As Dixie was trying to make sense of the story her mother had just told her the house phone rang. She heard her dad’s warm voice answer it from the kitchen.
Daddy. What had been his role? She asked, “Mother, what about Daddy? Did he know all of this before he married you? What did he think?”
Her mother’s smile was tender, and sad. She blew her nose again; she had just about used up the box of tissues on the side table. “Your father was my hero. After Kyle was born I took the spring semester of school off, and the summer, but I went back in the fall. I met your dad then. He was involved with a Christian athletes program.” She smiled at the memory. “He was so handsome. But I wasn’t looking to get involved with anyone. I just wanted to finish school and put my life back together. We met through friends and began spending time together. I suppose because I didn’t have intentions of dating I opened up more to him than I normally would have, without worrying about ruining my chances of a relationship with him. I had never had a relationship with anyone who took my spiritual well-being seriously. But he did. I couldn’t help loving him. I didn’t expect him to care for me. I was “damaged goods” so to speak. He became my best friend and rock. I started to believe God might see me with a kindness I had never believed possible, when I saw myself through his eyes. I was shocked when he told me he cared for me and later asked me to marry him.
Something in the tone of her dad’s voice drew Dixie’s attention from the story her mother was telling. Even though she wanted to hear what her mother had to say, the urgency in his words trumped her desire.
She looked to the kitchen where her dad was on the phone. Her mother looked too, sensing Dixie’s anxiousness. “What is it Dixie?”
“Dad sounds like something’s wrong.”
They paused and listened together. Dixie couldn’t make out the words her dad was saying but she understood his tone. He stopped talking and she heard his steps crossing the hallway. Dixie and Sharon searched his face anxiously as he appeared in the doorway. His tense expression wasn’t reassuring.
“What is it, Daddy?” Dixie asked.
Richard crossed the room to sit by his wife. “Dixie, I’m afraid there has been an accident.”
Dixie jumped up. “Kenny! Did something happen to Kenny?”
“No, honey, it’s not Kenny.” He stood up again and reached out for her hand. “I’m afraid it’s Bo. He and some friends were racing their cars on a dirt road on the Sheridan’s property. He lost control and flipped the car.”
Dixie gasped, her pulse racing. “Is he okay?” she asked. Fear was growing inside her.
“No, baby girl, I’m afraid not. They rushed him to the hospital, but he has internal injuries. He’s in surgery now.”
Sharon reached for Dixie’s arm while talking to her husband. “Richard, let’s go. Linda and Harry must be beside themselves. You can ride with us Dixie, you’re dad will drive. I don’t want you to drive upset.”
Dixie didn’t argue with her mother. She knew she was right. Her knees felt week. The room seemed dark and hollow. The acrid taste of fear choked her.
The three of them scattered, collecting their cell phones and purses, and met back up in the kitchen. “Ready?” Richard asked as Sharon flipped on the outside light. They both nodded in mute agreement.
Dixie pulled the door shut behind her, it clicked with a terrifying finality. The night air was cool, but she found she was chilled to the bone from the inside. In the afternoon autumn glow the family moved quickly to her dad’s Taurus. Once they were in, and had pulled out onto the street, Dixie asked her dad to tell her again what had happened.
“It was Sheriff Walters that called. Pete said that Bo, Fletcher, Bo’s college friend Reid, and Skeet Mathews were racing Bo and Skeet’s cars on an old dirt road on the Sheridan’s property. They were going fast and Bo lost control of his car. It flipped and hit a tree. Luckily he was wearing his seatbelt and a helmet, but the impacted caused internal injuries, probably some broken bones as well. They rushed him to Delta Regional Medical Center. I don’t know anything else really. I’m sure we’ll find out more when we get there, honey.”
They left the town behind and soon caramel colored fields and clumps of trees were flashing past. It was at least a thirty minute drive to the hospital. Dixie rested her forehead on the window and watched the delta land slip behind them. The cool window felt good against her head, where inside her brain felt feverish. How could she process all of this? Hot tears slipped down her cheeks, betraying her volatile emotions.
In the front seat her parents talked softly between themselves. She closed her eyes and let the emotion sweep over her. There was a lot to grieve, the pain that had kept her and her mother distant, the separation from a brother she’d never known, the hardship people like Kenny and Gabriel faced, the frightening way life is fragile. Was she going to lose one of her dearest friends? Friend. A sudden realization tightened her chest. What she felt for Bo was more than friendship.
The fatigue of the day and the warm car lulled Dixie to sleep. Her head bobbed up as her dad parked in the guest parking at the hospital. She shook the drowsiness off and stood on shaky legs. Part of her wanted to dash inside, the other part felt like hanging back. Coming up beside her, her dad put his arm around her shoulder, steadying her. She was thankful for that.
The three of them crossed the parking lot without a word, each absorbed by their own thoughts. Warm delta sunlight beat down on her red head making her uncomfortably warm in her sweater. Stepping through the hospital doors that parted with a whoosh Dixie’s nose twinged at the cool, sanitary air. Bile rose up in her throat, she took a deep breath and swallowed hard. Bo would be all right. Of course the doctors would do everything they could. They would fix him. She was fighting to keep control. There had been too many emotions in this day.
Her dad had her elbow and steered her to a reception desk. Dixie watched as he and her mother talked to the dark skinned woman with the bright smile and questioning eyebrows, but Dixie didn’t take in a word. Everything sounded like a buzz.
“Thank you,” said her dad to the woman, and then “this way,” to Dixie and her mother. She followed him down a wide sterile hall with pictures of nature hung on the walls, she assumed in an attempt to improve its appearance. Midway down they stopped in front of an elevator. Her dad pushed the button for the third floor. The doors opened into a waiting area where Linda, Harry, Mary Beth, Emily, and Fletcher along with Bo’s friends Reid and Skeet were huddled together at one end.
Linda stood up when she saw them. Sharon and Linda embraced, Harry and her dad also. The Lees’ sorrow joined with the others. Harry and Linda began to fill them in on what they knew. Tears were wiped and refilled. Bo had internal injuries, a concussion, and broken arm.
“He’s been in surgery for an hour,” Linda told them. As if he had heard her the doctor appeared. Everyone stood up in agonizing expectancy.
The doctor’s salt and pepper hair said he’d been doing this a long time, his warm eyes said he cared, his chiseled mouth said it was serious. “Folks, I’m Dr. Webb” he began, zeroing in on Bo’s parents, “We stopped the bleeding and stabilized Bo. He’s in recovery now and will be moved to a critical care room soon. The arm, spleen, and bruising will heal. Right now the main concern is we’re going to need to keep an eye on his kidney. Bo has what’s called renal dysplasia. It’s not uncommon but it means he’s been living with only one healthy kidney. His second kidney never developed and isn’t functional.”
They all looked at his parents, who looked at each other confused. “We had no idea he only had one kidney,” Linda told the doctor.
He nodded his head reassuringly. “That’s not surprising. It’s a relatively common condition and can easily go undetected. Our concern now is with the damage to his good kidney, he doesn’t have a second to pick up the slack. He sustained a pretty significant injury to the left kidney. It may recover or it may die. In that case Bo is going to need a kidney transplant. We will monitor him closely and can begin dialysis if we determine it’s necessary.”
The shock was palpable.
“Do you have any questions, Mr. and Mrs. Sheridan?” The doctor’s tone was kind.
Harry, choking back tears, asked, “Are you saying he could die?”
“Without a functioning kidney a person can’t survive. But with dialysis and kidney transplant the prognosis is very good. Your son’s condition is serious, but it’s not life-threatening at the moment.”
“When will we be able to see him?” Linda wanted to know.
“As soon as he is out of recovery and in a room we will let you know. Because he is being so closely monitored in recovery it’s best if we get him settled before you go back. But it shouldn’t be much longer. He will still be sleepy and on pain medicine, but he should be able to talk to you.”
After a handshake, and reassurance he would be stopping back by the room that evening, Dr. Webb left. The vigilant band began talking among themselves in little clusters. Dixie went over to where Mary Beth and Emily were talking. They stretched out their arms and the three hugged. Emily, unable to hold back the tears, sobbed on Dixie’s shoulder.
“Oh, Dix, you should have seen him. He looked white as death.”
“I know Emily. It’s awful. But you heard the doctor. He’s going to be okay. Don’t worry, sweetie.”
Reid and Skeet joined the girls. Fletcher had moved to a chair in the corner and was staring out the window. He venerated his big brother. Dixie could only imagine how he must be feeling.
“Did Fletch see the accident?” She asked the young men quietly.
“Yeah, I’m ’fraid he did,” Skeet drawled, casting a furtive glance at the boy. “It wa’nt purty neither. That car’s toast and the rescue team had to cut Bo out.”
Reid’s face was white. “It was my fault,” he whispered. “I asked him if we could take his car out for a ride. He’s particular about safety and wouldn’t consider racing on a road. He and Skeet set it up for me. They went over the dirt road a time or two to make sure it didn’t have any potholes. On the way back they opened it full throttle.” He shook his head. “I should never have asked.” His pale lip trembled.
Mary Beth put her hand on his shoulder. “Reid, you know Bo would look for any opportunity to drive that car fast. He’s taken it out before on our back roads. He knew what he was doing, and the risk.” The bow of her accent drawn across her emotions created the feeling of a sad song. “It’s not your fault. Fast is what he loves.”
A tear slipped down Reid’s cheek. “I know Mary Beth. I just feel terrible.”