Rider Down

Great, the dryer is on the fritz again. Remind me why I’m living in this poorly insulated dump with the shoddy wiring and the leaky refrigerator that makes the floor tiles loosen and ruins my food every couple of months?

Because the rent is crazy cheap, and you’re a single guy trying to get your financial house in order, AD.

Oh yeah, that. I forgot.

I heave out a put-upon sigh, retrieve my semi-wet uniform shirt and pants from the dryer, and set up the ironing board.

What, you’ve never finished drying your clothes with the iron? I may be a single guy, but I have mad domestic skillz.

Ten minutes later, I have a freshly pressed uniform hanging up, and I’m busily stuffing items into my bike bag. Extra socks and tee shirt, toiletry kit, station and truck keys, my pocket guide, MP3 player, trauma shears and stethoscope all get stuffed in outer pockets. My laptop, reflective vest and my rain gear go in the inner compartment. Who knows, maybe I’ll get the opportunity to find a wireless connection somewhere and put up a blog post. My readers are getting antsy.

Hell, I’m getting antsy. The muse is working overtime, but there isn’t enough time in a day to write. Still, one can hope.

And on the subject of vain hopes, I unplug my CPAP to bring to work with me. I don’t come to work to sleep, but lately sleep has been at a premium, and if I can catch a few restful winks between calls at whatever station I land for a few hours, why not?

I strap my bag to the bike’s rear rack, stash the CPAP in my saddlebags, and make a mental note to call the slum landlord about the dryer. And the fridge. And the oven.

I don my gear next, wavering a moment over which helmet to wear. I choose the open-faced one, my least favorite, mainly because we may be getting rain bands from Hurricane Dolly by the time I ride home tomorrow. It would be nice to have a face shield and not just sunglasses should that occur. Armored mesh riding jacket, gloves, sunglasses are all part of the ensemble. I try to dress for the crash and not for the ride, even if it is hot and uncomfortable.

The bike fires up agreeably, the clutch engaging nicely now that I’ve replaced the fluid and bled the lines – learning through trial and error, by the way. I’m not the mechanical sort, and given my druthers would just take her to the shop, but we’re still getting to know one another, the bike and I. She provides fuel-efficient and fun transportation, and not an insignificant sense of freedom. Perhaps learning a little motorcycle maintenance is my part of the bargain.

I pull out of the driveway, taking care through the loose gravel there, and idle to the end of my street. The cop who lives next door throws me a wave, and I beep the horn in return.

I hit the main highway and point my front tire southwest, cruising contentedly through town until the road opens up just west of the city limits, a rolling, winding two-lane highway flanked on both sides by rice fields and the occasional tract of timber.

It’s a good highway for motorcycling, and an even better one for thinking.

Thirty three miles of this road, and a three mile stretch of Interstate construction zone, and I’ll be pulling up at the station. If I ride conservatively, I can make it in forty minutes. I have plenty of time.

I’m driving into the setting sun, and my polarized shades give everything a bluish tint as I roar happily through winding twists and turns, maneuvering around the occasional armadillo carcass or piece of shredded tire. Just north of a little town named after a midwestern state, but pronounced with a Cajun lilt that confounds outsiders, there is a line of maybe six cars behind a Chevy Cavalier in the northbound lane, sitting still with her left blinker on. She wants to turn on the rural highway that heads west, skirting the big city on the north side.

I automatically back off the throttle a bit and hold my line, covering the clutch and front brake levers automatically. As is my habit, I also flash my lights at her; both the normal high-beams and the high intensity Xenon driving lights the previous owner had installed. To quote the older, experienced biker, “Being seen means staying alive. Loud pipes are only loud to people behind you. Bright lights will save your life.”

Just as I am when I drive an ambulance, I am hyper-vigilant. I’m ready to react. I’m watching her intently the entire time.

And then she does it.

At the last possible moment, she turns left in front of me and rabbits across the road.

No time,
my mind reports calmly as I panic brake, right hand and right foot moving automatically down on both levers.

Funny how my mind works. I’ve never been in one of those situations where everything was a blur. Never been in one of those situations when my mind wasn’t processing everything and keeping up, even in life-or-death situations.

That’s my gift.

When things get chaotic and overwhelm everyone else’s capacity to deal with the problem, I’m still thinking, analyzing, planning. When I react, it’s rarely a purely reflexive response.

This time is no different. And so it was with utter calmness and detachment that my brain reported that I was well and truly fucked. The only thing I don’t clearly recall is why my foot hit the rear brakes. I know that the front brake is seventy percent of my braking power, and that locking up the rear will induce a skid, and that’s exactly what my mind reported…

…after the skid started. So I got off the rear brake about the same time my mind calmly reported that I needed 100% of my braking power, not just seventy. I needed to get back on that rear brake as soon as I found some traction and control again.

Of course by then, I was already on my way down. I had succeeded in missing her, but I was headed straight for the SUV behind her, and that’s when I said my prayer.

“God, let KatyBeth always know that I love her.”

I slid on my back for a time, trying to get my feet in front of me, still reacting and analyzing what to do, and I saw that SUV bumper staring me right in the face.

“Don’t let anyone grieve too long, God. Let my friends know that I loved them, even if I didn’t always say it.”

I saw my bike somersault in a shower of trim parts and dust off to my left as I slid past the SUV, my head missing the bumper by perhaps eighteen inches. My heels caught the rough surface at the road’s shoulder, and I began cartwheeling through the mud and weeds in the ditch, hoping desperately that I’d come to a stop before my body impacted the trees on the other side.

I did.

I lay there on my back in the settling cloud of dust, slowly raised my head and did a damage check. I looked back up the road to where I had gone down, and my mind reported the distances.

No time, my mind confirmed. I’d have hit her no matter what I was driving. If I had been in my truck, I’d have killed the guy in the passenger seat. I can’t believe I missed her. I can’t believe I’m still alive. I’m going to find my phone, and I’m going to call Katybeth, and April, and Rita, and Babs, and I’m…

“Sir, are you okay?” a frightened voice interrupts my reverie. It’s the driver of the SUV, and she has her cell phone in her hand. Behind her, more people are getting out of their
cars. I flip back the visor to my helmet, finish my damage check, and report to her matter-of-factly, “No, I’m not. Please call an ambulance.”

My arms and legs are working. The left leg hurts like hell, but it bends, and there are the normal number of joints. My pants are shredded. My right hand hurts, and is dripping blood. It would seem that I am reasonably intact. I don’t even want to know what my poor bike looks like.

“Hey buddy, lay still,” another man urges, hands fluttering just above my shoulders as if he wants to push me back down onto the ground, but is afraid to touch me.

Good idea.

I reach up and gingerly remove my helmet, inspecting it for scars. There is a bad gouge all down the ride side, but it’s reasonably intact. I perform my own personal mini-NEXUS exam, carefully walking my fingers down my cervical spine and cataloguing all my responses.

No posterior cervical spine tenderness? Check.

No neuro deficits, numbness or tingling? Check. Everything moves.

No significant distracting injuries? I dunno. Is my leg bad enough to be a distraction? Not enough to keep me from assessing myself, so I guess not.

Okay, it’s safe to move.

“Hey man,” I grunt to the guy standing over me, “help me up.”

“I dunno, mister,” he protests. “It’s not safe to move an accident victim. You might be hurt bad.”

“This accident victim is also a paramedic,” I inform him politely, “and I’d rather not lay here in the ants, if you don’t mind.”


“Okay, if you say so,” he shrugs dubiously as he helps me to my feet. “Swear to God, Mister, my wife didn’t see you. She’s real sorry.”

“You’re the people in the car?” I asked, fighting back anger. “You didn’t see me flashing my fucking lights at you as I approached?”

“Swear to God, Mister,” he repeats, “she didn’t see you. We’re real sorry. My wife is hysterical. She won’t get out of the car. She thinks she killed you.”

“She damned near did, man.” I spit, then immediately regret it. What purpose would anger serve at this point?

I gesture for him to help me up the steep ditch bank. When I reach the shoulder of the road, I turn on wobbly legs and look back at the wreckage of my bike. One saddle bag is off, lying next to the road sign I apparently took out as I left the road. The other is hanging by one tie, and my backpack is shredded, leaving a debris trail of personal belongings behind the bike. All the signal lights are gone, the seat is broken off, as is the windshield and my accessory driving lights. The highway crash bar is demolished, but it looks like my engine and frame might be intact. The gas tank is punctured and leaking gas.

“Say man, you wouldn’t have a pocketknife on you by any chance?” I ask the man who helped me up. “I need someone to cut my saddlebags off the bike and gather up my stuff.”

The guy forlornly pats his pockets for a knife he doesn’t have, when another voice breaks in. “I’ll get ’em for you, son,” an older man says gruffly. He looks down at my bike and shakes his head. “Goddamn shame what it did to your bike. You’re lucky to be alive.”

“I guess so, but I really – ” I start to say, but am cut off by the blaring of a car horn. A pickup truck flashes by, the driver ‘s head turned toward us with an angry expression, running his mouth.

“We need to get the cars off the road,” I say to no one in particular, “or we’re gonna wind up causing another accident.” No one responds. “Hey!” I bark to the woman driving the SUV. “Can you tell everyone to move their cars onto the shoulder, or pull onto the side road? Somebody’s gonna wind up getting creamed here besides me.”

She covers the mouthpiece of her phone with one hand and explains in a stage whisper, “I’m on the phone with 911.”

“Give me your phone,” I order, holding out my hand. Bewildered, she hands me the phone as ordered. I take it, cover the mouthpiece and shout to the bystanders, “Everybody, I appreciate you stopping, and if you could stick around to give your statements to the cops, I’d really be thankful. But for now, we need to get all your vehicles pulled onto a side road before someone gets hit.”

Everyone seems to snap out of their fog en masse, nod in agreement and pile back into their cars. Satisfied that the road is being cleared, I put the phone to my ear. “Hello? Hello?” the 911 dispatcher is saying…

“Hi, this is the victim of the accident, ” I say agreeably into the phone. “Who am I speaking with?”

“Confederate President Parish 911,” comes the befuddled reply.

“Howdy,” I grimace, massaging my left leg, which by now is starting to protest violently. “Look, if you haven’t already dispatched The Borg –

“We have.”

“Okay, get back on the line with The Borg’s dispatch center,” I direct, “and have them cancel AirMed. They automatically dispatch them to this type of call in rural areas, and I don’t need a helicopter. Tell them to have their ground unit respond non-emergency, and have them call the southwest Louisiana area supervisor and let them know that Ambulance Driver is the victim, and will not be in to work tonight. Have the supervisor meet us at Big City Memorial ER.”

I wait patiently while the dispatcher repeats all that back to me, assure him that I am indeed not going to expire immediately, and give him the location of the accident. It would seem that the lady driving the SUV is from out of state. “Intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 3909,” I recite, looking at the road sign laying on the ground a few feet away. “Tell your Sheriff’s Office and the State Trooper that the road is not blocked, and there is one victim with injuries.”

I fold up the lady’s phone and hand it back to her, thanking her for her help. “Maybe you should sit down,” she says, concerned. Her lips quiver and her eyes tear up, and she says, “I thought for sure you had wound up under my car. I just knew you were dead. I can’t believe she pulled out in front of you like that!”

“Me neither,” I smile ruefully. “And I’d appreciate it if you told the State Trooper everything you saw.”

“Honestly, Mister,” the guy protests again nervously, “she didn’t see you. We’re both real sorry. We have insurance.”

Thank God for that. You’re gonna need it.

“I believe you man,” I try to smile reassuringly, but my heart isn’t in it. “Where’s your wife right now?”

“Still in the car,” he gestures. “She won’t get out. She’s sure she killed you.”

“Well, let’s go over there and assure her that she didn’t,” I grunt. “Give me a hand if you would, please.”

The guy solicitously drapes my left arm across his shoulders and helps me limp across the road. He offers a running apologetic commentary that frankly, I’m too drained and sore to pay much attention. When we approach the car, a woman in her fifties pops out of the driver’s seat and runs to me, sobbing brokenly.

“Oh thank God you’re okay I thought I killed you I didn’t see you coming and I’m so sorry and are you sure you’re okay and I swear I didn’t see you I’d never pull out in front of someone like that I have a very good driving record and good insurance and I…” she babbles hysterically.

“Very good driving record prior to today, you mean,” I correct gently, and smile. I want to be furious with this woman, but I can’t. She wasn’t drunk, wasn’t yakking on a cell phone, and wasn’t being reckless. She just had a bad case of craniorectal inversion at the worst possible time. It happens.

She looks at me, dumbfounded, and her mouth works silently, and again she dissolves into tears. I shrug and wrap my arms around her and let her s
ob into the tatters of my riding jacket, and smile bemusedly over her shoulder at the absurdity of the moment.

Here I am, damned near killed, out of a bike and God knows what else, and probably off work for a week at least, and hurting like hell, and I’m standing here consoling the woman that caused it all. AD, you are indeed a sucker.

As her sobs wane, I hold her out at arm’s length and smile reassuringly. “Hey, that’s why they call ’em ‘accidents’ and not ‘on purposes’, right?” She smiles through her tears and nods uncertainly, and I continue, “Why don’t you dig out your insurance and registration for the cops, okay? I’m just gonna stand here and lean on your car for a moment. I don’t think my leg is gonna hold me up much longer…”

I stand there with my arms folded across the roof of her car, resting my head on them until I hear sirens wailing in the distance.The wailing gets closer, and the guy standing beside me announces, quite unnecessarily, “the ambulance is here.”

Gee, ya think?

I hobble over to the ambulance and greet the driver as he bails out of the rig. He stares at me in surprise for a few moments, then shuts his mouth with an audible snap.

“Howdy, Dino,” I greet him tiredly. “I take it The Borg didn’t tell y’all to back down to non-emergency?”

“Well, they canceled AirMed, but you know how dispatch is sometimes. I decided to keep running hot, just in case,” Dinosaur Medic explains. “Jesus Christ man, what happened to you?”

His last question is echoed by his partner, Cajun Hottie, as she comes around the side of the rig. They’re both flabbergasted in stereo.

“Lady turned left in front of me, and I laid it down,” I reply, giving them the short version. “My leg’s fucked up, Dino. I don’t think it’s broken, and it bears weight, but something’s wrong. I need an ER.”

“AD, you know with this mechanism of injury, we have to – “

“No spinal immobilization, Dino,” I tell him firmly. “My neck ain’t hurt. I’ll sign a refusal just for that, if that’s what it takes. Just give me a ride to the ER, please.”

“Good enough for me,” he grunts, gesturing to the stretcher Cajun Hottie has lowered at the rear of the rig. “Your chariot awaits, AD. Too damned hot out here to be boarding someone unnecessarily anyway.”

That’s what I love about Dinosaur Medic. A rookie would be shitting his pants, worrying about disregarding protocols. Dino just takes it all in stride. He loads the stretcher aboard the rig and CH clambers in beside me, taking my vital signs. Dino closes the rear doors and disappears for a moment. I lay my head back against the stretcher and close my eyes.

“You all right, AD?” CH asks, concerned, stethoscope poised just over my arm. “Did you lose consciousness at any point?”

“Nope, clear as a bell the whole time. I’m just a little drained. The adrenaline is starting to wear off.” Dinosaur Medic reappears, climbing back into the rig and shouting up front, “Let’s roll!”

“What the hell are you doing on duty, Dino?” I ask curiously. He’s my opposite number at our station. Today is his day off.

“You know me, I’m an overtime whore,” he chuckles as he settles into the jump seat behind me. “Saw the opportunity to make a little extra cash, and CH over here needed a preceptor for her paramedic clearance, so…”

“So who’s driving the truck?” I ask as Cajun Hottie deftly cuts my pant legs. I grab her hand before she reaches the crotch. “Easy there, CH. I go commando, you know. It’s a mite cool in here to be exposing The Boys unnecessarily. I understand, what with my raw animal magnetism, you’d want to see my junk and all, but…”

Dino laughs uproariously, and CH barely stifles a spit take. She finishes exposing my leg, clucking professionally at the injuries there. “Commando, my ass, AD. By the way, love those boxers. Every guy needs a pair of Heineken drawers with ‘Brilliant!’ scrawled across the ass.”

“How did you – “

“Your pants are shredded, including the ass,” she explains with a smirk. “Everyone can see your underwear, including the fact that they’re clean. Good planning, AD. Your Momma would be proud.”

Were clean,” Dino corrects with a wink. “And to answer your question, we’ve got a new girl driving. Hopefully, she won’t get us lost on the way to the ER.”

“Hopefully,” I agree, then levitate six inches off the cot as CH irrigates my road rash with saline.

“Sorry AD,” she says, not sounding sorry at all. “You know it’s necessary. Now roll over and lemme see that ass.”

“The ass is just fine, CH,” I demur, and she raises one eyebrow dubiously. “Seriously,” I continue, “my boxers weren’t shredded, right? And if I were scraped up, I’d be feeling it by now.”

“Fair enough,” she grunts. “Anywhere else you’re hurting that we need to check out?”

“Well now that you mention it, my left foot ain’t so hot. If you can get my boots off without cutting them, give it a look, would you?”

CH obligingly cuts only the laces of my boots, gingerly slipping them off. My left great toe is swollen and angry looking.

“Yup,” she says coolly, “looks like your big toe might be broken. It’s already turning black.”

“I don’t doubt it,” I agree. “It hurts like hell. Whatever you do, don’t – aaaaaaauuugggghhh!”

“Does this hurt?” she asks innocently, wiggling my toe.

” – palpate it,” I finish with a whimper. After mentally counting to ten and playing the Carpenter’s Close To You in my head, I manage to quell the urge to kill. Almost.

“I think if you do that again, you will be seeing his ass,” Dino observes dryly, “when you pull the stretcher sheets out of it. You all right, AD?”

“I won’t hit her,” I promise, “but only because she’s a girl.”

“Sorry, AD,” she apologizes. This time, she sounds sincere.

The rig lurches and the back up alarm chirps, announcing our arrival at the ER. Dino’s new partner slowly backs the rig into the ambulance bay.

“I wonder how she’ll like taking the remedial driving class?” Dino wonders. “She knows better than to back up without a spotter.”

The question of a spotter is answered when the rear doors open, and Stuporvisor greets us with a concerned look. “How you doing, AD?” he asks without preamble.

“Been better, Stupe,” I answer. “This ain’t like the last time, though. I ain’t dusting myself off and coming in to work after this one.”

“He’s damned lucky to be alive,” Dino agrees grimly. “I took a look at his bike while CH was getting vitals. It’s totaled. About a hundred feet of skidmarks, leading all the way into the intersection before the pavement gouges start. If I had to guesstimate, he – his body, that is – stopped rolling maybe 250 feet after he first got on the brakes.”

“Almost makes you want to choose a safer mode of transportation,” Stupe hints as they wheel me through the ER doors.

“Fuck you,” I retort agreeably. “As soon as I can get my bike replaced, I’m riding again.”

“Uh…this can’t be good,” the ER charge nurse observes as we approach the nurse’s station. “You’re supposed the be pushing the stretcher, AD, not riding it.”

“High-speed motorcycle wreck,” CH reports professionally. “Helmeted rider, no loss of consciousness, left leg injuries. Vitals stable.”

“Room Eight,” the charge nurse points. Everyone is staring at me curiously, expressions running the gamut from outright concern to bemusement. I’m sitting up and talking, so it can’t be all that bad. It takes a lot to shake an ER nurse. No doubt they’ll all be filing into my room later to hear the story.

CH and Dino lower the stretcher, and I scoot gingerly over to the ER bed. It takes longer than it should, because my leg is beginning to swell dramatically, and the adrenaline rush has long since abandoned me.
I’m shaking like a dog shitting roofing tacks. I lay back on the bed and close my eyes, trying to will my hands to stop trembling.

It doesn’t work.

Presently, the admissions clerk and an ER tech walk into the room. The admissions clerk asks timidly for demographic information, and I wordlessly hand her my driver’s license and insurance card. “His phone number is 867-5309,” the ER tech recites from memory, and I open my eyes to discover Phil, a former co-worker from PGHNSTRACH. He was our ER admissions clerk before he started nursing school and got the itch to provide direct patient care.

“How you doing, AD?” he asks, wrapping a blood pressure cuff around my arm. I shrug in reply. He pops a thermometer in my mouth, pauses a moment and asks, “Say, does that thermometer taste funny to you?”

“That’s my line,” I chuckle. “I have copyrighted the rectal thermometer gag.”

“Just figured you needed a laugh,” he grins. “So how bad is your bike?”

“Totaled, I’m pretty sure,” I sigh. “Phil, I thought KatyBeth was gonna have to grow up without me today. It was bad.”

“Scared you pretty bad, huh?” he commiserated.

“Not until it was over. I didn’t have time to be scared while it was happening, but I’ll confess…when I was tumbling across the pavement and I saw the SUV bumper looming at me…yeah, man. I thought I was going to die.”

“Well, it could be worse, man,” he says darkly. “You could be in Wanda’s situation right now.”

“Wanda?” I ask, confused. “What’s wrong with Wanda?”

“Doc just called the code on her kid. He didn’t make it.”

“Wait a minute,” I stammer, pushing myself up into a sitting position, “you’re telling me that Jaden, Wanda’s little boy, just died? What the fuck happened?”

“The Borg just brought him in, working a full arrest. Doc just called it maybe five minutes ago. He came around a blind curve on an ATV, and ran head-on into his brother in a pickup truck. He’s dead.”

“Dead?” I repeat numbly.

“I’m sorry, AD,” he says, mortified. “I don’t know why I figured you already knew. It was your truck that brought him in. I guess subconsciously I just figured since you were on today, and it was your truck…shit man, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Do me a favor, Phil,” I say hoarsely. “Step outside, and shut the door behind you.”

“Sure thing, AD,” he says softly, backing out the door. “I’m sorry I was – “

“Just shut the fucking door, Phil.”

Jaden LeGrand was six years old, but looked twelve. He was a huge kid for his age, physically capable of driving an ATV, or pushing the damned thing all the way home should it break down. He was a big kid.

He was spoiled, unruly, often petulant, with a healthy dose of Mama’s Boy thrown in. Jaden didn’t have ADHD; he had Chronic Hickory Deficiency, a condition Wanda readily acknowledged. Didn’t much matter to her, though. He was her baby, and her dosing regimen was the one she thought best.

He also loved to color, had a weakness for stickers, and would play Slapjack with you until you got tired of playing. To Jaden, any face card was a Jack. That’s just how you played. He’d do anything, including behave, for a Coke and a bag of Skittles.

And he’d hold your hand on the way to the vending machines, because his Mama had told him that big boys held a grownup’s hand whenever they walked somewhere, and they always looked both ways before crossing intersections – even if the intersection in question happened to be a rural hospital hallway. Thanks to Jaden, we never got run down by any speeding gurneys on our walks to the vending machines.

And as exasperating as he was, every time his mother brought him by the hospital, whether it was just to pick up her paycheck or to help one of the less-experienced admissions clerks resolve a computer issue, Jaden would greet you with a squeal and a healthy thump against your legs as he wrapped his arms around your waist in a fierce bear hug. He’d shyly offer you his hand, pump it enthusiastically, and run off to find his Mama again while you staggered back to the Nurse’s Station and contemplated your bruises.

And now he was dead.

I should have been there. I should have run the call. If I had run the code, he might have…

…what, survived? You know better than that. What would you have done differently?

Doesn’t matter. I could have been there for Wanda. I’m the pediatrics guru. I could have…

…what, performed a miracle? Besides, he was big enough that he’d have been treated like an adult. And would you have worked the code, or consoled Wanda? Can’t do both, AD.

I sit up in the bed and stare hollowly at my shaking hands until my eyes grow hot with tears, filling until they march down my face. Reason and intellect tell me it’s a stress reaction, the natural comedown after the high of a fight or flight reaction, coupled with the emotional hit of unwelcome news, but…

…my emotions refuse to bow to reason, and that is the most distressing of all. Try as I might, my hands will not stop shaking and my shoulders will not stop heaving and the tears will not just dry up and I’m afraid someone will walk through that door and discover me blubbering and think it’s just because I’m an emotional little pussy who can’t handle being in a motorcycle wreck, and damn it, stop all this…

A few minutes later comes a knock on the door and the doctor peeks his head in. By then, I have my mask back on, and I can matter-of-factly, emotionlessly relate the details of the wreck. I can cooperate with the physical exam, even joke with him about the overrated preventative properties of wearing clean underwear. No one suspects that I’m a wreck but me.

“You know, there are only two types of bikers…” Doc observes dryly.

“…those who have been down, and those who will go down,” I finish. “You’re not going to hit me with the whole ‘donorcycle’ and helmet argument next, are you?”

“You’re familiar with the spiel, then,” Doc chuckles.

“I have given the spiel,” I assure him tiredly.

“Well, it doesn’t look like anything is broken,” the Doc reassures me, “even though that’s not going to matter much to you for the next week. You had a 500 pound bike land on your leg at highway speeds. By all rights, it should be broken, and it’ll probably feel that way for at least a week. You’re not going to be walking tomorrow, or even the day after, and you’re going to feel – “

“-sore in places I didn’t even know I had,” I finish. “Sorry Doc, I’ve given that spiel, too.”

“Anyhoo, we’ll shoot some films of your leg and foot just to be sure, update your tetanus and give you something for pain. Is there someone who can drive you home?”

“No one. No family to speak of.”

“No friends or co-workers?”

“I can probably have The Borg supervisor give me a lift home, Doc. If you’ll just have someone give me 60 milligrams of IM Toradol, I’ll be fine.”

He looks at me like I’ve just sprouted a second head. “You’re sure you don’t want something stronger?”

“Nope. I’ve got Demerol and Phenergan in the medicine cabinet that can’t be more than, oh, five years old,” I wink. “I’ll take some of that if I need it. If you don’t mind, I also need a scrip for CPAP set for ten centimeters of water pressure.”

“You’re sleep apneic?” he asks, flipping through the chart.

“Yep,” I confirm, “and judging from the p
ieces falling out of my saddlebags, my unit is toast. I’m gonna need a new one tomorrow. I’ll just have to choke and snore tonight, I suppose.”

“I’ll take care of it, AD. The nurse will be in here in a minute with your shots, and then we’ll get your x-rays.”

True to the Doc’s word, in five minutes the ER charge nurse comes in and give me my tetanus and Toradol injections. If I didn’t know better, I’d feel flattered that the charge nurse is personally taking care of me. In reality, he probably assigned me to one of his rooms because I’m an easy case.

Five minutes after that, they’re wheeling me to radiology. I discover just how sore I am when they manipulate my leg and foot for the x-rays. Barely thirty minutes later, the ER nurse shuffles back into my room, followed by The Borg Stuporvisor.

The charge nurse fits me with an ortho boot, hands me my prescriptions and discharge orders, and informs me that nothing was broken other than my left great toe. Stupe, on hearing that, looks dubiously at my left leg as the nurse struggles to fit the boot around my swollen calf.

“That’s not broken?” he mutters unbelievingly. “AD, you’re not gonna be able to work on that this weekend.”

“I know Stupe,” I sigh. “Just get me out of here and back home, man. I’m about to hit the wall.”

The ride home is quiet, for the most part. Stupe gives me some good, if unsolicited, advice about filing a lawsuit against the other driver, and thoughtfully swings through the drive-through at Wendy’s when he finds out I’ve had nothing to eat since noon. On the way home, he stops by the wreck scene and combs through the weeds by flashlight, managing to find my MP3 player, my station keys, and the remnants of my cell phone.

We pull into my driveway just short of midnight, and he solicitously helps me up the steps and into the house, depositing all my shattered bike gear in the garage. Before he leaves, I beg the use of his cell phone for a few minutes, and make a private phone call.

“Hello?” a sleepy, confused voice answers.

“Hey, it’s me,” I tell The Ex. “Did anyone get in touch with you?”

“Dino Medic called me,” she replies, now wide awake. “He said you were banged up pretty bad, but nothing really serious. I’ve been worried sick, AD. I told him to have you call me when you could. Have they discharged you? Do you need a ride home?”

“I’m home now. Stupe gave me a ride. I’m sorry they worried you. You were the only person I could think of as an emergency contact.”

“Don’t worry about it,” she assures me. “Do you need me to send one of Husband-In-Law’s kids down there for a few days to help you with things? Or we could drive you up here and you could stay with Mom, or – “

“I’ll manage by myself,” I interrupt. “There is one thing you can do for me, though. I…I know she’s already asleep, and you don’t need to wake her up…but if you could, I’d really appreciate it if you could look in on her. Maybe give her a kiss and tell her I love her. Would you do that for me?”

“I’ll do it right now, AD. I promise,” she says softly. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’ll be fine. Goodnight.”

I end the call and step back outside, giving Stupe his phone back. I close the door without bothering to explain why I’m crying again.