Author’s note –
Sorry it’s so late today. It’s probably riddled with typos, too. Thanks to everybody who’s said â€˜hi’ since last chapter.
For those of you who haven’t read any of the Journey Of St. Laurent before: You are now reading an online serial pulp novel. If you didn’t start at the beginning, you may want to do so. Chapter 1:Â Down By The Bay. This serial is the sequel to my first novel, Oasis.
Chapter 20 â€“ Back in the ERâ€¦ Sort Of
The hospital was a two story brick job, and judging by the color choice and the wear, it was last painted sometime in the seventies. The windows were small, and gave the place an old institutional look.
A lot of people hate hospitals. People who are normally not germophobes walk through the doors and instantly start to feel as if everyone else in the building is carrying the black plague. Others step into a hospital room and immediately feel a sadness drape over them, after all this hospital room is just like the one where Grandma Vera died, or something like that.
None of that describes me. When I approach a hospital, it feels distinctly like going home. A hospital is the one place where I feel the most useful, the most resourceful, and the most comfortable. It’s hard for me not to be in full nurse mode when I’m around a hospital.
As I crossed the parking lot, that’s why it was easy to forget for a moment why I had come to the hospital in first place.
These people need help.
I strode directly toward the nearest door, the main entrance. It was on the shady side of the hospital, but even in the shade, the heat was more than uncomfortable.
I scanned over the disheveled group. A couple of folks were banging on the door itself. A mother held her son. A teenage boy was scratching at something on his arm. A couple of people just looked sick.
That’s good. Maybe there won’t be anything serious.
Several of them looked up and stared at me.
I took advantage of the extra attention. “First things first. Does anybody see a water spigot coming from the building?”
“Over there, behind that flower bed.”
“Okay, I want anybody who’s got a cup or bottle in their car to go get it and bring it here. Those who aren’t sick or injured, I want you to make sure that everybody gets all the water they can drink. And somebody go tell that other group to do the same.”
A man approached me. His hand was wrapped in a dish towel, and parts of the towel were soaked in blood. “Do you work here?”
“No, but I do work in an emergency room. And before that I was an EMT. Tell me what’s going on with the hospital while I look at your hand.”
I set down the cooler and realized that I hadn’t even noticed taking it from the Jeep. Better to keep it with me, anyway.
London pulled Michael away and started asking people if they had cups or bottles in their cars.
I made a mental note to thank her later for just doing what needed to be done.
The man lifted up his hand. “Not much to tell. The place was flooded with crash victims after the first, you know, uh, sighting thing. Somebody decided they should lock the doors to keep it from becoming complete chaos. They haven’t opened since.”
I unwrapped the towel from his hand. A deep gash ran across the palm of his hand. “How did this happen?”
The man turned his head. “I was doing dishes and wasn’t paying attention.”
“Apparently you’ve got good cutlery. Can you move your fingers?”
He wiggled them and winced.
“Good. And everybody is still in there?”
“What? Oh, no. A bunch of people have come out those little side doors. They said they’re keeping the door locked until they can get a shipment of supplies.”
I had never heard of such a thing. Most hospitals I’d seen or read about would have stayed open no matter what supplies they had. But then again, the UFOs were frightening and fresh on everybody’s mind. “Did you already clean this out pretty well?”
He still couldn’t look at his wound.
“Well, I was doing dishes.”
“Fair enough. Look, I don’t have any medical tape or a suture kit or Superglue or anything, so there’s not much I can do for you. Keep it wrapped, keep it clean, and keep pressure on it, especially if it starts bleeding again. If I were you, I’d go home where you can keep it isolated from germs and dusty wind and whatnot. When you know that the hospital is open again, come back and have them sew you up. You’re going to have a wicked scar no matter what you do now.”
The man nodded and stepped back. “Well, that’s the hope. There’s supposed to be a truck with supplies on the convoy tonight.”
A mother carrying her little boy approached. He was probably five or six, and he had obviously been crying. He was holding his right arm.
She looked up at me. She had been crying, too. “Can you help my son?”
“Let’s have you sit here on the grass so that I can take a look. What happened?”
“Well, it was right when the attacks happened. I wasn’t paying attention to him. He climbed up on one of the stools we have in the kitchen and jumped off. He’s always jumping off of things. Maybe he fell, I don’t know, I was glued to the news, but the next thing I knew he was on the floor screaming and holding his arm.”
I gently touched his right arm and moved it to get a better look.
The poor boy’s eyes clouded up.
There was a sizable bump on the lower side of his arm.
I looked around for London. She was headed back to the Jeep.
She spun around. “I’m not going anywhere, I’m just going to get our water bottles-”
“Can you look around in there and see if there’s a first aid kit?”
I turned back to the boy.
“It’s going to be all right, bud. Your mom’s taking good care of you.”
A loose line was forming behind the mother and son.
“As a matter of fact, if any of you have a first aid kit in your car, go get it. And somebody go get a newspaper from that machine by the door.”
A couple of people wandered out toward the parking lot.
“All right, pal. What’s your name?”
“Kayden.” Mother and son responded at the same time.
“Alright, Kayden. Can you move your hand at all?”
“Does it hurt?”
“Okay. I’m going to be mean for just one more minute, okay?”
I felt around the lump in his arm to see if I could tell what was going on in there. No luck.
“I can’t tell if his arm is broken or how bad of a break it might be. Fortunately, the treatment is the same for any of those. We just need to immobilize the arm and then wait for the swelling to go down. You can come back then and get it x-rayed.”
“How do I get his arm immobilized?”
“We’ll use a newspaper as a splint. As soon as somebody brings it.”
Within a few minutes, I had the newspaper and three first aid kits from various cars. I used the newspaper and an elastic bandage to splint the boy’s arm, and then helped a few other people as best I could.
While I was playing nurse, London spent her time coercing everyone to drink enough water.
Within an hour or so, I had done everything I could for the groups waiting outside both doors. Many of them went home. None of them were in any serious danger, and despite the ever present worry about aliens and UFOs, things started to calm down.
And then an old, boxy, brown Cadillac pulled in the emergency room drive.
A wispy, middle aged woman with entirely too much hair, jewelery, and makeup jumped out of the driver seat. “Somebody get a wheelchair for my Jenna!”
Most of the small crowd just stared at her in dumb silence.
I approached the woman. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, they’ve still got us all locked out.”
She put a hand on my chest and pushed me out of her way. “What? They can’t do that! This is an emergency.”
“What’s going on?”
She ignored my question and began to pound on the heavy glass doors.
I turned back to the car. “Are you Jenna?”
Through the window she nodded.
“What’s going on?” By the time I finished the question, I could see the answer. Her belly was big and just the right shape.
Jenna gave me a sheepish grin. “I’m in labor. I think.”
I crouched down and sat down the cooler so I could look her in the eye. “Can you talk during your contractions?”
She shook her head.
“Has your water broken?”
She nodded and shrugged. Overall, she looked pretty freaked out.
“This is your first?”
The virus can wait a few hours. I hope.
“Okay. I’ve just got to convince your-”
“Just what do you think you’re doing with my daughter?”
I turned just in time to see a many-ringed hand coming toward my face.
I threw myself back, grazing off the car door and plopping down on my butt. I did, however, dodge the slap.
“Get away from my girl. You hear?”
“It’s okay, ma’am. I’m a nurse. I’ve delivered babies before. I can help, which you need.”
It wasn’t strictly true, but I had been at several births in ambulances and a couple in the ER. I had read up on it after each of those events. I had just never been the principle caregiver. Now wasn’t the time to go into or quibble over details, though.
A look of total confusion swept over the woman’s face. Her response was understandable. She had to be concerned, afraid, mad, and probably a dozen other emotions all at once. After an uncomfortable thirty seconds, her expression softened and it looked like she had decided to trust me.
She extended a hand and gave an exasperated sigh. “So what do we do?”
I shook her hand and then stood. “Do you live close?”
“A couple of miles.”
“Here on the street is no good. We’d better go back to your place, then. Just give me a minute and we’ll go.”
She nodded, then turned to the gawkers behind her. “What are y’all looking at?”
I picked up the cooler and looked around for London and Michael. Michael was running around with a couple of other kids on the grassy area. I couldn’t see London anywhere.
I asked the teenage boy with the rash on his arm. “Have you seen a cute red headed girl, about my age, around here?”
He lifted a finger and pointed through me.
London grabbed my arm from the back. “What’s going on?”
“Change of plans. We’ve got to get that woman back to her house.”
“Weren’t we trying to make the convoy?”
“Yeah, but now that I think about it, I’m not really sure why.”
“Why does she need-”
“Look, if you don’t want to come, here, take the keys to the Jeep. Just head on home to Georgia without me.”
“That’s not what I-”
“This is who I am. It’s the right thing to do. Nobody else is going to help her. There is no way she is going to have a healthy birth experience out here in the heat and dust. And if the supply truck doesn’t get here, well…”
I turned to the side. I couldn’t believe how shallow she was being.
Her fingernails bit into my arm and she yanked me back. Fire seemed to burn in her green eyes and she hissed through her teeth. “Listen to me, you idiot. I didn’t want to abandon her. I just wanted to know what was going on. If she’s in labor, of course I’ll come along and try to help.”
Oops. Perhaps I spoke a little hastily there. “Oh, um, okay.”
“Don’t be a jerk.” She spun on her heels. “I’ll follow you in the Jeep.”
Keep reading! Chapter 21 is here.