Memory light medicine, p.4
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       Memory, Light & Medicine, p.4

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  Vicki guided Logan through the parking lot so that her brother might cast his eyes downward and away from the bright sky. Thomas waited for them in the family car. He listened to that afternoon’s baseball game broadcast on the radio, mumbling when the home team’s pitcher failed to move a runner to second base with a properly executed bunt. Elaine hummed into her passenger seat, and instantly removed a paperback book from her purse so that she could square her eyes onto the pages. Logan and Vicki hardly had time to fasten their seatbelts before Thomas pulled away from the parking lot.

  That itch within his nose receded when Logan closed his eyes. He felt the car gain speed as it turned onto the highway. He listened to his mother hum.

  “Do you think you’re the only ballplayer to ever break his nose, son?”

  Logan opened his eyes, and the sunlight made them water. He looked into the rear view mirror and saw his father regarding him. Logan wondered why he hadn’t realized his father’s nose turned crooked at its bridge.

  “Answer me, Logan.”

  “I suppose not.”

  “I had my nose broken three times playing football, son. Not once did I go to any hospital. Not once. Back then, a coach would just grab your busted nose and pull it back into place. Wasn’t any need for doctors, and nurses and procedures that put you asleep. Hell, I returned to the game on all three occasions. I played through the pain. I ran down the field and scored touchdowns no matter I could hardly breath for my swelling nose. Your grandfather would never have driven you to any hospital.”

  Elaine’s continued humming didn’t disappoint Logan. He didn’t expect her to speak for him. But he was very surprised when it was Vicki who snarled back at her father.

  “I don’t think you need to growl any more at Logan. Isn’t a broken nose enough punishment for missing those grounders yesterday morning?”

  “That’s enough, Vicki,” father growled back. “Open your eyes, Logan. I’ve seen noses broken far worse than yours. A ballplayer can’t cry every time he gets hurt.”

  “He isn’t crying at all.”

  “Vicki, I said that’s enough,” Thomas’ voice turned louder.

  Logan winced. The sunlight worsened the tickle within his nose. He ground his teeth together, but that urge to sneeze intensified. He shuddered, and then he lost control. He neck whipped backwards. His face suddenly jolted forward, and Logan sneezed with a force that sent wadding and bandages flying from his nostrils and pain searing through his body.

  “God dammit, Logan! God dammit!” Thomas screamed.

  “Don’t yell at him, dad! Don’t yell at him!”

  Thomas tasted copper on his tongue, the blood dripping from his face. His hands desperately shoved the bandages back into his swollen nose. He hurried to staunch the blood. He was making the situation worse. He was stoking father’s temper.

  “Gad dammit, Logan! God dammit!”

  “Stop shouting! Stop yelling at him!”

  Logan couldn’t remember ever hearing his sister shout. He hardly recalled Vicki ever raising her voice. His sister was always so dutiful. She never complained when father and mother dragged her from one of Logan’s games to another. Vicki never protested. Yet she screamed as loudly as she could from that backseat, and she jumped forward to strike the back of father’s head with her small hands.

  “Stop yelling! Stop yelling!”

  The car briefly swerved over the centerline. A car in the oncoming lane blared its horn, and father safely wrestled the car back onto the proper side. Thomas then turned his shoulders, and with the speed and reflexes that made him such a graceful and winning athlete, he struck Vicki across the jaw with the back of his hand. Vicki fell into her seat. She immediately silenced as she buried her head into the cushions. Logan’s heart broke as he watched her start to tremble – because he couldn’t properly field ground balls, because he couldn’t resist that temptation to sneeze.

  The bruise the back of father’s hand left on Vicki’s cheek would vanish far more quickly than the swelling that circled Logan’s face. Yet Logan feared Vicki suffered a greater hurt. He was still a young boy, but somehow he knew that the back of father’s hand destroyed what little resistance ever rooted in Vicki’s heart.

  Logan found his father’s eyes glaring upon him whenever he peeked into the rear-view mirror during the remainder of the trip home. He would not sneeze again. He resisted the urge by closing his eyes and listening to his mother’s unbroken humming.

  * * * * *

  Logan thought about that trip home from the hospital as he sat in the examining room and waited to learn what the CAT scan discovered regarding that marble-size lump he felt within his chest. He looked into the mirror, and he could hardly see any trace of that injury after so many years. He believed the tip of his nose may have been a little flatter, perhaps a bit wider. His nose ran rather straight, but he knew he snored loudly through the night thanks to a septum that remained crooked.

  “Forgive me for keeping you waiting, Mr. Voss. I’m sure you’re anxious.”

  The doctor’s voice startled Logan, who tightened as his thoughts time-travelled back into the present. Logan watched the doctor pin a series of black and white images upon a light table mounted upon the wall. The images told him nothing. His chest might as well have been filled with smoke and clouds for all Logan discerned from those scans. The doctor would know how to read the future suggested in those images, and Logan felt his pulse quicken in the anticipation of hearing that man’s reading.

  “How bad is it?”

  The doctor smiled. “It’s hard to say if it’s even bad at all.”

  “What does that mean?”

  “It means we don’t know, Mr. Voss.” The doctor sat at a counter, and the man’s fingers scratched a pen across a clipboard of paperwork while he directed the remainder of his attention at his patient. “The images show that your suspicious are correct. There’s something in your chest. Yet I’m afraid that the scans tell us little else. We can’t determine through those scans if that mass is getting any larger. Perhaps we will with some time. But not yet. We can’t tell if that mass might be benevolent or malign, or whether it might be spreading anything cancerous through your blood. We know it’s there. We know it’s more than imagination. But I have to admit that we don’t know much more than that.”

  “So what do we do now?”

  “We can try a few more scans. We can try a few more tests. We can monitor that mass to recognize if it grows any larger. We can wait, and we can note any symptom that might possibly indicate that mass is threatening. Or, we can undergo exploratory surgery, to possibly remove the mass altogether so we can study it and know with much more certainty what is happening within your body.”

  “What do you think is best?”

  “I would advise that you undergo surgery to remove the mass. It might not be anything at all, or it could be something we can’t afford to leave festering within you.”

  Logan frowned. He worried he would struggle to afford the procedure. He already taxed the limits of his insurance, and he feared the newspaper wouldn’t forgive him should he need to lose any more time away from his duty of drafting black and white display ads for the county shopper. Perhaps he gave the lump too much concern. He couldn’t remember how long ago it had been when he first felt that mass in the center of his chest. He never noticed the lump growing, but what did that tell him? He wished the scans would’ve told him more. It was easy for the doctor to advise surgery, but the doctor didn’t have to scramble to find the means to pay for such medicine. Yet how much longer could he get away with doing nothing?

  “I need time to consider what’s best.”

  The doctor nodded. “I understand, Mr. Voss, but I urge you not to let too much time pass. The sooner we can take significant action against this kind of symptom, the better it will be for you.”

  The smartphone buzzed in Logan’s pocket the moment he stepped out of the clinic. Sister Vicki sent him texts. Mother Elaine left a half dozen voicema
ils. Those messages again claimed that the light burned away the mist that choked father Thomas’ mind. The messages spoke that father Thomas had returned to them. Those messages claimed that none of father’s memories had yet evaporated following his last session with the light, and those messages told Logan that his father requested him. Logan sat behind his steering wheel and considered if he should hurry to his family.

  Though the trip was long, Logan turned his vehicle towards home. Work would have to understand, and if it did not, Logan took comfort that another change of employment was not so difficult for a man without children or spouse. He remained skeptical. He couldn’t believe that father asked for him. He didn’t have faith that the light restored his father’s mind. But he would drive home nonetheless, for attending to the needs of his father seemed less formidable than the task of attending to his own.

  * * * * *

  Chapter 8 – Magic and Miracle

  The black semi-trailer waited just beyond the centerfield fence of the public park’s baseball diamond. The park department long ago pulled away the aluminum bleachers, and the concrete dugouts had been replaced by mason block structures exposed to the wind. A new scoreboard rose beyond left field. But rock and dirt still composed the infield. Logan recognized the irony of the location. Why should his family expect their father to return anywhere else than upon some baseball or football field? A laundry mat’s storefront or a pizza joint’s parking lot would’ve supplied ugly settings for his family’s reunion. Thomas Voss never outgrew his obsessions with hitting curve balls or striking golf balls. The crack of a baseball striking a bat might cement Thomas’ memory when the presence of his family could not.

  Logan wondered if his father would remember the injury his son suffered on that baseball diamond behind the semi-trailer, or if the light would only summon the most pleasant of memories within Thomas Voss’ mind. Did Logan care if his father forgot the hurt he inflicted upon him one morning while taking infield practice? Could Logan forgive his father for that injury if doing so meant a kinder version of Thomas Voss would arrive from the light? Could Logan forget that broken nose, and so many other hurts, as well as his father might?

  “Over here, Logan! Hurry!” Elaine waved to her son from the top step of the folding stairs rising into the trailer. “Your father can’t wait to see you!”

  Logan made himself smile, and he hurried into the trailer’s viewing chamber as his mother pulled at his arm.

  Thomas Voss stood in the center of the room. Logan thought twenty years must’ve dropped from his father’s frame. Thomas was no longer a stooped, frail man who shuffled through his dementia from one location to the next. Thomas stood straight and proud following his time in the light chamber. His shoulders remained wide, and the flesh of his face was tight. Logan imagined his father might simply walk out of the trailer and begin jogging around the bases of the ball diamond. Logan thought the light must’ve erased the age spots and wrinkles that afflicted his father following the onset of Thomas’ dementia.

  Logan stared at his father. He couldn’t think of anything to say.

  “Aren’t you happy to see me, son? I’m very happy to see you.”

  “I don’t know,” Logan stammered.

  Logan quickly felt suspicious as he watched Thomas Voss’ eyes drift downwards. Thomas Voss never looked at the ground. Could the lights of so much therapy have summoned a doppelganger or spirit to occupy his father’s body?

  “Son,” Thomas Voss gathered a breath and lifted his head, “I’m so very sorry.”

  Logan reeled. He never believed in the magic, and he felt dizzy after the miracle unfolded.

  * * * * *

  “Do you really think it will work? Do you think it would be profitable?”

  “Of course it will work, Vicki,” Thomas answered. “You only have to believe in yourself. You have the instincts and the intelligence for it. You’re not afraid of the effort. All you need now is faith in yourself.”

  Elaine scurried about her daughter’s kitchen, scrambling to prepare her husband’s favorite dish of roasted beef. She hurried to peel the potatoes and get them into the boiling pot soon enough to give her time for the mashing. She checked on the butter rolls rising in the oven. Her family gathered in the living room of Vicki’s apartment. The light reunited them. The television remained dark and silent, projecting no distracting football games or golf matches. Thomas didn’t snore on the couch. The children didn’t scatter into their separate rooms. Her family cried, but they more often laughed. Thomas was happy, and he gave his attention to his children. Thomas Voss returned as the man Elaine always knew he might be.

  “But you don’t think the candles and crystals are strange?”

  “You believe in them, Vicki, and that’s enough for me.” Thomas smiled. “Your purpose has always been to heal people. I should’ve told you how proud you always made me.”

  The light therapy delivered all its promises. A timer buzzed, and Elaine hurried to pull the cinnamon and apple pie out of the oven. It was Thomas’ favorite recipe, the recipe for the pie Elaine’s mother would bake for him shortly after they were married, a recipe Elaine hadn’t put together for years. She had reason for it now that her family was together again. The lights did so much more than retrieve Thomas’ mind. The lights also redeemed him to his children. The lights saved Thomas’ very soul. Elaine didn’t regret paying any of that therapy’s bills. Just as she had promised to her children, the price seemed so insignificant after Thomas returned to them. Thanks to the light, her family had time to make amends. The light would give them the time they needed to heal. She hummed with joy and listened to the sentiments her family shared.

  “Son, do you remember the time you learned to ride your first bicycle?”

  “I can barely remember how you pushed me, and how you let go of the bike when I took my hands off of the handlebars.”

  Thomas chuckled. “I didn’t want you to get too proud. I wanted you to be the best little bike rider in our neighborhood.”

  “You wanted me to be the best at everything.”

  “I know,” Thomas sighed. “I always put so much pressure on you. But you made me so happy that day you learned to ride your bike, Logan. You fell in the puddles. You even fell in the ditch. And there was so much water because it had rained all morning. You scraped your legs. You bruised your hands. But you just kept going. That’s how badly you wanted to do it. You never even needed training wheels. I’ll never forget that day, Logan. I swear that I’ll never lose that memory.”

  Elaine continued humming at the dinner table. She was too happy to eat. Her husband’s appetite churned through the meal. She smiled and watched Thomas look through all of the catalogs filled with candles and crystals Vicki presented to him. She was thrilled to watch Thomas listen to Logan’s description of the work he did for various newspapers of employment. The children didn’t have to sit quietly at their chairs. Thomas didn’t growl at them. Not once did he reprimand Vicki for wanting to stay an hour later decorating the high school gym for homecoming. Not once did he belittle Logan for another loss suffered by his team. It was the family table Elaine had always imagined, the table she had always wanted.

  Elaine hurried out of the kitchen carrying the apple pie. “I’ve made your favorite dessert, Thomas. I’ve baked it just how my mother used to bake it for you right after we were married.”

  Thomas blinked. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

  “You favorite pie. I made it just like I told you I would when we arrived home from the light therapy.”

  Thomas stared at his wife, and she held her breath. His face locked. He looked confused, and Elaine feared she saw a cloud of mist in the corners of Thomas’ eyes.

  “You remember, Thomas. Don’t you remember? You could never have enough of it.”

  Thomas blinked, and his mind returned to the present. “Of course I remember. I only forgot for a second. I only needed you to remind me.”

  Elaine did her best t
o avoid worrying over Thomas’ lapse. The light therapy returned much, and it returned only the very best. It was unfair for her to expect the light wouldn’t forget something. She told herself that Thomas’ unfamiliarity with that apple pie recipe was no reason for her to fear her husband’s mind was again slipping. Yet she couldn’t help but repeatedly peek into Thomas’ eyes while her family laughed and smiled throughout the day of their reunion. She noticed how Thomas’ fingers twitched. She counted each moment Thomas’ eyes darted about the room, as if he had forgotten for a second that the apartment belonged to his daughter.

  The light therapy gave Elaine Voss everything it promised. It gave her more than she expected. Yet Elaine’s faith still cracked for the first time.

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