[January 15, 1964]
[Mercy Clinic, Lincoln, Montana – past midnight]
* * *
Pain! ‘Why is my arm so painful? Ow! And my LEG! Oh, Mama. It’s hurting me so bad. Where AM I? I don’t remember driving anywhere. Where is Bill! I want my HUSBAND!’
Everything came back to her in a rush: the rock hitting the side of the RV and crashing through; pots and pans flying through the air – hitting her on the arm; her screaming and then the blow to her leg by something really hard and long. She had no idea what it was, only that it had hurt her.
* * *
Molly moaned. This caught the attention of an older woman who was annotating records at a desk. She looked up as Molly moaned again. She rose from the desk and came over to Molly’s side. “You’re in Mercy Clinic, Honey. You got banged up and the tech gave you a mild sedative. You’ve been asleep for a while. You feeling any better now?”
Molly shook her head. “No. Where … where is my husband?”
“The tall, good-looking guy?” She smiled at Molly’s response. “He’s out in the waiting room where he could try and sleep a little. It’s three in the morning now. He was by your side the minute you came in here. The Doc told him to leave and get some shuteye. He didn’t want to.”
Molly began to tear up again. “Am I going to be all right? My arm hurts something awful and my leg is asleep.”
“The doctor numbed it up some so he could check for splinters. He figures you got hit by some kind of timber coming across the RV at you. That was on your leg. You have a blue mark across your upper arm where something that looks like a skillet hit you too. Three inches higher and it would have hit you in that beautiful face of yours.” She ran her fingers down Molly’s chin.
Molly cried in earnest now. “My … my baby? Is it okay? Please tell me its okay.”
The nurse patted her cheek. “It’s just fine, Honey. There was no damage to you anywhere near it.”
Molly collapsed back into the bed. “Oh. Merci Dieu pour cela. Merci. Merci. I could not live with myself if anything had happened.”
“You’ll be fine, Honey. Just try to rest. I’ll let your husband know you’re awake.”
* * *
‘Oh, thank you, God for that. The other man, Dennis; I wonder how he is. I thought I saw a big thing come through the window and hit him. Where is the nurse? Oh, she’s gone now. Who’s coming now? It’s Bill! Oh I am so happy to see him now.’
* * *
Bill bent over her in the bed, took her good hand, and began kissing the fingertips. “Hi, Honey. You’re doing fine. The Doctor told me the baby’s fine also. I was so worried about you.”
Molly snuffled and Bill handed her a tissue. She blew her nose and then spoke. “When I woke up, I didn’t know where I was or what had happened to you. I thought I was all alone. I know it didn’t make any sense, but that’s what I thought. Please kiss me. I need to touch you.”
Bill bent forward again and gently kissed her lips. They held it for a long time. Molly’s eyelids began fluttering as the sedative pulled her back into sleep. “So tired. You’ll stay here beside me.”
“I’ll never leave your side, Molly. I’ll be here when you wake. Now, you rest.”
“G’Nite.” She closed her eyes and her features softened as she slept.
Bill laid his head on the side of her bed and closed his eyes also. Eventually he drifted off.
[January 15, 1964]
[Mercy Clinic, Lincoln, Montana – daybreak]
The night nurse passing by woke Bill. “Mister Stiles? You can get a small breakfast down in the cafeteria, such as it is, if you want.”
“Will she be okay while I’m gone? I told her I’d be here when she woke up.”
“I’ll tell her where you are.”
“Down the hall and go right. Down the stairs to the basement and then left. This time of the morning you can smell the coffee.”
“Thanks, Ma’am. I appreciate it.”
Bill spent most of the morning sitting in a chair by Molly’s side holding her hand as she slept. Every so often he would move a lock of her hair, or touch her cheek, or lift her hand and kiss her palm. She would stir, but not come awake as she was still under the influence of the medication she’d been given early in the morning. He dozed.
Coming awake around noon, Bill decided to see how Dennis was doing. He’d hardly given a thought to the Texan all morning. Asking for his room number, he was directed down the hall only four doors. The door was open, but he tapped on the frame. Gert looked up with red-rimmed eyes, but smiled a little.
“Come on in, Bill. How’s Molly? Is she better?”
“I don’t know about better, but she’s sleeping now. Probably best for her. How is Dennis?”
“I agree. They ran a bunch of X-rays and told me there were three breaks. All of them were fairly small, but close together. This makes it very hard to treat. They will have to do a little surgery and replace some bone with plastic and a couple of screws. The Doc told me that he could have done some real damage if he’d tried to pull his leg out by himself. I’m so glad you were there to help.”
“Happy to do anything I can. Is he sedated also?”
“Yup. Been out all morning.”
“How about your RV? You going to have it towed here for repair?”
“Hope so. I was about to call a tow truck when you got here.”
“Can I help? I’ll go nuts if I just sit in that room watching Molly sleep. I know it sounds strange, but I gives me more pain to see her like that than just doing anything else.”
“I can see that.” She pulled a piece of paper out of a pocket. “The cop that interviewed me this morning gave me this number to call. They have a big wrecker than can haul the RV. Let’s go call.”
Gert rose and kissed Dennis on the cheek. Then they both left to find a telephone. Gert called the number and talked for a while; eventually agreeing several times and hanging up.
“He says he can do it in about a half hour. Going to come by the clinic here and pick me up. Want to come?”
“Sure. Let me tell the nurse where I’ll be.” He rushed off to do just that.
When he pushed the front door open, Gert was talking to the guy leaning out of the driver’s window of a big tow truck. They spotted Bill and waved him over.
“This here’s Bert.” Introduced Gert. “Climb in here and we’ll head on out.”
[January 15, 1964]
[Little Wolf Creek, Montana – noon]
“Whooo-eeee! She really got stove in didn’t she?” Said Bert with a long whistle.
Bill had to agree. In the light of day, seeing the huge hole up front and the deeply dented side further back, made him slightly ill. He couldn’t imagine what it had been like inside when the rocks hit. This thought made him glance sharply up the hillside and scan for more. He could see a ragged scar where the rocks had come from, but there didn’t seem to be any more in that general vicinity. Still, it made him nervous to be down below.
He and Gert watched as Bert skillfully attached the cradle to the underside of the RV and actuate the hydraulic lift. He stopped when the front wheels began to rise. “Havta check to see the handbrake is off. Is this an automatic shift?”
“Nope. Stick,” answered Gert. “Last I remember, it was in first gear as we stopped.”
Gert unlocked the door and Bert check things out. He noticed the wire Bill had strung for the radio and asked about it.
“I did that to run power to it right after the rocks hit. You can just pull it free from that fitting on the wall. The wiring under the dash is all melted and burnt also. The harness is going to have to be replaced.”
Bert ducked his head under the dash. “Oh, yeah. That’s a real mess. Well, you can see what the big RV store can do for ya.”
“Yup.” Said Gert. “Only choice we got isn’t it?”
Securing a few loose items on the floor, they left the RV and stood outside as Bert lifted it completely. They all got back into the wrecker and Bert expertly turned around and they started back down towards Lincoln.
Burt pulled to a stop in front of the RV store. Gert told him to wait a sec and she’d find out where she could park it. When she came back, she had Bert drive around back and put the RV under a shelter.
Bill told Gert he’d check with her again but he wanted to get back to the clinic. Bert offered to drop him by as he had to pass it anyway on his way to the shop.
[January 15, 1964]
[Mercy Clinic, Lincoln, Montana – afternoon]
* * *
Molly was awake, but not really comprehending just where she was. ‘They told me a hospital, but I don’t remember where. Where’s Bill? Merde, my arm hurts!’
She began pressing the call button.
* * *
“Hi, Honey. What can I do for you?” The nurse said as she slipped into the room.
“I know I’ve asked this before, but where am I?”
“Mercy Clinic. In Lincoln. You remember coming here last night?”
“I … I think so. Something hit me while I was sitting in the RV. I don’t remember much else. Where is Bill! My Husband! Is he all right!” She sat up in alarm and grimaced at the pain.
“He’s just fine, Honey. You lie down and let me get the Doctor now that you’re awake again. Rest easy.” She pushed Molly back down onto the pillow.
When she left, Molly began to cry softly. She didn’t do that long however because Bill came through the door and rushed to her side.
“Molly! You’re awake! Oh, Honey, I was so worried about you. Are you feeling better? The Doctor told me you have two really bad bruises but nothing got broken. I … I…” He began to weep on her shoulder.
“I’m fine now that you’re here, my love. Stop. Don’t cry. I’m just fine – and the baby is fine also.”
Involuntarily, Bill’s hand slid to her abdomen and rested lightly. “If anything had happened to you or the baby I don’t know what I would have done. I love you so much!”
They remained silent for a long time. The Doctor cleared his throat and entered the room. “Well, now. How are you feeling, Missus Stiles? Any discomfort in your arm?”
Molly looked up. “A little. It feels ‘tight’, like someone was holding it in their fist.”
“You sustained a little trauma there and it’s a bit swollen. An ice pack on it, or just the cold weather outside will help. Your leg is simply bruised. Time will heal that also. Don’t wrap it though; let it heal normally. I’m going to prescribe some painkillers for you. I’ll have the nurse bring you some now and you can get the rest filled at the pharmacy. You were a very lucky lady, Missus Stiles. If whatever hit you was a bit higher, you would have taken it right in the face.”
“Skillet. It was a skillet that hit me, according to my husband.”
“I think what hit her on the leg was a long strip of wood from the countertop. I found both it and the skillet on the floor right afterwards.” Said Bill.
“Yup. One lucky little lady.” Confirmed the Doctor. “You rest now and maybe we can release you tonight.”
“Do you think so, Doctor? I feel much better now.”
“Don’t want to rush it. Just take your time. I’ll check back around five or so.” He winked and left the room.
Molly turned to Bill. “Have you called anyone?”
“No. I didn’t think we needed to. We’ll be home soon and then we can tell everyone about being in a rock slide.”
“Oh, don’t kid about that, Honey. It was very real for me.”
Bill looked contrite. “Sorry, Babe. Just trying to lighten the mood. Are you hungry? I could probably sneak in a burger or something.”
“My mouth is watering already. With onion rings?”
“I’ll see.” Said bill with a smile. He gathered up his coat and left.
* * *
‘Oh, I love onion rings. I can taste them already. Wait! Won’t the nurse smell them? Could we get into trouble? But, he’ll get them anyway because he likes adventures. I can just see him sneaking them in under his coat and passing them to me like a spy passing microfilm in a bad movie.’
Molly smiled for the first time in what felt like days.
* * *
Bill came back an hour later. He did, in fact, have the onion rings under his coat – a fact that made Molly laugh with pleasure.
“What’s so funny?” Bill asked innocently as he slipped her the rings.
“We look like spies exchanging plans for a secret new airplane.” She said with a giggle.
“And, I haff ze Mikrofilm also!” Bill said in a phony German accent.
Now, both of them broke up. They were still laughing when the Doctor re-appeared. “Nice to see you in better humor I…” He stopped and looked at the partially hidden bag that used to contain Molly’s burger. “…guess you’ve been fed, then.” He finished. “I was going to suggest you feed her something better than hospital food. You’ve anticipated me.” He laughed.
“She tempted me.” Said Bill, pointing at Molly who looked guilty.
“No matter. Here is your prescription.” He turned to Bill. “Now, you leave so I can examine you wife. I’m thinking we can let her go earlier than I thought. I’ll be done in about ten minutes.”
Bill gathered up the food wrappers and left the room. He headed for the waiting room and then stuffed the junk into a waste bin. He could still smell onion rings in the air. ‘Well,’ he thought, ‘I warned her.’
The Doctor joined him in the waiting room and sat. “You wife is still in a bit of pain, but it is under control. I see no reason to keep her here tonight. She told me you were headed to Great Falls. Is that right?”
“Yes. It’s only a half-day away so we can make it first thing in the morning if we leave early. As soon as we get there I’ll have the doctors at Malmstrom check her out. But, I don’t want to leave today – too late already.”
“I agree. Let her rest some more. I’d advise having her sit in a sleeping bag while she’s riding. Keeping that leg warm will help a lot.” He stood.
Bill got up also and they shook hands. “You’ve got a very nice clinic here, Doctor. I’ve passed through here lots of times, but never stopped. Now, if I do pass by again, I’ll be sure to stop.”
“Thanks, Mister Stiles. We try our best here. You can get that prescription filled here or at any drug store. It will make her a bit sleepy, but sleep is the best therapy for her right now. Take care.”
“Bye, and thanks.”
They parted. Bill went to get the prescription filled. Once that was done, he headed back to Molly’s room. She was dressed and sitting in the chair beside her bead. She looked up.
“The Doctor ways I can go now. Are we staying here tonight?”
“I think we should. The weather is kicking up a little – not as bad as last night – but we would be better waiting until morning. Let’s head for that motel down the road.” He lifted her coat and held it out for her.
* * *
‘Of course he would hold my coat for me. Oh no! My new coat is torn! Right down the sleeve. He just bought it for me not long ago.’
Molly began to cry as she fingered the tear.
* * *
“Oh, Baby. Don’t cry. It can be fixed. And if not, I’ll buy you a new one.” He put his arms around her and hugged; smoothing the back of her head with his hand.
They headed for the bus. Molly had a pronounced limp so they walked very slowly with Bill supporting her. She grunted softly with each step and gratefully sank into the passenger seat. Bill rummaged in the back and pulled her sleeping bag out. Following the Doctor’s advice, he tucked it all around her and then fastened the belt over it.
“I feel like a sausage all trussed up like this,” she said with a smile.
“I love you, my little French sausage.”
“And I love you my big American sausage,” she said with a mischievous grin. Maybe not tonight, but later I will really love it.”
They laughed. Bill felt grateful she had gotten her sense of humor back. “Now, how about that motel?”
“Sounds delightful to me. I need a very hot bath.”
“I will make sure they have baths and not showers then, my love.”
“Mmm – mmm. Merci.”
[January 15, 1964]
[Wheel Inn Motel, Lincoln, Montana - evening]
Having found exactly what Molly desired, they took a room in the motel. Once in the room, they stowed their belongings and rested a moment. Molly rose and began taking her clothing off. She was having difficulty so Bill helped her. He was astounded at the side of the bruise on her arm, but was completely unprepared for the one on her thigh.
It was the side of a dinner plate and full of all the dark hues of the rainbow. The Doctor had told him it was superficial, but it still looked ghastly. He gently ran his palm over it and then bent to kiss it.
“That makes it feel all better, my love. I didn’t know you had healing kisses.”
“Oh, but I do! Let me help you into the tub and we can…”
“No! I am not sure I can contain myself if you were in the tub with me. I want a good soak in hot water.”
“Ah, but I have a surprise for you also.” He reached into a paper sack and pulled out a box. “Taaa dahhh!”
“What is that?”
“Epsom salts. It helps ease aching muscles. You add it to a hot bath. Now let me carry you to the bathroom.”
Molly giggled. “I am perfectly capable of walking over there myself.”
“I know, but let me indulge in my fantasy.”
“This!” Bill plunged his head down and buzzed Molly on her tummy with his lips. She shrieked, and then covered her mouth with her hand.
“The neighbors! What will they think?”
“I dunno. Want to ask them?”
“Oh, you’re horrible!” Molly said, but with a smile. She got up and hobbled over to the bathroom and turned on the taps for the tub. While it was filling, she fended off Bill’s playful advances.
* * *
‘I can tell he isn’t serious, but it is nice to feel desirable even when I look like this. I must look a mess; all purple and blue. But this will fade with time. Our love will not. I won’t allow it. The water is ready and he has put those salts in it too. Ahhhhh. That feels heavenly.
* * *
Bill watched Molly’s face a she gave in to the siren song of a hot bath. He wondered, perhaps for the thousandth time, just what it was with women and hot baths. Being in one just seemed to make them more serene. He longed to climb in with her, but knew that wouldn’t be welcome at the moment. He kissed the top of her head and withdrew to the other room and turned on the television.
They ate an early dinner from a Chinese carry-out and watched a movie on the cable. Then, after brushing their teeth they retired. It had been a horribly long day for both of them, even if Molly had been asleep for a lot of it. They drifted off to sleep listening to the wind as it sighed around the window sill.
“Just like Paris,” said Molly.
“The wind. Hear it?”
“Yes. Now that you mention it, I do. It does too – sound like Paris.”