Then he looked at me with his head tilted. Whats that sound, he said.
I dont hear anything, I said, trying to stay focused on the opening pleasantries of my business conversation.
He laid his biscuit down next to his cup of coffee and walked down the hall toward the back. I heard him pause at the doorway of Room 3 and say, Good morn . . . Then he shouted, What the hells going on in here?
Gotta go, I said, hanging up on the Director while she was talking. Then I bolted for the back.
Things were not the way Id left them. The surgical tables motor, normally a low-pitched, almost inaudible hum, had changed to an angry whine. The head of the table was tilted as high as it would go, over five feet in the air, and the foot was down, almost touching the floor. Miss Viola had slid into a little wad at the lower end. Herma and Helma were frantically struggling to keep her from falling onto the floor, but she was oblivious. She smiled serenely as Herma tugged on her arms and Helma hoisted her ankles.
I couldnt understand why this was happening. It sounded like someone was standing on a cats tail. I looked down reflexively and noticed that Herma had somehow come to be standing on the floor pedal that raised the head end of the table. She clearly didnt realize what she was doing, nor could she hear the table motor running.
Daddy shouted a one-word accusation, Carolyn! and leapt forward to snatch up Miss Viola. As she slipped off the end of the table, her dress peeled up over her head. He tried to set her on her feet, but she was so dizzy she couldnt stand by herself. He told Herma to get her foot off the control pedal, but she couldnt hear well enough to understand what he was saying.
He made a series of shuffling hops sideways, crushing Viola tightly against his side, and startled Herma by lifting her bodily off the pedal with his other arm. He held one lady under each arm while he stomped on the Head Down control.
All of this confusion and man-handling sent the sisters into a tizzy. And Daddy was incensed that anyone would dare touch the controls of his table, much less put such a terrible strain on it.
Whatd you do that for? Daddy shouted at Herma in a voice so thunderous that she finally heard him.
Do what? I didnt do anything! Your table there is broken!
It better not be! he said.
When the table was level again, he plopped Miss Viola back down in the center and flipped her dress down over her legs. She seemed neither startled nor embarrassed. In fact, she seemed to have missed the whole ordeal.
Under the circumstances Daddy decided to go ahead and tend to Miss Violas medical problems before normal office hours. He patiently listened to all three ladies health concerns and wrote prescriptions all round.
As the ladies drove away, Daddy went back to his sausage biscuit. He stared at me while he chewed and then said, Dont ever do that again.
Dont do what? I said. Dont leave any old ladies alone with any of your stuff?
Just dont do it again, he snapped and took his biscuit into the back to eat it in peace.
We were both under a lot of stress.
A few minutes later, Alma, Daddys nurse, confided that during her entire twelve years with the doctor shed never heard him shout like that before.
Well, just stick with me, I said, Ive been with him for forty years and Ive been hearing it the whole time.
Copyright (c) Carolyn Jourdan 2006-2007. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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