Seeker by Cecile Dixon
A nurse in a brightly colored scrub shirt raises the head of the bed and adjusts the pillows for the groaning young man reclining on the cart. “Mr. Carter, my name’s Shelly. I’ll get your paperwork together and the doctor will be in shortly,” she informs the man. He groans in response and his wife nods affirmatively.
As she leaves the room the nurse bends and gently strokes the cheek of an infant who is sitting in a car seat that rests on the floor. “How old is he?” she asks.
“Six months,” the wife answers.
Although it’s three in the morning the child is wide-awake and it stares unblinking up at the nurse. She tucks the dirty blue blanket tightly around the baby’s shoulders. “It’s cold in here,” she says to the child before walking from the room.
At the nurse’s station she slides the chart into the rack. The Emergency Room physician looks up.
“What have you got?” His voice is weary. The strain of his fourth twelve hour night shift showing in his tone and on his face.
“Low back pain, times three days, nothing acute. History of chronic back pain. Out of Vicodin.”
The physician sighs deeply, picks up the chart and shuffles up the hall as the nurse walks away to check on her other patients.
A few minutes later, back at the nursing station, the physician hands her the chart.
“Get a urine and run a drug screen. I’ll check. If he hasn’t had a X-ray in a while I’ll order one.”
The clock on the wall says three fifteen as Shelly returns to Mr. Carter’s room. As she slides the curtain open he groans loudly.
“The Doctor wants a urine sample. Do you think you can pee?”
“I don’t know. I’ll try. Do you think he’ll give me a shot for this pain? I’m hurtin’ bad.”
Shelly hands him a clear plastic cup. “We need to find out what’s causing the pain first. Try to get a urine sample and then we’ll get you down to X-ray. The restroom is across the hall. I don’t need much. Just this far.” Shelly points to a line on the cup. Once again she bends over and strokes the wide-awake baby’s hand before walking out of the room.
Ten minutes later Shelly returns to the room. When she pulls the curtain open Mr. Carter and his wife jump apart guiltily. The wife is holding the urine cup while Mr. Carter squeezes urine from the baby’s soiled, disposable diaper into the open cup. The now half naked baby lies motionless on the cart. The baby boy’s eyes lock on Shelly’s and he holds her gaze. His eyes are large and innocent, but at the same time seem to hold the knowledge of the hopelessness of his future.