The Marine MP wrote down Bizetes number plate and entered his name at the main gate visitors’ log. Bizetes’ identification info would be again documented at the front office in the main hospital entrance. Bizetes was neat in appearance although his face always wore a dark shadow even immediately after shaving. His voice was deep and his attitude authoritative. He rarely asked direct questions. The Chief of the Day looked up from the main check-in desk.
“Can I help you sir?”
Bizetes met the CPO’s eyes. “Army Corporal Sebastian Remo arrived yesterday and is in F-2. I need directions.”
“Yes sir. Here’s your visitor’s pass. Take a left at the main corridor and F-2 is at ground level on your right.”
Bizetes walked the curving floor purposefully–like he knew his way around–which he didn’t. The floors were mirror shiny, immaculate and with an odor of flowers combined with a sterile disinfectant. He shot a glance out of the windows to his left. A number of visitors were outside walking or sitting at the park-benched grounds with their war-wounded family member. The windows to his right showed clipped grass, flowered bushes and the arcuate structure of G-1. Bizetes wondered at the blinking column of lights with numbers on them. What did the numbers mean? Were they Navy code for something? He’d ask someone–maybe.
He came to the entrance to two wards. F-1 was on his left and F-2 on his right as he was told at the main desk. He entered F-2 and the ambient odor immediately changed. The disinfectant component was stronger. A corpsman in a white uniform looked up from the Nursing Station.
“Can I help you sir?”
“Yes. I’m here to visit with Sebastian Remo?” Bizetes looked at the open ward. Some patients were still in bed, others were sitting in soft blue-and-white striped pajamas and a few wore a long similar striped bathrobe. Visitors were limited to two-at-a-time and less than half the patients seemed to have them.
“Corporal Remo is in isolation. The first room to your right looking out of the ward has the required protective garments for your visit sir.”
“Protective…what?” Bizetes looked at the closed door and the cloth basket, pile of folded gowns, box of latex gloves and box of blue surgical face masks.
“Remo has infected wounds and the items are necessary to protect him and you from each other’s germs. I’ll go with you and get you covered. You do it once and you get the routine forever.” The corpsman stood up and led him back to the F-2 entrance and the isolation room.
“Forever?” Bizetes walked behind the fast-paced white uniform.
“Not really forever, just for Remo being in isolation. I just meant getting familiar with the isolation technique sir.” The corpsman got him gowned, gloved and masked and banged on Remo’s door. “Remo, you got a visitor. And sir at the end of your visit you remove the booties first, the gown and gloves in one motion and the mask last. Everything goes in the cloth basket.”
Bizetes waited until the corpsman was at the Nurses Station and went into the room.
Remo was sitting at the side of his bed in his bath robe, terry cloth sippers and Aussie hat. The chest tube with no drainage was still connected to a bottle with no contents. Remo wore no mask. He smiled at Bizetes.
“Who are you?” Remo paused. “Wait a minute. The black curls on your hair and the big nose under your mask. Cros…it’s you…isn’t it?”
Bizetes moved close to Remo and reached out his gloved hand.
“We can’t shake hands, hug or kiss until my cultures come back negative from the lab. It’s good to see ya. You look like you’re ready to stick up a liquor store.” Remo laughed.
“How bad did you get it over there?” Bizetes sat in a chair opposite him.
Remo gave an account of what happened and ended with what he was told about his treatment plan. “Yeah, I got this shit bag on my stomach. Once I gain some weight and all my germs can be killed with the penicillin and shit they got here I get this colostomy thing closed. They tell me it’s major surgery but I should be ready for it once I get in better shape. I have to gain at least twenty pounds.”
“I got something for you in this envelope.” Bizetes had to gyrate a little to reach his back pants pocket with the isolation gear on.
Remo unfolded the small paper and looked up. “What are these four rows of numbers?”
“You’ve been away from New York over three years Remo. We put your money in four different banks. I didn’t put in any dollar signs just the period to show you how much you have.”
Remo whistled, “Whew, each bank has over a hundred thousand G’s.”
“It’s your percentage for what you did over there.” Bizetes moved closer and lowered his voice. “Now just because you’re recovering here doesn’t mean you stop workin’.”
“What? Lookit me for Chris’ sakes. What can I do?”
“As a patient you can move around this place. Queens Naval Hospital is the biggest military hospital on the Atlantic coast. There’s over 2000 patients here. I want our guys in here to come and see you. They’ll give you some numbers. As you get better I want you to mingle with them. We always have one or two of our guys as patients here too. As they heal they move out and we arrange for another one to come in with an air-evac. Now that you’re here you’ll replace an outgoing patient of ours. We smuggle a lot of heroin into this place from Nam, Japan and the Philippines. In fact most of the stuff we’re getting you initiated in Nam by switching our cases of plaster with the normal ones.”
“I just ran a logistics outfit. I switched those boxes of plaster cloth rolls like I was told and sent them everywhere–to fixed field hospitals all the way down to aid stations in the bush.”
“Right. And every piece of plaster put on in Nam and coming back to the states has our shit in it. Some of the patients have a temporary stop in the Philippines and Japan. Your job now is to help keep track of it getting out of here. You’ll be contacted by our people soon. When do you think you’ll be getting’ outta this leprosy room?”
Remo smiled. “Yeah, it’s pretty scary huh. People are afraid of things they can’t see even if my germs have already been killed by the penicillin shit.” He dropped his smile. “The infectious disease doc–the bug doctor–told me I get outta this room tomorrow if the tests are okay. First thing is this tube in the skin of my chest. They’ll take it out tomorrow and put me out on the floor with the other dudes if my wound doesn’t leak anything.” Remo sat back. “So I guess in two days I’ll be out of solitary confinement.”
“Okay. I plan to come almost every day. There’ll be someone who’ll give you the names of our people so you remember. It won’t be written down. I’ll bring in a diary. It’s a book for your use like a ledger for what you have to do for us here.” Bizetes pointed at Remo with his right latex index finger. “What’s with the fucking cowboy hat with the death-head on it?”
“It’s an Aussie Digger Hat–from Australia. The Aussie Army guys wear them. I got it from one of our guys who’s from Australia three years ago. He said it would bring me luck because it brought him luck.”
Bizetes laughed. “Luck? You got yourself a new asshole and got blown to shit over there.”
“It was supposed to keep me alive and it did. It’s my Happy Hat. I’ll where it to the gates of hell.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish