Bubbles rolls over and retches again. Her mouth, sour and dry as ashes. All around her is noise and confusion. The air is heavy with the smell of disinfectant. How long has she lain here? A couple hours? Or has it been, like, days? Biting her lip, she draws her arm across her eyes. If she lays as still as possible, the pain is bearable. She slips into a hazy stupor.
“Qual perna é? Este?” Bubbles lets out a yelp. A searing pain shoots through her leg, as businesslike hands explore between her knee and ankle. The doctor speaks to the nurse, “Fractura simples da tibia.” Leaning over her, he plants his fingers over one eye, pulling back the lid and shines a light, flicking it back and forth. Then again to the other eye. “Concussão possível.” Squinting, the doctor regards her while tapping his chin with a ball point pen.
Through parched lips she croaks, “American . . . I’m American. Um, Eu não falo Portuguese.”
“Hmmmm. American girl. You are lucky. Not bad . . . not good, but not so bad. Simple fracture of the tibia. We will set it, but you must wait. I must go.”
Bubbles struggles to rouse herself, but the nurse gently pushes her back down. Clucking her tongue and shaking her head, the nurse snaps on a pair of gloves. She pats Bubbles forehead and says, “Now you rest. This something for make you rest.” Bubbles flinches as the needle enters her thigh. A roaring rises in her her ears as the sedative floods her with a warm enveloping weightlessness.
Bubbles stirs awake to find another doctor, this one, small, intense, with dark circles under his eyes, applying a cast of some sort to her leg. He seems to pay little attention to the job at hand as he angrily shouts at a nearby orderly, who rolls his eyes as he continues to mop the floor. The doctor tugs the last velcro strap in place, then stands back a moment to consider his work. He then faces Bubbles, holds up four fingers and says, scowling,
“Quatro semanas. Four weeks. You may remove it to bathe, but always other times you must keep it on, even to sleep.”
He then runs both hands through his thinning hair, makes a short bow, turns on his heels and vanishes. On cue, a middle aged woman in a worn hospital jacket and a clipboard appears. Pursing her lips and wrinkling her nose, she sits down. Regarding Bubbles over her half glasses, she crosses her legs, tugs on her jacket and then begins her official interrogation.
“So you are American. Miss . . .?”
“What is the purpose of your visit to Rio?”
“Um, I’m here for only a few days. On vacation.”
“No, with my boyfriend.”
“And where is he?”
“He’s—that’s Marco—he’s rock climbing, like, all day. He left early in the morning and he won’t be back until after dark. So I was just out, hanging out, you know, seeing the sights, catching the vibe.”
“So, how does this happen? —To your leg?”
“Oh, wow, you’re not going to believe this, it is so wack! There I was, just grooving along the sidewalk, and it’s pretty crowded, you know? And I’ve got my music on, with my ear buds, and I got it cranked up pretty good, like loud, right? And I’m in my own little world, my eyes kinda closed, then I look up and I’m right in the middle of these two dudes, and they’re spinning and kicking, but it’s like a dance, right?”
“—and wham! I get a flying heel right to the side of my head! And I go staggering back into a bunch of guys—who are banging on these things, like a bent stick with a wire strung on it—and they tried to catch me, but I caught my foot on something and fell over this low wall, and I heard this bad sound, like a cracking sound, and I’m writhing around on the ground and I’m hollering and everybody’s freaking out, and then these two gorgeous dudes—white pants and no shirts, all muscles and shit—they picked me up and hustled me into the back of a van and they drove me here to the hospital. And that’s pretty much it. But I didn’t get their names, we couldn’t understand each other . . . much.”
“I am very sorry for your misfortune, Miss Callahan. Now, I just need a bit more information and you can be released. Do you have your passport?”
“Um, yeah, I’ve got it here in my bag . . . My bag! Where’s my bag! Shit! My money! Traveler’s checks! Where’s my bag?!”
“I don’t know anything about your bag. Are you sure you arrived with it?”
“Oh, I—I don’t . . . know. Maybe those guys have it. Or they left it. Oh, this is so fucked.”
“But do I have to pay? For the doctor?”
“No, no, this is a public hospital. You do not have to pay. However, you must go now. We need this bed.”
The woman rises and quickly returns holding a worn-looking wooden crutch. The rubber cushion is pocked and torn.
“You will need this. Muleta. Crutch. And these pills. They are for the pain. One every four hours. Go now. You are released. Be careful, Miss Callahan, and God Bless.”
An orderly appears, a large dark man with hairy arms. He firmly but gently gathers Bubbles from the bed and into a wheelchair. He places the crutch across her lap and quickly and smoothly wheels her out of the front of the hospital. Deftly lifting her from the wheelchair, he gracefully eases her onto a public bench on the hospital plaza. Turning towards the street, he whistles sharply and gestures to a spidery-looking man, leaning against a street vendor’s cart. The man acknowledges the orderly with a little wave of his hand. He straightens his hat, smooths his lapels and takes a long, last pull on his cigarette. Flicking the butt over his shoulder, smoke trailing from his nostrils, he ambles slowly towards where Bubbles sits.
“Você precisa de um táxi?”
Bubbles Meets the Prince of Darkness
International Assholes' Day
Bubbles Runs the Voodoo Down
Bubbles Takes a Magic Carpet Ride
Big Brown lets Bubbles Down
Bubbles, Baked and Fried
Bubbles, Biff and Binny
Bubbles and the 99 cent Epiphany
Bubbles' Trip To See the Doctor
The Doctor and the Prince of Darkness Meet Again
The Doctor and the Naked Glory
More Troubles for Bubbles
What a Lame Vacation
In Careless Act, 17 Drown, 3 Survive.