Day 2: Occupational Hazards
For some reason, reading my grandpa’s headstone made me want to live up to his name. I never knew the guy, but what I did know of him got me to like him a lot more than my own father. My father pushed everything he loved away. My mother… Me… Grandpa… All he seemed to care about was his work.
The reactions from the townspeople though, when they think they’re seeing my grandpa when they’re looking at me, you can tell they loved him. That, I can respect. He may not have been there for me, probably because of my dad, but he was here for these people, and they loved him. That made restoring his farm a more worthwhile cause in my book.
I got up and made my way back to the Supermarket. I was going to need seeds to start growing crops. Things would be hard at first. All I had was five hundred gold, which wasn’t much. I needed to increase that. Once I had a steady cash flow going, I could work on getting animals. I didn’t know the first thing about farming, but I knew enough to know that I needed to clear the field to grow crops and that crops equals money. What more was there?
Along the path back, I passed the Clinic again. The sign said that it was open today and right now so I decided to pop in for a bit and check it out. When it came to any medical institution, I always hated doctors. They seemed so… distant. It was like they were trying to cut off their emotions so as not to get attached to how the patients felt. If they were emotionally detached, maybe then they could focus on the patient’s well-being instead of their comfort.
Nurses, on the other hand, were full of emotion. They were the flip side of doctors wanting nothing more than the patient to be comfortable. When I was back in the hospital recovering from my accident, I rarely saw the doctor. When I did, he would pop in, do some tests, then leave. The nurses stayed, helped me out, and talked with me.
At first, all they did was talk to me since I was incapable of talking back. Their kindness also helped me want to reach out to them. I pushed and struggled to learn how to speak again so I could keep them company. That drive helped me to become fluent again in no time. I then became someone they wanted to be around. More came by to visit me than was assigned to my care. It was thanks to those nurses that I made it this far today. I owed them a lot. Not my so called mother, who abandoned me. Not my fake father, who ignored me. I owed my well-being to complete strangers who decided to care.
Still though, I didn’t like doctors. So why was I going into a clinic? I was in a small village. If anything were to happen, this is the place where I’d have to go. That meant I had to know the doctor whether I liked it or not. Being a farmer was dangerous work. I could sustain a heavy injury from an animal, or from farm equipment, or any other disaster that could happen outside the farm. I had to make peace here and now or I’d find myself screwed later on.
As I walked through the doors, the first thing I noticed was a girl no older than I was sitting behind a desk. She had light-brown hair that was parted on the left side of her head. It fell down to the bottom of her chin and curled inwards. She had brown eyes, was wearing a blue dress with an apron over it, and had a mole on the upper left side of her lip. This girl also had a homely look about her and smelled heavily of apple pie. If there was anything to not like about what I saw, I was blind to it.
‘She must be the nurse,’ I thought to myself, liking her already as I walked up to her.
She was engrossed in some paperwork when I neared. Her head sat in her right hand and bobbed up and down as she chewed a wad of gum, blowing bubbles every now and then. Her left hand had a pen in it that she was hitting against the desk like a nervous tick. I cleared my throat to get her attention. She either didn’t hear me or was ignoring me.
“Excuse me?” I asked. “Excuse me!” Nothing. I looked around and found a silver bell on the top counter. I rang it so its ding echoed throughout the room.
“KAPPA’S CUCUMBERS!” she shouted as she pushed herself from the desk with enough force to send her backward.
I stared at her in shock, mouth agape. She stared at me in a mixture of both confusion and anger. When she finally grasped the situation, the confusion left, but the anger remained.
“WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!” she shouted as she threw her pen at me.
I covered my head and ducked, just in time to avoid it. “I’m sorry!” I shouted back. I ran around the desk to try and help her up. I found that she was already in the process of doing just that. “Here, let me help you.”
“I can manage just fine, thank you!” she said angrily. Once she was back up, she slapped my chest. “Don’t you know it’s rude to sneak up on a woman?!”
“Ow! Hey!” I said, backing off in fear of getting hit again. “I didn’t sneak up on you!”
“Are you calling me a liar?!” she shouted.
“Look!” I shouted to stop her from hitting me again. “Look.” I walked over to the Clinic door and opened it. “You see this bell up here? See it? It rings when you open and close the door.” I did so a couple of times to emphasize my point. “And these? These, right here,” I said pointing to my footwear, “are steel toed boots. It is literally impossible to sneak in these.” I tiptoed around to prove my point and you could definitely hear the thunk thunk thunk of each foot step. “I even cleared my throat and tried to get your attention several times before I rang that bell. You just couldn’t hear me.”
“What?” she said. “Oh, wait…” She reached up and pulled out some ear bud headphones out of her ears.
My mouth dropped incredulously.
She sighed. “I’m sorry I overreacted,” she said, like a child who was obviously not sorry. I was still speechless, so she took the time to do me a once over. She stretched out her hand. “You’re obviously Jack. You look so much like Grandpa. Now you’re the new owner of farm. Congrats.”
“Uh, yeah. That’s right,” I said, taking her hand. She squeezed it with a little more force than I estimated. So much so that I had to yank it away for her to stop. As I massaged the pain out of my hand, I looked back at her. “And your name is?”
She snorted. “I’m Elli. What can I do for you?”
“I just came in to get to know who worked here, just in case I ever really needed it.”
“I see,” she said. “Well… that is a smart thing to do, although let’s pray that you never have to come in for anything other than a cold. We wouldn’t want the newest member of our village to sustain any serious injuries, now would we?”
I laughed at that. She didn’t. She just blew a bubble and popped it with her teeth. “And why is that?” I wondered.
“Well Jack, that’s because you’re our lifeblood.”
I looked at her in shock. “I’m your what now?”
“Our lifeblood,” she smirked. “The crops that you grow on your farm not only get exported to places outside of Mineral Village, they are also the primary source of food that we eat. Things have been really hard for us since Grandpa died, you know. We’ve had to import a lot of food. Because of the preservatives that have been added to make the produce last longer, a lot of people have been coming in sick.
“This is why we’d like you to stay. We’ve grown close together as a village and we’d like to stay this way. Sure, it may not seem like much, being so small, but it’s friendly and its home. Without someone to provide a steady source of food, we’d eventually have to sell and move away. Our skillsets would never make it in the big cities.”
Elli breathed in deep and slow, then exhaled it all to calm herself down. Then she smiled at me for the first time. Of course, it was a smile of condescension, like Farmer Fran gave Timmy.
“Weren’t you told any of this?”
“This is the first I’ve heard,” I said honestly, “and I can see why. I think Mayor Thomas wanted me to stay because it was my choice and not because I was guilted into it.”
“That does sound like our mayor. We all cared for Grandpa deeply. You shouldn’t get offended if we see him every time we look at you. After all, you two look uncannily alike. But if that does offend you, I hope you know that we don’t mean it to be. I’m sure that the more we get to know you, the less we will stop doing that.”
I smiled hesitantly at Elli. “Well… thanks,” I said. Feeling a little bit more comfortable around her, I decided to relax a bit. “You know, you’re the most normal person I’ve met so far.”
Elli sat on the desk. “Really? Who’s been the weirdest?” she asked out of curiosity.
“Well, frankly, the only people I’ve met are Greg, Mayor Thomas, and a girl named Karen. She jumped on me and acted like she knew me. Of course, she was also pretty drunk,” I laughed.
Elli laughed as well. Harder than me even. I stopped long before Elli did. “Really? Man, that stupid drunk! GODDESS!” she suddenly yelled.
That caught me off guard. “I thought everyone in this town was one big happy family.”
Elli raised one of her eyebrows and looked at me like I was an idiot again. After a long awkward pause, she shook her head and said, “Anyways, let’s see about that checkup.”
“My what now?” I asked, suddenly terrified out of my mind. “I don’t remember asking for anything like that!”
“Well, you’re here now, so you might as well get one anyways.” I started hyperventilating. “Oh, don’t be such a baby. There won’t be any needles involved. I’m just going to make sure that everything is fine. You know, check your pulse and your heartbeat, examine your eyes, ears and throat, turn your head and cough, that sort of thing. That’s nothing to be scared of, is it?”
I calmed down a bit. “Well, I guess not. Wait. What was that last thing?”
“Okay, good,” she said, ignoring my question. “Follow me please.” She led me to the left of the desks where there were two makeshift rooms set up with walls of standing curtains. She walked over to the counter while I sat on the examination table. She turned around and snapped two gloves on her hands. “Now, pull down your pants and bend over please.”
“WHAT?!” I cried out.
She burst out laughing. “I’m sorry. I’m only playing with you. Just take off your shirt, shoes and socks.
I sighed with relief and did as she said. She was a nurse after all and I was no stranger to how this worked.
Elli’s smile disappeared as it changed into surprise.
“What? What is it?” I asked, suddenly scared again.
“What? Oh nothing! I… I just didn’t expect you to be so… so fit.”
“Eh?” I looked down at my body.
“I always figured that people from the city were usually on the… you know – heavier side, because all they do is sit for work, recreation and whatnot. Plus all that… whachu call it? Fast food?”
“Oh,” I said with understanding. “I wasn’t like that. I couldn’t afford it. I had to be fit. My job required it.”
Elli shrugged. “Anyways, if you’d please.”
“Oh… right.” I removed my shoes and moved over to the scale.
As I stood there, the balance bumped up and down. Elli walked over and slid the weight over till the balance was steady in the middle. “One-seventy. Okay, now turn around.” I turned around and waited for her to slide the measure down. It got stuck partway down. Elli had to force it and it rapped me smartly on the noggin. “Looks like you’re five foot eight. Now, if you’ll sit on the table.
I did as she instructed.
Elli pulled out a stethoscope from one of the pockets on her dress and put it on. She breathed slowly and heavily on the metal disc at the end, which I admit was slightly arousing. She then put in on my chest as her opposite hand moved to my back. “Is it too cold?” she asked.
“No, it’s fine.”
“That’s great. Would you please breathe in nice and slowly?” I did so. “Hold it… and exhale.” She moved the stethoscope. “And again?” I did so again before she moved it again. “And again?” I did so again. She moved the stethoscope to my back and repeated the process. After that, she pulled a stool over to sit on as she placed two fingers on the underside of my wrist and looked at a clock.
“Hmm…” Elli frowned. “Your pulse is kind of high. Is there any reason why?”
As Elli turned to look at me, I quickly looked away. “Uh… Nope,” my voice squeaked. Then, much deeper, “Not that I can think of.”
After that, she pulled out a pen light and looked into my eyes. Then she used that thing to check my ears. She pulled out a tongue depressor and made me say “Ah.” After that, she used both hands to feel up and down my neck.
“Well,” she finally said, “although your pulse is a little fast, your chest seems normal. Your eyes and ears look fine. Your throat looks good. Now, on to your feet.”
She lowered her stool and proceeded to check my feet. After checking my ankles, she grabbed a tuning fork and banged it against her palm to make it vibrate. She placed the single end against my toe while she slid her thumb and index finger up the pronged end. “Tell me when you feel it stop vibrating.” I told her when. She did the same thing for each toe on each foot.
“Your feet look fine,” she finally said. “Could you please roll up your pant legs?” As I started to, Elli said, “Oh my… You have a cut!”
“Huh?” I said, looking down at my left leg. It was less like a cut and more like a small gash. “Where did that come from?” I wondered. “Oh… wait. That probably happened when I fell down yesterday.”
“You fell down yesterday and got that? What happened?” Elli inquired.
“I… don’t really remember. I remember remembering something but the pain in my head was so great that when I went to sleep I forgot what I remembered. The pain from when I remembered whatever caused me to fall over. I must have scraped my leg over a rock or something.”
Elli looked at me skeptically. “So you’re telling me that you have an open wound and a head injury and you didn’t want a checkup?”
Elli shook her head and leaned in to examine it further. “Does it hurt?” she asked?
I shrugged. “Oh… There’s no pain at all.”
Elli looked back up at me. “Really? So when I do this –“ she pressed her thumb against my wound, “it doesn’t hurt?”
When she touched my wound, I jumped as searing pain raced up my leg.
“Heh heh heh… I didn’t feel a thing,” I said as tears came to my eyes.
Elli stared at me in disbelief. “Really?” she wondered. “This… doesn’t hurt?” She poked the cut again and I cringed.
“So this feels normal?” Elli jabbed the cut again.
“Uh huh,” I said, tears now streaming down my face.
“Well, what about this?” This time, Elli slapped it, hard.
I cried out in pain. “OW! WHY’D YOU DO THAT? THAT WAS EXCRUCIATING!”
Elli laughed at me. “I knew it! You shouldn’t lie to me, Jack. It’s not good for your health.
“I get that now,” I said through gritted teeth.
“If it hurt the first time, like I know it did, it’s going to hurt every other time. I hit you because if you were going to continue to be stupid and pretend this was nothing, it could’ve gotten a lot worse. What if this cut got infected? You work out in the fields all day, eventually dirt is going to get in it.”
I never thought about that. I just didn’t want to look like a sissy in front of a girl.
“I’m going to clean it,” Elli told me before she moved away. As she started to rummage through the shelves, she said back to me, “Of course, you know real men aren’t supposed to cry out over something so small.”
I grit my teeth. “I wouldn’t have cried out if you hadn’t slapped it!”
“And I told you, I wouldn’t have slapped it if you’d just been honest in the first place.”
“Oh, really?” I cocked an eyebrow.
“No. I would’ve slapped it anyways,” she laughed.
“Just what kind of nurse are you?” I wondered.
“One of a kind,” she replied. “Here,” she said sitting back down with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. “Now, this might sting a little, but it will clean the wound.”
I bit my tongue as she dabbed it on. Then she placed a bandage over it and handed me another one. “What’s this for?” I asked, looking at it.
“It’s for if you need to change the dressing, duh. Anyways, you’re all done here. Other than that cut, I see nothing wrong with you. Of course, if you want, you can drop your trousers, turn, and cough.”
“I’m good,” I quickly said.
“Mmm…” she nodded. “Ashamed.”
“I’M FINE! THANK YOU!” I hopped off the table and put my shirt and shoes back on as Elli watched me dress.
“Think about it Jack. Eventually there’ll be a time when it’s gonna need to be done. You can either have me do it, or a guy do it. If you’re even a little bit like your grandpa, you sure as hell won’t let a guy near your balls.”
“You fondled my grandpa’s junk?” I asked.
She gave me that look once again. “I may be a nurse, but I have standards.”
“Listen,” I told her, “you’re a nurse so I feel comfortable telling you this. I don’t want you anywhere near my balls.”
“Ah…” she said as if she understood. “You’re swinging for the other team. I gotcha.” She winked and clicked her cheek.
“What? No! If that time comes, I’m going back to the city. I know a half dozen beautiful nurses there who would be glad to do that for me. At the same time!” I added. It was probably true too, although it felt too boastful to be real.
“Alright,” she said. “The offer’s still open though, if you ever get lazy.”
“Or brain dead,” I mumbled.
“What was that?” she asked.
“Say, where’s the doctor at?” I quickly changed the subject.
“Oh, Sasha came in earlier and made him go back to the Supermarket to pay off all of his debts. He’s probably sulking up on Mother’s Hill, reflecting on the error of his ways.”
“Oh… Okay. Well, it was… er... nice meeting you Elli. Thanks for the… whatever.”
“Eh, ironically, it was nice meeting you too, Jack. When farming has made you weary or your head starts hurting again, don’t hesitate to come back and see me.”
I looked at her skeptically. “I think I’ll wait for the doctor from now on.”
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll come see me,” she said, crossing her arms and cocking an eyebrow.
Dare I say that this five-five, one-hundred twenty pound girl scared me? I seriously think I peed a little.
“Where are you headed off to now?” Elli asked as she followed me to the door.
“Oh, I’m going to head back to the Supermarket and pick up some seeds for the farm. Why? Are you heading there as well?” I left the Clinic and held the door open for her.
“Oh no,” Elli chuckled. “I do have to step out for a bit though. I’ll see you around?”
“Um… sure. Later,” I waved, and then as soon as her back was turned, I ran like the wind.