Chapter 1-My life
“What is taking so long Mother? I am starving.” Molly asked.
“They need time to get ready for you honey. Sometimes the machine that takes your image can be a little moody,” Mother answered.
“If I don’t eat something soon I am going to pass out.” Molly had been to this office numerous times in the past few years. Before every visit it was the same routine. She had to fast for twenty-four hours prior to the appointment. Then they would take pictures of her body that served no purpose in her opinion. The images never made her feel better afterwards. Nor did they shed some light on the reasons for the pain. “This all seems to be an exercise in futility,” she thought to herself.
Mother handed her daughter a magazine so she would keep calm. Molly had already paged through the particular publication during their last visit. The literature distraction was not going to work this time. Molly put it aside on the table next to her chair. She continued to dwell on some food that was being offered in the receptionist area.
“I know you are hungry Molly. We will get you fed as soon as the appointment is over,” Mother said in an effort to avoid an argument.
“I don’t think it’s fair that they get to eat doughnuts in the morning while I have to starve myself. It doesn’t take a picture to tell you how I am feeling right now. I am grumpy and want something to eat,” Molly said as she eyeballed the half empty doughnut box on the white laminate countertop.
“I know dear. Be patient.”
“Why don’t they go around my stomach with the camera?”
“They need to get all of you on the computer including your stomach. You know it has been giving you trouble lately. It is one of the main reasons we are here today.”
“Everything else in my body is broken. It will just take a little time for me to get used to the new pain in my belly. Besides, what else can they do that we have not already tried? If the doctor writes another prescription for me I am going to throw up right in his office. I swear.”
“Molly. We are ready to see you now,” a technician announced at the waiting room door. The machine Molly’s specialist needed to produce an image of her insides was just beyond the threshold of the white door and its brushed nickel handle.
“Have you eaten anything in the past twenty-four hours Molly?” the technician asked. Molly ignored the question. Of course she hadn’t eaten anything. He should have remembered that she had been here before and knew the routine. The machine’s computer screen would have been able to call her a liar if she had stolen one of the jelly doughnuts sitting in a pink box they had passed by.
“No she hasn’t. She can get a little grouchy when she is hungry,” Mother answered for Molly.
“Mother, I am right here.”
“I know honey. I was just answering the technician’s question for you.”
“Let’s go ahead and get your weight first Molly,” the technician said.
“The doctor’s office scale they weighed me at yesterday said I was a hundred and twenty two pounds. Go ahead and put that number in your file. I am sure I have not gained any weight since I haven’t eaten anything in exactly twenty six and a half hours,” Molly said.
“We still need to weigh you Molly. It’s in the rules,” the technician replied.
“All right then. I wouldn’t want you to get in any trouble,” she said knowing there were no such set of formal rules.
Molly hated the scale. It was a little more than year ago she had only one debilitating disease, but since then she had been forced to add another to her portfolio. The doctors were not sure when the second one had infected her body. Some of the symptoms overshadowed the first. The pain had become almost unbearable and attacked various parts of her body. In an effort to manage the increasing discomfort one of her doctors prescribed steroids. She went from a skinny little sick kid sister to her three brothers to the chubby neighbor girl that had to ride in a wheel chair in less than a year. “That darn steroid medication made me fat and the chair gives everyone the impression that I am lazy,” she thought to herself often.
Molly’s teams of doctors were worried about her health. The only concern she had right now was the effect the weight gain had on her appearance.
“I usually power my own wheel chair. He can roll my big butt to the scale himself this time,” Molly said under her breath.
Mother and technician headed for the scale leaving Molly behind. “Can someone please give me a push?”
“I’m sorry Molly. You are always so insistent on pushing your own chair. I just assumed you would follow us,” the technician replied.
“I just need a little help today is all.”
“Okay Molly here we are. Are you ready for the weigh-in? I need you to get out of your chair and get on the scale for me,” he requested.
She wasn’t going to let him off that easy. “I need someone on each side to help me up. I am feeling very weak today.”
Mother approached Molly’s left side to assist. Molly wanted a staff member to help instead. “Mother. I don’t think you are strong enough to get me out of this chair. I want one of the other technicians to help.”
“Nonsense dear. I can do it.”
“No Mother. I need another strong boy to help me.”
“Okay Molly. Wait here and I will get someone else,” the technician replied.
Molly was keeping score in her head. They had won the first two rounds. This particular battle was going to be hers to enjoy. She was still hungry, and they had waited for over an hour in the waiting room to be seen. Now it was her turn to give them a little grief.
“I found another “boy” to help you up Molly. Are you ready?” the primary technician asked.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” she replied. The assistant wasn’t as cute as the first but she would make sure to pencil in the “Cute requirement” for her own set of rules she was drafting up in her head.
“Steady now Molly. We are going to have to let you go while the scale tells us your weight,” the primary technician said.
She watched the assistant adjust the smaller sliding weight till the arrow hit its center of equilibrium. “It is showing one hundred and twenty four pounds,” the assistant announced.
“Check that number again,” Molly requested.
“The scale is leveled out and it is reading one hundred and twenty four pounds,” he repeated and pushed the large and small sliding weights to their zero position.
Molly was speechless. How could she have gained two pounds after a twenty six and a half hour fast? “You must have filled up on water?” the primary said. He could see the anguish in Molly’s eyes.
Molly stepped off the scale and set herself back into the wheelchair. The surprised technicians scrambled to help her but she had already seated herself before they even had a chance to take hold of an arm. Molly began to pick at a loose thread on her jean shorts as the primary technician wheeled her into the large office that housed the alien looking picture machine. Mother handed her a tissue so she could wipe the two small puddles of tears from her eyes that had formed after the official weigh-in announcement.
“Hello Molly, nice to see you again,” the radiologist said while pushing himself over to her on a wheel clad office chair.
“Hey,” she subtly answered.
“Not very chatty today are we. I will try to make this as quick and painless as possible.”
“I am looking for more quick than painless. I am starving as you should already know.”
“First things first, Do you have any gum in your mouth? I know it makes your breath smell better during the fast but I didn’t enjoy crawling into my million dollar machine to scrape off the gum you left in it last time.”
Molly had forgotten about the gum game changer move. The score from her last visit was all tied up until the last turn at bat allowed her to stick a piece of gum inside the ominous picture machine. She quickly cut the wad of gum in her mouth in half with a back molar and gave the lesser of the two pieces to the operator holding a tissue to dispose of the gooey mess. Molly would keep the back-up plan hidden between her right cheek and gum in case she needed another last minute winning play.
“Okay then let’s get started shall we?” the radiologist said.
Radiologist and technician carefully handled Molly with kid gloves. The light touch of a finger tip on a problematic area of the skin could cause her to reel back in pain. She mentally held steady as the two workers attempted to comfortably lie her down on the machine.
“Molly is you’re left foot acting up?” the radiologist asked as he took off her slippers.
“I believe so. It feels like it is on fire,” she answered.
The initial disease she had been diagnosed with just after her very first birthday had no physical symptoms in the primary year of her life. A few days before the big celebration her right knee swelled to the size of a small lemon for no apparent reason. All that Molly was capable of doing during those early years of pain was crying, and that became tiresome after a few hours. She learned early on to “Grin and Bear it” so to speak before she had a coherent vocabulary to describe how bad she felt.
“Oh honey. Why didn’t you tell me about your foot?” Mother asked.
“What good would that have done? We were already up till four in the morning because my insides hurt so badly,” Molly answered.
“I know. You still need to say something to me when your skin sends you a valentine.”
The most recent curse on her childhood she was experiencing had unique visual indicators. When the pain was severe in a particular area on her body the skin would turn a certain color. Molly termed the phrase “Valentine” for the shade of purple her skin would become when the burning sensation was at its greatest. She loved the candy hearts at the store that came with little romantic gestures written on them in pink writing and the purple ones were her favorite. “Aw look. My leg is sending me a valentine,” she would say. The family needed to know when she was having an attack so they would stay clear of the affected area.
The radiologist began to adjust Molly’s position on the sliding examination table that she had been placed. “Are you doing okay?” he asked.
“I am fine.”
“You have to tell me if I am hurting you or else I won’t know Molly.”
“I swear everything is fine,” she said with pursed lips. It was a sure sign that Molly was annoyed. Mother winced a bit at her daughter’s curt behavior.
“Okay then girl. Let’s roll you in and start the imaging if your ready?” the radiologist asked.
“Have a nice nap,” he said before her head disappeared into the white round tube.
Molly gave him a big smile before she disappeared into the cylinder of the machine. It was always nice to know that she left an impression on people even under these kinds of circumstances. The radiologist knew she would doze off soon after the machine began to perform its one hour examination. Catnaps were all Molly had now when it came to sleep.
Molly closed her eyes to initiate the sleeping process. “Sleeping used to be my escape, but now my body won’t even allow me to do that right because of the pain. I hope I don’t wake up before he is done,” she thought to herself. Molly’s body became limp. The magnetic clicks and hums of the machine were like a lullaby to her ears.
“This meeting of Central Planning will now come to order. Everyone please take their seat,” the speaker announced. The conference table was surrounded by nine chairs. Each chair represented a specific service to the Inside dimension in order to operate properly. All the chairs were the same size and of equal importance except for one. It was located at the end of the table. The rightful occupant had been missing for more than a year now.
“Mr. Speaker, I would like to protest your chair selection. Although your original seat assignment is near Polly’s placement at the end of the table I am sure we can all agree to keep her place open in case she shows up for a meeting,” Deucy the Waste Manager proposed. Deucy was an odd man. He was always dressed in a dirty brown suit and had a bad odor about him. He used some sort of homemade grease in his hair that nobody wanted to neither guess the ingredients nor ask him how he made it for that matter. He would use the mystery mousse to smooth back his black full head of hair believing it was a rather dapper hairstyle for his face.
“Honorable Waste Manager I am saddened by your comment. I will take your request under consideration but for now I will occupy Polly’s seat in her absence,” the speaker said.
The speaker had to pick his words carefully when talking to Deucy. The man had a bad temper along with his bad odor and could be easily provoked.
Speaker Vargas was a skinny man with purple rimmed glasses that looked too big for his face. The full head of blonde hair he once adored had been reduced to thin patches on the opposite sides of his head. A thin joining of the two fair-haired islands met at the top of his cranium that he tried to hide with a comb over. He would have been the laughing stock of the management team if it weren’t for his powerful position and impeccable purple suits he wore to the meetings. Vargas’s official title, Public Safety Manager, meant that in almost every corner of the Inside dimension him and his people had a presence. His official duties ensured the others could operate under a safe environment and warn City services personnel of any damage or danger the Inside and Outside dimensions may impose upon them and the systems. Manager Vargas had been democratically voted to the speakership in Polly’s absence but now there were some concerns about how Vargas might be abusing the position.
“My fellow managers. This meeting has been assembled today to discuss a problem near the western border of the Inside dimension. My people tell me we have an Outside threat. As speaker I have an obligation to shut down all work in the area and evacuate non-essential personnel,” Vargas announced.
“Mr. Speaker. If I may say something please? How do we know there is an Outside threat if Polly is not here to confirm your peoples’ observations?” Telly asked. Telly was the head of the Engineering department for the Inside dimension. People came to him when they needed original blueprints, structural improvements, and theoretical explanations of the Inside’s infrastructure.
“Are you accusing me of manufacturing a crisis Mr. Telly?” Vargas asked.
“No sir. I just want a second opinion. Anybody elses employees report a problem on the western border besides Vargas’s men?” Telly announced. Everyone looked at their seated neighbors to the right and left of them. Nobody in the room said a word.
“Mr. Telly, you are going to have to trust me on this one,” Vargas said.
“Every time you announce a threat you tell us we have to trust you. Shutting down an entire area because of an unconfirmed hazard causes a significant hardship to its residents. It can take days, weeks, or even months to recover from a shutdown only after you decide it is time to re-open the locale again. We sit up here and make decisions that can cause some real pain to the affected area and its residents. Please Mr. Speaker. Can you hold off on the decision until other departments have time to check for a threat besides your own?”
“No sir Mr. Telly. I am not willing to risk devastation because you don’t trust me. The evacuation is occurring as we speak. All work in the area will be put on hold until further notice. Meeting adjourned,” Vargas announced.
Vargas left the plush comfort of his predecessor’s high back chair with the organizer he carried held close to his sport coat. He could hear the mumbling behind him as he walked out of the conference room and headed to his private office. The city and its offices were only 12 years old, but the dilapidated condition of the buildings gave the metropolis a much older appearance. Vargas approached his agency’s door. The frosted glass that bore his name had been vandalized again. A few of the black block letters used to spell out his name had been scratched off. The door now read,
Public Safety Manager.”
“Please call Mr. Lattie so he can paint the missing letters back on my door again,” he told his employee at the reception desk. Everyone in the city called on Lattie when there was a general maintenance issue.
“Yes Sir Mr. Vargas,” the employee answered.
Vargas disappeared into the crowded surroundings of his office. He had stolen a bunch of the furnishings that Molly’s confidant named Polly had in her office since she disappeared. Polly was not only the inner voice to the woman they all served, that person being Molly. She was also City Manager and the liaison between Molly and the Inside dimension. Vargas had convinced every manager on the Inside that Molly didn’t care enough to meet with her liaison so they could preplan for the demands of the Outside dimension. Polly knew the real reason. It was because Vargas had used his department to harass her boss at all times of the day and night. He caused Molly so much pain by using the purple suits electrical powers that she had a continuing case of extreme insomnia. Molly could hardly muster up enough energy to take care of the daily duties of the Outside let alone meet with Polly during their regularly scheduled early morning meetings. Before Polly could announce the truth about Vargas at the next City Services meeting she disappeared. Nobody in the Inside dimension had heard from her in more than a year.
“Molly. We are all done,” the radiologist said softly. Mother went to put her slippers back on but stopped, the purple coloration had migrated to Molly’s calf.
“I don’t think I can wear my slipper on that foot right now. The pain has gotten worse since my nap,” Molly explained to everyone.
Molly lifted herself up from the examination table under her own power. Gravity caused the blood pressure in her foot to increase along with the throbbing pain. This time she had no reservations about asking for help from Mother. She knew the pain was too great in her foot to stabilize her own body weight. “I need some help getting into my chair please,” Molly said as the radiologist wrapped up his paperwork. Mother made sure she had all the file folders that she had brought to the appointment.
“Absolutely Molly,” the radiologist said.
“Do we need to get a boy to help you again or am I strong enough for this job?” Mother asked.
Molly gave her Mother the look they both knew meant business. Molly wasn’t in the same frame of mind as before her nap. Her foot felt like it was on fire before she had been slid into the machine only now it was as if her appendage had been immersed in burning hot coals. Mother and radiologist each put one of Molly’s arms around their neck and placed one of their own arms under her thighs. They gently eased Molly into her chair as she gripped the shirts of her caregivers in response to her aching foot hitting one of the footrests. The tears started to form again. This time it was because of the pain and not because of vanity.
Mother stopped just before the sliding glass exit doors on their way out of the medical center. Molly instinctively knew the reason for the delay. She held out her hand to receive the sunglasses Mother handed off to her. Molly needed them to protect her eyes from the sun. The assortment of medications the specialists and doctors had prescribed for Molly over the years had some serious side-effects. She hadn’t lost her vision yet, but if she didn’t wear the sunglasses outside, she could go blind for a short period of time because of the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays on her vulnerable eyes.
Molly could feel every nook and cranny the wheels of her chair hit on the inflamed foot as Mother tried her best to navigate a smooth path to the car. Molly rode quietly with her head down with only one other thing on her mind besides the pain. She had waited three long months for a midnight premiere to the sequel of her favorite movie and she was not going to allow anything to stop her from being in the audience tonight. Mother had made all the prior arrangements for the show. She didn’t have the power to kiss her daughter’s forehead and make it all better but she did have enough persuasive influence to get the theater manager to give them preferential treatment. While the other fans stood in line in the hot summer weather for a good seat Molly would be escorted to the employee entrance twenty minutes prior to curtain call. Her brothers would place her in a prime spot in the theatre before the front doors were open to the public.
“Mother?” Molly said.
“We are going to the movie tonight, right?”
“Do you feel up to it?” Mother asked. She already knew the answer. Molly would ride on the handle bars of her brother’s bike if she had to so she could make it to the show.
“Let’s go home so I can rest. I am sure I will be fine after I lie down for a while,” Molly answered.
“I am going to let you make the call,” Mother said.
Mother carefully pulled the truck into the concrete driveway of their home. She didn’t want to wake Molly up from the nap she had taken the liberty of engaging in during the return trip back. Molly’s neck was arched over the back of the front seat as her mouth remained wide open because of the angle. It was downtime like this that Mother was reminded she had a twelve year old child that was as wonderful as the first day she brought her home from the hospital. Every minute Molly spent in a doctor’s office was time that was being stolen from her childhood. Mother made it her mission to give her daughter the things she really wanted and the movie was the only item on Molly’s list at this juncture. She looked down at her daughter’s foot. The purple rash still remained. She didn’t have the heart to tell her no tonight even though the activity would probably land Molly on the couch for a few days. Mother quietly closed the driver’s side door of the truck to fetch the oldest of Molly’s three brothers that she knew was in the house. She needed his help to get Molly out of the vehicle.
Molly woke to the noise of giggling just outside the truck. Her two other brothers were home from school and were taking pictures of her sleeping with their cell phones. “Hey jerks, help me get out of here,” Molly said as she opened the door.
“Did Mom leave you in here by yourself?” a brother asked.
“I guess so. Maybe she went to get help.”
“I think we can do it,” the second youngest said while opening the wheelchair he had already retrieved from the back of the truck.
It was standard procedure for the siblings to help their sister. Molly was the baby of the family and all of them were very familiar with the severity of her condition. They also knew if she asked for assistance then she really needed the help. The middle brother noticed the purple lower leg first. He always had something wise to say that sometimes made her laugh. “Dang Violet. It looks like the Easter Bunny painted your leg purple,” he said as the two lowered her slowly into the chair. The younger brother nearest to her age started dancing around singing a song that had once been written and choreographed by a purple dinosaur. She didn’t care much for his sense of humor so she ignored his antics.
“Come on guys get her in the house,” the eldest said as he rounded the concrete path with Mother right behind him. The youngest brother continued to sing the song all the way to the door. He could usually get a few laughs out of the oldest with his quirky sense of humor.
All three brothers cleared a space on the sofa for Molly to relax. Everything she needed was put on the accessible area of the coffee table so she could reach them while lying down in front of the television. The most important tool she used to relax her was being delivered by the youngest brother from its home base on her bed.
“Geez Molly. Don’t you think it’s about time you threw this thing away,” he said about her pink stuffed bear.
“Did I ask for your opinion?”
“It has a hole in the throat and it looks like the dog has been licking it.”
“Just give it to me and keep the noise down.”
The oldest stood in front of the television and inserted her favorite DVD. Everyone in the house could recite the words to her favorite movie. One of Molly’s brothers had even blurted out a few of the lines in his sleep once. “How many times do you think you have seen this movie now Molly?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Are you excited to see the sequel?”
“You know it.”
There were only a few people officially invited to Molly’s DVD viewings of her movie in the family room. Mother was one of them. She never sat and watched the flick with Molly unless it was really late and she had finished feeding and putting the family to bed. The middle brother was the other invited guest because he always sat on the couch and quietly did his homework. Molly appreciated his silent company as she dozed in and out of consciousness during her show. All the other members of the family were too high strung or didn’t appreciate seeing her favorite movie for the near millionth time.
Father walked in the front door to see Molly sleeping on the couch and his middle child doing homework. He worked late most days. Molly’s medical bills added up quickly even though they had insurance.
“How did it go today babe?” he asked Mother with some hesitation. He knew that if Molly was not up and greeting him with a “Hey” then chances are it was not a very good day. Mother always gave him the lighter version of Molly’s appointments. It was in his nature to fix things. Repeating their daughter’s health problems that he had no control over only frustrated him. If something really required his attention she would feed him first and break the bad news over dessert.
“It went okay. The specialist will call me back in a few days with the results.”
“Is Molly going to make it to her movie?”
“It’s all up to her. You already know what her answer will be to your question.”
Molly began to stir on the couch. Father and Mother both watched her from the kitchen as she mumbled a few groans and released a little toot. Her body conjured up all kinds of noises because of its sickly condition. Fortunately tooting was an acceptable form of expression in a house dominated by males. Mother frowned upon the comedic value the children and Father placed on flatulence. She always protested her family’s burps and farts but she had to giggle just a little when Molly dusted the entire room while her daughter was having intestinal problems. A groggy Molly laughed at her brother covering his nose with his shirt to avoid breathing in the tainted air.
“Molly is up,” the middle brother announced under the sound of a muffled voice.
“Hey girl. You ready for tonight?” he asked as he sat down beside her and stroked the hair from her face.
“I sure am.”
“How long did you sleep for?” he asked.
Mother stepped in to answer the question. Molly was still a little sleepy. “I would say about two hours this time. Wouldn’t you Molly?”
“I guess so.”
“It looks like your leg and foot are giving you some problems. How does it feel?” Father asked.
“It hurts, but not enough to stop me from seeing my movie tonight.”
“Well then I guess you answered all of my questions,” Father said.
Everyone began doing their assigned duties for the evening. Father went to enjoy some poker on the computer and the boys played video games after dinner and clean-up. Molly stayed on the couch with Mother using the DVD player remote to re-start her movie from the beginning. This would be the last time the two of them would see it before the sequel tonight. They both wanted to make sure the first was fresh in their mind so the continuation could pick-up right where the last one left off.
Everyone loaded in to the truck except for Father. He had to wake up early for work. Molly knew he would sit down with her someday at home and watch the sequel on DVD. The three boys tagged along. She made them promise to not ask any questions during the show. Mother needed them for their strength if Molly had to be carried up a flight of stairs. They had also grown fond of the story and wanted to enjoy the movie with their sister. The youngest brother taunted her for having a crush on the lead actor. She didn’t argue. He was the one she dreamt about sometimes during her short naps.
The manager of the movie theater met them out front near the ticket windows. He personally escorted the family to the employee entrance. Molly couldn’t believe the amount of people that had gathered outside to see the sequel. Finally the health problems that ravaged her had a benefit, but she would have rather stood in line and enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow fans than be snuck in through the back door.
Molly insisted on sitting in one of the movie theatre chairs. Mother told her she was being stubborn. The theatre had places for wheel chairs to be positioned with excellent views. Molly wanted to be a normal twelve year old watching the show. She didn’t want people staring at her in the wheel chair while looking for seats. The boys offered up their muscles to assist their sister in her seat selection. She quickly counted rows and columns of chairs and divided the number by two. “I want to be twelve and a half rows up and fifteen seats over,” Molly requested.
The family looked at each other in confusion except for one, the youngest brother. “Princess wants to be in the center of the theatre,” he said. He didn’t give her any sympathy. Molly was his sister and sick or not, he was going to treat her like a sister that was close to his age.
“Good thinking Molly. Once we get her seated in the middle of the theater nobody will have to walk over her feet. I don’t think they have a half row. How about we take the twelfth one up for obvious reasons?” the eldest suggested. The two older boys helped her hobble over to the center of the theatre as the youngest checked ahead for trash or litter that may have hindered Molly’s journey through the isle.
“Mom. Let’s have some of those goodies you have stuffed in your purse,” the middle brother said.
“We have to wait until the movie starts,” she answered.
The family sat in the deserted theater waiting for something to happen. “I wonder when they are going to start letting the peasants in?” the youngest said.
“Hey. Keep it down. The manager was nice enough to let us in early so stop thinking your special” Mother said.
“Am I special?” the eldest asked.
“Am I special?” the middle followed.
Molly and Mother both looked at each other and rolled their eyes. One brother let out a yelp. He wanted to see if the large room would throw back an echo.
“What was that for?” Molly asked.
“I wanted to see if the place had an echo,” the guilty culprit answered.
People began filing in to the theatre. The first few heard yelping as each brother tried his voice at producing an echo too. The family was amazed at fan’s costumes and t-shirts displaying their passion and love for the movie and its characters. The boys started to rate the girls looking for seats based on looks. Each one used their two hands to display a personal opinion based on a scale of one to ten. Molly was disgusted, but at least the game kept them occupied.
The lights dimmed slowly until the theater was dark. A sign the movie was about to start. Mother began handing out the snacks she had smuggled in to the theater. Molly passed on everything. There was only one reason she came tonight and it wasn’t to fill up on candy. She sat up straight in her seat wide-eyed and with a grin from ear to ear. The audience began to clap at the screen when the title of the show appeared. Molly became a little annoyed. She was used to the silence of her own home.
Mother sat next to Molly in case she had any issues during the movie. An hour into the show she sensed something was wrong with Molly’s motor skills. Molly’s hands began to twitch and her eyelids appeared to be fluttering under the reflection of the movie screen.