A Fresh Start
The Rev didn't ask as many questions as I thought he might. He went back inside to say good-bye
to Lynn before he left. She was so afraid, you could see it in her face when we walked in. He
did real good. He kissed her on the cheek and said he'd see her tomorrow. Then he whispered
something in her ear that made her smile. She looked so relieved, I coulda kissed him.
Patty showed up again pretty soon after he left, about noon, bringing a stack of magazines and
other stuff. She musta heard about the fight before she got there. She looked like she wanted
to stick something sharp in me and twist it around for a while. Come to think of it, she didn't
say anything at all to me last night. I don't know for sure what I ever did to her, but she's
never been my biggest fan. Usually, though, when we can't stay out of each other's way, we
manage to get along.
Not today. She simmered and steamed and glared at me. I was waiting for smoke to come outta
her ears. I guess she expected me to leave when she got there, and when I didn't, it pissed her
She still managed to get teary. Started talking about babies, sniffling, upsetting Lynn some
more, just about what she was doing last night, and I had enough of that then.
I interrupted her. "Why don't you just can it? We don't need any more whining and moaning.
OK? Lynn feels bad enough without this crap from you."
"Oh, really." The change from sniffling back to smoking was pretty damn fast. "Who the hell
do you think you are?" She didn't wait for me to answer. "What the hell do you know? You
sonuvabitch-why can't you just leave my sister alone?" And she threw a magazine at me.
Of course, Lynn tried to calm her down, but I don't think Patty heard a thing she said.
"This is all your fault," Patty said through her teeth. "You're just one problem after another.
Maybe if you'd just go away, the rest of us could all have a normal life." She was coming around
to my side of the bed. "My sister never had any problems till she met you. And now it's just
one thing after another."
"Patty---" Lynn said. She got out of bed and tried to get our attention, I guess. We ignored
"I could go away," I said. Patty was standing right in front of me. "But Lynn says she wants
me to stay. So I guess that's what I'll do."
"You bastard. I hate you." And she slapped me.
You know what usually happens when somebody hits me. So did Lynn. If she hadn't been on her
feet, and standing right there when Patty hit me, I don't know what woulda happened. She had
hold of my arm before Patty was done swinging. As it was, I just about lifted her up off the
floor. Patty backed up a coupla steps.
I don't think I woulda really hit her. I don't know, though, I was really pissed. You know,
yesterday was a bitch, and today wasn't looking too good so far either. This crap from Patty
was just about more than I could take.
"Bud-" Lynn grabbed my face and made me look at her instead of Patty. "Bud, honey, why don't
you let me talk to Patty? OK? She just doesn't have all the facts. Why don't you get some
lunch, and when you come back, this'll all be straightened out."
"Oh, I think I know everything I need to know," Patty said.
I said, "Maybe I don't wanna go to lunch."
Patty reached around Lynn and gave me a shove.
You know I like women, but right then I really wished Patty was a man.
Lynn looked back over her shoulder. "Will you stop it!"
Patty looked surprised. I smiled at her. Yeah, I know, kinda adolescent. What can I say? I
"You need something to eat," Lynn said to me. She looked really pale. Looked like she didn't
feel good at all. "Please."
"I don't wanna leave you…….."
"OK, baby, if that's what you want. I'll be back in an hour. You better get back in bed." I
covered her feet up, and gave her a kiss. When I started toward the door, Patty was standing
right there, and didn't move. A nice guy probably woulda just stepped around her.
She hissed at me when I shoved her outta my way. Honest to God, she hissed.
Everybody else in the hospital got outta the way when they saw me coming.
I ate at Roberta's. Nobody bothered me. I might not've waited exactly an hour before I went
back; I was still kinda pissed. Till I actually got in Lynn's room. Patty had her head down
on the bed, sobbing into the blanket. Lynn was stroking her hair. I took a deep breath, turned
around and went down the hall to the waiting room.
She showed up there when I was halfway through a Saturday Evening Post from November of 1951.
Her eyes were all red. The smoke and fire was gone. "You can go back in now," she said, kinda
"Yeah?" I threw the magazine down. "You sure that's OK with you?" She looked like she wanted
something else, but I didn't stay to find out what it was, just passed her in the doorway and
went on back to Lynn's room.
"Did Patty apologize?" Lynn looked really tired.
"Oh, no. She said she would."
"Don't worry about it. Not important. Long as she doesn't wallop me again." I sat down on the
Lynn leaned forward and put her head on my shoulder. "I'm so sorry, Bud. This has been just
I heard the door open. I guess Lynn didn't. I didn't bother to look around. Patty could just
"---for you. Your poor face, that must hurt."
"I didn't think of it before. It probably hurts for you to kiss me."
If that wasn't an invitation, I don't know what would be. "Oh, baby, I could kiss you if I was
I forgot Patty was there. I'm afraid we did a little more than just kissing. Nothing major, I
had to be careful with Lynn, I knew that; just a coupla little things we wouldn'ta done if I'd
remembered Patty was standing back there.
Till she said, "Holy cow, you two are disgusting," and Lynn jumped.
I turned around and looked at her. "If you don't like watching, maybe you should knock before
you come in. Or say something. Or something."
My pulse was going pretty good, I was breathing hard, it wasn't too much of a jump to go from
being primed to being madder'n hell again with Patty.
"What's the matter, your bean-counter don't kiss you?" Yeah, I could see it in her face; had
something to do with that accountant she'd been seeing, Lloyd Something-or-Other.
"Bud, don't." Lynn was pulling on my sleeve. Sometimes I don't talk much; sometimes my mouth
runs away with me. I shoulda shut up right then, but I didn't.
"He fall asleep before you get him outta the car? Doesn't he know what to do in the sack?
What's the problem?"
"It's because of you." Patty was looking down at the floor, not at me.
"He called me this morning and said he couldn't continue an association with someone whose family
contained a vulgar brawling oaf."
I had to think about that for a minute. "He dumped you because of me?"
"Jesus." I backed off and stuck my hands in my pockets. "The prick." Privately, I thought
she was probably better off without him, but it was clear she didn't think so, so I didn't say
anything. "This morning?"
No wonder she was mad at me. "Because of last night. Dammit. I'm sorry, Patty. I didn't
wanna screw anything up for you."
She made a funny little noise. "OK, big sister, you were right." I didn't know what that meant.
A tear ran down her cheek. "Lynn said you'd beat him up for me if I asked you to."
I looked over my shoulder at Lynn. She grinned.
"I probably could. You want me to?"
Patty giggled a little, kinda watery. "No, it's OK."
"Maybe I'll just beat him up for fun."
She giggled again, and sniffed hard, wiped her nose with her hand. She looked up at me, and
damn if there wasn't a teeny tiny twinkle in her eye. "OK."
"You wanna watch?"
This time Lynn giggled. Patty nodded and then she giggled, too
"I get the feeling you two think I'm kidding."
More giggles. I shoulda been a comedian.
To make a long story short, Patty apologized for hitting me. I told her it was OK, mainly 'cause
Lynn poked me in the ribs with her elbow. We still weren't what you might call friends, but I
guess we called a truce.
The doctor the Rev called, Graham, showed up after Patty left. He was older, semi-retired, but
he said he still had hospital privileges. He seemed sorta gruff at first, and didn't talk much,
but he was gentle enough with Lynn. He asked a few questions, and looked at her eyes, her
fingernails; briefly looked at her chart.
"Well," he said, "Young Pierce didn't give you a transfusion because, according to the numbers,
your hemoglobin is on the low end of acceptable. But you look pretty peaked. I'm told you
fainted earlier today. I think we're going to replace some of what you lost, and you'll feel a
little better. No more fainting. All right? I'll look over your records tonight, and we'll
see if we can't find out what happened. I'll see you in the morning.
"Now, as for you, young man-you've got quite a lump there. He hit you with a 2x4?"
I shrugged. "Don't know. Can't remember."
"Doesn't surprise me. I saw you wincing a few minutes ago-you need those ribs taped?"
"Not broken, just sore."
He nodded. "If your headache doesn't go away by this time tomorrow, you let me know." And he
The nurses started a bottle of blood. I watched the color gradually come back into her face.
We spent the rest of the afternoon alone, thank God. After the morning we'd had, we needed some
time to ourselves. We didn't talk much. I think maybe words woulda just got in the way.
Insteada talking, we made promises to each other---important promises----just by being there
together. We held hands. Her fingers examined the lump on the back of my head. I kissed her
before going down the hall for a cup of coffee to share. There were still things that weren't
quite right between us. I still kinda felt the same way as I did yesterday, couldn't help it.
Probably Lynn still wasn't too happy with the purple blotch on my neck either. We just didn't
say so. All that could wait for another time when we were both stronger and less….battered.
Lynn fell asleep just after supper. I was getting kinda tired myself. Still pretty sore, too.
So I went home.
If I'd gone home later---after dark---I might not've seen the message on my front porch till the