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The Singularity, Chapter Six, Road Trip


  12:18:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 2338 words  
Categories: The Singularity

The Singularity, Chapter Six, Road Trip

?You want to go to Astoria?? Kevin asked Claire.

?I thought we'd already discussed our professional relationship.?

?Sorry,? he said brusquely, ?it's not a date. I have to drive a patient to Astoria for some imaging. I like to ride in back, just in case, and I don't trust the patient's family not to put us in a ditch if things get hairy.? She blinked at him in disbelief. ?Normally, Sam drives me on these types of excursions, but he's out of the office for most of the morning.?

?He abandoned you in your hour of need??

?He's got a meeting of his bike club.?

?I wouldn't have pegged him for a cyclist,? Claire said, miming his beer belly.

?A motorcycle gang, by any other name, doesn't smell as sweaty. But we're on a bit of a time crunch, so I'm afraid I really do need an answer, quickly.?

?This patient's the one I'm supposed to get readings from, isn't he??

?One and the same.?

?So there's absolutely no reason for me to stick around without him?

?None whatsoever; I suppose we've got a nice view of the ocean.?

?Then I guess you've got yourself a driver. Though I should remember to text my intern; it's likely he'll wake up before we get back- not that there's anything for him to do here. Is there any reason to take my equipment??

?With any luck, we'll get our scan and be headed back here.?

?And without luck??

?We'll be taking him directly to a hospital.?

?And either way, no scans for me.?


?No. It's fine. Medical emergencies take precedence over scientific curiosities. I'm just...?


?Yeah. This is the culmination of, well, not a lifetime, but a career, maybe, of searching. So I'm not a callous, inhuman monster for worrying I might miss my chance to get some readings, am I??

?Naw. Empathy isn't the lack of ambition- it's showing compassion even when it hampers ambition. But like I said, we need to go. Patient and his wife are already waiting in the car.? He handed her the keys.

?You know the way?? she asked.

?I thought you were driving,? he teased. ?I know the way. And it's in the GPS.?

Kevin got into the backseat with Chris, and then Claire put her seat back and climbed into it. He buckled in as she started the Bronco, and pulled out of the driveway.

Kevin dialed his cell phone, and the call went through. ?Walt?? he asked.

?Nope. Walt's dead. At least until noon.?

?You're still the on-call MRI tech, right??

?Dead. Til noon,? he said sleepily.

?I've got a patient with a bleed in his brain. From my scans, I think it's a slow bleed, but I need to be sure.?

?So his brain doesn't explode all over you.?

?Thanks for that.?

?But I've already had my forty this week.?

?I'll pay the overtime.?

?Really? Had you said that up front, I never would have been dead in the first place.?

?We're in the car, headed towards you.?

?I'll put on some pants and head to the office- if there's time for pants.?

?There should be time for pants. I'll see you in a bit. Bye.?

Claire tapped on the GPS to get it to show her the local speed limits. The front of the truck was far quieter, and overhearing a mumbled phone conversation only made Claire feel more left out. She peered at Morgan from the corner of her eye, to be sure she wasn't sleeping or anything. ?How'd you two meet?? Claire asked.

?Hmm?? Morgan replied, then realized she was being spoken to, and she gave her a wicked smile. ?Hoping to land yourself a big, strapping football star?? Morgan saw Chris in the rear view, and the discrepancy between the man she'd met and the one in the back seat made her shudder. ?It isn't all shoulder pads and athletic cups.?

?No, not for me. I don't... I can't handle the idea of a man that much bigger than me. I just...?

?I understand,? Morgan said. ?Believe me. Especially now. He gets these... rages. And if I were anyone else... have you ever seen a polar bear at the zoo, and they just bat around a beer keg like it's a balloon. He's so much stronger than me, that if he wanted to hurt me, for even a second, I wouldn't even be able to put up even tacit resistance. But Chris... he'd never hurt me. He'd hurt himself. And there are plenty of people he'd mangle if they looked at him funny. But he loves me. It's the... he's told me it's the one thing he always remembers. Always. Sometimes he wanders off, gets lost, but... he says he could never forget that...?

Morgan wiped a tear from her eye. ?Jesus. I'm a wreck. It doesn't take much to get me crying like you've just run over my puppy.?

?Aw, puppy,? Claire said.

?But you asked me about meeting Chris. It was at a charity golf exhibition. He was there, flanked by younger, prettier girls. I'm not usually huge into muscles- I mean, I take care of myself, so I appreciate a guy who works out, but he was huge- bigger, then, even, than he is now. I was younger then, and less haggard,? Claire wanted to interrupt, and say, ?I hope I look as good as you when I'm your age,? but she wasn't sure the woman really was older, so she stayed quiet. ?But I was in now way one of the, am I going to sound catty if I say 'bimbos'??

?I know exactly what you mean,? Claire said, though she felt bad, because for her it was mostly a combination of jealousy and self-consciousness.

?But he was constantly swarmed, and he was handsome but he probably wasn't my type so I just figured he was something pretty to occasionally look over and see while I was hanging out with some of my friends. And I noticed he had this really genuine smile; he really listened to people- even nineteen year olds without much more interesting to talk about than their Facebook friendships. I kind of found myself having a conversation with him in my head, and by about the sixteenth hole, I felt a little sad that I wasn't going to get a chance to actually talk to him.?

?And after the tournament, there was a little thing, with refreshments. And I was hovering over the punch bowl, not much thinking about the man I'd spent most of the day shamelessly ogling. Then suddenly, he was there, and until the day I die I will remember the first words he ever said to me. 'Normally, I use the whole I got you some punch thing as an icebreaker, but you haven't left the bowl since you got here. So I'm completely at a loss as to how I should work in that you're beautiful and you've been staring at me and I'd like to try and have an adult conversation.?

?I told him, 'That wasn't bad, actually- after the rocky start.' And we talked until the event was over, politely rejecting several of the nineteen year olds who'd been puppy guarding him like I'd been puppy guarding the punch bowl. Then he took me to dinner. And we talked there until the restaurant closed. So we went to a bar, and closed that out. Then we found an all-night Shari's, and stayed there long enough that the wait staff actually made us have another meal.?

?I woke up in his lap. Apparently I just passed out in the middle of a story about... it was about the time I saw him play in college. And I just slumped over... and I drooled on his crotch. And it was not a dainty, ladylike trickle; it was a puddle. It looked like he'd wet himself. But he insisted, then, that he take me home- if only so I didn't pass out and hit my head on something.

?And he was an absolute gentleman. He walked me to my front door, and said that was usually the point in a date where we'd have sex- but that he was way too tired, but that after a date that long he felt bad about not at least trying to sleep with me. I told him if he wanted to come in we could cuddle, and... actually, I was punchy enough I think I kind of goaded him into coming into my place.?

?So your epic megadate ended in cuddling?? Claire asked.

?Nope. We didn't cuddle. He passed out in his clothes, on top of all my blankets. He came to for a moment when I was taking off his pants, and said, 'You can try all you like, but I'm telling you- he's a bear, and this is the dead of winter.' And then he was out, all over again, and I resolved to cuddle against him, anyway. But the moment my head hit his chest I was unconscious. It was... it was the best day and a half of my life.?

?Wow,? Claire said. ?I'm completely jealous- of the experience, I mean.?

?He's an incredible man,? Morgan said, stealing a glance at him in the side mirror. He was looking in the car, and insecurity plucked at Morgan, and she worried he was eying Claire, but when she looked back she could tell he was looking at the doctor, so she settled back in her seat.

Kevin could feel Chris' eyes on him, so he turned to acknowledge the attention.

?How worried are you?? Chris asked under his breath, trying not to let Morgan hear.

?What? Me? Worry?? Kevin asked with a smile. ?I'm cautious, not concerned. Like I told your wife, I didn't notice any change in the bleed from the start of the scan to the end. But let me know if you start to feel anything unusual.?

?Like what?? he asked.

?No; it doesn't work that way. If I tell you a swollen nose or hearing piano music are symptoms, you'll be exhibiting those before I finish the sentence.?

?I think I can hear some Rachmananoff,? he said wistfully.

?Yeah, but that's probably your other brain damage.?

?I don't know if I like your bedside manner.?

?Do you want me to coddle you?? Kevin asked, suddenly quite serious.

Chris considered it. ?No. In fact, I want to be coddled less, if anything.?

?Good. And you do have brain damage. It doesn't make you stupid, or even necessarily damaged yourself. But your brain's taken one too many hits for the team.?

?Preaching to the choir, there,? he said.

They drove for the next several miles in silence, before Claire looked into the back seat at Kevin. ?You don't have any Cindy Lauper, do you??

?I'm not sure Cindy Lauper keeps Cindy Lauper in her car,? Kevin said. ?Why??

?Cannon Beach and now Astoria? This is one big, giant Goonies tour. So it seemed appropriate.? She shrugged. ?Oh, poop,? she said. ?I forgot to text my intern- who apparently still isn't up, since he hasn't called to find out where I am.? She fumbled getting her phone out of her pants pocket. ?Stupid jeans,? she muttered, before her phone came loose, and went flying across the cab. ?Could you track that down and?

?Make sure it didn't injure anyone?? Kevin asked.

?Well, that, and text my intern.?

Kevin unbuckled and crawled over the rear seat. ?Try not to kill me,? he said, as he crawled over the carpeted bed of the truck in search of the phone. The phone had settled in the crack where the back door met the bed. He palmed it, and handed it over to Chris, whose giant hand made it look like a child's toy.

He rolled back over the seat, and clicked his seat belt back on. ?Okay,? he said, ?you can go back to trying to kill me.?

?Provided you can do it without killing us,? Morgan said.

Chris handed Kevin the phone back, and he huddled over it typing a message. After the fourth muttered, ?Fudge,? Chris held out his hand.

?I might be able to do it faster.?

?We've got another quarter hour for you two to finish a single text message,? Claire started, ?after that, it will be easier for me to do it myself.?

After fifteen minutes, they arrived, pulling to a stop in front of the clinic. Kevin gave Claire back her phone after climbing out of the back seat.

A man was waiting outside the clinic, standing on the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets. He was a doughy, disheveled Asian man. ?I see you did manage to find pants,? Kevin said to him.

?Stole them,? He said. ?My neighbor rarely locks his door.?

?I thought they looked a little baggy. Chris, this is Walt, Walt, Chris, and Morgan, Mereta. Is everything prepped and ready??

?The only thing I need is a coconut to cook.?

?Is my head the coconut?? Chris asked.

Walt tapped his nose. Then he spun on his heels, and started down the sidewalk towards the clinic's front doors. After a few steps, he looked back. ?You coming?? he asked.

Chris and Morgan looked at Kevin. ?You're in good hands with Walt. He's... odd. But he's the best MRI tech in fifty miles.?

?Best and only,? Walt said. ?And I'm on the clock. So we should macht schnell.?

?We'll be,? Kevin looked at the Bronco, then thought better of it, and glanced across from the clinic, towards the town, ?well, we might cross the road to get something to eat. We can get you something for the way back...?

?Pasta,? Morgan said. ?With pesto, if possible.?

?Meat,? Chris said. ?The meatier, the better.?

?Your diet,? Morgan complained.

?My brain is bleeding,? Chris said. ?Which entitles me to a steak that is doing the same.?

She sighed peevishly, and shrugged, as they turned after Walt.

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