Chapter 6 – Hudson School
Mother & Henry @ Hospital
(© SK Figler, 2020)
Henry was tired of crying and screaming, but he hadn’t got what he wanted yet, so he forced some more. Miss Thurston stood by his bed, hugging herself tight, scowling down at him. Miss Lenahan hugged herself, too, but over by the window, looking out, tapping a shoe.
Dr. Israel crouched by Henry’s bed and held up a corner of a sheet to wipe his face. Henry pushed it away and cried louder, although it was getting harder to do, mainly because he wasn’t used to it. He didn’t like to cry and didn’t like it when other kids did. He usually felt more in control holding it in. But sometimes crying worked, although not yet this time.
It was morning free-play time and the other kids were outside running around and making noise. He would rather be out there, but what he really wanted was to go to the hospital and see Jacob. “But he can’t see you,” said Dr. Israel. “His eyes are bandaged. Can you understand?”
That was worth a big new scream. Miss Thurston turned away. Miss Lenahan said, “Jesus!” and Dr. Israel lowered his head and sighed. They were giving up. But you couldn’t be sure, so Henry cried some more. Dr. Israel stood and said, “All right, Miss Thurston, get Henry presentable, I’ll warm up one of the station wagons.
* * * * *
“What’s that?” said Henry. He knelt on the front seat looking past Dr. Israel’s face, past the widely spaced trees and the low rock wall to the rolling fields of mowed grass and patches of white sand and little red flags on skinny poles going past every so often.
“Golf. It’s a golf course,” said Dr. Israel. His eyes looked squished and above them were wrinkles like Father had. “Golf is a game that older people play.”
“Is it f-f-f-f. Is it f-fun?”
“On whether you win, or at the very least, whether you play well.”
Win. This was an important word. Mother and Father talked about it. It was one of he few things they didn’t argue over.
The station wagon slowed and stopped. It turned left and soon the golf course became small stores made of bricks. “Your father’s new store is right over there.” Dr. Israel pointed. Henry dropped down into the seat and ducked his head. “It’s early. The stores aren’t open yet.” Dr. Israel rubbed the top of Henry’s head. “We’re going to Bronxville, just a few more miles.”
Henry knew about Bronxville, because Jacob said that’s where Father lived now. Henry didn’t want to see Father, especially without Jacob. “B-b-but you said we were g-g-g-going to see Jacob at the h-h-um the hospital.”
“The hospital is in Bronxville, too. Your father won’t be there. He told me he was busy. But your mother will be there. Isn’t that a nice surprise?”
Henry’s face got hot. Sometimes if he tapped a hand on his leg, the words came out better. “She’s in Florida. I-I-I, uh, I never been there.”
“Well, she’s here now, to see your brother. And you, of course.”
“Y-y-you s-said Jacob c-c-can’t s-s-s-see.” Henry’s chest got tighter. He was going to see her.
“It’s another kind of see, Henry. Anyway, you’ll see her soon.” Dr. Israel didn’t want to talk any more about it, and neither did Henry.
* * * * *
Mother leaned over Jacob and pushed a nurse away with her arm. Mother’s skin was brown. Her hair was yellow. It used to be brown, but it was still Mother. She straightened up and Henry saw the big square white bandages over Jacob’s eyes and face and his hands. His feet, too Everything was hiding inside big bandages. His hands looked like they must be swollen three times their size. And they were tied to metal rails on both sides of the bed. He looked like a prisoner.
Henry sniffled. The tears and snot were real now. Mother turned and saw him and looked away to Dr. Israel, and said, “I hold you responsible for this tragedy.”
“Who else?” said Dr. Israel.
“No, just you,” she said, reaching and pointed at him like she wanted to stab him with a red fingernail.
“That’s what I meant,” he said, almost like a kid.
“How could you do this to my child? How could you?” She was screaming. Henry hated when Mother screamed. Jacob hated it worse than him. But Jacob didn’t move or say anything, like he was asleep. Or dead.
“Henry’s here, Jakey,” Dr. Israel said. He was trying to be cheery.
“Don’t change the subject,” Mother said. Henry felt Dr. Israel’s hand squeeze his shoulder. Maybe Dr. Israel thought his feelings were hurt, but that was nothing new. Mother talked about that a lot, how children shouldn’t let their feelings get hurt, how it happens a lot in life, and how big boys don’t let things bother them. She’d always say, “You want to be a big boy, don’t you?” and he’d nod, because she wanted him to agree. Then she’d say, “Don’t just nod, speak up,” so he’d say whatever he could get out, “Yes” or “Uh-huh.”
“I should be able to trust you,” Mother said. Henry thought she was talking to him, but then she said, “I’m paying you enough.”
“Actually, your father is paying the school fees,” Dr. Israel said. He meant Pop Louis., but Pop Louis was dead. Henry tried to say that, but the “P” got stuck in his throat, it wouldn’t even come up enough to make a sound. He was turning hot and red again.
Dr. Israel squeezed Henry’s shoulder again and said to Mother, “”I apologize, I misstated that. It’s actually your father’s estate that is paying.”
Mother gave one of her looks and said, “As far as you are concerned, Dr. Israel, it’s the same thing.” Henry tried to figure out what that was about but decided it was just grown-up stuff. Dr. Israel squeezed Henry’s shoulder harder, so he squirmed a little and the hand lifted.
“I’ve a mind to take my boys out of your school immediately,” Mother said.
“If I didn’t like your boys so much, I’d happily let them go, Mrs. Braun. But I know that you’ll have a difficult time placing them in another private boarding school, which means you’ll be stuck with them. I’ve come to know you would not like that.”
“Which is none of your business, mister. Since you are responsible for my Jacob’s condition, he will stay with you at your expense, until I decide otherwise. As for Henry, I will take him with me.”
For the first time since he and Dr. Israel came into Jacob’s hospital room, Henry saw her look at him. “Henry, you need to be with someone who loves you.”