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Rabbit in a Bottle
By Jim Patrick Guyer
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Jim Patrick Guyer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSaturday, the Day I Died
- I don't remember the accident at Lake Sullivan, or anything else before that. I have heard that I enjoyed water sports, but I never showed much interest in them after I died. –
Gerald Camden leaned his body deep into a curve as his skis cut across the surface of the water. John steered the boat toward the dock, then cut a narrow arc to slingshot Gerald close to the pier. Gerald glanced over at his mother. She was saying something to his father. Christine Camden turned toward her son and put her hands around her mouth, trying to shout above the noise of the motor. Gerald cupped a hand to his ear, but he couldn't make out the words. Christine pointed off to the side.
Gerald saw the pier and realized he had held on to the tow rope too long. He dropped the handle and skidded across the surface. He gauged the distance and the angle of his approach. With a slight adjustment, he could miss it completely. He steered his skis gently to the side as his momentum started to run out. The turn wasn't sharp enough. He adjusted the angle of his skis, but without the tow rope, it was difficult to keep his weight balanced. One ski sank lower in the water and dragged his foot back. Gerald teetered forward and turned as he fell. The side of his head struck the corner post. There was a brilliant flash and then his world went black.
- I was always curious about the old Gerald and how he felt about Tammy. Was he in love? Was it just a casual thing? I wish I could have known him. I would love to have sat and talked to him about a lot of things. Unfortunately that could never happen, for we were destined never to meet. –
Tammy Wells sat alone at a table in the library. She was the girl with all the curves. Her large black curls offset the white skin of her neck. She had large, round, dark blue eyes that gave her an innocent appearance. She noticed her two sisters, Violet and Jean, coming through the door. Jean had sandy brown hair, while Violet's was jet black. Pretty girls, Tammy thought, but not quite as cute as herself. They weren't really sisters, even though they had called themselves that since grade school. The triangle made up their own exclusive little sorority, and Tammy was their ringleader. She liked having them as her consorts. They made a sort of barrier between her and the rest of the world. Tammy became a bit puzzled by the seriousness of their expressions and the tight, excited way they walked toward her. Something was up. Something big.
"Sisters!" she said to them. "What is it? It can't be that bad."
The girls took seats on either side of her. Jean was the first to speak. "It is bad. It's very bad."
"It's Gerald," Violet continued for her.
"Gerald?!" Tammy smiled faintly. "He's not going to dump me, is he?" She added a tone of sarcasm to her voice, as if to suggest that the idea was unthinkable. In the end, it came out sounding insecure.
"No, no! Nothing like that," Jean cut in. "He's in the hospital."
"He's in the hospital? What happened to him?"
"He was in a boating accident," Violet explained.
"How bad is he?"
"He's like, brain dead or in a coma—something like that." Jean shook her head. "I am not really sure which one it is, or what any of it means."
Tammy shook her head. "I really don't know, either. I mean, I've seen it in movies and stuff. I know that it means you sleep a long time, but I don't understand more than that. Poor Gerald! I suppose I should go see him."
"He's in ICU. They have him on a ventilator," Jean said. "You know," she made a pointing motion toward her throat, "where they put that tube down your throat to make you breathe."
Tammy shuddered, "Ugh! That kind of stuff creeps me out. Maybe I'll wait. Right now, he wouldn't even know I was there. I'll send him a card for now, and then go see him when he's awake." Tammy paused to think. "How long do you think he'll be asleep?"
Jean shrugged, "It might be a long time. I've heard that people who go into a coma can stay that way for years."
"Prom is in a few months," Tammy said slowly. "I guess I may be spending prom night wearing a corsage and sitting in the hospital with my boyfriend."
"That's not going to do him any good," Violet offered. "Why don't you just go with someone else?"
"Sure," Jean agreed. "If he's in a coma, it's not going to make any difference to him, anyway."
"No, I can't do that." Tammy shook her head. "That wouldn't be right. He's still my boyfriend." She was quiet for a moment, "I suppose that was pretty selfish of me to be thinking of prom, while he may be lying there dying."
"No!" Jean hissed. "Don't be silly! It's perfectly natural. I mean, I'm sorry this happened, too, but there's no point in anyone throwing their whole life away over it."
"She's right," Violet patted Tammy's hand, "you're just going through a turbulent time right now. Things are going to be a little off-track for a while. You'll snap back."
"Yeah," Tammy said, gazing off in the distance, "I guess you're right."
Pulling the Plug
- I don't blame the doctors. How were they to know? Actually, I feel a bit guilty over it. I am sure my case caused them some embarrassment. –
"Your son is not in a coma," Dr. Baker said gently. "He is brain dead. The two are not the same. With a coma, there is still some measure of neurological function and a recovery is possible. Your son has no brain activity. There is no chance of recovery."
Christine wept quietly as she gazed down at the body of her son lying in the hospital bed. It seemed as if there were tubes and wires entering every inch of his body. Her husband stood next to her, his hand on her shoulder. They listened as Dr. Baker patiently explained the meaning of "brain dead," as well as the techno-babble that described all of the tests that had been done to confirm it. She felt a desperate desire to yank out all the tubes and wires, then scoop him up to run away with him. The doctor's voice faded into a distant drone. She didn't understand half of what he said, but she knew what it meant. Her son was gone, and he wasn't ever coming back.
"The insurance will only pay for a week in a case where there is no hope of recovery."
"I don't care what it costs," John answered firmly.
"Yes, yes, of course; that is a natural reaction, and it is one that I would recommend, if there was any hope at all. Unfortunately, there is none. You will bankrupt yourself, and in the end, the machines will still be shut down."
Dr. Baker gestured toward the bed, "Look at him. Do you think he would want to go on like this? I promise you, it will only get worse from here. He'll start to wither, and then will come the bed sores. His ligaments will draw up. The decision is yours, but don't rush it. Give yourself a few days to think it over."
"No," John answered, "he wouldn't want this. We'll give him a few days, in case things can turn around, but after that I think it is best that we ..." John swallowed hard, reluctant to speak the words, "just let him slip away naturally."
Christine slid off the bed and turned around to confront them. "I don't think so," she said with a hint of threat in her voice.
Dr. Baker put a hand up to try to calm her, "Let's try not to get emotional about this. We need to be rational."
"Don't be emotional? Is that what you just said?" She pointed back toward the bed. "My son is lying there, fighting for his life!
You want to pull the plug on him, and then you have the gall to tell me not to be emotional? What kind of person are you?"
"I am just a doctor, Ma'am," he answered resolutely. "I'm just trying to offer my professional opinion on the options that are available to you."
"And you!" Christine turned toward her husband. "You're ready to go along with this? Your son is hanging over the edge of a cliff, and you're ready to just let go of the rope? I told you that you were bringing him in too close to the pier! I tried to holler back to Gerald, to warn him to be careful!"
John nodded, "That may have been what distracted him."
"If you want to make this my fault, that's fine; but you are not going to pull the plug on my son!"
Dr. Baker nodded, "There's no need to rush to make a decision. We have some time." He spoke slowly, so as not to provoke her ire again, "Please, just consider that your son has no active brain waves. He's not fighting for his life; he has already left. Sometimes, people try to hang on too long as a crutch for their own grieving. I'm going to leave now, so you can think about it and talk things over. Feel free to stay as long as you need to."
When Dr. Baker left the room, Christine went back to sitting on the bed and holding her son's hand. "There's nothing to talk about. They're not pulling the plug on my son. I don't care if we have to mortgage the house and sell everything we have!"
John nodded and plopped down into the chair with resignation. Over the next couple of hours the room was silent, except for the quiet beep of the heart monitor and the click and hiss of the respirator cycling through air exchanges.
Eventually, a nurse entered the room, "I'm sorry folks, but visiting hours are over."
"I am not visiting," Christine answered softly, "I'm staying."
John stood up, "Maybe it's best if we go."
"You go on and get some rest. I'll be OK. I'm staying with my son. He needs me now."
John made eye contact with the nurse, and she nodded her approval. He bent over and gently rubbed Christine's back, then kissed her cheek. He stood up and sighed, took a long last look at his son, then walked slowly out of the room.
Red Red Wine
- Red Red Wine, It's up to you. All I can do, I've done. -
The stereo system played UB40's "Red Red Wine" softly in the background. Amy Roberson sat at her kitchen table. It was draped in a white cotton tablecloth with gold embroidery. Her hair and makeup were perfect. She lit the candle in front of the goldframed engagement portrait, and then uncorked the bottle of red wine.
- I just thought that with time, thoughts of you would leave my mind. –
The lyrics echoed in her ears. She poured the rose-colored fluid into the crystal wedding goblet. This was the start of the hardest seven days of the year. They had married on the first anniversary of the day they met. Two years and one week after the wedding, he had died.
- I was wrong, now I find. Just one thing helps me forget. Red Red Wine. –
She raised the chalice to her lips. They had met at an ice skating rink. A novice skater, she had gone to the rink on a lark, and he was on the university hockey team. He helped her around the rink as this song was playing. Afterward, he offered to buy her a bottle of wine and take her to Grant Park to see Buckingham Fountain. She took a drink of the heavy fluid. The ironic thing was that neither of them actually drank wine. Neither of them liked the taste of liquor. A year later they bought a bottle of red wine to commemorate the first anniversary of their chance meeting. He had promised that they would carry on the ritual every year for the rest of their lives.
- Red Red Wine, stay close to me. –
Seven days after their second anniversary she found him dead. She swallowed the wine, and then reached out to run her fingertips over the glass that covered the photo. After the funeral, she had left Chicago. She had gotten rid of almost everything, sending it all to churches and Goodwill. She drove to her new job in downstate Illinois with little more than the clothes on her back and the car she came in. As soon as she got established, she threw out the clothes and traded the car in for a newer model. Her life in Chicago existed only in her memory now, except for the one picture and the two crystal goblets she had kept. Looking at the portrait was like gazing into a window to her past life.
- Don't let me be in love. –
She picked up the bottle and traced the edge of the foil label with her thumb. She was tempted to drink it dry in an attempt to numb herself, but on the day of the funeral, she had vowed that she wouldn't rely on a crutch. It was a bargain she had made with herself, that she wouldn't let the tragedy destroy her. Her old life in Chicago would die and be forgotten, so she could start a new life in a rural area. She'd had no family. When she left Chicago, she'd broken all ties with his family and everyone she knew. Perhaps they had forgotten her by now. She hoped that was the case. She had always felt a little bad for deserting them without notice, but it was something she had to do. The old Amy Roberson had died, and a new person had risen in her place and started a new life.
- It's tearing apart. My blue blue heart. –
Amy put the bottle down, then picked up her glass to drink the last swallow. She leaned forward to blow out the flame, and watched the thin grey stream of smoke rise up from the wick. The end glowed like a small red coal. She gently blew on it, trying to keep it alive. It lasted a bit longer for her efforts, but ultimately it winked out and went black. She recorked the bottle and gathered up the glasses. She took a last look at the portrait. "Happy anniversary," she spoke aloud. She got up from the seat and tucked the picture under her arm. Time to put away the old memories for another year.
- I felt a little sorry for Dr. Baker. He was thrust into an unfair situation. –
Sunday night had come. Christine stared at the clock and mentally willed the hands to stop before the dreaded 9:00 deadline. She held her son's hand as she gazed into his face. She wished that he would open his eyes so she could see him awake just one more time, without the corrugated plastic hose coming out of his throat. Signing the papers was the hardest thing she had ever done. In the end, she reckoned that the doctors were right. To put her son's poor body through any more pain would be selfishly clinging to a crutch. There was no point in even putting him through the week that the insurance would cover. It was time to let go.
A few minutes later, Dr. Baker arrived with a nurse, "I'm sorry folks, but it's time."
"But," Christine said in a soft, sad voice, "there's five minutes left."
"I know; Nurse Richards and I need to prep him. Please say your goodbyes and step out. I will come and talk with you in the waiting room when it's over."
"We'd like to stay with him." Christine glanced up at the doctor. "We'd like to see him through it."
"That's admirable, but it's really not a good idea." Dr. Baker grimaced, "This can be an ugly transition. When we shut off the ventilator, there can be gasping and writhing in the bed. It's noble for you to want to stay, but it's really better if you don't."
"No," John said unequivocally, "he never quit on me. I am not going to quit on him." He cupped a palm under one elbow and bit his knuckle as he stood at the edge of the bed. "You do what you have to do, but I'm staying."
"I'm staying, too," Christine said quietly.
"Very well, then," Dr. Baker sighed and gently rubbed the tube of his stethoscope between his thumb and forefinger. He turned and nodded toward Nurse Richards, "Let's start shutting down the equipment."
"Wait!" Christine exclaimed. "He just squeezed my hand!"
Nurse Richards shook her head and stared down at the floor.
John turned enthusiastically toward the nurse, "That's good news, isn't it?"
Nurse Richards turned back to him with resignation. "He didn't squeeze her hand." She paused, "If he twitched, it would only be a muscle spasm. This sort of thing happens all the time. It can be very frustrating. People always get cold feet at the last second, and start hoping for a miracle."
Christine turned to Nurse Richards. "He squeezed my hand! Maybe there's still a chance he could recover!"
Nurse Richards gave a courteous smile and turned away.
Dr. Baker leaned forward and put a hand on Christine's shoulder. "Nurse Richards is right. If you felt something, it would have only been a twitch caused by a muscle spasm."
"No, it wasn't just a twitch! I know what I felt! I'm telling you, he squeezed my hand!"
Nurse Richards exchanged a glance with Dr. Baker.
Dr. Baker put a hand up. "Let's all take a step back and relax. Nurse Richards, why don't you get a cup of coffee and let me talk to these nice folks alone for a while."
Nurse Richards nodded and walked out of the room.
Dr. Baker bent over the bed to put an arm on Christine's shoulder, as he spoke softly. She listened, but didn't take her eyes off her son. "Mrs. Camden, I have seen cases like this for more than thirty years, and I have never seen one recover.
However, I have seen people want something so very badly that they start to imagine things. In a moment of desperation, the mind can play tricks on us. The tiniest thing becomes exaggerated."
"He squeezed my hand. I felt it!"
"Try to see this objectively. There is no coming back from a complete lack of brain activity. With assistance, the body can live on for a time, but the person who was in there has moved on.
Maybe it's best that you do the same."
Gerald let out a low moan. Dr. Baker turned to Gerald in astonishment.
"Did you hear that?" John asked.
Excerpted from Rabbit in a Bottle by Jim Patrick Guyer Copyright © 2013 by Jim Patrick Guyer. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1. – Saturday, the Day I Died....................1
Chapter 2. – Tuesday's Phoenix....................23
Chapter 3. – Wednesday's Rendezvous....................67
Chapter 4. – Thursday's Challenge....................87
Chapter 5. – Friday's Tempest....................113
Chapter 6. – Saturday's Festival....................131
Chapter 7. – The Sunday After....................173
Chapter 8. – Monday's Remorse....................187
Chapter 9. – Tuesday's Games....................207
Chapter 10. – Wednesday's Gambit....................219
Chapter 11. – Thursday's Burden....................239
Chapter 12. – Friday's Memorium....................269
Chapter 13. – Saturday Bowl....................277