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Body and Soul

Chapter 4--Doctor Loken, I Presume

The construction site where Stan worked was empty. Since the work day did not start until nine, the workers had not arrived yet. The only person there was Stan. Stan was still having trouble sleeping, so he went to the construction site early the next morning. He was standing on the edge of the pit that was dug earlier in the week.

The concrete truck arrived at 11:00 AM yesterday. It had taken the rest of the day just to pour one of the domesí footing. Today, the concrete footing for the second dome was to be poured. The pit was equal to the area of four football fields laid across each other. A typical four bedroom, three bathroom house is only about sixty feet by thirty feet. That means you could fit about 100 houses into the pit. But thatís if the houses sat side by side.

This building was designed to be an apartment complex. Three separate domes three-hundred feet in diameter. All the domes were to have two floors.

As Stan stood at the edge of the pit, he thought about how long it had taken to get here. From the design stage to the excavation, it had taken a year. First there was the feasibility studyóthat was where the designs were reviewed for weaknesses or flaws. Then a building site had to be acquired. Building permits must be applied for, zoning laws have to be considered. Utilitiesówater, electric, sewer, gasówere another part of the design stage that had to be approved with the floor plans.

In another part of Stanís mind, he thought about his wife and what lead to her decline. It was so gradual, that it was barely noticeable, almost like a slow progressing disease. A disease that can be treated, but not cured; slowed, but not stopped.

As Stan trekked around the pit, his mind wondered. He found that walking released the tension building in his psyche. If he didnít relieve this buildup, he was likely to develop a monster headache. He learned this while in collage.

If he studied for long periods, he had to go for a walk afterward. He had suffered three nasty headachesóone, in particular, forced him to go to the hospital. It was so bad he thought for sure he was having a stroke. To his relief, the doctor told him it wasnít a stroke, just mind strain. But knowing what it was didnít make the headaches stop. So Stan got desperate.

When he felt the beginnings of another headache, he decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. He started a short distance, and surprisingly, before he was aware of it, his headache disappeared. It was some time later that Stan learned that many people have the same affliction. And the only cure was to walk it off.

Once Stan walked around the pit he looked at his watch (a present that his wife gave him for their first anniversary, he remembered), it read 8:45. He had fifteen minutes. He walked to the office trailer and entered, turning on the lights, and the air-conditioner (he turned it off before leaving yesterday, to save electricity).

Stan grabbed the coffee maker jar and took it to the sink in the trailerís kitchenette. The kitchenette was in the center of the trailer, it had a refrigerator with a freezer and a microwave. The workers would sometimes bring lunches to put in the fridge, and they would also use the microwave to cook TV dinners. Usually at lunch time the workers would go to the fridge, get their food, use the microwave, and go in the other room on the opposite side of the trailer and eat at a table. Not all the workers could eat in the dinning room at the same time, so an eating shift was set upósixty workers per eating shift. Since there were one-hundred twenty employees working for Stan, two shifts were required.

Stan finished washing the coffee jar and dried it with paper towel. Then he filled the jar to the water fill line and he carried it to the coffee maker, careful not to spill the water. He poured the water in the back of the water tank and slid the jar into its receptacle, and pushed the power switch. The coffee maker came to life with several clicks and ticks as the heating coil was energized.

Stan enjoyed starting the coffee, the sounds that it made were neat. It reminded him of some mechanical living creature, you pushed a button and it came to life. He almost felt like Doctor Victor Frankenstein, when he brought that conglomeration of sewn together parts to life. Sure, it was childish, but Stan didnít care what anyone thought, he was having fun. Having fun helped relieve stress. And right now Stan needed something to ease his mind.

Stan sat down at his desk, picked up todayís newspaper, and read the headlines.

He propped his feet up on the desk, leaning back in his chair. The coffee maker was making soothing gurgle sounds along with its clicks. The air-conditioner produced a continuous hum, blowing cool air into the room. Morning sunlight crept into the office window.

Just when Stan was beginning to relax, the phone rang. He was startled at first, but then his mind took control. He should have been expecting a phone call. His wife was in the hospital.

He took his feet off the desk and sat forward, placing the newspaper on the desk. He picked up the cordless phone.

"Hello? Norris Construction." He said. He was running a business. He had to sound professional.

The person on the other line didnít answer right away. Stan was about to say hello again, not sure if anyone was there, from the silence on the other end.

"Is this Stan Norris?" the person asked. Stan couldnít place the slightly accented words.

"Yes, this is Stan Norris. Who, may I ask, is calling?" Stan said.

"Is your wife Sylvia Norris?" This time the voice had a slight apprehensive sound.

"She is my wife. Is this Doctor . . . youíll have to forgive me, Iíve forgotten the name. Itís been a few days."

Dr. Whoever laughed a laugh that people use when there trying to relieve nervousness.

"Thatís quite all right, Mr. Norris. Iím Doctor Loken." Dr. Lokenís voice was slowly becoming a little more relaxed, but he still had a touch of something . . . Stan could not figure out the word. It was right on the edge of consciousness.

"Thatís it. Doctor Loken." Stan should have remembered. He didnít know any Lokens, thatís why he should have remembered. Usually when a person comes across a unique name, they tend to remember it. Stan didnít know if Loken was unique, but it was to him.

"Is there something that I can help you with?" Stan asked. He heard some papers shuffle around on the other end.

"Well, as you know, we transported your wife to Green Meadow Hospital. When she first arrived we had to restrain her and give her a tranquilizer."

Stanís heart skipped a beat. Just hearing about his wife being tranquilized made him feel upset. It was like she was being treated like a wild animal.

"I was able to talk with her this morning," Dr. Loken continued. "She said that she couldnít remember what happened. I hadnít planned on telling her, if she couldnít remember. I thought it would be safer for her own mind to recollect."

"How is it possible for my wife not to remember?"

"I think that it might have something to do with being shot. See, when the body is subjected to intense traumaóbeing shot is a very traumatic event for the body to endureóit tries to make sense of it. But itís not just the body thatís involved. The more intense the stimulation, the more the brain is involved. Do you know the reflex response test?"

"Uh, yes. Isnít that where a doctor hits you on the knee." Stan knew all too well. When he went to the doctor for his first nasty headache, Stan was subjected to several tests. One of the tests was the good old wack-the-patient-with-the-hard-rubber-hammer test, a.k.a. the reflex response. Why that was necessary, Stan could only guess. It was sometimes painful, if your lucky enough to have a doctor hit you on the knee cap. Perhaps the doctor that hit him on the knee use to be a mafia loan shark in his previous life.

"Good, you should be able to understand this. Anyway, with the reflex response, itís used to determine how receptive the nerves are. But it usually does not require any brain intervention. Itís strictly local nerve stimulation. The simplest type of neural pathway is a monosynaptic (single connection) reflex pathway, thatís what the knee-jerk reflex uses. When a doctor taps a specific spot on the knee with a rubber hammer, receptorsóthese sense the environment (light, sound, touch)ósend a signal into the spinal cord through a sensory neuron, which carry signals from the outer parts of the body into the central nervous system. This sensory neuron sends the message to a motor neuronóthis carries signals from the central nervous system to the outer parts (muscles, skin) of the bodyóthat controls your leg muscles. Nerve impulses travel down the motor neuron and stimulate the leg muscle to contract. The response is a muscular jerk that happens quickly. But as the stimulation becomes more complex, the pathway "circuitry" gets more complicated and the brain gets involved.

"In the case of your wife, the gun shot may have triggered a memory suppression response. Iíve only heard of two other cases that caused a memory difficulty."

"What were the other two cases, Doctor?" Stan was honestly curious.

"One was a cop that got shot in the leg. The other was when a farmer was driving a tractor and fell off, he got both of his arms torn off."

Stan felt stomach acid crawl up his esophagus, burning his throat, as he tried to keep from barfing. The doctorís tone was matter-of-fact, like it didnít phase him in the slightest. Stan slowly stood up, grabbed a coffee mug, poured himself some coffee, and inhaled its warm aroma. That was close. Stan almost chucked his breakfast all over his desk. He could just about see chunks of partially digested eggs, mixed with curdled strings of orange juice and soggy bits of toast covering his desk. Stan let out a loud belch. It burned like hell.

"Are you okay, Mr. Norris." The doctor asked, concerned.

Stan inhaled his coffee. He took a sip. It was bitter, but that was better than vomit flavor. "Yeah, Doc. Just a little indigestion, thatís all," Stan said, with a stifled cough.

"Sorry, I sometimes forget that not everyone can stomach medical mishaps. I guess Iím use to it."
"I think it was the way you said it." Stan sipped more coffee. Much better, Stan thought.

"Sorry about that, Iíll try to think before I get too graphic. Now, where was I?"

"You were saying that my wife canít remember what she did, and the gun shot wound caused a memory lapse." Stan said, now adding sugar to his coffee. Satisfied, he walked back to his desk and sat.

"Right, you are, Stan. I think that your wife was affected by the gun shot. She could only remember the sound, thatís what she said. But one thing has troubled me."

"Whatís that, Doctor?" Stan said, responding to his cue.

"I didnít want to tell her, I figured that it would be safer. Itís best to let the patient recover from the trauma first, and let their memory return on its own."

"And . . ." Spit it out, already, Stanís mind was saying. End the suspense, why donít you?

"I sort of let it slip out." The doctor paused for a couple seconds.

"What? What did you let slip?" Impatience surfaced in Stanís voice. Impatience brought on by suspense, no doubt.

"Calm down, Mr. Norris. All I did was tell your wife that she attacked you and she was shot. But after hearing this, she was completely unnerved. She began to hyperventilate, and sometimes, when they hyperventilate, they pass out."

"So what youíre saying is that my wife fainted, is that it?"

"Yes," the doctor admitted gravely. Then he added, "She began to panic. She asked what she did to you and passed out."

"Jeeze, Doc," Stan said uncontrollably. Hearing someone else say something upsetting, especially if it involved oneís spouse, made it worse, somehow.

"Itís not too bad." The doctorís voice was annoyingly neutral.

"Yeah right, what could be worse than losing consciousness." Stan couldnít believe what the doctor was saying.

"It could have been worse," Doctor Loken said.

"How!?" It took all of Stanís mental control not to go crazy. He almost felt like strangling the doctor; if he could reach through the phone, he certainly would have, just now.

Doctor Loken stayed quiet for a few moments. Either he didnít know what to say, or he was afraid to say another word. "I donít think thereís anything to worry about, at the moment. Your wife is resting comfortably."

That word, comfortably, some how, made Stan relax a little. He calmed down and said, "Just tell me sheís going to be okay."

"She is okay, Mr. Norris. She just fainted."

"Is there any way we can find out why she attacked me, in the first place?" Stan sighed, remembering what happened. He was standing on the highest rung of the ladder. And out of nowhere, the ladder was shoved out from under him. When his mind replayed the event, it was as if it was played back in slow motion. Sometimes his mind would hit the pause button, it was like watching a video, but not from a VCR, more like a DVD, where you didnít need to rewind the movie, you could skip forward or backward. The movie playing was non sequential, like the way some movies are filmedósometimes the ending is filmed first, then the beginning is filmed next.

"The only way to really find out is to run some tests."

"What kind of tests?" Stan had no idea, honestly.

"Well, first off, I want to take a blood sample?"

Blood? Was this doctor some kind of vampire, Stan wondered. He almost laughed out loud. Come to think of it, thatís where Stan recognized the doctorís accent, it was European, he was almost sure of it. "And what do you need the blood for, if you donít mind me asking?" Stanís mind thought he heard the doctor say, "I vish to drink her blood." Doctor Vlad the Impaler, or could it be Doctor Dracula. To Stanís relief the doctor didnít say he wanted to ingest anything.

"I need to take a blood sample, to check for any foreign substances that she might have taken."

Stan was almost shocked, he couldnít possibly have heard the doctor correctly. "Are you trying to say that my wife is on drugs?"

"No, I didnít say your wife is on drugs," the doctor said in a calm voice.

"But you were alluding to it." Stan took a drink of coffee, only to discover that he already drank it all. He stood and walked over to the coffee maker for a refill.

"Whatever you may or may not think I was alluding to, Mr. Norris, is pure speculation." The doctor was still using a calm voice. "All Iím trying to do is my job, which is getting to the bottom of this mystery."

Now the doctor thinks heís a detective. Doctor Loken Holmes, at your service. Stan couldnít help but let his mind wonder. It must have something to do with the doctorís voice. Although the doctorís accent was slight, it was a little different than Stan was used to. How often do you come across a person with an accent, especially in the country. Actually, doctors with foreign accents was almost a rule, rather then an exception.

"I need to find out," the doctor continued, "to cover all the bases, to rule out any possible causes for why your wife knocked you off the ladder. And finding out the blood chemistry is the first place to look."

The doctor was actually starting to make logical sense, Stan realized. Stan wondered if he should tell the doctor about Sylviaís drinking. It might help with finding out Sylviaís problem. For some reason, Stan held his tongue. He was almost afraid of what the doctor might say. Sorry, good buddy, your wife has a drinking problem, his internal voice said in a mocking tone. Stop that, you crazy fool, he told himself.

Stan thought he better say something. "What will you need to do after the blood test?"

"Well, if I donít find any foreign substances, I was thinking of doing a series of memory tests."

Why doesnít the doctor just say experiments, his mind retorted. Why donít you shut your yap, he told his mind. If Stan didnít know any better, he would have thought he was talking to himself. As long as he didnít carry on a conversation with himself, he mused, heíd be safe.

"Then what?" Stan asked.

"I think we should wait and see. Then continue from there."

"Would it make any difference if I came to see her?" He really did want to see her.

"It might not be wise for her to see you, just seeing you might send her off the edge entirely. I may not have any way of predicting what she might do."

"Are you trying to say she could attack me again?"

"That is possible. Anyway, itís likely that any little thing could set her off. In the mean time, I think it would be best that we let her come to terms with what she did, or help her to remember."

Stan didnít say anything for a while, absorbing what Dr. Loken was saying. Then Stan had an idea. "How do you think Sylvia would act if she saw Owen, our son?"

"Iím not sure." The doctor almost sounded like he was caught off guard. "Sheís never tried to hurt him before?"

"Sheís never tried to hurt me before Doctor."

"Itís possible that she will not hurt Owen. I could ask her, when she wakes up."

"I could bring him to the hospital. Should I get some of her things from home, you know, clothes and what not?"

"That sounds like a good idea. It might help her feel more at home in the hospital, wearing her own clothes. Does she have any hobbies or interests that she likes to do? It could help aid in your wifeís recovery."

Yeah, she loves to drink. Not just beer or whine, but the good stuff, itís like rocket fuel, it burns all the way down. Scotch, neat. Stan pushed those thoughts back down from where they came. Donít ask him why. "She likes to read a lot. I could bring some books for her to read. She also has an interest in drawing." Stan started recalling some of the positive sides of his wife. The more he thought about it, the more he had trouble understanding what triggered his wifeís ill-temper. It was almost like trying to remember something, the harder you try to recall a memory, the less likely you are able to uncover it. Itís best to just let the memory surface when itís good and ready.

"You say she likes draw?" The doctorís tone was of delight. "What sort of things does she draw?"

"Oh, she can draw pretty much anything that catches her eye."

"Okay, yes. You can bring some of her things. That should be good for her. If she has something to do, especially if itís something she likes to do, would help."

"So itís settled. When should I bring her things over?" He felt like doing it right now, if he could. But he couldnít leave now, he was at work.

"How does tomorrow sound?"

"That sounds good."

"Great. Iíll call you again if you can bring your son with you to see her."

"Let me give you my cell phone number." Stan told the doctor his cell phone number. Doctor Loken said he already had his home phone number.

With that squared away, they hung up.

 

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5