9:34 pm . . .
“. . . ‘e’s comin’ back now,” Ms. Josephine said as my eyes fought their way open.
“Two full bags,” Ricky says as he flashes a small pen-light into my left eye. It might as well have been a police spotlight it was so damn bright. A miniature nuclear explosion. It felt the same as looking directly at the sun . . . through binoculars.
I squinted, saying, “You’re going to burn out my retinas. Stop that.”
“I need to check the dilation and make sure your eyes still track correctly.” Then he did the same test on my right eye. “Okay, buddy. You’re going to live.”
Thanks Doctor Kevorkian.
“You wake somebody up from the dead and this is the thanks you get? And besides, you’re too young to know who Jack Kevorkian is,” Ricky joked.
“Death makes a man grouchy,” I say as I clear my throat. “I read about the good doctor in Science Digest. Hey, how long have I been out?”
Ricky looks at his watch, touching a button that illuminates the time, “You passed-out an hour or so ago. The time is nine thirty-five.”
“I still see forms and shapes racing around in front of me. What’s going on?” I asked.
“. . . dat movie is still goin’, child,” Ms. Josephine said quietly.
“That . . . is a long movie.”
“Yeah,” Ricky added, “. . . and there’s still fifteen or twenty minutes left. As long as this film has been on, and as many people as this queen has slept with, you’d think she’d already be showing signs of pregnancy. This movie makes me want to take the pill myself.”
Then he pointed towards a blurry image, “Look, everyone in the royal court has a smile on their face.”
I look over at the large tub of popcorn and it’s nearly empty. I can see the bottom of the bucket through the few kernels that remain. My eyes look uncomprehendingly at Ricky.
“Hungry, dude,” was his explanation. I wonder how that is even possible.
“You got down to ninety-three-point-one!” he warned as he looked over his notepad. “That’s not as cold as before, but you were only under for forty-three minutes.”
“That’s alright,” I say. I’m sitting up and reaching for what’s left of my Dr. Pepper. I need liquid, any liquid.
Ricky continues, “Well, no. Medically speaking, it’s not as bad as this morning. But you’re still in the range of clinical hypothermia.” He shakes his head, “This is dangerous stuff, Jack. Your body wasn’t designed for these kinds of up and down temperature changes. You can’t keep doing this.”
“How long do I have to wait,” I ask, “until my next crossover?”
His eyebrows raise, his right thumb and forefinger rubbing the top of his head as he considers. I can see years of med-school passing by, just under the surface of his head, like he’s reading it by braille or something.
Chewing a bit on the inside of his lip, he says, “I’m not absolutely certain. I mean, you need a couple of days just to recover from today. Maybe as much as a week. Your body’s internal thermometer is messed-up. Warm-blooded, Jack. We’re not reptiles. Our body needs time to thermo-regulate. And let’s not forget that you’ve died, chemically, more than your fair share. Most people take months to recover from having their heart turned on and off.”
“I have a meeting scheduled for tomorrow,” I say.
They both look at me like my hair is on fire. Like an alien just popped out of my chest.
I decide to drop another bomb. “Oh, and Rupert’s alive . . . well, dead. But, I mean, alive on the Deadside.” I turned to Ricky, “They killed him to get the book. Turns out it is priceless.”
“Do they know who we are?” he asks nervously.
“No,” I said. “We’re cool. The trail died with him. Matter of fact, he’s supposed to be meeting me tomorrow . . . at dusk.”
Ms. Josephine is still sitting on my right, and she doesn’t look so comfortable with this, “. . . you need to take some time to t’ink about everything dat’s ‘appenin’ lately. You been pushin’ it pretty ’ard, child. Give yourself a rest and clear your thoughts . . .”
And then, some guy—probably the only other person in the theater—he yells up from about 15 rows down, for us to keep it quiet. Seems we’re ruining his AMC experience.
Ms. Josephine is about to apologize to him when Ricky pipes in, “My bad, man. I don’t want you to miss the queen . . . oh, look . . . she’s lifting up her skirt again!” Sarcastically, Ricky adds, “Looks like the court jester is going to get a piece of that.”
And then Ricky’s face gets stern and serious, “Turn around, watch your shitty period piece, and shut your pansy ass!”
The guy, he pretty much turns around without another word, quiet as instructed. Ricky can be intense at times. I am used to this side of his personality. Ms. Josephine is not, and she and I give him the stare. You know, the accusatory one where we shovel a fresh pile of how-dare-you all over him with our eyes.
But he just looks at the both of us and says, “What?” And then he shrugs the whole incident off. Under his breath, as he is gathering up his needles and tubes and thermometers, he says, “We paid our eight-fifty just like he did.”
I lean over to him, “Don’t be so hard on the guy . . . there are three spooks watching the movie with him.”
Because he and I are so cavalier about death, and because we are both jerks beyond comprehension, the mention of spooks surrounding this guy brings a grin to our faces. Ricky leaned forward, squinting as if he might be able to see them. Then he laughs to himself and continues to load up the mini Emergency Department he had created.
Somehow, it all fits in Ms. Josephine’s purse. That bag must have no bottom. Some kind of magical purse.
I take another sip of my stale, watered-down Dr. Pepper and clear my throat. “I’m hungry,” I say hoarsely.
“We could hit Outback, grab some steaks?” Ricky suggests.
“No, no,” I say. “We need the gold standard. We need McDonald’s. Stat!”
Ms. Josephine rolls her eyes, “What an unlikely team we all make?”
“Genius, prophets, or madmen . . .” Ricky says nonchalantly, “. . . they’re all basically doing the same thing, just from different angles.”
And as we’re walking slowly down the stairs I see a pile of spooks nearly falling over themselves as they haul-ass up the steps and cut a hard right in front of us. They cruise down the row of chairs, circling the guy who griped at us about the noise.
Ms. Josephine sees me watching the spooks race by.
Thing is, though, when I had told Ricky that there were spooks sitting next to the guy, I was just joking.
Ms. Josephine, her arm holding on mine to support me, and she kind of glowers at me from the side and I have a good idea what she is pondering.
To her I say, “I didn’t do it. That’s just a bit of unfortunate luck on his part.” But the way she’s still squinting at me, I know she’s thinking something different.
The queen, she’s about-40 feet tall, and her legs go on forever. While she and somebody are pretending not to be attracted to each other, we are walking down to the floor of the theater. So the queen, she’s busy with her stuff. Ricky, he’s thinking about medical things. Ms. Josephine, she’s trying to figure out how much I’ve told her and how much I’m hiding.
And me . . . I’m just wondering how far this thing is going to go.