The emergency squad arrived. I had already unbound Pam’s wrists and ankles and carried her outside. I was sitting in the backseat of the car trying to make her comfortable while applying a wet paper towel to her forehead to help with her fever.
Two emergency medical technicians wheeled a stretcher over, and I helped them extract her from the backseat and then held her hand while I waited for them so they could strap her down. As I explained what I thought was going on with her, the police arrived. Catherine and Kevin escorted two of the officers inside while a third began stretching barricade tape across the front door.
Catherine came outside and was talking to the emergency squad driver, getting directions to the hospital. I asked one of the technicians if I could ride to the hospital with her.
“You a relative?”
“Boyfriend. I’m going to ask her to marry me, though.”
“Good enough for me. Climb in.”
“I’m going to the hospital,” I called out to Catherine.
“The police are going to need your statement. I’ll tell them to find you at the hospital.”
* * *
Catherine was just walking up to the desk to check on Pam when I was walking out to the emergency waiting room. I saw Kevin was making a call on the payphone, I assumed to his Dad.
“She’s already with a doctor,” I said to Catherine. “They need your folks here for medical insurance stuff and to sign releases ’cause she a minor. They’re prepping her for surgery.”
“I called Dad from the convenience store. The police called the manager, and he came in to check on his clerk and stuff.”
“So, she’s got appendicitis?” Catherine asked.
“It’s looking that way.”
“They should be operating on her already!”
“Yeah, I told that to Grumpy over there.” I pointed to the admitting nurse. “We discussed my medical degree, you know, the one I don’t have. So, I shanghaied a resident who was walking by and got him to look at Pam and confirm my layman’s diagnosis.”
A gurney came out through the emergency room doors bearing Pam, still unconscious.
“Where’s the operating room they’re taking her?” I asked Grumpy.
Catherine took my hand.
“She’ll be alright,” I said.
“You gotta call your folks. They’re gonna be worried about you.”
“Yeah, I’ll call as soon as Kev’s done.”
I stood as soon as I saw Kevin returning. He said his dad wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of his son being out all night, especially on a school night, but it wasn’t like it was the first time.
Catherine shook her head. “Anyway, you’re eighteen. What’s he gonna do?”
“Follow through this time on his threat to kick me out.”
“You can come to stay with me,” Catherine offered. “Hellova commute to high school, though.”
“I think I’ll be okay. But thanks for the offer.”
“You could just move in with your cousin a bit early,” I suggested.
“Shhhh,” Kevin held up a finger to his lips. “I’d rather stay with Catherine.”
“You’re funny.” Catherine leaned over and kissed his cheek.
Kevin and Catherine went on up to the sixth-floor waiting room to stake out seats for us to wait for Pam’s folks to arrive while I went to the bank of phones. Dad was angry about the time of night and having kept Mom and him up. I didn’t tell him everything that had happened, only that Pam was in the hospital and waiting to go into surgery.
“I’ll call your school in the morning. You stay there tonight. Come home after you’ve had some sleep.”
When we arrived in the waiting room, Catherine sat beside Kevin, and I sat on her other side. Each of us drew a deep breath and prepared for a long night of waiting.
Kevin cleared his throat, before posing the question I’d been expecting and dreading, not because I was ashamed, but because I didn’t have a good answer.
“So, this wolfcat thing. Is that how you won all your matches?”
“My opponent in the final match at the State Tournament — he was also a wolfcat — not that I did anything special against him. He didn’t seem to be using his special abilities. My other matches…I’m not sure how much it boosted my performance. For the most part, I didn’t know how it affected me and even after I noticed, I tried not to use it. It gives me naturally quicker reflexes, which definitely helps with wrestling, and I heal faster, which is how I came back so soon after surgery. But when I agreed to wrestle, I knew nothing about my abilities. It wasn’t until that magic show that — ”
“So, you and Dawn really disappeared?”
Kevin leaned back. “I was having trouble figuring that one out. So, did you know her before that?”
I shook my head. “Something I’m beginning to learn is that with this magic thing inside, you wind up being attracted to other people who have magic inside of them. I think that’s most of what happened at the magic show. Bart volunteered me and the rest was about the two of us being in the same place at the same time. Dawn and Jen taught me a few things afterward and told me some of what I could expect — not everything by any stretch. But as for wrestling, my wins were the result of practice, weight training, conditioning, and the coaches showing me stuff, the same as anybody else. I learn fast. Maybe that’s part of being a wolfcat, too — I don’t know. But the only things that might have helped me in matches were that my senses are supercharged and sometimes I know what people who are physically close to me are thinking.”
“Like you could read my mind?”
“I could if I wanted to. At first, I couldn’t control it. It was confusing. Like I heard a dozen people’s thoughts all at once. One whole day at the districts, it was like I was in the zone and in full control.”
“That day you were moody and bulldozing your way through the competition.”
“Yeah. After what happened with Heath, it was like it toned down and I could control it or ignore it if I wanted to. So, yeah, maybe it helped me in a couple of matches. Maybe it helped here and there along with way without me knowing about it.”
“Your brothers?” Kevin asked Catherine. “Are they like you?”
She shook her head. “Nope, it’s all hard work and natural talent with those two. Dad wrestled in high school. He won a lot. There are some trophies in our attic.”
“That’s a lot of why I don’t want to wrestle in college, though,” I said. “I’m sure there are some people who are wolfcats and witches around who are in sports. Maybe they know about their gifts. Maybe they don’t. Everyone has some of the attributes, as they are called.”
“You mean I could be like you?”
“You probably are to a certain extent,” Catherine said. “But the magic is diluted in most people. You may get flashes of intuition here and something serendipitous happens to you there. Most people never tie any of it together. But they are feeding on the magic inside of them or tapping into the common source that underlies everything in nature.”
“All this is an illusion, Kev,” I waved my hand as an indication, appearing to produce a paper cup of water.
“You just made that appear from thin air?”
Catherine laughed. “No, it’s an illusion. Just like he said. He slowed down time, ran over to the water cooler, filled the cup, and hurried back in the instant between your blinks. See where he spilled some water between here and there?”
“You could see that?” he asked.
Catherine shook her head. “No, Pamela and I used to do things like that to one another, after Claire taught us, of course. I just noticed the water and figured that’s what he did.”
“Claire’s a witch, too?” Kevin asked.
“Of course,” Catherine said. “And she would argue as I do, Brent, that whatever is in your nature is intended for you to use. You may, of course, determine to handicap yourself, giving others more of a chance competing against you, but there are no accidents. Where you are and what you are doing is for a reason. Sometimes you know why. Other times you don’t.”
“Tonight, I was here for Pam.”
“No, tonight, we were here for one another,” she said. “Uh, just so you know for when my folks get here — I didn’t tell them about the robbery at the convenience store.”
“I didn’t tell my dad either,” Kevin said.
I chuckled. “I may or may not tell my folks when I get home. I’ll have to decide on that one. They may tell me never to set foot outside of the house again.”
“I could see my folks saying that,” Catherine said. “But only to Pamela. They know better than to try that crap with me.”
The young resident I’d talked to earlier came up to us and we all stood.
“Pam was conscious when I examined her, but her fever was high, and she was delirious. We gave her a sedative to help with the pain. We started an IV for her dehydration and we’re doing a blood culture to see if she has any infections. She does have acute appendicitis. We will need a parent or a guardian to sign the paperwork.”
“My parents are on the way,” Catherine said. “I’m her sister and I’m twenty. Would that work?”
“It needs to be a parent. But we already took her up to surgery for an emergency procedure. We are concerned as you were,” he looked toward me. “That if the appendix ruptures, there would be a host of other complications. It’s best to avoid those.”
“Thank you,” I said. “I don’t know what I’d do if Pam wasn’t around.”
“I understand the feeling,” he said. “My wife had the same thing happen to her when we were in college. At the time I was in premed. When I took her to the hospital, the admitting nurse gave me similar static.” He smiled. “Between you and me, I wanted to wring her neck.”
“I can appreciate that,” I said.
“It’s all good now. She’s in good hands. Dr. Peters is on duty. He’s an excellent surgeon.”
“Thanks again,” Catherine said.
A police officer arrived to take my statements. He said the men we helped catch had escaped from a penitentiary in Kansas and are suspected of a string of robberies throughout the Midwest. The plates on their car were stolen and did not belong to the car.
“You’re lucky none of you were hurt,” he said in conclusion. “What you did tonight may seem heroic, but it was also dangerous. In the future, I wouldn’t recommend doing anything like that.”
About five minutes after the police officer left, Theresa arrived along with the twins. Theodore was at admissions, filling out paperwork and signing forms. Although I was sort of expecting Claire to be with them, her absence made sense. They took her home and she was sleeping. After all, it was already past 2 AM — another long night.
Immediately, Catherine told her mom everything the doctor said. When Theodore arrived, he settled in beside Theresa, and there we waited for the surgery to be completed.
There was an old movie playing on the Dayton TV station to which the TV was tuned. Catherine leaned toward me. “This is one of Pamela’s favorite old movies.”
“Arsenic and Old Lace,” I said.
“You know it?” Catherine asked, then laughed, “Of course, you would.”
“Pam and I have a lot of similar tastes.”
“It all makes sense, doesn’t it?”
“It always does after the fact.” I took a deep breath and sighed. “So, after everything, I’m going to miss my first tennis practice. Coach Roche will cut me from the team for sure.”
“Maybe not,” Catherine said. “As you said, things happen for a reason.”
* * *
The procedure didn’t take that long, as I knew it wouldn’t. After a couple of hours of waiting, Dr. Peters came out. Theodore and Theresa stood.
“I assume you are Pamela’s parents.”
Theodore gave the introductions. I joined them and he also introduced me.
“I’m Dr. Peters.” He looked at me. “You’re the boyfriend who made the initial diagnosis.”
I felt a blush.
“You were spot on. The appendix was enlarged and obviously causing her a lot of discomfort. If it had gone for another day or so there would have been a greater risk of rupture. As it was, the surgery went extremely well with no complications. We’ll want to keep her for a day or two for observation and some tests. She’ll be a little sore, but good as new in no time at all. She’ll be in recovery until she comes out from under the anesthetic. Then she’ll be taken to a room. The nurse at the desk can tell you the floor and number.”
“Great,” Theresa said. “Can we see her?”
“Sure. But just two at a time, please. It’s kind of cramped in there.”
“You and Brent go,” Theodore said. “Catherine and I will go next. And then the boys.”
* * *
I stood holding Pam’s hand rubbing my thumb over the soft skin on the back of her hand as Theresa and I waited on either side of her bed. With my eyes closed to concentrate, I could enter her thoughts, but I held back, not wanting to intrude on the privacy of her dream. But she saw me lingering upon the edge of her awareness, inviting me to join her. “Are you…here? Really here?”
“I’m with you, Pam. Everywhere you are, I’m with you.”
Her self-image smiled. It was the first time I saw her as she did herself. There was a resemblance, of course. But her appearance was more like Catherine than the Pam I knew, pretty but not as beautiful as she truly was.
“I had strange impressions,” she said. “It was like someone was holding me down and trying to smother me.”
“Everything’s fine now, Pam. Your mother and I are with you. You had your appendix removed.”
“Was that the problem?”
“Yeah. You’re going to be fine.”
I embraced her self-image. “I love you,” I said.
“I love you, too.”
“Now that I know you, I couldn’t live without you.”
“I feel the same way about you.”
“I know we have to wait until you’re older and all that. But there’s no one else for me. I’ll wait forever if need be. But I’m going to marry you, Pam.”
I could feel her coming around, the gentle tugging at her, bringing her back to consciousness. And so, I withdrew from the inside, still holding onto her hand as I leaned over, kissing her forehead and then first one and then the other of her closed eyelids.
Her eyes fluttered open, trying to focus on her mother’s face, then glancing over to mine. “Welcome back, beautiful,” I said.
“I was that sick?” her eyes looked around.
“Everything’s fine, honey,” Theresa said.
“I had a lot of weird dreams,” she said.
“Probably from the fever,” I said.
“Everyone else wants to see you, too,” Theresa said. “But they only let two in at a time.”
“I’ll let Catherine come in for me,” I said, leaning over share a kiss one more time.
“I will. Once everyone else had been in to see you.”
“Maybe by then they’ll have you in your room,” Theresa said.
Stepping outside I waved to Catherine, and we traded places.
“She’s awake,” I told Theodore. “A little groggy, but she’s doing great.”
“I just heard a story about you,” Theodore said.
“Which one was that?”
“The one where you saved the world, my world, anyway.”
“Catherine said you knew right away what was wrong with Pam. And she told me about the convenience store.”
“Oh, that.” I wondered which version she told him.
“Yes, that. It seems both of you boys deserve a lot of thanks,” he looked toward Kevin who smiled but said nothing.
Theresa returned and tapped Theodore to go inside.
We hugged. “Thank you for taking care of my babies,” she whispered into my ear.
“Your babies are pretty good at taking care of themselves,” I said. “But tonight, Pam needed some help.”
She took my hand and squeezed it, as we walked over to the others and took our seats. She patted Kevin’s knee. “Catherine likes you a lot.”
“I like her a lot, too. I’ve never met anyone like her.”
“There’s no one. So, don’t bother looking.” She chuckled. “She and Pamela may look a lot alike, but they are as different as can be. They used to fight a lot, even after they were teens. But they’d die for each other.”
“You have a good family, Mrs. Roberts,” Kevin said.
“You may as well call me Theresa,” she said.
“Catherine tells me you are already wanting to change her name.”
I winced at what I expected must be coming.
“Only the first letter. You know, when we’re married.”
“You’ve already decided on that.”
“It will happen. I’m patient. She can finish college first.”
Theresa laughed. “You know, when she was born, I wanted her name to be spelled with a K. But Theodore insisted it is spelled with a C.”
“No kidding,” I said.
“So, I’m okay with it. But you might have to talk him into it.”
“No problem,” Kevin said.
“Of course, that’s if things work out and you two eventually decide to get married,” she added hastily. “Catherine doesn’t have the best track record with guys.”
“She can’t be any worse than I am with girls,” Kevin confessed.”
“Perhaps you were made for each other,” Theresa allowed.
“We’ll see,” I said.
They both turned to me.
“Hey, somebody needed to say it.”
Catherine and Theodore returned, allowing David and Stephen to take their places. “I think they’ll be moving her to her room shortly.”
“We can head there,” Theresa took my hand. “I intend to stay the night.”
“I’m staying, too.” I followed her to the elevator. When the doors opened, I asked which floor.
“They’re taking her to room 432,” Theodore said.
I pressed the correct button and the doors closed.
“Did you call home?”
“Yeah. I took care of that earlier. Dad’s calling my school in the morning. He didn’t want me driving home until I’ve rested.”
“I’ll call in for Pamela,” Theodore said.
“He has always taken care of those things,” Theresa said.
“You have everything divided between the two of you,” I said.
“Some of it we talked about early on. Other things we decided as we went along. But, yes, I believe it worked out better for us to share the load.”
“I think Mom did most things for me. Dad was always working.”
“It’s different with each family,” Theodore said. “You have to figure out what works best, and who is better at doing what. The most important thing is to always communicate.”
I nodded as the elevator arrived on the fourth floor and the doors opened. I allowed the others to step out first then, following the directional signs, we turned to the right and made our way to the correct room.
“Pamela thinks you’re perfect for her,” Theodore said.
“I’m glad because she’s perfect for me.”
“Sooner or later, you’re going to be asking us, so I’ll tell you what Theodore and I have discussed. You know she’ll be seventeen next month.”
I nodded. “I’ll wait forever if I have to.”
Theresa looked deeply into my eyes. “Another year?”
“I think Pamela wanted to finish college first.”
“You’re okay with that?”
“No, but I don’t want to pressure her into doing anything before she’s ready.”
“It won’t be easy to wait,” she said. “I know. But if you can delay things, save some money and be ready for the children that will come, as they will, your life will be easier than ours has been.” She took Theodore’s hand.
“I think you did well.”
“It was hard for the first years. Hard on Catherine, too.”
“I survived it,” Catherine said.
“Claire was a godsend. I don’t know what we’d have done without her,” Theresa said.
“She loves all your children.”
“I think she believes they’re hers and Theodore and I just babysit for her.” Both she and Theodore laughed.
“You know, I can see that.”
An orderly and a nurse wheeled Pamela into the room. As soon as they transferred her to the bed, I took her hand and leaned over to kiss her.
“I’m kinda tired,” she said.
“I’ll make you a deal. I’ll let you sleep if you promise to dream about me.”
“Okay,” She started to laugh, but it hurt too much, and she settled into a smile instead.
“Rest,” I said softly.
She nodded, then took her mom’s hand before closing her eyes.
I felt nothing but potential ahead, and that was exciting. How could it not be? The school year was winding down. The whole victory bell affair was resolved, mostly, pending Mr. Hackmen bothering to check out the concession stand where the bell had been since late last month.
From my perspective, I needed to get even with the other members of the conspiracy for hanging me out to dry, though.
Since I was on the yearbook staff, Mrs. Hines wanted me to do the final layout with her, it was a simple, subtle thing for me. On the ‘activities’ pages for the seniors, I added ‘Clapper Nappers 4’ as a club for each of the conspirators, indicating their involvement during their senior year. Once I signed off on the proofs and Mrs. Hines approved them, they went to the publisher. By then it was too late. Come August when we all received copies of the yearbook, it would be a surprise…my revenge. For most of my senior year, I was busy juggling all the plates of the many things I had going on, to the point that I didn’t have enough time to enjoy some of the special moments. I think I deserved to get the final laugh.
As I watched Pam resting in her hospital bed, a lot of things in my life came into focus. Pam’s birthday was three weeks away. A couple of weeks later was mine. We had our senior proms coming and our graduations. The third Friday night in May at King’s Island was the event we both had tickets to attend. It was the perfect place for what I had planned.
Since my folks wouldn’t allow me to dig into my savings account, I made other arrangements. A rare coin dealer in Springfield bought my collection. I had it since I was a kid and it more than covered the cost of the engagement ring. I planned to propose to Pam in front of her friends and mine at Grad Night.
Already it was getting warmer. Full spring would arrive soon. There’d be plenty of Sunday afternoons filled with tennis, long drives in the country, and any number of other things I could not yet imagine. When I went to sleep at night, I always thought of Pam and couldn’t wait to see her again. Nothing else made as much sense as being with her.
The End (For Now)
Author’s Note: FINDING IT and BRING IT were composed about ten years ago, beginning as a nostalgic piece based loosely on my senior year of high school. Therefore, some of it is true. In the process of revision, the story expanded and focused more on the magic underlying our world and our experiences. There is some additional background material I may compile into a book format at some point in the future. At present, there are no plans to publish any of this material in book form, though that may change. It is offered here as a sample of my fiction and to serve as reference material in support of Brent Woods, the main character in the Fried Windows series, which includes FRIED WINDOWS(In a Light White Sauce), published May 2014, NINJA BREAD CASTLES published April 2022, and DEADMEN DON’T WEAR WATCHES (Coming Soon).