Don't misunderstand: The Same Old Story is not about churning out a specific number of words to a schedule. They still have to be words I'm pleased with, or at least that I know I can work with to reshape and fix in the revision stage of the writing. If I wasn't happy with the quality of what I was writing, I wouldn't be producing the quantity I am. When something's not right, I can't go forward with the story until I've fixed whatever pothole it is I've run into. Anyway, I don't mean to get into the writing process; that's a whole other blog. Instead, some of the latest from the story, picking up after protagonist Max Wiser has taken a beating from two toughs asking tougher questions:
THE SAME OLD STORY
© Paul Kupperberg
Chapter 17/ DOCTOR NIGHT
I came to a couple of times, once with some old guy yelling in my face, again just as a couple of ambulance attendants were lifting me onto a stretcher, and then at various times during the mad dash to the hospital, catching incoherent snippets of conversation and weirdly drawn out sounds of wailing sirens and traffic. Fortunately, Saint Vincent’s was only a few blocks from where I had taken my beating, so I was on a table in the emergency room within ten minutes of being picked up.
The rest was a blur. I remember a nurse finding my wallet and saying she was going to call my next of kin. I was just conscious enough to stop her from calling my mother now, in the middle of the night, and get in touch with Uncle Mick instead. It seemed as though whole scenes shifted, like in a movie, with every blink of my eyes. All of a sudden I was gazing up at a giant glass eyeball, which I later realized was the X-ray machine taking pictures of my battered skull. Blink. I was in a white room. Not an operating room. The doctor and nurses aren’t wearing masks but they were gathered around me, doing things.
I was numb.
Blink. This time it was am operating room. A big plastic mask wielded by a man with a face that was a pair of black horn rims glasses surrounded by a green ball was looming over my face
so I did, fortilly-seven, ninety-two zillion
Blink. Uncle Mick’s big, goofy face was in front of me, his eyes black-ringed with worry and fatigue “How ya feelin’, kiddo?” and I croaked “Ma?” and he nodded. “She’s fine, lad. She’s downstairs getting’ a cuppa but she’s been here the whole time. Docs say”
Someone was wiping a cool, damp cloth across my forehead. It felt good. I didn’t even bother opening my eyes. “You awake, Mr. Wiser?” a woman asked me and I made a positive sound but I think I was lying because
I woke up with the sun in my eyes, a throbbing headache, and a belly that sent me into spasms of pain just from taking a deep breath.
Hospital bed. IV stand hooked to my arm, oxygen mask strapped to my face. A monitor that beeped along with my heart. A woman in white was by the window, her hands still on the drawstrings from opening the blinds that let in the sunlight that woke me up.
I blinked. I was awake. My swim in and out of consciousness was over. In spite of the pain, I was amazingly clear headed. I remembered every moment of the assault, from the first blow to the college students pretending to ignore the puke splattered alky in their path.
Where’s that bitch hid the money?
I remembered Tall asking the question. The beating beforehand was all just to soften me up for the question.
“Mr. Wiser?” the woman said. She was a nurse, of course, in white from head to toe and looking concerned and compassionate.
I nodded and tried to say yes but my throat was too dry to work.
“Don’t try to talk yet,” she said and bustled over to the bed, where she unhooked me from my oxygen mask and produced little chips of ice in a cup to moisten my mouth and throat from the nightstand.
“Suck on these for a few seconds,” she ordered. “You’ve been on oxygen for a while. It dries you out.”
As soon as I could work up enough spit to swallow I said, in a voice still rusty, “How am I?”
“You’re just fine. Dr. Young will be by in a little bit to explain everything. In the meantime, you just work on those ice chips and relax. There’s plenty more where that came from.”
Where’s that bitch hid the money?
Another “distraction”? I wasn’t even sure what money they were talking about: her split of the quarter of a million or Bob Konigsberg’s missing cash.
Who the hell was she hiding the money from and why did whoever they were think he knew enough about it to be worth beating up?
Dr. Young turned out to be the horn rim-wearing green beach ball, only without the green surgical cap and mask and the benefit of being semi-conscious, he was actually more of a wild-haired George S. Kaufman type with a long, horsy face and a toothy smile.
“Good morning. Max,” he said as he came into the room, trailing young men in white coats like a mama duck her duckling and speaking to the clipboard he was reading from. “You’re looking well this morning.”
“On paper, you mean?”
He glanced up from my medical chart and smiled. “And in person, as well.” He handed the clipboard to the nearest resident and said, “How are you feeling?”
“Depends. What day is it?”
He chuckled. “Saturday, 8:30 a.m. You’ve had a rather rough couple of days, but your prognosis is excellent.”
Dr. Young did a few tests, had me follow his finger with my eyes, squeeze his hands and various other things to prove my brain hadn’t been too badly scrambled.
I tried to adjust myself, gingerly, on the bed, grimacing from the effort. “What was, oh, jeez, what was the damage?”
“Oh, on the surface lots of cuts and bruises. A concussion, about a fifteen stitches all told to close up some gashes in your scalp and two broken ribs. On the more serious side, whoever did this did damage inside. I had to go in and sew up your spleen, which took care of that problem. As surgeries go, this one was relatively straight forward. After you’ve healed up, you shouldn’t have any problems from any of your wounds.”