SWITCH

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Gift Horse

“Ivan, Ann told me you paid for all of it. I can’t ...”

“Financing a project and actually being involved with the finished product are two different things entirely. I want you to be happy here. I know you appreciate orderly, useful things around you. I’m glad you like it, but you are not required or permitted to repay me. It was a gift.”

“I can’t accept all this from you, Ivan, it’s too much.” I protested.

“Too much? So, a relative, quantifiable figure is what’s bothering you. What if I brought you a pie from the bakery in town or a movie? Let’s say it was a special edition blue-ray, would you have accepted those gifts from me?”

“I don’t do gifts well, and those things are much less expensive. It’s not the same as a house full of furniture and everything else that goes with it.”

“To me, it is exactly the same, a movie or a couch, a pie or new kitchen appliances. I don’t need the money. I need you to focus here and now on restoring your ability back to before I hacked it out of your brain.”

“You didn’t do anything to me. I asked you for this. You don’t owe me anything.”

“I need to know you are content and have things you need to care for your son and yourself without hassle. After my failure with your clothing, I called my youngest sister-in-law, she owns a business decorating things. I told her a little about you and how I wanted everything taken care of. I’ll let her know you are pleased with her work.”

“I don’ know what to say, Ivan. It’s absolutely perfect.”

“Thank you is the common response, but I don’t require a thank you. All I need to know is you like it, nothing more is required from you.”

“I love it, it’s perfect, thank you.” There was pain on Ivan’s face. He wasn’t going to explain it to me, so I smiled and tried not to appear as uncomfortable as I felt.

“Good, now all that is settled let’s get on with our day.” Gerald clapped his hands together and turned his attention toward tidying his workbench.

“I was kind of wondering about something. Tell me it’s none of my business if you like, but how were you able to pass boot camp with hemophilia?”

“Boring but easy thing to explain, medical professionals, we endure more of an orientation than a real down in the mud style boot camp. There were weapons and combat training, don’t get me wrong the Navy made sure of that, but my indoctrination was not entirely like a traditional boot camp. Besides my condition wasn’t diagnosed until I was almost thirty.”

“How did you manage to avoid being cut for thirty years?” I asked.

“A simple cut may not always be an issue. In fact, I was scraped and cut a few times as a child I’m sure. My condition, presumably, progressed quietly through the years but didn’t give me any real problems. Looking back there were medical signs missed or chalked up to flu or other common ailments, but no one put two and two together.

“I didn’t play sports or have any physically demanding hobbies as a child. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Coming back to a field hospital with a few other doctors. We were on a commonly traveled road in a small civilian car. We were hit with shrapnel and debris from a roadside bomb that exploded four cars ahead of us. I was one of the many injured in the incident, but it’s how I found out my blood wouldn’t clot properly. Luckily even in all the commotion of the attack, a colleague recognized my condition as something more serious, and I didn’t lose a fatal amount of blood.”

“Sounds awful. You didn’t have any family history or anything to warn you?”

“No, my mother was adopted at two. Little was known about her birth family and on my father’s side, they are all healthy. My three older sisters were fine. Females can carry the gene without symptoms, but male offspring have a fifty percent chance of inheriting the disease. We had no idea my mother was a carrier.”

“What about your sisters don’t they have children?”

“Yes, I have two completely healthy nephews and one niece who is a confirmed carrier. I have no children, nor will I ever. I refuse to pass this on to anyone. My younger sister and her wife chose to adopt rather than risk the possibility of passing on the genes. My middle sister is just getting around to starting a family. She’s a carrier. I don’t know what she’s thinking. It’s a sore subject in my family, but we manage Thanksgiving dinner without police involvement, most years.”

“Have I ever tried to fix you, I mean in the past, did we at least try to fix you?”

“What I have isn’t an injury, it’s in my DNA. My X chromosomes are damaged, that’s not something anybody is going to be able to fix. You were able to repair the degenerative effects of my condition, but anything more just isn’t possible.”

“That doesn’t seem fair. If I can heal other people, why not you?”

“See there, you are limited and flawed like all the rest of us. Believe me, if I’m bleeding to death, I’ll come running to find you. Now get ready, Carol will be here in a few minutes, and she gets cranky if everyone isn’t in their proper places.”

“Fine, but once I’m able to control this again, we are going to revisit my limitations. There has to be something I can do for you.”

“What we did all those years ago lasted. I take my maintenance drugs, I watch my diet, exercise moderately, and I only drink on special occasions. Believe me, I have been fine. When you’re ready, I’ll gladly take a refresher session.” Gerald rubbed his hands together again, I hadn’t noticed before, but he seemed to be in pain. “Until you are fully recovered, we need to focus on you.”

“I already feel a little jumpy. I don’t want to see the damn needle.”

“Not a problem, I will relay the message to Carol, calm down think of something else. Think of the ocean waves rolling in and out against the sandy beach. Just breathe and relax.” Gerald sounded like he was reciting some relaxation technique he recently read. The monotone delivery was completely out of character for him. He swiped the scrap of film off his worktable as he walked out of the room. I couldn’t help but notice how strangely he and Ann both reacted to the negative; maybe it was something highly classified.

Women were talking in the main hospital, and I assumed Carol arrived. The familiar clammy, nauseous feeling began to crawl over my skin. Gerald left me a bottle of cold water. I used some of it to splash on my face and sipped the rest of it slowly.

Once I changed clothes, I climbed up on the table and laid back to rest. The sounds of busy people in motion were getting closer. I tried to ignore the noises signaling the time for needle poking was near. I focused on the empty black void in my mind. When I closed my eyes, I found the once calm blackness to be filled with the colorful shapes of the people walking around in the other room. It was as if my eyes were still open and I could see through the walls.

There were four bodies in varying poses. Carol got up from a seated position, walked a few feet towards me, and appeared to be washing her hands. Gerald was further away on the other side of the room. His aura burned a bright blue, different from everyone else’s muted orange or green energy. Carol had a soft peachy colored glow around her. The color clung tightly to her shape, neat and tidy but soothing, nothing like the rigid, cold personality she physically puts forward. It’s as if she controls her every move afraid to make a mistake. She’s not at all as unconcerned and jaded as she appears to be.

I opened my eyes just to make sure it was truly her and not some delusion conjured in my brain. I let her know I was awake by repositioning myself on the table. Carol looked confident, but inwardly she seemed unhappy about what she was doing. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes again but this time, I found only blackness. All the color was gone. I couldn’t force the calm I found earlier to return to me.

A few minutes passed without conversation. The pinch of the IV was minor, but still, I dreaded it. “Is that okay?” Carol asked, her posture rigid and cold, an obviously forced smile on her face. I nodded yes in response trying not to move.

It was as if someone told Carol she needed to smile, so she practiced contorting her face in the mirror over and over until she achieved the odd expression she wore now. Her energy clung to her tightly, but it had erratic jagged edges. She was afraid to touch me. The fear was like a perfume wafting in the air, and I sucked in as much of it as I could. I watched her tape the monitoring equipment to my skin. It looked strange like looking at someone else’s arm, someone else’s skin. I was already off somewhere else in my mind, disconnected from what was going on around me and trying not to dwell on what would follow.

Gerald was in the background his voice getting closer—giving Carol orders in a hushed tone. The sound of his whisper annoyed me to no end. Yelling or screaming would at least shown some balls. Trivialities were beginning to get the better of me. I took a few deep breaths and focused on my goal of going home.

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