Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Who Ya Gonna Call?---Part Four



Two kinds of people in this world,

Winners... losers,

I lost my power in this world,

Cause I did not use it,

So I go insane...

("Go Insane", Lindsey Buckingham)



Can you help me remember how to smile?

Make it somehow all seem worthwhile,

How on earth did I get so jaded?

Life's mystery seems so faded...

("Runaway Train", Soul Asylum)



It was the last few months of our time at Shadyside. Graduation loomed and Marla, Cindy and I were hurtling towards the finish line....

And then one day I noticed that I had a sore throat--- and within a couple more backbreaking weeks of patient care on the wards and endless classroom hours, the damn thing progressed down my bronchial tubes to my chest. I began coughing violently, became fatigued to the point of listlessness, and I began to experience frequent fevers. And as my condition worsened I realized, to my utter mortification, that I had most likely developed a nice little case of pneumonia.

But there was no room in my brutal schedule for illness, and so, doggedly, I plunged onwards. But I began flagging due to the fatigue, fevers, and the fact that my head ached so hard that no amount of aspirin relieved the pain. But I knew I couldn't stop. I simply had to go on.

I very badly wanted to graduate at the top of my class--- and I knew that my stellar grades had placed me square in line for that coveted spot. Also, I wanted to secure an "Acute Care" internship at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas after graduation. And I knew that graduating at the top of my class combined with a high State Board of Nursing test score would help ensure that I met that lofty goal.

And so I had consistently refused to sign up for "sick call", which would have allowed me to stay in bed to nurse my illness. Instead I had plunged onwards, wandering around the hospital in a pale, ghost-like state, coughing and sniffling throughout the classes, clinicals and my nursing assistant job, clutching soiled Kleenexes and gobbling aspirin like they were candy.

"Go to the Family Clinic," a sympathetic Marla finally suggested. "You're dead on your feet. And you've been so sick that you haven't been studying very much--- and you know damn well that the cardiac test is day after tomorrow. You need to be seen by a doctor."

Her warning was valid. Because it was true--- I hadn't been studying. I hadn't been able to do anything but fall into my bed at night upon returning from my shift as a nursing assistant. And so, out of desperation, I did as she suggested.

The Family Clinic was the hospital's out-patient day clinic for routine treatment of non-emergency illnesses. It was located across the hospital campus, by the hospital's parking garage. Childrens' coughs and colds were treated there along with well-baby care. Pregnant women could get their monthly check-ups and prenatal care performed there also. And adults could get routine flu and cold treatment there as well as blood sugar and blood pressure checks.

It was also the place where the First Year Residents, the brand new doctors who had just completed their internships, could work under the supervision of more experienced doctors, honing their skills in the low stress atmosphere of the Family Clinic before taking on the more rigorous routines of the more acute-care departments of the hospital.

Student nurses were allowed free medical care at the Family Clinic--- and their care was always given by the First Year Residents. The hospital allowed the First Year Residents to"practice" on us students...

So that afternoon I trudged over to the teeming offices of the Family Clinic. After checking in, I languished in the waiting room among a bunch of squawling children, a couple of young pregnant women, and a few bored-looking adults who were reading the tattered, outdated magazines lying around. My head was pounding and I forlornly wondered how in the world I was going to feel like studying that night. All I wanted to do was to lie down....

"Bo? You're next...." a tired-looking nurse called, waving me towards an exam room. "You know the drill. Put the gown on and sit on the table. Doctor will be here in a minute."

Ignoring the flimsy gown she'd placed on the counter, I crawled up onto the exam table and laid down, curling into a fetal position, feeling like I was a hundred years old. As I lay there, stifling the urge to moan out loud, I mouthed a silent prayer in my head....

Lord, it's me again--- it's Bo. Listen, I feel like an old nag horse who's been rode hard and put up wet. Dadgum but I feel bad! Please cure me, okay? I've got a hundred pages of cardiac notes to memorize for the big cardiac test which, as You know, is day after tomorrow. And I don't feel like studying at all....

After awhile the nurse returned, accompanied by a First Year Resident. Most of the Residents I encountered on the hospital's wards wore an eternal scowl. But this one was smiling.

"I thought I told you to put on that gown!" the nurse bitched. I ignored her and rose to a sitting position, dangling my trembling, feverish legs off the side of the exam table. I was so nauseous that it was all I could to keep from vomiting.

But I didn't vomit. I took deep breaths and willed myself to hold steady because, like all Shadyside nursing students, I was struck in awe by the presence of...a doctor......

At Shadyside, one of the last bastions of the Victorian, "old days" of medicine, we young nursing students were taught by the nuns that doctors were veritable gods. They were considered to be the most elite of human men....the highest level of professionals.....the most wisest of all medical practitioners....and the absolute ultimate of authoritative figures.

Doctors were to be OBEYED. And their authority was NEVER to be questioned.

At Shadyside, a nurse would still rise to give a doctor her seat when he arrived at the ward's nursing station. And when a doctor went to "make rounds" on his patients, the Head Nurse would follow him obediently, from bedside to bedside, while writing down literally everything he said --- which were his "Medical Orders" to be followed. And woe betide the nurse who failed to give a doctor his due respect--- the consequences could be catastrophic for her.

And thus I, as a lowly nursing student, was so fearful of doctors that I quailed in their very presence. I usually hid from them. Only "real nurses" or Head Nurses could speak to such all-knowing, flawless beings. Yes, the nuns had been very successful at indoctrinating me into the creed of Shadyside Nursing School--- that the immortal god-doctors were much too busy in their holy pursuits to entertain the presence of lowly personages such as myself.

And I would no more think of defying a doctor's order than to cut off one of my arms.

And so, when this young Family Clinic doctor entered my exam room---to examine ME of all people--- I felt an acute anxiety close to panic. I could barely look him in the eye. And I was petrified at the thought that my notoriously clumsy awkwardness might cause me to do or say something which would offend him.

"Hello there, Little Miss, I'm Dr. Retselom," he said amiably, holding out his hand for me to shake.

My own hand was shaking but I nervously held it out and shook his.

"Puh...pleased to meet you, sir," I replied, blushing furiously and staring at the ground. I was even more nervous than before because I'd noticed that he was extremely handsome and was flashing me a winning grin.

"Do you want me to put her in a gown, sir?" the nurse asked.

"Don't worry about it," he replied, still grinning at me. I knew he was trying to put me at ease but it hadn't helped--- I was so nervous that I could barely utter a coherent sentence.

"So," he said, glancing at my chart. "I see you've got some fever and coughing. How long has this been going on?"

"Um...about two weeks," I replied in a quavering voice, still looking at the floor. "The cough is getting worse and I feel so sick that I can hardly study."

The doctor took his stethoscope and, after asking me to take a series of deep breaths, listened to my lungs through my back--- over my shirt--- expertly moving his scope over the spots which corresponded to the different lobes of my lungs. He also looked at my throat, neck and ears.

"Well, honey," he pronounced, "I think you might have a touch of pneumonia in one of those lungs. Have you been coughing stuff up?"

"Yes sir," I replied. "Some yellowy stuff...."

It was so embarrassing to tell this doctor my personal symptoms!

"I could put you in the hospital for the night, get an X-ray and give you some antibiotics..." he started---but then I panicked.

"Oh no--- please don't do that, sir!" I blurted, unable to contain myself from interrupting him so rudely. "I can't go into the hospital--- I've got to stay on my feet! The big cardiac test is day after tomorrow and I haven't studied for it at all! And I work on the ward every night as a nursing assistant---please don't put me in the hospital!"

He thought about this news for a couple of minutes as he wrote on my chart, a funny little smile playing on his lips, and then he turned to look at me with a gentle, kindly expression.

"Okay," he said, softly and reassuringly. "I won't admit you to the hospital. But I am writing a note excusing you from working as a nursing assistant for at least two nights. And I'm going to give you a script for some antibiotics and cough medicine, okay? I want you to rest as much as possible."

"Thank you so much, doctor," I murmured with relief, totally grateful for this "doctor-god's" help.

"Just wait here and the nurse will come back to give you your discharge instructions after I write them, okay?" he stated--- and with that, both he and the nurse left the exam room.

So I sat there on the side of the exam table, waiting for the nurse to come back with my paperwork. I felt glad and relieved that I'd come to the Family Clinic. I knew the antibiotics would help my situation immensely. I had some hope, now, that with the medicine's help, it was just a matter of time before I would begin to feel a lot better and get over this pneumonia.

Just then, the door opened again---and I was surprised to see that it wasn't the nurse--- it was the doctor.

He slipped into the room and closed the door behind him, gazing at me with that same dazzling grin that he'd shown earlier....

"Hey there," he said. "You know, Little Miss....I forgot something. I forgot to listen to your lungs from the front."

"Oh...uh...okay..." was all I could manage to say.

I was confused. Hadn't he already listened to my lungs from the back? And after doing so he had seemed pretty satisfied with his diagnosis....

Cautiously, he approached me where I sat on the edge of the exam table--- and looked me in the eyes. It was unnerving---and I was so shy and confused that I couldn't meet his gaze. I could only look down at the floor, flustered and uncomfortable.

His voice softened as he said: "I'm going to listen to your lungs a little bit more, okay? So just relax for a second...."

And then he reached over and expertly unbuttoned the top five buttons of my shirt. He then reached into my shirt with one hand and dipped that hand inside my bra....and he cupped his hand around my left breast---and began caressing it.

I was stricken with shock.....

I could not move...

I could not breathe.....

After squeezing that breast a couple more times, he just as quickly repeated the motion on the other side, reaching again into my bra and cupping my right breast, caressing and squeezing it gently for a moment or two.

"These are so sweet....." he muttered in a strange, guttural voice. "So sweet...."

And then it was over.

I hadn't said one single word, nor had I ever looked at his face.

He quickly re-buttoned my shirt and turned to leave the exam room. Just as he was about to go out the door, he turned back to look at me one more time--- and he flashed that gorgeous grin again. And he said: "Look honey, if you ever get tired of all the little girls and old-bag nuns at the Nursing School, give me a call..."

And with that he left the exam room.

A little while later the nurse came back to my room and perfunctorily gave me my discharge instruction papers, including the scripts for the prescribed medicines. "You can get these meds filled at the hospital pharmacy," she told me. "It's in the main hospital building, to the left of Admissions---just follow the signs, you can't miss it. And they don't charge nursing students very much in there."

I mumbled my thanks and left.

* * * * * * * * *

As I exited through the door of the Family Clinic, I was met by a blinding rain. But I didn't even notice it.

And I ran...

Oh, how I ran.

I ran as fast as I could through the labyrinth of buildings making up the hospital's campus, skirting the paved walkways in order to run directly across the well-kept lawns. I ran like a frightened deer, vaulting over neatly-trimmed hedges, stomping ruinously through beautiful flowerbeds festooned with black-faced pansies, hurtling over park benches, splashing through muddy rain-puddles...

I was headed for the safety of the nursing school.

I burst through the huge doors of the east entrance to the nursing school building and skipped the elevators, opting instead to rush my way up the stairwell, taking stairs two at a time, leaving muddy footprints behind me.

When I passed the Housemother's floor she spotted me. "Bo!" she yelled out. "Why are you running up those stairs like a heathen? What in the world is so urgent that you have to run?"

But I ignored her and continued my mad dash up the stairs. When at last I emerged onto the fourth floor, I turned and ran like a bat out of hell down the corridor towards my room, ignoring the strange looks from a group of students milling around in the Lounge. Some of them were watching a movie on TV, and some of them were gossiping about the fact that there was a thief on the floor, as money and valuables had been coming up missing pretty regularly.

But I didn't give a damn about some stupid thief. And so I kept running towards my room.

"Hey, Bo!" I heard Marla shout. "What in the hell?" I knew she was going to come after me.

I finally arrived at my room--- and as I entered it, I slammed the door behind me, dropped my paperwork onto the floor, and I rushed across the room to throw myself onto my bed. I grabbed the quilt my mother had made me and wrapped myself in it for comfort. And then I simply laid there, staring stupidly at the ceiling, numb and cold from the rain.

It was there that Marla found me a few seconds later when she burst into the room. I was lying in bed, shivering and crying--- feeling so violated that I wanted to die--- I wanted a hole in the earth to open up and swallow me, taking me away forever....

"What on earth?" Marla exclaimed. She picked up the papers on the floor and glanced over them. "Hey, Bo, you need to fill these prescriptions! It says on here that you've got pneumonia!"

When I didn't answer she came over and sat on the edge of my bed, searching my face for clues to what was wrong.

"What in the hell is going on, Bo?" she asked. I could tell she was both puzzled and worried.

"I'm insane....I'm going insane...." I said simply. I couldn't meet her eyes....

"What do you mean, you're going insane?" she replied. "What in the hell are you talking about?"

"I'm leaving this damn place...." I replied. "I'm leaving this... this hell-hole! I hate this godforsaken place. I'm tired of the torture and ....I'm going to... I'm going to call my parents in Brazil and ask them to get me the hell out of here!"

And then Marla herself went into a panic.

"STOP IT, Bo!" she screamed at me. "You're not going anywhere, do ya hear me? You are out of your head! What's the matter with you?" And then she shook me hard, by my shoulders, forcing me to look at her. "YOU ARE NOT GOING TO LEAVE, do you understand me?"

"I'm leaving....I'm outta here...." I repeated. "I hate this damn place! I hate the nuns, I hate the students, I hate the nurses....and I especially hate the doctors!"

"I am telling you right now, Bo, that you can just get that idea right out of your head. You can't quit!" she screamed. She was frantic now.

"Listen to me, Bo!" she persisted. "The only reason I've made it this far is because of YOU, Bo! Yes, YOU! I've been hanging by a damn thread for months! And do you know why? It's because you are the fucking thread that I've been hanging onto, do ya hear me? And if you were to leave, I'd never be able to continue on by myself. So you've GOT to stay in this shit-hole for ME, Bo! Dammit, you've got to stay and help me, Bo!"

At a loss for words, I put my face in my hands and cried even harder, which confused her even further.

"Tell me, what in the holy hell happened to you this afternoon?" she asked, her voice softening. "Please," she pleaded. "Did one of the nuns yell at you? Tell me what happened."

I knew it was no use keeping silent. Marla loved me like a sister. And as much as she had just confessed that she had been clinging to me for strength during all the miseries we had experienced at Shadyside, the same was true of me--- I had clung to Marla for my own comfort in kind.

Marla's quiet, gentle, sensible personality had always been the perfect match to my rebelliously wild, irreverent, risk-taking nature. She had always been my source of rational stability--- just as I had been the source of her newly-found courage. She was my most bestest friend. And so I knew that if anybody could understand my despair, it was her.

"He....he...." I started. But I stuttered incoherently and couldn't get it out.

"He who?" she asked, still gripping my shoulders.

"Th...the...the doctor at the Family Clinic..." I said, looking away.

"Look me in the eyeballs, damn you!" she demanded. "What doctor? What happened?"

Finally, I looked straight into her eyes. Since I was having so much trouble expressing myself verbally, I tried to convey the horror of what I was feeling with my tear-filled eyes. But by this time I was crying so hard that I was hiccupping and could hardly make myself understood.

"He touched me...." I began, taking deep breaths in an attempt to slow down my crying and hiccuping. "The Family Practice doctor.... he was a first-year Resident..... and he... he put his hands down into my bra. He said he was listening to my lungs..."

"So what?" she replied, confused and not yet understanding. "Of course he would have had to listen to your lungs to see what was wrong with you---you know that, right?"

"'re not getting it!" I screamed into her face. "He had already listened to my damn lungs! And had already left the room to go write my discharge instructions! But then...he came back... he came back when the nurse wasn't there. He said he had forgotten to listen to my lungs 'from the front'. And then.... he unbuttoned my shirt and he ....he... did some things..."

I had started stuttering again.

"WHAT EXACTLY DID HE DO?" Marla demanded, still confused.

"He didn't listen to my damn lungs!" I explained. "He put his damn hands into my bra and held my breasts--- in his HAND!"

I began sobbing uncontrollably again. But I had to get it out. "He felt my breasts, Marla! Without a stethoscope! He put his hand down inside my bra and squeezed each of them! First one... then the other! He... he stroked and squeezed them... in a wrong way! A really wrong way! And.... and while he was doing it he told me they were 'sweet'! God, Marla, don't you get it?"

The confusion on Marla's face stayed there for a couple more moments. But then....

She finally "got it".

And with that dawning realization, Marla's previously kind, concerned face morphed into a mask of ugly anger. And for a few moments Marla wasn't able to speak. Her anger was so stark that she could only stare at me, trembling with shock and disbelief.

A doctor had molested her Bo!

Finally, she closed her eyes for a few moments, trying desperately to collect herself. And then finally she opened her eyes and looked at me with pure naked sorrow-- and a love so deep that no words were really necessary. But she did speak....

"Did you tell anybody?" she finally whispered.

"No...nobody...." I replied.

"That filthy..... creep..." I heard her mutter to herself, her own eyes filling with tears.

And then she simply took me in her arms and held me hard. And I wrapped my arms around her and held tightly onto her. And we both sat there for a long time, holding each other in our sorrow, rocking ourselves back and forth--- each of us trying to come to terms with the fact that our little world had just been shattered into a million pieces with the frightening realization that our cloistered existence in the Nursing School, under the protective umbrella of the strict nuns, wasn't enough to keep us safe.

Nay, the world was a dangerous place...

Even at Shadyside.

* * * * * * * * *

It was the night before the cardiac test. And I was sitting at my desk....

And since I had been too ill to study for the test properly, I knew only too well that I was doomed to fail the damn thing. I had begun taking the antibiotics and cough medicine the doctor had given me, but I was still pretty ill. But even though I was still pretty sick, I had rallied enough to be able to sit at my desk and try to study.

But to my chagrin, I realized that there simply weren't enough hours in the night for me to study for the cardiac test. I had barely touched the voluminous amount of required study material--- hell, it would have taken me at least a full week of hard cramming to do justice to all the material necessary to prepare for this test. And I had barely read my own classroom notes much less read the assigned text-book chapters and anatomy hand-outs.

And to make matters worse, the cardiac test was rumored to be the single most difficult test of a student's entire two years at the Nursing School.

I sat at my desk despairing. My tortured mind wrestled with the consequences of failing this test. First, I fretted that the lost points from failing this major test might cost me my goal of graduating at the top of my class. And secondly, apart from my class standing, I was also uncomfortably aware of what such a failure might do to my "reputation" in the nursing school.

I couldn't bear the thought of how the other students would react to the news that Bo had actually flunked a test!

I had always been such a study-animal perfectionist that the other students had gotten into the habit of expecting only the highest grades from me. And, shamefully, I had become addicted to the other students' admiration of my near-perfect grades whenever the nuns posted the latest test scores on the wall of the fifth floor for everyone to see.

I knew that I was guilty of the sin of pride!

Pride.... that most horrid of sins, the one which the nuns had ardently preached about as being the most absolutely wickedest of all the "Seven Deadly Sins"--- that sin which could surely send me to hellfire and damnation!

Yes, it was all too true. I had been prideful of my reputation for being the nursing school's "whiz kid", the student who not only consistently scored 100% on my tests, but who usually always scored the "bonus questions", which would raise my score from 100% to 102% or 104%.

I had once scored a 107% on a Microbiology test, a feat which I was told would go down in Shadyside history as being the highest score ever received on any test given in the century since the first nursing students had been admitted to the school....

As I sat there pondering my academic fate, I listlessly thumbed through my classroom notes, trying to decide whether I should just read through them as best I could--- or else forego the notes entirely and instead spend the night attempting a foolish Quixotian task of "scanning" the hundred pages of assigned textbook readings in the fantasmical belief that I would somehow "absorb" enough knowledge to pass the test.

And then I noticed something on my book shelf which I had forgotten. It was a fat folder of papers, the two-years worth of accumulated Shadyside academic material which my "Big Sister" had handed down to me the previous year when she had graduated.

All first-year nursing students were assigned a "Big Sister", a second-year student. The Big Sister's job was to help the hapless first-year student navigate the difficulties of their first year at Shadyside. And my Big Sister, Jolie, had been a great Big Sister. She had patiently instructed me in the idiosyncracies of the various nuns, reminded me of all the rules (and taught me how to break them without getting caught), had helped me figure out the maze of the seemingly endless corridors of the hospital and the underground tunnels connecting it to the nursing school, and she had held my hand through numerous first-year student disasters.

And Jolie had also graciously given me the folder containing her old classroom notes, quizzes, and tests from her two years at Shadyside. So I picked up the folder and flipped through its contents. And to my pleasure, I found the previous year's cardiac test, the version of the test which Jolie had taken.

"Eureka!!" my brain shouted, and a faint glimmer of hope began spreading throughout my thoughts.

I realized that even though I didn't have enough time to study all the material necessary to pass my own cardiac test, I did have time to study the topics covered on the previous year's test--- and that this might help me gain enough basic cardiac information to keep me from flunking altogether, perhaps even allowing me to score enough points to pass the dratted thing!

But I needed some extra "insurance". I needed more help than what I could gain from just looking at a few questions and answers from last year's test. I knew that I needed what my father always called the "big guns".

I needed help from The Lord.

And I thought that maybe I should be a little more formal for this prayer request..... more formal than the usual, careless little foxhole prayers I threw at Him during minor, "everyday" crises.

For this, I needed to meet Him on His own territory.

And so I threw on on my sweater and hurried to the main hospital building. I went directly to the hospital's little chapel, a smallish room located on a little-used corner of the 2nd floor, in back of the Pulmonary Ward. I entered the little Chapel and was instantly calmed. The peaceful, beautiful room was softly lit by small lamps and lit candles--- and several rows of lovely polished oak pews and kneeling-benches were lined up in front of an alter over which hung a statue of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

There candlelight caused eerie shadows to play along the Chapel's walls. I knew that each candle had been lit by the family member of a hospital patient in the desperate hope that God would heal their loved one from whatever malady had caused the hospitalization. I muttered a quick prayer for those souls and then I eased into the front pew, where I knelt on the bench and threw myself over the rail. I was going to pray like I'd never prayed before.

"Look Lord," I prayed. "You know that I haven't had time to study for this test. How could I? I have pneumonia and I've been sick as a dog! But I sure as heck don't want to fail this test, Lord! And also, Lord... I am sick at heart. Why...why did you allow that... that man to.... well, you know...."

I paused for a few minutes, to let these issues sink into The Lord's thoughts, and then I continued.

"Please, Lord, give me a break here. Don't let me fail that test tomorrow morning. I couldn't bear it. I couldn't bear to fail a test when I've never made less than a damn 98% on any test I've ever taken here. Oh heck, forgive me for saying the word damn......but that word IS in the Bible, you know. OH NEVER MIND, LORD! Just PLEASE help me pass the cardiac test!"

* * * * * * * *

The morning of the fateful test found me gulping back another antibiotic pill and some aspirin. I had spent a fitful night coughing. But I hadn't taken the cough medicine because I was afraid the codeine in it would cause me to be drowsy during the early morning test---and I knew my precarious circumstances left little room for anything but peak brain performance.

Marla and Cindy accompanied me as we trudged our way up the stairs to the fifth floor. None of us had much energy to chatter like magpies, as we usually did. The events of the past few weeks had beaten us down to painfully thin, hollow-eyed waifs--- and morose, depressed demeanors were the best we could muster on this ominous morning.

We knew that a lot rode on this particular test for many students. Although the grade point averages of us three could survive a failure on this test, we knew that this wasn't the case for some of the students. Some girls' quarterly grade point averages were so painfully low that flunking this test would mean they'd be expelled from school. The nuns kept to a strict insistence on a 76% average or above. Anything less would not be tolerated, no matter how far a girl had come through the program.

Just before filing into the classroom, I noticed Sister Sandra in her nearby office. I paused at her door.

"Sister Sandra?"

"What is it, Bo?" she asked, irritated at being interrupted. Sister Sandra always seemed to hate to speak to students outside the classroom setting. I knew she considered us students as incompetent dumb-heads who shouldn't be allowed to sully her hospital's wards, and I knew that she considered me, with my smart-alek personality, the lowest vermin of them all.

"I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to fail the test," I told her simply. "I did not prepare for it properly."

Her only response was to level a silent, scornfull gaze at me.

"Come on," Marla said, snatching my shirt sleeve to drag me into the classroom.

"Why give her the satisfaction?" she hissed into my ear.

"I don't know....I don't know..." I replied miserably.

After entering the classroom, we all sat down in the proper "test formation", which meant that each student had to keep an empty desk between herself and the next student in order to prevent cheating.

Eventually, Sister Sandra entered the classroom herself and proceeded to give us the perfunctory "cheating lecture", which we all knew by heart.

Cheating will be tolerated, no books or papers are allowed on your desk, keep your eyes on your own paper, and any infraction will result in your test paper being taken and your expulsion from the school.....blah blah blah blah.

And then she began passing out the test papers, instructing us to keep them face down on our desks until she gave us the signal that we could turn them over and begin the test. Finally, after she'd handed out last test, she walked to her own desk, sat down, and uttered one word.


And we all nervously turned over our test papers, dreading what we would see written there---hoping against hope that the test's questions would ask those exact things which we had earnestly studied.

I sighed and closed my eyes, steeling myself for my upcoming downfall. And then.... I turned my own test paper face up.

And then my world began spinning round and round.....and I became so dizzy that I thought I might faint.

I looked again, just to be sure, in case my imagination was playing tricks on me. But it was still there....

It. Was. The. Exact. Same. Test.

Yes--- it was the exact same test which had been given last year!

Pride is the wickedest of the Seven Deadly Sins!

For some ungodly reason, Sister Sandra had not "rotated" the cardiac tests per school protocol as the nuns always did! She had most likely carelessly forgotten which one she'd given the previous year and had inadvertently given us the same test this year that she had given the year before!

I saw before me the exact paper which I had painstakenly memorized the night before. I had even looked up the answers to the questions which my Big Sister had gotten incorrect.

There it was, right in front of me..... my 100%.... plus the bonus questions.

Pride is the wickedest of the Seven Deadly Sins!

I knew the answer to every single question on the test.

And I had been presented with a choice--- to either confess to Sister Sandra that I unfairly knew all the answers, forfeiting everything and taking a score of zero----

Or I could cheat--- and take the test and pass it with flying colors.

As I pondered this horrible choice, an unwanted thought crept into my mind...

Nobody would ever know....

* * * * * * * *

As all the students madly scribbled answers onto the test sheets, I felt flushed and hot. I didn't know if it was the fever returning or my own shameful thoughts. And as I struggled with my conscience, I suddenly heard a commotion happening in the row of desks behind me.

Apparently, Sister Sandra had spotted something on the floor underneath a student's foot. Rising from her seat, she had approached that student and bent down to pluck the item up from under the girl's foot. It was a piece of paper with writing on it. And it had been found under the foot of a usually gregarious girl named Judy.

But Judy wasn't being very gregarious at this moment. She had gone pale--- and had tightly closed her eyes.

For a second or two, Sister Sandra gazed at the paper she had retrieved from under Judy's foot--- and then she threw a completely disgusted and disdainful look at Judy, upon whose face big teardrops were beginning to fall. Sister Sandra then picked up Judy's test paper, dramatically tore it into two pieces--- and pointed at the classroom door.

Judy jumped up and fled the classroom, nearly knocking Cindy's desk over in her haste.

Shocked, the classroom couldn't do anything but gaze in silence at the door through which Judy had exited.

"Just go on with your tests," Sister Sandra stated loudly.

And so we did.

When I finished marking on my own test, I rose to my feet and walked slowly up the center aisle to Sister Sandra's desk, where I handed it to her. Then I turned around to leave.

"Just a minute," Sister Sandra stated.

Pride is the wickedest of the Seven Deadly Sins!!!

I held my breath as I turned around to face Sister Sandra. She was scanning my test's answers, confusion growing on her scowling face. And then she looked at me with a frown.

"I thought you said you were going to fail this test," she stated acridly. "But all the answers to the questions I've looked at so far seem to be perfectly correct."

But I couldn't speak. After giving her a blank look, I simply shrugged---and left the classroom.

* * * * * * * *

Marla stopped by my room when she finished her test. I was sitting at my desk, staring at the wall.

"Glad we got that bitch of a test out of the way!" she remarked, plopping herself on my bed.

"Yeah," I mumbled. "It's over...."

As Marla chattered, the same sentence kept repeating itself, over and over, through my mind.....

I thought you said you were going to fail this test?

"Can you frigging BELIEVE that Judy was caught cheating?" Marla continued. "Totally unreal for sure! Eileen said that she had seen Judy moving her foot back and forth to look at her cheat sheet. God, what a totally embarassing way to get kicked out of school!"

"Totally...." I echoed.

I thought you said you were going to fail this test?

"Anyway, let's celebrate the end of the cardiac section," she said happily. "Let's me, you, and Cindy go to Joe's Bar and play some pool! I could use a drink after that whole deal!"

"Sure," I replied vaguely, trying to think of a way to quiet the accusatory, tortuous thoughts swirling in my mind. "I could use a drink right now. Hand me that bottle of vodka in my closet---it's hidden behind those shoe boxes."

She retrieved the vodka bottle and handed it to me.

I unscrewed the cap, lifted the bottle to my lips--- and chugged a couple large gulps.

"You idiot," she giggled, amused at my crudeness. "How can you drink that horrible stuff straight?!"

Marla was smiling with relief, thinking to herself that the "old Bo" was back....

And she didn't notice that I wasn't smiling....




Kim said...

Bo, that wasn't cheating at all. You had used a previous test to study from; a test that the other student had been given.

Maybe that test was a HUGE answer to a prayer; you HAD studied, you DID know those answers, in your head, plain as day and without any papers or crib notes in your possession.

I'd say it was more of a miracle than a cheat! Wow!

Unknown said...

I don't know what to write re that Doctor but you know I know the feelings that being molested brings.

Macy from Buffalo, NY said...

Bo, you asked for a miracle and got one - that is a blessing, not a reason to beat yourself up! With pneumonia, no less. I'm glad you told Marla about the dr.'s inappropriate touching. IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT that he took advantage of a vulnerable, trusting ILL student nurse - HE abused you & your trust. Keeping it to yourself would have kept the guilt you were feeling burning inside you. I get the feeling you still are. You are loved and cared for now because YOU DESERVE TO BE.

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MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

I haven't read the post yet, but had to say - OH MY GAWD, I just had soul asylum playing in my car (cassette tape; yes, I'm old) and I *love* that song!