Max was feeling better, he woke up in what looked like a doctor’s examining room and not a very up to date or modern one at that, it had a, well, 'shabby' look about it. The magazines were months old, the walls were not really dirty so much as stained with dirt and the place had an underlying, unpleasant odor to it. The window, set high upon the wall was going gray, indicating the sun was probably going down, as the office was also hot. Max struggled to sit up and stopped immediately, his stomach hurt, he gingerly lifted the blanket covering him and saw his mid section had a bandage wrapped completely around it, white and pristine and it looked professional. Otherwise he was nude. 'Crap.' he thought, he did not see his clothing anywhere in the office. Twisting to the side to try and get himself up on one elbow was painful, but less so than attempting a sit up. An IV dangled from his left arm, he left it in. Funny in movies the first thing people do when they wake up in this situation is pull the IV out and go running around looking for trouble. Max did not feel so robust as to pull his own IV out, and running around butt naked in a world full of flesh eating zombies was about as stupid a thing that Max had ever thought of. He sat up, almost feeling like he was going to vomit, then just sat there. He was not sure how long he remained there sitting before there was a brief knock on the door and a nurse came into the room in a brusque manner.
“Welcome back Max! You shouldn’t have sat up, here get back down, no really you might tear the stitches by twisting around or being really active. My name is Beth and I understand, if I have the stories straight I have you to thank for our rescue from the hordes of zombies in the parking lot. So thanks!” With that, before Max could stop her she leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. It could have been more than a modest kiss, but Max back away from it.
“Wha-what? You got the wrong guy! I passed out in the car I had very little to do with your rescue! Do you kiss all your patients?”
“Oh, no? First, no I don’t ‘kiss all my patients’ only the cute ones who can’t fight back and second if you had not been shot your friends would never have come here and never would have saved our lives, so yes you are the cause for my liberation. Let me check these stitches okay?” Beth slowly peeled up the side of the bandage and checked underneath it, removing some stained gauze checking the stitches in the remaining natural light. “Wanna guess how many the doctor put in? C’mon take a guess.”
“Ah, thirty?” ventured Max
“Oh right on the nose! No, just kidding, he put in sixty five. You are very lucky the bullet was really more of a graze, it had to have hit you from the side and tore across the front of your abdomen. You have a hero scar there, one to tell your grandkids about. Still it was a mess and some of the muscles were bruised and torn, it is going to be weeks or months before you are fully healed. Nope you didn’t tear any stitches out by sitting up, lucky you as I know the doctor would not want to waste any more anesthesia on you, we are just a clinic not a hospital so he had to kind of ‘make due’ anyway. Still you came out okay. Your friends are okay, too, Tom has a sprained shoulder and Jane has a pretty badly bruised ankle. Steve came through everything without a scratch on him, the lucky bugger!”
“Jane?” Max’s mind was a little foggy still.
“Yeah Jane! You call her Stewart for some damn reason.”
“Her badge, ‘Officer Stewart’, that’s all.” Max shrugged, then winced in pain.
“Ooh you poor boy let me give you something for the pain real quick.” Beth administered a drug into Max’s IV line and within seconds was feeling no pain. Beth continued, “Well the doctor is going to want to see you, he is trying to save that kid Jacob’s life and not having much luck at it, but he will be along shortly. Why not sit there and rest for awhile longer?”
Max drifted in and out of sleep and woke with a doctor standing over him, the window was dark and the room was lit only from the hallway. The man was older, probably near retirement and his coat was just as shabby as the office they were in.
“Max are you awake? Okay? C’mon let’s sit you up here.” and he assisted Max into a sitting position, “I don’t recommend you do that on your own for a few days yet okay? Get help to lay down and stand up otherwise you might pull the stitches out. Here”, he came up with several small boxes of what looked like medicine, “are a bunch of anti-biotics, you have to take them four times a day, every six hours one tablet if you can, as close to six hours apart as you can get, okay? I know it may be a pain in the ass, but better that than an infection, I have the feeling hospitals and medical treatment have just taken a major kick to the ball sack. You feeling okay?”
Max nodded and said, “Yeah considering, I am still a little groggy though. Beth gave me pain medicine.”
The doctor nodded, “Yeah, probably too much too, but you needed a nap more than you needed to be up and about. Your friends want to come in and talk to you too, they went out to the Men’s store and picked you up some new clothing. I will send them in.”
Steve came in first holding a bag and smiling, but looking a bit worried in Max’s eyes, “You alright Max?” Max nodded yes and Steve went on, “Look I brought you some new duds!” with that he pulled out some size forty six boxers and modeled them in front of his crotch, they were about twelve sizes, well okay at least ten sizes too big for Max but Steve went on, “See I figure they won’t rub up against your wound this way, if they are extra large like, plus you have been packing on a few pounds since the spring, so I wanted to make sure I got something that fit you okay.”
“Asshole.” Max said with a grin on his face. Steve went on to describe what had happened in the rest of the melee and how they met their new friends in the parking lot. Max had only hazy memories of what had happened and appreciated being filled in on everything. Soon enough Nurse Beth was at the door to usher Steve out, Stewart limped in next and she handed Max his cell phone, no messages and it still appeared to be working.
“Your lucky day sport we found a men's store and a phone charger for your phone.” She dangled a cord in her other hand in front of him, then put the phone down beside him and the cord down on the bag of clothing Steve had left. Gingerly she took him in a quick embrace.
“I am glad you made it okay Max, I was so fucking scared man. I couldn’t tell if the bullet had entered or just skimmed off. It looked like a graze to me, but I am not a doctor, in fact he was not even sure until he looked at the x-rays, no abdominal puncture you lucky son of a bitch. Plus you will have a great scar to show your grandkids.”
“So I've been told. I think I would rather just show my grandkids a nice scar less belly and tell them about how I was smart enough not to get shot.” replied Max.
Stewart chuckled and said, “Yeah, I hear you Max, I am glad you are going to be okay.”
Nurse Beth again made an appearance the door and cleared her throat. Stewart said, “Well visiting hours are pretty short here, you need to rest until morning and Tom still wants to talk to you.”
Tom came in next his arm in a sling, the first thing he said was, “Max I am so sorry! We should not have gone to my place.”
“Tom, it doesn't matter. Just stop, I don’t want you to feel sorry, I mean it could have been my place or Steve’s or somewhere on the street, it had nothing to do with you. You didn’t shoot me, it was those skinhead assholes, okay?”
“You serious Max? You forgive me? That means a lot, a lot to me man. If you ever need anything I will be there for you okay?”
“Tom, we are all going to be there for each other, which is what this trip is about, which is what everything is about now. We go get what we need and get the hell out of Denver, maybe hole up somewhere until someone comes along and sets things straight. We are like the four musketeers, all for one and one for all!”
Tom spotted the nurse out of the corner of his eye and said, “Well the nurse is pretty insistent that we don’t spend too much time in here bugging you right now, so I gotta go. Thanks Max for not holding it against me!”
Max snorted, “Like I would! It was just bad luck Tom, that is all. Good night.”
The nurse shooed Tom off and leaving the door open, she came in and said, “Sorry Max, about earlier, I didn’t mean to freak you out, you know, with the kiss. I was just so glad we had been rescued. It was very unprofessional.”
Max blushed and looked away, “Ah, well that does not happen every day to me, you know? It kinda shook my image of what a nurse was supposed to be.”
“Well I am a nurse and should have known better. Anyway can you make it to the john or do you want me get you a bed pan? We do have them. Plus the doctor said you can get some underwear on and maybe a loose shirt, though he would rather you just slept the way you are for the night.”
Max looked at Beth and said, “The john, definitely.” Not elaborating on the number two that was starting to give him urgent pangs. It didn’t matter as he was too weak to sit down on the toilet himself anyway and when it came to clean up, well, he got to experience Beth’s expertise there too. ‘How fucking humiliating is this?’ he thought to himself as she cleaned him up and helped him step into a pair of normal size thirty six boxers Steve had put in the bag under the larger size he had displayed to Max earlier. He opted out of the shirt and fell into a deep sleep soon after his head hit the pillow in the examination room. While he slept his phone had small, spasmodic fits of vibrating, once at midnight, then again at one thirty in the morning and finally at four sixteen in the morning, all made from his home phone number.