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[Matt     3rd place]

Trip Contest entry four

Love Trip
By Matthew Strebe 2003
e-mail:  mbs+aol@connetic.net

Pain, the most intense he'd ever felt, pulsed through Alan's mind as he clutched his left thigh with both hands. The throbbing, modulating pain originated in his knee. He barely felt the cold hard surface of the sidewalk or the piteous glances of those who shuffled by on the way to their lives.

The siren sounded out of nowhere suddenly and then stopped next to him. Two men efficiently assessed his condition, loaded him onto a gurney, and deposited him in the back of the ambulance. The moving hurt a little, but the promise of medical treatment salved the pain.

Pain blurred time for Alan. He resorted to naming his toes to keep insanity at bay while the ambulance lurched inconstantly towards it's destination. He thought someone might be in the ambulance with him, but he couldn't concentrate on the question long enough for an answer to form. Time ebbed by; Alan felt the full intensity of each individual second while waiting for further treatment. Relief would come, he told himself.

Eventually, the ambulance stopped and the two efficient medics opened the back of the ambulance again. As efficiently as before, he found himself rushing through the antiseptic hallways of the emergency room. Lights, faces, and sounds rushed by; Alan's inability to concentrate on any of them created an abstract mishmash of sensation out of these discreet events.

Somebody was handling him now. He felt a hand in his pocket.

"Hey, leave my wallet alone you bastard!"

"Mr. Jones, you're in shock. Try to concentrate on my voice. Please lay back. I removed your wallet to get your ID. You need to lay back down on the gurney now. Lay down. Lay down. That's right."

"There better not be anything missing."

"There won't be. We need to get your pants off so we can take a look at your knee. We're going to cut them off because your knee is too swollen to pull them down."

"Okay. Can I get something for the pain?"

"In just a few minutes."

"It's cold in here."

"We'll get you a blanket in a few minutes too. How did this happen?"

"I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk on my way to the subway and landed on my knee."

The pain seemed duller than before--or at least, Alan became used to its presence. He could concentrate on things again. The orderly or nurse working on cutting his pants off worked gently as he stared at her. Her short black hair was cut just above her shoulders. Her pale skin contrasted beautifully with it. She had a small Roman nose. Her eyebrows furrowed as she worked on his pants with the scissors. She seemed to be slightly shorter than usual. To Alan, she seemed like an Angel.

She suddenly stopped working and looked at her nametag.

"How did you know my name? Do I know you from somewhere?"

"What?"

"You just said my name--Well, the name I went by in college, anyway. Did you go to State?"

"Um, no. UCLA is my Alma Matter."

"Well then how'd you know my middle name is Angel?"

Alan wondered if he'd said that aloud. "Just a lucky guess."

She looked at him for a moment, then went back to work on his pants. In a moment, she lifted them away and gently pulled the remnants out from under him.

"Okay, were going to take some X-rays of your knee and then I'll get you that blanket and set you up with a pain killer."

She pulled Alan's gurney away from the wall and began pushing it like a large shopping cart. Alan looked up at her face as they navigated through hallways. She had a small chin. He could see up her nostrils--they were devoid of anything that would detract from her beauty.

Too soon they were in another room with another doctor or nurse.

"Okay, I'd like you to help us swing your leg over onto this table." Said the other man. He seemed to be as efficient as everyone else here.

Alan sat up and tried to lift his leg. Pain shot through his body from his knee when he tried to lift. He gritted his teeth, but a grunt escaped anyway.

Angel lifted his foot and calve and moved them gently with Alan's rotating body onto the table. The other Doctor moved a large ceiling mounted device into position over Alan's knee.

"Okay, I need you to push your knee flat against the table while we shoot this." Alan leaned over and put pressure on his thigh to flatten his knee. The pain seared through his leg again.

"Flatter." The doctor and Angel had moved behind a screen.

"Um, I don't think I can push any more."

"Get it as flat as you can."

Alan pushed as hard as he could bear to on his thigh. Just when started to lose it, the camera moved up and away.

"That's good. We need a shot from each side, too." Said the doctor. Alan contorted this way and that as the doctor took more X-rays. When finished, Alan collapsed back onto the gurney. Angel moved his leg back over to the Gurney and began wheeling him back to the emergency room.

"I'm certain I don't recognize you from anywhere. How do you know my name?"

"Lucky guess, like I said."

"Uh huh. Okay, if you don't want to tell me you don't have to."

"Well, if you want to know the truth, In my delirium I didn't actually realize I said your name. I saw you hovering over me and thought how much you looked like an Angel. I guess I must have said that aloud."

"You've got to be kidding."

"I'm serious. That's what happened."

Angel stopped pushing the cart and eyed Alan. "Are you jerking my chain?"

"Nope. That's what happened."

"That is the sweetest thing I've ever heard in my entire life." As he lay looking up at her from the Gurney, the smile that lit her face made her look even more like an Angel than before.

"You know, with that smile, you look even more like an Angel than before."

"Okay, you need to stop before you say something stupid and blow it."

"Right on."

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