Thunder and Lightening
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
Even at the best of times, hospitals are depressing places. This particular hospital had done a lot of renovation to make the atmosphere less depressing. New carpets, brightly painted walls, comfortable chairs, and living plants fought against the worry of people concerned for themselves or relatives. There were even large tanks filled with brightly colored fish. The decorations were losing the battle, but the atmosphere wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
Bill and Jerry walked down the maze of hallways to find where they were supposed to go to get the cast removed. Lost, Jerry spotted the peppermint-striped uniform of a Candy Striper. The woman didn’t fit the fantasy of a young sexy Candy Striper that would take mercy on a man stuck in bed by giving him a handjob. When the woman turned it was clear that she was in her early eighties. A grimace came over his face when he thought of her giving him a handjob. Ugh! The woman was actually very nice and gave him directions on where they needed to go. Thanking her, Bill and Jerry continued their adventures through the labyrinth halls of the hospital.
Bill joked, “Not exactly my idea of a Candy Striper.”
“You can say that again.” His voice contained far more disgust than he had intended.
Bill laughed aloud, the tension at visiting the doctor eased by the humor of the situation. Although he was looking forward to getting the cast removed, the idea of having them saw it off his arm also brought pictures of a saw blade ripping through his arm. They found the room and checked in with the receptionist who told them it would be ten minutes before they would be seen.
When the doctor removed the cast, Bill stared at his arm in shock. The skin was a bleached white covered by black hairs. It looked disgusting. The doctor looked over the arm, pleased with how it had healed. He said, “Now, bend your arm.”
Bill moved his arm, finding that that elbow was very stiff and that the muscles were very weak. Comparing his two arms, the left arm was visibly thinner. He said, “It feels stiff and weak.”
“That’s normal. You haven’t used it in over a month. Take it easy on the arm and don’t stress it too much over the next few months,” replied the doctor. Satisfied with the arm, he slapped Bill on the back and, in a joking voice, said, “Stay away from people swinging baseball bats.”
The doctor had meant it humorously, but hadn’t realized that was how the arm had been broken. Bill frowned and looked down at the ground at the reminder. Jerry said, “That’s how it was broken.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that it was a sports accident. You can play baseball if you want.”
“It wasn’t a sports accident. His mother hit him.”
“Oh, I really apologize. I didn’t know,” replied the doctor. His voice contained a mixture of embarrassment and anger. He was embarrassed at having brought up painful memories and angered at the idea that a mother would do that to her son. He added, “You don’t seem as emotionally battered as most children that have been abused.”
The comment resonated with the discussion that he and his father had on the drive over to the hospital. Bill smiled and said, “Things have gotten a lot better for us, lately.”
The doctor glanced over at Jerry and saw him nodding in agreement. He wondered what the story was behind these two. Jerry asked, “So what now?”
“You go home and have fun,” replied the doctor.
As they left the hospital, they ran into the paramedic that had treated Jerry earlier that day. Irritated, he stepped in front of Jerry and asked, “Did you just get that fixed?”
“No. I stopped by a clinic right after I left you and they stitched me up,” answered Jerry surprised at the irritation in the paramedic’s voice.
“Oh. I asked about you and they said you had never showed up. I was rather pissed about that.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know that I was supposed to get treated here.” Jerry was surprised at the reaction of the man.
“So what are you doing here?”
Bill raised his arm and said, “The doctor removed my cast this afternoon.”
“Oh,” replied the paramedic as he recognized what the pale skin that covered under-developed muscles meant. The cast had covered the arm from palm to shoulder. He said, “Well, I’m glad that you had the cut taken care of.”
Uncomfortable at the attention, Jerry said, “Thanks for worrying about me.”
“Well, you might want to know that you probably saved the life of that woman trapped in the car. She had a horrible cut on her leg and would have bled to death if you hadn’t removed the door,” replied the paramedic. He was still impressed by the demonstration of raw power shown when he had pulled the door off the car. He added, “Quite a number of people are looking for you.”
“Why? Did I do something wrong?” asked Jerry surprised to hear that people were looking for him. He wondered if he was going to get sued for pulling the door off the car.
“You’re a hero,” replied the paramedic.
Looking down at his bandaged hands and the huge calluses that were built up on the skin that showed, Jerry didn’t feel like a hero. He muttered, “If I can’t use my strength to help someone, I might as well be dead.”
The pair walked into the Chinese Buffet to be greeted by the hostess. Like many of these places, they were to pay for their meal before taking a seat. With a very strong accent, she asked, “Two?”
“We’re here for the Bill Smith party,” answered Jerry with a wink at Bill. He had already paid for six meals before picking up Bill.
“Oh, they are waiting for you in the side room over there.”
Bill stared at his father wondering what was going on. As far as he knew, it was just his father and him having a quiet meal. When they went into the side room, he was surprised to find Woody, Sandy, Larry, and Jenny waiting for him. He ran over to his friends, shouting, “What are you guys doing here?”
Larry replied, “Dude, we’re here to celebrate you getting the cast off.”
Bill gave a gesture with two thumbs up, something that he hadn’t been able to do for a long time. Woody whistled and said, “Wow, man. Your arm sure is pale.”
Teasing, Bill put his arm by Woody and said, “Yeah, almost as pale as yours, Dude.”
As the kids laughed and joked, Jerry went to stand beside Jenny. Pleased to see his son so happy, he put an arm around her and hugged her close wanting to share his pleasure. Jenny looked up at him, feeling secure and protected in his arms. She smiled and said, “You’re happy.”
“Yeah. It’s been an incredible day.” He smiled when Bill burst out in laughter at some joke made by one of his friends. Looking down at Jenny, he said, “He’s so happy.”
“Why don’t you get something to eat and I’ll watch over them. We’ve already started eating,” said Jenny.
“Good idea,” replied Jerry. He bent down and kissed her on the forehead before releasing her from his embrace.
As he went to get a plate, she watched him walk away marveling again at the sheer size of the man. Her eyes were drawn to the bandages around his hands. The news that day had talked about the mysterious man that had saved the life of a woman by ripping the door off the car within which she was trapped. She didn’t need to ask if Jerry had been the hero, she knew he was the one who had done it. There weren’t many men that fit his description.
A few minutes after his father had gone out to get something to eat, Bill followed his father out the door. He found his father loading up his plate with Pork Lo Mein and went over to him. When Jerry noticed his son standing beside him, he said, “This food looks so good.”
Bill smiled and said, “Thanks, Dad. This was a nice surprise.”
“Hey, what are fathers for?” replied Jerry with a smile. The best surprise was yet to come and he could hardly wait to see what his son thought of that.
Bill smiled as he answered, “Raising their son’s allowance?”
Jerry burst out laughing and shook his head. Shaking his head, he said, “Better load up a plate and get back in there before your friends forget who you are.”
“Aw, Dad. They won’t forget me. You maybe, but not me,” replied Bill with a grin even as he went to get a plate. He knew that his friends wouldn’t forget him.
Stepping down the buffet counter, Jerry added some beef and broccoli to his plate. It was overloaded with food by the time he was done. His stomach rumbled in anticipation of getting filled. He stopped by Bill and said, “I’d say this is a four trip meal.”
Grinning at the long-standing joke about going to fill their plates repeatedly, Bill said, “You bet.”
Returning to the side room, Jerry sat next to Jenny. She looked at his plate and asked, “Did you get enough?”
“Well, I’ve got three more trips to fill up on,” replied Jerry with a grin.
Jenny smiled at the big man seated across from her. He had a healthy appetite and wasn’t afraid of indulging it on occasion. He looked across the table at her plate and said, “Looks to me like you are ready for a refill.”
The comment surprised her as she was used to being on dates where she wouldn’t eat much. Being around Jerry, she knew that she could be herself and eat to her heart’s content without raising a comment other than that she looked happy. She stood and said, “I’ll be back with more.”
The difference between Jenny and his ex-wife was amazing. His ex-wife wouldn’t ever let herself relax and enjoy the moment. With Jenny, he knew that she’d seen too much of that in her work and wouldn’t allow herself to fall into that trap. Jerry winked at her and said, “That’s my girl.”
That made Jenny feel desired and appreciated. She stopped by Bill on her way and put a soft hand on his shoulder. She leaned down and wrapped her hands around his chest as she said, “Glad to see you got the cast off.”
“Thanks,” replied Bill still surprised whenever an adult woman was nice to him. The hug felt very good to the attention-starved boy.
“Now you can put your arms around the girls and make them happy,” teased Jenny. Winking at Sandy, she added, “I bet all the pretty girls at school can hardly keep their hands off of a big young man like you.”
As Bill blushed, Sandy laughed at his discomfort in a friendly fashion that was actually supportive. She had come to like Bill’s dad Jerry, although it had taken her a long time to decide that the big man wasn’t a brute. It didn’t take her more than five seconds to decide that she liked Jenny, particularly when she saw the effect that the woman had on her friend.
In a teasing voice, Sandy said, “Oh, Bill. Let me touch you!”
As his friends made normal teenage comments about what Sandy had said, Jenny went out to get another plate of food. Unlike Jerry, she didn’t put much food on a plate and took more time eating what she did take. This let her make as many trips to the buffet as Jerry without totally killing her figure.
Returning to the side room, she watched Jerry as he sat smiling and watching his son deal with his friends. It was easy to see that the father was so happy with the changes that had come over his son. She recalled that first day when she had met Bill. Fifteen minutes late, he had worn filthy clothes, and had to change at her house. Her first impression had not been good, but that had changed very quickly. The misery that was just below the surface at the knowledge that his mother had attacked him with a baseball bat had touched her. His concern that his dad could have a nice date with her spoke of a very good character.
She sat down across from Jerry and said, “He sure looks happy.”
“Yeah, he does,” replied Jerry with a wistful tone in his voice. When he was Bill’s age, he would have killed to have a dinner surrounded by friends that teased him and supported him in such a caring fashion.
In a very quiet voice, she asked, “You never had a day like this for yourself, have you?”
“No,” replied Jerry. Deciding to change the subject, he looked up and said, “By the way, the guy doing the paint job on my truck is going to deliver it to me at an antique car show this Sunday. Claims that he can get it completely finished by then.”
“Really?” asked Jenny in surprise as she wondered what it would look like once it was finished. It wasn’t that she was pretentious, but being taken out in either the Camaro or the truck was not her idea of being treated nicely. The truck was an eyesore that was only a little better looking than the Camaro.
“I promise you that you won’t be embarrassed being seen in it.” Jerry understood that she didn’t really like being seen in either of his cars. Both cars looked like rejects from a junkyard, but that would change when they were painted and the interiors repaired. He asked, “Would you like to go there with us?”
She took a bite of her food as she thought about it. She didn’t know the first thing about cars other than the insurance cost too much, some cars cost more than others, and sitting in traffic was a headache. Curiosity about antique cars forced her to say, “Sure. I think that would be interesting.”
“Great. I’ll find out when it starts and give you a call,” replied Jerry. He shoveled another mouthful of food in to his maw and watched Jenny, happy that she had said ‘yes.’
“Are you taking any of your son’s friends?” asked Jenny as he looked at the other end of the table. Bill and Larry were headed out of the room to get another plate of food, pushing each other in the manner of teenage boys having fun.
The idea of taking Bill’s friends hadn’t occurred to him. Looking over at her, he wondered if she wanted him to extend the offer to them or not. Shrugging his shoulder, he answered, “I haven’t thought about that. Do you think I should?”
“I don’t know,” replied Jerry thinking that he hadn’t any better clue as to her preference. Shrugging, he answered, “You might enjoy it being just the three of us or you might prefer if he goes off with his friends.”
“What do you want?” asked Jenny, surprised that he was so indecisive.
Breaking out into a smile, he answered, “I got what I want. A Sunday spent with my son and my girlfriend.”
She sat back in her seat surprised at his answer. This was the first time that he had called her his girlfriend and they hadn’t even had sex yet. The petting sessions were hot and heavy, leaving her wet between the legs and him walking away bent over. The problem was that she always initiated the sessions. It was as though he was terrified of making any physical demands upon her.
The thought came to her that after the show, Bill might go to the movies with his friends giving them a little time alone. She took his hand and replied, “Let his friends come with him. I’m sure that he would enjoy a whole day with them.”
“Okay,” replied Jerry. “It sure is nice of you to think of his fun.”
“He’s a great kid,” replied Jenny. She wondered how he would react if he knew what was really in her mind. Rather than risk saying anything, she turned her attention to the food on her plate.
The kids at the other end of the table were working on desert and he realized that he hadn’t been eating. He dug into his meal, happy at the plans for Sunday. He had just finished his second plate when a man came into the room and looked around. Jerry stood up to get another plate of food when he spotted the man watching the kids. He stepped over and said, “I’m Jerry Smith, Bill’s dad.”
“Oh, hello. I’m Dave Woodward,” replied the man. He pointed over at Woody and said, “Don is my son.”
Jerry hadn’t known that Don was Woody’s real name, but didn’t let on that he hadn’t known it. Gesturing over at the boys, he said, “Your son’s a good kid. Why don’t you have a seat with us until he’s ready to go?”
“That would be nice,” replied Dave.
Jerry led him over to the table and performed the introductions. It didn’t take him long to return to the buffet counter and fill up another plate. He had stared at the boiled crab legs with envy, but looking at the bandages on his hands he knew that he couldn’t eat that tonight. Another parent was in the room when he returned. He took a moment to collect himself and said, “Hello. I’m Jerry Smith, Bill’s dad.”