12 December 2003
I hope you enjoyed the previous two parts of the story. In this final installment, Bobby comes to grips with what has happened to him in past days. I'll say no more than that and let you explore and discover along with Bobby.
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He was confused to see a high tech room that had replaced Georg’s warm, comfortable guest room. He looked at the odd piece of equipment next to his bed, the source of the beeping, that was connected to his arm by a tube.
“Well, good morning,” came the chirpy voice on his opposite side. “Glad to see you’ve finally decided to rejoin the living. We were almost afraid you’d never wake up.”
Dazed from just awakening and confused by his new surroundings, Bobby dropped his head back into the stiff, foam pillow. Staring into space for a moment, he finally turned his head to face the smiling, white clad young lady who was taking his pulse. “Where am I?” he asked weakly.
“St. Jude’s Hospital,” she replied. “Actually we’re more of a clinic, but hospital sounds nicer. Now open wide and hold this under your tongue,” she said, sticking a thermometer in Bobby’s mouth. Bobby did as he was told but couldn’t help asking a question.
“Hw dud I git her,” he mumbled.
“Sssh,” she said, removing the thermometer after a minute or
so. “99.1…good. You’ll
be up in no time. Now, what was your
“How did I get here?” Bobby asked slowly.
“Ambulance brought you in…car crash I think. The doctor’ll tell you more when he comes in; he’s just up the hall. I’ll let him know you’re awake,” she said quickly as she breezed out the door on to her next errand of mercy.
Bobby’s head was spinning. This was almost too much for him to take in. Where was Georg? What was he doing here? His mind was in fourth gear getting ready to shift into fifth when a fiftyish man in a white lab coat sauntered into his room carrying a clipboard.
“I’m Dr. Morgan, your attending. How do you feel?”
“Good. Excellent sign. Now open wide…” he said as he stuck a wooden tongue depressor down Bobby’s throat, then shined a light in his eyes, then made him follow his finger back and forth. Bobby thought that if he didn’t get some answers soon, he was going to show the good Doctor a different use for that finger.
“Doc, could somebody please tell me what’s going on here?” he asked as Dr. Morgan tapped at his back, listening to his body’s sounds.
“Well…,” he paused, taking in a deep breath and sitting himself in the chair next to the bed, making notations on Bobby’s chart. “The EMT’s brought you in about three nights ago. You must’ve lost control of your car and ended up in a ditch. You were pretty badly cut up and bleeding. You had a concussion and numerous contusions, so you’ll be quite tender for a while. We sewed you back up and you’ve been asleep since then. Frankly, I was a little concerned whether you’d wake up at all.”
“I’ve been asleep for three days?” Bobby asked, incredulous.
Dr. Morgan nodded. “It’s the 26th. Merry Christmas, by the way.”
“Thanks, same to you,” Bobby responded weakly, staring back out into space, still trying to understand. Was it all just an hallucination? What had actually happened while he was asleep?
“We found your wallet,” Dr. Morgan continued. “…and notified your family, or tried to, anyway.” Bobby began to wince, fearful of where this was going. “But a somewhat inebriated woman said that she didn’t know who you were. Unfortunately, you’re eighteen, so there’s not much anyone can do to force the issue with them.”
“No surprises there,” Bobby muttered.
“We tried finding your grandfather but we…”
“Grandfather?” Bobby interrupted, his confused glance turning up sharply to the Doctor. “My grandparents died when I was a kid.”
“Well, we assumed it was your grandfather,” Dr. Morgan continued. “Big guy? Sixty-something? White moustache? Ring any bells?”
Bobby looked down at his sheets, wide-eyed. “That’s Mr. Todt…..Georg,” he said.
“Oh good! If you know where we can reach him, we’d like to talk with him. You’ll need someone to take you home, or wherever you want to go. Hospital policy. Patients can’t leave the grounds by themselves. It’s ludicrous, I know. It’s an insurance thing.”
“Well, I mean…,” Bobby began, still trying to find the questions. “…He was here? Did he say anything? Has he been back?”
“No, he was only here the one time the morning after they brought you in. If he’s your friend, he must really like you a lot. I was told he handed the head of accounting an envelope stuffed with cash to take care of your bill and gave orders that whatever was leftover should go to you.”
Bobby stared, speechless, into the Doctor’s eyes. No words came to him.
“He also left you that,” Dr. Morgan said, pointing to the opposite side of the bed.
Almost hidden by his raised bed, Bobby turned, straining to see the single rose, not quite open, in a crystal vase sitting next to him. Around the neck of the vase, tied with a small length of red ribbon, was a brown card with the single initial ‘G’, hand written in old world style. Bobby pawed at his eyes with his palm, trying to restrain himself in front of the doctor.
“Doc, all I know for sure is that he lives on a farm right near where they must’ve found my car, but I…..I don’t understand…..,” Bobby began, stammering, unable to comprehend the how and the why of his situation. Dr. Morgan could see that he was becoming frustrated and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Ssssssh,” he began. “Bobby, look…you’ve had a heck of an experience, and I don’t want you getting upset trying to figure it all out at once. But if you can think of how we can get in touch with your friend, it would be a big help.”
Bobby nodded slightly as he stared again at his rose.
“In the meantime, I’ll have some food sent up. I want you to relax, watch some TV and mend up. I’ll check in on you later. Okay?”
“Yes, sir,” Bobby acknowledged.
Dr. Morgan excused himself to check on other patients. An orderly arrived later with Bobby’s tray. Bobby wasn’t sure whether it was supposed to be his lunch or his dinner but there was plenty of it and it was hot even if it was a little bland. He didn’t care. Hospital food was a notch above what he was used to at home and he wolfed it down with dispatch.
He didn’t have much to do after that and surfed around the channels on the TV. Nothing….nothing….nothing. Finally, he stumbled across a James Bond marathon and set the remote aside, wondering why the station would run a Bond marathon at Christmas. It didn’t matter, though. Bobby’s thoughts were elsewhere.
The more he pondered over how he got there, the more confused he became. He remembered the crash, he remembered Georg and the soup and the sandwich and the lecture. And he remembered Fritz snuggling against him as he drifted of between clean, white sheets. Then this. Had Georg put him back in the car? Why would he do that? That couldn’t be right; he would’ve woken up.
Even the stitches in his scalp were beginning to ache trying to figure it out. He laid his head back into the pillow and stared blankly at the TV. Bond and company were in the middle of a pitched underwater battle when he heard the knock on the door. A young man, maybe a year or so older than Bobby, popped his head in.
“Hi,” he said softly. “May I?”
“Sure,” Bobby nodded, motioning for him to come in. He studied the man dressed in an EMT’s uniform, carrying a brown bag. “You one of the guys who brought me in?”
“Yeah…I’m Jim Leiser,” he said, extending his hand. “I heard you were awake, so I thought I’d come visit. They tell me you’re outta here soon.”
“Yeah, I guess it wasn’t as bad as they thought,” Bobby said.
“Not as bad?” Jim said, his eyebrows furrowing, his mouth turning into a crooked smile. “Hey, man; that road where you…crashed…,” he said, eyeing Bobby suspiciously, “…isn’t exactly Main Street. The hypothermia alone could’ve killed you before someone came along.”
“So how’d you find me?
“Some guy called. Don’t know who. The 911 operator said no address came up on the screen…just ‘unavailable’…figured it was a cell phone or something. Anyway, they sent me and my crew out and we found you sprawled out in your car.”
“Then what?” Bobby asked, hitting the mute button on the TV.
“You damn near died is then what. From the looks of it, you left a nice patch of your DNA on the windshield,” Jim continued, pointing to the stitches on Bobby’s scalp. “After we got you on the gurney, I lost your pulse and had to start CPR. You were gone for almost two minutes. I never worked so hard on anyone in my life.”
Bobby was silent for a moment, taking it in, trying to see where these pieces fit into the puzzle, before looking back up. “So what about my car?”
“Totaled. No offense, but the scrap metal’s probably worth more than the car now,” Jim said.
Bobby grimaced. It wasn’t much of a car but it was all he had. He looked back at Jim, unable to take offense at the man who’d saved his life. His eyes ran down the lean lines of the uniform to the bag Jim was carrying.
“You bring lunch?” Bobby said, making a weak attempt at humor.
Jim smiled back, “Oh…no. I hope you don’t mind…” he began, setting the bag next to Bobby’s legs. “…but when I heard about your situation, I thought you could use a little help,” he said opening the bag and fishing inside. “I got your clothes cleaned and picked you up some fresh…stuff, you know? Your underwear was NOT fit for human company, if you take my meaning.”
Bobby nodded knowingly, imagining with some horror what his underwear must have looked like. He smiled broadly when Jim pulled his clean clothes from the bag along with some clean socks and a pack of briefs.
“Hope you don’t think it’s too weird or something,” Jim asked, sheepishly.
“No!” Bobby grinned. “I…really appreciate this!” he continued, his hand resting on Jim’s arm for a moment before taking his hand to shake in thanks.
“Say...uh….I heard about the deal with your folks…that’s pretty nasty, man; I know how that goes,” Jim began, trying to find the words. Bobby cocked his head, wondering how Jim would know. “… and, uh…you know they won’t let you outta here by yourself…,” he continued, sheepishly. Bobby studied him, his smile returning. “Could I, like, maybe give you a lift somewhere or something?”
“Thanks, Jim; that’d be great…I…don’t know what to say,” Bobby said, thinking to himself that this was the best medicine to come through the door today and he was just thankful that someone might actually give a shit about him.
“You don’t have to say anything; just happy to serve,” Jim replied. “Hey, look,” he said, glancing at his watch. “I’ve gotta get ready for my shift but I’ll check on you later, okay? You need anything?”
“Some solid food’d be cool,” Bobby said, laughing.
“See what I can do…Get some rest, man, you’re looking better every minute,” Jim said, turning to leave.
Bobby watched him approvingly as he slipped nimbly around the half open door and then laid back, smiling, and shut his eyes.
“Geez, you look like you’re going to a wedding or something!” Jim called to him as the nurse wheeled Bobby down the discharge ramp, the front caster of the wheelchair squeaking in its own rhythm. The rose he’d been left adorned the lapel of his freshly cleaned denim jacket.
Bobby returned Jim’s wide, white grin. He felt great despite his bruises and stitches. “Yeah,” he beamed. “The doctor says I can get these stitches out next week some time.”
The nurse wheeled him around to the passenger side of Jim’s waiting Cherokee and helped him up. Bobby was still a little shaky but was quickly getting his footing back.
“Here, I gotcha,” Jim said, taking hold of Bobby’s arm, guiding him to the seat. Bobby steadied himself with the help of Jim’s shoulder as he ducked his head, easing into the truck. Jim moved the seat back, letting Bobby stretch out his legs, then closed the door and went to his side.
Bobby felt inside his jacket pocket, making sure for about the millionth time that the envelope was still there….the beaten up envelope with the remaining cash that his ‘grandfather’ had left for his hospital bill. A little less than three hundred dollars. Not much, but, for now, it was a fortune, a small grubstake for a fresh start at something. He turned and smiled at Jim as he cranked the engine.
“So….,” Jim began. “Anyplace in particular you want to go or do you want to risk letting me choose?” he grinned.
Bobby thought for a second. “To be honest, I’d like to go see where you found me.”
“Okay,” he agreed. “A little morbid, but okay.”
They drove for about thirty minutes through light and then, eventually, no traffic. The town didn’t take long to give way to country.
“It’s coming up around the bend up there,” Jim said softly, jutting his chin further down the road.
Bobby sat quietly, chewing on a fingernail as he watched the tunnel approach and engulf him again, the darkness giving way to light as they emerged on the other side. His mouth fell open when his eyes found what was left of his car. It was a broken hulk. A day-glow orange tag on the mangled antenna indicated it as marked for towing.
“Oh, my God,” Bobby slowly intoned.
“See?” Jim whispered, pulling to a stop on the shoulder. Bobby got out, bracing himself against the wind.
“Here, put this on,” Jim said, offering Bobby an insulated EMT jacket matching his own. Bobby accepted it gratefully, tossing his own jacket into the back seat. “I thought you could use it, so I borrowed an extra one from the station…hope it fits.”
Bobby zipped up and shoved his hands in his pockets. He walked around what was left of his Yugo, shaking his head. He felt at his healing wound as he inspected his frozen blood on the cracked windshield. “I walked away from this?” Bobby asked, incredulous.
“No, man,” Jim answered. “You were carried away from this….half dead. You’ve gotta be the luckiest SOB I’ve ever met.”
Bobby snorted. He wouldn’t have thought so if he knew what prompted this mess. Bobby looked around. His eyes found the break in the hedgerow through which Georg had half carried - half dragged him that night. He started for it slowly, not sure he wanted to see where it led.
Jim stood at the side of the road, staring at the skid marks. He walked down a short distance then went out to align himself with them, drawing a bead. His fears were confirmed when he saw that the short skid marks did not point directly into the tunnel before the spin itself actually began. He looked up for Bobby and saw him disappear behind the hedges.
“Hey, wait up!” he called. He sprinted to catch Bobby, pulling to a matching pace as Bobby headed up a slight embankment onto an open field. “Where you going?”
“Over there,” Bobby said, pointing across the stubbled, weed-choked field to an old farm house. “I knew I wasn’t crazy.”
“What’re you talking about?” Jim asked, trying to keep up with Bobby and his renewed strength.
“The envelope guy,” Bobby said. “He brought me here,” he said, stabbing his finger at the house.
Jim was beginning to wonder if Bobby might have been released a little too soon. Maybe another day of observation would have been in order. Concussions could be such tricky things.
“Bobby, this place’s been vacant going on six years…the state owns it now,” Jim said. Bobby stopped in his tracks and turned to look at Jim.
Jim nodded. “Yes, way…I mean, look around….does this field look like its been worked lately?”
Bobby didn’t answer. He looked around, inspecting the field as Jim panned his hand around it. He looked at the house and began shaking his head, “No…I know I was here!” he said, becoming agitated. Jim came up close to him and rubbed his hands to get some warmth back in them. “An old guy helped me inside and bandaged me up…gave me something to eat!”
“Did the old guy give you his name?” Jim asked.
“He said his name was Georg Todt.”
“George Todt?” Jim asked, softly. “Bobby, George Todt has been dead for six years….”
Bobby’s eyes grew wide; he shook his head in disbelief.
“That’s why the state owns the place now. No family, no will, either, from what I’ve heard,” Jim continued, lifting his arm to point to the barn. “They said he hung himself in the barn over there. Never did find out why.”
“How do you know this?” Bobby asked, still refusing to believe it.
“The whole town knows it. Small towns have long memories,” he said. “That kind of thing just doesn’t happen every day, so it stuck in people’s minds, I guess. That and I know a guy in the Sheriff’s Department who remembers it.”
“No,” Bobby said, turning to continue on towards the house. “I want to see for myself!’
Jim raised his hands in exasperation and smirked. He followed Bobby but walked at his own pace, seeing no use in chasing him at that point. Bobby was soon on the porch.
“You coming?” he called to Jim, who was still catching up.
“No, you go ahead; I’ll wait out here,” he said. “This place makes my skin crawl.”
Bobby nodded as Jim planted himself against the porch rail, testing it gingerly at first in case it might have rotted out over the years. Bobby pushed at the front door. Rusted hinges yelled at him angrily for having been awakened from their sleep.
Bobby stood in the front hall and looked around in the dim light. It was just as he remembered it except for the six years worth of dust that had settled over everything. He slowly walked around, shaking his head and picking up things that looked familiar, inspecting them as if they would provide an answer.
A first aid kit sat in the corner of the kitchen counter. Bobby picked it up, blew away the dust and unsnapped the clasps. On top lay a bottle of Mercurochrome, a brown tinged cotton ball next to it. He looked to the adjacent counter, shaking his head slightly when he saw the dust-laden bowl and glasses in the draining rack next to the sink. “No,” he thought, “…that could’ve been from anytime.” A chill went up his spine, though, as he set the kit back down on the counter and turned back in the direction of the front room where he and Fritz had fallen asleep.
His sneakers squeaked on the wooden floor as he pushed open the door of ‘his’ bedroom. Except for the dust, it was all as he remembered it, as if it was still waiting for the next guest. The bed was neatly made, a simple dresser in the corner…chair against the wall…nightstand.
But when he had been here last, there had been no red rose like the one sitting delicately in the crystal vase beside ‘his’ bed. Glistening with moisture as if it had just come from the florist’s shop, it sat there untouched by any dust. Despite his warm jacket, Bobby froze when he saw it. It was almost exactly like the one he’d brought from the hospital except that this one had blossomed out a bit more.
Bobby picked the rose from the vase and studied it. He held it gently; turning it over and over in his hands, trying to convince himself it was real. He felt the familiar knot beginning to return to his stomach as he looked out of the side window at the barn and wondered.
He had to know. He had to look with his own eyes. He had no idea what he was expecting to see but he had to see whatever there was out there that waited patiently for him. Unzipping his jacket, Bobby tucked the rose in the inside pocket, grateful for the padding that protected him from its thorns. He headed out back, slowly crossing the distance past a rusting tractor, past an empty, rusting truck. The barn door squealed as loudly as the front door of the house had done but an octave or so lower. It was a large door that he had to put his shoulder into, but he finally pushed it all the way back, bringing with him light to a space that had known none in years.
He expected it to smell dank and musty but there was almost no smell at all. Slowly, Bobby walked down the center of the space, glancing from side to side into the empty stalls until something caught his eye. He started when he saw movement. A swaying of some sort, it was difficult to see there in the shadows. He moved towards it cautiously.
Slowly, his eyes adjusted to the lower light on the side of the interior and Bobby stopped dead in his tracks. He began to shake when he saw the length of rope hanging from one of the rafters, it’s end frayed where something had been cut free of it years before. A broken, toppled chair lay several feet away.
Bobby’s knees began to give out. He lowered himself, cross-legged onto the dirt and hay-strewn floor. His face dropped into his cupped hands, and Bobby wept as the tattered rope swayed above his head, as the realization finally hit him that what Jim had told him was true.
After several minutes, Bobby finally regained some semblance
of his composure. Rising, he looked
somberly at the stall where the man who had saved his life had taken
his final moments forlorn, choked with despair and he wept again for
Bobby turned to leave, his shoulders, his body, slumped in the agony of loss, and stopped. He returned to the stall only long enough to place his blooming flower at his friend’s feet, kneeling to gently place his final offering in thanks to his benefactor. Bobby stood, and as he turned felt a flood of euphoric warmth spread throughout his entire body as he had never felt before, so strong that it felt like it might lift him off his feet. After a moment, it subsided and Bobby took a deep breath, clearing his head.
“Goodbye, Georg,” he whispered, so softly that he heard his voice more in his mind than in his ears. He turned again to leave. This time, he did not look back. He knew he was done here; his lesson was learned.
Bobby walked around to the front of the house. Jim still waited for him there, leaning against a post, his arms crossed. Bobby couldn’t stop himself from admiring the long legs sprouting from the waistband of Jim’s jacket.
“I was about to come looking for you,” he said, straightening up. “Thought you’d gotten lost. Find what you were looking for?”
“No, I think it found me,” he answered solemnly. “Any idea what happened to the dog?”
“What dog?” Jim asked, raising his eyebrows, not understanding at all what Bobby was talking about. Bobby only responded with a never-mind wave of his hand. Jim shrugged. “Okay…well…you ready to go?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Bobby shrugged. “I don’t know where to, though,” he said as Jim stepped down off the porch.
They walked slowly back through the field, hands in their pockets, their eyes looking up occasionally at each other before Jim decided to break the silence.
“Hey….look,” he began hesitantly. “If you want, I’ve got a spare room at my place that’s not doing anything….you know…’til you figure out what you wanna do.”
“Seriously?” Bobby looked up, his brown eyes glistening.
“Yeah, seriously,” Jim whispered. “Besides, I need someone to help celebrate the New Year with,” he said sheepishly, staring at his shuffling feet.
You don’t have anyone to celebrate with?” Bobby asked.
“Nah, not really,” Jim muttered.
“Me, neither….I’d love to,” he whispered back. Jim looked up happily, his green eyes sparkling as if he’d been granted a great favor. He rubbed his hands together hard, blowing hard into them, trying to ward off the sudden cold.
“It’s freezing out here,” Bobby noted, looking around at the graying sky. “Let’s go get some coffee…something to eat or something…MY treat, for a change!” he said, taking something of a major chance and placing his hand on Jim’s lower back. To Bobby’s delighted surprise, he felt a hand gently grasp his own and carefully guide it down into Jim’s back pocket. Bobby felt his warmth begin to return. He stared back into Jim’s eyes, questioning.
“I, uh, thought your hand might be cold,” Jim said, grinning down at the field as they continue to shuffle along.
“Uh, huh,” Bobby said, unleashing his brightest grin in weeks.
There's never any way of knowing when someone is reading the story; so, since I've written and submitted it around the '03 holiday season, I want to wish everyone a Happy Holiday, in whatever form it may take, and express my hopes for a safe, prosperous and excellent New Year for all of you. Be safe, be well and, as trite as it might sound, just Be.