based on Robert Schumann’s Third String Quartet, Movement 1
We meet in the holding room; a paper dress covers your tattoos
At any moment, your craze of fragile vessels
could spill, fill the sea cave cradling your mind
Your wife holds your hand until it is time for us to go
I guide you as you blow through a straw
swimming across your long day of surgery
Five hours, and five more: surgeons untangle
a crevice of your brain, clamp the feeder, reassemble your skull
Startled out of sleep, I reflexively reach for my beeping pager. For a split second, I lie poised between wakefulness and terror in the pitch-dark resident call room, not sure where I am or what happened. I resolve to sleep with the lights on from now on.
I dial the call-back number.
"Pod A," a caffeinated voice chirps. It's Candice, one of the nurses.
"Hi. Amy here, returning a page," I murmur.
"Oh, hi, Dr. Cowan," she says. "I just wanted to let you know that the family is all here. They're ready for the meeting." Her voice is sweet. At sixty-three, Candice is still practicing ICU nursing--at night, no less. She loves it.
"Candice, what are you talking about? What meeting?" I ask.
It was another day at a renovation project on the fourth floor of an office building. Glancing at my iPhone, I noticed that my buddy Dave had called a couple of times. Now, coming down a stepladder for what seemed like the hundredth time, I saw his name pop up again. This time I set down my hammer and found a quiet place.
"Hey Scott, ol' buddy, I got a request," Dave said. "Last week at hunting camp, a friend of mine was impressed with my restored knife. As we were sitting around the campfire, I told him that you're kind of a blacksmith, and that you refurbish knives. I wonder if you could fix up his, too. He lent it to me, and I want to return it to him as a Christmas present."
After work, I picked up the knife from Dave and headed home. There I walked into my workshop, a few yards from my house, set the knife on my bench, then went up to the house.