Deanna Morris

Posted on September 12, 2011

2


Charlie

The dark rain fell in sheets and flattened against the stained glass window. Without the sunlight to illuminate the prism of the glass, the window lost its cathedral appearance and was reduced to simple lead and paint. Charlie pressed his one good eye against the inside of the pane, but he could not decipher what was behind it. He figured it must be a church as he felt his way long the building, thinking that the brick felt red.

Charlie thought in colors. When he heard his own voice, it sounded lime green to him, which wasn’t often since he rarely spoke to anyone. He made his way to the entrance and read the large letters on the main door: HOSPITAL. Charlie had really wanted a church, but this would do.

There was a chill in the night air and the warmth of the waiting area descended on him like confetti – bits and pieces of vented air circulated on and around him. He turned toward the triage and, before he could lean against the counter, the nurse told him to stand back and “not drip all over the clipboard” she was handing him. “Sign your name and what your condition is,” she instructed him.

The board and pen were attached by a stingy, silver chain that was better suited for a right handed person than for Charlie. He slowly printed his name and under the column “condition” he wrote “swollen eye.” Behind him, a car accident victim was being wheeled in and, in the confusion, the nurse did not notice that Charlie left the column Insurance blank. Maybe he had come to the right place. He was told to take a seat and he’d be called in order of priority. He wasn’t sure if priority meant first in line, or seriousness of injury, or class status of the patient. He was sure he was not in the last category and, from the looks of the waiting area, he was not in the first. As he left the triage desk, his mind was a cloud of gray.

Ever since becoming homeless, Charlie thought in the color gray most of the time. He appeared gray. Charlie was all gray beard and mustache and long hair; not the kind of gray that speaks of experience, but rather a dull, muddy gray, hair tangled and twisted into knots. He found a seat next to the wall. The wallpaper was eggplant colored and a design he could not make out. Maybe there was something wrong with both of his eyes. Even so, he could see that the others in the waiting room were staring at him. He settled back in the chair and tried to concentrate on the markings in the rug beneath his feet. The air was still circulating and it felt warm and nice. Charlie dozed off.

He woke up a few minutes later when he felt something move inside his eyelid. He tried to rub it, but the eyelid was extremely sensitive to his touch. It, whatever it was, was slow and careful. Just as unhurriedly and cautiously, Charlie reached his hand again to his eye, and, to his horror, felt a slimy, white maggot. He threw it to the floor and stepped on it, grinding it until its mangled body meshed with the carpet’s design. He staggered back against the chair. When he righted himself, he headed to the triage counter again and stumbled against a table of magazines. He tried to regain his balance, but landed against the table’s edge and the infected eye burst open. Charlie fell to the ground, his eye wide open as three maggots made their insidious way down his face, over his ear and onto the triage black tile floor.

“We have to get him away from everyone,” he heard the triage nurse call out. “This won’t do.” Now he was first priority.

Charlie was examined by the emergency room doctor who confirmed that the eye was now free of intrusion. He swabbed the eye with antibiotic and wrote on his prescription pad for an oral version of the medication.

“Here, get this prescription filled and follow the at home instructions for your eye,” the doctor ordered him.

“I don’t have a home,” Charlie said.

The doctor had already disappeared behind the privacy curtain.

As Charlie got up from the table, the triage nurse appeared and said, “I forgot to ask for your insurance card.”

“I don’t have one,” Charlie said.

“Well, where do I send the bill?” Someone called to her and she said to Charlie, “Stay right here.”

Charlie disappeared through the cafe down the hospital hall and out into the night and the deserted streets. It had stopped raining, but it was still damp and cold. He pulled his frayed collar up around his ears being careful not to bump his eye.

The other eye was starting to sting and he looked for a dumpster to lay down in where he could close his eyes and get some sleep. A dumpster provided some shelter. He was afraid of being out all night, afraid of the dogs and the drunks and looking behind him thinking he heard footsteps. He was afraid of being bitten or beaten and being hungry.

He sighed a lime green sigh and stared at the gray city night. There was one thing in this deep, dark cold that did not frighten Charlie. There was one thing Charlie wasn’t afraid of at all. He was not afraid of death. Not even a little bit. He was already sleeping with the maggots.

***

Deanna Morris is an MFA student at Butler University.

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