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Ruby between the cracks, p.21
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       Ruby Between the Cracks, p.21

           P.D. Workman
 

  * * *

  Drug rehab was not as hard as the rehab Ruby found herself having to go through after the stroke. Walking was difficult. Talking was even harder. Ruby could manage one or two words at a time coherently, but after that her speech dissolved into unintelligible gibberish. Ruby found herself easily angered. She got furious when her feet wouldn’t move the right way or she couldn’t make herself understood. The doctor said that it was a mild stroke and she was lucky to have gotten through it with so little damage. Suddenly, instead of being surrounded by other addicts and hard cases, Ruby found herself surrounded by cripples and sick people, and they did scare her.

  Her therapist was a young man, a tall sturdy fellow named Dickenson. He was tough, never letting her slack off at all. He pushed her to the point of collapse, and further if he could. He just laughed when she swore at him, and egged her on when she fought him. Ruby was strong, but her coordination was shot. When she tried to hit him, she had about a fifty-fifty chance of hitting her target. If she missed, Dickenson laughed at her and told her to try again. He made Ruby furious.

  Marty was patient when she came to visit Ruby, listening to her carefully and giving her lots of time to speak.

  “You get a good sleep last night?”

  Ruby shook her head. Sleeping was the hardest thing. And not only was she alone, but there was a constant din of voices and phones and footsteps in the hallway and at the nurses’ station. Nurses came in to check her vital signs every couple of hours. She’d had a couple of episodes since awakening that she stopped breathing, so at night she was always hooked up to monitors to warn the staff of any complications. The doctor said that her brain was rewiring itself, and after a while the incidents would stop.

  “N-no. Had d-d-dreams.”

  “It’s so strange not having you at home,” Marty commented. “I was so used to you being there at least some of the time. The house seems empty.”

  Ruby nodded. Marty picked up Stella and put her back on the blanket in the corner where her toys were. She saw a writing pad on the table under the window, and picked it up.

  “Are you practicing your writing?” she questioned.

  Ruby nodded.

  “H-hard.”

  Marty studied the page. It was illegible, but it was obvious that Ruby had labored for a long time over it. Ruby’s fine motor skills were at the level of a two year old. Marty had watched Stella perform tasks that Ruby now had difficulty with.

  Dickenson walked into the room.

  “Morning, Ruby. Hi, Marty.”

  “Hello Mr. Dickenson,” Marty greeted.

  “Hi,” Ruby managed.

  “How’re you today?”

  “F-fine.”

  “Ready to get to work?”

  Ruby nodded. Dickenson slid Ruby’s feet off the side of the bed and gave her a hand standing up. He grabbed the walker that was sitting a few feet away and handed it to her. Ruby slid her feet carefully one after the other to move forwards into the hallway.

  “Pick up your feet,” Dickenson ordered sharply.

  Ruby did for a couple of steps, and then started to shuffle again.

  “I’m not putting you on sticks until you learn to pick up your feet.”

  Ruby turned her head and swore at him. Dickenson just laughed.

  “You’re figuring out how to walk and talk at the same time now, huh?”

  Ruby concentrated on raising her feet off the floor to walk normally. After a few steps she slammed her hand down on the walker.

  “I c-can’t!”

  He steadied the walker.

  “You do that, you’re going to fall flat on your face, Simpson. And I’m not going to catch you. Just take it easy,” he warned.

  Ruby shoved the walker away furiously.

  “I—c-can’t!”

  She tottered, trying to get her balance without the walker there to steady her. She tried to grab onto Dickenson, but missed and fell down. Dickenson looked down at her and didn’t move to help her up.

  “What did I tell you?”

  Ruby got to a kneeling position and held out her hand for him to help her up. He didn’t move.

  “You’re too impatient, Ruby. You have to learn that it’s not all going to happen in a day. It takes time and lots of hard work. I’ve rehabilitated plenty harder cases then yours, but you have to work with me.”

  “H-help m-m-me!”

  Dickenson retrieved the walker and brought it over to her. He talked her through the steps to get back up, repositioning a hand or foot for her, but not picking her up himself. Ruby finally got back up into an upright position, sweat dripping from her face.

  “Now are you going to do that again?”

  “N-no.”

  “Good. Let’s walk down to the elevator and go to the rehab room.”
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