Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Frank-incense

“Doctor!”  Nurse Consuela Arroyo was calling Dr. Khalid Mohammad away from the stabilized asthmatic and back to the no longer stabilized patient in the last bed of the George Washington University Hospital emergency room.  “Should I take it off?”  Dr. Mohammad hesitated a moment, then nodded yes, and the nurse removed the oxygen mask from Clio's face.  Oh, no.  Green mucous was oozing out of the woman's eyelids, and Nurse Arroyo was already handing Dr. Mohammad a large cotton swab to wipe it away.  He then turned to ask for the rubber bulb, but she was already handing it to him and taking away the dirty swab with her other hand.  He gently suctioned more mucous out of Clio's nostrils, then turned to ask for the other breathing apparatus, but Nurse Arroyo had already hooked it up to the oxygen machine and was ready to hand it to him to insert into the patient's nostrils.  He then turned to request another cotton swab, but Nurse Arroyo was already handing him a clean one, and he set to work swabbing more mucous oozing out of the patient's eyelids.  Another call for doctors erupted as ambulance workers brought a new patient into the E.R.; Nurse Arroyo silently nodded to Dr. Mohammad that she could handle it, and he left her alone to tend to the patient.  Clio gazed up weakly at the Filipina nurse, and the nurse was glad the patient did not see what was coming out of her sinuses in every direction.  Clio had tried to soldier through the cold, trying to save up her personal leave time for a long Christmas vacation with the kids, but the cold had just kept getting worse.  After she was rehydrated, and the mucous avalanche slowed, she would be put in intensive care.  Then blood tests would be done, but Nurse Arroyo's instincts already told her that the diagnosis was going to be HIV and pneumonia—the sinus infection was the least of this woman's problems.


Out in the emergency room waiting area, Clio's twins sat in uncharacteristic silence next to Bridge, who was fingering his knit cap nervously in his lap.  How could they not have seen?  He tried to remind himself that they were, after all, still children, and children don't usually watch over their mothers' colds.  They see everything else—why didn't they see this?  He turned to glance at Ferguson and Regina for the upteenth time, but they were sitting motionless, heads bowed, without even a leg twitching.  He asked himself for the tenth time if he should contact the children's father, but he was fairly certain even this calamity would not prompt that man to come back to these kids.  Regina took a deep sigh, and Bridge turned to see if she was going to say something, but she was still looking down.  Clio was sick a long time...we all knew it...but couldn't they tell me now it was serious?  The only reason they were here was because of the Obama representative who had stopped by to talk to the White House butler about how the East Wing move-in would be handled; she's the one that had noticed Clio was barely standing and advised her to see a doctor if the fever didn't go back down in a day.  Why didn't any of us see how bad it had gotten?  But he knew why—the haze of the White House ghosts.


Several miles to the north, Charles Wu was at home lying in his recliner in a haze of frankincense, his brain half-asleep like a dolphin's.  He had learned the trick from a yogi in Hawaii, and it was a very useful trick for times like this when he had a lot on his mind.  As his right brain let go of consciousness, his left brain was processing the changing paradigm of China.  Taiwan has resumed mail, shipping, and plane flights to the mainland for the first time since 1949.  The Chinese economy was hemorrhaging jobs as Western credit card purchases plummeted.  The political heat on China's human rights issues had dissipated as world leaders shifted their Asian focus to the tense relationship between nuclear India and atomic Pakistan.  In a few days, he would be dining at a 5-star restaurant in Hong Kong and telling his business partner that American sales of his partner's luxurious gold-plated digital stereos had placed approximately three-thousand listening devices in the homes of the rich and powerful all over the United States.  Prince and Prowling had become a force to be reckoned with in Beijing.  And then there was the British embassy party in Hong Kong, where he would be delivering--.  The phone rang, he picked it up and spoke to the spy cryptically, then hung up—his right brain still asleep.  Lately, whenever it was awake, things seemed too complicated...or too clear?


A few miles to the south, the Heurich Society was having what might charitably have been called a “holiday party” at the Brewmaster's Castle, but even tinsel and vodka-spiked Hawaiian Punch weren't enough to stop this group from talking shop.  Henry Samuelson was speaking to a cluster of men about the Guantanamo prisoners recently released to Bosnia.  “In my day, no god-damned judge in the whole country would have even known about those prisoners, let alone ordered us to release them!”  Condoleezza Rice was spinning her latest appearance on “Meet the Press” to a few members who had actually already watched the performance and privately snickered at her trailblazing approach to defining the word “humble” in the context of foreign policy.  (In their day, nobody would have bothered pretending to be humble about American foreign policy!)  Closest to the window, the society chairman was speaking enthusiastically about the initial results of the Ming Dung plan; then he raised his glass, pinged the crystal, and made a toast to 2009.  Down in the kitchen, Chinese defector Han Li was dipping into the vodka and wondering if he should start selling the Heurich Society secrets to other people besides Charles Wu.


Several miles to the east, Jai Alai was fussing over Atticus Hawk, who was trying to depart their Sunday night dinner with only a t-shirt and fleece jacket on.  “What do you mean you didn't know how cold it was outside?  I still can't believe you showed up like this!”  She was trying to get him to take one of her sweatshirts, a hat, and/or a scarf.  “Sometimes I don't know where your head is at!”  His head was still at his Justice Department office, in the middle of the memo he needed to finish by Monday morning on Judge Leon's judicial order for the Guantanamo release—which is to say, his head was in an uncomfortable place where his years of expertise as the Administration's torture expert were starting to unravel in multiple ways.  She was forcing tube socks over his hands, even though he would have to take them off to grip the steering wheel.  He kissed her goodnight and high-fived her son, and then he thought he heard her say “I love you” as he walked to the car, and then he had to admit to himself that it kind of felt nice to hear it, but then he frowned because he wasn't sure she really knew him at all.  Who does she love?  Who is that guy?


He started the engine and was surprised to see a flock of starlings sitting on his hood, unfazed by the rumble of the motor.  Aw, shit, he thought, literally.  He started driving away, and they just kept staring at him until he made a fast and sharp turn, which finally prompted them to fly away.  He shivered and wished he could drive with the tube socks on his hands.


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