Catching my breath proved to be a monumental mistake. Twenty feet stood between me and freedom. Twenty feet, I tell you, to my car! Why did I run out of breath when faced with this formidable enemy, the one I had heard whispered was, on certain days, capable of bringing even Rambo types to their knees? I was a Marine and had survived intense combat situations, but my sense of smell was so keen it compromised every ounce of strength and endurance I could muster.
“Sir, wait, you forgot your sunglasses! Here they are. Please!”
I wouldn’t wait, but I had to clench my teeth and hiss something appropriate in staccato fashion.
“Take them! They’re yours. I’ve got another pair in the car. Don’t worry. Really!”
So I took that breath as the words escaped and I did not. Escape. Now I’m even more captive, lying in a bed that moves up and down, covered with a white sheet from head to toe. I see a figure through the sheet, someone adjusting the height of the bed by way of some sort of foot pedal. I hear a motor whine beneath me, lying supine on the table that moves.
“Whatcha suppose put this poor slob out of commission?” There is laughter. “Too many martinis on an empty stomach?”
I can see the figure move his hand to my midsection and hear him thump my firm abs. I’m really proud of them, you know. Work out at least three times a week and run five miles a day, every day. Never let up since basic training, and that was 25 years ago.
I realize there are two people in the room with me, and the one being spoken to moves in so close that I can smell greasy French fries through the sheet. It reminds me that I am really hungry but not able to convey that feeling to anyone right now. My muscles will not obey me. I can’t move even my little toe. Greasy-French-fry-breath-person lifts the sheet away from my face and stares. He moves his head a little, and the light behind his head blinds me for a moment.
“Good Lord! Would you look at the expression on this guy? I’ve never seen anything like it before! At least not since ‘
! Nostrils flared, teeth bared, look of fear in those eyes. Are you taking notes? Why isn’t this mike fixed yet so I can dictate? I’m gonna have nightmares over this one!” Nam
I am being poked and prodded with something; that much I can feel. A radio nearby plays a familiar song, something from the 60s. What is it? My mind races to remember. I hear:
“Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa novaaa,
You’ll be dancing with ‘em too
Before the night is over…
French-fry guy is humming along, breathing that food odor in my face, doing something to my midsection now. I feel a warm sensation as if something is being poured over me.
“Whoa, this guy isn’t…. Wait a minute. Ohhh…my…God!”
“He ain’t….” I hear the other dude muttering as he moves in to watch French-fry guy lose his cool and drop whatever tool he has been using on me to the floor. I hear it clink on what sounds like tile, maybe linoleum. No…definitely tile. And I think the tool is metallic from the sound of it.
“What happened? Where’s the sign-in sheet with T-O-D? And who signed him in anyway? That’s what I’d like to know. What fool would not check….”
Now things begin to swim before my eyes. The light overhead becomes two, then four, then six….They move in time with the music.
“The lights are much brighter therrre….
You can forget all your troubles,
Forget all your caaares—
Where all the lights are bright!
Waiting for you tonight!
You’re gonna be alright now….”
Petula Clark! I know now! Wait! What is that….
PAIN!!!!!As the light fades to black, I remember everything. The smell from across the street in downtown