I was sitting in the Adirondack chair, drunk and talking to myself, when a state trooper parked his cruiser next to my old Buick and walked down to the waterfront. Black kid about twenty-six or -seven, wearing the grays like the troopers do, fitted and all, and I turned and stood when I heard him coming.
"Great, isn't it?"
"What?" he asked, like a bass drum.
I had leaned against the chair for support, and it wobbled under my weight and his voice.
"The lake. The outside."
"I'm looking for a Smithson Ide."
"That would be me," I said, a drunk fighting to appear straight.
"Why don't you sit down a second, Mr. Ide."
"I'm not drunk or anything, Officer ... Trooper.... I'm really fine ... not ..."
"Mr. Ide, there's been an accident, and your parents are seriously injured. Outside of Portland. Mr. Ide was taken to the head-trauma unit at Portland General, and Mrs. Ide is at the Biddeford Hospital."
"My mom? My pop?" I asked stupidly.
"Why don't you come with me, and I'll get you up there."
"My car ..."
"You come with me, and we'll get you back, too. You won't have to worry about your car."
"I won't have to worry. Okay. Good."
I changed into a clean pair of shorts and a T-shirt. The trooper tried very hard not to look at me. I was glad, because people tended to form quick opinions of me when I stood there fat and drunk and cigarette-stained in front of them. Even reasonable people go for an immediate response. Drunk. Fat. A smoky-burned aroma.
The trooper, whose name was Alvin Anderson, stopped for two coffees at the bake shop in Bridgton, then took Route 302 into Portland. We didn't talk very much.
"I sure appreciate this."
"Looks like rain."
"I don't know."
Pop had already been admitted when Alvin let me out at Emergency.
"Take a cab over to Biddeford Hospital when you're done here. I'll be by later on."
I watched him drive away. It was about five, and a rain began. A cold rain. My sandals flopped on the blue floor, and I caught my thick reflection stretched against the shorts and T-shirt. My face was purple with beer. The lady at Information directed me to Admitting, where an elderly volunteer directed me to the second-floor trauma unit.
"It's named for L. L. Bean," he said. "Bugger had it, and he gave it. That's the story."
A male nurse at the trauma reception asked me some questions to be sure that this Ide was my Ide.
"Oh, yeah ... about ten years ago, see.... It really made him mad because"
"Okay. Take this pass and stand on the blue line. That's where the nurse assigned to your father will take you in. There are thirty trauma cells, glass front, usually the curtains are drawnbut sometimes they're not. We ask you, when your nurse comes to take you in, to promise not to look into any of the units other than yours."
"I promise," I said solemnly.
I stood on the blue line and waited. I was still drunk. I wished I had put on a baggy sweater and some sweatpants or something, because fat guys are just aware of the way things ride up the crotch, and they've got to always be pulling out the front part of the T-shirt so little breasts don't show through.
The nurse was named Arleen, and she was as round as me. She had on baggy surgical green slacks and an enormous green smock with pockets everywhere. She led me to my pop's cubicle. I didn't look into any of the other ones. I could hear a man saying, "Oh, God. Oh, God," over and over, and crying, but mostly there was a hushed tone, and when the nurses and doctors hurried about, they sounded like leaves on the ground in the fall with kids walking through them. I was very drunk.
From The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty; chapter 1 (pages 1-9). Copyright 2004 by Zaluma, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Viking Penguin.
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