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Charles P. Crawford >> Three-Legged Race (page 11)


«You're funny,» Amy said. «It's cold in here too. Let's get going. I guess I should have brought a sweater after all. We should be heading back soon anyway.» She coughed quietly.

«Yeah, I guess so. Brent must be wondering where we are.»

They paid the bill and went back to the deserted sidewalk. They passed by store windows on the quiet street.

«I wish we could bring something back for Brent.»

«Why don't we?» Kirk said.

«Nothing's open.»

They passed a shop full of handthrown pottery and original jewelry and a shop with jeans and jersey tops.

«What do you take a guy in the hospital when none of the stores are open? I wish we had thought of it earlier. At least we could have taken him a cup of popcorn or something,» Amy said.

«We could break a window and steal something,» Kirk laughed. «Pull a heist, so to speak.»

«What kind of a getaway could we make with you in a wheelchair?»

«Slow.»

«Exactly.»

«I can see the headlines now: 'Mono Bonnie and Wheelchair Clyde Strike Again.' Somehow it seems a little too dramatic.»

Kirk stopped the wheelchair and leaned over. He picked up a candy wrapper from the sidewalk.

«How about this? Do you think Brent needs a used candy wrapper?»

«Aren't you thoughtful, but I think he has enough already.»

«That's the trouble with trying to find a gift for someone who has everything. We could take him flowers,» Kirk said. «You always take people in the hospital flowers.»

«Kirk, that's a wonderful idea. Where are we going to get flowers at a time like this? I didn't notice an all-night florist on the way to the movie.»

«Yeah, I know, but I bet I do know where we could get some flowers at this hour.»

«Where?»

«There's a cemetery less than a block from here.»

«You've got to be kidding,» Amy said.

«No, really, I'm serious. There are always tons of flowers lying around a graveyard begging to be picked up.»

«We couldn't do that.»

«Sure we could. No one would ever miss them. A flower here, a flower there, what's the difference? They practically have 'Pick These' signs all over the place.»

Amy laughed. «I guess you're right. I hope we don't get caught.»

«Now who would catch us at this hour?»

The bank clock on the corner said eleven thirty.

Kirk wheeled ahead and Amy followed. On the other side of the small park was a church with a graveyard. Kirk and Amy moved through the warm darkness past the gates into the cemetery.

«It's spooky,» Amy said. The fireflies were high in the trees now. The light from the streetlamps barely reached that far into the blackness.

Amy wandered among the tombstones. Kirk wheeled across the damp grass.

«Somebody's bound to notice the tire marks tomorrow,» Amy said.

«They'll just think it was a ghoul with training wheels,» Kirk replied.

There were a few pots of planted flowers – geraniums, petunias and summer marigolds.

«I don't see anything worth picking yet. Geraniums smell like mud. Only the best for Brent,» Kirk said.

They wandered farther into the darkness.

«Hey, look at this,» Kirk said. Amy came to him. Kirk had stopped by a grave piled high with fresh flowers, full wreaths of white carnations, piles of long roses wrapped with white ribbons.

«They must have buried someone here just today,» Kirk said. «There are sure lots here we can take.»

«I don't feel right about it,» Amy said.

«So what's the difference, Amy? We'll take just a few. Nobody will notice. Brent will appreciate them more than this person. Here, pass me some of those roses. I'll hold them in my lap.»

Amy bent down and picked up a few roses. She handed them to Kirk, cutting her finger on one of the thorns. She sucked on it until the bleeding stopped.

«Hand me some more,» Kirk said. «We can't be cheap about this.»

Amy bent down again and passed him some more roses and some carnations. There were so many flowers, no one would be able to tell that a few were missing.

«More, Amy. Really pile me up.»

They finally stopped when Kirk could hold no more. His lap was heaped high with flowers. They seemed to glow in the dim white light.

«They're beautiful,» Amy said. «I think Brent will like them.»

«Sure he will. It was a good idea.»

Amy leaned back against the tombstone.

«I feel all tired out,» she said. «It's been an evening, all right. I loved it. If we stayed here all night, we'd be covered with dew by morning. It would sparkle in our hair. If Brent were only here, I wouldn't move an inch.»

Kirk said, «We'd better head back.»

They started to move. Amy turned back to the grave with the flowers. «Thanks,» she said. «Brent needs them too. I hope you don't mind.»

«Come on, crazy girl,» Kirk said laughing.

They passed through the dim graveyard between the tombstones in the darkness. They returned to the sidewalk and the streetlights.

«Boy, do you look silly. Like a rolling greenhouse,» Amy said.

«I've got this thing about flowers. They follow me everywhere. It's kind of embarrassing on the school bus sometimes.»

A dog started barking from the porch of a darkened house. Amy and Kirk looked toward the noise. The dog, a huge German shepherd, stood on the edge of the steps growling loudly.

«Nice doggy,» Kirk said. «Choke on a bone, why don't you.»

The dog ran down the steps and out the front sidewalk toward them. It was still barking loudly.

«It'll wake the whole neighborhood,» Amy said. She began to run. Her shoes pattered along the sidewalk. Kirk spun his wheels as fast as he could. The dog ran after them a little way and then stopped, still barking, at the corner of the property.

Kirk shouted back, «Hush up, Rover.» He caught up to Amy, threw her a carnation and wheeled right on past. Amy walked along behind him swinging the flower in the lamplight. She sang a no-song in the night air, humming a tune that had no name. Kirk slowed down and Amy skipped along beside him for a moment, hitting him on the head with the carnation.

They reached the hospital doors.

«Shhhh,» said Amy, out of breath and laughing. «We're burglars. We're stealing flowers into the hospital. No one had better hear us or we'll be in real trouble.»

She pushed the swinging door open and Kirk passed inside. Amy followed. The entrance lobby was dark and deserted. Across the corridor the light of the elevator sign glowed. They moved quietly toward it. Amy couldn't stop giggling.

«Shhh,» Kirk said. «Can't you ever be serious.»

Amy giggled even louder.

«You look so funny rolling around half covered with flowers.» She picked up a carnation and stuck it behind Kirk's ear.

Kirk pressed the «Up» button and the elevator doors opened. They entered and pushed for the sixth floor. The elevator carried them up. On the sixth floor the doors swished open again. This hall was brighter than the lobby had been. Down the corridor Amy saw the light from the nurses' station.

«Quietly, now. Let's not get caught.»

Amy tiptoed, but the quiet taps of her shoes on the tile floor seemed impossibly loud in the stillness of the hallway. Even the whirr of the wheelchair carried in the silence. Amy giggled again when she looked down at Kirk half covered in flowers.

They were almost to Amy's room when Nurse Schultz swung out of the nurses' station and said, «Well, there you are, our two escapees. You had me scared to death, until finally Brent explained. And don't be mad, I had to almost strangle it out of him.»

«Did you tell anyone?» Amy asked.

«No, I didn't, although Lord knows I should have reported it immediately. It was a foolish thing to do, particularly for you, Amy, in that cool night air.»

«It was beautiful out.»

«I know,» said Nurse Schultz. «I hope it was worth it. Now both of you, hurry to bed. It's late.»

Amy turned into her room. «Give Brent his flowers, will you, Kirk? And tell him good night for me. Thanks, Kirk. I liked the movie.»

«Night, Amy. See you tomorrow.»

Nurse Schultz pushed Kirk the rest of the way down the hall to his room. She clucked her tongue several times and laughed quietly once.

«Thanks, Nurse Schultz. Good night.»

«Good night, Kirk. Be good from now on, huh? You wouldn't want to get old Nurse Schultz in trouble now, would you?»

«Night,» Kirk said and wheeled into his room.

«Hi,» Brent said in the darkness. Only the two night-lights glowed. «Have a nice time?»

«Yeah, great. Brought you a present.»

«Oh, yeah? What is it?»

«Turn on your light.»

Brent did and immediately burst out laughing. «What did you do, ambush a funeral?»

«Just about,» Kirk said, laughing too. «Just thought you might like a little consolation present for having to stay home tonight.»

Kirk wheeled over to one of the sinks. He dumped the pile of flowers into it and filled it with water.

«That should do until morning. Amy would shoot us if we just let them die overnight.»

Kirk moved over to his bed and shifted himself from the wheelchair. He struggled out of his clothes and got his pajamas on. Brent turned his light out and they lay in darkness.

«Was the movie good?» Brent asked.

«Okay. It was a love story. The girl had a nice pair.»

«I wish I could have gone out too.»

«Yeah, I know. But you'll be going home in a few days.»

«Since my brace has been delivered, the doctor says I can get it on and try standing up and maybe walking around a little tomorrow as long as I'm careful. It doesn't look too hard to get into. The nurse showed me how.»

«Yeah, that's great.»

«I'll almost be sorry to leave,» Brent said.

A white ghostly figure appeared in the doorway, silhouetted against the dim light of the hallway. It was Amy in a pale nightgown.

«Hi,» she said in a soft voice. «I couldn't go to sleep without seeing how you liked your flowers.»

«They're great, Amy. Thanks for thinking of me,» Brent said.

She crossed to his bedside.

«I'm glad you like them. We wanted to bring you something.»

«We almost got bitten by the Hound of the Baskervilles getting them for you,» Kirk said. «You better like them.»

All three laughed quietly.

«We better not let Nurse Schultz catch me in here,» Amy said. «She's been too good about the whole thing already. I'm kind of weary. Mind if I climb into bed with you, Brent?»

«Be my guest. I hate to admit it, but this will be a McAllister first.»

Amy slid between the sheets. She and Brent lay stretched out side by side.

«Your bed's warm,» Amy said. «Thanks.»

«Was it nice out there tonight?» Brent whispered.

«It was lovely,» Amy said. «I wanted to catch you a firefly.»

«I like the flowers. Thanks.»

«Kirk,» Amy asked, «how many people do you figure can fit into one of these hospital beds?»

«I don't know.» His voice passed from one bed to the other through the darkness.

«You think maybe three?» she asked.

«We could see,» Kirk answered.

«Come on over,» Brent said.

Kirk sat up and grabbed for one of his crutches. He stood supporting himself with it and hobbled over to Brent's bed. Brent and Amy shifted over toward the window to give him room. Kirk climbed in too.

«It sure wasn't built for three,» Kirk said. «I'm not complaining, you understand.»

They lay together side by side in silence for a long time. Their breathing seemed to follow the same rhythm.

«The world doesn't seem so bad right now,» Amy said.

«It's like a three-legged race, I guess. You can't make it to the finish line by yourself,» Kirk said.

Amy reached her left hand over Brent and took his hand. She reached her right hand over Kirk and grasped his hand. She gave both a small squeeze. Then she crossed her arms and brought Brent's and Kirk's hands in hers up until all four lay crossed on her chest. Brent and Kirk let their hands rest in hers.

«Hey, Amy…» Brent began to whisper.

«Hush, don't talk,» Amy said.

They were silent. Their breathing came in unison.

After what seemed like a long time, Amy said softly, «We're good friends. That's nice.»

Kirk and Brent didn't speak.

Slowly Kirk's and Amy's breathing lengthened and they drifted into sleep. Brent lay awake in the darkness awhile. He couldn't see the ceiling even when he squinted. He felt his fingers intertwined with Amy's and the rise and fall of her breathing beneath his hand.

Time, stop! he thought. Let this go on forever.

He too finally floated into sleep.

Amy awoke coughing. She ached all over. She glanced at the clock and the glowing hands told her it was after four. She tried to stop coughing but she couldn't. Her chest seemed filled up and she couldn't clear her throat. Her head throbbed. She put her hand against her forehead and it was hot.

She sat up, but the coughing continued. She saw that both Brent and Kirk were asleep.

She slid the covers down and climbed to the bottom of the bed. When she swung her feet to the floor and stood up, she almost fell over. She had to hold onto the edge of the bed to keep her balance. She quietly left the room and crossed the hall. She climbed into her own bed and fell asleep. Chapter Eight 

Brent felt great when he woke up. What a night's sleep, he thought and stretched. Kirk was sitting in his own bed.

«Morning,» Kirk said.

«Where's Amy?» Brent asked.

«I don't know. When I woke up, she was gone. She must have left sometime during the night.»

«That's probably just as well. I can imagine what Nurse Rush would have said if she had found Amy here.»

«I can also imagine what she would have said if I hadn't woken up and moved back to my own bed too. That would have looked cute.»

«I never thought of that,» Brent laughed.

«I may be weird, but not that weird.»

«Hey, did you fix those flowers up?» Brent asked.

They were arranged in the Styrofoam water pitchers.

«Yeah. They were all wilty and half dead hanging out of the sink when I woke up. I figured Amy would be ticked if we let them just die, so I stuck them in the water pitcher there. I'm no great flower arranger, that's for sure, but maybe they'll live a while longer.»

«I wonder how Amy is this morning?»

«I don't know,» Kirk said. «She'll probably be over for a visit later. Let her sleep now. Last night might have been awful tiring for her.»

Just then the door burst open. Amy's mother stormed in. Her eyes were wild and she was shaking, Brent could see.

«You little bastard, if she dies, it's all your fault. How could you have done this to her?» she screamed at Kirk.

She rushed across the room. Her elbow hit the pitcher of flowers and it tipped over. The water spilled down the side of the cabinet. The flowers scattered across the tile floor. Amy's mother didn't stop. She stood by Kirk's bed clenching and unclenching her fists. Brent thought she was going to hit Kirk.

«Amy?» Kirk said.

Title: Three-Legged Race
Author: Charles P. Crawford
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