William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Fifty-Three

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Having no earthly idea what to do next, Julia did what she often did at difficult moments.  She called her mother, then fell asleep.

“Never in my life.”  Gloria Beltran moved the stethoscope plate across the man’s chest, finding nothing in the way of a heartbeat.  “I don’t know what to say.”

“I can’t help you there,” Rocky told her.  The three zombie bikers had been moved to the basement, and secured with rope and duct tape.  One had been extensively bandaged by Alice after she removed the bullets Tim Murphy shot into him.

“They don’t even blink?” Gloria asked.

“They do,” Tim Murphy said.  He was reclined in an easy chair near the bar, a pistol just within reach because you never knew in a situation like this.  “They blink.  One peed earlier, and they grumble a bit.”

“We had a little incident before,” Rocky added.  “Before we tied them all up, Tim decided to play with them.  He gave one a cigarette and another one a beer.”

Gloria frowned.  “That’s very mean.  They’re men, not toys.”

“Dead men,” Tim added.

She stared hard at him.  “So just because they’re dead you think you can play with them?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Good.  Remember that.  So what happened?”

“What happened,” Rocky said, “was that the one with the cigarette started smoking it.”

“That was Wigbert,” Tim said.

“You named them?”

“No, they have driver’s licenses.  That’s Wigbert.  Randall is the one in the middle, and the larger one is Angel.  Angel is an organ donor.”

“So he started smoking?”

“Yes,” Rocky said.  “And Angel drank his beer.  But the really interesting thing was that Randall because very uncomfortable, started rocking back and forth.”

“He was jealous,” Gloria said.

“It seemed that way.”

“You said you fed them.”

“They ate.  They had Fruit Rollups and Sprite.”

“What about eye contact?” Gloria asked.

Rocky shook his head.

Gloria picked up Randall’s hand and checked against the odds for a pulse.  “You know that this is not medically possible, right?”

“So I’m told,” Rocky said. “ Look, I don’t know anything about this.  This is your daughter’s thing.”

“You should call an ambulance,” she said.


“No?  I’m a nurse, and I’ve never seen anyone remain alive without a heart beating or blood flowing, but…but that might be some kind of stasis.  I don’t know.  Who knows what an ER team could do.”

“No ambulance, no police,” Rocky told her.

“You’re a stubborn man,” she said, staring at the three men who wriggled gently on the mat.

Rocky turned as the elevator whined to a halt and the door opened.

Carson rolled out, revealing some recent modifications he had made to his wheelchair.  A shotgun had been tucked behind the cushion.  Both armrests now had commando knives strapped to them.  He had a 9mm Glock in each of the side pockets and a battery operated carving knife across his lap.  “Let’s rock,” he said.

“Who are you supposed to be?” Tim Murphy asked, “The Cripplinator?”

Carson’s face fell, all the fight and bluff was gone in an instant.

Rocky frowned.

“Listen, you,” Gloria Beltran said, walking over to Tim.  “Hijo, you need to learn a little respect or maybe just some common decency.  This young man is one of my daughter’s favorite people in the world.  He’s bright and caring man.  I don’t even know who you are but I definitely don’t like you.”

“Apologize,” Rocky told him, and he did.

“And you,” Gloria continued, walking around the pile of men on the floor, lifting Carson’s chin, “What on earth do you think you’re doing with all these guns?”

Carson said nothing.

“He doesn’t have any bullets,” Rocky said, in an attempt to cut the tension.

“I’m going after them,” Carson said.  “I’m going to Ruth Black’s compound.  I have a little payback to deliver to Millicent Sorrows and that’s the only place I can think where she might go.  I’ve been there before, so I’m taking my van and going.  You want to come, asshole?” He arched his eyebrows at Tim.

Tim grinned, looked to Rocky for an answer.

“First, we’re calling for an ambulance,” Gloria said.  She took out her cellphone and tried for a connection as the other men said nothing, secure in the knowledge that she wouldn’t get a signal in a concrete reinforced basement bunker.  “And you look like a little stupid cholo,” she told Carson.  “You’re a scientist, not a gangster.”

“Yeah,” Carson began, clearly angry, clearly exhausted, “well I became a gangster yesterday when I was poisoned and abducted.  Now it’s my turn to mess with them.”  He backed the wheelchair back in the elevator.  “Party time.”  He punched the button a few times and when nothing happened he looked sheepishly at Rocky.

“The door has to be fully closed,” Rocky told him.

Gloria shook her head.  “So we just let him go?” she asked when Carson left.

“No,” Rocky said.  “But he might have a point.  Maybe our best move now is to meet them on their own turf.  You remember my friend Billy?”

Gloria nodded.  “The nice gay man, yes.”

“He is not gay.”

“He dresses very nice.”

“He does.  I’ve asked him to check out the Ruth Black property.  He went there this morning.  He’s a resourceful man, but he was supposed to call in a couple of hours ago and he hasn’t.”

Gloria shook her head.  “I’m going to go wake my daughter,” she said.

In the dream, Julia was floating on a bamboo raft not far from the edge of the lake.  Bonfires were burning on the beach, and people were dancing, disco dancing.  A large mirrored ball hung from a sycamore, reflecting the joys and fears of the dancers.

Ruth Black sat on a huge throne, smiling as naked slaves fanned her and fed her potato chips.  “It’s not going to be easy,” she said, staring out into the lake, speaking to Julia.  “I was ready to share everything with you, to tell you about the secrets that women carry within them without understanding.”

Julia waved from her raft and tried to paddle closer but the raft was moving further out into the lake.

“So many sad women, sad because they don’t understand what they are,” Ruth Black continued, pausing to accept another potato chip from her slave.

“What are they?” Julia called out in her dream.  “What are we?”

Ruth Black smiled.  “We are eternity.  We are here at the first breath of every human child.  We are here with the lunch pail in the heat of summer for the man who aches from cutting cane, and is ready to die from anguish, because this is not how a man should live.  We are here to renew his life, our touch, nothing more.  Our touch alone affirms his divinity, his connection to the immortal.”

“What am I going to do?” Julia asked, as the raft moved further from the shore.

“You’re going to have to come back to me.”

“I can’t,” Julia said, paddling with her hands to no avail.

“It won’t be easy.”

“How?” Julia cried out as she felt her mother’s hand on her shoulder.

“It’s OK,” Gloria said, rubbing her shoulder.  “It’s OK, mi hija.”

Julia looked up.  “Hi, mama.”

“I’m going to bring these three dead men to the hospital,” she told her.


“Yes.”  Gloria stroked her hair.  “You are a doctor.  You’re very first imperative is to help people.  And you need to help these men.”

Julia struggled.

“I wasn’t asking you a question,” Gloria told her.  “You asked me to come here, and I’m going to respond in the best way I know how.”

“You can’t, mom.  You can’t.  There’s too much I don’t yet understand.”

“In time, you might understand it, but I didn’t work night shifts for seven years to pay for college, didn’t sell my mother’s jewelry to pay for the little car you needed, didn’t do all that to find out that you weren’t kind.”

Julia stared at her. “I am kind.”

“Part of kind means caring for those who can’t care for themselves.  So I’m taking those three men with me.”  She got out her phone and called 911.  “You might want to get them untied before the ambulance gets here.  It’s going to be a difficult enough encounter as it is.”

“911 emergency,” the voice on the phone said. “What is your emergency?”

Julia nodded, wiped her tears.


Written by williamdoonan

July 29, 2013 at 7:21 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

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