That night Scott wrote an E-mail to Dr. Thorton asking about definite amounts for hiring someone. What could he count on? He tried to explain the situation with Kyle’s parents as best as he could. He needed to know now because two or three weeks was scant time to find someone they could trust.
Sandy left right after church the next morning. Scott went to the computer to read his E-mail before he and Shane went to the hospital, but Dr. Thorton hadn’t answered his letter yet.
At the hospital they tried to keep the topic neutral. Kyle cooperated by not asking about when he’d go home, instead listening as Scott and Shane recapped the morning’s worship service for him. Then Kyle asked them to read. The only book available was the Bible, and Scott read from Romans.
Pastor Joseph Prescott came up to see Kyle. At their questions he recommended a few books that might help: Jerry Bridges, “Where is God when Life Hurts”; R. C. Sproul, “The Holiness of God”; and John Piper, “The Pleasures of God.”
“There are a lot more if you’re interested,” he said, “but start with these.”
They had read the C.S. Lewis classics together and a few other well-known books, taking turns reading. That had started when they didn’t have a television. After they did get one, they found they didn’t watch it much, sticking with their old routine of reading and discussing books after their homework and chores were complete in the evening.
Shane wrote down all three titles in the small note pad he carried in the inside pocket of his suit jacket and promised to look for them the next evening.
Fran didn’t say much during Pastor Joe’s visit, nor after he left. She watched Scott and Shane as if they were not her friends. Scott longed to reassure her. He hated to see anyone look so uncomfortable, but he knew they wanted very different things. Why couldn’t she just want what was best for Kyle?
Scott searched his motives that evening. He’d been accused of reacting from guilt. Was it true, or was this best for Kyle? After an hour of contemplation he picked up the phone and called Jerry Sloan. Ian answered on the second ring. “Hi, Ian. May I speak with your dad for a minute?”
“What’d you do to Kyle now?”
Scott sighed. “Nothing. I just want to ask your Dad something.”
“What’d you do to Mom? I told him you’d do something.”
Scott didn’t speak. Anything he said was ammunition, so he waited. It worked. After a minute Ian left the phone, and a little later Jerry answered. “Yes, Scott? Is everything okay there?”
“Yes. I just wanted to apologize for overreacting the other day and try to explain what I was thinking.”
“I’m sorry, too, Scott. I know you just want what’s best for Kyle.”
“Yes. Exactly. And a doctor told me attitude is everything. If we don’t believe he can recover completely, that might make a difference. What will it hurt to let him stay here another six months or year just to see how far he can come?”
“No, wait. Please hear me out, and then take a week or two to think about it.”
Jerry took a deep breath. “Okay, Scott. Say what you’re thinking.”
“Let him stay here until it becomes obvious he won’t improve anymore. Then I agree that life in Marquette might be easier for him. But if he can go back to work, sending him to Marquette now will cost him his dream. Let’s give him every chance possible to be a doctor. You know how much it meant to him.”
“Scott, the palsy in his hands is too great. Medicine will help, but he’ll never be a surgeon. It’s already over.”
“But… but what about… about… there are doctors who don’t cut, right?”
“But his dream was surgeon.”
“So! What’s better? Switching his focus to family practice, or nothing — having to start all over again, thinking he can’t do anything. He’s talking. He’s making sense even. Let’s give him the best chance for his future, Jerry. We’ve got everything set here.”
“Scott, you don’t understand the complications that could develop.”
“Do Fran and Ian understand every possibility? I can learn just as fast as they can, and Shane can, too.”
“I know you want to see him recover. So do I. But the reality is that he has brain damage. We can only hope it’s not so great that he’ll need specialized care.”
“I promise if it looks like we can’t help him anymore, I’ll give in. I’ll call you right away. Please just give him this chance.”
“Please think about it. That’s all I ask. We both want what’s best for Kyle in the long run. Shane agrees also, so you know it’s not any misguided guilt on my part. If he can’t go back to work in a year, then you’re right. The small town is better than here. But remember, the specialists are here, and he might need them.”
“I’ll think about it,” Jerry conceded.
“Thanks.” Scott hung up and leaned back in the chair.
Shane sat in the adjacent chair. He smiled. “You’re back to being Mr. Let’s-all-be-friends. That’s what you should have done instead of knocking yourself down the steps. Now we have to figure out what we’ll pay the guy we hire.”
“He may not go for it. He’s just thinking.”
“But he has to agree. This is best for Kyle right now. You’re right about that.” Shane stood and motioned Scott to the computer on the far side of the living room. He sat in the chair, and Scott grabbed a chair from the dining room table to watch.
Shane brought their budget onto the screen. “Okay. Have you gotten a raise in the last two weeks?”
Scott gave a slight laugh. “No. Have you?”
“No. And we lost Kyle’s income.” Shane pushed the keys, putting zeros in Kyle’s work income column, the same column he had made an increase in several weeks before when Kyle became an intern. He hesitated at the title “school allowance” which had been provided by his parents. Kyle’s promotion to intern had been too recent to change this, but he had expected he’d no longer need his parents’ help. Would they continue sending money now? Shane must have thought so, because he moved the cursor to the next row. “So, let’s see. I can live without a clothes allowance for a year. What about you?”
“And we can try to cut back our nights out to movies and food, and eat more hamburgers at home.” He slashed the entertainment budget ruthlessly. “We shouldn’t cut our savings unless we have no other choice.”
“Not unless we have to,” Scott agreed, knowing Shane’s savings account meant future happiness to him. And Scott would need his if he married Kayleigh any time soon. But his future could wait. Kyle needed him now.
Shane cut a few more budget items. “I wish we knew when and if we’re getting anything from your insurance company. Are they up front with you, or does it look like they’re trying to get out of paying?”
“I haven’t been in top negotiating form lately. Give me another week.”
Shane studied the computer. “I have to be at work from eight thirty to five. That’s eight to five thirty, I’m gone. How flexible are you?”
“Not much more than that. If anything I’ve got longer hours coming on.” Scott tapped the desktop. “If I stepped down from this position….”
“No, Scott. That wouldn’t look good for you. Besides anything else will probably be the same. We’ll both have to bring home as much work as we can to be here with him. But we still need someone for… nine and a half hours every day. Two people maybe? This is getting bad. Just at minimum wage that’s about sixty dollars a day. Three hundred a week. And that’s if we avoid employer taxes by calling it contract labor. Who’s going to work contract for minimum wage?”
“Maybe Sandy’s idea isn’t so bad.”
“A roommate? You know how that worked out.”
“Well, the guy’s going to be here all that time anyway. If he wants to steal, he’ll have ample opportunity.”
“Okay, point for you. But where will he sleep?”
Before it had been obvious. He’d share Kyle’s room because Kyle needed help making his share. But now, money wasn’t the main reason. “I… I guess he can bunk with me,” Scott offered.
Shane shook his head and smirked. “You’re still feeling guilty. Let’s ask Kyle. He should have a say in this.”
“Yeah, but we have to do it without Fran, or we’ll have another scene.”
“She has to eat dinner some time. Maybe tomorrow evening.” Shane saved the file and turned off the machine just as Fran came in for the night.
Scott went to his room to check his E-mail. Dr. Thorton still had not answered his letter, but then maybe he only got his mail at work.
The next day Scott took pain medicine and headed into the office, quickly getting immersed in the work that waited for him. At twelve thirty he ate lunch with Kayleigh in the cafeteria. When they returned to work, he asked her to block his visitors for a few minutes while he tried to talk to the insurance people. They said the check for the car was being issued, but they couldn’t tell him anything about the medical claims. When Kayleigh left at two, Scott rechecked his mail. Still no word from Dr. Thorton.
“Elaine, I’ll be back in fifteen minutes or so,” he said, without stopping as he left the office. He found his way to Dr. Thorton’s office and stepped inside.
Behind an open sliding glass window, a woman of indeterminate age looked up, removing the reading glasses from her face and letting them hang on the ends of the gold chain around her neck. “May I help you?”
“I’m here to see Dr. Thorton.”
“I’m sorry. He’s off for two weeks. The soonest I could schedule you for a consultation is the week of June twenty-second.”
“I don’t want a consultation. This is university business,” he said, surprised at how easily the lie came. “Is he at home?”
“I’m not authorized to tell you that.”
“What day will he be back in the office? The fifteenth?”
“He has no openings. You’ll have to see Dr. Regal who is covering for him.”
“Do I look like I need plastic surgery?”
The woman raised her hands as part of a delicate shrug. “How should I know if you have a hidden scar you want removed? Or need a skin graft on a burn?”
“Thank you.” Scott left before he let his frustration show.
Back in his office, someone had left another dumb manager joke on his desk. He crumbled it and threw it against the wall. Maybe the jerks were right. He had a computer, and he didn’t know how to find the information he wanted. Too bad his department wasn’t in charge of personnel instead of facilities.
Scott pulled Dr. Thorton’s business card out of his wallet. It didn’t have his home phone, but he brought up the white pages on the internet. It found several Bernard Thorton’s, but only one lived in the Ann Arbor area. He wrote down the number and called.
A wavering woman’s voice answered. “Thorton residence.”
Scott decided to pretend he knew Dr. Thorton well. “Hi. Is Bernard home?”
“Oh, no. He’s in surgery today.”
“Really? His office just told me he was on vacation.”
“I mean, he is having surgery. His back, you know. He’s been suffering so much. I hope this helps. It’s been such a trial for Carol, you know. Pain makes a person so short tempered. She’s up there now also, or I’d let you talk to her. Let me take your name, and she’ll get back to you.”
“I’m at the hospital. I’ll find them. Thank you, Mrs.?”
“Thanks again, Mrs. Horn. You’ve been a big help.”
Scott hung up. Now what? There was nothing he could do if Dr. Thorton was still in surgery, and he probably wouldn’t be up to discussing anything today. Why hadn’t he said anything about his back? Reviewing their previous meetings made that clear. They hardly knew each other.
Scott focused on his work until Shane came into his office for the roommate discussion with Kyle. Scott stretched. “I hope she waited for dinner.”
They walked over to the hospital, and Scott was relieved that Kyle was alone. He smiled when he saw them. “Did you get the books?”
“Just one.” Shane held up ‘The Holiness of God’. “I had to order the other two.”
“Good. I need something.” Kyle looked toward the bathroom. “Can you get me some water? Can’t read unless you do.”
“Doc still has you restricted, doesn’t he?” Shane said with a grin. “Don’t worry. I can read. Where’s your mom?”
Kyle shrugged, his smile leaving. “Probably eating. I’m starved.” He looked starved with his eyes sunk in his face, the skin stretched over his cheek bones, and his bony fingers shaking when he lifted them.
“I hope they feed you soon,” Shane agreed. “We’ve got to talk about something. You want to come home with us, right?”
“How will I get to work if I don’t?”
“You don’t want me?”
“We want you with us,” Scott said. “Don’t even think we don’t. How do you think I fell down the steps?”
Kyle looked confused.
“Never mind that, Kyle,” Shane covered quickly. “We want you. Your dad and mom want you home, though. Your dad wants someone with you twenty four hours a day, so we have got to hire someone. Is that okay?”
“Don’t need a baby sitter.” He raised his hand. It hovered in the air a moment before he banged it against the small portable table. The trinkets rattled and clinked, and the get-well cards fell flat.
“No. We know that,” Scott assured him. “But we have to make your mom and dad happy. They worry a lot. We figure you’ll probably want final say on the guy who stays with you.”
Kyle looked at Scott. Then he nodded with a slight jerk. “I’m not stupid.”
“No. You’re in charge of your life,” Shane agreed. “We’re doing all we can to keep it that way. Now about this guy. We don’t have a lot of money, so… we may have to offer room and food as compensation. How does that sound? Where should we put him?”
Kyle closed his eyes and relaxed against the bed. Shane glanced at Scott and mouthed “Asleep?”
Scott shrugged, and they waited, hoping he’d wake on his own.
Fran stepped into the room. “Oh? How long have you been here? I thought you went home, Scott.”
Kyle opened his eyes.
“Not long,” Scott said. “I’ve got to work late. My secretary is probably back now.” He stood to leave.
“My room,” Kyle said. “I’ll share.”
“Your room?” Fran asked. “What about it? I’m staying in it? Did you want me to bring anything?”
Kyle shook his head with a short jerk and closed his eyes.
“Okay, Kyle. We’ll get to work. See you later.”
Kyle didn’t respond.
Shane followed Scott from the room. He didn’t speak until the elevator door shut them in alone. “Guess it’s the roommate idea.” He gave a psuedo-shudder.
“That was great, Shane. I should have thought about that.”
“Including him in the decisions. He must feel so helpless.”
“Yeah. I can’t imagine not being able to get a drink or eat or even go to the bathroom without help. That’s….” This time Scott knew the slight shudder was real.
Scott had hated that his family thought he needed someone to care domestically for him, and here Kyle faced that situation exaggerated by a hundred. “He can still think.”
“Yeah. He’s thinking. And he remembered the books. That’s good. You’re right, Scott. He can still be a doctor. I just wish that jerking would go away.”
Scott agreed. It made Kyle look ghoulish with his weight loss.
“So you’re working late?” Shane asked.
Scott smiled. “I have a headache, but I’m learning to live with it. Medicine is keeping it under control. How about casserole surprise from the cafeteria?”
“Better than cooking, but I killed the budget.”
“Have to reinstate it. The boss said roommate.”
Shane grimaced. “I’d eat my own cooking for a year if we could get out of that.”
After they ate, Scott went back to work. Kayleigh was there as promised, and he kept her busy until nine. When she left, he called admissions and asked for Bernard Thorton’s room. Then he locked up the office and walked over to the hospital.
Visiting hours were over, but he was used to walking around as if he belonged now. When the scant nursing crew was busy, he slipped into the room.
He almost expected someone else in the bed, but indeed, the doctor’s white scalp, black ring of hair, and his hawkish nose, identified him. He opened his eyes, briefly focusing on Scott before they closed again. “Too much morphine. Sorry… I’m sorry.”
“Hey. I don’t expect to talk business tonight. Wish you would have let me know, though.”
His eyes stayed closed. “What will you do?”
“Do? For Kyle? We’re going to hire someone. Live in type of thing. Hopefully it’ll cost less that way. But don’t worry about it now.”
“How… how much? Anything. Just don’t tell Carol. I… I’ll lose… lose… fickle woman, but I love her.”
“You’re on too much of something, Friend. Kyle’s not going anywhere soon. Business can wait. I just wanted to come see you, since you came to see Kyle and me. Mind if I pray for you?”
His eyes opened, staring at Scott. “Okay.”
Scott knew he’d surprised him, especially since he’d made it clear before he wasn’t a Christian. But it didn’t matter. It seemed like the right thing to do. “Your housekeeper said you had back surgery. Anything specific you’d like me to mention?”
Dr. Thorton continued to stare.
“Okay. Here goes then.” Scott bowed his head. “Father, thank You for allowing us the privilege of coming to You. Thank You for hearing. You know Your servant Kyle is hurt. Please Lord, continue to heal his mind and body. Help us to find the right roommate to care for him without making him feel helpless. And Lord, please help my new friend in his recovery from back surgery. Help ease his pain, and let him come to know You as Lord and Savior. In Jesus name. Amen.”
Scott raised his eyes. Dr. Thorton was still staring at him. Scott doubted he’d closed his eyes at all.
“Reverend, visiting hours are over,” said a nurse. She had been standing near the door, but now she moved toward him.
Scott smiled, but didn’t correct her. “I’ll leave now, but perhaps I’ll come again tomorrow. How many days do they anticipate his stay?”
“I couldn’t say, Sir. That’s up to his doctor.”
“Of course. Thank you. I’ll see you tomorrow, Doctor, if you’re still here.” Scott left.
He decided to go to the sixth floor. He snuck into Kyle’s room and sat in the chair closest to his head.
Kyle opened his eyes, and then took Scott’s hand and squeezed it.
“Just came up to pray with you before I went home. I was praying downstairs, and one of the nurses thought I was a minister.”
Kyle grinned, giving his head a jerky shake. “You? Have to know all ten in order first.” He was teasing. When they had first met neither he nor Shane could recite all of the Ten Commandments, and the ones they had known were misplaced and misquoted.
“I know them now. I even know the order of the books of the Old and New Testament.”
“The next Billy Graham.”
Scott prayed with him, and Kyle was able to say his own prayer. His sentences were still choppy and short, but Kyle’s heart was evident. He poured out his confusion and longing for healing. Afterward they sat in silence.
Kyle lifted his gaze to his. “Don’t say anything… what I said… to God. I… I’m scared.”
Scott gripped his hand. “I won’t.”
“It’s not over… can’t be. Not just like that! I still… still know… Know all circu… circ… I know it!”
“I know you do. You’re still Dr. Kyle Sloan.”
Kyle closed his eyes, taking deep breaths after the exertion of trying to speak. He opened them after several minutes. “I pick him. The… the helper.”
“Yes. Shane and I will bring people for you to meet. You have the final say,” Scott assured him.
Kyle’s eyes closed, and his hand contracted against Scott’s for a moment. Scott waited, but when Kyle’s breathing turned to soft snores, he knew it was time to go home.
Go to Chapter 7
© 2014, 1998 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.