Billy’s dirty blond hair draped like mop tassels over the shorn sides if his head. I always thought his head was funny shaped. Now his new haircut exaggerated it’s long thin shape. “You know why I’m here, don’t you?” he asked. I didn’t answer. He was looking away from me at the Electrocardiography device standing unplugged against the wall. He poked at the buttons on it and waved is hands in the air as if he was poking at a holographic touchscreen in a sci-fi movie. I wished I could see what he saw.
His fingers stopped on a spot of air and expanded some invisible frame he’d conjured up. “They’re gonna cut my pictures out,” he said. He poked emphatically at his imaginary spot at the word “pictures” and turned to look at me. His mop tassels flip flopped the way a hula skirt would. Billy’s eyes are kind of a baby snot green. It’s hard to take his looks very seriously, but the way they glared at me now sent a shiver through me. “You know that, don’t you?”
I honestly had no idea why Billy was here or why he’d asked me to come with him. Hospitals creep me out and I didn’t want to come, but he seemed like he really wanted me. “I don’t understand,” I confessed. “Why are you here?” His eyes opened wide. He made a high-pitched buzzing sound and ran his fingers over his head. Then he gripped the imaginary cut and pried it open, accented by the loud pop of his tongue pulling away from the roof of his mouth. He pretended a cutting motion and held two fingers out, “Would you like a slice, Clarise?”
Things went on in Billy’s head. He had the wildest imagination of any boy I ever met. It wasn’t that he told lies or anything but you could never trust anything that came out of his mouth. More than half of it was like he was narrating a film premiere only he had tickets to. I rolled my eyes and sat down on the hospital bed. “No thanks, I’m on a diet.” The bed was hard. Funny how these places charge like a five star hotel for a lumpy cot with a sheet and one skimpy blanket. Whoever coined the word hospitality surely had another definition in mind.
“I hate hospitals,” I said. Billy didn’t seem to care. He was rummaging through the drawers in one of the cabinets now. He pulled out a surgical glove and blew it up, but then he couldn’t tie it. He threw it at my face and it landed harmlessly on the bed next to me. “Whoa, hoa, hoa…” He pulled out a stethoscope. “Now we’re talking.” He stuck them in his ears and walked toward me clearing his throat a couple of times to sound important.
“You’re gonna get in trouble,” I warned. Billy snorted. “What are they gonna do? Kick me out?” He laughed. The stethoscope was placed against my chest. “Take a deep breath please, Annie.” I obliged, but not before taking the cup from my chest and putting it directly in front of my mouth. He jerked up and snatched it away from me. “The diagnosis is clear,” he said, pretending to scribble on a piece of paper that wasn’t on the stand next to the bed. “There is a hurricane where you heart is supposed to be.” He turned a look of concern my way. “I’ll give it to you straight, Ms. Schilde,” he said shaking his head solemnly. “The survival rate on these things is very low.”
A girl in a dark blue hospital uni came in. She had a clipboard and a couple of boxes of things she set down on the tray by the bed. “How are we today Wil…” she frowned at the clipboard and then at me before turning to Billy. “…William?” Billy, looked her up and down and obviously approved. “Hey, let me find that out for you,” he said reaching the stethoscope for her chest. She calmly took the scope and replaced it in the drawer. “Oh, I have to do this the hard way?” Billy asked, leaning forward to try to get his cheek against her.
The nurse sighed and caught his forehead, pushing him back. “I’m Stephanie,” she said. I’ll be your anesthesiologist today.” She opened up one of the boxes and pulled out a little bottle of medicine. She held it up to the light, and winked at me as she began rolling it around in her fingers. “This should help him keep his hands to himself.” She set it down on the tray after a few turns. The other contained a syringe kit with an I.V. hookup. She pulled the parts out and laid them out neatly in the order she would need them.
She picked up the boxes, tossed the empty, and headed out of the room with Billy’s eyes glued to her exit. She stopped at the door. “The doctor will be in in a few minutes and then I’ll be back to take care of you.” Billy turned and looked at me. “She likes me,” he said. “Did you see the way she touched my face?” I shook my head in disgust. “Why do you need an anesthesiologist, Billy?” I asked.
Billy ignored me. He picked up the bottle of medicine and read the label. “Mine!” he exclaimed and stuck it in his front pocket. “Billy!” I tried to hide the laughter in my voice, but whether he heard it or not, I don’t think it really mattered. He looked at me a little funny and went back over to the drawers. “Thanks, for coming,” he said. “They wouldn’t let Max in here.” Max is Billy’s pit bull. I picked up the latex glove from the bed and threw it back at him.
Whatever contents he found in the drawers this time, he left them alone. He rummaged around for a couple of minutes while I watched in silence. Eventually his doctor came in. The doctor picked up the clipboard and looked it over, flipped to a second page for a moment and then set it back down again. He turned to me and smiled. “Will you be taking William’s place?” he asked me.
I squinted. “Not if it means that needle’s for me.” The doctor smiled. “It’s really nice of you to be here for your boyfriend,” he said. “Not everyone would do that.” I squinted even harder. “He’s not my boyfriend,” I snipped. “He’s just some goofball no one else will hang with.” Billy shut the drawer of the moment loudly. “Don’t listen to her Doc,” he said. “She’s hot for me.” I glared at him. “Yeah, me and Max.”
“How do you do, William,” the doctor said, extending his hand to shake Billy’s. “I’m Dr. Ruteledge. I’ll be your operating physician today.” Billy frowned as they shook hands. “You already told me that,” he said. “Yes,” agreed his doctor, “but we are required to inform you again, so you understand there haven’t been any changes.”
They were really talking about surgery. I scooted forward on the bed and jumped down. “Operating? You’re really here for surgery? What for?” Billy smirked at me. “I told you, their gonna cut my brain out.” Dr. Ruteledge, put his hand on my shoulder for comfort. “As you can clearly see, the damage to his brain is irreparable, a complete removal will be necessary.”
Billy faked a shock and caught himself on the bedside tray. “No, Doc! Not my whole brain! I can’t go through the rest of my life being a real blond!” He backed away further and further, then walked over to the window and stared out of it. “Good bye cruel world, he began a mournful soliloquy that rambled on for a minute. “Tell Max good bye for me, Annie,” he finished. “Promise me you’ll tell him good bye.” He turned around. He had taken the needle from the tray and filled it with the medicine from his pocket. “Doctor!” I shrieked. The Dr. Ruteledge turned around, but it was too late. The needle was in and the shot administered before he realized what was going on.
“Don’t get your panties in a bunch,” Billy scolded me. “I read the dosage.” Dr. Ruteledge had reached him and pulled the medicine and syringe from his hands. “I just gave myself a little extra,” he grinned with a shrug. “You stupid son of a bitch,” I yelled at him, hitting him repeatedly in the arm. He laughed off the buffeting while the doctor inspected the contents of the bottle.
Stephanie came back in during the commotion. Billy’s laughter suddenly subsided. “Whoa, excuse me,” he pushed me out of his way and staggered toward the bed. Stephanie raced forward and caught hold of him. He looked giddily at her. “I told you she liked me, Annie,” he slurred. “G’night!” He pitched forward hitting his head on the wall at the head of the bed and he was gone.
Dr. Ruteledge handed Stephanie the bottle. “Our patient anesthetized himself.” “Oh crap!” she said. “I told him you’d be right in.” She held the bottle up to the light and shook her head after some inspection. “Maybe twenty five or thirty milligrams?” she shrugged. I turned to the doctor. “Thirty milligrams! What does that mean?”
He turned a prominent frown my way. “It means Billy here is going to have one hell of a hangover!” I turned to look at Billy sprawled on the bed and dead to the world. He suddenly looked tiny, like a little baby sleeping the way they do sometimes in awkward hunched up positions that couldn’t possibly be comfortable.
It dawned on me that up until then, they had both called him William. I hadn’t mentioned his name. “How did you know he went by Billy?” I asked. Dr. Ruteledge reached over and lifted the hair up from Billy’s head and rolled his head around for me to see. In the short hair underneath his bleach streaked mop, the name “Billy” was shaved in handwriting. Of course it was.
The surgery still had me confused. “He never even told me anything when he brought me,” I said. “Why did you have to put him under? Does he really need brain surgery?” Dr. Ruteledge and Stephanie both laughed. “No, Annie.” Dr. Ruteledge soothed. “It was just supposed to be a painkiller drip and a local anesthetic. We’re removing a cyst from in between his toes.”
© 2010 Anne Schilde