Blue striped cotton pajamas had absorbed most of his
perspiration, but when he awoke, it was with such
a start that he didn’t notice the damp fabric clinging
to his skin. Neither did he notice his wife’s low
nasal breathing, the hum of the central air conditioning,
or the plush carpet crimping under his feet when he
slid out of the king-sized bed.
Standing in the ornate black and gold tiled master
bathroom, he splashed cold water on his face and while
he was still dripping wet, he peeled off his sticky
pajamas and underwear. He grabbed a monogrammed hand
towel, wiped the sweaty dampness from his neck and
groin, then tossed the soiled towel into the corner
on top of the pajamas and stepped back into the darkness
of the bedroom to dress.
Outside his stucco and brick house, he breathed in
the warm, polluted August air, full of the unremitting
Beverly Hills stench. One of four garage doors opened
and he backed out in an ebony, hand polished 450 SL
Mercedes Benz, and with his mind set, he drove out
slowly, opened all the windows and wondered why he
couldnt remember if his wife was still beautiful.
Within minutes, he was pulling into the driveway of
Valley Hospital, home for the rich sick. Here he was,
Dr. Kristopher Tenor, Chief of Cardiology, and a man
who still caused a few young heads to turn. As he
approached the hospital doors, his thoughts were comprised
of scattered memories: A luxurious room at the Schloss
Hotel Kronberg in Germany; Nolans first Christmas;
an affair with Sheila; a second affair with Sheila;
Frank Sinatra at Caesars palace--
Once inside the hospital, he avoided the elevators
and instead climbed the six flights of stairs to the
Intensive Care Floor. Carefully stepping into the
alcove, which provided some concealment from the hallways,
he immediately became the eyewitness to the chaotic
scene of a code blue. Scrambling doctors and frenzied
nurses everywhere. He stood speechless--his heart
racing. Yes--yes. It might finally be possible.
When he was certain he wouldnt be seen, he dashed
to the supply closet, took a freshly laundered aqua-green
surgeons gown and slipped it on over his clothes.
With a matching facemask further hiding his identity,
he slowly emerged from behind the supply room door
to be struck with the realization that it was his
own patient who was suffering a cardiac arrest and
causing the code blue. His lack of caring caused him
to hesitate. The old man will die and I dont
care. What is happening to me? For the first time
in his career he felt no concerns, instead he felt
anger and resentment for Gods scattered mercies.
Why let him go, he thought, and not others?
He quickly scurried to the patients door and
guardedly peered inside. Conducting jelly already
applied, the paddles were being secured into place
on the old mans chest and when the command was
given, he saw the patients involuntary lurch--his
back arching with a spasm-like jerk as the electrical
current surged through to his failing heart. As the
nurses quickly moved to prevent him from falling off
the bed, Dr. Kristopher Tenor darted past the door,
he passed the deserted nurses station, and continued
down the hall to room 630.
Entering this room, as he had done for the past nine
years, he was immediately overtaken by the grim atmosphere,
the sickened air of foreboding now at its apex. He
had learned to hate the sounds of the machines; the
continual bleep--bleep--bleep of the brain scan, the
inflating and collapsing rubber lung that forced air
into the unthinking being that lie in the bed. The
perpetual rhythmic sounds were a caustic reminder
that the machines were day-by-day, month-by-month
and finally year-by-year, keeping alive the residual
piece of life--keeping alive the tragedy he had caused.
Over the years, he had watched the young girl, her
pliant frame distorting until she had curled unto
the fetus-like ball she had been fifteen years before.
Now, she was only a pathetic creature lying on her
side--her skeletal legs drawn up, her emaciated arms
and hands with yellowed nails folded and tucked in
close to her chest.
Standing over the bed with an odd, pious expression,
he gently picked up one of her small frail hands,
kissed it and with all the tenderness and love a father
can have for a daughter, he spoke to her.
Youll be able to rest now, Melanie. Daddy
loves his little princess.
He thoughtfully held her hand a moment before putting
it back to rest and made a quick, perfunctory sign
of the cross. The time had come. He bent down, reached
behind the bed and without having to search, easily
found the plug to the life support system and pulled
it from the socket. Instantly, it was quiet. Silent.
But the silence was just as suddenly interrupted when
the main computer began its warning signal. Quickly,
with dexterous fingers, he interceded the alarm device
and again, all was quiet.