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Keeping It Real in the ER

In civilized society, it doesn’t get much more real than an emergency room.

Fisher screams…and not a “hey, Cory, stop that!” scream. Daddy jumps up as Fisher runs over, blood clearly visible through the fingers of one hand covering the other. He’s really screaming. Daddy pulls the top hand off the other, identifies the bloody mess of a spot and clamps down. Papa comes running. The scene moves to the bathroom, Fisher screaming, Papa collecting potential supplies, Daddy applying pressure, and Cory picking her lip, looking scared. Through continued pressure, Daddy gets him to stop screaming and then to stop crying.

F: It really hurts.
D: I know it does, Fisher. I know it does.
F: I don’t want to go to the hospital because then it will hurt worse.
D: We’ll see, Fisher. We need to just calm down and see.

The story comes out that while Daddy wasn’t paying attention, they each grabbed a butter knife from the kitchen to slice open unripened limes from the tree in the backyard. They wanted to get the seeds out to plant more lime trees. Fisher must have been pressing very, very hard when the relatively blunt knife slipped, slicing into the base of his left pointer finger, possibly removing a small chunk in the process.
In the bathroom, the bleeding stops in light of all that pressure. Daddy eases up on the pinching to get a look. Blood immediately wells from an ugly looking gash at the base of his finger. It’s big, and it doesn’t look good. Daddy reengages the pinch.

D: Nope, we aren’t going to be able to handle that here. We’re going to the emergency room.
P (handing Daddy a towel for the blood, Papa definitely doesn’t like blood): Here, put this on it.
F: I don’t want to go to the emergency room!
D: Fisher, it’s okay, I’ll be right there with you. We need a doctor.

Papa arranges Cory and the car while Daddy keeps pinching through the towel. Daddy and Fisher walk in to an emergency room with about ten patients in it. Everyone is wearing a mask, including the staff. The triage guy immediately descends, relieving Daddy of the need to pinch by unwrapping and rewrapping the wound. Daddy picks up a clipboard and starts filling it out. Fisher verbalizes his constant worry that he might need stitches. Smiling eyes stare over masks. Fisher’s commentary is cute, perhaps more so delivered in bloody pajamas. Besides, the spectators don’t really have anything else to do.

Daddy hands over the clipboard and sits back down with Fisher on a two-seater bench. Fisher moves into Daddy’s lap. A woman wearing a tank top and what look like pajama bottoms and slippers, carrying a big bag and phone with an attached cord dangling down to the floor, but conspicuously not wearing a mask, sits down on the same two seater next to Daddy. She’s awkwardly close.

W (sounding frustrated): Every time I do this, they tell me to go to urgent care.

Daddy rocks a snuggling Fisher, not responding.

W: I don’t even know where urgent care is. Do you know where urgent care is?
D (hesitating before engaging at all): No, actually, I don’t.
W (leaning even more awkwardly toward us): Hey, little guy, how did you cut your hand?
F (after a pause): I was cutting a lemon.
W: Oh, you shouldn’t be cutting a lemon. Knives can… (She rambles on, sitting about as close as Papa might sit if he were here.) I am sick, but they keep telling me to go to urgent care.
D (holding up a hand with dried blood): Look, Fisher, I need to wash this hand. Will you come with me while I do that?
F: Yes.

Daddy and Fisher escape. In the bathroom, Fisher is fascinated by the string that someone can pull if they are on the toilet and need the staff’s assistance. Upon return, Daddy seats Fisher elsewhere. Over the next half hour, the woman’s agitation rises, as does her voice, talking sometimes to the hospital staff, sometimes to someone (maybe an imaginary friend?) on the other end of her phone, and sometimes to no one in particular, complaining loudly that she has an extremely contagious disease, that she needs to be placed in a room by herself, that she’s infecting everyone in the waiting room, that the hospital staff just doesn’t care. An Indian man whose wife has clearly also cut her hand, quickly moves her away from a seat close to the raging contagious flower child. The triage guy walks over and hands Daddy and Fisher masks, apologizing that he let us go so long in this petri dish without them.

Triage Guy: Ma’am that’s not how it works. You…

She wipes her hand dramatically all over the bench that Daddy and Fisher had been sitting on. Fisher and the Indian woman might not be there for the flu, but everyone is nonetheless unified by their gratitude not to have the kind of crazy that this woman has. A few minutes later, she’s pissed when it’s clear that Fisher’s hand has taken precedence over her deadly, highly contagious condition. Fisher and Daddy head back into the back.

Daddy works hard to convince Fisher that stitches (which Daddy knows will be necessary) won’t be that bad.

F: But, it will hurt.
D: They’ll numb the hand. You won’t feel a thing.
F: What does “numb” mean?
F: But, do they use a needle? I don’t want a needle.
F: How do they fix my bone?

The doctor comes in and examines the wound. Bad, blunt cut. Narrowly missed the artery. A chunk might be gone forever. Stitches definitely required.

F (after doctor’s departure): Stitches!? Daddy, I don’t want stitches. It’s going to hurt!
F: Do they have to make holes in there?
F: How does that boy know how to stitch something? Is he a good sewer?
F: How could someone not be able to get up from the toilet?
F: Is the thread like the wire that stops dogs and cats from scratching up the grass in the backyard?
Daddy answers it all, working through the anxiety. Eventually, he calms down again, staring at Daddy while waiting for the nurse to come clean the hand. A kid in a room one or two down lets out a very loud awful scream. It continues into very loud, awful, continuous screaming.
F (eyes staring at Daddy’s): I think that’s a baby screaming, Daddy.
F (eyes never leading Daddy’s): Daddy, I don’t think that’s a baby screaming. (Pause.) Because babies don’t know words.

The child apparently undergoing slow-motion mutilation keeps it up: “OWWWWW! NO! STOP IT! STOP! STOP!”

F (eyes welling up, still on Daddy, right hand reaching out to grab Daddy’s hand): Daddy, is that boy screaming from stitches?
D: No, Fisher, that can’t be stitches because…

Daddy gets back to work, calming Fisher back down about stitches. “You won’t feel much at all. I’m right here, Fisher. If something hurts, you just squeeze my hand, okay?”

The PA preps his hand a half hour later, when a wheeled stretcher from an ambulance stops right outside of the room. The PA gets up, apologizing. The man lying on it has a bloody tangle of gauze on his face. The other EMT is rolling a bicycle. The overheard conversation reveals that the man flew over his handlebars, hitting his head on something sharp enough to open up a two or three inch gash on his forehead. Too much time passes before this man is wheeled into another room.

F (eyes turning back from the stretcher to Daddy, hand clamping Daddy’s hand): Is that boy going to have stitches on his head? They are going to sew his skin back on? (On and on.)

He stares intensely at Daddy during the stitches. He tells the PA and his tech all about Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Discharge takes an hour because another bloody mess is rolled in a stretcher, preventing the doctor from filling out the necessary paperwork. As Daddy tries to provide insurance information in the lobby, an elderly Asian man walks in through the doors carrying an unconscious elderly Asian woman, nearly twice his size and only partially dressed, on his back. He asks through heavy breathing, “Can someone please help me?” Daddy glances around at all the new masked faces in the waiting room. The woman who thinks she has ebola is not there. The triage guy forgets Daddy’s request about insurance and…triages. Daddy and Fisher walk out, unable to bear one more minute of that kind of reality.

D (later, after Fisher has declared that the stitches were his “favorite part”): That’s because you didn’t feel a thing, Fisher, just like I told you.”
F: You’re right, Daddy. But, it was still my favorite part.

Given everything else going on, it might have been Daddy’s favorite part, too.

Progress Is Beside the Point

Helping the twins sound out words as they learn to read requires an incredible amount of patience. But, now, so does reading to them.

D: “…to a precipice over the moat.”
F: What’s a precipice, Daddy?
D: A cliff, a very high spot, over the moat.
F: Oh.
D: Can you say “precipice”?
F/C: Precipice.
F: Can you fall down a precipice?
D: You can fall down a hill, but you fall OFF a precipice. A precipice is very steep. It’s straight down.
F: I hope Jack doesn’t fall OFF that precipice.
C: Daddy, how do you know so many words?
D: Because my daddy read to me a lot as a kid, and then I started to read a lot myself. Reading is very important.
F: Oh. So you could know a lot of words?
D: Yep.


C: Daddy, can you keep reading?
D (15 seconds later): “The trapdoor in the picture was five…”
F: Daddy, what does that mean?
D: What does what mean?
F: A trapped door? What does…

D: “…Crabbe and Goyle sniggered.”
C: Daddy, what does…

D: “…fell open with a thunk.”
F: Thunk!? Is that a word? What does…

They want to know what almost every unfamiliar word means. It takes reminding sometimes, especially after work, that “progress” through a book is entirely beside the point.

When You Gotta Go…

D: Fisher, don’t lie down on that!
F: Why not, Daddy? Paddington eh, ur, eh lied down on that bench when it was raining on him.
D: He did? Well, if it was raining, that rain did at least one good thing: it cleaned the bench. See that. (Pointing up.) That roof keeps rain, if we ever had any, from cleaning these benches.
F: What did you say, Daddy?
D: Fisher! Don’t you smell that!?
F: Smell what? I don’t smell anything.
D: Fisher, don’t lie down there, I said.
F: Why, Daddy?

Breathing through the mouth to avoid a distinct pee smell, hopefully wafting up from the ground only, Daddy snaps a picture of his cheeky smile. Papa arrives, and everyone is motivated to get out of that public toil…er…bus stop.

The Time of Paddington

It is now The Time of Paddington.

F (providing a rave review after Papa took the twins to see the movie): It’s like the book that you read us, Daddy, but a little bit different.
C: Paddington’s daddy dies in an earthquake. That’s the scary part that I don’t like. That isn’t in the book.

The next morning the bear that Papa brought back for Cory from London rockets up the stuffed animal charts. About to head off on bikes to meet Papa for lunch in downtown Mountain View, Cory runs back inside. She returns with Paddington.

C: Daddy, can you help me put Paddington on my bike? I can’t get…
D (stuffing him through the handlebars): There you go.
C: Thanks, Daddy. Paddington will want to go to lunch. He likes to eat.
D: What does he like to eat?
C: Marmalade. But, I don’t think Papa will have marmalade for lunch.
D: Why not?
C: Because I don’t really know what marmalade is, so…
D (next day, Martin Luther King day): Guys, what should we do today to celebrate Martin Luther King day?
C: Go see Paddington!
D: Again?
F/C: Yah!
F: Please, Daddy!
D: Well, you just saw it, and for Martin Luther King day, we should celebrate by appreciating differences in people. You know, because everyone isn’t the same, and that’s okay, right? So…
C: Right, but Paddington IS different.
F: Yah, Daddy, he’s a bear.
C: He’s a bear that talks.
F: There aren’t a lot of bears that talk like Paddington.
C: I think King Martin would like us to see Paddington.
F: Daddy, you haven’t seen Paddington! Can we please take you to see that movie?
C: Please, Daddy!?

During a second viewing in one three-day weekend, Cory’s bag of popcorn does leave her lap. Once. When the first rumbles of the earthquake hit, she hands her bag to Daddy and pulls her jacket over her head. After Aunt Lucy and Paddington embrace, she comes back out, reaching for its return. Fisher’s bag never leaves his lap.

Back at home, Paddington watches Cory eat dinner. He watches her play with kinetic sand. She asks if he can join the dance party. Daddy lifts her body horizontally onto his shoulders, whirling her around while she holds the bear out at arms length, laughing, “one less, one less, one less problem!” She laughs some more. A bit later, Daddy walks into her room and catches her whispering to Paddington and Cho Cho on her bed.

D (noticing that she looks a little glum): What’s the matter, Cory?
C: Nothing, Daddy. I just wish that I could have more good times with Paddington.

Daddy is a little puzzled. What prevents more good times with him? She strokes Paddington. Fisher interrupts by waltzing in half naked for the third or fourth time that day (that kid and clothes that get even slightly damp).

C (as Daddy moves to exit at bedtime): Daddy, can you clip Paddington in?
D: Clip him in?
C: Into my helmet?
D: Your helmet? Where’s your helmet?
C: Right here. (She points in the dark to an outline of her bike helmet there with her in the bed.) The helmet is a good carriage for Paddington. Can you clip him in?
D (smiling): Sure, Cory.

Daddy clips him in. He does fit nicely. She drapes a hand over him as Daddy leaves. The next morning’s first conversation addresses whether Uncle Puh-snoozer was Paddington’s uncle or daddy.
They decide that he was both.

Hootie and the Blowfish!

C (in an exasperated tone while struggling to grasp a yogurt cup at the bottom of the grocery basket): Hootie and the Blowfish, Daddy, can you help me?!

A highlight of a trip to the grocery store for the twins is transferring the items from the basket to the conveyor belt. (Other highlights include one trying to push the basket into things to try to knock the other off, both endlessly repeating “can I have…”, Fisher finding the switch for the other belt at the bagger’s end of the checkout stand, and mostly Cory slipping sweet things into the basket throughout the store.) Their arms still can’t reach all the way over the rim and back down to the bottom of the basket; so, unloading can be a challenge.

A year ago, Cory brought home a book about wandering through woods at night to watch — and hear — owls. Reading it led to cries of “Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!” around the house. Fisher randomly extended the call to “Hootie! Hootie!” to which Daddy promptly started responding “and the blowfish!” After that, someone (usually Daddy or Fisher) would occasionally call out “Hootie! Hootie!”, which would trigger an “And the blowfish!” response (usually from the other of Daddy or Fisher).

Eventually, the whole thing transforms into an exclamation to replace “Jesus H. Christ!”, example: “Jesus H. Christ, the water’s too hot!” becomes “Hootie and the Blowfish, this water is too hot!” “Hootie and the blowfish, Daddy, look!” (At whatever.)

C (back at the grocery store): Hootie and the Blowfish, Daddy, can you help me?!
D: I didn’t hear a “please” in that sentence.
C (still way too demanding): Hootie and the Blowfish, Daddy, can you please help me!

The clerk smiles, plenty amused. The much younger bagger pauses, looking a little confused. Deciding that any explanation is too long and weird, Daddy opts to help Cory despite her tone. The bagger smiles, shrugs, and gets back to work.

Daddy watches and wonders if the bagger thinks there’s a children’s series about the unlikely friendship between an owl and, um, a blowfish. How would that work exactly? Daddy imagines the rush of wings as an owl lands on the branch of a seaside tree, extending away from a low cliff. Below the water pops as a fish pokes its little head up through the…

Fisher pines after the switch for the conveyor belt, stymied by the bagger. Cory stares at someone with dreadlocks. Daddy runs with Hootie and the Blowfish in his head. The blowfish can join the owl on airborne adventures by inflating himself and floating…

Bagger: Would you like help out, sir?
D: What? Oh, no! I’ve got it!
Clerk: Have a nice day.
D: You, too. Thanks. Come on, guys!