Chapter 10 – Urgent Care

Chris paced in the waiting room of the urgent care center while Josh checked him in. It felt so good to walk without that chain! When he caught sight of a familiar-looking homeless man out of the corner of his eye, he turned to take a better look, and his jaw dropped. He hadn’t passed a man; he’d passed a full-length mirror!

Approaching hesitantly, he surveyed the man in the mirror. Long, matted, gray-brown hair—the same color as the dirt he’d become so familiar with—framed his face. Ragged clothes, also gray-brown, hung from a slumped, skinny frame. His sparse facial hair had grown into a scraggly goatee. Oozing sores and scabs covered his face and arms.

“Not me,” he mumbled.

In a sense, he was right. While in the camp, he’d been in survival mode, not thinking or evaluating normally, just existing. During the long trip home, Josh jump-started Chris’s mind by carrying on an unending, though one-sided, conversation. He caught Chris up on the news of his family and the world. After almost three months of mental starvation, Chris gobbled up the information. Soon his tongue remembered its job and began asking questions.

Now, triggered by the familiar sounds and smells of medicine, his brain continued the process of returning to normal thought patterns, of evaluating logically. He examined his face, for instance, and saw that it didn’t just itch, it had sores. And the sores looked familiar. They looked like …

“Impetigo.” He’d seen it several times in the ER.

Okay. Next, that awful, painful itching in his arms and legs. He lifted his left arm and examined the marks on it. “Burrowing tracks. That’s scabies.” He shuddered. Yuk.

Oh, no. If he had scabies, could that itching on his head be …? He stepped closer to the mirror and separated some matted hair to look at his scalp.

“Eww!” He jumped back from the mirror.

Kanuf is ugly, isn’t it?” Josh approached and laid an arm across his shoulders.

Chris jerked away. “Don’t touch me! I’m full of lice and scabies and impetigo and … and who knows what else!”

“I don’t care what you look like, kid. What matters to me is what’s on the inside.”

Chris’s head dropped. He didn’t deserve Josh’s kindness. He did deserve every infection he’d picked up. Every itching one of them.

In the exam room, the doctor treated him with consideration and respect, but stood as far away from him as he could get. In wondering why, Chris remembered the awful smell in the sleep-house when he first arrived at the camp. Again, he hung his head. He must stink. He’d lived in the filth so long, he didn’t even notice the smell anymore.

The doctor gave him prescriptions for his skin infections and diarrhea. As he turned to leave the room, he stopped to shake Josh’s hand. “Always good to see you, Josh. I’m glad you could make it before I left, but I’m always available for you. You know that. Just call me at home if you need anything else.”

When they got to the campground, the thing that most caught Chris’s attention was, of all things, the big weeds growing around the wheels of the motor home. Josh never even moved it. He just left it there, waiting for him. Like he was somebody important.

He followed Josh in and stood in the doorway looking around. It looked lived-in, as though Josh still stayed there. But he hadn’t moved any of Chris’s stuff. The family pictures he’d taped to the wall, his clothes and shoes, even his pillow lying on the blue sofa bed—all just as he left them.

Josh came out of his bedroom and stopped. “Something wrong?”

Chris met his gaze. “I thought you’d have replaced me by now.”

Josh looked surprised. “Never happen, kid. You’re irreplaceable.”

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Polly Eunice
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 09:12:28

    Scabies is very itchy and in worst cases it can cause high fevers and rashes. ‘`,”:

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    • Della Loredo
      Oct 08, 2012 @ 11:55:44

      You’re right, Polly — VERY itchy! So itchy that it’s hard not to scratch. Scratching,in turn, introduces bacteria, which can cause a secondary infection, which is generally the source of any fever. Nasty business!

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