There was no need to call anyone – Marta had called Momma as soon as she got off the phone with the 911 operator (Emily, a very nice girl, according to Marta). The ambulance was a few minutes behind the cops and I watched them load Chester as the officer grilled me about what had happened.
I’d put up the now horribly bent arrows and didn’t mention them to the cops. Who’d believe that, anyway? I explained the mess of rebar and wood by saying I’d panicked and tossed things. Well, that was believable right up until they asked what the bangers did. Real bangers would have just shot me and been done about it. I knew that and the cops knew that so telling them that they ran away made no sense at all. But telling them the truth made less sense so I stuck to the story.
They politely requested that I accompany them downtown. I didn’t see where there was a reasonable alternative that didn’t make them mad or me look even less credible so I went. Spent the next hour and a half retelling the same stupid story and shrugging my shoulders until they were sore. I knew better than try to explain why the bangers supposedly ran off – better to let the cops scratch their heads than give them the chance to catch me in a lie. Since I couldn’t explain, I just shrugged my shoulders – a lot.
Poppa was waiting for me when I got to the lobby. Officer O’Malley, God bless him, had come along, even though he was actually off duty. He’d managed to convince Poppa that I wasn’t under arrest and wasn’t on drugs. From the way Poppa hugged me, you’d have thought I’d have just finished a ten year stretch instead of a couple hours being interviewed. I groaned inwardly. My family has always been excitable and if Poppa was this bad…
Sure enough, Momma was waiting when we reached the hospital. Poppa wanted me checked out and I wanted to see about Chester so running by the ER was a good way to solve both problems. I would like to say I was surprised Momma was already there but this is the same woman that once took me to the hospital because I sneezed while getting decorations out of the dusty attic for Christmas. She was the one that told Poppa to bring me here, beyond a doubt.
My brother Tim glanced up from his magazine to see if I had all my limbs still attached while Momma fussed over me and the poor clerk tried to get my name. Satisfied that I was mostly in one piece, Tim went back to his reading. Having driven Momma here, his job was done. Tim was the most implacable of us all.
I didn’t have time to chuckle at my brother. The poor clerk was still trying to do her job while Momma was trying to make sure I wasn’t going to drop dead before the doctor got to me. Lisa, Tim’s twin, Marty, Donna, Jane, Mike and Tina all rushed in. Kevin must have been parking the car. I sighed as Poppa tried to wave them down so the poor clerk could talk to me.
It didn’t work. I took over, trying to convince my family that I wasn’t hurt, wasn’t dying and wasn’t even feeling bad. I finally got them to go sit down. I turned to find the clerk chatting with Momma. I admit, an eyebrow went up at that but I soon realized that the poor clerk was a smart cookie. She’d gotten most of my information by simply asking my Momma about me. She was also getting the year I graduated as I sat down – Momma tended to give you a lot more information that you wanted when talking about her kids. I chuckled, impressed at the poor clerk’s resourcefulness.
I filled in the blanks Momma hadn’t and we soon left the nice clerk to go sit with my now somewhat less excited family. Tim was still reading but everyone else wanted all the details. The last thing I wanted to do was tell that stupid story again but no wasn’t a possible answer. I sighed and gave them the highlights along with a promise to tell the whole thing at supper.
It took forever but things finally quieted down. Donna had enough sense to grab some games before she left home so there was something to do as we all waited for me to be called. I managed to get Tim away from his magazine and sent him to the main lobby to check on Chester. Since his family wasn’t in the ER I assumed he was on a floor already.
Tim came back fairly quickly and pulled me away from Momma. No mean feat, Momma was still half-convinced I was going to topple over any minute now.
Once we were out of immediate earshot, Tim sighed, “He’s not here. The main desk didn’t know where he was but there’s a TV in that sub waiting room near the lobby. The news was talking about a guy being air lifted to a trauma center after a beating this afternoon. I’m thinking that was Chester.”
I nodded, knowing Tim was probably right, “Don’t tell the folks until we know for absolute certain.”
It was Tim’s turn to nod, “Right. No sense worrying them. Want me to make some calls?”
“Yeah, Mr. Salvador might know.”
“I had his daughter Gina in mind.”
I rubbed my face with my hand, “Right, right, I forgot you dated Chester’s daughter in high school. You still have her number?”
“Yeah, we still talk some.” Tim admitted. I speak ‘Tim’ well enough to know that he was seeing the girl. As taciturn as Tim can be, it’s no surprise I didn’t know he’d started seeing her again.
I was going to ask if Momma knew, knowing full well she didn’t otherwise everyone would have known, myself included, but the nurse picked then to call my name. I gave my brother’s shoulder a firm squeeze to thank him and sighed as I turned to go.
I am twenty-one years old, have a job and pay full rent on my own apartment. I am perfectly capable of seeing the doctor all by myself and I don’t even need a lollipop afterwards. Never mind all that, my Momma was going with me. I suppose I could have tried to stop her but it really, really isn’t worth the resultant fuss. The nurse looked at me funny as Momma led me through the door. I sighed again.
Two hours later, the nurse had a much more sympathetic look on her face as she led us back out. The exam took five minutes for the doctor to pronounce me fine. Most of the remainder was the poor doctor answering all of my mother’s questions. I had felt fine when I got here; now I was completely drained just from trying to calm Momma down.
As we reached the family, Tim caught my eye. He mouthed the name of a trauma center upstate. I looked at him expectantly and he nodded. Chester was there and still alive, for now at least. I nodded my thanks and turned to the task of calming my family and getting them out of here.