This is now the 25th chapter of “Of Wind and Wings”. See the table of contents here.
The drive to the hospital took over two hours, which was made longer as Liza, who was driving, barely said a word the entire time, letting Ed’s imagination run wild.
When Ed, Dr. Smyth and the four men arrived on the hillside, the strange man was nowhere to be seen. The Grubb was still as Ed had left him, bent the wrong way. It was if Ed had just run out without checking on the man-boys condition. Of course he didn’t know what he could have done.
“He is breathing,” the doctor said on arriving.
They slowly moved The Grubb onto the stretcher as the doctor examine the man-child. He used his hands to feel all over the body, Ed guessed looking for protruding bones.
“Odd,” Dr. Smyth said. “He fell from there?” he pointed to the top of the little cliff.
Ed nodded, “Yes, we had climbed up from the other side.” The drop seemed even bigger as Ed looked back up it than it did before, huge.
“I see signs of blood everywhere except on the patient, well, not in large amounts on the patient, at least. There are scrapes, cuts and bruises. No compound fractures that I can find. No head wound. And from his position I’d swear his neck was broken, and yet…”
The doctor did another quick examination of The Grubb and then motioned for the men to carry him down the slope. Ed could hear an approaching helicopter.
After The Grubb was whisked away on the med-evac, Dr. Smyth turned to Ed.
“Take these four men home. I’m driving directly to the hospital. I’ll call my sister-in-law while I’m on my way, tell her to let the family know. I’m sure I’ll meet the two of you there.”
A noise jarred Ed back to the present.
“We’re here,” Liza said as the pulled into the parking lot, or, as she called it, the car park.
Ed dreaded entering the waiting room, but he knew he must face everyone.
Grubb the Elder barely glanced up. He had his arms tightly across his chest and was bowed over. Mrs. Grubb had been whispering to Mr. Brown, but stood up when they entered. Liza went over and gave her a big hug.
“Hi Mr. Brown,” Ed said as he took the man’s hand.
Mr. Brown tried to smile, but his eyebrows still collapsed over his eyes like a sheepdog. “I’m sure we have nothing to worry about. I’m sure the boy will be fine. Fine.”
Ed tried to return the smile. “Yeah, I’m sure you are right. Fine.”
Mrs. Grubb gave Ed a hug and then examined him. “Now don’t you go blaming yourself, dear. The Grubb was always climbing up into spots where he shouldn’t have been going. I guess his luck ran out.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Grubb,” Ed said. He couldn’t help thinking that the only reason The Grubb was up there was because he had asked him.
Mrs. Grubb shook her head, as if guessing Ed’s thoughts. “No, The Grubb was always up on the cliffs and such. I felt he was part mountain goat. He might not have been there today without your asking, but he would have been back for sure, and sooner rather than later.”
Ed half smiled at her.
She took her place again, between Grubb the Elder and Mr. Brown. As if to answer Ed’s next unasked question she said, “You didn’t know that Winston was my older brother? Common knowledge, of course, but I guess you are a stranger in town, aren’t you? I had forgotten since it seems like you belong here and have always been here.”
Ed nodded. It finally made sense why The Grubb spent so much time with Mr. Brown and why Mr. Brown treated the young man so well.
“And Winston is a kindly fellow, don’t you know, and I’m sure would have been friends with The Grubb even if he wasn’t the boy’s uncle. He has a soft side that wraps all of the way around. A real doll.” She patted her brother’s arm.
Ed thought he saw a slight blush on Mr. Brown’s cheeks. “There, there, Martha, you don’t need to be telling Mr. Pulman all of our family secrets, you know.” He winked at her with an exaggerated movement of his giant eyebrow.
Mr. Brown was saved from further embarrassment when Dr. Smyth entered the waiting room with two other physicians. Mr. and Mrs. Grubb both leaped up, followed by Mr. Brown.
“How is the lad, then?” Grubb the Elder asked.
“Right now he is technically in a coma,” Dr. Smyth said.
Grubb the Elder let out a small noise of distress.
“Actually, that might be the best thing for William,” one of the other doctors said. “He needs to recuperate after his accident. We will continue to monitor him, but I expect he will regain consciousness in the next couple of days.”
“It is very odd,” Dr. Smyth said. “He appears to be sleeping off his injuries. Something I had not seen before.” He gave Ed a strange glance. Ed remembered his deep sleep after his own fall.
“Bu tother tan dat, how is ‘e?” Grubb the Elder asked.
“Remarkably well, actually,” the other doctor said. “He has scrapes and bruises covering most of his body, but no major injuries. There are signs that he suffered major trauma, and yet there is nothing there, as if broken bones had been made whole before he got here. We did many tests including a full MRI and found nothing of concern. No broken bones, nor any damage to his internal organs, including his brain. Nothing.” The man shook his head as if totally astonished.
“But me mate George says The Grubb’s neck were broke and his head cracked like an egg! George was there…”
Dr. Smyth cleared his throat. “Uhm, yes. When we first came across your son it was impossible to gauge the nature of his injuries. Because of the placement of his body when found, we feared the worst. But I did not attempt a diagnosis in the field and George Farfield should never have told you his uninformed opinion of the patient’s condition.”
“Well, then, can I take ‘im ‘ome?”
“I am afraid not at this time, Mr. Grubb,” one of the other doctors said. “We need to keep him until he regains consciousness and we would like to observe him for at least a day after that.”
“But you do expect him to fully recover?” Mrs. Grubb asked.
Dr. Smyth nodded. “Yes. He will be sore for a while, weeks. He will be a bit slow and possible stiff for some time. But he will recover and will be tromping across the moor in no time.”
Dr. Smyth pulled Ed to the side as the others began a quite celebration.
“You know The Grubb, I mean William, should not have been able to survive that fall, don’t you?” Ed nodded. “And when we got there, I would swear he was broken beyond repair. It is all impossible.”
Ed half shrugged.
“When you first came to me you were babbling. You said something about a man who was going to watch over The Gr.., over William. You didn’t mention him again and I wasn’t surprised that there was no sign anybody else had been there. I figured it was just that, that you were beside yourself and didn’t know quite what you were saying.”
Ed just stood there, feeling out of place. He had no clue what to say about the strange man, or if he should mention him to anyone at all. Dr. Smyth nodded.
“When I saw you after your fall, I assumed you were one lucky man. You should have been hurt much worse than you were. Now I’m not so sure luck was involved.”
The doctor’s stare seemed to cut through Ed. He wanted to go hide. But then Dr. Smyth smiled.
“I am glad that you thought fast on your feet,” he said a little louder so everyone else could hear. “I’m sure your quick action on getting us out there helped save poor William. There was nothing you could do on your own besides possible hurt the poor man even more.” He reached out a hand to shake. “I’m glad we had this little talk. Have a good ride back.”
Dr. Smyth told the Grubbs that he would be back to talk to them later, and then left with the other two doctors.
As Ed was getting ready to leave with Liza, Martha Grubb gave him a wink. It wasn’t a sexual wink, it was conspiratorial. He knew that she understood exactly what had happened. She knew who had saved The Grubb.
Liza then made a big show of taking Ed’s hand in a way he felt was more for Mr. Brown’s benefit than his own, and they left.
The ride back was almost as quiet as the ride to the hospital, and although Ed was no longer worried, his imagination continued to run wild.
He thought of The Grubb, of course, and the strange man. But one of the things that he kept coming back to was his own fall on the first day he explored the moors on his own. Just how bad was it? How bad were his injuries? Was it a near death experience as well?
He didn’t like any of the answers.
Ed glanced at Liza. Her brow was furrowed as she was lost in her own thoughts.
They drove on in silence.
Note – this chapter was not written for one of Sue’s prompts.