The Angel of San Diego

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Chapter 6 - Prodigal Son

Robin was moved to an isolation room that night. The Doctor came to see him before he went home to ask if Robin had any more questions. He did.

It turned out that they had to put a cap in the back of his head to mend the damage of the beating it took on his “swim” down the storm channel. His skull had been completely shattered. They replaced it with a piece of plastic.

“I understand all that, Doc. I just need to know what the prognosis is.”

“Like I said, Mr. Oracle, we’ll know more after we take some more tests, but since you appear to be lucid, your memory is intact, and there is no serious damage to your internal organs – as far as we can tell from the tests so far – it appears that you are alive and relatively well – considering everything that has happened to you… barring possible complications, of course.”

“So, when do I go….”? He almost said “home” until he realized he hadn’t one.

“Home?” asked the doctor. “We’ll need to observe your condition over the next few weeks, of course. You can begin physical therapy tomorrow. If all checks out, we can’t hold you here against your will regardless of the fact that you are legally dead, and considered hospital property. So, you can go back to whatever you were doing before the accident – within a few months or so probably. That is if your physical therapy goes well.”

Great, he thought, back to whatever I was doing. I was Robin the drunken homeless guy. Why would I want to go back to that? At least here, I get meals and a bed. Wait till they discover that this John Doe has no Dough – or even health insurance for that matter. No billing address either… Wait a minute… That could be a good thing. I wonder if I can collect on my life insurance…

“Okay,” He replied. I’m not that anxious to go back to the gutter anyway.

As the doctor left, he said, “Get some rest. Tomorrow’s going to be a very long, tiring day.”

Rest? Isn’t eighteen months dead enough rest? Next thing he’ll do is prescribe a sleeping pill… or Hemlock.

He slept anyway – until he was awakened by voices in the room. Using the hand controller, Robin switched on the light, pressed the button to raise the head of the bed up, and looked around, but there was no one there other than him. He was still hooked up to the IV bag and the heart monitor. The nurse had removed the breathing tube in his throat, but not the plastic hole it had been plugged into in case they needed to hook him up again. She had merely put a cap on it so that no foreign matter would be accidentally inhaled through it. He managed to raise his hand to his head to feel the spike-like things sticking out of his skull. He counted ten electrodes. Lisa had removed the wires attached to them, but the electrodes themselves weren’t so simple – that would require surgery.

If I go out in public like this I’ll be the envy of every punk rocker and sadomasochist in town, he mused. At least there aren’t any bolts in my neck. Or are there? He checked to make sure as fast as his muscles would allow him and was relieved when he found none.

Next to his bed was the portable table used to serve meals. It had a plastic pitcher of ice water on it and a plastic cup with a straw in it. Tomorrow morning he was to have his first meal in eighteen months. He felt hungry just thinking about it. His mouth was dry and he was thirsty. He pressed the button to raise his back to a sitting position. Although the table was easier to access, it took him several minutes to get his hand to grasp the cup. His muscles were still not cooperating as well as they should. He brought the straw up to his lips and sucked.

Damn! It’s empty. I was concentrating so hard on not spilling it I didn’t realize…

He looked at the pitcher of ice water sitting on the table. He could tell there was something in it because it had beads of condensation around the outside.

Well, there’s nothing gained by just lying here.

He put the cup back on the table and reached for the pitcher.

I hope I don’t end up giving myself a bath.

It took all of his concentration to pour that cup of ice water, but he made it with only a few small spills. He took a drink. It tasted good.

Nothing like ice water to quench a thirst, he thought. Being dead sure changes your perspective on things. He chuckled, now that’s funny! Who’d ever think that Robin the wino would ever say that about water?

He drank the rest of the ice water and decided against refilling it again. He was exhausted. It took all his will and concentration to do even the simplest physical movement. He put his head back on his pillow feeling very tired from the exertion, but proud of himself for accomplishing the deed. He took another look around the room straining his ears to hear where that voice had come from.

Must have been a dream, he thought. He looked at the water cup again and decided that the effort was greater than his thirst so he turned the light off and closed his eyes. He was just about to doze off when a voice next to his ear woke him up. He couldn’t understand what it said.

“I beg your pardon,” he said dully. He switched on the light again. The room was still empty.

I wish I knew who keeps waking me up, he thought. Maybe I should have asked for a sleeping pill after all.

He was awakened several times that night by voices, but each time he opened his eyes the room was empty. He finally passed out at about five in the morning. A nurse came in at six and woke him up.

“Good morning and how are we today?”

“I don’t know how we are, but somebody kept waking me up last night every time I started to sleep,” he said grumpily.

“I don’t understand. There isn’t anyone here at night other than the night nurse and she makes her rounds about once an hour.”

“Does she talk to herself out loud?”

“No, and she wouldn’t need to come in here very often. You are hooked up to a wireless heart monitor, which goes out to the main desk. There’s also a video feed so we can see that you are okay, so she wouldn’t need to look in on you unless something went haywire with the machines. Even your temperature and blood pressure is checked automatically. Perhaps it was that.”

“Yes, that cuff was annoying too, but that wasn’t what kept waking me up. Maybe it was another patient.”

“It couldn’t have been. You’re in a private room and the other patients can’t be heard once your door is closed.”

“Well, someone kept waking me up!” he snapped.

She could see he was upset so she decided to humor him. “What did they say? Maybe that will give us an idea of who it was.”

Robin looked at her. She appeared to be in her late thirties. She had short brunette hair, brown eyes, and a pretty face. She also had a nice shape for someone her age. He could tell she didn’t believe a word he said.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “It isn’t your fault. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make out any actual words, but it was definitely of human origin.”

“All I can say is that the next time you hear voices you should signal the nurse on duty to come and take care of it for you.” She smiled as if sympathizing with a poor lunatic who hears devils talking to him.

Robin realized it would be futile to argue with her so he just said, “I didn’t even think to do that. I will in the future. I guess this headache isn’t helping me think straight.”

“After your experience it’s amazing you are as cognizant as you are.”

“Really?”

“Yes. It isn’t like the movies. People don’t generally come out of a coma able to speak as well as you do, and no one’s ever come back from the dead after eighteen months – especially when they have injuries to the head as severe as yours were. You’re a phenomenon.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Everybody’s talking about you. You are a true phenomenon. You woke up after being dead for eighteen months. You had suffered severe trauma to your head, but you appear, for all intents and purposes, to be completely healed and normal. It’s as if nothing happened to you at all. Of course, we’ll know more after today’s tests. In fact, they should be here after breakfast to take you to Radiology. I’ll see you later.” With that, she left.

Breakfast – it turned out – was liquids. Robin didn’t care. His eighteen-month fast left him hungry. He had better control over his arms and hands but it was still a slow process. Fortunately the nurse came back to help him. The only real problem was that even though he felt like he could eat a ten-course feast; his stomach was too small to allow him to even finish his meager meal.

Shortly after Robin had finished breakfast Dr. Noah Jr. made his appearance. He looked exactly like his dad down to the goatee except his beard was still black. Junior appeared to be in his early thirties.

“Hiya, Doc. What’s up? How was Florida? Play any golf?” Robin quipped.

Dr. Noah Junior put his clipboard under his arm and said, “Lisa called me yesterday and told me about your miracle recovery so I cut my visit short and took the red eye back here. The golf was supposed to be this morning but I couldn’t very well stay there after Lisa told me what you were up to. You are a remarkable man, Mr. Oracle… a real phenomenon.”

He had his father’s habit of using his glasses as a prop while talking. He was pointing them at Robin at the end of his speech.

There’s that word again, thought Robin. “So people keep telling me,” he said out loud.

“Your resurrection was amazing enough, but the fact that you are so lucid – it’s as though you were never injured at all. We’ll know more after the X-rays and other tests, of course. Usually we like to use the MRI or CAT scan to get a detailed look instead of X-rays, but your electrodes are made of metal and they might wreak havoc on our machines. Besides, who knows what it would do to your brain cells? They may not be connected to our machines now, but they are still implanted in your brain.”

“You give a guy a real sense of security saying things like that, Doc.”

“Sorry, I was thinking out loud. Well, I hope you slept well. I see you’ve had some breakfast. How’s your stomach feeling?”

“A bit small, but I’m not queasy or anything. The nurse had to help feed me, but I managed to swallow, if that’s what you mean.”

“That’s a good sign. We’re going to remove the catheter today and see if your water works function properly. Until you are strong enough to stand up by yourself you’ll have to use a portable urinal. It will also allow us to measure your intake and output.”

Robin gave him a funny look so he explained.

“I know that may sound a bit weird, but it’s important to know if your body is doing its food and liquid processing properly.”

“I didn’t get any food. Unless you consider liquids you can’t chew food.”

“Yes, well… after such a long time of not having to digest things we have to start out with juices and easy to digest semi-solids just to make sure it all still functions properly. We’ll work you up to the heavier stuff as the days go by. We don’t want to shock your system too badly at first.”

“Being dead wasn’t a shock?”

Dr. Noah Jr. smiled, “Not as shocking as your recovery.”

Robin made a half grunting half chuckling noise, “Yeah. I did scare the hell out of poor Lisa.”

“Yes you did, but she’s okay now. As to food: We just want to be careful at first.”

It was at that moment that the X-ray technician came in with his gurney interrupting their conversation.

“We’ll talk more later. Right now you have a date with our X-ray machine.”

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