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Showered and freshly dressed, Jim and Steve walked silently through the farmhouse yard to Jim's Charger. The morning sun had just broken the horizon of the western slope where the pasture was that Randy had been charged. Memories of their childhood antics rushed through his mind as he opened the driver's door to the black car. He sat behind the wheel of his new car, thinking about his life.
Matt had called home while Jim was in the shower to tell Carol and him that Randy was unconscious, and that the next twenty four hours were crucial. Matt had also told Carol about Randy's spleen being removed. Matt also told Carol he would be coming home soon, he just wanted to make sure Randy's mom was all right.
Carol relayed all the information to Jim, and suggested he wait until Randy was awake before he went to the hospital. She tried to tell Jim that there was nothing he could do for Randy. Carol felt Randy was in good hands with the doctors and nurses, and thought Jim would be in the way. Although she knew Jim would go to the hospital, she knew how sensitive Jim was. Carol had long worried about Jim, because he had never really shown his grief after his parents were killed. In the three years Jim had been in her care, Carol never once heard Jim speak of his parents. She silently watched Jim and Steve from the kitchen window as they got into the Dodge Charger.
Steve settled into his bucket seat and proudly held up the joint he had rolled. "You want to light it?"
"No, we can't smoke that in my car."
Jim turned the key in the ignition, and the huge 426 cubic inch engine began to roar with sounds of raw power. The vibrations of the motor could be felt rumbling beneath him. He reached over and turned the radio on, `...and on the day that you were born the angels got together and decided to create a dream come true...' played through the four speakers mounted throughout the vehicle. Visions of Randy flashed through his mind as he listened to the words of `The Carpenters'.
"Well, you gonna stop somewhere so we can smoke up?" Steve's voice broke Jim's chain of thought, as he pestered him to smoke the joint.
"Yeah, we'll swing by Bob's motel. Tom's probably working with Bob on the building. I want to tell him what happened to Randy."
Jim was beginning to see that Steve didn't seem to care much for Randy. Jim wondered why Steve only seemed to be concerned with smoking pot. He began to wonder what it was that attracted him so much to Steve. Jim glanced over to Steve before he backed the car around to leave. He hoped for a smile, or some other sign of affection, but Steve just stared out the windshield.
"So you want to smoke with Tom? That'll mean less for us, it was your last joint," Steve seemed to protest.
Jim knew he had gotten pretty fucked up the night before, but he thought he had more pot than that left. He tried to remember how much they had smoked, but got confused. Instead, he drifted his thoughts back to when he was younger, back to three years before. He felt the warmth of his mother's hands on his forehead and cheeks, as she would feel him for a temperature when he was sick. Jim pictured his mother's smile, and ached inside, for her to be near him again. He longed for the comfort of his mother's hugs and reassuring voice.
As the car headed up Route 56, the two boys said nothing. Jim saw Tom's red car in the parking lot at Bob's Motel, and parked right next to it. But Jim didn't see Tom at first, finally he decided he'd have to get out of the car and look for him. Jim reached for his door handle, wondering if Steve was going to get out with him. For some reason Jim wanted Steve to be near him, he wanted to feel like he was loved. He looked over to Steve, hoping his new friend would sense his needs of wanting so desperately to be loved in return.
Steve got out of the car and followed Jim into the lobby of the motel. He hoped Tom could take a break, so they could smoke the joint. He silently thought to himself about the rest of the pot he had stolen of Jim's, he planned on smoking that with his ex-girlfriend Jill later. Steve felt pretty proud of the way he could handle other people and take advantage of them. Steve always was at his best when he was conniving or scheming. He viewed himself as smarter than most, and his actions as purely acceptable behavior. `Thoughtless' was what everyone was towards him, he often told himself. He never seemed to feel loved, so he took what he wanted, knowing he wouldn't get the things he craved otherwise. No, he wasn't selfish, he'd tell himself, he was creative.
Tom rounded the far corner of the motel, carrying a few boards over his shoulder, tool belt hanging low on his waist. He quickly saw his two high school buddies and nodded his head towards them. His bell bottom jeans dragged on the black pavement of the parking lot as he strutted towards the two wooden sawhorses placed near the shattered window. He flashed a smile, and hoped Jim and Steve had brought a joint to smoke. He was due a break, he reasoned with himself; he had been working steady for a few hours.
"Hey, Jim, hey, Steve," Tom called out as he put the rough-cut boards onto the sawhorses.
"What's up?" Steve replied.
"I'd like to be, `bout time I took a smoke break, if you get my drift."
"You got a joint?" Steve asked.
"Na, I left my pot with Sherry. Jim, don't you have a bag?"
Jim hadn't been paying attention to the conversation; his thoughts were still on missing his mother and Randy. He was convinced there was something about him that made bad things happen around him. Jim began to feel guilty about being the way he was, feeling punished by God for his love of Steve. He had heard so often in his life that homosexuality was bad. He felt even more shame as he imagined his mother saw him having sex with Steve, from beyond. Jim wondered if his mother hated him because of it, or if she would if she was still here. He remembered one time at dinner years ago his dad making a comment, he forgot the exact words, but knew his father did not approve of homos.
Jim thought back, to when he was twelve and had his first crush, it wasn't on a girl like all his other friends. Jim had a crush on another boy, his name was Danny. Danny was a new boy in the neighborhood when they met. Danny had moved to the Forest Park area of Springfield from the North End. The North End was known to be the poorer section of Springfield, Massachusetts. But at twelve and thirteen those kinds of things didn't matter. Jim pictured his old friend with the blond hair; he remembered the cute dimples on Danny's pudgy cheeks. He wished there was a way to go back, a way to get to those feelings he desired so deeply from within.
"Can you get away? We have to take your car, Jim don't allow pot smoking in his," Steve's voice snapped in Jim's mind.
"Huh?" Jim mumbled as he came out of his daze.
"No problem. Let me tell Bob I'll be right back, meet me in my car, the doors are unlocked," Tom called over his shoulder as he walked towards the motel door.
A few minutes later the three teenagers were cruising up Route 56, not seeming to have a care in the world. Steve lit the joint and passed it off to Tom, while he held the smoke deep in his lungs. Jim sat in the back seat of the GTO; his mind still cluttered with thoughts. Tom took the joint into his hand and drew a huge toke; he looked into his rearview mirror at Jim.
"Everything OK with you back there, Jimbo?"
"Randy's in the hospital. Our bull gored his guts this morning. He's unconscious," Jim said flatly.
Tom looked into the mirror again as Jim spoke softly; he noticed the sadness in Jim's face. He thought about little Randy, he pictured his friend's dark eyes and smiling face, the way he often saw it in the hub near their lockers. He thought back to the day Randy ran into Jim trying to knock Jim's books from his arms. Tom remembered how upset Randy seemed, he knew Randy was a good kid, he was concerned.
"Is he gonna be all right?"
"I don't know, they say it's gonna be twenty four hours before they know anything," Jim said, his voice cracking with emotion.
Tom thought back to when he first met Randy. He remembered back to when the two boys were on the playground at Trinity Catholic, the elementary school the two attended. Randy was always much shorter than Tom, and shorter than most. He thought about the time that Sister Mary Helen had scolded Randy for putting the thumbtack in Joey's seat. The idea had been Tom's; Tom always liked picking on Joey. Randy was always the shy one; Tom always liked having Randy around. He knew Randy looked up to him, and admired him, having Randy around always made Tom feel good.
"We should go see him," Tom said as he passed the joint back to Jim.
"We were on our way there, I thought you'd like to know," Jim told him.
"Hey, Tom, can you get me some beer for later?" Steve changed the subject.
"Sure," Tom said as he let the smoke out of his lungs.
Tom knew he had to go back to work at the motel. He'd work a few more hours and catch up with Steve and Jim at the hospital, he figured. He thought about his shorter friend with the thick wavy black hair lying in the hospital bed. He hoped Randy would be all right, he didn't want to think otherwise. He listened to his car radio as `Bridge Over Troubled Water' played through the two speakers mounted in the front door panels, and the two mounted up under the back window. `...and friends just can't be found, like a bridge over troubled waters...' the words seemed to hang in his mind as he thought about Randy.
Steve sat in the front passenger seat smoking the joint and forgetting to pass it. He could tell Tom and Jim weren't paying attention, it was their loss, he figured. After all he deserved to get high at Jim's expense, Jim had kept him awake the night before. Jim owed him. Steve thought about how he'd be real cool when Jim would drop him off later at Jill's house; after all, he'd have pot and beer.
Jim kept thinking about poor Randy, he continued to feel guilty for what had happened. He asked his mother in his mind to watch out over Randy, he prayed to God as well. He begged God for forgiveness for his sins. He kept seeing Randy's helpless body lying in the grass of the pasture in a pool of blood. He had seen Randy's eyes filled with pain just before they closed. Jim wished he had been a better helper on the farm, but he knew he was always sleeping late. Every bad thing he had done came to the forefront of his mind as he punished himself for what had happened to his best friend.
As Tom pulled his red Pontiac into the spot next to Jim's car he thought about calling Sherry and Monica. He knew Monica had a crush on Randy, he'd offer to bring the two girls to the hospital. A smile crossed his lips as he thought about fixing Randy and Monica up. `It sure would be nice to have another couple to be with Sherry and me, not just Monica,' he thought to himself.
"Look, you guys go on ahead to see Randy. I got some more work to do here, I'll catch up with yous later," Steve told the other two as they got out of his car.
A few minutes later Jim had the Charger racing up Route 56 heading for the hospital. He wanted to talk about how he felt, but didn't think Steve was interested. Jim had noticed how Steve hadn't even mentioned Randy's name. For the first time in a long time Jim felt all his pain surfacing, as he realized he had no one else to confide in. He had always told Randy everything, Randy always understood him. As attracted as he was to Steve, Jim knew that Steve was different, he knew Steve didn't seem to be sensitive. Jim hoped silently to himself that by his loving Steve it would change him, it would make Steve more caring.
Jim thought about how much Carol and Matt had cared for him the three years since he had been dumped in their laps. He never really felt at home though, he never really seemed to connect with Matt, and only barely with Carol. It was as if they went through life together without really experiencing it. He thought about how everything seemed so mundane and repetitive in his life. Every day the same chores done at the same times, day in and day out. Life on the farm had been hard on him; his only solace was being with Randy off on some boyhood adventure.
Jim walked with Steve at his side silently into the white-bricked hospital. Jim had been to Massena General the first summer he came to the farm. Randy and he had spent a lot of time swimming that first year in the Grasse River, Jim had gotten swimmer's ear. The pain had been so bad Carol took him to the emergency room. That was the extent of Jim's knowledge of the hospital. He quickly saw the information desk and walked to it, Steve followed behind. He asked the volunteer behind the desk where Randy was; she looked his name up on the sheets of paper in front of her, and directed them to the Intensive Care Unit.
As the two boys headed into the corridor they had been pointed to, the young volunteer called out to them that Randy couldn't have any visitors. "You'll have to wait in the nurses' station."
"Why don't you go on ahead, I'll wait here in the lobby." Steve said to Jim as he turned and headed back towards the main lobby.
Jim continued down the hall towards the sign on the right that read `ICU,' in bold red letters. Just as he was about go through the two wooden doors with the large glass windows he saw his other friend `Little Joey.' Joey was in a wheel chair, dressed in a white robe, with light blue pajamas on. Suddenly Jim remembered he and Randy were going to go visit Joey. He thought Joey was home, his appendicitis was last week, he remembered. Jim felt bad that so much time had passed and he hadn't seen or asked about his friend. He pushed through the swinging doors; Joey looked up at him as he walked into the ICU.
"Wow, Jim. Where's Randy?" Joey asked, knowing Jim and Randy were best friends, and rarely traveled without the other.
Jim looked at `Little Joey', and tears began to fill his eyes. All his feelings seemed to come out at once, his missing his parents, his feeling guilty about what had happened to Randy, and his forgetting about Joey. It was too much, the tears streamed down his cheeks. He felt so horrible, he loved Steve, but Steve didn't seem to love him the same way. It was just too much to bear. Joey wheeled his chair to Jim, his arms outstretched.
Jim leaned over and let Joey hug him; he hugged him back while he cried on Joey's shoulder. He felt bad that he had to be the one to tell Joey about Randy. He wondered why God was punishing him so much.
"Randy is in here. Oh Joey, I'm so sorry I haven't come sooner to see you. Our bull attacked Randy this morning while we were bringing the cows in, he's unconscious. Oh Joey, I'm so sorry." Jim continued to cry while embracing his friend.
"It's OK, Jim. Everything is going to be all right," Joey soothed his buddy.
Jim held onto Joey a few moments before letting go. He finally stood up and looked into Joey's eyes, he wanted to tell Joey everything. Jim wanted to tell someone about all the loneliness that he felt, about all his sorrows. But he knew Joey was in no condition to hear his troubles. He would keep them locked up, and to himself.
"You wait here, Jim, let me find out what room he's in."
Jim stood silently in the hall, his body still heaving every now and then from his sobs. He watched Joey as he wheeled the chair towards the area where several nurses were seated, or milling about. Jim saw the middle-aged gentleman with the white coat on; he was looking at a chart of some kind. Jim imagined the man to be a doctor, he wondered if it was Randy's doctor. He watched Joey talking to one of the nurses; she was the older looking one, who sat in the middle of the other two.
After a few minutes Joey wheeled his chair back to Jim. "If you promise to be quiet the Nurse said we can sit in his room. Come on, I'll lead you there."
A few doors past the nurse's station on the left side of the hallway Joey stopped the chair. There was no window on this door, and it was shut. Jim looked at the nameplate on the side of the door and saw Randy's name. Jim froze, his heart began to pound in his chest, he drew in a deep breath and reached for the doorknob to open it.
Joey watched as Jim opened the door. He looked in beyond Jim and saw the end of the hospital bed. He couldn't see Randy, just the foot of the bed made of stainless steel bars. Joey could see the white sheets on the mattress, and the metal chart hanging off the end of the bed. But he couldn't see Randy's body yet; Jim and the door were in the way. He heard the pumping of the oxygen machine, he had been in the ICU long enough to know that sound. Joey knew that if Randy was on oxygen it was serious.
Jim slowly made his way into the sterile room; he quickly saw Randy's frail body lying on the bed, the back of the bed raised some. Jim first saw his friend, then he saw the tube connected to Randy's mouth, and the wires and tubes running to Randy's arms. He walked over to the bed and reached for Randy's left hand, he held it in his own.
Joey wheeled his chair to the end of the bed. He watched as Jim held Randy's hand. He listened to the beeping of the heart monitor. Something was wrong, he knew the beeps were irregular, he knew that it wasn't normal, but said nothing. He also knew if it was something serious the alarm would ring at the nurse's station and they would immediately attend to the patient. He had seen it many times since he had been admitted with his ruptured appendix.
"Oh, Randy, I'm so sorry. Please be all right. Please, Randy," Jim whispered down to his best friend, clasping his hand in his own.
Jim began to cry again, seeing Randy lifeless in that bed with all the tubes and wires was too much. He held Randy's left hand firmly in both of his. He listened to the throbbing of the oxygen machine, and the beeps from the other machine with the green screen on it. He wished it had been the day before, he wished he had known before it happened so he could have prevented it. Jim felt so helpless.
"Come on, Randy, you got to wake up. Please, Randy," Jim begged between his sobs.
For a second the room became silent, the pumping of the oxygen machine stopped, then the heart monitor began beeping, but instead of separate beeps one long tone emitted loudly. Joey knew what was going to happen next, he had seen and heard this several times the past week.
"Code Blue, I-C-U, code blue," the announcement came over the loudspeaker.
In less than a minute Randy's room became a flurry of activity. One of the nurses quickly told Joey and Jim they had to leave. As the two boys went out the door, two male orderlies wheeled some kind of machine into the room. The door closed behind the two teenage boys, and once again they were alone in the hallway.
"CLEAR!" the male voice called from Randy's room.
I really hate leaving you all hanging, but you know it's what I do to keep you coming back. Thanks for reading, if you have any comments send them along, my address is Justin69SK@aol.com and if you'd like to view my site and all my work, go to http://Justinscorner.homestead.com