High & Low by Adam Kluger

The croissant had just the right crispness to it.

” Yes, they brought the towels and thank you for doing that, but I need soap for the sink.”

The views from the 22nd floor were stunning. From the East you could see the Silver Cup Studios sign and from the other side of the atrium you could see the Empire State Building already lit up red and green for the holidays,  vibrating amidst a vast New York Cityscape.

“Should I throw on PJ’s?”

“Sure.”

Women are a peculiar yet predictable member of the species. Strong and beautiful, demanding and precise. As an aspiring writer, I’ve met and fallen for quite a few over the years. This last one, “The Keeper,” had a tenacity, a vulnerability, a dialectic that caught my attention. Now, here I was lowering the large blind in our room and cutting up her French Toast. She sat in her robe and soon it would be time for me to shower her.

Why Bambi decided to take the advanced spin cycle class at Zoo Cycle on a lark is anybody’s guess. New challenge. Following the herd, or perhaps for reasons the male mind cannot yet comprehend. (Duh, the instructor is supposedly Madonna’s Bestie) She did take the class –and she liked it.

But afterwards, Bambi had worked out so fiercely, so ferociously, that she collapsed. Her legs swelled and she was advised to drink water by the disapproving Zoo Cycle Staff as they quickly had her sign a post-workout waiver, protecting Zoo Cycle from any and all legal claims etc, etc.

I met Bambi at the office of her General Practitioner, a doctor whose voice sounded remarkably like that of talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. The good doctor, who probably got her diploma in a Crackerjack box had apparently suggested the Zoo Cycle class to Bambi in the first place and simply prescribed drinking lots and lots of water over the weekend to flush out the system.

I helped Bambi into a cab and told the driver that we were going immediately to the ER.  Bambi was in too much pain to argue. The diagnosis was something I could not pronounce but the RN called it Zoo-Cycle Syndrome, when too much muscle is torn up and does not flush out of the body properly. Score one SMALL point for Crackerjack, MD.

By the way, I should mention that today they have the lime-infused water near the Concierge Desk and yesterday it was cucumber. Delicious.

These suites are favored by foreign royalty and their entourages and even the daughter of our incoming President. I can see why. The staff is super friendly. Rooms are spacious and the views are spectacular. Pantry service. They call it the “Amenities floor.” The New York Times did a whole write-up on it. Many who visit liken it to a 5 Star hotel.

“My name is Natenyana from food services…”

“I’ll have the chicken consommé…and…I had the turkey sandwich yesterday…”

“Sure you don’t want a steak, honey?”

“Yeah, turkey with tomatoes, lettuce on pumpernickel,”

“no mayo?”

” no, mustard, please.”

“What time?”

“12:30…thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Ooh, Tann, could you be a dear and pick up my US Weekly magazine over there?”

“Sure, Honey.”

[Frrrrrpt!!!]

“oooh, stinky!  smell my fart Tann, I think I’m eating too much salad, don’t you?”

Intimacy comes in all forms in relationships with the woman.

I knew something Bambi didn’t know. Something that might jeopardize everything.

Patient Admitting had called earlier and asked to speak with Beth Smithton. I took the call. I explained I was Ms. Smithton’s boyfriend, Tanner Hoffman, and that it was my family who was friends with the Hospital’s top Surgeon. But the truth is, that the term “friends” is often a dynamic and  flexible definition on occasions. My Uncle “knew” Dr. Bishop from the Country Club and they may have played golf together, I surmised. So, perhaps, social acquaintance is a more apt term, here.  Country Club acquaintances are often business acquaintances and often “illicit fucking” acquaintances–just male locker-room talk and speculation here–but “The Bishop” as I imagined the Doctor’s nickname at the 19th Hole–seemed like the kind of Country Club buddy Uncle Billy would chum around and chase cougars with. Well, it seemed like an educated risk worth taking anyway.

Bram, the obviously gay, and incredibly efficient RN knocked on Bambi’s door, walked in, made an involuntary sour face, which he quickly righted.

“Hey guys, I paged two members of the medical team and we are waiting to hear on some lab results before we insert a midline to increase the flow of fluids…I don’t know why we are waiting to do this…so sorry for the delay…”

“No problem Bramster…we still biffles,” smiled Bambi.

“If you need anything just buzz me.”

“Thanks, Brammy!”

I suspected I knew why the medical team was holding off on the medical procedure.

It was that phone-call with Patient Admitting.

Unbeknownst to Bambi who had the innocence of a cartoon woodland creature, like her name, with the voracious sexual appetite of a feral tomcat, I had been informed by Admitting that Bambi’s complimentary stay as a patient on the North Wing of the Blue Mountain Pavilion would be coming to an abrupt end–as soon as a “another bed or space” in the hospital opened up.

Panic started to ruin my perfectly delicious,  complimentary, cup of Dark Forest blended, Huerig Machine Brewed, Cappuccino.

Poor Bambi. She was loving the constant attention, the flat screen TV with 100 channels, the delicious meals prepared by a world renowned chef, (I’ll admit, I too was growing particularly fond of the steak with broccoli, asparagus and carrots with chocolate covered strawberries for desert.) The only thing missing? A bottle of champagne, a couple of spliffs and some white lines to make these meals complete and to start the party right. The High Life would have to wait though. Health comes first. Always. Instead we watched, ” A Christmas Carol” and a terrific Cagney and Bogart film where they both get shot dead in the end. Bambi feeling bad about having ruined our weekend plans, and feeling much better due to her Morphine drip, surprised me with a fantastic late-night blowjob. Good thing her IV was set up on her left arm on the left side of the bed, as she whispered in her little girl voice how I was her favorite doctor and how she couldn’t wait to taste my thermometer, and get it dripping wet so she could slide it again and again into all her naughty places. Bambi was a creative genius at times, truly.

Amber had a cute reindeer on her nurse’s uniform.

I hated her intensely. She was slowly and meticulously cleaning the marble floor of our  room with a swiffer like a  robot from West World.

“Cute Reindeer, Amber”

“Thank you”

“Hopefully, we’ll be out of here before Santa shows up.”

“K, bye guys,” Amber said almost imperceptibly.

Oh, how I despised her.

Bram, the RN, had returned to add a Magnesium drip that would burn a little, but taken orally would induce diarrhea. And I didn’t need to hang around for that possibility. Besides, up until this point I had already scored a ton of dutiful boyfriend points. According to my suspicions, Amber had been carefully prepping Bambi’s suite for the imminent arrival of the next high-paying customer as we were about to be wheeled out to who knows where. Our free ride was about to end. The soft whispers from servants. Wheeled-in plated meals with silver metal covers, the delicious privacy, and pampering was all about to end for us. I just knew it. But when and how could I explain to Bambi that we were no longer royalty in Shangri-la, that we were being expelled from Eden and suddenly cast out among the coughing, shitting, virus-spreading, bleeding, half-crazed masses in Gen Pop.

Do I just tell her? Rip off the band-aid quickly or slowly finesse the thing. Turns out I didn’t have to do either.

“Ok, Miss Smithton, we found another space for you, how much time do you need to pack up so we can make this room available to an incoming patient?”

There was an awkward silence as Bambi looked at me and through me.

“Tanner? is this a terrible mistake?”

“I’m sorry honey, I should have told you earlier that the room was just a temporary accomodation…er um…Mrs. (looking at her badge) Rosenzwieg, excuse me but is there any way to find another private room on the floor or another floor?”

” I can certainly look into that for you Mr. Hoffman oh and uh,  Dr. Bishop… sends his regards, the older woman said with a wry smile.” “Be right back …By the way, we hope you enjoyed the Presidential Suite and that it was helpful in Ms. Smithton’s initial recovery.”

” Oh most certainly, Ms. Rosenzweig, Please thank the Bishop, I mean Dr. Bishop for the Hospital’s enormous generosity.”

“Absolutely,” Rosenzweig replied, “I will look into another private suite for Ms. Smithton immediately for you.”

Bambi looked at me with her big doe eyes and her amazingly big, fake breasts (Thanks, Dr. Palangia!) and she seemed confused. She understood she had to leave her room and she wasn’t happy–but what was to come next was really the big question.

Now, I liked Bambi- a whole lot. I mean she fucked like a rabbit and was pretty cool besides. But when Mrs. R came back to me and we discussed in the hallway the costs of private rooms ($2500-$4500) We both agreed that  General Population covered by Bambi’s health insurance seemed like the best, most prudent option.

So now it was just a matter of waiting for the orderlies to collect us and roll us into a patients elevator filled with young doctors, visitors and whatnots until we descended from the 22nd floor to our new “home” in the Hospital.

Patient Block E on the 3rd Floor. General Population. The next place the Hospital usually puts you  after you are first admitted via the ER.

Now being an aspiring writer I like to drink for inspiration. So, 3AM visits to the ER is nothing new for me. Many a time I have been admitted with a bloody appendage or wound from a stupid disagreement at a bar or some other such late-night misadventure. Who hasn’t, right?

You know the drill; Budweiser, Jack Daniels, sidewalk, darkness, pounding headache, blood, double vision,  cinematic recall in Eisenstein-like snapshots, ER.

The Emergency Room (ER) is a large, semi-compartmented waiting room that has an oppressive, homeless person stank to it. There are screamers and bleeders, moaners and grunge-covered criers, wheezers and “diers” (people who are dying). People who have scabs and crabs, who puke themselves (me!), pee themselves (me again!) and have the deep, deep blues with no where else to go. Some have shiners, tattoos, or bloated faces. All different races.

There’s Mama Dukes who lurches around like a Silverback Gorilla in a short sleeve shirt and massive arms, bug-eyed and complaining about the accommodations and service with her bowling ball breasts  and enormous posterior which she uses to bump her way through the crowd to get to the one shared bathroom in the block that is constantly being hosed down by a janitorial technician who definitely does not get paid enough, whatever the ammount.

“Watch out, watch out…I used to be a marine,” Mama Dukes warns, her own stink and menace preceding her as she makes her way through the unit railing out about life’s injustices. “Out of my WAY!” Patients, nurses, orderlies-no one seems to want to tangle with Mama Dukes, except at some point a team of five badge-wearing security guards who are eventually called in to maintain order and provide a visual deterrent whenever Mama D or any other patient goes “code red.”

“Hello?”

“Helloooo?” A sonorous voice echoes.

“Hello, nurse?”

“Hello.” “Hello.” “Hello, Nurse?,” sounding now more and more like a crying child.

“Hellllloooooo?”

“Nurse?”

“Yes, Mr. Houston…we’re here. We are all attending to sick patients right now.”

“I wants my phone.”

“We can’t help you right now”

“Hello.”

Silence.

“Helloooooooo?”

More silence.

“Hello nurse! ”

Still only silence.

“I wants my phone.”

“We will help you in a little while.”

“That’s what you said an hour ago.”

“It hasn’t been an hour.”

“What? What is it? Is it because I’m black? Is it because I’m blind?”

“No, it’s because you are an asshole,” another black patient calls out unsympathetically from the other side of the block to some muted laughter.

An orderly witnessing the disturbance as he is walking by  says, “what do you need?”

“I needs my phone.”

“Where is it?”

“It fell on the floor.”

“There you go.”

“Thank you–and I’m NOT an asshole…I’m BLIND…you dumb MOTHERFUCKERS…how would YOU all like to be black and blind? I’m not afraid to say it…I’m BLACK and I’m BLIND…do you all hear me? I’m BLACK …AND …I’m BLIND!

“OK, Mr. Houston, No one’s arguing with you.”

“Yeah, but someone called ME an asshole.”

“It’s OK Mr. Houston, let’s all please settle down.”

“I ain’t no asshole.”

The old black and blind man was very frail and looked to have been rescued from the street. He clutched his phone like it had magical soothing powers although upon closer inspection it was clear the phone did not work. His feet were very large and caked white with illness of some sort. His scalp had scars and he grabbed at the thin, white hospital blanket for warmth, twisting around and around. He murmured quietly to himself almost like a small animal. It seemed like he had a need to make noises as a way to make sure he knew he was there and that everybody else knew he was also there. Alive, still. Mr. Houston was enjoying being the center of attention in the E block. Even as a disruptor, he knew that he had a captive audience that could really see and hear him– and confirm his actual existence, even if his world was slightly darker than most others.

The vibe in Gen Pop could change on a dime. Occasional night terrors and bed screams, and violent outbursts and bizarre arguments interspersed with loud snoring and the soothing sound of caretakers; the nurses and doctors and orderlies attending to the sick, ordering tests, dispensing medicine and distributing meals. Bringing civility and order to a room filled with varying degrees of misery and degradation.  The younger nurses, not nearly as jaded as their older counterparts always seem much more willing to put up with the hard cases like Mrs. Pigeon, as I like to call her because of her sharp nose, bifocals and old-fashioned dress pulled straight from a Norman Rockwell painting. Mrs. P. sat on the cot speaking to a young nurse and politely asked if the staff had found her husband. For a solid half hour, in every variation possible, Mrs Pigeon would make small talk with the nurse only to eventually bring the topic back to the matter of when the staff was going to locate her missing husband. Another older patient sitting nearby whispered to me, “Isn’t it so sad…that the nurses won’t do anything to help this poor woman find her husband?” I politely and discreetly informed Mrs. Helper that Mrs. Pigeon was actually an “regular” –a homeless person of sorts, who had sadly lost her husband– many years prior to a life of consumption. Which I guess  made me somewhat of a regular too –to be privy to such matters. I guess I’m just a guy who can’t say no…to a pretty bartender.

“Good news, Miss Smithton,” Mrs. Rosenzweig said as she poked her head back into the Presidential Suite, looked at her clipboard and shot me a sly smile. Your lab numbers are dropping nicely. 33 at last glance. Dr. Bishop actually made a personal call to your supervising physician Dr. Wiseberg, and with a dramatic drop like this we are going to  order some new labs –and if the trend continues …we should be able to send you home by tomorrow night or the following afternoon.”

“That’s terrific,” said all. (Wow! I guess Uncle Billy REALLY did know “The Bishop” after all!, I thought to myself)

” …and in regards to the matter of the room switch?,” I asked meekly.

“Let’s just keep Ms. Smithton right here as our special guest in the Blue Mountain Presidential Suite. It seems to be suiting her recovery quite well. Makes no sense to inconvenience her at this point.”

“Absolutely. That’s so kind.”

“Of course”

Bambi was so happy with the resolution of the room situation that when Mrs. R started to look back over her clipboard, Bambi expertly grazed the front of my Dockers, scraping her long nails gently over where Mr. Sebastian Doozleworth III had been hiding, as a way to say, come out come out wherever you are…all is now finally forgiven. Thank goodness for that.

“Excuse me. Dinner menu, Miss Smithton,” cooed a beautiful Eurasian meals attendant named Jasmina.

“Oh what a nice view,” said Rosenzweig playfully, clearly enjoying her role as Santa Claus in my little drama, “What is that out there? Queens?”

“Yes,” I replied gently,  staring out the enormous window. “When I was a little boy I was always obsessed with those large red chimney stacks with the red rings over there,” I offered.

“Nice memory, I’m sure. Forgive me Mr. Hoffman, as I must continue to make my rounds. So glad to have been able to bring you good news.”

“You certainly did. Thank you immensely,” I murmured, still looking intensely at those magnificent chimney stacks thinking to myself how things always look so different from high up.

Adam Kluger

Banner Image: author’s own.

5 thoughts on “High & Low by Adam Kluger

  1. Ever since you introduced us to the weird, wonderful and hilarious world of Mr Klumpner I’ve always noticed two common traits in your work – good dialogue and well-drawn, believable characters. More of the same here and another enjoyable read.

    Like

  2. Hi Adam,
    I echo what Nik has said!
    I would also say that you have touched on a class issue here which is tragic when you think on it regarding health issues. Maybe a middle ground is what we should strive for.

    All the very best my friend.
    Hugh

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s