That Other Bad Day
Part two of "Another Bad Day"
Christopher Joseph Brent always hated doctors. They never had anything important to say; they always had answers to questions he didn’t have and were clueless to the ones he did ask. They seemed to be accustomed to dealing with drunks, two-year-olds, or idiots, because every time they would repeat information to you that was already glaringly obvious. Like telling someone their loved one is dead when everyone knows how to read a pulse, everyone knows when the line of the monitor goes straight it means the heart has stopped beating. Or telling some poor mother in the ICU that they will “try their best”, as if there was every any other course of action expected of them.
Sometimes Christopher wished they wouldn’t try so hard. Like in his case. He might’ve thanked the doctors if they had decent enough to let him die on the table with the bullet in his back, but they didn’t, they followed their routine and saved him, and now the doctors and nurses continued to torture him, standing around his bed telling him how lucky he was, and how nicely they fixed him up.
He turned to look at the drain tube on his right, watching the drops of blood sliding into the bulb beside him. He thought of snipping the bulb off and waving the tube around, blood spurting like a party popper, splattering all over the inviting whiteness of the doctor and nurses’ coats. That would get them to clear out of the room. But before he could find a pair of scissors the door opened and a police officer walked in, the very presence of the law making everyone else leave. Christopher rolled his eyes up as the officer came towards him.
“Wizzy,” he sighed.
“Nice to see you, too, Chris,” Wyzle grinned as he sat down in the armchair beside the bed. “I should ask how you’re feeling but I can already figure out the answer so-”
“-what’s the point?” Christopher finished. “Thank God there are still some people in the world who refuse to confirm with the bullshit of pleasantries. What do you have for me?”
“You want the good news or the bad news?”
“I’m still alive so there can’t possibly be any good news,” Christopher pointed out.
“There are worst things than being alive, you could be brain damaged or paralyzed, your intestines could’ve ruptured or--”
“Did the doctor give you his ‘lucky to be alive’ speech too? Because I probably heard it before you did. It made my ears bleed in three different colors.”
“Alright, alright, moving right along to the bad news, which is the doctor ordered two months of bed rest and your boss has already approved.” Wyzle slapped a paper down on the bedside table. “No questions, you’re exiled from the office until August. I even got your editor to sign here, the minute you try to walk through those doors he calls me. It’ll count as trespassing.”
“Great. Great.” Christopher let his arms fall to his side. “I would like you to call the nurse and ask her to inject me with something particularly lethal. Jesus fucking Christ.” He snatched up the paper. “You were right, there is something worse than life, it’s this fucking piece of paper that keeps from working which is the only thing that makes living somewhat tolerable!.”
“You won’t be at home all the time, you’ll have to come to court--that is, if you want to testify.”
“The bad guys? You already found them?”
“Yep!” Wyzle rubbed his hands togehter. “We have the suspects down at the station, Lewis is bringing photos in the afternoon and once you identify them we will start the proceedings. You need to give Lewis all the details too, he’s the detective on this case.”
“Do I have to prosecute them?” Christopher asked. “I wouldn’t want them to go to jail for what they did. They almost made me happy.”
“Well even if you decide not to press charges they’re probably going to jail anyways, it looks like they’re part of gang connected to several other incidents already, so it’s not just about you, think about the other people,” Wyzle chided.
“Thinking about other people is literally my job for the last ten years so I think I can stand to be a little selfish sometimes.” Christopher stared up at the uneven streaks of paint on the ceiling. “The one time I want something for myself it never happens. Just one wish, and the universe refuses to grant it.”
Wyzle lowered his gaze. “Chris…don’t. We talked about this. You promised.”
“I know. I’m still here, aren’t I? Against my will, but nonetheless I am present.”
Wyzle folded his arms and stared at him. “Think about it. In the last two months you’ve survived a subway bombing and a mugging turned attempted murder. You’re telling me that doesn’t send any kind of message to you, it doesn’t mean anything to you?”
“Yeah, it does; next time something happens and you’re present, do me a favor and don’t call the fucking ambulance.”
The door cracked about and a nurse stuck her head in. “Sorry to disturb, but there’s a Mr. And Mrs. Williams who want to see you, Mr. Brent. Should I tell them to come back tomorrow or…?”
“The couple that found you bleeding out on the street. Your mother’s been talking to them all morning,” Wyzle explained. “I think she sent them up.”
“Oh god,” groaned Christopher. “Can I just pretend I’m brain dead? Comatose?”
“I think everyone in this city knows you got shot in the back, not the head. You were on all the headlines.”
“You’re a cop, can’t you get rid of them somehow?”
“I could, but can’t you just be nice for ten minutes?”
Christopher squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again. “Six and a half minutes is my limit.”
Wyz;e nodded to the nurse. “Sure, let them come, but just for a minute.” Turning back to Christopher he continued, “If you don’t let them see you now they’re going to show up at your door later. With cookies.”
“I hate cookies,” Christopher muttered as he pushed his jaw back and forth, massaging it and pushing his cheeks up into a neat smile. “Hello,” he grinned as the couple tip-toed into the room.
“Ohhh he’s awake!” the woman exclaimed. “We didn’t want to disturb,” she whispered confidentially to Wyzle. “Here,” she thrust a giant bouquet of lilies into his hands. “These should brighten up the room.”
“I regret this,” Christopher mouthed to Wyzle, who frowned at him and held up ten fingers.
“Thank you so much for coming,” Christopher reached out to shake the man’s hand.
“We were so worried about you.” The man grasped his hand in a warm handshake that seemed to go on forever. “It was terrible, wasn’t it, honey?”
“My goodness it was awful!” his wife remarked. “You always said we needed to move, that the area wasn’t safe but I never imagined something like that would happen! Right outside our front door, can you believe it?”
Christopher raised his eyebrows. “Well, I--”
“The moment I heard that gunshot my heart stopped, you know?” the woman babbled on. “I couldn’t even move, thankfully Frankie here was faster than me, like a hero he ran for the door to see what happened, he wasn’t even afraid, my knees were knocking, and then…”
Christopher glanced over to where Wyzle was sitting, chin propped on his hand and smiling indulgently. He held up eight fingers and then folded one down. Seven more minutes.
“...and then the ambulance finally came, I was so relieved!” the woman finished. “How are you feeling?”
“Great. Just great.” Chirstopher nodded a few times to punctuate the words.
“It’s a miracle, isn’t it?” the man said.
“Oh yes, thank Heavens!” the woman clutched her husband’s arm as she spoke. “For a minute when we found you I thought we were going to lose you.”
Christopher pinned his tongue down between his teeth, he could feel Wyzle’s glare warning him, and he turned away slightly.
“We’re just so glad you’re alive,” the woman beamed, her white teeth matching the color of the room, and she reached out to pat his shoulder.
“That would make one of us,” Christopher mumbled.
Her hand paused midair. “Pardon me?”
From the corner of his eye Christopher could see Wyzle jumping to his feet to salvage the situation so he continued hastily. “You know, for a minute when I was lying there I thought I was already dead. You looked a lot like my wife.”
“Yeah. It would’ve been nice to see her again but then…” Christopher exhaled slowly. “But then you guys called the ambulance and well here I am.”
The woman’s face pinched up in confusion and then realization dawned on her in confusing shades of embaressment and chagrin. The man stepped forward, a step heavy and poised with a retort, but before he could get his words out Wyzle leaped between the firing squad. “Okay I think Mr. Brent needs his rest,” he soothed, guiding the couple towards the door. “Thank you for coming and for saving his life. I really appreciate it.”
“And one day he will, too,” Wyzle finished as he shut the door behind them. “Ten minutes. That’s all I asked.”
“I warned you. Six and a half. I’m amazed that I even made it that far. Those two were an abomination.”
Wyzle eased back into the armchair. “I like your little afterlife talk there, though. New trick?”
Christopher nodded. “Found out it’s the fastest way to get someone to shut up. I take no pleasure in it, but it works every time.”
“But I’ve always wanted to ask, Chris,” Wyzle began as he toyed with the label tag on the IV drip tube. “I know you don’t believe in an afterlife or any kind of paradise where you’re with her again. So if there’s nothing after this, no reunion to look forward to in the great beyond, if it’s oblivion, then why do you want to go? What’s the attraction?”
“Oblivion doesn’t attract you?”
Wyzle stared at him.
Christopher closed his eyes. “Wizzy, come on, you should know by now, it was and will never be about going there, it’s about not being here. If there was a pocket dimension or alternate reality where I would magically cease to exist I would go there, too, so keep on the lookout and let me know.”
“But…” Wyzle flipped the tag into his other hand and pinched it between his thumbs. “How are you so decided, so sure? What if, someday, I don’t know, there’s a chance that, I mean there is always the chance that you know, it could just, you could, you know.”
He let the tag slip out. “You could be happy, Chris. Here.”
“Yeah, and she could still be alive, but let’s not be unrealistic here. I thought you’re the guy whose all about real possibilities. Like can you at least get the doctor to sign me out of here earlier? At least I can mope at home on my couch. The mattress here sucks.”
“Yeah, sure,” Wyzle sighed, getting up. “Your mom went back for a change of clothes but she’ll be here in an hour.” He paused at the door and turned to face him. “Take care, okay?”
Christopher looked away. He detested that look, that gaze of secondhand grief, an expression he had been exposed to over and over in the past years, on the faces of strangers and loved ones alike. “Don’t…don’t look at me like that, Wizzy. Please.”
Wyzle stuffed his hands in his pockets and stared at the ground, scraping his heel against the tiles. Christopher could see his chest heaving, his nose wrinkling and eyes blinking too fast. He bit his lip and reluctantly opened his mouth, but Wyzle looked up immediately and shook his head. “Don’t you dare, Chris. You can say that to your boss, your mom, your therapist, but don’t you ever say it to me. Don’t you fucking say it! Not in my presence, ever. You can let it out once I’m gone.”
Christopher waited until the door had closed behind Wyzle, until his footsteps went down the hall. “Don’t’ worry, I’m fine,” he said. Pulling the sheets closer around his chin he took a deep breath. “I’m fine,” he repeated. “I’m fine.”