Saturday, January 30, 2010

Whitlash - Chapter 2


Shit, shit, shit.
What do I...shit.
Okay, just hold on.” 

Get a grip, lady! Pull yourself together and focus. Argh, but how can I focus when my noggin feels like someone mistook the ear drum for a timpani? What's sprawled before me in the snow can best be described as a mess. In the lack of light, I can tell you that the voice appears to belong to a male. 

Ple..ease...

A male who seems to be in tremendous trouble. His frame quivers as he tries to turn his face upward to me. I stoop down and draw near to get a better look.

Holy organ relocation, Batman. Stomach has officially migrated to my throat.

Dinner will have to apply for a temporary visa. His eyes, though squinting, have locked onto mine. Dark sticky rivulets are running down his cheek in a way that makes me worry. Matted hair stuck to his forehead. I start to talk, but it comes out in a choked whisper.

"K-kay. How did you get way out here? Actually, nevermind—details later. Let's get you inside before you freeze to death. Can you walk?”

I get a headshake 'no' in response. First aid 101 comes flashing through my mind. All forestry employees are required to take the basics course, but typical takeaways are do-no-harm and call the professionals. This grownup girl scout can't guarantee our stranger that either of those mandatories will be possible. My dumbphone: dead as a doornail days ago when we first lost power. I checked the two way radio at lunchtime, and the airwaves returned more static than my hair up against a Van der Graaf generator.

If he has a spine injury, moving him could definitely make it worse...but leaving him outside? It can't be a hair above 13 degrees! He couldn't have just fallen from the sky like a trope in Henny Penny; that's Chicken Little, Chicken Licken, or the Stinky Cheese man for you extra literary types. He must've crawled here somehow. Maybe any damage is already done? Ugh. I'm terrible at these decisions

"What's your name?” 

Carson 

"Okay, Carson. We're about 30 feet from my house. I'm going to head inside for just a second, okay? Don't run off."

I toss him a half smile, and he tries to return it—but the grin winds up more of a grimace. Shooting upright, I dart back to the shack. After bounding through the front door, I scan the room for anything useful. A backboard would be great. A surfboard with straps? Yeah—right. Montana is landlocked. I've got a cardboard box, but it's no bigger than 18”x24”. He seemed tall (for a lumpy shape in the dark). Should've really invested in a sled. Don't have any plywood...This is hopeless! Where is my magic genie at a time like this? Think, girl, think! Blanket it is. 
But the radio...what if I can get through? I try it one more time. No response at base. None. The blanket plays therapist as I twist it back and forth in my indecision. Hypothermia and frostbite. I can't wait any longer. Living. I choose living. Inside we go.

Prize in hand, my whole body kicks into motion. I'm suddenly back by his side—kneeling down. I hear myself urging him to let me gently lift his shoulders and then his feet onto the blanket. Though I try to keep him straight as I can—it's virtually impossible without a second set of hands. Feels like I've nearly gnawed through my lower lip in concentration and nervousness. Last hurdle are his hips. Confounded ponytail dangles impolitely onto his torn jacket as I lean over while muttering apologies.

So sorry about this. Really sorry. I've gotta scooch your hips now. Heh—it probably seems like -- 'nice to meet you – can I violate your personal space?' ...that's a joke, obviously. Ack. I...” 

It's okay.

He manages weakly. That's enough permission for me. With two swift movements and a muffled gasp, I've got him fully onto the quilt. Carson's tense torso now slumps as he permits me to arrange his long limbs. I spring to the head of the blanket and grab the corners of my makeshift sleigh.

Ready?” I yelp. 
Ready. 

Two-six heaaave. Oompff.” 
Wow—the execution went much more easily when I was visualizing it 10 minutes ago. We're about six inches from the starting line. SECOND ATTEMPT!

Erggg. Improvement. That time I only half lost traction. Slow and steady wins the race.

Our progress is definitely slow—and if there's a snow hare racing us, I think he's probably already taking his hubris-filled nap. I turn over my shoulder to check on Carson. He's gripping the sides of the quilt for dear life. Rough day.

First rough day of many rough days to come for him, I imagine. The front stairs couldn't come soon enough. It seems like an eternity before we close the gap. Yet now here we are---and brilliant ideas have I none.

The blanket sled has gotten us this far, but we're three steps from almost cozy. Our stranger desperately needs almost cozy. The adrenaline and anxiety has me sweating and freezing all at once. Woah, I'm sorry – glistening. Some moron once said, “Girls don't sweat---they glisten.” That quotist obviously never smelled my gym bag. We sweat. I sweat. Don't even get me started on hot yoga. Why is that even a thing? Sounds like a Guantanamo technique. Dang it! I'm wasting time. Carson?

Carson? Hey, Carson? Are you still hanging in there?

The lack of response puts the fear of Zeus in me.

No, no, no. Carson – wake up please. We're almost inside, I swear.” 

The returning silence sends a jolt through my body. He must've passed out in all the jostling.

I wish I had time or the mcgyvery where-withal to rig a ramp up those three blasted steps. Still no plywood. Mental note: buy plywood.

He has me outweighed by at least 35 lbs. I'm no weakling, but a [better not be] dead weight bridal carry is more than I can manage without going Hulk. Quick! Somebody make me angry!
No good. Too scared to be angry.

I guess we're going over the threshold Rambo style –that is, if Rambo lost his muscles and had no clue what to do. I hook him under the armpits and intermittently swear and 'sorry' my way up the stairs with his slack frame scraping unceremoniously up each step. Each bump against the wood makes ME wince. Oh hell. I am so...so..so sorry, Carson. It's a good thing you're not awake to feel this.

This is totally a lawsuit time bomb waiting to happen. I doubt I'm covered under good samaritan laws after all my bungling. More like bad samaritan flaws.

But...but I couldn't let him freeze to death in the snow --- just waiting to be uncovered in the spring à la some cryogenically preserved ancient Incan in the Andes! BLAHHHHH! Where's a medically competent superhero when you need one. 

Last step. MADE IT TO THE TOP! EFF YEAH, this feels like we've just ascended Everest's summit. The door does not want to stay open while I slide the tattered fellow through, but if I keep my right foot jammed out to the side, I think I can just manage to...

Oomf.” 

So, great. We're both on the floor. Me—having toppled backwards onto my arse, and Carson – still silent and slightly askew, but inside the mother flippin' house. Okay, kiddo. I'm going to straighten you out the best I can for the moment, and then make a fire to warm up this room a bit. Then we'll see what we're dealing with here. I'm so under-qualified for this. Why couldn't you have crawled to a doctor's house...maybe not in a snowstorm, preferably to someone with electricity....and access to emergency personnel? I'm about as certified as a pre-owned Kia to be tackling this situation.

By a stroke of marvelous luck, the embers help catch my new logs afire fairly quickly. The budgeting of candles has been pretty strict. I need to sacrifice at least one while trying to patch up the outside wounds. Let's waste a tea light. Might as well breathe a prayer while I'm at it.

While I breathe, I check to make sure he's still doing the same. Using the blanket sleigh again, I scoot Carson closer to the fire. The warm glow illuminates the angles of his jawline which is covered in a fine layer of scruff. For the first time, I can make out details. Now is not an appropriate time to admire the sculpting of his forehead. Now is the time to check for frostbite.

I'll start bottom to top. Feet first. Part way through unlacing his boot, and I've just remembered the point of this exercise and scurry off to get a pot of water heating. Three years ago, you could've heard me whine a lot about moving into a cabin with an economy-sized kitchenette and gas range. Call me spoiled, but I grew up on electric. That gas range---yah, it's my new bff. Gas range—you and I are buddies. You and I are going to make ourselves some hot tea in like 5 hours when I can pause again.

Our stranger hasn't moved. I resume the arduous shoe removal task. The caked ice in his boot tread is soaking my pants as it melts. Trying to perform this gingerly to minimize any skin damage, but at some point you have to give the shoe bit of a yank or the foot will never dislodge. What else am I going to do? Cut it off?

Mission accomplished! Next up, time to peel off the soppy woolen foot sleeves. Heather-grey Darn Tough socks, eh? At $18 a pop, the man's got priorities! And he's doubled up. His feet look fairly blanched – but the skin isn't hard or waxy. I'm no expert, but I'd wager he at least wont be losing any toes.

Grabbing the water off the stove, I fill a large tuppeware container. You couldn't strong arm or blackmail me into a tupperware party, but (at least for the moment) I don't begrudge my mom for loading me up with leftover-filled-kitchenwares last Christmas. Nothing like 5 day old Stove Top Stuffing.

The water temp checks out. Not too hot. As soon as I get his feet soaking, I've got to find a way to revive him--EVEN if his body is probably happier with the pain system's breaker temporarily flipped off. My sense of time is warped, but I think he's been out for almost 15 minutes. That's a super long time.

New frustrating experience of the day: trying to keep feet in tupperware when the foot's owner isn't awake or cooperative about holding them there. We just sloshed half the water on the floor.

Carson? Can you hear me? It's time to come back. You've been out a long time, and you're scaring the crap out of me. Hey, are you listening?”

I don't think he's listening. Men.

It's hard to keep the frantic at bay. I pour a second bowl of water and kneel up at his head. There's a gash running from his hairline through his eyebrow. With a sacrificial cloth (fat chance I'll get the stains out of this), I wipe the tacky blood away. A second gentle wipe with the rag. As I go for a third pass, his eyebrows knit together and a great slurp of air is drawn into his lungs. Next a cough, and another gulp of air. His eyes shoot open and search wildly but blindly around the room.

I grab his hand without thinking and try to bring him back to this century.

Stay with me, okay? You're alright.” That's a lie. Definitely NOT alright, but hey, I should target comforting...not honest, don't you think?

Squeezing his hand for encouragement (because what's a little hand squeeze after you haul someone around like a sack of potatoes and take off their shoes), I try to get him talking.

Can you tell me what month it is?” 
Feb-february. 
Good! What about your high school mascot.” 
Um, the..the Huskies. 
Fierce. Okay, last one. For all the lucidity marbles: Batman or Superman?” 
Spiderman. 
ERR, wrong! You failed. The correct answer was obviously Batman. Spiderman wasn't even in the competition.” 

I think he tried to chuckle but the chuckle turned into a cough and the cough turned into a groan. His left hand shoots to his side, and his right hand stays gripped in mine. Hard.
Where does it hurt?” I find myself asking – somewhat stupidly.
Through gritted teeth I hear the reply: Everywhere. 
I know it's difficult---and everything is definitely THE WORST, but try to be a bit more specific. Maybe we can figure out how to make it not everywhere. Probably just somewheres.” My voice softens and trails off at the end.

He releases my hand and breathes rapidly—sucking air in and out irregularly. I once babysat for this 8 year old who would have panic attacks if her book collection wasn't alphabetized. This looks a little like the start of that—only way more rational.

I place a hand on his shoulder to steady him (or myself). “Talk to me, Carson. You've gotta stay with me this time.” 
M-my ribs. A-and hip. A-and back. 
What about your legs?” 

His eyes screw closed and he's silent for a minute. They're burning. 
Burning? What do you mean burning?” I scramble around and rest a hand on his leg. “Can you feel this?” 
A solemn headshake 'no'. Removing a foot from the basin, I lightly pat it dry and draw a finger across his arch.
What about that? Not ticklish?” 
I c-cant... 
The two word sentence echos around in my head. I bite my lip, and turn away from him. Suddenly, there's something really interesting across the room. Really, really interesting. Yes, I must investigate--- leaving without a word, I walk quickly to the bathroom. Sans flashlight, I move by memory. If there were any light to reflect my face in the mirror, I'm pretty sure I'd see someone with blood shot eyes and moisture accumulating in the corners of those red ducts.

Now is not the time to cry. I support myself against the sink edge and let my forehead rest on the mirror. Suck it up, lady. Put those feelings in the crapper. Feel for something else.

Feeling blindly in the medicine cabinet, I find the gauze, athletic tape, and neosporin.

One or two affirmations later, and I'm re-emerging from the bathroom—supplies in hand. Carson is lying with his eyes closed and fists balled. I nudge him gently, and he cracks open one eye.
Can I patch up that forehead of yours?” 
Response nod in the positive. After cleansing it again, I swab neosporin over the gash. Germs be gone! I'm armed and dangerous.

Cradling the back of his neck in my left hand, I use my right to place the non-stick gauze and wrap him up with the athletic tape.
As soon as you recover, you're going to kill me,” I giggle.
I only had pink tape --- and you look AMAZING. I want to liken you to a cross between an 80s workout star and a pirate.” 

Gently replacing his head onto the blanket, the exhaustion hits me. It has to be 4am by now.
The radio—I've gotta try it again. Thank heavens for batteries. The two-way was for work emergencies. This definitely seems like an emergency.
Ten minutes of effort---and no avail.

Dehydration. I don't even know what happened to this guy, but I do know I'm an idiot for waiting this long.
Fishing out a rogue gatorade from the tiny kitchen, I offer it to Carson. The unnatural purple stuff tastes wretched to me. The label claims this flavor is: Berry Rain. More like berry radioactive. Who could drink that much sweet and salt at the same time? Blech. I'd rather drink unicorn pee. It's around for emergencies...like the radio. -----the gatorade that is. Not the unicorn pee. If I had unicorn pee, I'd be selling it on ebay in an instant.

Grrr, why don't I have any straws? Well, why would you have straws, dummy? Unnecessary disposables. I've systematically eliminated all I can. 40% for the environment, 60% because there's no trash removal here. I have to haul my own or burn it. Call me lazy.

Let's try a spoon instead.
Returning to the fireside, I clumsily offer him a spoonful. 

Thank you. Though, *cough* I think my arms are the last properly-functioning survivor. 
He says it wryly as he reaches up for the bottle, but...well...I guess he forgot that left arms and left ribs are proximate. Creases flit across the uncovered portion of his forehead, so I urge the bottle into his other hand. Gratefully, his shaking arm places the bottle to his lips.
He only lets a few drips miss.

I take the drink from Carson when he's finished. Next we struggle with his damp, ripped jacket. This is a delicate dance of cooperative effort when trying to spare his torso any more abuse. The layers below seem dry enough, but I see a tremor roll through his shoulders.

Standing up without a word, I remove some quilts from my nest and transfer them to Carson's makeshift bed. Arms aching. Vision bleary. There's no room for speaking. We fall asleep 5 feet apart as the fire crackles on. 
________________________________________________________________________ 


17 comments:

  1. I love it. If only you can write more than once a week. So excited and can't wait to see what happens next.

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    1. We will need to make more hours in the day. Thanks for your sweet comment!

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  2. So glad that you're back with a new chapter!! Enjoyed it immensely!
    Thanks!

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    1. Merci! So glad you've taken the time to read it!

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  3. You did a really great job here! I so wish for more and to know what happened!

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    1. Even with all the research in the world, I know I'll bungle some details/accuracy. Hehe, thought I'd have our heroine bungle along with me.

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  4. More please. and soon!. This is just too good, I was so happy to see the new chapzer. I love your style and can't wait to hear what happened to Carson. Thank you

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    1. Aww, thanks so much for your kind words! Hmm, maybe I'll let Carson tell you what happened ;)

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  5. You had me curious at the end of the first chapter. Today you set my hook. My mind is racing with all kinds of questions. Love the first person. Can't wait for the next chapter!

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    1. What sorts of questions? :) Carson may be able to answer them, personally.

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  6. You've got me on tenterhooks just waiting to see exactly what the situation is with Carson! Can't wait until the next instalment!

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    1. Annnnd today, you taught me what tenterhooks originally were! Etymonline kindly let me know that they have nothing to do with Octopi.
      Hehe, lu5 -- I'm curious about what pushes your dev buttons (as I'm writing only a chapter ahead). Definitely room to add scenes that readers crave.

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  7. I love the way you write... You're really funny! I can't wait to read the next chapter!

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    1. And where is your story Gemini? :( :(

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    2. Gemini--I'm digging your story, too! Let's keep the fiction flowing. Waiting (semi-patiently) for your next chapter. :)

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  8. Unique, expressive, endearing, and fun! Can't wait to read more.

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  9. Love,love,love,love this. I laughed out loud a few times. Awesome story, amazing style. You're a great writer Anniemouse!

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