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A Better Outlook

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December, 2020

“Didn’t mean to wake you, Starsk.”

“Wasn’t asleep.”

“Just wanted to see how you’re doing.”

“What you see is what you get.”

“I didn’t hear you run to the bathroom, so the chicken broth and rice must have stayed down.”

“So far.”

“Excellent! Starsky, that’s the first food you’d had in five days.”

“Yeah. Guess I knew that. Hey! You’re wearing a fresh mask!”

“How can you tell? They’re all alike.”

“But the one you’ve been wearing was all pinched around the bridge of your nose. You have a habit of doing that.”

“You know me too well.”

“No such thing. Besides, your gloves are a different color.”

“Variety is the spice of life, Starsk. Speaking of which, you want to try to eat something else? You’ve been on a long fast.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me. That’s your thing. But, no, not right now. I want the rice to settle a bit, first.”

“I poached a few chicken thighs in ginger broth. That ought to taste pretty good, when you’re ready.”

“Okay. Are you getting enough to eat, Hutch? I sure don’t want you to come down with this thing.”

“I’m doing fine, honestly.”

“Gotta take your word for it, since you’re the one in charge around here right now.”

“And don’t you forget it, Mr. I Am The Patient.”

“Geez, your bedside manner sucks.”

“No, it doesn’t. I’ve been told I’d have made a great doctor!”

“By who? Undertakers?”

“Oh, it’s good to hear that sense of humor, again, Starsk.”

“I’m tryin’.”

“So I’ll avoid the obvious sarcastic comeback, and just say let me know when you’re ready to eat something else. In the meantime, I’ve made up a pitcher of that oxygen water. You need to drink another glassful, right now.”

“You’re pushy, Hutchinson. You realize that, right?”

“It’s been mentioned. Here.”

“Actually, it doesn’t taste bad. Thought it would.”

“Hydration’s vital with this virus, according to what I’ve read.”

‘”Okay, I understand that. There! I finished it.”

“That’s a good boy. Pineapple juice next.”

“Later, maybe.”

“Soon, though. Want a book? Watch some TV?”

“Hutch…”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks for being here.”

“Where else would I be, dummy?”

“No, I mean, thanks for being here. If I’d known what I had before I called, I don’t think I would’ve. God! I’d never have wanted to expose you to this!”

“I know. So I’m glad you thought it was food poisoning.”

"What made you stop and pick up masks, gloves and disinfectant wipes, though?"

"Hunch?"

“Whatever. If you hadn’t been holding my hand last night, keeping me grounded, I don’t know what I might have done. I’ve never felt anything so excruciating. It was the worst yet.”

“I almost carried you down to the car and took you to the hospital.”

“Glad you didn’t.”

“Knew you’d have hated it. ‘s probably the only reason why you’re not there right now.”

“Thanks.”

“Pain meds have their purpose, buddy, as you well know.”

“Yeah, they do. But having you here was better. Sorry about the crushed knuckles.”

“Don’t worry about it. Made me forget the arthritis creeping down those fingers.”

“Did I scream?”

“I might have heard a whimper or two.”

“That’s embarrassing.”

“You were in pain, Starsk.”

“I know I made a joke about Aunt Rose’s chicken soup that time, and it was bad. Bellamy’s poison was worse, but this… this is like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Why didn’t I see this coming, Hutch? Why has it taken me so off-guard?”

“I don’t know. From all the accounts I’ve read and everything I’ve seen online, nausea and vomiting are symptoms but the kind of vicious intestinal agony you’ve been going through wasn’t mentioned. And, with you, fever was certainly not the first indicator.”

“The virus affects everyone differently, huh?”

“That’s what I’ve read. But somebody else must have experienced this. I can’t imagine all of them keeping it to themselves.”

“Well, you better believe I’m puttin’ it out there. Just as soon as I can get up and sit at the computer for a few minutes.”

“Maybe you should suggest they get themselves to a hospital if they begin having extreme pain.”

“That’s probably a good idea.”

“Hospitals can keep them hydrated and fed while they monitor the discomfort levels.”

“‘Discomfort levels.’ That’s a good one, Hutch. Is that what I’ve been experiencing for almost a week?”

“I’d say yours were right off the scale.”

“That’s what it felt like from in here. But, seriously, Hutch, people aren’t taking enough care, this is really nasty stuff!”

“You’re getting no argument from me, pal.”

“I know. ‘Cause you’ve been here with me through every minute since Sunday.”

“One thing I haven’t asked…”

“Where did I get it?”

“Right.”

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about that and I figure it must have been the old guy who came by Thursday afternoon to look at the Cutty Sark.”

“I noticed she was gone.”

“He called first, then showed up about five. Wasn’t wearing a mask. I was, but I kept my distance anyway. He spent half an hour looking at details. Stroked every plank of the hull and decking. Even took out a magnifying glass to study the way I’d braided heavy sewing thread to make the stuns’l rigging.”

“A sea faring man, was he?”

“Naw. I think he was just trying to make me think he knew what he was looking at. Probably didn’t know a studding sail, or its required rigging, from a flying jib.”

“I’m going to miss her.”

“Me, too.”

“I love the way you carved the base so that she was heeled over, all her canvas - including those wonderful stuns’ls - catching the wind and hurrying her toward some exotic destination.”

“You sound like a sea faring man, yourself, Hutchinson.”

“What? No! Norwegians were Vikings. We plied the seas in oar boats with one large square sail. Clippers are what I dreamed of, though.”

“They were iconic, that’s for sure.”

“Tell me something. If it’s not a trade secret.”

“What?”

“How did you get all the sails to billow out, to look as if they were actually filled with wind?”

“Wet the cloth. Smooth it over an appropriately shaped, rounded object, then hit it with spray starch.”

“Ingenious.”

“I couldn’t think of anything else. And it worked.”

“The guy obviously bought it.”

“Yeah. Just when I was ready to tell him it wasn’t for sale, he told me he’d take it and handed it back to me. I packed it up, he paid me, and left.”

“And you didn’t wash your hands, did you?”

“No.”

“After which, you probably started to make dinner.”

“As I remember, you’re right.”

“Did you wear gloves when you took the money to the bank on Friday?”

“No.”

“Well, all the tellers are required to wear them these days, I think. They’ll be safe. But you need to call the guy. Strongly advise he get tested.”

“Bet he’s not going to like that.”

“Maybe not, but if he doesn’t exhibit any of the symptoms, he could be a carrier. And those people are the worst! They spread this disease as if it had no bearing on them.”

“I’ll dig his number out and call him later. I’m a little tired right now.”

“Sure you are. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have --”

“No, Hutch, I didn’t mean it that way. I love that you’re here. I need you here. I just don’t want to talk about this any more for a while.”

“Would you like some ginger ale?”

“What were those two bottles I saw on the counter after you got back from the grocery store? Ginger beer?

“Noticed those, did you?”

“Yes, I did. What does it taste like?”

“I have no idea.”

“Well, crack one open and we’ll split it. Maybe I can put a little cheer on this First Food Day. And then, maybe then, I’ll be able to face whatever else this virus has in store for me with a better outlook.”

“Now, that’s the Starsky I know.”

“Speaking of which, as you said a few minutes ago, what day is today? I’ve lost track. When’s Christmas?”

“Not for a few days, yet.”

“Well, your present’s under the sofa. Haven’t wrapped it.”

Under the sofa? That’s a pretty small space to hide something.”

“Not much room needed for a hockey stick and a couple of pucks.”

“A hockey stick? Really, Starsk?”

“I know you’ve been dying to get back on the ice, ever since we saw that Torvill and Dean documentary. And I figured, even if our City Council still hasn’t kept its promise to rebuild our rink, we can always drive up to L.A. and tickle the cubes at one of their facilities.”

“That’s a great idea! Thanks! Did you buy two?”

“Of course. Couldn’t have you running off to have fun without me, could I?”

“Perish the thought.”

“Oh, definitely, perish the thought.”

“You probably won’t like what I got you as much, but I --”

“No, Hutch, don’t tell me! I can wait.”

“Since when?”

“Since the virus, I guess. I think I want to savor every moment, as it comes, from now on. I don’t want to know about the bad things, or the good ones, before they happen.”

“That sounds like a perfect approach to life, Starsk.”

“Took me long enough, huh?”

“It’s never too late to adopt a new attitude.”

“Well, you can stop pontificating now and dig out one of those sticks! I want to lie here in my pain-free moment and watch you slide a puck all over the floor.”

“Your wish is my command, sir.”

“We’ll see how long that lasts after I get better.”

 

END