Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chapter 4 - Dementia and Demons

March 1947

Solomon knew he’d need a running start if he was going to get up enough speed to fly off the cliff and soar above Lake Blarney. He backed up, sprinted along the pathway, and then jumped over the precipice. Fleecy white clouds billowed in the purple sky. He spread his arms and sailed in circles over the lake until he got close enough to splash down in the blue-green waters. As he floated on the water, a beautiful Indian maiden in a canoe asked him, “Do you have the Sign?”

Solomon answered, “Not yet, but I will.”

The alarm clock jolted him out of his dream. He shut it off and lay there for a moment trying to shake off his disorientation. Good grief! That was a weird dream, he thought.

He shaved and went downstairs to have breakfast with Ma.

“Morning, son,” she said spooning oatmeal into two bowls.

“How many patients are scheduled this morning?” he asked pouring a glass of milk.

“There’s three. They’re all simple prenatals...nothing complicated,” she said.

He nodded. “I had the weirdest dream last night. Have you ever heard of the Sign?”

“No, I can’t say that I have, son. What is it?”

“I don’t know,” he laughed, “some Indian maiden asked me if I had it.”

“Aaah law, son,” Ma giggled, “maybe I shouldn’t put so much spice in my spaghetti.”

Dr. Wall fidgeted with the salt shaker on the kitchen table. Solomon had been working for him four years now. It was noon, and he’d be walking in the back door any minute. Patients were filling up the waiting room. Almost all of Dr. Wall’s patients came in the afternoon now…to see Solomon. If Dr. Wall told his patients that Solomon was busy, they told him they’d wait. Dr. Wall had no idea how he could remedy this dilemma. If he got rid of Solomon, patients would just go to Patsy’s to see him anyway.

Solomon’s twenty-year-old enthusiasm still had an invigorating effect on the seventy-six-year-old doctor. He just hadn’t been prepared for how quickly his new employee learned. Nor had he expected his patients to accept Solomon so readily. Granted, the young man was handsome, sensitive, intelligent, skilled, and compassionate...all those things ad nauseum.

The fact that the old doctor had more energy than he’d felt in thirty years had not connected in his mind with the possibility that Solomon was the source of that energy. He just knew that he felt better than he’d felt in years, and he wondered why he’d ever asked the whippersnapper to come and work for him.

Then being the astute observer that he was, Dr. Wall observed that he felt jealous of his young apprentice’s youth. Yes, that was what he felt… jealous. But not just jealous of Solomon’s youth, the doctor was jealous of Solomon’s skill with patients too. While Dr. Wall was still gathering a history on a patient, Solomon would have the patient’s problem diagnosed…just by looking at him or her. Solomon could look with his hands. Patients reported that his hands felt warm right before they got better.

When Solomon came in the back door, the doctor was standing at the kitchen sink with his back to him. “How are things going today, Dr. Wall?” Solomon asked.

Dr. Wall ignored him.

Solomon went to the dispensary, put on his white coat, and stuffed his stethoscope into his pocket. He went back to the kitchen where Dr. Wall puttered over the sink. Solomon asked, “What would you like me to do today?”

Dr. Wall turned around and glared at Solomon. “There are seven patients in the waiting room, and they’re ALL waiting for you!” The doctor’s face was turning red. “They’ve forgotten that I’m the doctor, and you’re a twenty-year-old kid with no degree to your name! They’ve forgotten that I run this clinic!”

“I haven’t forgotten, Dr. Wall,” Solomon said calmly. “I haven’t forgotten that you are my mentor. I haven’t forgotten that I owe it all to you.” Solomon knew that was a slight stretch of the truth. If anyone, he owed it all to Ma. But making Dr. Wall feel better was the issue at hand.

“Just look at you!” Dr. Wall sputtered. “It’s only noon, and you’ve got a five o’clock shadow already. Why don’t you clean yourself up before you come to work?”

"I'm sorry,” Solomon responded, “I’ll go shave.”

Solomon headed off to the bathroom beside the dispensary. He kept a razor in there, and everyday he shaved when he came in to work, whether he needed it or not. Dr. Wall’s daily repetition of this scene indicated that his mentor was sinking deeper into senile dementia. A few weeks ago, Dr. Wall had come into the kitchen in his bare feet. They were blue with the tiny purple veins of peripheral vascular disease. Solomon knew that if his cardiovascular system was compromised in his feet, it was also compromised in his brain.

Solomon shaved, and then he went back to the kitchen. “Is that better, Dr. Wall?”

Dr. Wall grunted and poured a cup of coffee for himself. Solomon shut the icebox door that Dr. Wall had left open. He didn’t point these things out to the doctor. He just went behind him and put things in order. Solomon knew that his old friend couldn’t help forgetting things. The only time it became a problem for Solomon was with patient care. He had to be more aggressive when Dr. Wall forgot something or tried to do a procedure the wrong way. The patients were well aware of this. That’s why they waited for Solomon to get to the clinic. Solomon tried to be tactful with Dr. Wall concerning patient care. He didn’t want to hurt the aging doctor’s feelings. He knew that even though his memory was failing, his feelings were more sensitive than ever.

“Dr. Wall, is Alice Moriah coming over on Sunday?” Solomon wanted to talk to the doctor’s daughter about her father’s health.

“Well, I suppose she is,” Dr. Wall snapped, “doesn’t she come over here everyday?”

Solomon knew it had been almost two decades since Alice Moriah visited her father everyday. That was when her mother was dying of cancer. Now that Solomon worked at the clinic, she came on the weekends when the doctor was alone. I’ll call her in the morning, Solomon thought.

Screams from the waiting room jolted Solomon and Dr. Wall. “Solomon! Solomon!” They heard shouts and what sounded like chairs scattering. A female voice punctuated the melee, “Oh God, help!”

Solomon ran into the waiting room to find three men man-handling a teenaged boy, who was in the throes of the clonic-tonic phase of a grand mal seizure. “Put him on the floor,” Solomon shouted. The men laid the boy down leaving a trail of urine as the boy’s bladder released its contents. Solomon knelt down and rolled him over to one side. He held his head while it jerked uncontrollably. His eyes rolled back and bloody sputum frothed around his mouth where he’d chewed his tongue and cheeks.

“I need a bite stick and phenobarbital,” Solomon said to the doctor. Dr. Wall staggered backwards, and then he left the room. Solomon wasn’t sure that the old doctor would return with what he needed. He said, “Melanie, go with him…a bite stick and phenobarbital.”

A man offered Solomon a spoon. “Here’s a spoon to keep Tater from swallerin’ his tongue. I’m his daddy.”

Solomon said, “He can’t swallow his tongue. It’s attached to his mouth. When Tater has a seizure, roll him on his side. That clears his airway. Just keep him from hurting himself. Put something soft in his mouth to keep him from biting, but don’t put anything in there that would break his teeth.”

Tater’s daddy looked surprised.

Dr. Wall and Melanie appeared at Solomon’s side with the bite stick, a hypodermic syringe loaded with phenobarbital, and a towel. He handed Solomon the bite stick and the towel.

Solomon wiped the boy’s face and tossed the towel into the pool of urine. He didn’t want anyone to slip in it. Then he forced the bite stick between Tater’s back teeth so he couldn’t bite.

Dr. Wall gave Tater the shot. He was still pretty good with skills he’d done all his life. He still knew what common conditions needed which medications and treatments. But if you asked him what he had for lunch, he couldn’t tell you.

Solomon sat down on the floor beside the boy carefully avoiding the puddle of pee. The seizures had slowed. Solomon put the boy’s head on his knee and stroked his forehead. “You’re okay, Tater.”

Tater moaned and looked around the room. He looked bewildered.

Solomon asked Tater’s father, “Do you give Tater the capsules Dr. Wall gave him?”

“Yeah, but we missed a few. My brother says hit’s the devil makes people have fits like this.”

“It’s the devil?” Solomon raised his eyebrows. He didn’t want to get into that right now.

“Mortimer Demon’s come back to the holler,” Tater’s daddy said, “we’s under attack.”

Over supper Solomon said to Ma, “Today at the clinic somebody said the Mortimer Demon is back. Do you know what they’re talking about?”

“Mortimer Demon?” Ma chuckled, “Land a mercy, that was fifty years ago. I was just a girl. Everybody in Rooster Cove was scared to death of it. People wouldn’t go out after dark. They said it carried off chickens and dogs and cats. And some folks said it killed a baby.”

Solomon asked, “Did they ever find out what it was?”

“Not that I know of,” Ma said. “Some folks said they seen it. It was supposed to be big and hairy and stank like rotten meat. They said it could jump from the ground up on to the roof of a house.”

“Are any of the folks that saw it still around the cove?” Solomon asked.

“None in their right mind,” Ma chuckled. “Alfred Hicks over in Mortimer Holler says his grandpa died when he seen it.”

“If he died when he saw it,” Solomon said, “then somebody had to be there and live to tell the story.”

Ma grinned, “Yep, you’d think that. You’ll have to go ask Alfred what he knows about it.”

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication

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