Life Lessons

Rory’s Story Cubes Mini-Story #6


Photo by Jennie Coughlin

The rain was fitting, Nelson thought. The dreary weather reflected his mood. From his bed in Bethesda’s Spy Ward, he could see the downpour as he stared out the window. The steady beep-beep from the heart monitor belied his inner turmoil. This was something he couldn’t slap a band-aid, or several, on and joke about having a sexy scar.

When the Romanian Secret Police had knee-capped him with a nine-millimeter round, he knew there were such things as a knee replacement, but the high-powered rifle round in his pelvis… That was another matter. There were hip replacements, too, but his pelvis might be too damaged to accept one of those. Instinctively, he must have known that because he’d tried to get Alexei Bukharin to leave him behind to bleed to death, but the stubborn Russian had carried Nelson out of Romania on his back.

Nelson didn’t mind there’d be no more field work. He’d taken well to management when he’d tried it before, but he remembered his best friend from elementary school. In fact he couldn’t keep Troy Hartman from dancing through his memory, as impossible as that act would have been for Troy.

Troy had had polio the summer he turned ten and after that wore braces and used arm crutches, and idiots that kids were in the forties, Troy had been teased relentlessly. Until Nelson had declared himself the boy’s friend. Nelson had known his own amount of teasing, what with his full name being Admiral Nelson. Yeah, thanks, Dad.

Nelson had liked his easy friendship with Troy, but Nelson had always been terrified of being unable to walk, scared of being relegated to the lurching, hesitant gait Troy had used, and he’d hidden that well from his friend. Yet, he’d never seen Troy without a smile on his face.

Troy had once said, “I could be dead, so I’m pretty fucking happy to be alive. Who cares if the legs don’t work?”

Who indeed?

A nurse came in and checked Nelson’s vitals. She stood close to the bed, close enough he could smell her perfume. She gave him a sweet smile and said, “Is there anything I do for you, Mr. Nelson? Anything at all?”

He took in the subtle emphasis she’d put on certain words and returned her smile. “All in good time, my dear, but right now what you can do for me is arrange for an old school friend of mine to visit.”