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Then There Were Three (part 3)

 
Joe Spivey's picture
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As she drove towards Beau’s Tavern for a little ‘pick me up’ before heading back to Hope with a car full of supplies for the clinic, nurse Maisie hadn’t been sure when she saw the three kids on the sidewalk. The ginger hair pretty much confirmed their identities though. Then, as she got nearer, it became apparent that one of them may be hurt so she slowed down. This suspicion was also confirmed the nearer she got. With a last sigh in the direction of Beau’s, Maisie pulled over and rolled down the window.

With the arrival of a grown up they knew and trusted, all the strength seemed to leak out of the muscles of Finny and Casper. They sank to the hot pavement with relief, gently lowering their almost unconscious friend to the ground as they did so. Relief for Casper was from the dead weight of Worms’ sweat-slick body. For Finny, however, the greater relief, the guilty relief, was from the weight of responsibility she no longer had to bear.

Seeing the expressions on the faces of Finny and Casper warned Maisie that this was not just some childhood tumble. She got out of the car and squatted down, already automatically looking for injuries on the boy the other two had been helping along.

“What’s the matter with him? What happened.”

Finny knelt over Worms, turning his head so that the nurse could see.

“He just said he wasn’t feeling well. And then he started holding his tummy like it really really hurt.”

Maisie was surprised at the pallor of the little boy’s skin. She put a hand on his forehead. He was burning up. Worm’s eyes held a far away stare and when Maisie lifted her hand away it was wet with sweat.

“How long has he been like this?”

Finny struggled for an answer.

“Umm, erm. I dunno. Um half of an hour maybe?”

“Since the time when the Union truck dropped the new guards off.” Casper added. Then, in response to Finny’s questioning look. “I saw them from the top of the car.”

Maisie put the information together and checked her watch. The union guards changed shifts on the hour so, unless it was ten minutes ago then the boy had been sick for over an hour. Maisie held his head between her hands and tried to connect with his blank stare.

“Oliver. Oliver? Can you tell me where it hurts?”

Finny and Casper looked at each other and mouthed a silent “Oliver?” to each other. Maisie noticed. She looked up at them.

“Well what do you call him then?”

“Worms.” They chorused.

Maisie tried again.

“Worms? Can you hear me? Can you tell me where it hurts?”

Worm’s arm flopped in mid air as he tried to lift it.

“Head.” He whispered.

Ginny touched the nurse’s arm.

“He said it hurt all over before. Oh, and he was shivering like mad.”

Maisie stared at Finny and Finny glanced to Casper for support. Even nurse Maisie’s relaxed face could only best be described as a disapproving frown. The look of concentration she was leveling at Finny made the nine-year-old feel decidedly uncomfortable. Not that Maisie noticed or cared. She was putting the facts together.

It was obvious the child had a high fever, over forty degrees-ish for sure. Sweating. Shivering. Abdominal pains. Headache… Hurting all over suggested joint or muscle aches. And weakness. Even with a high fever she would have expected more reaction than she was getting from Worms. But all of these symptoms could be anything. Anything from gastroenteritis to… Maisie stopped. An uncomfortable feeling settled on her. She reached out and gently lifted the bottom of the boy’s T-shirt, exposing his stomach. She let out her breath slowly.

There were many causes of rashes and Maisie had pretty much seen them all. The last time she had seen these particular rose coloured clusters of slightly raised rash marks had been down south with the free clinic. She lowered Worms’ T-shirt and unconsciously wiped her hands on her scrubs. She turned to the anxious faces of Finny and Casper and didn’t know what to say. Fortunately, she was saved from any immediate explanation by the arrival of another car.

Onetooth didn’t even wait for the car to stop before opening the door and leaping out. He immediately ran to Finny and the others and all three of the children began an urgent whispered conversation. Maisie got up and walked to where a young, earnest looking, woman was making her way towards the group. Maisie cut her off, took her arm and steered her some yards away.

“What’s happened? Is Worms alright? Who are you?” The earnest young woman was saying.

Nurse Maisie held a hand up. This and her expression stopped the flow of questions dead.

“First of all. Who are you?”

The orphanage matron drew herself up to her full height, which was about shoulder high against the formidable bulk of nurse Maisie.

“I’m the matron of the New Flagstaff Orphanage. You may call me Miss Clinton, Maisy Clinton.”

Maisie’s nonplussed expression lasted all of a second.

“Well, you can call me whatever the hell you like but I’m the head nurse at the Hope Springs clinic.”

Whatever Miss Clinton was going to say in response to the nurse’s curt introduction was lost when the older woman pulled her further away from the gang of preteens sitting on the pavement, especially the red-haired girl who was now looking at them suspiciously.

“Listen Miss Clinton. That little lad over there, Worms. He’s sick. I think very sick and I’m about to haul him off to Hope and the best little doctor in this or any other sector of this damn shithole province.”

Finny watched while Casper and Onetooth tried to get an unresponsive Worms to take a drink of water. Something was going on and Finny’s sense of responsibility to her sick friend was coming back in spades. She strained to hear what the grown-ups were saying but, just then, nurse Maisie spotted Finny’s interest and pulled Miss Maisy further away. But it looked like they were arguing. Miss Maisy had her hands on her hips, a clear sign that she wasn’t putting up with any nonsense. But then the argument stopped and Miss Maisy suddenly turned her head and Finny saw the look of shock on her face. After that the two grown ups stopped arguing and Finny frowned as she recognized definite plotting going on between the two authority figures.

After a few moments, the orphanage’s matron rushed back to her car. Finny watched it do a u-turn in the street and roar off the way it had come. Nurse Maisie, meanwhile, was bearing down on them with an expression that telegraphed she wasn’t going to brook any backchat from no kids for what she had in mind.

Huddled together in the back of the car and surrounded by boxes of bandages, bedpans, bottles and other medical paraphernalia not necessarily beginning with ‘B’, Finny had a hard time hearing what nurse Maisie was saying on her collar radio as the car bounced and rattled its way out of New Flagstaff and towards Hope Springs. Her elbows eventually did enough to quiet Casper and Onetooth down enough so that she could catch some of one side of the conversation.

“…four orphans from the factory… Yes, those four… One of them’s sick, very sick. I’m bringing him to the house next to your research lab… Yes. That’s why I’m bringing them there… Not sure, but I think it might be…” At that moment, Maisie looked around and scowled at the three faces watching her intently. She turned back to the microphone. “Doc. You remember that little camp east of Kingman…? Yes, that one… That’s it… Well, I think that’s what we’ve got here… Okay, ETA ten minutes."

Dr. Troy clicked her radio off and sat staring at the wall for long seconds. Then she slowly lifted her hand to her collar again and made a direct link to the mayor of Hope.

“Mom? Hey… No, fine. You...? Good, good. Listen, Mom, are you alone…? Okay, Mom? You remember we always had plans to turn that falling down house next to the lab into something useful…? Okay, well, Maisie is fetching a bunch of kids in from Flagg, and it looks like one of them might have something serious. Serious enough that we need to quarantine them for a while… Okay, good… What is it…? It’s er… well, we aren’t sure yet, but it looks like it might be Typhoid… Okay Mom, yeah, me too… Love you.”

Comments

Canni Belle's picture

(( .. Holy crap!))

One minute your calm, the next your shooting someone in the face, then your doing your chickendance. If that is not chaos I dont know what is - Aiid



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