ASP--The Concord Five--Chapter Four--Danny
When I came on duty Sunday afternoon, I ran into Michael and the gang who told me about Christopher Cicellis. As soon as I had time, I went up to his room to check on him. He sure didn't look good. In fact, he looked as if each breath would be his last. His grandfather Demetri was sitting beside the young man's bed. He looked exhausted. I told him to take a break and I would stay with Christopher. Mr. Cicellis reluctantly agreed to take a break for a bite to eat and the restroom (I learned later Christopher had his grandfather's last name because his mother had no idea who his father was).
I was surprised that Christopher wasn't in intensive care and, when Dr. Walker came in, I asked about that. "Really no need," he said, "because it's essentially just a waiting game. Of course the fact that there's not a bed there is also a factor. His grandfather, Demetri, has been right by his bedside since he learned Christopher had been hurt. You might check on the grandfather to make sure he's not starving himself."
"I just got him to take a break a few minutes before you came in. He was reluctant, but finally agreed to get some food and take a restroom break. So it's a waiting game, is it?"
"Yes, afraid so. We have done all we can do trying to knock out any infection he might have picked up in a manure bath. Also, he definitely has a concussion. I have him on phenobarb to keep the brain swelling down and that's about all that can be done. He doesn't seem to have any fight in him and he has not been taking care of himself, so his body has a definite uphill battle."
I could see that Christopher hadn't been taking care of himself. He was a bit over six feet I'd guess and didn't weight over 120-140 pounds. Dark, with black, curly hair, Christopher was a good-looking kid on the whole, but the fact that he was positively skinny didn't make him attractive as he could have been, and the bruises and cuts sure didn't help his looks. However, when Dr. Walker uncovered him to examine cuts that had been stitched, I could see he was not lacking in all departments!
When he finished examining Christopher, Dr. Walker said, "Well, at least he seems to be holding his own. I talked with the duty nurse, Danny, and if Demetri will go home and get some rest, you can keep watch on Christopher. I don't think you need to stay glued to his bedside like Demetri has been, but do keep a careful eye on him. I'm stopping the phenobarb in a day or so and I don't know what his reaction will be then--or in the meantime, for that matter--so just keep watch over him." Dr. Walker had been working over Christopher as he talked. When he finished, he covered him, turned to me and asked, "How's school going, Danny? Still working toward an LPN certificate?"
"School's going ok and, yea, I'm still working toward my LPN certificate. Should finish by the end of this semester. I'm looking forward to that and a break. With my school work, work at the hospice and here, I have little time for anything, even sleep. But I'm not complaining. Anytime I think about tossing in the towel, I remember Jake and also how far I have come since I was rescued from McBride."
"Good, that's about the only use the past has, keeping us living in the present and moving toward a brighter future," Dr. Walker said. "I'll see if I can catch Demetri and talk him into going home for a while. Good to see you, Danny, and to know you're doing ok."
Demetri came up shortly after Dr. Walker left and, after he was sure I would take care of Christopher, went home when I promised I'd call him if there was any change.
The next few days, I took my school work to the hospital and did it in Christopher's room. Friday, I had fallen asleep when I heard a groan, which yanked me awake. When I looked at Christopher, he was tossing around a bit and groaning. I took a cloth, wet it in cool water and started bathing his face. Suddenly he opened his eyes and was obviously startled. "Who are you? Where am I? What happened?" Questions were pouring out of him.
"Christopher, I'm Danny, Danny Elrod. You're in the hospital. You have been unconscious for several days as a result of a beating, but it looks as if you are coming around," I told him as I buzzed for the nurse.
The nurse came quickly and, when she saw Christopher was awake, said, "Thank goodness you're awake. I'll page Dr. Walker. I think he's still in the hospital."
"Christopher, I'm going to call your grandfather. The only way he would leave to get any rest was if I promised I would call him if there was any change."
Christopher groaned again then, in a very weak voice, said, "Demetri was here?".
"He refused to leave your bedside until Dr. Walker convinced him I would take good care of you."
"Oh. Where's Michael?" Christopher asked. "I need to talk to Michael."
"I'll call him as soon as I can," I told him as he then slid back into sleep.
When Dr. Walker arrived, he roused Christopher and did a quick examination. "Everything looks good Christopher. Maybe you are out of the woods."
When Demetri came, Dr. Walker told him Christopher had regained consciousness and was sleeping. He convinced Demetri he should go home and get some rest. "Demetri, I know you have spent every free minute you have here, and you are still keeping your place open and getting no real sleep or rest. If you don't get some, you'll be in here as well, and unable to do Christopher any good when he gets home. Now that he's on the mend, go home." Demetri gave a weak protest, but finally agreed to go.
"I'll be by in the morning before I have to open the cafe," he said as he left the room with Dr. Walker.
I left as well, and went to the hospice for my shift. Little did I know, as I walked out of the room, that a sudden change was in store for Christopher.
When I got to the hospice, I called Michael to tell him Christopher had said he needed to talk to him. He wasn't home, so I left a message saying it was important that he call me.
There were only two people in the hospice, the smallest number we had had in some time. I quickly completed the tasks left for me, and had settled down to do some studying when the phone rang. It was Dr. Walker asking that I come to the hospital at once. I told the nurse on duty what was up and she told me to go. "You're needed there and I can handle anything that comes up here."
When I reached the hospital, Dr. Walker was in Christopher's room supervising two orderlies who were preparing an ice bath for Christopher. "What happened?" I asked.
Dr. Walker explained that Christopher seemed to be doing ok and then suddenly had a raging infection with a fever to match. He had just finished explaining what was going on, when I was told there was a Michael Andrews on the phone asking for me.
ASP--The Concord Five--Michael
I tried to call Danny at his place, then at the hospice. The person who answered the call at the hospice said Danny has just left in a rush for the hospital. When I reached him there, he told me Christopher had regained consciousness for a short time, but suddenly his fever had shot sky-high. It seems the dreaded infection had suddenly kicked in just when Dr. Walker thought Danny was out of the woods. "I called because, when he regained consciousness briefly a while ago, Christopher said he needed to talk to you. He asked where you were and said 'I need to talk to Michael,' just before he went to sleep again."
"Danny, I'll be right there," I said, hung up the phone, yelled to tell Mom where I was headed, and was out the door.
When I reached the hospital, I rushed straight to Christopher's room with the charge nurse running right behind me, telling me I couldn't see Christopher. When I reached Christopher's room, Dr. Walker was there along with Danny. I didn't see Demetri. "Dr. Walker, I told this young man he couldn't come here, but he just ignored me."
"Sorry he upset you, and I should have told you, but I asked that he come. Michael, we have a real problem here. Frankly, I have done all I can do. Danny said Christopher had asked for you when he regained consciousness for a short time, and I thought you might know something that would help. I'm afraid, after thinking we had this licked, we are going to lose Christopher."
"Does Demetri know? I'm surprised he's not here."
"I didn't call him," Danny said. "I thought I'd wait to see if there's any hope. He is not in very good shape, keeping his place operating and spending the rest of his time here. When it looked as if Christopher was pulling through, he agreed to go home and get some rest. I don't want to call him until I have to."
I turned to Dr. Walker and asked, "What's the problem, Dr. Walker?".
"Christopher has developed a raging infection. I thought that was all under control since we started IV antibiotics almost as soon as he got here. There didn't seem to be any infection, then wham! He has a raging one. We did cultures and determined the organisms we had to contend with and..."
"But you didn't actually try antibiotics on the cultures, did you?"
"No, I saw no need once we identified the organism. It's a common one--easily controlled. Or so I thought. I have never known it to be as difficult to kill and as virulent as this case."
"Don't know about raising cattle and keeping a dairy herd, do you, Doctor?"
"Afraid not, Michael." Dr. Walker smiled weakly and said, "About as close as I get to either is a well-aged steak and real cream in my coffee."
"We don't do it, and are a part of the group trying to get it stopped, but most cattle and dairy farmers take advantage of a little-understood property of antibiotics. By feeding antibiotics to cattle you get more pounds of beef out of them and more milk out of dairy cows with less feed. That means a higher profit. It's a widespread practice in the US. So, while the organism causing Christopher's infection is common, and easily controlled in most cases, he picked his up in a manure bath which is well-laced with antibiotics--the very ones you have been giving him, I suspect. You killed off the weak bugs while the strong ones multiplied as though the antibiotics were ice-cream. You need to try antibiotics against a culture from Christopher's bugs--if there's time." I added that when I saw that Christopher was almost completely packed in ice, in an attempt to get his fever down.
Dr. Walker motioned to the charge nurse, who was still standing at the door, and she raced away, returning shortly with materials to get a culture going. As she left, I said, "Dr. Walker, I know you didn't ask me to come here to give a lecture on cow shit and antibiotics. In fact, I'm surprised that I remembered that, but the thought had occurred to me when Dad said he was found in the manure pond."
"You're right, of course," Dr. Walker said as he handed the dishes for the culture to the nurse, who left with them immediately. "When Danny mentioned that Christopher said he needed to talk with you, for some reason I remembered your being here and in as bad shape as Christopher. I know it was Luke and Matt that pulled off whatever they pulled off that saved your hide, but I understand you are now a fully qualified medicine man..."
"Hardly. But I see what you are getting at. Don't know whether I know enough to do any good or not, but I'll sure try. I have wanted to beat the living shit out of Christopher more times than I like to think about, but no-one deserves what happened to him. Besides, he was my project and I'll be damned if I flunk Project Christopher. Danny, I want you here, and I'll need Mary Kathryn and..." Suddenly I remembered things I needed, such as sage and sweet grass, rattles... "I'll have to go home or call Greywolf and see if he has what I need." I looked at Christopher and wondered if he would last long enough for me to get what I needed, and whether I could do anything anyway.
"Michael, I'm here to do whatever you want," Danny said.
"I'll stay with Christopher while you get what you need," Dr. Walker said. "But be as quick as you can. We are running out of time.
"I'll be back as quickly as I can."
I raced down the hall, ignored the elevator, and started down the stairs two-at-a-time. When I reached the lobby, I was surprised to see Mary Kathryn walking through the door, carrying a large box.
"What are you doing here, Mary Kathryn?" I asked as I came to a sudden stop.
"I hoped you would know," she answered, then said, "Take this box. It's kinda heavy."
I took the box from her and asked again, "Well, why are you here?".
"The UPS man brought this box to our place about half an hour ago. It is addressed to both of us, but with our house number. The outside envelope was marked, 'Open envelope at once'. Here's what was inside."
She handed me a small card. Written on it was, "Take to Michael at once. He'll need this and you. He also needs Golden Eagle's garments."
"Mary Kathryn, this is weird. Have you opened the box?"
"No, I wasn't sure I should."
I was anxious to see what was inside and I needed to be on my way, so I ripped the box open in the middle of the lobby. As soon as it was opened, the fragrance of sweet grass, sage and cedar seemed to flow over me. Inside was a note, "Red Hawk left these for you. They were to be sent when he gave a sign. He appeared in a dream last night and handed his pipe to a golden eagle, so I am sending this to you, Golden Eagle." The card was signed with a drawing of a singing bird and the letters SS.
When I handed the note to Mary Kathryn, she smiled and said, "Singing Sparrow". I nodded, then grabbed Mary Kathryn's hand and practically dragged her up the stairs and into Christopher's room.
When Mary Kathryn saw him, she placed a hand on Christopher's brow, then said to Dr. Walker, "Christopher needs to be taken out of the ice, dried carefully and placed on a clean bed. Can you see that is done while Michael gets ready?" She was polite enough, but Mary Kathryn was giving orders and everyone knew it. Danny and the nurse hopped to the task of getting Christopher ready for I didn't know what.
When the nurse started to put a hospital gown on Christopher, Mary Kathryn stopped her. "Leave him as he is," she said. The nurse started to protest, but stopped when Mary Kathy gave her the eye.
I found sweet grass braids, sage and cedar chips in the box, along with a rattle made from turtle shells, a fan made from a bird's wing and a feather which had to be an eagle feather. Attached to it was a note which read, "This is a strange chicken feather, Golden Chicken, since you can't possess an eagle feather". I smiled to myself as I showed the note to Mary Kathryn, who almost laughed out loud.
When I had everything I needed, Mary Kathryn handed me a bundle she had been carrying. I opened it and found my leggings, breech cloth, arm bands, medicine bags--all my Lakota clothing. Without hesitation, I got undressed as quickly as possible and then dressed in my Lakota clothing. I felt a strange sensation when I placed the medicine bag around my neck. "Ok, Danny, you can stay with me and Mary Kathryn. Dr. Walker, you can stay if you like. Otherwise, no-one stays and no-one enters the room until I give permission." The nurse looked at Dr. Walker for his orders and he simply nodded. As he did, he moved into the corner of the room.
"Danny, you're going to have to be honest here. There is definitely going to be some danger involved, looking at what happened to Matt and Luke when I was knifed. If you don't want to stay, feel free to go. Also, if you have any resentment against Christopher, you probably need to go."
"I've been here and I intend to stay," Danny said.
"What about our resentment against Christopher?" Mary Kathryn asked me.
"I sure wish we could do a sweat because of that, but we'll just have to fight it. I don't know what else to do." It was finally time to act. I lit two braids of sweet grass and gave them to Mary Kathryn and Danny. I took a small bowl from the box, placed cedar chips and sage in it and started it burning. I felt I was in a strange world as the smoke began to fill the room. I didn't know what I was doing. It wasn't something Red Hawk had taught me--well, it kinda was and it wasn't. It was strange.
I took the bird's wing fan and fanned the smoke from the burning sage and cedar over Danny, Mary Kathryn and myself. Suddenly I had a vision of a sweat lodge. I started sweating profusely and could feel the intense heat of the sweat lodge. I was praying for purification for the four of us and, in my vision, saw Danny, Christopher, Mary Kathryn and myself sitting in a sweat lodge. I felt resentment flowing out of myself and could see it flowing out of Mary Kathryn, but not Christopher. A pure light surrounded Danny. He felt no resentment toward any of us. Rather, he had a look of tenderness and love, which made resentment impossible.
The ice and water in which Christopher had been lying was still in the room in two large containers. Mary Kathryn took a pitcher from Christopher's bedside table, dipped water from the containers and poured it over all three of us, then over Christopher.
That done, I started a chant for healing that Red Hawk had taught me. I danced very slowly around Christopher's bed, waving the fan, sweeping the smoke over his body. I was moving through a thick haze of smoke, but it was not the smoke from the cedar and sage. It was a haze of evil, which seemed to be fighting for control of Christopher's body. I found it difficult to see Mary Kathryn, and I needed to talk with her but couldn't. I saw her moving slowly, like a slow-motion movie, approaching the box. She took something from it, handed it to Dr. Walker and returned to her place at Christopher's head. She nodded to Danny and he grasped Christopher's feet. As they held his head and feet, I leaned over Christopher, took the eagle feather and drew a cross on his forehead--I was puzzled because I drew it backward and, somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I knew that--and then drew the sign for water over him. Having done that, I leaned over, placed my mouth to his and drew in a deep breath, turned to one side and exhaled fully. I then inhaled deeply, drawing the fragrance and smoke from the cedar and sage into my lungs. I turned back to Christopher, placed my mouth against his again and exhaled forcefully, filling his lungs. As I did, I collapsed.
ASP--The Concord Five--Danny
I was surprised when Michael knew exactly what had happened to Christopher and explained it to Dr. Walker. From that point on, things got weird. All I really remember is feeling like I was in a sweat bath and then having some strange, I guess, hallucinations before passing out.
When I came to, I was in a hospital bed and burning up with fever. When I looked around, I saw Michael in a bed, across the room, tossing and turning. Dr. Walker came in and, before he was all the way in the room, Michael asked, "How's Mary Kathryn?".
"She's better than you two, that's for sure," Dr. Walker said. "Michael, I'm not sure about your treatment methods. First of all, the doctor gets sick and instead of one patient, I now have four. But, I'll have to admit, Christopher is a lot better than he was. From my experience with you, I assume you three have been bitten by the same bug as Christopher, though heaven only knows how that happens. Anyway, I got in touch with an infectious disease expert at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. As soon as I started describing what had happened he said, 'Another cow-shit case. When will farmers ever learn?' He then told me what he suspected we would find with the cultures and he was sure enough to recommend treatment, which I have started on all four of you. Right now I'm giving you something to control the fever, want you to drink all the fluids you can, and I'll see that you get something for sleep shortly. Now drink!"
I didn't need to be told, as I thought I never would get enough water. When I asked Michael what had happened, he told me what he thought had taken place. When I mentioned I felt like I was in a steam bath part of the time, he said he thought we had gone through a symbolic sweat to get rid of resentment of Christopher. "You didn't have any. I saw that," he said. The rest of the ceremony, I guess that's what it was, was to drive out evil spirits who were in control of Christopher. "I think," he said, "a part of it--since it happened to Matt and Luke--is that someone or someones have to be willing to offer themselves on behalf of the sick person. I think the symbolic sweat, my training, and there being three of us, meant we are not as sick as Matt and Luke were. Frankly, Danny, I don't understand it any better than you do. I just do what I have learned and what my spirit leads me to do."
We talked more about what had happened earlier, about his trip to the Black Hills and about his own experience of being near and desiring death. I was awed by the way Michael told me and by what I knew had happened, but it was still weird. I didn't think it would be something covered in my nursing course!
The nurse came in with juice and a handful of pills, one of which was to put me to sleep . It did its job quickly.
ASP--The Concord Five--Uncle Michael
Margaret called me Saturday morning and told me all about what had happened with Christopher, Danny and the kids. She said Dr. Walker thought they could all go home Sunday afternoon, but would be at home for a couple days. "Could you stay with Michael while David and I are at work?" she asked.
"Of course. No problem. In fact, I'd love to. I haven't had a chance to really talk with him in ages."
"I suspect the Larsens would like to have Mary Kathryn at our place as well, if you will be there. She was also involved, and is not as sick as Michael, but a couple days out of school won't hurt," Margaret said.
"That's fine too," I responded.
Went I got home, I told John what had happened, and that I would be staying with the two kids for a couple days. "Of course, I'll be here when you get home since I'll only be there while Margaret is at work. She's only working six hours these days."
"Good. It'll get you out of the house for a change."
That had become a bit of a problem for the two of us lately. I know it's just getting used to living with someone, but little things are usually what eat away at a relationship, not big things. Well some big things do, as John had discovered in his first serious relationship.
Since the gallery was in the house, the only time I really got out was when I went on buying trips. All the sales I managed from the house, even those which involved works I had bought on a trip but had stored elsewhere. I would go for weeks without being out of the house, other than when I did errands around town.
John, on the other hand, was at school all day, as he said, dealing with adolescents and their hormones. When he got home, all he wanted to do was just relax. Especially on the weekends when he didn't have to go to school, I wanted to get out and do things, go places, and John still wanted to stay home. He was always urging me to go ahead and go and, occasionally, I did--but I'd come back, I'll admit, resenting the fact that I had been alone. I was alone all the time it seemed. So there was a note of bitterness in John's voice when he said staying with the kids would get me out of the house.
I enjoyed my time with Michael and Mary Kathryn. They were both in fair shape, so they were up most of the day. Both took a nap after lunch and Michael was still asleep when Margaret got home. She checked Mary Kathryn and found her vital signs were normal. "Definitely school for you Tuesday, but I think you need to stay here tonight, just in case."
Michael, it turned out, was not in quite as good shape. He was still running a slight fever. Margaret also got on him for not drinking enough fluids. "But I think you'll be ready for school Tuesday also."
I had a cup of coffee with Margaret and we talked about a whole lot of things. Finally she asked, "Michael, what's wrong? And don't tell me 'nothing'. You're just not your usual self, and every time John's name is mentioned, you change the subject. Trouble in paradise?"
"Well, maybe not trouble and it's definitely not paradise or, again, maybe you are right." I then told her about the problem John and I were having over going out. "I know it sounds trivial, and I keep telling myself it is, but it is still a burr under my saddle."
We talked for a while about that. Margaret was a good listener and said little as I talked my way through the problem. I guess it was the first time I had really looked at it as a real problem--because I kept talking and, otherwise, I would have said there was nothing to tell.
When I finished, Margaret asked, "Michael, have you talked to John the way you have been talking to me? I mean have you really talked to him?"
I realized I hadn't, and admitted it. "Why not? she asked. "How's anything going to be better so long as you don't talk? There has to be a reason you're not talking."
I thought about that and finally said, "I would like to tell you I don't know the reason, but I do. I don't know about you and David, but I am very conscious of the difference between John's age and my own. On the one hand, it doesn't seem like a lot and on the other it does. I don't know whether you know it or not, but gay men are generally pretty age-conscious. When you reach my age, you think there is no hope of finding someone to love. The usual places for meeting other men just don't work any more. I guess it's because the so-called "gay scene" just seems, well, immature and all the posturing is kind of difficult for someone my age. So you just give up and resign yourself to a lonely life for the rest of your years. Then if you are lucky, damn lucky, someone like John comes along. When that happens, you really can't believe it and you walk on eggs for fear you will chase him away."
"John feels fairly free to criticize me and the things I do. Often they are very small things to my mind but, when I try to tell him that, he gets upset. When I try to tell him the things he does which annoy me, he starts defending himself and gets upset. So I just walk easy."
"You're afraid of losing John and are working hard at making that happen, right?" Margaret looked at me unflinchingly. "Right?"
I hung my head, knowing that what she said was right and, at the same time, not wanting to admit it. I had too much to lose and knew that I would run out of chances if something was not done. "Yes, I guess you're right, Margaret. I guess you are."
"Well, do something about it." I promised her I would, and told her I'd be available Tuesday if she needed me to stay with Michael.
"Don't think I will, but thanks--and I will call on you if I do."
I was with Michael and Mary Kathryn on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday I left on a long-planned buying trip and didn't get back to Concord until Friday afternoon. When I got home it was still an hour or so before John came home. I was determined to work on our relationship and thought a romantic dinner would be a good start. We had gotten into a pretty dull routine because John didn't want to go out and I didn't want to be at home, so we had pretty much settled into a non-confrontational sort of mutual misery.
John was usually home by 5:30 at the latest, and he was that late only when he had a faculty meeting or a meeting with parents after school. When 6:00 came and he was not home, I began to worry. If he was much later, the very romantic dinner I had planned would be beyond eating, much less romantic. When 6:30 came and John still hadn't gotten home, I called the school but got no answer other than the recorded messages about school events.
At 7:00 I heard John's car and was ready to light into him about being late and not calling, when I saw his face as he came in the door. I didn't know what was wrong, but it was definitely major. "John, Babe, what's wrong, what's the matter?"
John took one look at me and tears started streaming down his face. He ran to me, hugged me to himself and the dam really burst. As I held him close and gently rocked him in my arms, I was in agony, knowing how much pain he must be in to be so out of control.