Awake night suddenly not night four AM. Three figures bedside: Short Man; Tall Surly Man, aka “Mr. Personality;” Thin Woman. Long white lab coats aqua scrubs. Young.
“This is him. Here’s his chart,” Mr. Personality.
“Amazing,” Short Man.
“Freak me out,” Thin Woman.
“I’ve never heard of anyone born with The Condition. I thought it just happens. Toxic exposure or something like that. They see it in kids on the Enemy side,” Mr. Personality.
“Which Enemy? I forgot which Enemy of the Nation we’re out to get this week,” Short Man.
“Very funny, Mr. Patriot,” Mr. Personality.
“Report me to the ‘authorities.’ I dare you,” Short Man.
“I just might. Anyway, they see it after heavy-duty bombings. Something in the shit they drop, some kind of chemical in the explosives. Possibly released on impact,” Mr. Personality.
“Should be a mother lode of cases after The War,” The Woman.
“I’ll bet,” Short Man.
“Creed’s going over there, you know,” Thin Woman
“After it all ends. Should be a bunch of cases to exploit — uh, I mean study. Just a joke. A very unfunny joke,” Mr. Personality said mocking imagine microphones imagine press conference voice not mocking, attempt to communicate message to many some ones not pretend.
“Yeah, I heard he’s looking for volunteers,” said Thin Woman.
“Is that right? I volunteer you,” Mr. Personality poked his finger into the Short One’s chest.
“No, seriously. It should be a fabulous opportunity for research,” Short Man.
“Not worth it. I wouldn’t go near that stuff,” Mr. Personality.
“It’s only toxic to kids and old folks. Anyway, by the time we get over there most of the crap’ll have blown away. It’s not like the intensity of the actual bombing,” Short Man.
“Count me out,” Mr. Personality. “They don’t know what that shit does to your system years down the road.”
“The National Health Clinic said it should be safe.”
“That’s the Military. You gonna believe the fucking Military?”
“Chicken,” Thin Woman.
“That’s right. You gonna volunteer to go over there?” Mr. Personality.
“If Creed asks me, yeah, why not?” The Woman. “When opportunity knocks. . . “
“Check it out, he’s moving,” Short One.
“Weird he’s still alive. They’re supposed to be dead by nineteen or twenty,” Mr. Personality.
“His system adapted somehow,” Thin Woman.
She poked prodded shined light my eyes.
“Who the fuck are you?” I coughed.
“We’re residents. Students of Dr. Creed’s,” The Short One.
“Old Faithful” cried groaned gasped coughed. Shat himself.
24/7 stink splatter. Sicker. The Night Visitors paid no attention, didn’t even ring nurse. Pushed red button myself.
“So ‘The Mad Shitter’ is still with us,” Mr. Personality.
“Not for long, I don’t think. Won’t make the night,” said The Short One.
“So, ‘Mr. Condition,’ how have you lived your life?” asked Thin Woman.
“Desperately. Like anybody else. Why?”
“Well, not everyone was born with The Condition. Most people develop it in early childhood, and don’t last many years. Occasionally one might come across a twenty-year-old on his last legs. But a man of thirty!” Mr. Personality.
“A manual laborer, no less,” Thin Woman.
“That’s right. He actually went around carrying a watering can all over The City. And he said he was a runner!” The Short One.
“Amazing. I’ve never seen a full remission,” Thin Woman.
“Yes, truly remarkable,” Mr. Personality. “But I guess that’s over now. Now that the disease has taken control again, he should — ”
“Fuck!” I said. “What’s with you clowns? They send you in for comic relief?”
“Just students. We’re studying you. Thirty years with the Condition. My, my,” Mr. Personality.
“Do you throw up often?” Thin Woman.
“I’m feeling nauseous now.”
Words bypassed them.
“I have a few now and again.”
“Wow, talk about tempting fate,” The Short One.
“Well, he didn’t know he had the Condition, so I suppose it helped psychologically to think he was just a normal guy with a normal life expectancy,” said Mr. Personality.
“I AM a normal guy with a normal life expectancy!”
“See?” Mr. Personality, I-told-you-so grin.
“Dizziness? Shortness of breath? Must be the norm for you,” Thin Woman.
“The norm for me is normal. I run ten miles a day, for God-man’s sake.”
New information. Freaked them out. Scribbled furiously on their pads.
“You run? As in ‘exercise?’”
“Push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups too,” I said. “Easily kick any of your asses.”
“Astonishing. The organism’s ability to adapt. ‘The Will to live’ or whatever. Truly amazing,” Mr. Personality.
“When was your last transfusion?” Thin Woman.
“Hell, I don’t know. I already went through all this with Creed.”
“You don’t know? “ Thin Woman incredulous.
“I told you, he knows next to nothing about The Condition,” Mr. Personality. “Didn’t even know he had it. Did you, Mr. Condition?”
“No, in fact. I did not.”
“Well, you’re here for a bone marrow transplant, aren’t you?” Mr. Personality.
“Bone-marrow transplant!? Fuck no!”
“Dr. Creed has him on heavy doses of The Solution,” The Short One corrected. “Dr. Creed believes that, in this case, the patient’s blood might stabilize solely through application of The Solution. It’s a long shot, but Dr. Creed figures we’ve got nothing to lose.”
“‘We?’” I said.
“Oh. Well. That’s good, I suppose,” Thin Woman.
“Why would I want a bone-marrow transplant?” I asked.
“You don’t want a bone-marrow transplant. Bone-marrow transplants hurt. They have a high mortality rate. Especially if one has undergone transfusions, which you surely must have during infancy. That’s why Dr. Creed has you on The Solution. State of the art medication. Produced and distributed by TKI pharmaceuticals: Longer life through chemicals,” Mr. Personality, with the enthusiasm of TKI a Big Pharma hustler.
“What’s wrong with me, anyway?”
“You’re bad. Bad to the bone-marrow. You have bad blood,” Mr. Personality. “It’s all part of The Condition.”
Nurse responded, finally, red button alert.
“Something wrong?” Nurse groggy, pissed off, wakened.
“My new neighbor made a mess of himself.”
Concentrated yellow-brown soak-spot of “Old Faithful’s” formerly crisp hospital gown soiled environs like a crashed tanker leaking crude.
“Gross!” she shrieked.
Probably inexperienced, new.
“Uh, he’s been like that all night,” I said. “Every hour on the hour, more or less.”
“Goddam! I’ll call a Nurse’s Aid to clean it up. You don’t worry about a thing.”
“I have pneumonia. Maybe I’ll get contaminated or something.”
“You? With The Condition? You’ve got bigger things to worry about than sniffing this man’s poopy-stinks, Honey.”
The Night Visitors had gone. Silent slipped away.