A hockey team faces an illness of unknown reasons
It became a nightly occurrence when Charlie would wake up and realize he had been dreaming of being a player with the Boston Bruins. The town he grew up in, Holton, NH, was a hockey and football town and if the boys didn’t grow up learning the sport they were shunned. Even the fathers of the fathers were players of either game and it was drilled into all the boys when they were old enough to walk. The head hockey coach, Mr. Brian Stevenson, was a fourth generation player. His great grandfather established the youth hockey league for the school. Mr. Stevenson even had a chance to play for the Bruins but was injured before his first game.
Charlie’s brother, Sal, got him into the sport. Sal was the MVP of his team and was coached by Mr. Stevenson. Once Charlie got the taste of the sport in his system the was no holding him back. He was truly dedicated with his routine of five am runs, then the gym at six. When he was finished he showered and went to school. Practice everyday after school. That left no time for anything but sleeping, eating and homework. The deal he made with Sal was if he ended up failing any class he was not going to play hockey until he came up to at least a B. So far Charlie maintains an A in almost all classes except Math, which is a B.
Charlie awoke Tues morning with what felt like a vice grip clamped to his head. He half expected to feel blood caked to his skull when he reached up to pull it off. The song on his alarm was blarring “Stairway to Heaven” when tossed it across the run, hearing the crash as hit the wall.
He picked up his cell phone to check the time and realized he was never going to make it to his run that morning. After setting his phone alarm he went back to sleep.
The warmth from the sun and birds chirping outside his window woke him up. Checking his phone he flipped out of bed, forgetting about his headache. Tommy was to be at his door in fifteen minutes, he knew that Tommy was always late so it would give him a few extra minutes. When he stood up the blood from his head dropped to the floor and he almost dropped along with it. When the dizziness cleared the throbbing came along. He stumbled into his bathroom to get the aspirin and get ready for school.
It only took him ten minutes to get ready. He usually takes a shower at night so he didn’t need to in the morning. All he needed was some breakfast but he didn’t feel up for eating at the moment. He headed to the living room to watch tv while he waited for Tommy. After what seemed like two minutes he opened his eyes to Tommy in his face yelling, “Dude, get the hell up.”
“Dude, what the hell? Was that necessary? All you needed to do was honk.” Charlie screamed as he stood up. The dizziness returned so he stood there trying to make it seem normal.
“Dude, I was out there honking and hollering. Your neighbors didn’t like it so much so I came inside. I tried to wake you but you didn’t wake up. You sick or something?” Tommy tried to check Charlie but was knocked away.
“Stay away from me man.” He picked up his backpack and strolled out the door. “Close it behind ya.” He shouted. He wanted no part of being the weak one, just move on, he thought to himself.
Charlie knew Tommy too well though. Tommy was the kind hearted soul that worried about everyone. There was a high expectation that Sal would hear about the episode when he got to school, Tommy would be the one to tell him and Charlie knew it.
Charlie kept to himself on the ride to school. They usually talked about hockey, music and cars. Lately it was about the upcoming tournament since the college scouts from Boston University, Tufts University and Boston College were going to be in attendance. If Charlie had any hopes of going on to college he would need to be picked to play on one of those teams. He needed a full team scholarship otherwise he could not afford school. There was no other option since Sal was the only one holding them together. Sal worked as the assistant coach during the day and bartended at Scramblers at night.
On the way over to school Tommy was paying close attention to Charlie, even keeping the music low while Guns and Roses played; it was Charlie’s favorite band. At one point Tommy glanced over to see Charlie’s head was lowered and his eyes were closed. If he were smart he would have turned to car around and brought him home. “Don’t do it man!” Charlie exclaimed.
“What are you talking about?” How did he know? Tommy thought.
“You were thinking about turning around.”
“I wouldn’t even consider it,” Tommy laughed and kept driving, the sun beaming on Charlie’s head like a halo.
When he arrived at the school Tommy stopped and dropped Sal off at the front entrance. He had stopped short to make sure Charlie’s eyes would open, and they did.
“What the…” He was mad. “You trying to kill me? “Stop playing games and let me out before I smack you up side the head.”
He unlocked the door to let him out. He suddenly noticed that the front entrance had a boat load of stairs and hoped that Charlie would be ok. Charlie reached to top safely so Tommy drove off to the back side, near the gym.
Sal was sitting at his desk when Tommy strolled in. The only reason Charlie’s friends would stop by is if there was a problem, “What’s wrong?”
Tommy gave Sal the run down on went down that morning. He told him that Charlie was being his typical pigheaded self and wouldn’t listen to reason.
“I’m not surprised. He is his mother’s son. Thanks for the update. I’ll take care of it, just keep an eye on him when you can.” He ushered Tommy off to homeroom.
During homeroom Tommy found his seat next to Charlie and at down quietly; Charlie’s eyes were closed again but he spoke, “You told him already didn’t you?”
“What do you think? You look like crap Chuck.” Another thing he knew about Tommy was that he told it like it was, never beating around the bush about anything.
Charlie stood up, “it doesn’t matter”, and walked to the teacher’s desk. She handed him a pass and Charlie was out the door.
Tommy hadn’t been able to catch up to Charlie ever since. He passed the word along to some friends that Sal wanted to see him. He didn’t want to alarm anyone though.
It wasn’t until lunch when he heard Charlie didn’t show up to his English class. Tommy took his lunch and went to look around the school. He knew he was told to return to his day as Sal instructed but he was worried, as usual. After checking the regular hideouts like the locker room and men’s rooms he checked with the nurse. She hadn’t seen him since he came in for an aspirin earlier.
As he passed through the long corridor of windows he saw Charlie out by the old oak tree, lying face down in the sun. By the time he got out there he noticed Charlie was sleeping; he wondered if he’d been there all morning. “Where ya been?” he asked nonchalantly as he sat beside him in the grass.
No answer. He was afraid to shake him, he didn’t want the response he got form him earlier that morning. He placed a hand on his head, It was on fire. He became alarmed and shook him anyhow.
“Please stop or I’ll puke all over you,” was his response in a whispered tone.
“You need to go home, I’ll take you.”
“Tell me about it but I can’t though,” he rolled over to look at Tommy. “I can’t miss this practice.” He stood up and almost fell on top of Tommy.
“You can’t even stand here or walk let alone skate. What are you going to tell Sal? How about Coach when you are all over the ice?”
Charlie didn’t have an answer. He turned around and walked back to the school, trying to stay on his feet. Tommy was going to help him but knew that it was not going to be accepted.
When Charlie arrived at history class he forgot there was a test. History was one of his favorite classes in which he excelled. He knew that if he took the test he would pass but it would damage his GPA. He decided he would try but the words on the paper were beginning to blurr and the aspirin he took earlier was fading.
He took his incomplete test to the teacher, she understood without him even saying a word and sent him to the nurse. When he arrived there she was busy with another puking student so he grabbed some aspirin and went to the library.
He scanned the room and saw Jeff sitting in the back. He walked over and dropped his books onto the desk when he lost his strength to carry them. Apparently Jeff wasn’t expecting company, he almost jumped out of his seat with the noise. He glanced up at Charlie and noticed he was all blotchy and red with sweat rolling down his cheeks. “Man, you ok?” He asked.
“Why did people keep asking me that?” He sighed and opened his backpack.
“Oh, gee I don’t know. You look about as good as I feel right now. “Jeff responded. He wanted to know more about how Charlie was feeling but was afraid to ask.
The table fell silent for a few moments until Jeff asked Charlie about the history test. Charlie started off by telling him about the multiple choice questions with dates and events. He then mumbled something about a short essay. Before Jeff could ask him to repeat it Charlie passed out.
Jeff shook him awake gently. Charlie appeared to be dazed and it took a few minutes for him to clear his head again. “What time is it?” He groaned and stood up.
Jeff pretended he didn’t hear the question. “What happened? You were talking about the test then passed out. You look like crap.” Jeff was horrified by how badly Charlie looked; he hoped he didn’t look that bad.
“What time is it?” Charlie asked again.
“3:45. Hockey practice started fifteen minute ago.” Jeff knew why Charlie wanted the time. “You’re not planning to play though. I wont allow it, “ He said with what he thought was with some authority.
“Try to stop me, “ Charlie tore though the library into the hall at record speed, despite his head telling him to slow down or he’d be sorry. He wanted to prove to everyone, even himself, that he was fine. Nothing a few more aspirins can’t fix. He just need to get into his gym locker.
When he finally got there, Sal was waiting in his office, “ Get in here.” He demanded.
Charlie gestured with his one finger a one minute sign and ran to his locker. He ran into another road block at the locker, it was Tommy. “You are a fool. If you practice today you may make it worse. What will happen Saturday if you are sick?”
Charlie knew Tommy was only looking after him but he didn’t want to discuss it any longer. He pushed Tommy aside and reached in for the bottle. “I’ll be fine once I take a few of these.”
Now all he needed was to convince Sal it was the right thing. Sal ended up agreeing to Charlie playing as long as he took it easy but Sal had a plan to end practice early, no need to tell Charlie that though.
Charlie knew that when he stepped out onto the ice that coach was watching him specifically. He needed to be the one to win the game. He knew that if that game took him to college it would take coach to the Bruins as an assistant coach.
Coach Stevenson made the team do laps and sprints first because everyone was so late. Even Sal had to skate laps. The coach was a tough man but he knew what he was doing, he was ranked first in New England amongst all the high schools and he remains undefeated for five years.
Sal played captain on Stevenson’s team. He would have been playing professional hockey if he hadn’t had to quit school to support his mother and brother. Later on coach tried to get a try out planned with the Bruins but it fell through. Coach ended up hiring Sal as the Assistant Coach for the high school because he knew Sal’s skills would help the team. Sal was ecstatic because he could play hockey and help support his family.
Sal tried to speak with the coach about taking it easy on Charlie but he wasn’t having it. It was going on deaf’s ears. Sal was very disappointed because it seemed that the coach didn’t care about it, he only wanted to win the game.
After the sprints and laps and routines were complete coach called for a scrimmage. It was coach’s team versus Sal’s team. Charlie played for coach and Mikey played for Sal. The two players divided up their teams and huddled up for a strategy meeting.
Sal said to his team, “This practice session is ending right now. Mike, I want you to fake an ankle injury or something, just enough to get practiced called off.”
Mike nodded and skated off to the ice with the rest of the team. The puck was dropped for the first play. They all skated around to make it look good. Charlie seemed more listless than usual so the coach began to scream at him, “Pick up the pace Kentzy”.
While Charlie was trying to speed it up he turned and caught the edge of Mikey’s skate, they both went down and as instructed Mike grabbed his ankle.
Charlie stood up starring at Mikey, not knowing what had happened or how it happened. He felt aweful fro tripping him but wasn’t sure it was really an accident or planned.
It took some talking but Sal convinced coach to end practice early for a change. He stated it was for them to get rested and be their best for the game on Saturday.
As everyone was packing their equipment to head home Charlie sat motionless on the bench with his head down. Mike elbowed Sal and nodded over in Charlie’s direction. Sal knew there would be challenge to get Charlie to a doctor, let alone a hospital.
When Charlie was five years old he and his mother was in a car accident. His mother, Sandy, hit a telephone pole while driving under the influence to go to the packy for more alcohol. Sandy ran off when she realized she would get arrested when the cops arrived. What she wasn’t thinking about was that her little boy was still in the car. Luckily the neighbors saw the accident happen and went over to help. They found Charlie all alone in the back, not even in his car seat, crying. The police and ambulance arrived and took Charlie to Laconia General Hospital. No one knew who he was or where he came from. Finally the police checked the records and found his address. When they arrived at the house his dad and Sal were there, not even aware there was an accident. A few moments after that his mom came home and was arrested, at a downtown bar. When Markus and Sal arrived at the hospital they found Charlie in a cast with some scrapes and bruises but otherwise fine. Ever since then, though, Charlie had to be dragged to the doctor. He always thought he was going to be left there alone.
Charlie had never been really sick before so when he told his brother he only had a bug and didn’t need any medical attention it was a not really a lie. Sal was a bit suspicious but let it go and left Charlie home when he went off to his bartending job. He instructed Charlie to call him if anything changed and left him set up on the couch with his drink and the phone.
An hour after Sal left the phone rang. Charlie let the answering machine pick it up. It was Mikey, “Hey dude, you ok? Pick up the phone and tell me you are ok.”
Charlie did as he was told, “Hey,” he mumbled.
“I got a little worried when you didn’t pick up the phone. Thought maybe you passed out or something”, Mikey laughed to hide his anxiety.
“No man, it’s late, I was sleeping. Thanks for waking me up to check on me.”
“Sal wanted me to check on you, blame him. I’ll let you go back to sleep. Take care,” He hung up before Charlie could reply.
Charlie sat up , thinking he had to go to the bathroom. As soon as he was upright the room swung around several times, which made him nauseous. He jumped up, suddenly, to run for the toilet. Before he reached the bathroom the jab in his head knocked him out cold, flat on his face.
The sound of ringing ran through his head like lightening. It took a moment before he realized it was the phone. If he didn’t answer he may get an ambulance showing up. “..ello”
This time Tommy was on the line. Charlie tried to speak coherently but only mumbles were flowing through his mouth. He wanted to tell Tommy he was fine and was just sleeping. He could only imagine what was going through Tommy’s head though.
Next thing he knew there were a crowd of people around him. He had something smothering him; he tried to knock it off. The people around him were holding him down. He struggled to get them off so he could get up off the floor. They wouldn’t budge. “Sal, get them off.”
“Charlie, it’s ok. Just relax and let them do their job.” Sal explained. “They are taking you to the hospital.”
Sal was kicking himself for not taking him earlier. If he had this never would have happened. When he got the call from Tommy that Charlie didn’t make any sense he practically trampled the crowd over to get home. When he finally did arrive home he found Charlie unconscious on the floor. Typically Charlie would have to beat the girls off him but he was now pale and sweaty, not the bright eyed young man he knew.
The EMT’s finished up and got Charlie loaded up into the ambulance. They instructed Sal to meet them at Laconia General Hospital. Sal placed his hand on Charlie, “I’m on my way, right behind you. You won’t be alone, I promise.”
After arriving at the hospital Sal was approached by a nurse, handing him the clipboard with a stack of papers. It dawned on him he left his wallet at home, with all the insurance information he needed. He also noticed that his mother, the legal guardian, needed to sign the papers. He was not sure where he would find her at this time of night. The though never occurred to him that he would come across this dilemma, he was mad at himself for not dealing with the issue before. It was true that Sandy was their biological mother but she may as well be dead. She only showed up around the house when she needed something or if there was a “special” occasion. If there were a decision to be made he would be the one to make it. He’d pay the price later if he had to. All he needed was his wallet, he knew whom to call to bring it to him.
Tommy and the crew rolled into the lobby of the hospital at around 2:45. They didn’t know which way to turn so they headed toward the emergency room. In the ER they found Sal lying on the couch with his eyes closed. They decided it was better to let Sal get some rest for a while so they headed off to find some vending machines and restrooms. Once they filled their bellies and emptied their bladders they sat around together in the nearest waiting room and talked awhile.
“So Mikey, now what’s the deal with that cheerleader girl you like?” Tommy inquired.
Mike just shrugged; he didn’t know what to say. He was supposed to ask her out but he got cold feet. Telling the guys he couldn’t ask a girl out was something he didn’t want to say. He was the type of guy who was shy and embarrassed when talking to girls. His friends told him that girls ask about him all the time but he found it hard to believe. He lied but telling them that she turned him down.
“What’s her name again? I’ll have a talk with her.” Tommy threatened. He knew for a fact that the girls were really digging on Mike, he wanted to get him to see it.
“Oh no, forget it man. I don’t need you talking to anyone for me. You know how desperate that looks?” He asked.
They all dropped the subject about Mike’s love life. They talked for another half hour and then made their way back to the ER to find Sal. Tommy still had his wallet and wanted to make sure it wasn’t lost.
They found Sal sitting with a woman’s magazine in his hands, doubting he was even thinking about what he looked at. “Hey man, what’s up?” Tommy asked.
Sal just sat there shaking his head. He didn’t know what to say when he saw the guys. For all of them to show up in the middle of the night to help him, he was touched. He thought to himself, Charlie was lucky to have them as friends. He knew, that if he said anything, he would not be able to keep it together. He took his wallet from Tommy and walked over to the nurse’s station. “Can I speak with Charles Kentzy’s doctor?” He asked.
He couldn’t wait for the doctor, it was fifteen minutes since he had him paged. He was done waiting so he stomped through the doors that restricted admittance. Charlie was somewhere back there and he didn’t want him to feel alone. He peeked into each partition until he finally found Charlie. He almost hadn’t recognized his brother with all the wires and tubes attached. There was only one light and the monitors glowing in the night.
Sal stood there watching the blips on the monitor, affirming the fact that his brother was still alive. It made him think about how young Charlie really was. Since the time Markus left and Sandy began her escapades Charlie had to grow up faster than he should; it didn’t give him a chance to be a kid. It was now time for Sal to grow up and be the responsible adult he should have been.
While he was standing there a nurse walked into the room. She was checking out the machines, tubes and wires. Sal noticed her standing over Charlie, “Excuse me, can I ask you a question?”
When she turned around Sal saw the most dazzling blue eyes he had ever seen, they were almost hypnotizing. She was speaking to him but he didn’t know what she said. Despite not knowing what she was saying he proceeded by asking the original question, “Can you please, um, find me the doctor in charge of my brother?”
When she looked at him and smiled he melted. She started to talk to him again so this time he caught most of what she said, “…”I’ll go get him. Are you a relative?”
He couldn’t help but smile back at her, despite feeling nervous, “My name is Sal Kentzy. This is my brother Charles. I would really like to get some information on his condition.”
“I will help in any way I can. Just so you know though, your brother hasn’t woken up since he got here”. Her smile disappeared for a moment, showing concern.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.” He asked.
She laughed, “I don’t believe I ever told you my name; it’s Jennifer”
“Well Jennifer, can you please find the doctor for me?” He glanced over at Charlie and suddenly it hit him; Charlie was really sick and this was a real situation.
“Dr. Ramsey is with another patient right now but I will bring him in here personally. I will remind you though, he has many patients to attend to.” She began to walk out the room but was interrupted but the alarm. She turned it off and said it was nothing.
Sal saw her name tag and wanted to get her last name, Reynolds. He could see getting to know her better in the future and wanted to know her full name.
Sal only had to wait another five minutes before the doctor arrived. The man walked through the room with grace. As he stood over his dormant brother’s body he appeared strong but compassionate. He reached out and shook Sal’s hand and introduced himself, “I’m Dr. Eric Ramsey”.
Sal didn’t know what it was but something told him that this man was the right one for Charlie. He sat down with him and explained how and why Charlie was in a medically induced coma. He said that Charlie was beginning to resist the interventions they pursued and they had to calm him down in order for him to recover. Dr. Ramsey also told Sal about the test results and that there were two possible conditions blocking the blood to Charlie’s brain; leading to possible permanent loss of function if they do not treat it.
Sal couldn’t hide the fact that this information scared the crap out of him. How can he handle a brother that has had a loss like that? This isn’t what he expected. Charlie’s wishes would be that he either be completely healed without any lasting effect or he would rather die. He would never consider living with a long term injury that would need care for the rest of his life. Dr. Ramsey noticed the look on Sal’s face after he gave him the news. He tried to reassure Sal that the best was being done and he would not stop until he had no other option.
Dr. Ramsey sat and talked with him for a few minutes. He told Sal that the next step was an MRI to confirm either of the two diagnoses. All Sal needed was to get parental consent from his mother. The issue of him mother’s drug abuse was brought to attention. Dr. Ramsey nodded, “Unfortunately, though, there is no other option. We need consent. That is unless Charlie becomes medically unstable and needs immediate intervention.”
Sal thanked the doctor and shook his hand again. “One more thing, can he have a few visitors? I promise it will only take a few minutes. These guys are like our brothers.”
Dr. Ramsey agreed as long as it brief and very quiet. Sal smiled and went off to get his friends waiting just outside. They were all lounging around on the chairs. He strolled up on them quietly, wondering if anyone would notice he was there. Mikey turned and said, “Hey man, what’s going on with Charlie?”
“You wanna see him for yourself? The doctor gave you permission but you need to be quiet and quick. After this you are all heading home because you have school in a few hours. I just want to point out that Charlie is in a medically induced coma. He will not be alert but I wanted you guys to see him and know he is in the best of hands.”
Everyone, but Mike, proceeded into the into Charlie’s room. Mike didn’t care to see his friend in a hospital bed. He decided to find a quiet area to think on his own. Nobody he had even known had been ill enough to be in a hospital. He felt his whole body begin to tremble thinking about what had happened. Knowing that it could potentially happen to him as well scared him. Ever since he found out Charlie wasn’t feeling well he thought about how he was feeling. Things weren’t making any sense. Maybe if he lied down and relaxed a while he would think better.
Martina was filing paperwork when she heard a man shout, “Stop Charlie”. She followed the voice to the waiting room where she found a man asleep on the couch. He was thrashing around and mumbling about someone named Charlie. Gently she shook the man. He awoke suddenly and grabbed Martina, putting his arms around her in a big hug. This was highly unusual, she thought to herself but kept still.
Mike realized what he was doing and let her go. His face went scarlet with embarrassment. What was he thinking that made him do that, he thought? “I am so sorry. I don’t know what got over me.” He exclaimed. He stood up suddenly but got dizzy and sat down. Hopefully she didn’t notice that. Although hugging her was more bizarre, he was so restless he didn’t know what he was doing.
“My name is Martina.” She knew he was embarrassed so she wanted to put him at ease at little. “Are you here visiting someone? It’s pretty late for visiting hours though.”
Mike nodded in agreement and was finally able to voice a comment, “My best friend is really sick and we came here to see him”.
“Is his name Charlie?” She asked, remembering the name he was shouting in his sleep.
How did she know Charlie’s name? He sat there silent until he realized she knew what he was thinking, “You were calling out his name in your sleep. By the way, you never told me your name.”
He should have know, the one time he could talk to a girl it was in his sleep. “My name is Mike.” She smiled at him and began to walk away.
“Wait, can I see you again?” He couldn’t believe he actually said it.
She turned back around to face him, “It would be my pleasure”, she stated and bent over to kiss him on the cheek. Then she was gone.
Had that really happened? He pinched hi arm and knew he wasn’t sleeping. He had to go find the guys and tell them. He stood at Charlie’s door but there was no one there. He walked down the hall, thinking about Martina. Thinking about how beautiful she was and how lucky he got. Was she really going out on date with him? He reached the front lobby and found his friends waiting. He blurted it all out before anyone could ask.
They all laughed and walked out into the rising sun, heading home to get ready for the school day ahead. Tommy rode with Sal so he tossed his keys to Mike. Mike caught the keys and walked over to the black Volkswagon Jetta Tommy considered his pride and joy. Mike considered it a big hunk of rusty metal but he knew it was all he could afford.
Jeff and Mike had a quiet ride. Mike kept the radio off because his head was pounding but didn’t want Jeff to know so he just remained silent. No words were spoken until Mike arrived at Jeff’s house. “I’ll see you in a few at school.”
“My mom will drive me in, don’t worry about picking me up.” Jeff pronounced and walked away.
Mike drove off down the street. When he made the right hand turn he got a searing pain through the left side of his head. He pulled off to the side because it got so intense he could barely see. Although the pain lasted only a few minutes it left him dizzy and nauseous.
After about five minutes past he finally felt able to drive home. Before that though, he wanted to stop in and see Sal. Hopefully he called in sick to work so he could stay home and get some rest. As he drove up the driveway he noticed Sal’s car plus a blue sports car parked behind it. He had never seen it before. Mike parked the Jetta and walked up the walkway. A he got up closer he heard a woman’s voice coming through the screen door. He vaguely recognized the voice, it was Sandy, their mother. From what he heard Charlie mention was that she only stops in when she needs money or wants to gloat about something.
Mike decided to stay out of the way. As he backed up he fell over the trash cans behind him. He tried to pull himself up before anyone noticed but it was too late. Sal was out the door and down the steps to help him up in a matter of seconds. Just another embarrassing moment to add to his repertoire, he thought.
Sal walked him over to the steps and they say down. “You ok?” He asked with a concerned smile.
“Oh yea, I’m just a klutz. I can’t walk on own two feet without falling over apparently.” He tried to play it like it was an accident but he knew the real reason for the fall.
“So what are you doing here? Don’t you have to go to school?” he asked.
“I was checking on you. Making sure you did ditch school to get some rest.” It sounded good to Mike. Suddenly another jab ran through his skull and he winced. Hopefully Sal didn’t notice.
He was out of luck; “Did you hit your head?” He pulled Mike to his feet and led him into the house. “Let me get you some ice.”
He came back from the kitchen with an ice pack. “The last thing we need is for you to end up in the bed next to Charlie.” Sal had a feeling there was something Mike was holding back but couldn’t figure it out. He handed Mike the ice and sat down next to him.
Sandy had been in the bathroom when Sal was taking care of Mike. He over heard the comment he made about Charlie being in a bed at the hospital; “What did you mean by that?” She asked as she came around the corner into the living room.
Sal was silent a moment, “I was trying to come up with a way to tell you. Charlie is in the hospital. They don’t know what’s wrong with him but they put him in a medically induced coma. This is to keep him from resisting treatment. You know how he gets.” He sounded apathetic as he explained it to her. Mike just sat there watching, not feeling like he could move.
Sandy didn’t know what to say. Everyone was silent for a few moments until Sal spoke, “I really didn’t think you would care where Charlie was. You never asked about him when you walked through that door tonight. It’s 6:30 in the morning, don’t you think he would be getting ready for school right now?” He felt this enormous rage against his mother, building up and ready to erupt at any moment.
“Are you saying I don’t care about my son?” Her voice was pitched and uneven. She didn’t even make it sound like she cared.
Sal walked over and stood eye to eye with her, wondering what she really thought about the family. Was she just faking when she said she cared about Charlie?
Mike wanted to get up and leave. He knew this was going to end very badly and he didn’t want to there to see it. He had been at the house many times when Sandy was in her drunken rages, throwing things at her kids. It was something he would have rather avoided. Unfortunately the pain in his head reminded him not to move.
Sandy made the decision easy for him, she grabbed her things and stormed out the door.
Sal screamed out after her, “That’s right, do what you do best. You are always running away from us. If you leave now, never come back. I’m filing for sole custody, you will never see us again unless it’s in court.”
Sal turned around to talk to Mike and apologize for his behavior. He found Mike slumped over the arm of the couch, arms dangling. A rush of panic had come over him. He tried to wake Mike up but there was no response. He checked for breathing and a pulse, everything he was trained for in CPR. Fortunately Mike was breathing on his own and had a pulse. He ran over and called for an ambulance. Then he called Mike’s mom.
The phone rang several times before he heard a groggy voice on the other end, “…ello?”
”Mrs. Thompson, Mike is here but he is sick. I called an ambulance and it will arrive shortly.” He talked so fast he didn’t allow her to answer until he got all of it out.
At first there was silence, she needed to process the information. “I had heard that your brother was ill but how is my boy sick too? Is it contagioius?” She asked.
“I don’t know, all I know is that Mike came to me and collapsed in my home. Do you want me to take you over to the hospital?”
Mrs. Thompson was a good friend to Sal and Charlie. She would babysit for Sal when Sandy had run out on them. She cooked for them, did homework with Charlie and did some gardening. Sal would do anything for her.
“Meet me at my house when you are ready, I’ll wait and take you over.” He exclaimed.
When she got to his house the door was open; she heard Sal talking on the phone. As she walked into the house she saw Mike on the floor. She couldn’t believe that was her son, she began to sob.
The paramedics arrived a minute later, pushing Mrs. Thompson aside gently to tend to Mike. At that time Mike had become more aroused so the paramedics asked him a bunch of questions to check his orientation. They placed the mask on his face and the cuff around his arm to check his vitals. They placed an intravenous line in and got him onto the gurney. She stopped them before he was hauled off in the ambulance and placed her hand on his forehead.
In response he mumbled, “I love you mom”.
As the ambulance drove off she stood there watching, weeping for her son. Sal came over to and put his arm around her, assuring her things were fine. Gently he guided her to his car and opened it for her. Sal had just gotten a call from the hospital so he was eager to get there as well. He noticed Mrs. Thompson was crying so he reached over and took the box of tissues out from the glove box.
When they arrived at the Emergency Room Sal helped her out of the car and led her to the registration office, he had been there the day before so he knew the routine. After she was settled with the paperwork and knew she would be fine he went off to check with Charlie’s condition.
He walked off down to the Intensive Care Unit to find Jennifer. She had been the one that called him about Charlie possibly going to surgery; he was having some abnormal readings on the brain scan.
He found Jennifer in Charlie’s room. She was glad he could get there before they took his brother went to surgery. If truth was told, she wasn’t sure how successful it would be. First she explained how Charlie’s brain was slowly swelling. Then she discussed the issue of consent. If Sandy did not sign the consent the surgeons would have to wait until Charlie became unstable before they could perform the procedure.
Jennifer left Sal alone. He sat and thought about all he had and his relationship with his brother. He began to feel lost. If Charlie was gone he would be alone. Those feeling became very intense. He could not cope loosing his brother, a tear rolled down his cheek.
Jeff decided to take a quick snooze to refocus his brain. He had been feeling a little musty in the brain the past few days but he was sure it was stressed induced, nothing else. He had his history test scheduled for that day and he needed a passing grade to keep his 3.6 GPA. He certainly wasn’t head of the class like Charlie but he knew he had a chance to get a scholarship to Boston University. This was his father’s Alma Mater and he would be proud to be accepted into the school his late father attended.
He awoke to the blaring sound of AC/DC in his ear. No wonder he had gotten headaches. After a hitting the snooze button a few more times he got out of bed. He lied to himself when he decided there was no time to do his daily strength program. He would just do his light jog around the block, it would do him some good.
He took it slow for a few minutes. He picked up the pace, it felt pretty good; his head was clearing and he could feel the blood rush around his body. He couldn’t believe how he really felt until he turned around the corner. A pain so intense struck, it could have stopped a train. He knew he was in trouble, he thought. Things only went downhill at that point.
He forced himself to get home and took a shower. He asked his mother for a ride, told her he had no gas in his car.
When Tommy saw him he knew there was something wrong but couldn’t figure it out until Jeff collapsed. Jeff looked at him and said, “Ambulance”.
The students that were nearby assisted Tommy, getting Jeff off the ground and into the school. The principal happened to be walking by as they came through the door. He took one look at Jeff and instructed a student to get the nurse and call an ambulance.
It seemed like hours before the ambulance arrived, to Tommy at least. As they examined him they asked questions that Tommy couldn’t answer. All he knew was that Jeff had passed out and two of his friends were also in the hospital.
After the paramedics left Tommy asked the principal permission to leave so he can check on Jeff, he was denied. Principal Curtis explained that it was best if he attended his classes, there was nothing to be done at the hospital. Tommy tried to tell him about Charlie but it made no difference; that was more of a reason so he could get the information for his classmates.
He obeyed Curtis’ wishes and went to his English class. He tried to pay attention but his mind was not able to focus on what Ms. Hammel was saying. He needed to get out and go to the hospital.
Just as he was formulating a plan the phone in the room rang, Ms. Hammel answered it and replied with a “certainly” and hung it up. “Mr. Edwards, that was the principal. He wants you in his office pronto.” She ripped off a hall pass and he was on his way.
Along the way he was imagining the worst. When he arrived the secretary escorted him into Mr. Curtis’ office.
“Mr. Edwards, Sal Kentzy called. Apparently you weren’t kidding when you told me your friends were ill. Sal called to tell me that Charlie and Mike were also in the hospital. He wanted to know if there were any other students we should be aware of. Are there any more of your friends sick?”
“You mean Jeff and Charlie are sick right? Not Mike.” Tommy was confused. How did Mike’s name come up?
"Wait, I’m confused. Who is in the hospital? Sal told me Mike and Charlie so I told him about Jeff. He seems to think there is a connection so he wanted to come here and talk to me.”
“I’m going with him. He will need me there to help keep things straight.” Tommy made his statement loud and clear.
“Before you go, can you tell me something?” He asked. He wanted to know how he could help but didn’t know how to ask. Here he was, the principal asking a student how he could help. It felt very awkward and backwards.
Tommy nodded, “Of course, sir”.
“When you see Sal please tell him to contact me with any updates. I would like to stay informed.”
“I shall. It’s nice to know you are concerned about your students.” Tommy hadn’t always agreed with Mr. Curtis and his teaching tactics but he knew that at least there was a man under that title of principal. Tommy left his office and headed out to meet Sal.
Driving over to the hospital Tommy had a lot of questions but he didn’t know where to begin. He started by asked the simplest one, “How are you?”
“Who me? I’m fine. I am not the one in the hospital as you can see.”
Tommy knew that with everything going on it was taking a toll on Sal. Charlie and Sal were brothers but they were also very close like friends. “I want to help, what can I do?”
“Maybe if we talk through this we can come up with a reason these guys are so sick. They are all in the hospital with a problem in their brain. Did any of them tell you anything, a headache, a pain of any kind?”
Tommy tried to think back and come up with anything. He told Sal about the way Charlie was acting on the way over to the school that day. He was closing his eyes, like the light hurt him somehow. But Charlie never told him anything. They agreed that Charlie was stubborn and doesn’t own up to his weaknesses, like being sick.
“What happened to Mike? Why is he is the hospital?”
Sal told him the whole story, leaving out the part of Sandy though. He was embarrassed that his mom was a junkie. True, loads of people have junkie parents but he didn’t want it to be his. He also wanted helped from his parents, not more trouble. He wanted to call his father but felt he was a failure if he had. There was no win out of that.
“What is it that ties Charlie, Mike and Jeff together?” Tommy asked aloud, to himself.
“Well, besides that they are friends on the same hockey team together? Is there anything else?” Sal retorted.
They both remained silent as they thought about the connections. The car was too quiet for thinking, he turned on the radio to find his favorite song playing, “She talks to Angels”.
It brought him back to a time when he and Charlie would be in the back yard playing and they would hear that song played from the kitchen, their mom sang it with such beauty. That was when everyone was so happy. It brought a tear to his eye but he pulled it back so Tommy wouldn’t see his weakness.
They arrived at the hospital and met up with Mrs. Thompson. She had some good news, Mike was alert and accepting visitors.
Mike looked pale and small in the hospital bed but at least he was there and alert. “Hey man, how are you feeling?” Sal asked.
“You know man, I’m good. They said I am going to be getting out of here tomorrow.”
“Well, what the hell happened?” Tommy interjected. He seemed more pissed off than anything.
Sal looked at him, “What the hell is wrong with you man? Why’d you jump all over him like that?”
“I don’t know, sorry man. I just want to get to the bottom of this. We have no clue why the three of them got so sick. It’s pissing me off that I can’t figure this out.”
Mike glanced back and forth at them, wondering what they meant. “Three? Three of who?”
“Well, …” Tommy was about to tell Mike but was interrupted by Mrs. Thompson.
“Excuse me, can I talk to the both of you for a moment?” She requested politely.
They left the room to talk to her. “I don’t want you to tell him about Jeff yet. I don’t think he can handle it. He will want to help out so much he won’t pay attention to his health.”
“I understand and respect your wishes. Can I just ask him a few questions in relation to what Charlie was doing? It will help to know if they were showing the same signs.”
She agreed but put a time limit of ten minutes, “Not a minute more”.
“What’ going on? Why did my moms pull you away?” Mike was getting anxious.
Sal put his hand on Mike to calm him, “It’s ok dude. She just wanted us to keep it quick. I told her I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions. Can you deal with that?”
He nodded, “Ask me anything”.
“Are you and Charlie taking drugs?”
Both Tommy and Mike screamed at him, “Are you crazy?”
“ The one connection I can come up with between you and Charlie is drugs. I knew it was absurd when I thought about it but I had to ask.”
“Tell me, what did you mean when you said three of us?” Mike asked.
“It was me he was talking about. I told Sal I had been getting painful headaches. I didn’t want to tell anyone but I felt I had to since the two of you were in the hospital.”
“So? Did you get checked out? Did they find anything?”
Tommy didn’t expect to be questioned about his fake illness, “I’m fine, it turned out that I was just a little dehydrated. The docs gave me some fluids and sent me on my way.”
Sal sighed in relief, “We have to go, can we come back later?” He wanted to check up on Charlie and Jeff.
“Hell, yea. If you don’t I will come hunt you down.”
They fist punched each other as Mike’s mom came in, “We are just leaving,” Sal stated.