Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Ventilation, Part 14 (fictionalized history)

(In 1952, polio reached its peak in the United States with 21,000 cases of paralytic polio. The first polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. By 1965, the total paralytic cases had fallen to 61. In this fictionalized history series, we will be experiencing the aftermath of polio, before the dramatic triumph of a vaccine. If you're just joining us, go back to Part 1.)

Thirty-Four Years and One Month Since Hospital Admission
August 1986 (41 years old)

The little boy jumped onto the stool and wheeled across the room.

His much older sister made a will-you-just-stop-it face. "Come on, Billy. Get off that."

He clanked into a tray and tipped a cup of water. Liquid fanned to the edge.

"Watch it!"

The boy raised his hands. "What?" The water overflowed and began to splatter on the floor. "The chair didn't go straight."

"Get DOWN!"

She grabbed for him, but he scrambled out of reach.

"I'm sorry, Aunt Julia," the girl said, not meeting her eyes in the mirror.

Julia just shook her head and smiled.

A man strode into the room. Julia's little brother. Billy Jr. slapped into his leg. Some kind of failed Judo move.

"Why couldn't I have stopped at four kids?" he said, laughing. "Come on, chief. Chill out."

The boy took two more runs at his leg.

He nodded to Julia. "Hey Sis."

"Don't like being king of the castle anymore?"

"The subjects are in revolt."

Billy Jr. yanked on his shirt. "Daddy?"

"Yeah, chief."

"Why is she in a microwave?"

Across the room, the oldest daughter groaned.

"First, my little ambassador, 'she' is your Aunt Julia. Secondly, it's not a microwave. We explained this to you like fifty-five times. Aunt Julia needs this machine to breathe."

"I'm not going near it!"

"I see our money on charm school is going to good use," Billy Sr. said.

"Leave him alone," Julia said. "I wouldn't want to come near this thing either."

"Come here, son." He flagged the boy to the back of the room.

Julia craned to see, but it was hard when people were directly behind her. "It's alright Billy."

The girl perked in the visitor's chair. "Dad? What are you giving him?"

"Nothing," a voice said.

Julia could only see the tops of their heads.

"No!" the boy yelled.

"Go on! Hurry up."

The boy wriggled. "No!"

"Go on!"

"I don't want it!" The boy ran out of the room.

Billy Sr. shook his head. "Kids these days." He sauntered over, raised a hot pink water pistol, and launched a long ribbon of water into Julia's eye.

She flinched. "Ack!"

The daughter shrieked. "Dad!"

But he was laughing too hard to breathe.

"Billy! Wipe me off! I'm WAY too old for this, for Christ's sake."

Billy Sr. held his belly.

"Hurry up, it's dripping!"

"Mom's not here to protect you, Jules. Remember when we played dress-up? Somebody get the lipstick!"

"Don't you DARE! Nurse!!"

On to Part 15.
Back to Part 13.


Anonymous said...

I love how her brother will not treat her with kid gloves and gives her a squirt with the water pistol. It is great that she has family around, but what a life. What a life. So well written.

Sarah Hina said...

I love how Billy Sr. is not too hard on kids being kids, but also knows how to be one himself. In this case, he's not just providing a needed jolt for Julia, but showing his children that he's still a little brother, and Julia's just a sister. Maybe Billy Jr. won't be so wary of his aunt next time.

Great thread connecting Julia to her past and family, Jason. Or great squirt, rather. ;)

Charles Gramlich said...

You definitely captured the kid in this one. I was at a reception last night where a friend of mine brought her little girl, who wanted to play coloring and tell stories to me all evening while she hung upside down in her chair or danced. The energy. Wow.

Anonymous said...

Selma, I felt the pressure of delivering another high intensity, high emotion piece, but life isn't like that. Some moments are quieter in their power.

Sarah, yes, her brother is great grounding force for Julia. I feel like it's such an important role. Even as life moves on at a faster pace around her (in changes, at least), he does not abandon her. He keeps her connected with what happens outside the walls.

Charles, oh yeah. That energy comes from a nuclear reactor or something.

Aine said...

I'm glad you gave Julia a well-adjusted brother. Someone who maintains a sense of normalcy despite the unusual situation.

And, great job capturing the sibling teasing! I'm impressed...

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Wonderful, natural scene. The give and take between characters is done so well. I am reading through the serial and enjoying it. What a good idea for a story. Heartbreaking to be sure.

Anonymous said...

Aine, yeah, I have no experience in the exasperating sibling department! Unless you count the nasty little dog we had when I was growing up.

Kaye, thanks for not being intimidated by so many parts to this series! Thank you for going back to the beginning. :) If you'd like to read a completed fictionalized history series that you might enjoy, check out Tunguska in my archives. The theme is the major asteroid/comet impact in Russia early in the century. I enjoyed exploring the wide-ranging human impact of such a violent event.

FANCY said...

Great that you let children play like children and not like grown boring people. :)

Milly said...

Man this is good. I want her to be out of that thing and some how I dread that she will be, yet she will be free. I feel it coming. Am I wrong? No don't tell me!

Anonymous said...

Fancy, I'm probably not as tolerant as Billy Sr. here, but I do try. ;)

Milly, thank you! I appeciate the encouragement. This series is different in that, in a way, I'm covering the essense of Julia's entire life.