Lou – Short Story

Here is Lou. It is not a polished publication ready story, but I think it has potential.  I hope you will feel something while reading it, good, bad, etc., anything but  feeling nothing. Walking away with nothing is an awful feeling.  Please leave your comments.  Thanks for reading.    Kev

Lou

            “Yes – Mr. Steven, what can we do for you?” the nurses voice is heard through the hospital room’s intercom speaker.

“I did not call you about me; I called for Lou, my roommate. He needs something. I don’t know what he is doing, but I can see his foot hanging over his bed’s safety rail. I can’t see anything else – the curtain between our beds is drawn, but his foot is definitely on his beds railing.”

“Ok, thanks, we will be down soon.”

The conversation with the intercom nurse was over and soon the quietness of the small room resumed. The nurse had been in there room 34 only 10 minutes ago, checking the men’s vitals at 2:00 a.m. When she left the room, she did not close the door fully; it was open just a crack. A sliver of florescent hallway light beamed through that crack and it would flickered whenever someone walked past, casting warm moving shadows that danced on the wall opposite Mr. Jeff Stevens bed. The shadows are a warm welcome to Mr. Steven. They’re telling him, you are not along. You – Mr. Steven’s are not alone, not alone with sounds that are coming from the other side of the green and red curtain.

Mr. Steven, now awake in the room of shadows, looks up at the ceiling, listening, he starts counting once again – waiting. He can hear the sound of Lou’s labored breathing and the soft beeps of both men’s medical equipment. The gloomy feelings Mr. Steven’s has about hospital rooms returned to him soon after the intercom conversation is over. To him, hospital rooms at night are friendless; there is a sense of loneliness and some dark — sinking feeling of despair – sadness.

Steven, woken up by the sound coming from the other side of the green and red curtain, pushed the nurses call button. The sound; except for the added grunting and labored breathing reminded Mr. Stevens of a cheap vinyl shower curtain or a plastic trash bag being crumpled up. After pushing the call button Mr. Stevens started to count the little holes in the ceiling tiles, while listening – waiting. It was just like last night, laying in the dimly lit room, watching shadows and listing to the strange sound of crumpling plastic breathing, all the while he counting the little perforated holes in the ceiling tiles; that he could see as the light from open door to the hallway illuminated parts of ceiling. He lay there – waiting.

“Lou, I did call the Nurses. Hang in there. She will be here soon.”

Lou said nothing in response.

Jeff Stevens wakes up several times each night by the grunted -labored breathing crunching vinyl. His first night in this room 34, he did not recognize the crinkling, crunching sound or understand the grunting that came from the other side of the green and red curtain; that was three nights ago.

Mr. Stevens is dealing recover from brain surgery. To Jeff Stevens everything is like looking through saran wrap; you can see through to the other side, but the doors of perception are foggy.

Each night Mr. Stevens must make a decision, whether or not to call the nurse for Lou, Steven’s lays awake each night counting ceiling tiles in the dimly lit room – waiting. He lays there on white cool feeling sheets. He can feel the pressure-cuffs on his ankles expanding and contracting as they help his blood circulate while being bed ridden. He listens intently at Lou’s current struggle; listening and he starts to breathe as Lou breathes, hard through the mouth breathing. Lou starts to grunt repeatedly as his left hand fingers pull at the waistband of his soiled – plastic covered diaper: it makes crinkling, crunching noise as he remove it.

Lou feels uncomfortable lying in his soiled diaper. He fights to free himself from his messy diaper, it while during this struggle, that he triggered the alarms on the auto- medicine machine and his life support equipment.

*

Shoes, Mr. Stevens hears shoes coming down the hallway. The squeak of rubber soled shoes; purple crocks worn by the night nurse Mary. The sound grows closer to the men’s room; they are both are lying in the shadows of life, staring up looking at the ceiling. One of the men feels coolness in the room, chilled, he covers with a blanket and then he counts ceiling tiles, as the smell of rubber, sucked up into his nose from the oxygen tube strapped to his face. This man is grateful to survive an eight our brain surgery four days ago. The other man is naked, from the waist down; only his thin hospital gown covers his chest. This man could not cover himself even if he was cold. He could not call for the nurse to get him any blanks – even if he wanted too.

This man is praying, wanting death. It has been two weeks since his third stoke – three in the past five months. The last stroke – crippling, and it has taken its toll on his body by paralyzing the entire right side, he has only limited movement on his left side. He drools constantly. He cannot speak, and he cannot press the call button for help, even if his life depended on it. He can only shuffle his body around by pulling on the right side bed railing with his left hand. It takes him hours the change his bodies position, even longer to remove his wet and soiled diaper.

*

Purple Crocks walk in.

“Hello Mr. Steven’s, I am so sorry that Lou keeps waking you up,” said Nurse Mary.

“It is ok. I cannot sleep much, at least not yet. I just drift in an out of sleep. It is the pain in my head that keeps me awake.”

“Remember to hit your pain medicine button. That is what it is there for.”

“I forget about it sometimes”

“Lou – Mr. O’Reilly, what have you been doing to yourself?” said Mary.

There is not an answer, only Lou’s cold – screaming and alive eyes. There radiant blue in contrast to the pale flesh of his paralyzed frozen face. The follow Mary– questioning.

“Mr. O’Reilly, we will have to clean you and your bed up again. You need to be a good boy and stop taking you clothes off,” said Mary.

*

“Jesus, Lord God on High. I pray, could you please help poor Lou. Either heal him or take him home to you.” I said this quietly to myself. This is not a way to live. I really hate laying here listening to him struggle – suffer. During my first night, I only woke once, but that was because I heavy with the surgery anesthesia.

Pain – tonight I am starting to feel the pain, even with all the i.v. bags, lines, and the automatic medicine-giving machine I hurt. I cannot put into words how much I hurt, but I would not trade my pain with Lou’s pain. What an awful thing to think, that I would not help him even, if I could by trading my pain for his pain. I know I would not trade with him, even to ease his suffering.

I have been in this room four day’s now and I have my wife Sally here each day. She takes care of me, fusses over me, and reads to me. I cried each morning when she walks into the room. I know it is the medicine, and the surgery, they are screwing with my emotions, but I am overjoyed to see her and I cry.

Lou the poor guy, he must be miserable. He cannot talk, he can hardly move. He cannot control his bladder or bowels. He must just sit and wait in his mess for help. I would want to dies first, before I get like that.   Lou lies there alone all day. In the four days that I have been here, he has had no one, not a single member of his family, or any friends have been in to see him No flowers, nothing – he is alone. He cannot turn on the T.V. or even change the channels. He is feed at mealtime; but the person who feeds him gets here late, after the food is cold; she feed him cold mash potatoes, and cold soup. He cannot complain. He can only make grunt sounds; he does this only when he is mad.

Yesterday morning during the nurses shift change, Lou was moving around on his bed grunting, breathing hard. That is when he first set off the alarms on his automatic medicine and life support equipment. The nurses flew into here with in a second. What a mess they found. Lou pulled out all of his i.v. lines, while trying to remove his diaper. The nurses had a heck of a time putting the i.v’s. back into him. I think it took them, over two hours to clean him, change his sheets, and hook him back up to his i.v. lines.

*

“Mr. O’Reilly, I am sorry but we cannot have you stop trying to climb out of bed. Mr. O’Reilly – Lou, I know you can hear me. Please, please stop taking off your cloths. Now we need to change your bed sheets again. Lou – NO … NO… STOP IT,” said Mary in the purple crocks.

“Grunt – Grunt.”

“Lou, you cannot keep pulling your i.v’s. out, and you give me no choice. I am sorry, but I will need to restrain you. I will call your daughter and tell her.

*

Room 34 is busy; the night nurse Mary in her squeaky purple crocks along with two helpers change Lou sheets, cleaned and redress him. They spend much time in hooking his i.v. lines back up. Lou arms were back and blue, not a patch of white skin left, this was caused by Lou when he ripped his veins while he yanked out his i.v. lines. The nurse wrapped his arms with bandages once the I.V’s. were back in, and she proceeded to put his wrist in wrist cuffs.  Mr. Stevens laid there listening – waiting, staring up, counting tiles – counting the hours, counting his blessing. Mr. Steven pressed his morphine button and fell asleep for while, only after when the pain went away: temporary.

*

Lou is angry at the world, at his life, at his family. He wonders, if he is being punished; for not being a good husband and father.

*

“Morning cutie, I knew you were coming, I could hear your shoes clicking on the hallway floor. How did you sleep?”

“Morning too you, I slept like crap, you? How was Lou?”

“Sally – I can’t handle this. Lou was in a bad way again last night, he tore out all of his i.v. tubes, and then pulled off his diaper again, and then he tried to climb out of bed. I cannot believe all that he can do. They had to tie him to the bed with wrist cuffs.”

“They did what? Really – they tied him. Why that – when they could medicate him.

“I don’t know. I sure they have their reasons.”

“Jeff, I feel sorry for that poor man. Have you seen anyone from his family this morning?

“No.”

“I hope someone shows up. It is Sunday. We have been here five days now and not one visitor to see him. You would not guess were in a city of 10 million people, the city that never sleeps. Lou seems so alone. I can’t stand it.”

“I know it is sad, but no one has come in yet, and you don’t have to hear him struggle all night. Someone is coming, her the shoes.”

“Good Morning Mr. Steven’s, how are you? It is time for you morning pills. I need to check your vitals first.”

“Nurse”

“Yes, Mrs. Stevens”

“Lou – its Lou – What can be done for him? He needs special help. He pulled all his i.v. lines out again, and then they tied him to the bed.”

“I know. He is supposed to be in a stroke ward, on the stroke floor, and not here on the Neurological floor. They are out of room for him in the stroke ward. The stoke ward has special staff members who sit with their stoke patients 24 / 7. We are not set up for that on this floor.  Mr. O’Reilly’s family needs to move him to a different hospital. So far, we cannot get their permission, we tired. In fact, we have tried for two weeks. I am not supposes to talk about other patients and their families issues. Mr. O’Reilly family is concerned about the distance they would have to travel, if we put him into the closest hospital for his medical condition. It appears that it would be too far away for them to visit him.”

“What? They have not been here in the last five days. I cannot not believe that people can do that to their own family, he is someone’s father,” said Sally.

“Yes, he is a father. He has four grown kids, three boys and a girl. They come here every Sunday. You will see them today. Mr. Stevens, could you please lean forward, so I can check your incision.”

*

“Pop, hey pop, you want to watch the Yankees? He loves the Yankees.”

“Bill, he hates the Yankees, and he is still waiting for the Dodgers to come back to Brooklyn.”

“Steve, what in the hell are you talking about? We always went to Yankees game? Pop can you believe this guy, you raised a moron.”

“Jesus, you guys, your both wrong. Pop likes the White Sox’s. He moved to New York to after he met mom during a White Sox’s game in CHICAGO -where he lived. Mom was there visiting her aunt. The Sox were playing the Yankees, in Chicago. God you guys are clueless.”

“How would you know Fran, you were not even born yet,” the brother said this in unison.

“Guys, I know it is hard to believe but I do remember our mother. Mom use to tell me all about, how she and Pop met. She would tell me that I needed to find a good man like my father when I grow up. It is one of my only memories of her. I cannot believe she has been gone 30 years. “

“Fran was she talking about our father?” said Steve.

“Yes – and where is Bernie?”

“He is down the corner at the Grill, he is getting us a table for lunch,” said Bill.

“Is he coming up?” asked Fran.

“No, someone had to get the table,” said Steve

“Fran, are you coming along for lunch?” asked Steve

Ya, but you guys go on; I’ll stay and talk to pop a little longer.”

*

The room filled with conversations about baseball. Mr. and Mrs. Stevens sat on their side of the green and red curtain and tried to ignore all the noise. The ball game was on the T.V. and Lou’s children talked over each other about each play of the game. Sally Stevens tries to read a sailing magazine’s article to her husband about sailing the Bahamas, and that is their goal to sail the Caribbean for two years, Island hopping once he heals.  Thirty minutes after they arrived, Lou’s boys leave the room for lunch and the day, discussing what to have for lunch and the games score as they walk out of the room. Fran stays for fifteen more minutes, and she used her cell phone for ten of those minutes calling to check on her husband and kids. They want Fran to bring food home from the restaurant, they’re all hungry.

*

“Pop, I sure hope they are talking care of you here. You know – the Nurse called me at home early this morning. She told me about you pulling out your i.v. lines. She told me that they needed to keep your hands restrained. We cannot make them remove them. They say it is for your safety. You know, they want to move you to a hospital across town. The boys and I will talk about it over lunch. I got to go pop. Jimmy and the boys need they’re lunch. I leave the game on for you. Bye.

*

Fran walks out the room. Mr. Stevens and Lou listen has her heals slowly click down the hallway, out of range of the men’s hearing.

*

What kind of God dammed kids do I have? If there mother was still alive this never would have turned out like this. Was I really a bad father? I did not know how to raise four young kids.

Fran, my little Fran, was only five when her mom, my beautiful Dorothy died.   Dorothy please forgive me, I screwed everything up. I drank too much after you died. I did not know what else to do. I have never loved another woman, never touch another woman. I brought the kids at Mass every Sunday. On that day I died with you.

It started out as a great day. Remember Dorothy? August 11, 1964. The White Sox’s vs. the Yankees, at Yankee Stadium. Sox won 8 – 2. We had a great time on that warm summer night. I can still here the organ playing and everyone singing, “Take me out to the ball game.” I cans smell and taste the popcorn and the dogs. We were broke; we split a beer, a dog, and small popcorn. Why did it have to end Dorothy? Baseball has changed Dorothy, and it changed the most for me on that night on the way home. How would we have known the L.I.R.R. was to crash in to a stalled truck, only blocks from home?

Dorothy, I had to take that train line, twice a day, every day for 40 years, past the very spot that we last held hands. All I could do was to worked and drink after that day.

GOD, Help me God, please – I cannot even tell my kids that I am sorry, sorry for screwing them up, but I am so tired. Dorothy, I cannot hang on. I do not want to hang on any more. Dorothy, I want to come home to you. I am tired of missing you.

I hate this hospital. I hate hearing the couple next to me. I hate everything. They treat me like I am an infant.

Do you know how indignant it is to shit your own pants and wait to be changed? No- I don’t think you do.

*

“Jeff, I thought seeing you during recovery, was a hard thing to do, but to see Lou like this every day is much harder. Knowing – that he will never recover. I cannot stand the way his family treats him. Jeff, you listening, what do you think goes on in Lou’s head? I wish I could do something for him. Can you believe the way his kids act like this is not a big deal? And his sons, they ignore him, and don’t seem to know crap about him. That comment about “Was she talking about out pop?” I just want to slap all of them. The daughter, she also seems worthless for his care.

Jeff, should I say something to his daughter, before she leaves? Tell her what her father goes through at night, what you hear? Tell her what I really think about their abandoning their father six days out of seven. Jeff – please say something will you.”

“I am tired Sally, I did not sleep at all last night, my head hurts, and when it does not hurt, I feel funky from my medicine. I still feel foggy, like this is all a bad dream. Sally, I would not say anything to Lou’s family. You can feel the family disconnect.   Maybe you can do something for Lou, after they’re gone.”

*

The intercom crackles. Visiting hours are over. Please exit the building. Visiting hours resume tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.

Poor Lou, I cannot sit here and watch his family neglected him. If that was my father I would stick to him like I stick to Jeff. I’d sleep in here with Jeff and Lou; if they let me.

What happen to Lou and his children? Where is his wife? Does he have a wife? Was she nice to Lou? Was Lou nice to her? Was he a good father? Something must have happen in that family. How could they just let their father lay here all alone each day? I wish I knew more. I want to shake that daughter of his, tell her about how her father suffers.

The guy deserves some respect, even if he had been a lousy father. If he had been a bad father, they would not be here at all. My heart breaks each time I do look at him or hear the movements behind the curtain. I cringe with the sounds of his grunts or sounds he makes struggling with his diaper.

This is not the way people should die. It is so indignant for anyone to lie in their own soil waiting to be changed.  I wish I could either save him or pull the plug. It just is not right.

“Jeff?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t let them keep me alive – if I ever get like Lou. OK? It is not right. Let me die when it comes. Give the doctors 48 hours – if it takes more than 48 hour to save me, then please don’t save me. I am sure that if takes any longer than that, I would not be the same person as I am now.”

‘Sally, we can rethink this later. We do not need to make this decision now, but I will do whatever you ask. Ok?”

“It is not right – the way that poor man is suffering, grunting- miserable. I think he is fine in his thoughts, just his body is broken. Jeff, – Lou is.. I think Lou is trapped in his body.”

“Sally, here hold my hand, feel it – I am here, I am alive, and I am yours. Lou is not yours.   Care for him, read to him. We can pray for him, but you cannot interfere with Lou and his family.”

“I know Jeff, I just feel bad for him.”

Sally, tomorrow before you come back find a sports magazine too read to him.”

“Yes, I will, but I will go now and read to him. I still have 20 minutes until they ask me to leave.”

“Where did I ever find you Sally? I can never thank God enough for you.”

“Stop being silly Jeff.”

“I’m not silly. It is true. Now I am going to close my eyes while you read to Lou. I love the sound of your voice.”                         *

Squeaky shoes walk down the hallway, purple crocs walk into the room.

“Lou, the doctor prescribed something to help relax you. I am going to give you an injection. I be gentle with you.   There that was not so bad.   Mr. Stevens do you need anything? I’ll be back in an hour for your vitals.”

“Can you bring me some Jell-O, and a sprite?

“Sure – when I come back.”

*

The room is quite for a moment; Sally goes around the red and green striped curtain. She looks into Lou’s steel blue eyes that are sunken deep into the pale flesh; they follow her, starring back at her, she feels his sorrow. The right side of his face is drawn tight and down, while the left side look normal. Is mouth is open on the right side while his lips droop and do not seal.

“Hello Lou, I am Sally, and I would like to read to you. My husband is in the next bed. Sorry that I do not have any baseball magazines, I will come back tomorrow with one. I only have a sailing magazine now. I hope you like it. I can read you a story about sailing across the Gulf of Mexico from Jamaica to Belize.”

*

Sally, sits, leans close to Lou, she wipes the drool from his mouth, his eyes follow her every move. She started to speak soft to him; her voice is a comfort to him as she smoothes his hair. Sally holds Lou’s hand just below the wrist restraint. She then starts the story.

The steel in those sunken blue eyes relaxed has her easily sounding voice enters Lou’s ears. She read about white sandy beaches with warn tranquil turquoise waters.

Places Los had never been. It was a story about a man whose floating on a raft, with a big bird, his boat sank off a Caribbean Island. The man feels trouble when he see a big white albatr..…

Beep-Beep- Beep Beeep.

“Lou, Lou!”

“Sally, what is wrong?”

“Please hit the call button…….I think …..Lou’s pain and loneliness is over.”

“What?”

“Hit the button Jeff!”

Alarms sounded in the hall. Over the intercom Crash team to room 34. Code red.

“Yes Mr. Steven’s your light is on”

“Lou is not well. Please hurry. It’s my roommate Lou. Something is wrong.”

“We know, were on our way.”

Mr. Steven’s hears shoes in the hallway, many shoes running towards the room.

“Sally, come sit down next to me.”

Nurses and doctors flood the room. One nurse asked Mrs. Stevens to leave the room.

“Mr. O’Reilly, Mr. O’Reilly. Shit – Look – It looks as if something went wrong with life support equipment. Get the paddles – Clear, Again, Clear. He is flat lined,” said the nurse.

“Jeff, I better go now. It is very busy in here, so I will go now, like they asked. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Wait -what happen?

“I really don’t know. I have to go.   I will call later. Bye.”

“We can’t save him. He is already gone,” said the doctor.

“We need to check the his medicine given record and equipment. Get an equipment tech down here to verify the equipment did not malfunction and cause this, and we need to record all the fluid levels of his i.v. bags. It looks like his breathing ventilator was adjusted too low for his condition,” said the head nurse in yellow crocs.

“Where is Mary, she the nurse of him, said a nurse in pair of green crocs.

“She is not on for another two hours,” said the head nurse in yellow crocs.

“Nurse,” said the doctor. “It looks as if he had another stroke. I hate to say – it but he is better off, we could not have improved his life, just prolonged it.”

*

Mr. Steven’s sinks deep into his mattress; his head feels like lead with the weight of the events unfolding. Mr. Jeff Steven’s can feel the tension on the other side of the green and red curtain.

Hospital rooms at night are friendless; there is a sense of some dark — sinking feeling; loneliness – despair – sadness. Jeff Stevens starts to count the little holes in the ceiling tiles again- no longer waiting; for he knows, that tonight Lou will be with the dancing shadows. Hit pushes his automatic medicine button wanting to forget.

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