On his way home from taking House back
to his own place, Wilson stopped by the hospital to see Roger and Jules.
He had not lingered at East Side Drive
because he could feel the need in Gregg to be alone once more. Sometimes his
friend’s body seemed to radiate the need for isolation, and Wilson
could read it on his face like a blinking neon sign. House had assured him that
he was indeed all right, and his leg was not causing him added distress. He just wanted and needed solitude; time to stretch out mind and body in his own personal
space and relax to the best of his ability, and vegetate by himself.
had no qualms about leaving his friend alone this time. Gregg House was a complex
man, not normally a social animal. When society closed in around him and forced
him to accommodate his closest friends, such as had happened today with Vince Crane’s mental hang-ups about his physical
condition, then Gregg needed to retreat deep inside himself and lick the wounds that Vince had inflicted without even being
aware of it. Wilson
knew what was happening, even as it was happening, and knew what the end result
would be. Vince was doing his best to stop his guts from churning when he was
around Gregg, and Gregg did his best not to come down on Vince for being a coward when he saw Gregg’s painful lameness,
or heard him make jokes about being a cripple. Wilson did not know if the impasse would ever be resolved between them, but at least they
were facing the problem instead of running from it. But now Gregg needed to unwind,
and Wilson was more than willing to allow him the down-time
to do it.
When House struggled out of the Pacifica in the underground garage at his condo, Wilson
reached across the seat and touched his friend’s hand. “Call me if
anything changes,” he said softly.
Gregg nodded, then pulled away and limped
toward the elevator. “Yeah. Thanks.”
pulled his car into his outside parking space on the PPTH lot and shut off the engine.
At 6:15 p.m., it was nearly dark. Two more weeks until Daylight Savings
Time! The weather should be a little warmer, and daytime would stick around a
little longer. He got out of the car and beeped it into standby mode, slipped
his keys into the ratty pocket of his old green GAP jacket and walked up the front sidewalk to the main entrance.
All the administrative offices were shut
down for the weekend, and the corridors were already dimming into evening calm. James
quickened his pace to the elevator bank where he and Gregg were headed when they’d both been waylaid by the double whammy
that made a shambles of their entire week.
was tired. Stiff and sore. He’d
engaged muscles today that he didn’t normally use for strenuous activity anymore, and most of them were beginning to
pull painfully. He clasped a hand to the back of his neck, massaging roughly,
groaning at the resistance he felt there. Was he getting old already? Guess so!
He stepped out on the second floor not
far from the nurse’s station. There were two women working the desk; both
RNs, charting and counting meds. Neither saw him walk past. His moccasins made no noise on the polished floor.
continued down the corridor toward the second floor ward. There were no stragglers
wandering around in the halls tonight. Everyone must be full of supper and in
a mellow mood. Was there a NASCAR Busch night race on somewhere tonight? Or might there be a WWF marathon? A dose
of March Madness, maybe? Wilson
wasn’t sure, but it was very quiet at the moment, and he continued on his way to Room 220 and peered in the door. Roger’s bed was empty and his wheelchair was gone. The bed being used by Jules was empty also. Two men in the
remaining beds looked up at his entrance, not recognizing him in his old clothes. Both
nodded a greeting, both pairs of hard eyes set into hard faces looked at him in question.
“Anyone happen to know where Mr.
Wilson and Mr. LeBeque are?” He asked.
“They might be over in the dayroom,”
one of them replied. “Those cutsie boys don’t spend too much time
in here when we’re here!”
“What do you mean by that?” Wilson growled.
“Means just what it sounds like,
buddy. ‘Mister’ Wilson and ‘Mister’ LeBeque are a
little ‘light in the loafers’!” He guffawed at his own joke
and was joined by the man in the next bed. “Who the hell are you, anyhow?”
“I’m Dr. James Wilson, and
Roger Wilson is my brother. Perhaps you gentlemen might want to rethink your
positions where he and Mr. LeBeque are concerned.”
Their expressions changed quickly. Both pairs of eyes darted away. “We
didn’t mean nothin’, Dr. Wilson … but … Jesus!”
planted his feet and slammed both hands into his jacket pockets. “And the
fact that their lifestyle differs from yours concerns you boys … how? Have
they stolen your food? Poisoned your water buckets? Threatened to attack you in your beds?”
“Well … no …”
“Then I would suggest you tend to
your affairs and allow them to do the same. They won’t be around to bother
you that much longer. Is that understood?”
“Yeah … Jeez, man …”
pivoted on his heel and strode out of the room, turning in the direction of the dayroom. That
had been a very short, sweet, instructive conversation, and everyone had learned a lot from it. He was angry. It was time to get Roger and Jules the hell
out of here! Monday at the latest.
They were across in the furthest
boundary of the dayroom, near a small alcove where the draperies came together at the corner window. Roger was in his wheelchair wearing a heavy sweatshirt, both legs covered by a thick blanket. His abundance of dark brown hair shimmered with cleanliness in the dim lighting, and his sweet face was
clearing up from the abrasions he’d suffered on the street. Their conversation
was animated and punctuated with occasional laughter and they had their heads together like two teenagers with a juicy secret.
Jules was finally cleaned up also, and
the raggedy old fatigues were gone. He wore a grey sweat suit similar to Roger’s,
heavy white socks and a pair of new white sneakers, probably hospital issue. Even
his black hair had somehow lost that “crab grass” look, and his smooth bronze skin was so shiny it made him look
like a four-year-old on his way to a wedding.
walked up to them and stopped, standing with hands in his pockets. “Hey!”
They looked up, both at the same moment,
smiles spreading, faces welcoming. “Hey Jimmy!” Roger held out his hand and Wilson took
it with a gentle pressure that signaled reassurance. His brother’s skin
was softer now, healing rapidly.
“Hey Bro. Hi Jules. How are you guys doing? Thought I’d stop by and check in on you. Do you need
anything?” He walked around the wheelchair and sat down on the settee at
“Actually, we’re doing pretty
well, aren’t we Rodge?” The
Jamaican lilt was pleasing to the ear.
Roger nodded. “Yeah, really. I’m feeling a lot better, Jimmy. I’ve been to hydrotherapy once and to PT twice … and that’s just
today. Maria and the ladies in PT are careful not to hurt me, but they say it’s
going to get a lot harder.”
“And you know they’re right,
Roger nodded. “Yeah.”
“Well, I do have some good news. Some friends and I went to my place today and moved a lot of furniture around so you
guys have a room to yourselves downstairs. If I can make the necessary arrangements,
I’m going to have you discharged on Monday, and you can move in out there. I’ll
drive you both to the hospital on the days you have therapy and drive you home at noon.
The rest of the time you can do whatever you please. You can have the
run of the house and the neighborhood and get to know the place and the people. When
you’re feeling up to it, we can give Mom and Dad a call and tell them about you.
Is that okay with both of you?”
Their eyes met across the intervening space,
and both of them nodded their heads at the same time. “I’d like that,
Jimmy. I have a lot to make up for with the folks, and it just sounds wonderful,”
Roger admitted cautiously. “We aren’t too popular around here, if
you know what I mean.”
“We sure aren’t,” Jules
“You’re talking about the two
guys back in your room?” Wilson
asked. “Because if that’s the case, I don’t think they’ll
give you any more trouble. I was just there, and they opened their big mouths
without knowing who I was. I told them!”
Jules laughed appreciatively. “Wish I could have seen that, mon …”
“It was short and sweet. If it were anyplace else other than this hospital, I might have stirred up a hornet’s nest. Idiots like that just don’t seem to know when to quit. But if they try anything else with either of you, my boss will come down on them like Lucifer’s Hammer. Or if not her, then Dr. House would …”
“Gregg?” Roger’s ears suddenly perked up. “Where is he? Don’t you two guys usually travel together?”
frowned. “Well, not always …”
“Where is he?” The topic suddenly veered away from intolerant rednecks and refocused onto Gregory House.
smiled indulgently and shook his head in frustration. There Gregg was again! One offhand mention of his name, and Dr. House would jump into and dominate every
conversation he’d ever had, except with those people who had never heard of him!
(In this hospital, those were few!) Even when the subject was so far off-topic
as to be completely inconsequential, up he would pop again!
“As far as I know, he’s
at home. I dropped him off there about an hour ago. He needed some space and some down time, and I always give him that when he needs it.”
“Is he all right?” There came the Wilson compassion again,
thick within Roger’s voice. There was concern in Jules’ face also
as they both looked at him. Wilson
sighed. He could not fight it.
“He’s fine, as far as
I know. He said he was, anyhow, and I have no reason not to believe him.” Wilson was not comfortable
with the sidestepping of truth, but now was not the time to get into a discussion of Gregg’s health with the brother
who was obviously feeling a deep
connection to his crippled friend. Common ground was often an overwhelming motivator.
Wilson sighed. Their
attention was still riveted on him, expecting more information.
“Gregg was tired,” he finally
admitted. “Worn out. He was
on his feet most of the day. He did the cooking for everyone who helped with
the move. He’s probably zoned out in front of his TV right now, smoking
a cigar and having himself a couple of beers. Resting.”
They finally accepted that as an explanation,
but Wilson knew that that was not the end of it. As gay men, he suspected they knew where “the bear shit in the buckwheat”, but were willing
to give him the benefit of the doubt until he gave them enough rope to hang him! He
would let it go at that for now.
They spent another hour together. Wilson asked for a
list of the things they would like for him to stock up with in refrigerator and pantry, and they laughingly gave him a long
list. He asked for clothing sizes, and was astounded that neither of them had
any idea. They had been on the streets so long that the question held no meaning
for them. It made Wilson
shudder in sorrow. “I suppose I’ll just have to guess then,”
he said. “I can probably get stuff for both of you in the kids’ department!”
They both found this funny, and he could
understand why. But again, it struck him as sad.
left them a little after eight in the evening, saying he was not sure if he would see them the next day or not. He had a lot of shopping to do and errands to run. And he
might even have a nice surprise for them.
He left them laughing and guessing, and
waved from the doorway when he left.
He wanted to get back to Ridge Road before it was too late to call Vince Crane at his home. And he was hungry. One of Gregg’s leftover hamburgers
sounded good right about now.
Vince answered his phone on the first ring. “Hallo … ?”
“Hey Vince!” Wilson took a bite of nuked hamburger and
“Hi-ya, Jimmy … what’s
“Not much. I’m tired. It’s been a long day. But I’ve been thinking, Vince. I need a used car. Not the Toyota! What have you got?” He took another
“For the boys, huh?”
“Yeah. You’re reading my mind. They can’t be stuck out
here with no transportation. Something inexpensive … good on gas. And it needs to have room to transport Roger’s wheelchair. Not sure yet how long he’ll need to be in the damned thing …”
I got an older car back in the shop that’s in really good shape. Should
be just about right for what you need. Dodge Shadow. Automatic. 1987. Woman
traded it last Monday on a Jeep Wrangler. It’s a metallic green two-door
hatchback. The back seat lays down flat and you could fit the Washington Monument in there! Sound good?”
“Sounds like just what the doctor
ordered. You gonna be over at the garage anytime tomorrow? I’ll stop by and take a look.” Wilson finished off the hamburger and wiped his fingers on his jeans with a flourish.
“How about around noon? Jeanie is at her Mom’s this weekend, and I need to catch up on paperwork. Maybe we can stop for a bite afterward, okay? Gregg and Billy
“Nope, just me. Billy and Nancy had other plans, and Gregg … I think … is just kicking back and relaxing at
home tonight … probably tomorrow too. Lunch sounds good though. I’ll see you around noon.”
“Sounds good, Jimmy. Hope Gregg’s okay … So long now.”
hung up the phone. Why in hell would Vince Crane ask if Gregg House was okay???
he was okay … probably.