Return to Ramble House Page

Return to Harry Stephen Keeler Page









BARRY WAYNE, seated on the edge of the small white-painted hospital bed, and all dressed and in readiness to leave this place where, as he understood matters, he had been lying unconscious for 3 days, gazed in astonishment at the grave-faced, middle-aged, white-capped nurse who stood in front of him.

And who, gleaming hypodermic needle in hand, was saying—ever so calmly:

“Draw up your left sleeve, Mr. Wayne—coat and shirt both!—and hold out your arm.”

“Draw up—” In hopeless endeavour to find explanation of this sudden hypodermical medication which one, Barry Wayne, departing guest, was evidently about to receive, he threw his eyes helplessly about the exceedingly small blue-calcimined room into which, as he understood matters, he had been catapulted after some weird accident here in Chicago, out at Ogden Avenue and Madison Street; but all he saw, of course, was what he had seen all morning: just the tiny blue-calcimined hospital room with its one window gazing out on that dolorous closed court, down into which just now filtered a stray beam of early afternoon sunlight. Still searching for an answer, he now tossed a look down at himself, in his neat grey suit, with knitted grey tie and dark grey shirt. And which proclaimed plainly he was leaving, and—And now he fastened his attention fascinatedly on the small black-japanned tray the nurse had set down on the stand near his bed; particu-arly, the rubber-corked bottle which stood on it in readiness for insertion of that hypodermic needle already in her waiting hand.

“But see here, Miss—well, I don’t know your name, unfortunately—but that bottle there is labelled—Sedato. And I know that stuff! And so why—”

“O—kay!” he said. And drew up his sleeve, with a single pinched-together motion of his right thumb and forefinger. Extended his bared arm. She had already thrust her needle through the rubber cork into the small bottle, and drawn up an exact half-inch of the green liquid; now she pinched together the flesh of his forearm tightly, and thrust the needle in most expertly. In a trice, the liquid was in him—instead of in the needle! And, almost by the time she had it out, and was wiping it off with a bit of cotton, he felt the most peculiar sense of calm and peace he had ever experienced; a curious feeling that nothing in the world could be wrong.

The nurse was looking at a small gold watch pinned to her bosom. “Let’s see now?” she ruminated, but entirely aloud. “3 minutes—to 2? Now when the minute hand is at—oh, I’ll count it out.” And now she did just that. Counted. As could be told from the silent but visible motion of her lips. She continued to count—all the way up to a hundred, at least. Now, ceasing, she unlocked the door. And flung it open. And again gazed at Barry Wayne most oddly.

“And now you can come with me, Mr. Wayne,” she said cryptically. “And I’ll take you—to Dr. Moore. After which you’ll be leaving the hosp—But first—any questions?—that is, simple questions?—before I take you to the doctor?”

“I’ll say!” he returned, sweeping up his soft grey felt hat from the bed at back of him, and preparing to rise and follow her the second she should give him the word. “I’ll say! Considering I’ve been getting told all day long ‘No questions at present, please!’ For I’ve been out of this little old interesting world, don’t forget, for 3 long days—and with things a-happening. And so, just so’s I’ll be sort of—of au fait, when I meet your head sawbones, I would like—answers to three questions that were most on my mind day-before-day-before-day-before yest’day!”

“Render them,” she said, a pained look on her face, and even biting her lip.

“Well, first, what’s new in that windy argument about the Sudetanland between the Czecho-Slovaks and that bluffing paper-hanger of Europe—you see, I’m personally certain his army and alleged ‘military machine’ is all phony—you know?—eggshell and papier-mache— That’s my Question Number I! Now for Number II: Did Roosevelt, or his manager Jim Farley, let out a peep at that newspaper conference whether F. D. R. would ever even consider running for a third term, two years from now? And thirdly—did the City Fathers abandon that gopher hole in the ground they were starting to dig, and trying to call a subway? Answer ’em all, miss—miss—nurse—and I’ll be 100 per cent up to snuff on my cur-rent politics and local affairs!”

He smiled at her, inwardly tickled to be able to let her know also that concussion hadn’t shaken his wits any.

But his smile faded, at the look of utter aghastness, of consternation, that came to her face, and which virtually froze there. And a sudden sense of great unease—of disquiet—an overpowering fear of something terrible—suddenly filled his entire being. So much so that—but she was answering him now.

“Dr. Moore,” she was saying quietly, “might best answer—all of those questions.”

“Well, that’s a lulu!” he endeavoured to say. “A busy surgeon having to answer simple questions about—but okay. I’ll ask him, then. All of these and a few others—since he’s official answerer around here. And as for his answers—”

“Yes?” She was puzzledly studying him.

“Oh,” Barry Wayne shrugged, “I was only going to jokingly say that—that his answers—well, they better be good!”

“I don’t know,” said the woman cryptically, and looking away, “how good they’ll be. But I’m quite sure they’ll be—interesting. Follow me.”

Return to Ramble House Page

Return to Harry Stephen Keeler Page