SWITCH

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Admitting

Gerald’s house was dark. I tried not to draw attention to it as we walked past. Dave was already on the defensive. The fact Ivan looks like a well-aged European underwear model was not going to help my situation. We reached the lab, but it was dark. We went around to admitting and found the on-call doctor, but Ivan was not expected back that evening. I told the doctor my name and his tone changed instantly.

“Yes, Ma’am I have been briefed about your situation. What’s the problem?” He asked eagerly.

“How much has Doctor Gerald shared with you?”

“He is playing poker tonight and doesn’t want to be disturbed except for his special patients. You always take precedence. I am to call him if you need him.”

“If you would call him, ask him if he is losing to come to help me otherwise let him know I may have come into contact with something I’m allergic to while fixing what looked like an infected cut. Ask him what I should do.”

“May I see the cut?” The young doctor asked.

“Umm well, the cut is actually no longer showing,” I explained

“Then may I ask how you came into contact with anything while dressing a wound?”

I wrinkled my nose. “It’s not that simple. Sorry.” I rolled up my sleeves hoping the cool air would calm my skin.

“All right. Sit here. I’ll be right back.” The young doctor pointed to a row of chairs in the waiting room before heading back inside. Dave and I meandered around the lobby and waited for the doctor to return.

“Matt’s having pizza in the building there, just across the lawn, in case you were wondering where he is.” I pointed at a building across the way. It was the only one brightly lit in the area.

Dave stared in the direction of the technology building. “Will Matt be able to do all this too?”

“Anyone can I suppose, but there’s no reason to suspect he has any of my abilities. We would have noticed by now. I honestly don’t remember when this extra stuff happened for me.” I heard loud footsteps running down the hallway. Gerald caught sight of me as he passed by the waiting room doors; he stopped abruptly and redirected himself.

“Come on let’s check you out in the lab. I’m Doctor Gerald. Cal has told me so much about you David. It’s nice to finally meet you.” Gerald’s charm was somewhat unexpected; he had a polite, albeit forced bedside manner I hadn’t seen before. He treated me with a familiarity bordering on condescension, but Dave was a stranger and Gerald was professional and pleasant even likable. Dave stuck his hand out automatically to shake Gerald’s waiting hand.

“She hasn’t mentioned any of this to me Doctor, but then I didn’t get to talk to her this week,” Dave said.

“Yes, I can imagine this week has been difficult for your family. I’m not looking to make it any worse. If there is something medical, I can help with, please let me know.” Gerald smiled, and David appeared to warm to him. We reached the back of the lab, and I took my familiar place in the chair by the lab table. I removed my long-sleeved shirt and showed Gerald my welts. Dave looked a bit queasy as Gerald pushed and poked what looked to be hives all over my arms and stomach.

“This is an allergic reaction. What did you eat?” Gerald asked puzzled.

“It’s not food. I fixed his arm. The stab wound wasn’t healing right he has all kinds of lingering problems. After fixing the cut, I could taste something metallic. I’m worried.” I explained

“That doesn’t sound too good. What medications are you taking now Dave?”

“In the past week, I got a tetanus shot and penicillin plus some stupid anti-inflammatory pills. They didn’t work, it still hurt before, but it feels fine now.”

“Do you mind giving me a small blood sample? I can tell a lot from what’s in your blood, and we can get a scan of your arm. That would be the logical place to start looking. Did you have any broken ribs or any other cuts no matter how small?”

“Dave rolled up his sleeve and presented his arm for a blood draw. Yeah, a few small cuts on my leg and one more on my hand from punching the big bastard in the face. He was so thick it was like punching a brick wall. The cuts on my leg are all but gone, and they don’t look red or puffy.”

Ivan motioned to Dave for his hand and looked at it under a magnification light. “You know I see a slightly raised spot. See the knuckle is raised and red, but then this spot here doesn’t look quite right either. Did anyone clean this wound before it healed?”

“No, I cleaned up once I got home; the only thing they looked at was my arm. There was so much going on I didn’t give it much thought. It’s just a small cut,” David explained.

“Depending on what type of bacteria entered through that cut you may have all your problems right there. Does it hurt or has it been weeping?”

“Yeah, it’s still tender. The scab keeps popping open. I keep it covered, and I’ve been putting antibacterial spray on it.”

“Okay let’s get blood work started. I’ll check for infection. We will need to clean the wound out before it will heal properly.”

I turned my head as Ivan poked the butterfly in Dave’s arm. “Ugh can’t I just fix it?”

“Let’s see what it is first. You’re not going to be able to get all the infection out of his blood just yet, but I can send you home with some strong antibiotics that will kill off anything.”

Dave watched Gerald walk out of the room. “The doctor knows what you can do?” He asked.

“Yes, he worked with me before, years ago when I was here the first time,” I explained.

“Before your car wreck, before you moved back to California.” The wheels were turning, and Dave was catching on much quicker than I expected. “The car wreck was how they wiped your memory wasn’t it?”

“Seems that was the cover story, but I haven’t been in the position to ask any probing questions just yet,” I replied while shaking out my shirt.

“That’s for sure. Dave dropped his hand on mine and leaned in to kiss me. I’m sorry for my reaction I didn’t mean to yell. Did it hurt you to fix me?”

“No, it felt like a nasty cut, but there’s no lingering pain.” Dave nodded his head in agreement and listened as I explained, but I could tell he didn’t understand anything I was saying.

“Good news it’s a common, very treatable strain of bacteria, and I have just the thing for it. The bacteria levels suggest there is still something feeding the infection. I could run a test that takes longer to grow, it would tell us a more, but I’m almost positive there is a foreign particle involved. If there are no objections, let’s clean the cut on your hand and scan your arm to be sure we have it all.”

Ivan took Dave’s hand and sprayed it with a topical painkiller, and we moved over to a small, well-lit table and watched Ivan assemble his tools. He carefully removed the weak scab and looked for debris. I could tell it hurt Dave a bit, as Ivan went exploring in his knuckle but finally, Ivan found a tiny piece of clear acrylic embedded in his hand.

“This looks like dental material. A veneer or a broken implant. I can close it with a couple of stitches, or you can close it up if you like Calynn.”

I put my hand on Dave’s arm and perfect his hand being perfect, without any injury of any kind. The small cut closed quickly, but this time, the injury didn’t transfer to my hand. Dave and Ivan both gasped quietly as they watched the blood and skin return to their proper places.

“That’s faster than I can suture on my best day, we need to call you in for surgeries. I’m going to give you a strong antibiotic Dave, it should clear the infection from your blood, but it will probably make you feel a bit weak for the next twenty-four hours.” A nurse came in from admitting with a pleasant smile on her face and wheelchair for Dave she appeared to be much happier than Carol.

“Rain will take you to get a scan of your arm. While I have you here, I want to make sure they didn’t miss anything else. I must have dug two ounces of dead tissue out of Calynn’s wounds. I can only assume the hospital treated you with the same poor level of care.” Gerald explained.

Dave wheeled out past my view, and I was left alone with Gerald. “I picked up some sunglasses for you while I was out today. We should take a trip this week go into town and have lunch, take a walk around.”

“Yeah sounds nice, but I doubt I will be allowed off base.”

“You leave that to me. How did David take it when you fixed his arm?” Gerald asked with forced enthusiasm.

“Not too bad. He doesn’t do well with anything remotely supernatural. He is a born-again Christian after some problems as a teenager. He’s not terribly tolerant of the unusual. He took it better than I expected.”

“Your hives have almost gone away, look at your arms.” Gerald ran his hand down the inside of my arm; the red splotches were barely noticeable.

“What do think caused them?”

“Stress would be my guess. You would have only gotten a tiny bit of Dave’s blood, so I’m going with stress. You need to get a handle on your stress.”

“Sure, I’ll put that on my list right under not siphoning the life out of people,” I said.

“You’re making great progress. Look at what you were able to accomplish tonight.”

“Oh, before I forget I put you down as a contact person in case anything happens to Matt when he is on base. I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, not at all, I would be happy to help. You should bring him by and introduce us.” Gerald smiled in a strange, forced way.

“Yeah, I will. Thanks for dropping everything to help me. Were you winning?” I asked.

“No, I was already down fifty bucks. You probably saved me just as much by calling. I usually do pretty well too, but I was off my game tonight.”

" It’s a full moon, weird things happen.” I could see the large, round moon through the windows at the top of the lab walls. It cast a beautiful blue glow over the loose clouds.

“I’m happy to see there aren’t more people here tonight.” Gerald looked out over the empty waiting room. Dave made it back into the room just as his scans appeared on the computer screen. “Looks like the arms clean there may have been some dead tissue before, but Cal must have got it all. Do you guys want to take a cart back?”

“Ah, we will just walk back it’s not all that far. Thanks for your help Doctor. Sorry, we pulled you away from your evening.” Dave and Gerald shook hands before we left. There was an invisible cloud of angry testosterone floating around between them, like a mugger sizing up a victim. David glared at Gerald a bit too long. I may have read too much into the male bonding ritual, but it was odd to watch.

We walked home slowly. Dave admired the clear sky and how well you could see the stars. Once we got back to the cottage, Dave showered and fell asleep watching late-night news. I stayed up and waited for Matt to get home.

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