Chapter Twenty-Three: The Sum of all Things
No sooner had Richard sat down at his desk, his pager went into overdrive. Instincts told him he was being called back to the same floor he had left only moments ago.
‘I’ll make my rounds when I’m good and ready.’
He popped a pill and ran through his inbox.
He was mildly surprised to see a message from Susan - the Matron. He hardly got any emails from her. He deeply suspected she didn’t like him very much. And this suited him fine. He didn’t need anything from her anyway.
It was a very short email:
Let me know when you have a minute. I need talk to you about something.’
Richard thought about the bothersome case with baby Tobey
I hope this silly woman isn’t thinking of overturning the decision
In any case it was too late for that. Baby Tobey’s parents had both given their full consent.
That Friday afternoon Richard had delivered the verdict to the anguished couple. He coolly stood aside and watched as man and wife battled it out with each other. Far removed was he, from their emotional wrangling. He was only contented when they finally produced the answer he was waiting on.
Richard looked down at his keyboard. He ferociously typed out his reply:
I’m down for the late shift.
(He wasn’t going to make this easy for her)
If you catch me before I start, you’re free to talk to me then.
Other than the pills there was another reason for Richard’s newly acquired state of calmness. He was looking forward to reporting some good news back to Diligence for a change. The media circus was finally drawing to an end. He would soon be free to continue with his work without the added pressure of getting caught.
His pager broke out into another fit of convulsions. He quickly switched off the alert and dropped it back into his coat pocket. He then smoothed over his shirt and tie, and straightened his back. And just like an officer on parade, he swiftly went about his work.
“Hello…Am I speaking to Christine?”
It was the voice of a stranger.
Not again! It was too early in the morning for this!
Christine thought about hanging up. Sensing her intention the female voice quickly fired. “Hello…Christine. Christine. If this is you, please can you help me?” There was a pause. Christine knew what was coming next.
“I need your help. There’s something the matter with my baby...”
Christine rather liked the assignment she had agreed to attend. Angelo - the five-month old boy - was super friendly, and his single mother, Ashley, was just as sweet.
“I feel like such a dummy!” she said, slamming the palm of her hand on her forehead. Her wide eyes reflected her complete embarrassment with the situation.
“The first time I played Zing-Zing and The Dynamics it looked like Angelo was really feeling the music, you know. He was quiet for ages. He just sat there in his swing chair, taking it all in. So I used to play the whole album until he’d finally drift off to sleep. Would you like some more ginger tea?” she asked, noticing Christine’s half empty cup.
“Yes please,” Christine smiled back. “It’s really refreshing. Thank you.”
Ashley cheerfully filled her mug. “My poor baby,” she continued to admonish herself. “I had no idea I was playing it too loud, giving my poor little Angelo these awful headaches, Aaahhh…” she tutted looking down at her son who was now dozing in his jungle-themed bouncing chair.
“I suppose, when you think about it, it can be quite hard for these little ones, you know. Looking up at their parents unusual habits and wondering what kind of crazy family they’ve been born into!” Her velvety brown eyes crinkled into a smile, they matched the colour of her hair. “I’m sure I must have had those thoughts looking up at my own mother,” she laughed. “And still, my feelings haven’t changed. I come from a very large Mauritian family. My parents moved back there two years ago. It’s just me and Angelo here now,” she said wistfully, turning her head around to look at her son again. “Us, and a never-ending stream of aunts, uncles and cousins.”
She glanced back at Christine “How do you do it?” she asked bluntly. “How can you understand them? Is my son already a grown-up, living in a baby’s body?”
Christine shook her head. “If only it was that simple,” she said with a laugh. “No. I don’t think it’s like that. But at the same time, I don’t think babies are like us at all.” She quietly mused.
Her eyes trawled back to the sleeping baby.
“Babies are different. This journey means the world to them. In fact, when they arrive they are more determined to survive than I think we give them credit for…”
Christine slowly sipped her tea. She was having a series of epiphanies.
She remembered when she was younger, how she felt in the company of old people. Deep down, she viewed them with an almost saint-like reverence. She felt their old age meant that they were one step closer, than anyone else, to heaven…
‘Maybe they could even see it!’ Christine used to tell herself, ‘whenever they closed their old, care-worn eyes.’
She recalled the popular saying: ‘Never teach your grandmother to suck eggs.’ Following her own mother’s elaborate explanation, she understood this to mean; not wasting your precious time trying to teach someone with more experience than yourself. And indeed, the old - have just that! For they have lived with time; and time begets experience, and experience gives way to wisdom. And wisdom, was most certainly with them, with the elderly - for sure. It may have eluded many in their youth, some may have even despised it in life. But in the end, there was no escaping it. The old find wisdom and it embraces them like a familiar friend, giving them plenty to chuckle about as they approach their last days...
But this wisdom they talk of is also with the young, Christine perceived.
In the same way that the elderly can see heaven, these young ones had only just left it behind them. But babies were not weary, and heavy-laden with regret. No! When they arrive on earth, they come out fighting. Not for life - but for love! They fight to give love, and to be loved. It is a strange inference, Christine was beginning to understand, but that is what life is.
For looking around, Christine began to see that the creation of the world was borne out of love. ‘Everything is about love’ she realized. It is why the sun shines, why the rain falls and why the crops continue to grow. For life is a show of love. Once there is no love, there is no life, and where there is no life, decay and death is the only conclusion. That is why death is so grim - it is the absence of love...
It’s no wonder why the world obsesses about the nature of love, it concerns everybody - because it’s central to everything! It is the reason why there is life, and why it continues... As such, love cannot be so easily expunged from the earthly equation - regardless of the ill-conceived attempts by the human-race to do so.
For love, is the cushioning boundary, the hedge of protection and the circumference of all our lives here on earth. It may not form a perfectly shaped circle, Christine acknowledged, but a shape it still is…
‘And the little ones?’ Christine asked herself with mixed feelings, ‘where do they fit in this elaborate puzzle? Don’t we love the children? But of course we do!’ She immediately contested, thinking of all the ways the world loves its young. ‘Aren’t we always watching out for them?’
‘Yes you are...’ An answer was given, ‘...But Christine...what are the little ones watching…?’
“Did he say anything else?” Ashley asked interrupting Christine’s deepest thoughts.
“Nope! I think that was more or less it,” she smiled back at her host. “Just the headaches every now and then, you know, with the volume and all that.”
The cloudy look of concern returned to Ashley’s face. “But, it’s okay Ashley,” Christine quickly assured, “it was just the headaches. Everything else is fine - just fine. Angelo said he adores everything you are doing for him - you are his world!”
Ashley was all smiles again.
She was still smiling when she walked Christine - whilst hurling the monstrosity of a pram - back to the station.
They said their good-byes.
Christine bent down and kissed baby Angelo on both cheeks. He gurgled up at her. Now it was Christine’s turn to smile. “Thanks for sorting out the matter with the volume,” baby Angelo quickly babbled. “But you do know Christine that was only half the problem. I don’t get electro-pop. Never have! Never will!”
Christine grinned down at the adorable face that sweetly smiled back at her.
‘Yes. God bless their young - and maybe not so innocent – minds,’ she quickly concluded as she walked away quietly chuckling to herself.
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man,
Bake me a cake as fast as you can,
Roll it, pat it and mark it with B,
And put it in the oven for baby and me
In comparison to Christine, it looked like Dr. Richard Lawson was about to have a weekend from hell. And this was only because the news he received the evening before had rattled him to no end.
“Excuse me. Can you repeat that?” Richard had said to the Matron looking at her incredulously. He was hoping to catch a glimpse of some mischief making on her part but the Matron’s impassive stare showed there was none to be had.
Her reply was as level as always. “As I said, earlier today two young women came to pay baby Tobey a visit. One of them is said to be a baby whisperer, I believe, something like a horse-whisperer only, she communicates with babies. Her name is Christine Shore. The parents have apparently given her permission to speak with their son.”
“How could you allow this?” Richard exploded. “I mean of all the ridiculous things...”
“If you let me finish,” the Matron continued, “I am as shocked and as appalled as you are. A woman who can speak with babies?” The Matron was indignant. “Now, I know I’ve heard it all! However I was met by her companion, Lydia ‘something-something’ or another. She had a rather posh sounding surname and looked quite familiar to me. By the by, I followed her to baby Tobey’s room and encountered a rather odd scenario…” She paused. “I was hoping you might be able to explain this to me. For you see, this Christine woman was supposedly having a conversation with the baby when we entered the room. And right there, in front of me, she said there was a doctor in the hospital who was, at that very moment, taking a life of a baby as it was being delivered…sorry - are you okay doctor?” The Matron enquired peering at Richard over the top of her glasses.
“Y-yes, I’m fine,” Richard replied. “Just slight indigestion. Please continue...”
She did. “The baby supposedly said this doctor was in the very act of committing this deed as we were all gathered in the room...”
The Matron was silent for a moment. “Christine, or albeit, baby Tobey mentioned the name of this doctor…They referred to a…Dr. Lawson,” she said quietly, then she didn’t say anything more.
Sometimes Susan was particularly grateful that she was a member of the spectacles-wearing-society. For you see she was not that easy to read. Her glasses; the lenses, the frames, somewhat obscured what prying eyes tried so desperately hard to see - the truth of the matter.
But for Susan there were no such obstructions. Thanks to her 5.6 x magnification lenses she was able to see everything in razor-sharp definition. She barely missed anything. Just like now. Although it was as quick as a blink, she didn’t miss that all important, tell-tale blink.
The doctor cleared his throat. “This is some kind of joke, isn’t it?” He coughed. Richard’s thoughts immediately raced to Diligence.
Who the hell was this baby whisperer? What on earth did she know?
He began to rub his forehead then quickly stopped. He laughed as he said. “This - this is definitely a media stunt of some kind. Didn’t I say this case with baby Tobey was attracting the wrong kind of attention? Didn’t I say that? And now look! It appears we have a pair of hoaxers to contend with. I swear, the decision to end the baby’s life couldn’t have come soon enough!”
Susan uncomfortably turned away from his insensitive remark.
The doctor was calm. He proceeded. “Why? What do you think this is Matron?” He had that look in his eye again, Susan thought, that strange look of intent.
“I’m not sure what to make of it Dr. Lawson,” the Matron mumbled. She was about to say something else but Richard spontaneously added. “I think I should meet with these women. I’m sure this is some kind of misunderstanding, something which can be resolved with a simple discussion.” He then leaned back into his chair and swivelled around to face his computer; signalling the end of the conversation. “Well, thank you for this Matron,” he drawled from behind the chair. “But as you can gather for yourself, I’ve got a lot of things to get on with. I’ll sort this out in my own time.”
She began to make steps to leave when the doctor called out. “So…when do you think these women will be coming back again?”
“According to the mother the son loves having this baby whisperer around. I don’t think it’ll be too long before she makes an appearance.” Susan answered. “Are you down for next week?”
“Yes I am.”
“Then you might catch her then.”
“Okay. Thank you Matron.”
Susan left the work area.
Something was definitely awry she sensed. After the two women had left, she had made a quick detour to the ward’s shift board, and as she had suspected, Dr. Lawson had been working his shift. In fact, he had been in the delivery room the same time she was with baby Tobey and the other two women.
She later learned that there were two mortalities on the ward. It appeared one occurred five hours after the birth, while the other…well...the other was a little confusing…It seemed the baby was semi-stillborn. The details were still a bit hazy, but according to the notes the baby was breathing - post-delivery - but died almost immediately after.
What on earth is going on? She frowned trying to alleviate the feeling of unease that had suddenly come over her. She didn’t know anything. She was in the dark here. What she did know, however, was that she was extremely fond of baby Tobey and his parents. They were a loving couple who had been - over the last 12 months - literally dragged through the pits of hell and back again. She didn’t have the sharpest vision, but her intuition was second to none. She had no idea what was going on, so naturally, there was nothing she could do. But one thing was for certain, starting from today she was going to be keeping a closer eye on baby Tobey and on everything else concerning him…