W.A.R. Part One - Black Summer
Chapter Six - Billy Gets His Head Examined
by Jeff Wilson
"Well if it isn't Paula Roberts!" the registry nurse exclaimed when she saw my mom.
"Diane!" mom replied. "How is everybody?"
Mom and Diane talked for a few minutes about boring hospital stuff while I stood there holding a bag of cold water with a little bit of ice left in it on my eye. When they finally got around to talking about why we were there, Diane asked me to take the bag off my face so she could see what happened.
"Ouch!" she gasped. My face had swelled up like a balloon. "Did somebody punch you?"
"No," I grumbled. "I tripped."
Mom explained what was going on and what she thought was wrong with me. Diane agreed and scheduled me for an x-ray. She got me a fresh bag of ice and I sat in the waiting room watching people look at me funny while mom took care of insurance business and all the crap that comes with being a patient's parent.
"This is stupid," I complained when she returned. "Everybody's looking at me with this stupid bag on my head."
"No one cares what you look like Billy. They all have problems of their own. That's why they're here."
After what seemed like days, Diane called for us. We walked to another waiting room, this one far less crowded than the big one. A nurse led me and mom to a room and asked me to change clothes. I sat there for a minute with mom.
"Why do I have to get naked for a stupid head x-ray?" I asked.
"You can keep your underwear on, Billy," mom explained.
"You're not going to stay here while I change are you?" I asked.
"I'll leave if you want me to," she replied. "You don't have anything..."
"...that you haven't seen before," I finished. "I know! Whatever. I guess it's okay if you stay. I don't care."
I gingerly started to pull my shirt off and I was glad mom was there because she helped me get it off without hurting my eye. I stripped down to my underwear and put the hospital gown on. Then we waited some more. Mom folded my clothes.
"These waits always seem longer on this side of them," mom sighed. "Sometimes I feel like I'm here with your father more than I'm here to work."
"Can we not talk about him please?" I asked.
"Billy, you can stay mad at your father about this but it won't make you feel any better," mom said. "You know he didn't want anything like this to happen. He loves you. He actually gave up a big job to see your game today."
"I said I don't want to talk about it!" I snapped. "If all you're going to do is make me feel like a jerk for ditching that stupid game then I'd rather be alone."
We were saved from any further arguing when the doctor arrived.
"Hello, Paula!" said the doctor as he entered the room.
"Aarav," mom replied. "Nice to see you again."
"And this is your son, William?" he asked with a slight Indian accent.
"Billy," I said tersely. Why do people insist on calling you something that you don't want to be called?
"Handsome young man... He looks just like you, Paula," he told my mom. "Now let's have a look at that eye."
He asked me to look in different directions and asked me to tell him when it hurt. It hurt all the time, but when I looked down it hurt so bad I thought I'd pass out. The doctor made a few notes on a clipboard and I was off to get x-rayed.
The x-ray machine would have been fun if I wasn't in pain. They laid me down and the machine took all kinds of pictures at various angles. They laid a lead vest over me while they blasted my head with radiation. After that, it was back to the room to wait again. I was stunned when I asked mom for the time and it was only eleven o'clock. We'd only been there for about an hour and a half but it seemed like eons.
When the doctor returned, he showed mom my x-rays. As she'd suspected, I'd cracked the bone under my right eye, called the orbital socket. I was lucky that I hadn't been an inch or two shorter or I'd have really messed up my eye itself. As it was, I'd cracked the bone under my eye and I probably had a concussion too. The doctor said that because the break was clean and there were no fragments that it would heal naturally in a few months. He prescribed some medicine for the pain and told me to avoid sports and physical activities for two months and then I'd have to get another x-ray and tests to make sure the concussion cleared up.
"You are going to have a nasty black eye tomorrow. The swelling will go down in a few days. Keep an ice pack on it. That will help. The bruising will clear up in a week or two."
"Wait..." I said. "You mean I can't play baseball anymore?"
"No, I'm afraid not," the doctor said. "You see, Billy, in this situation there is not a whole lot we can do to protect the bone. We cannot put your head in a cast. The way you broke it, the bone will heal naturally in time. But if you took a hit with a ball or a bat, you could cause serious damage to your eye. If you were to injure yourself further, you could require surgery or even go blind."
"Oh..." I sulked. My summer had officially ended and it was barely June.
The doctor turned to my mom. "Paula, could you leave me alone with Billy for just a minute."
"Of course, Aarav," mom replied. "Billy, he's going to ask you a few questions. Just be honest, okay?"
"Sure..." I said hesitantly. I was feeling kind of leery about the situation. As much as I'd not wanted my mom to be with me, I didn't want her to leave me alone. What did this guy want to know that he couldn't ask in front of my mom?
"So Billy, please tell me again what happened," Doctor Aarav asked.
"I tripped and cracked my head off the coffee table," I replied for what seemed like the hundredth time.
"And was someone in the room with you?"
"Just my dad," I replied.
"And what were you doing before you tripped?"
"We were having an argument," I replied.
"What kind of argument?"
"My dad didn't do this me, if that's what you're getting at," I explained.
"No one is saying he did," the doctor replied. "I just need to know more about your accident for my report."
"Look, I'm not stupid," I said. "My parents don't hit me. Okay? They may be jerks sometimes, but they'd never hit me. We had an argument. I told my dad off. I lost my temper and when I realized I'd crossed the line and I got scared and ran away from him. He didn't even touch me. The power was out and it was dark. I tripped over something and fell down. If the stupid coffee table hadn't been there I would have been just fine. Is that enough for your stupid report?" I sniped.
"I think so," the doctor said calmly. "Do not be offended, Billy. I have to ask. It is the law. I have worked with your mother for years. I know that your parents are good people but the law requires me to make sure you are safe."
"Is my dad in trouble?" I asked. "He didn't do anything wrong."
"It sounds to me like he got into an argument with his teenage son and things got a little heated. If they arrested people for that, every parent of a teenager in the world would be locked up. This sounds to me like an unfortunate accident, but not something for the police."
It was still raining when we left the hospital. When we got to the car, I laid across the back seat. The pain medicine was already beginning to work. Instead of a sharp stabbing pain I now felt a dull thumping pain. Mom called dad with her cell phone as I pretended to be asleep. The last thing I wanted her to do was hand the phone over to me. After she told him that I was going to be okay they started into the fighting again. Money this and work that! It was their usual conversation since grandma got sick. I hated myself even more for what I'd caused. They wouldn't be fighting if I'd just been more responsible and done what I was supposed to do, again.
I wiped my eyes and cursed at myself for being a baby about the situation. Everything that had happened today was my fault. Mom angrily turned off the phone and sighed heavily. I knew she was frustrated and angry with me and with dad.
"So are you ready to talk about what's going on with you yet?" she asked.
I still pretended to be asleep and didn't answer
Mom sighed, "I don't know who's more stubborn; you or your father."
For a while, the only sound in the car was the splatter of rain on the windshield and the roof. I hoped she'd just let me be.
"Why won't you talk to me, Billy?" mom sighed. "Why does everything have to be so hard?"
I turned toward the back of the seat. I didn't want to talk, and I didn't know what to say either. I knew when things had gone haywire, and it was all my fault. Mom sighed again and we continued on our way. Somewhere along the way, my pretend sleep became real sleep, and I don't remember making it home.
Hi! Short little chapter this time! Most of them will be bigger than this one. As always, if you like this story and others like it you should support the good folks at nifty who do a great job of hosting them. Email is always appreciated! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org See you next time!