Geronimo and The Great Gurney Go-Round

By
Updated: May 28, 2013

The wheels on the guerney go round and round,Fire is coming. Be patient. Read on.

round and round, 
round and round.
The wheels on the guerney go round and round,
all the way to the Wall.

The patient on the guerney goes Whoa whoa whoa,
whoa whoa whoa,
whoa whoa whoa.
The patient on the guerney goes Whoa whoa whoa,
all the way to the Wall.

The orderly on the guerney goes Geronimo!
Geronimo! 
Geronimo!
The orderly on the guerney goes Geronimo!
all the way to the Wall.

The hospital guerney lies upside down,
upside down, 
upside down.
The hospital guerney lies upside down,
after the crash against the Wall.

Geronimo raised his head. It hurt. His accomplice in the Blunder of the B&B Boys lay motionless on the hallway floor. Geronimo couldn’t remember what had happened. A guerney lay upside down, its wheels spinning above his head, but he had no idea how it had gotten there. And who was this guy lying next to him? He looked familiar, and yet … What’s his name? Geronimo wondered.

And then it came to him. He looked at the face on the body lying beside him. Sure ‘nough, good oldyouknowwho!

“There they are!” a voice yelled, and Geronimo and youknowwho were suddenly surrounded by faces staring down at them.

“You be in some kinda trouble,” one of the faces said.

“Ooh, what you done!”

“You okay?” someone asked.

Geronimo nodded and started to say yes, but his head hurt too much. He just shrugged.

“Head hurt?” another voice asked.

Geronimo nodded, carefully, slowly.

“Concussion here,” a familiar voice of authority said. “Get him to the infirmary!”

Geronimo remembered her name. Nurse Peters. Remembering made him happy and he started to smile, but then he remembered who Nurse Peters was and his head hurt again. He scowled.

The pain in his head went pound, pound, pound
pound, pound, pound,
pound, pound, pound.
The pain in his head went pound, pound, pound
when he heard that nurse’s voice.

One of the nurses who had rushed to the scene was now shouting for another orderly to bring a wheelchair.

Walk him down to the infirmary,” Peters ordered, pointing at Geronimo where he sat at her feet. “Nothing wrong with his legs!”

Geronimo was escorted slowly back up the long hallway toward the wing that held the infirmary. He looked back and saw someone attending to youknowwho. He could hear Nurse Peters’ voice as clear as the carillon bells in the tower at the center of the building, but he blocked the sound out. His head hurt too much to pay attention to her.

Nurse Peters was giving orders to those attending to youknowwho. “Support his head,” she said. “Put a towel underneath it. Check his pulse. And get that guerney upright so we can roll him up the hall!”

In a few moments, the guerney was upright. A nurse then collapsed the guerney and two orderlies gently rolled youknowwho onto it. Then the guerney opened like an accordion, lifting youknowwho off the floor and the group began the long ascent of the Bell Tower hallway, Nurse Peters leading the way.

“Keep up with me! He’s fine now, no need to go slow on his account. Push that thing!”

The wheels on the gurney go round and round,
round and round, 
round and round.
The wheels on the gurney go round and round,
back up the hospital hall.

Youknowwho began to show signs of life. He opened his eyes. He saw the ceiling of the hallway above him, the doorways sliding by on both sides. He had the sense he’d just made this journey. Was it deja vu?

“Where we going?” he asked.

“He’s coming round,” one of the nurses called out to Peters, who was several strides ahead of the guerney. When Peters stopped, the whole entourage came to a halt.

“He spoke,” the same nurse informed Peters.

“Have you rejoined us?” Peters asked youknowwho.

Where we going?” he asked again.

“To check you out,” Peters answered. “That was a nasty spill you boys took. Serves you right, racing guerneys down the hallways. And where were you hiding anyway? We’ve been searching for you all day.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Why?” Peters repeated rhetorically. “You want to know why the time and energy of my staff have been wasted to hunt you down? I’ll tell you why! Because …”

But she had forgotten precisely why it was so important to find youknowwho.

“Because you were lost,” she said finally. “That’s why.”

“I wasn’t lost,” youknowwho said. “I was hiding.”

“Hiding?” Peters repeated, rhetorically again. “Hiding from what?”

“From you,” youknowwho said.

The jaws of the nurses dropped. One orderly sniggered. The color rose in Peters’ face, but before she could say anything, youknowwho added, “It was a game.”

“A game?” Peters echoed, uttering a third rhetorical question in a row. But no one seemed to notice.

“Sure,” youknowwho said. “Hide and seek, only I forgot the seek part and just stayed hidden.”

“Hide and seek?” Peters uttered her fourth consecutive rhetorical question, thereby breaking the old hospital record of three such consecutive utterances set by the former President of the Hospital, Rickie Rushing, a much-sought-after public speaker renowned for asking—and answering—his own questions.

“Hide and seek?” Peters repeated, thereby breaking her own record, set moments before, for consecutive rhetorical utterances. She was on a roll now, no telling how many rhetorical questions she could pile up before circumstances compelled her to utter a statement or ask a genuine question.

“You know,” youknowwho said, “that game where kids hide from one another and one kid, the one who’s it, seeks them out.”

“I am familiar with the game,” Peters said, and a huge sigh of relief rose from the universe of rhetoric. The string was over, a new record set. It would be a long time before anyone came close to breaking Nurse Peters’ record of five consecutive rhetorical utterances. “Who gave you permission to play games with my orderlies? And WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU HIDING?”

Youknowwho stared up at the livid face of the Head Nurse. She looked just like those drawings of theGorgons with her wild hair, angry red face, and penetrating eyes. He looked away for fear he’d turn to stone.

“Where?” she repeated, and the question was definitely NOT rhetorical. She waited for an answer.

“I can’t tell you,” youknowwho said.

“You can’t tell me?” Peters repeated, then fearful she might be sucked back into the whirling vortex of rhetorical questions, she hurried on with another question. “Why can’t you tell me?”

“Because …” was the feeble reply.

“Because …” Peters repeated, extending the vowels as long as she could, as if she were speaking to a very dim-witted child, hoping to get the little one to finish the sentence. “Becaaause …?”

“I forgot,” he finally said, having stumbled upon a lie that would serve him far better than the truth. It was so nearly the truth that no one would ever expect it was a lie. “I don’t remember so good since …” He gestured toward his head. When Peters seemed not to understand, he touched his two index fingers to his temples and made a loud sound like electricity.

zzzZZZ!!”

Then he let his head fall and slumped over. Everyone got it. Every orderly, every nurse, even Peters.

“Oh,” she said. “Well, we’ll work on that. Maybe it will come back to you. Meanwhile …”

Before she could give the next order, one of the hospital security guards burst into the Bell Tower shouting.

Yes, the fire's real. Yes, those are Camarillo State Hospital buildings. And no, the GM did not start the fire just to have a dramatic ending to this story.“GET OUT! GET OUT! EVERYONE OUT! EVACUATE!”

Nurse Peters grabbed the orderly by the sleeve and shook him until he stopped shouting and paid attention to her.

“What’s this?” she said. “What are you saying?”

“Fire!” the orderly said in a panic. “The hospital’s on fire.”

“Nonsense,” Nurse Peters said. And to prove it, she dragged the young orderly to the nearest doorway and pointed, saying, “You see any smoke?”

The orderly looked, but he couldn’t see anything but the white adobe walls of the hospital, its red tile roof and the blue sky beyond. “Uh … no,” he said, “but they said—”

“Who said?” Peters demanded.

“They did. The … the … the voice on the … the … the speakers.”

“What voice?” The orderly was too confused and too frightened to answer. All he could do was stammer.

“They said … the voice said … it said to evac—”

“Nurse Peters!” one of the younger nurses said. “Look!” She was pointing to the doorway on the opposite side of the hallway.

Nurse Peters turned and what she saw nearly turned her to stone.

Bright orange and red tongues of fire lapped at the creamy white walls of the west wing. A wall of fire, black and angry-looking, moved across the cactus garden outside the main entrance. Smoke billowed overhead.

“Fire!” someone shouted. “Run for your life!”

“Do NOT run!” Nurse Peters commanded. “Stay calm,” she tried to say, but no one was listening. Everyone was in motion. Some running to assist patients, others to grab their possessions from the lockers, some just running to run. Away from the fire.

Nurse Peters held her ground. Like Custer at the Big Horn, she calmly gave orders, though none were being followed. In a moment, she was alone in the hallway. Even youknowwho had departed the scene, his guerney pushed up the long incline of the Bell Tower hallway by his guardian angel, Nurse Boogey.

“The fire is real,” she said to him. “You know that, don’t you?”

“I’m not crazy,” he said. “Or maybe I am, and then we’re all sharing the same grand hallucination.”

“This is your chance,” she said.

“My what?”

“It’s chaos. No one will notice. Just … disappear.”

He considered it for a moment. “They’ll just come looking for me when the fire is out.”

“So don’t be there.”

“Where?”

“Where they look for you. Be … somewhere else.”

Hestudied Nurse Boogey. “First the phone, now an escape route. Who are you?”

She smiled a Mona Lisa smile. He couldn’t figure it out.

“Did someone send you?”

She laughed, and pushed the guerney off the main hallway onto a side hall that ended in a courtyard covered in smoke. Nurse Boogey stopped the guerney and turned back toward the main hallway.

“Where you going?” he asked.

“Evacuate, of course,” she said. “See?” She pointed across the hallway to a glass door through which they could see dozens of nurses and orderlies helping patients leave the hospital building and walk to safety across the broad green quadrangle of grass. She turned and looked at him. She pointed in the opposite direction, away from the nurses and patients toward the smoky courtyard behind him. “That’s your way.”

He turned and looked at the flames rimming the rooftops, smoke flowing like water across the chairs and tables in the middle of the courtyard, and then looked back at her. “Into the fire?” he asked, incredulously. “You would send me into the fire?”

“Like a phoenix,” she said. “Reborn in flames.”

“That way’s death,” he said. “Shouldn’t I go …” and he gestured across the hallway and toward the grassy quad where everyone else was heading.

“No,” she said, “that way is prison. You’ll never get out.” Once again she pointed over his shoulder toward the courtyard. “That way,” she said, “that way … is the unknown. A new chance. The turning point in your story.”

She took him by the shoulders and turned him around to face his future. The pressure of her hands on his shoulders thrilled him. He wanted to turn back, to hold her, to hang on and never let go. I’d give up all chance of getting out of here just to stay with her, he thought, just to feel those hands on my shoulders again.

“You have to go,” she said, releasing his shoulders with the lightest push, as if to get him started.

He turned to tell her he didn’t want to go and saw Nurse Peters, her back to him as she looked out the doorway toward the quad, her wild hair reflecting the orange of the fire, and he knew if he didn’t go right then he’d turn to stone.

So he went, disappearing into the smoke like an apparition.View from Bob's apartment as he wrote this story.

And the wheels of the story go round and round,
round and round, 
round and round.
The wheels of the story go round and round,
into the smoke and fire.