Passegiatta Pt. 09byAdrian Leverkuhn©
Jon Santoni walked into the waiting room just before three in the morning; his green scrubs were blotchy-wet from sweat around his neck and arms. He wore a naturally jovial expression almost always on his round face, but not this morning. He was too tired for such a performance this morning. He came and sat by Ludvico; Margherita and Paulo sat beside Vico, and even Toni had made it to the hospital after he got off work. They sat silently, expectantly, but Toni seemed distracted and agitated.
Santoni pursed his lips, tried to think of the best way to tell these people what he had just seen. He knew words would fail him. They always did in times like these.
"We lost her twice, you see," he began slowly, "and both times Tom pulled her back. We were missing something. Something important."
Margherita's eyes filled with hot tears, Paulo's hands trembled.
"Her pressure kept falling, you see, like there was a perforated artery, but we couldn't see anything. He replaced the mitral valve . . ."
"Doctor! Is Maria alive!" Vico was livid, shaking with rage.
"Oh, yes. And I've never seen anything like it. He had his hands around her heart, he was feeling it beat in his hands, and then he knew. He just knew. He had me finish up with the heart then went into her leg. She had a small aneurism in her femoral artery. Impossible to detect. Yet he felt it, goddamn it, while he was holding her heart! It is not possible, yet I watched this happen. The anesthesiologist is dumbfounded, quite shaken up, really."
"Mama is okay?" Toni said, wanting to believe what he was hearing but not exactly sure what the doctor was saying.
"Yes, your mother is fine now. Tom has fixed the valve and cleared out the left carotid artery, which was almost completely blocked. Then the artery in the leg . . ." Santoni's voice trailed away into the coffee-drenched air.
Paulo was wrapped around his sister's neck, crying almost hysterically, yet quietly. Vico sat back in his chair and looked up at the ceiling; he crossed himself once and wiped a tear from his cheek.
"She's going to be alright?" Toni said, and it was more a statement than a question.
"Oh, yes, young man. In fact, she may be better than alright. I suspect her memory will be better, and she will be able to walk more, in fact, when she gets better she should walk a lot more. This will help her heal."
"You said you lost her? Twice? What happened?"
"We could not find the source of this drop in pressure. We tried to increase pressure with medicine, but this only made the aneurism worse. If Tom had not discerned this when he did, she would not have survived. You must excuse me, because it is this I do not understand. He knew right where to go. It was as if someone told him. I have never seen anything even remotely like this. So, if you all will excuse me, I will go back and help Tom. But he wanted you all to know where things stand."
"Thank you, doctore," Vico said, but Paulo jumped up and gave the physician a hug.
"Eh, no kissing the cheeks young man, or I will have to shower before I return!"
Paulo looked embarrassed, stepped back, and the round man walked back into the surgery.
"Many prayers were answered tonight," the old man said. "And there will be time now to repair that which has been broken for so long."
Mary Ann Doncaster sat on the swim platform by Elsie; they both looked at the dolphin circling lazily just a few meters away. There were still a few stars overhead, but already the eastern horizon was filling with wispy gold tendrils of the coming storm. A few clouds were red-tinged and angry, running ahead of an imperturbable sun into the clutches of the storm. She loved these early mornings, just as the sun chased away the last of night.
"I wonder where Goodwin is?" Malcolm said as he came up into the cockpit. "Blast it all, I'll need a sweater out this morning. Who told us it never gets cold here?"
"Did you put the water on?" Mary Ann asked as he smiled.
"Yes. Warming some scones, as well. Is that fish still out there?"
"Yes he is, and he's not a fish!"
"Well, yes, I'm sure of that! Would you like some jam with your scone?"
"It's almost as though he was waiting for something, you know, Malcolm? Or someone."
"Excuse me!" A woman's voice clipped the air.
Malcolm jumped, turned toward the voice on the quay. "Right-O, what are we about this morning?"
"Dr Goodwin invited me to sail with him today, to Rapallo. Is he about?"
"Not here!" Mary Ann said from the swim platform. "But please, come aboard."
Malcolm helped the newcomer up onto Diogenes and led her across the cockpit to Springer. "Name's Doncaster, Malcolm Doncaster," he said while he helped the other woman onto Goodwin's boat. "My wife Mary Ann back there bothering that silly fish."
"Come, have a look." He helped her back to the stern rail.
"Hello there," Mary Ann said.
"Yes, hello." The woman saw the dolphin circling below and sat down in bewildered silence. "How long has it been there?"
"All night, as best I can tell."
"Oh, my name is Trudi."
"Well, right then," Malcolm said. "Tea for three it is." He slipped quietly back to Diogenes and rummaged away below.
"He seems, I don't know the right word, he seems sad," Trudi said as she watched the dolphin.
"Disconsolate was the word that came to mind, but yes, sad. Preoccupied and sad."
"Is that a dog with . . ."
Elsie turned to look at the other woman; once satisfied she remembered her from the day before she turned back to the Two Scar.
"This is Elsie."
"Ah, yes. We've met."
"Have you indeed? When might that have been?"
"With Dr Goodwin. Yesterday."
The dolphin raised its head from the water and stood almost straight up, one eye cast on the village across the harbor.
"What . . .?"
A beige colored Mercedes taxi whipped onto the piazza and raced across to the quay and came to a skidding halt by Diogenes; the back door opened and a completely shell-shocked Tom Goodwin emerged. They watched as Goodwin paid the driver, said something off-color and laughed at the reply.
He walked down to Diogenes muttering something about frustrated Formula One drivers being allowed to operate taxis, then he hopped aboard; Malcolm popped up from below when Diogenes began rocking.
"Oh, so you made it after all. Good show! Help me with these scones, would you?"
Goodwin received the platter of fresh-baked scones and laid them out on the cockpit table; Malcolm followed with tea and cream.
"My God in heaven!" Malcolm exclaimed when he climbed up into the cockpit. "You're -- you're covered with blood!"
"What?" Mary Ann said. She popped up into the cockpit and looked at him. "Good grief, Tom! What are those, anyway; surgical clothes?"
Goodwin looked down at his scrubs and shrugged. "Yeah. Sorry. Long night." He stood up and made to leave.
"Tom, sit down!" Malcolm spoke up now. "What on earth have you been up to?"
"Uh, don't really want to talk about it now."
"Really, Tom!" Mary Ann shot back. "What have you been up to?"
"So, sport," Malcolm interceded, "you up for this today?"
Goodwin looked at Trudi. "How about you? Interested in a little adventure?"
"Sounds delightful!" she said admiringly. "When do we start?"
"Well, let's eat a bit first!" Malcolm said grumpily. "Fresh from the oven, you know."
"You and your stomach, Malcolm! Really!"
"Mary Ann! I thought you were the baker! You mean . . ."
"Right, sport. And don't you say a word, either!"
Goodwin laughed with Mary Ann and Trudi. They sat in Diogenes' cockpit and watched warm glows struggle behind the dark-rimmed clouds closing in on the far horizon; after a few minutes Goodwin stopped, his eyes locked on the water behind the boats.
"How long have they been here?"
"They?" Mary Ann said as she turned. "Oh my word. Now what?"
Elsie sat up on the swim platform, her ears now standing almost straight up as she watched seven dolphins swimming in a circle just a few yards away.
"One of them was here all night, Tom," Malcolm said. "Elsie sat out here with it all night, never moved as far as I can tell."
Without saying a word Goodwin stood and walked to the edge of the transom; he pushed off and made a gracefully silent dive right into the middle of the formation. He came up and began treading water; his companions gathered wordlessly at the rail, wondering what had gotten into him.
Two Scar came to Goodwin and rolled over on his side and stared into Goodwin's eyes.
"She's alright, boy. You understand me, don't you? She's fine now."
The dolphin drifted into Goodwin and put his nose on one of the blood soaked stains. Everyone could hear the dolphin moan, but then another dolphin came in close and did the same thing. Two Scar moved off but kept close to Goodwin; all of them came in and did the exact same thing, then one by one they left the harbor.
All but Two Scar.
He came back to Goodwin, put his snout against Goodwin's face, and Tom stroked it softly, said gentle words while they held each other in the water.
Goodwin turned when Two Scar slipped into the darkness; only then was he aware of the crowd that had formed. Not only the Doncasters and Trudi; now he saw at least a dozen people on the far side of the harbor looking at him, more on the quay behind Springer.
"Oh good grief!" he said as he paddled over and pulled his tired body up onto the platform. His neck felt hot and stiff, his head full of a dull ache that pressed in like a vice, and he took the towel Malcolm handed him and dried his face.
"What was that all about?" Trudi said in her clipped Swedish accent.
"Don't ask," Mary Ann replied. "Do yourself a big favor, and just do not ask!"
Malcolm laughed while he cleared dishes. "You'll have an interesting talk with Goodwin, no doubt. But I don't think you'll learn anything. I certainly haven't."
"But . . . were they talking to one another?"
"I don't know. I really don't."
Goodwin climbed down onto the swim platform and sat next to Elsie. He put his arm around her while she licked salt water from his arms, and Goodwin looked out to sea. He saw Two Scar looking at him from several hundred feet and Tom waved. Elsie sat up and licked his face.
Santoni led them into the intensive care unit, cautioning them to not let what they saw alarm them. It always looked, he told them, much worse than it really was.
She lay on her back, a green plastic ventilator covered her mouth and nose, and her eyes were taped shut with thin strips of tape. She was loosely covered with thin white sheets; lines and tubes sprouted from every part of her body. Margherita gasped and turned away when she saw the angry red line of tape and staples holding her mother's chest together; Paulo walked to his mother's side and took her hand and stroked it gently.
"Mama, we're here. All of us, Mama. We love you. We're going to help you get strong."
Her hand was lifeless, unresponsive, yet machines overhead pulsed and whispered, each singing their own peculiar music of life, a simple melody of hope and renewal. Paulo looked at the machines as a reflection of his mother's life force, he held on to the hope fused inside these pulsing electrons, simply because what he saw lying in the bed frightened him beyond all understanding. He could not imagine a world without his mother in it. The mere thought was almost unendurable.
Vico held Margherita by his side, and together they walked forward until they came to the bedside. Margherita's lips trembled, her eyes twitched and watered, and the old man held her tight to hide his own fear.
Of them all, only Toni seemed outwardly remote and untouched by the pain before him. He was numb, almost in shock. He was her baby boy, and always would be.
Springer left the still harbor under power; as soon as she cleared the cape Goodwin unfurled the main and fell off the wind. He rolled out the staysail and cut the engine, now all was quiet except for slowly building winds and waters parting before running along the hull, joining again behind him in a softly gurgling wake.
Goodwin watched as Diogenes motored along the direct line to Rapallo; either Malcolm had grown tired of sailing or was below baking bread. Mary Ann was at the tiller staring ahead. Whatever the reason, it was a glorious morning to sail and Goodwin felt renewed after the long night in surgery. It was a pity the Doncasters had lost sight of this simple pleasure. He twisted his head from side to side, his neck still stiff and hot.
Trudi remained silent, lost in memory as they started sailing. Her long gray hair streamed behind in the breeze, faint rays of pale yellow sunlight struggled from behind faraway clouds to wash over her, and she held her face in the bronze light, her mouth parted ever so slightly as if trying to drink in every last molecule of time.
She turned to Goodwin. "May I go forward?"
"Sure. Just remember to keep hold of something as you walk."
She nodded, staggered forward holding on to lifelines and gaurdrails until she came to the bow pulpit. She sat with her feet dangling over the side, and for all the world Goodwin thought she looked like a young girl again.
Joy is such a simple thing, he remembered. Why do we grow away from it? Why do we grow so reluctant to embrace it?
He heard her squeal, saw her point at the water, and they were there.
Seven fins arced alongside Springer, dark gray darts slipping through the water with the barest sound; Two Scar settled aft beside Goodwin, the dolphin's grinning face alive with the pure joy of spinning through silver seas, living life on the crest of a wave. Goodwin smiled at Two Scar and he replied by jumping high into the air, skipping across the sea like a flat rock thrown by a kid.
Trudi came alive. She leaned into the pulpit and smiled and laughed, then lay along the gunwale, her hand reaching down to the sea. A fin sliced through the water, came to her seeking hand and in a sudden burst ran up and surfed on the bow wave for a moment, Trudi's hand resting on the dolphin's back. The dolphin slipped underwater only to fall back and run forward to the bow wave again and again. It was a game, it was joy, and they both loved it.
After perhaps a half hour, Two Scar came alongside. He seemed agitated; Goodwin looked to the far horizon. Angry black clouds seethed, lightning flashed beyond the far mountains. He turned to Two Scar and nodded understanding.
"Alright! We'll head in now!"
He called Trudi, asked her to come back to the cockpit. When she was settled in he came about and made his course for the breakwater at Rapallo. Springer now pushed into building seas, roiled water arced through the air and fell back on them when she bulled her way through the really big ones. Goodwin looked at Trudi; she still seemed like a little girl full of the gentlest expectations - her radiant face freed from all the cares time had visited on her.
She turned and looked at Goodwin.
"Thank you," she said.
"No, Trudi. Thank you," he said, then he took her hand and squeezed it.
Malcolm took Springer's lines as the boat pulled into the marina, Mary Ann helped Trudi cross to Diogenes while the men sorted out docklines. Elsie seemed happy to see Goodwin; she jumped over to Springer and went to the rail where Trudi had lain with the dolphins; she sniffed around and looked back at Goodwin, her tail thumping away on the deck.
Dark gray clouds scudded in low over the city, rain began falling, and even behind the protective mole ragged gusts were stirring up choppy-rolling waves. Masts clanged as wind whipped through the aluminum forest, owners scurried about making lines fast while others sat in their cockpits drinking wine and watching all the activity with quiet, knowing smiles on their smug faces.
After things were stowed below Goodwin went to Diogenes and had tea, then called a number on his cell phone. He spoke cryptically in terse medical terms to the voice on the other end, nodded his head a couple of times.
"Alright, Jon, let me take a nap at least. Then I'll grab a taxi and come up. What? Alright, suit yourself. Down inside the mole, right behind the seawall. Green hull, sailboat, name on the stern is Springer. I'll leave the hatch open so come on in."
Everyone was looking at him -- again -- now full of manifest curiosity.
"I don't suppose you're going to tell us what that was all about?" Malcolm pleaded.
"Margherita's mother. She crashed last night. Had to go in and fix a few things."
"Crashed?" Malcolm said.
"Go in?" Mary Ann stated. "You mean . . ."
"Aren't there license issues? How, uh . . . "
"I see," she said.
"Good. Now, can we drop it?"
"Right. So, how far off did you two go? We almost lost sight of you."
"Well, when we tacked back in toward Rapallo we were about five miles out." Goodwin rolled his neck, tried to get the kink out again.
"Yes," Trudi added, "it was glorious. The dolphins came and swam with us for what seemed like forever. I even touched one!"
"Two Scar?" Malcolm asked.
"Two Scar?" Trudi asked. "What . . ."
"Hey, hate to break this up, but I'm going to go get some shut-eye; y'all tell her whatever you want. Just let me get some sleep, okay?" Goodwin slipped below and into the shower and let the water run on his neck; after a quick hot one he toweled off and put on a dry t-shirt, then flopped down on his berth and dropped off into a deep sleep. He was aware, in those last few glowing moments of consciousness, of a furry ball of warm dog curling up next to him. He felt a cold nose press against his and smiled.
"Tom . . . Tom . . . you can wake up now." It was a woman's voice, Swedish accent. "You have a guest. Tom. Wake up . . ."
"Do I have to?" He was aware of his neck . . . it felt stiff, and hot . . .
"Yes. Dr Santoni is here. We've been talking for an hour. He asked us to let you sleep, but he must go back to the hospital soon, and he wants you to accompany him."
Goodwin felt the woman's hands running through his hair, and his eyes popped wide open.
"Tom," she said again, this time ever so gently, "Thank you for this morning. These memories I will always cherish. Tom? You feel hot. Go wash up with cool water."
He listened as she walked up on deck; he heard swarms of voices buzzing about, almost as if a party was in full swing. He sat up and felt hair all over his face and mouth and began picking Springer hair from his lips and beard as he stumbled into the head. He washed his face, looked at his reflection in the mirror; his eyes were blood red and he felt hot -- impossibly hot. He took a thermometer and stuck it under his tongue and padded into the galley. He pulled out a bottle of frigid mineral water, felt a line of sweat forming on his brow, then took the thermometer and held it up to a light.
"102.4 -- yikes!" He walked over to the companionway, made eye contact with Santoni and held up the thermometer.
"What is it?"
Goodwin handed Santoni the thermometer. "See if you see what I see, then wash your hands!"
"Shit! You better lie back down." Santoni got on his cell phone and called his hospital. When he finished he came and sat in the saloon across from his old friend and mentor. "I just added some antibiotics to Mrs Morrettis cocktail, and I'm having a nurse come down and draw blood. Have you any acetaminophen? And where do I put this thing?"
Thermometer in the head, tube on counter. Tylenol in the cabinet over the sink. You know, I feel like shit."
"I'm not surprised. When did you first feel this come on?"
"About five minutes ago. No. My neck's been stiff all morning."