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Calm Seas, Auspicious Gales
by Radioactive Loner
Radioactive Loner -- all rights reserved

 

"Ms. Bard?"

Mmmrph.

"Ms. Bard?"

Mmmrp--oh. I opened my eyes to see a nurse standing over me. "I'm sorry to wake you, Ms. Bard, but the doctor wanted to see you."

Internally, I frowned. Thanks to Wanderer, I had made a choice to at least give life a little longer to convince me to stick around. Unfortunately, I was probably going to have deal with months in shackles and straightjackets in an institution. Maybe even a SCABS institution, where I'm sure they'll give me just the BEST of care. Great. I'm in serious trouble.

I got up, felt the cool draft up my hindquarters, gathered the hospital robe as best as I could around me [they can put a probe on Mars, but they can't design a hospital robe that doesn't show your bare backside off to the world, I thought with macabre humor], and walked out of my room and down the hallway.


I walked into the doctor's office. He promptly moved aside three stacks of paper from the front of his desk to the floor so that he could see me. "Thank you, Nurse Williams, that will be all."

I opened my mouth to begin, but the doctor interrupted me and waited until the nurse closed the door behind her.

"Ms. Bard, before you say anything, I think it wise to tell you that Mr. ... uh ... Wanderer ... informed us of the accident you had with the mirror."

I looked at the doctor, and began to wish for good ol' Dr. Taylor. Was this guy trying to be cute? I looked at him and tried to gauge what he was sending across to me. "I'm sorry, I don't quite follow you."

His eyes took on the piercing look of a man trying to make sure you followed along with him. "Ahem. You see ... Mr. Wanderer told us of how ... you slipped on your bathroom floor ... and accidentally hit the mirror with your hands as you fell. Do you concur that is what happened to you?"

I blinked. Blinked again. And said, "Um, yes, just coming out of the shower, slipped, wham, just, uh, a really unfortunately coincidence."

"That is what Mr. Wanderer made sure the police filed in their report of the situation as well."

"I see." I was still in a bit of shock, trying to adjust to the situation that Wanderer had so handily covered my ass.

"Ms. Bard?" the doctor said, catching my attention once more.

"Yes?"

The doctor began speaking, pausing at times as he selected just the right word. "I'm glad that this was ... an accident. Between you and I, those with SCABS are not handled well in their segregated wards of mental institutions, which is where you would have gone if this had ... not been an accident. I would have strong professional qualms about sending anyone to these places -- so that is why ... I am ... quite glad this was simply an accident. Since I am filing this as a simple accident, I have no method of keeping you here longer. But ... I am of a troubled mind to make sure you do not have similar accidents in the future."

I looked at him, and said, "You can rest assured, doctor, I'll ... be speaking with someone who can make sure I don't have similar ... accidents in the future."

"Good. I don't know your financial situation, but there is a SCABS free clinic within the city which offers free ... safety ... counseling."

"You can rest assured, sir, I'll take advantage of it." I'll need it, I still can't get used to this damned contralto. "And I appreciate your discretion."


I walked into the hospital lobby after finding my bill had been absorbed by the SCABS free clinic downtown. I wanted to protest their generosity, but I was in no position to not accept their generosity. Walking over to the nearest pay telephone, I dialed the Blind Pig and waited to see who would pick up the phone.

I could tell that it was a noisy night at the bar by the background noise in the bar.

"The Blind Pig Gin Mill. Monsieur Wanderer, Lover of Ladies, Actor of Actors, the Beloved of Millions speaking."

"Hi, Wanderer."

"Hey, Tara," he responded, his voice practicedly casual.

"Any chance I could grab that ride you offered?"

"Certainly. I'll need a bit of time to charge up the car, but I'll be there within the hour."


I opened the door and stepped into Wanderer's car. It was an early electric model -- by the look of it, probably one of the first mass-produced models that rolled off the Detroit assembly lines 'round the turn of the century.

The wolf-morph looked over and said simply, "It's good to see you."

"Thanks," I said uncomfortably. He pulled out into traffic. The silence hung between us for a bit. Finally, Wanderer spoke up. "Tara?"

"Yes?"

Wanderer sighed. "I know it may be a silly request, but ... well ... please don't ever do that to me again."

I closed my eyes. "I'm sorry, Wanderer. I wasn't thinking of others. I was just concentrating on what I had lost, on what my life had become, on how much I had lost."

We sat in silence for a while. "Wanderer?"

"Yes?"

"Why did you cover for me?"

Wanderer gently put one paw on my arm. "Because I understood. Believe me, we've all had our trials. A lot of the Pig's patrons nowadays order their rum and Coke minus the rum. It's a inner battle we all faced, and sometimes, with a lot of changes, we just ... come out the other side." He gave me a sad smile. "But a few months in the travesty that this city calls a SCABS mental ward wasn't going to help you at all."

I looked at him, trying to express the strange mix of feelings I felt. Finally, I just looked at him and gave him a small smile and said, "Thank you."


I stepped onto the city's mass transit system to take it downtown to the clinic. I was listening to some old showtunes from a musical about AIDS from way back in the mid-nineties called 'Rent', written by a composer named Jonathan Larson who died of a brain aneurysm a good five years before the Martian Flu even came home to roost. With the double-whammy of first AIDS and then the Martian Flu, I reflected, it's amazing the human race even survived. As I listened, I realized how the show's message about living with AIDS applied so well to living with SCABS. One of the singers sang out:

Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care? Will I wake tomorrow from this nightmare?

I winced. They could be singing about SCABS. And I wasn't in the mood to hear a song of such fear and uncertainty. I skipped ahead to the end of the show. The chorus climaxed in final harmony ...

Forget regret or life is yours to miss. No other road; no other way. No day but today.

I stepped off the mass transit and walked towards the SCABS free clinic. "Forget regret ... no day but today." Not bad words to keep in mind.


I walked up to the desk, and favored the receptionist with a smile. "Hi, my name is Tara Bard. I have an appointment to see a counselor."

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