N Is For Noose Page 41

She made a photocopy of my insurance card, which she set to one side. She entered a print command and documents were generated, none of which I was able to sign with my bunged-up right hand. She made a note to that effect, indicating my acceptance of financial responsibility. She assembled a plastic bracelet bearing my name and hospital ID number and affixed that to my wrist with a device resembling a hole punch.

Chart in hand, she accompanied me through a doorway and showed me a seat in an examining room about the size of a jail cell. She stuck my chart in a slot mounted on the door before she left. ’’Someone'll be right with you.’’

The place looked like every other emergency room I'd ever been exposed to: beige speckled floor glossy with wax, making it easy to remove blood and other body fluids;acoustical tile on the ceiling, the better to dampen all the anguished cries and screams. The prevailing smell of rubbing alcohol made me think about needles and I desperately needed to lie down that instant. I set my jacket aside and crawled up on the examining table, where I lay on the crackling paper and stared at the ceiling. I wasn't doing well. I was shivering.

The lights seemed unnaturally bright and the room oscillated. I laid my left arm across my eyes and tried to think about something nice, like se*.

I could hear a low conversation in the corridor and someone came in, picking up my chart from the door. ’’Miss Millhone?’’ I heard the click of a ballpoint pen and I opened my eyes.

The ER nurse was black, her name tag identifying her as V LaMott. She had to be Rafer LaMott's wife, mother to the young woman working as a shortorder cook over at the Rainbow Cafe. Was theirs the only African American family in Nota Lake? Like her daughter, V LaMott was trim, her skin the color of tobacco. Her hair was cropped close, her face devoid of makeup. ’’I'm Mrs. LaMott. You've met my husband, I believe.’’

’’We spoke briefly.’’

’’Let's see the hand.’’

I held it up. Something about her mention of Rafer made me think he'd confessed to her fully about his rudeness to me. She looked like the kind of woman who'd have given him a hard time about that. I hoped.

I kept my face averted while she completed her inspection. I could feel myself tense up, but she was careful to make only gingerly contact. There was apparently no nurse's aide on duty so she checked my vital signs herself. She took my temperature with an electronic thermometer that gave nearly instant results and then she held my left arm against her body as she pumped up the blood pressure cuff and took a reading. Her hands were warm while mine felt bloodless. She made notes on my chart.

’’What's the V stand for?’’ I asked.

’’ Victoria. You can call me Vicky if you like. We're not formal around here. Are you on any medication?’’

’’Birth control pills.’’

’’Any allergies?’’

’’Not that I know of.’’

’’Have you had a tetanus shot in the last ten years?’’ My mind went blank. ’’I can't remember.’’

’’Let's get that over with,’’ she said.

I could feel the panic mount. ’’I mean, it's really not necessary. It's not a problem. I have two dislocated fingers, but the skin wasn't broken. See? No cuts, no puncture wounds. I didn't step on a nail.’’

’’I'll be right back.’’

I felt my heart sink. In my weakened condition, I hadn't thought to lie. I could have told her anything about my medical history. She'd never know the difference and it was my lookout. Lockjaw, big deal. This was all too much. I'm phobic about needles, which is to say I sometimes faint at the very idea of injections and become giddy at the sight of a S-Y R-1-N-G-E. I've been known to pass out when other people get shots. In traveling, I would never go to a country that required immunizations. Who wants to spend time in an area where smallpox and cholera still run rampant among the citizens?

What I hate most in the world are those obscene newscasts where there's sudden minicam coverage of wailing children being stabbed with hypodermics in their sweet, plump little arms. Their expressions of betrayal are enough to make you sick. I could feel the sweat breaking out on my palms. Even lying down I was worried I'd lose consciousness.

She came back in a flash, holding the you-know-what on a little plastic tray like a snack. In my only hope of control, I persuaded her to stick me in the hip instead of my upper arm, though lowering my blue jeans was a trick with one hand.

’’I don't like it either,’’ she said. ’’Shots scare me silly. Here we go.’’

Stoically, I bore the discomfort, which truly wasn't as bad as I remembered it. Maybe I was maturing. Ha ha ha, she said.

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