wants to die.”

“Yes, life can get so complicated that sometimes it seems like that’s the only solution.  But, it isn’t really a solution.  There is always hope for something better.”

“I never thought there could be good reasons to die.”

“Darlene can’t find a baby sitter, so she’ll come in tomorrow afternoon,” a nurse reported to Frankie.

“I don’t want her to come here.  Not now.  Not never.” shouted Frances Dwyer.  She’s the one.”

Frances broke into loud crying again, cursing the hospital that wouldn’t let her die.

“Frankie, we won’t let anybody in to see you if you don’t want them to.  Don’t worry about that.  We’ll put you into a hospital room, by yourself, and let you get some rest.  Maybe you will feel better after you sleep.  How about a little something to eat?”

“You got any tomato soup? Any oyster crackers? I like tomato soup and oyster crackers.”

“We can get that for you.  Tomorrow you can meet with some people who can help you get everything back under control.”

Alone in his cubicle, Casper Sandler could hear the gurney being moved, and Frances Dwyer saying “make sure they get oyster crackers, OK?”

The doctor came back, put on a fresh pair of gloves, swabbed the area and stitched Casper’s cut with three quick passes.  He tied a knot, and clipped the thread.

“There.  You’re done.”

“Leave it uncovered and try not to use if for a few days.  Keep it clean with soap and warm water.  How do you feel?”

“Gosh, doctor, I came here with a measly cut on my finger.  I never expected to hear a life and death struggle.  My finger seems pretty unimportant by comparison.”

“Do your parents know where you are? You know it’s 3:30 in the morning? Do you want me to call them or have somebody take you home?”

“They’re at home sleeping, but I can ride my bike back.  I’ll be fine.  At least I want to live. 

I’ve got my third Corvette to finish.”