Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Walter Gets Physio...


“Walter called it ‘a safe and quiet place‘, ladies and gentlemen. A place he was not quite ready for, a place he ‘wasn‘t supposed to be‘. And now he is back with us, heroically working to get his muscles all functioning again so he can get up out of this bed and join us out in our community. We’re all looking forward to seeing you healthy again, Walter. You’re such an inspiration to us all… This is Lucinda Jamison for KTBE, and it’s a miracle.”

The lights go out.

“Glory be to me and all my angels,” says Walter, relieved the interview is over. “Now would you people gather up all your gear and leave us to our business?”

I shut my eyes and let the world come in mostly through my ears- welcoming the sound of all quieting down- as Baldeeny sighs and turns in his slumber and the reporter people bang their equipment against the door in their rush to leave.

Small dabs of light dance around in my skull- left-overs from the television people’s lights- and I watch these without meaning to as I try and focus solely on their heavy clacking footfalls down the polished halls of the murmuring hospital.

The lights go out.


The lights come on.

Walter’s face is so close to mine it’s like staring at my face in the mirror, only I’m no longer me but another Walter with gold in my ear and a broad and happy set to all of my features.

In this reflection I no longer have a pale or pinched face and it pleases me in a weird way. I smile and Walter smiles in that banana style of his.

“You’re awake,“ says Walter. “Good. You fell asleep on me awhile ago and weaseled out of your dance lessons. You’re just lucky I got a soft spot for heroes, Walter, because otherwise I’d have jumped up and down on you till you did your exercises. Never mind that you’re bitin’ into my lunchtime! Never mind that at all!

Now we’re gonna get you goin’ slowly, alright? Sort of ease into this nice and easy. But like a big ol’ locomotive you’re eventually gonna build yourself up to a head of steam, alright? Whoo whoo!”

Walter is fun and he makes me smile.

I’m awake now and I see my world clearly. The white and shiny ceiling. The ribbon around the room. The monitors lined up against the wall with red digital numbers changing every few seconds on black and glassy displays. Baldeeny’s scrotum hanging loosely off the fat flesh of his hairy thigh.

Walter is pulling on my big toe to get my attention.

“Don’t you drift off on me now.”

I’m not drifting. I’m just lying here helplessly trying to be what Walter wants me to be.

“We’re gonna start with the arms again. Right arm first. Now I want you to reach up and touch your nose. Here. Get yourself loose from these sheets a bit.”

My right arm slides upward along my ribcage and the elbow bends while my finger thrusts forward and there I did it. My finger is touching my nose.

“Excellent! Now put it down and do the other one.”

My right arm slides in reverse down my ribcage, unfolding as it goes. I’m pretty sure it is back up against my side again, where it started.

“Close enough! Now let’s do the left one, same thing.”

My left arm doesn’t move when I will it to. Is it will that commands motion? I don’t know. How is it that we move anyway? We move, normally, without any direction whatsoever. We don’t say “move” before we move, we just move.

“Come on Walter, you can move it!” says Walter.

That doesn’t work either.

My finger is out where I thrust it, but my arm isn’t sliding up my ribcage like I want it to. There’s a feather ruffling up against the underside of my nose and my arm slides up and rubs away the tickle.


“Not great, Walter, but you got it done. Now put the arm down on your own if you can.”

I’ve got more control over my left arm now, and I slide it back down to its position along my side.

“OK, do it again. Left arm to your nose, let’s go or you’ll get the feather.”

I try not to tell my arm what to do. This time, I try and picture the outcome. My finger touching the tip of my nose…

The wrist rolls a little and the finger points, but that is all.

There is a feather flicking in and out of my nostrils.

Damn that Walter! My arm travels upwards along the ribcage and wipes away the tickle once again.

“Excellent!” says Walter. “Now put it down again.”

It goes down easier than last time and I listen for Walter’s next order.

“Left arm, again. Quickly!”

I slide the arm up and touch my nose, avoiding the feather altogether.

“Very well done, sir. Now put it down and do it three more times.”

I put it down and do it all again. I don’t mean to count but the numbers strike boldly inside my mind. One… two… three…

“YAZOO! YAZOO! That’s good work, Walter! Now do the right one five times. Count ‘em yourself, if you would. Count ‘em out loud.”

I count out “one… two… three…” my arm silently rising and falling like it’s supposed to, touching my nose and then hinging open at the elbow and lying flat on the bed. “Four… five…”

It feels good to move a limb around.

“Now the left one five times.”

I count “One… two…” there’s more work involved on this side but I manage to get it done. “Three… four… five…”

“Excellent! Now both at the same time. Don’t think about it, Walter, just do it.”

I count “One…” my left finger hits my cheek bone.

“Close enough. Keep goin’ Walter. You’re doin’ fine.”

“Two…” it feels like I am really moving now. “Three… four…” I can feel my shoulders rotating as I lift my arms. “Five…”

“Excellent! Way to go, my man! Way to go! Now do ‘em like I do ‘em, in time with the beat.”

Walter starts making real live drum noises with his mouth.

“Boop... chi... boop... chi... boop... chi…”

He’s raising his arms to his nose and lowering them down with every boop and chi.

“Come on Walter. Touch that nose! Boop… chi… boop… chi… boop… chi…”

I’m doing it! Boop… chi… boop… chi… boop… chi… The sounds of Walter’s mouth-drum are taking over my mind. Boop… chi… boop… chi… boop… chi…

“You’re dancing, Walter! You’ve got the boogie! “

I’m not dancing. I’m lying here on my back lifting my arms up and poking at my face with them, trying to keep up with Walter’s pace and falling back and back and back.

Boop… chi… boop… chi… boop… chi…

I’m tired and I start imagining how I look to others who might be looking at me. I know I certainly don’t look like Walter, who looks like a robot at the moment, following along with his own manufactured rhythm. Boop… chi… boop…chi… boop chi… This makes me stop altogether.

“Alrighty, Walter. Enough of those. Let’s get to those skinny little legs of yours, shall we? You need to put on some meat! Now all you’re gonna do is pull one foot up and touch it to your bottom, then push it back down flat and do the other.”

Walter has a hold of one of my feet. He is sliding it up under me, the heel never leaving the bed-surface as the knee bends and the hip rotates. It feels good to move and to feel the cool air flow under my emaciated thigh.

“Now the other.”

My left leg is curling up with Walter’s help. Then it’s straightening back out. Again, the cool air feels good under my sweaty leg and I don’t want him to put it back down but he does.

“Now do your right one just like I did, but on your own.”

I start by wriggling my toes. I can do that so I try and make my knee bounce. I can do that so I begin pulling my heel toward me and bending at the knee. Here it comes.

“That’s it Walter. Pull that foot up tight to your bum. Excellent! Now put it back down.”

My foot goes away from me and keeps on going until I don’t know where it went.

“Now the other one.”

It won’t come. I wriggle my toes and I bounce my knee, but I can’t make it all move as one leg. Oh no!

Walter has put a feather to the bottom of my foot and…

… my leg recoils toward me to spare the foot the brutality of a tickle.

“Excellent! Now put it down and do it again. Chickaboom chickaboom chicka chicka boom yahhh…”

My leg slides out flat then shakes a little as I return the heel to under my bum.

“Chickaboom chickaboom chicka chicka boom yahhh…”

Out it slides again.

“Now the other! Chickaboom chickaboom chicka chicka boom yahhh…”

Walter is flapping chicken arms and thrusting out his rump in a silly dance while he makes music with his mouth and I pull my stick-like legs up to a bent knee position and slide them back down again.

“Excellent! Now the other! Chickaboom chickaboom chicka chicka boom yahhh…”

Cool air gets under my sweaty legs and the heel sends signals of pleasure to my brain as it heats from friction rubbing back and forth across the hospital sheets.

“Chickaboom chickaboom chicka chicka boom yahhh…”

It’s all going good now. The sheets are rising and falling by my lifting knees. My heels are warming. Cool air is flowing. “Chickaboom chickaboom chicka chicka boom yahhh!”

“That’s right Walter!”

“Chickaboom chickaboom chicka chicka boom yahhh!”

“You said it, Walter!”

“Chickaboom chickaboom chicka chicka boom yahhh!”

“Keep pumping those legs up and back! Whoo! Whoo!”

“Chickaboom chickaboom chicka chicka boom yahhh!” A joy bubble bursts inside of me and I laugh and laugh and laugh.

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