“You wanna nother cup of coffee, Baron?” Les asked.
“No thank you, my friend,” Baron politely replied.
Being the most senior and responsible Les and Baron were delegated to babysitting Trucker, Buster and Snaggletooth. Both had been sitting in the waiting room of the hospital emergency room for well over an hour waiting for the prognosis of the three when Buster suddenly burst through the two double doors with two orderly’s attempting to restrain him.
“Leave me the fuckin’ hell alone!” he shrieked madly at them as they hung on like bugs.
The bandage around his head was already spotted with blood. Trucker and Snaggletooth casually appeared next with Trucker stopping to light a cigarette in the hallway.
“You can’t smoke in here!” somebody shouted.
Oblivious, Trucker lit it anyway and took a long drag, blowing the smoke upward, enjoying the moment.
“You may have a fractured skull, Mister Reinquist!” a nurse pleaded with Buster.
“Trucker gettim off me!” Buster screamed.
Trucker simply walked over, placed his arms around the two concerned orderly’s and they removed their grip on Buster. Malcolm and the two other patents sauntered away, Trucker still defiantly blowing smoke upward. Les and Baron followed suit in behind them.
“You know, maybe you should let them… Les began to say while driving until interrupted by Buster’s glare in the rear view mirror.
“He’ll be ok,” Trucker reassured.
Except for the occasional giggle from Baron the drive back to the Empire was made in silence. By the time Les had the car parked, Trucker and the two others were already out the car and making their way into the service door. Les and Baron took their time. Upon entering, they found Helen mothering Buster.
“You big dummy!” she lovingly protested.
Les and Baron made their way to their perspective seats, exchanging smiles at the warm reception given to the three combatants.
“Wow, looks like you got the worst of it!” commented Helen, examining Buster’s blood soaked headband. Snaggletooth was missing a tooth and Trucker’s arm was bandaged.
B.C, who had been left alone surreptitiously helping himself to the liquor suddenly began shouting “I want God! I want poetry! I want danger! I wan’t freedom! I want sin!”
Robbie gave him a hard stare and he quieted.
“What the hell was that?” Buster crowed.
“Aldus Huxley. A twentieth century philosopher of sorts living in the twenty-first century,” remarked Les.
Everyone broke into communal, nervous laughter.
“That was an interesting answer, Les,” commented Baron into Les’s ear.
Les remained stoic. He was still concerned Buster may have sustained a fractured skull and may collapse at any moment.
“We’re gonna have a sloggin’ tonight people!” Robbie shouted, re-igniting the joviality. “A private sloggin’, no less!”
Robbie seemed intoxicated. A rarity for him. In his words, “I never drink the profits.”
Tonight was different. Not since anyone could remember had the Empire experienced such excitement except when a streaker passed through last summer. Or the time Robert senior shot the television with a shotgun after watching Jane Fonda straddle the anti-aircraft gun while visiting North Viet Nam.
Les leaned over to Baron and whispered, “What are the symptoms of a fractured skull?”
“Hmm, let me see,” he whispered. Lowering his head in unconscious body language he tapped into his vast litany of life’s’ experiences for an answer. His mind carried him aloft into the rarified blue skies over England and into the chaos of gunfire with a British Spitfire on his tail and the taste of cordite on his lips. Turning, his wife of fifty years was sitting beside him in the Messerschmitt. Unexpectantly, the plane transformed into a Ford station wagon traveling along a highway in the middle of no where in Arizona. In an instant a semi truck plowed into them. He watched the straw colored paste drain from her ear.
“It’s time for me to leave, dear,” she calmly stated.
Baron opened his eyes. Les was waiting for an answer.
“I vemember a dear friend,” he began to say. “She became very nauseous. Ya. Got sick, un died.”
Both men took the time to reflect on his words. Robbie placed drinks before them and the two toasted before taking sips, a custom the two shared.
“Ya, un den she died,” Baron muttered, taking a second sip.
Les took another sip in respect.
“Who died Baron?” Helen asked.
The party quieted.
“How?” she again inquired.
“Un skull fracture.”
“Goddamit Baron!” Buster half-jokingly chided.
Helen looked over at Buster’s blood stained bandanna and frowned.
“Rejoice oh young man in your youth,” Baron commented to Buster.
Les looked over at Baron but he was now gone. Les understood Baron was now in his other world, the place he sometimes visited after bringing up the memory of his wife.
“So Buster, what’s this about a skull fracture?” Helen inquired, her maternal instincts taking charge.
“Nuttin,” he mumbled.
Trucker couldn’t resist.
“He’s fine, Helen. If he had a fractured skull, his brains would be leaking all over the place and we all know he ain’t got any.”
A few laughed. The fact was the thought of a skull fractured had already been instilled in everyone’s mind and without stating the obvious everyone thought that Buster should return to the hospital for more tests. Someone filled the jukebox with quarters and Frank Sinatra began crooning about being seventeen. People began singing along and Les revisited his patchouli scented bear cubs out the big picture window. Helen and Robbie began dancing together. Snaggletooth went to Malibu and Trucker Viet Nam. Frank Sinatra concluded describing the autumn of his days. The deliciousness of the moment was lost in the fact that nobody realized, not even for one second, that a memory was being manufactured.
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