"Matt Slingerland!" the male voice floated faintly into the periphery of Matt's awareness. He was comfortable--warm, even--right where he was at, and Matt was loathe to leave his warm, comfortable place and answer the insistent voice.
"Matt Slingerland!" the male voice said more insistently. Now Matt was shaking--was there an earthquake? He lived in California now and earthquakes were an ever-present threat. There had been a few small rumblers when he had been down near Los Angeles. Thankfully no major earthquakes.
But Matt was shaking very hard and now Matt was getting annoyed. When was this earthquake going to end?
"MATT SLINGERLAND!" And then Matt felt an exquisite pain on the side of his head..
"Yeeooooooowwww!" Matt shouted, then curled into a fetal position.
"You awake?" the male voice asked.
In response, Matt just groaned softly, holding his hand to his ear.
"I didn't have any cold water so I twisted your ear. To wake you up, you see."
"I noticed." Now Matt was awake. He opened his eyes and looked straight ahead. He was lying on his side on a wooden floor. Bleachers lined the wall in front of him. Now he remembered where he was at: UMC Fitness Center. Specifically, the basketball court.
Matt tried to sit up. So far, so good: no dizziness, no ringing in his ears.
"You feeling all right? You need a doctor?" the male voice asked.
"No. No. It's all right. What happened?"
"You slipped and hit your head on the floor." By now Matt was feeling around his head and he felt a bump about the size of an egg on the back of his head.
"How long was I out?"
"A minute or two. Seriously, you need me to call a doctor?"
"Not necessary." Matt was able to sit up. He looked at his rescuer--a young man, no more than 22, perhaps a senior in college. He decided to sit on the floor a bit longer.
"Might want to tie your shoelace. Bet that's how you slipped."
Matt looked at his trainers. True to the man's words, the shoelace was untied."Whomever thought of round shoelaces did not thoroughly road test them," Matt said then retied his shoelace, making a note to change both his shoes at work and the type of shoelace he used.
"I can run right over to the medical center and get one of the docs there. That bump's growing larger."
Matt admitted to himself that the young man was tenacious. A good trait in certain professions. "I'm a doctor."
"Even doctors sometimes need doctors."
Now Matt was getting annoyed with the young man and wondered perhaps if he had had access to a little sister during his childhood. Or maybe in elementary school he had read Ramona the Pest, and decided that being the youngest needed certain defenses. A bothersome, annoying pest was one of those defenses a child used when they were vying with older siblings for parental attention.
Then Matt decided that tenaciousness would work well in the offices and he made a mental note to get the man's name in case an opening arose.
Matt's next decision was simple: he decided to try standing up. Slowly he gathered his legs beneath him and slowly he stood up. "There. See? I'm fine. Just a bit o' a bump on me head."
"I"m Todd Nary."
"Doctor Matt Slingerland."
"Your name tag told me that."
Matt looked down. He was indeed wearing a nametag: his white lab coat marked with his name.
"Seems it does." He tested his neck and there was no pain.
"Playing solo hoops in lab whites?"
"Yeah. Just came in for a few shots before my shift."
"Know the feeling. First year grad student. Hours suck."
"Medical hours are even worse."
Todd chuckled. "I've heard that from med student pals. They're never around, always studying medical cases," he complained congenially. "But then again, I was glad to have them around when that horse kicked me in the head. I was their first guinea pig right after suturing instruction."
Todd brushed aside his bright red hair and Matt saw the thin, bright red weal of a curved scar going up into Todd's hairline. Todd adjusted his hair to cover the small shaved area of his scalp.
"Quite recent," Matt commented. "That's not going to leave much of a scar."
"A few weeks ago. Still itches."
"Cortisone cream will take care of the itch," Matt said, going over to the bleachers and sitting down on the lowest bench. He rubbed the back of his still-tender head and stretched his legs.
"I hope your shift doesn't start soon. It's nearing eight," Todd said, sitting down next to Matt.
"That is when I'm due to start but I've no patients until later in the morning," Matt replied. He stood up. "Thanks."
"Sure you don't need help?" Todd inquired of Matt.
Matt smiled. "I'm with Presidio Med...they'll fuss over me when I get into work anyways."
Todd chuckled. "I was fussed over by my older sisters constantly."
Now Matt chuckled. At least his mental capacity was working well. Todd was indeed the youngest child.
"How many sisters?"
This explained Todd's annoying tactics. The youngest of eight children would need to scramble for appropriate parental attention.
"Kinda lonely growing up, eh?"
"Basketball team, football team and later on, when each of my sisters got married, their husbands treated me like a younger brother. I had that little brother thing," Todd explained as Matt gathered up his leather duffle bag. "You carry a leather duffle bag?" Todd asked Matt.
"Present from a patient," Matt replied as the two men started walking towards the door.
"Lady patient?" Todd asked congenially.
"Elderly. This was hers when she was younger woman, and a pilot. She'd flown solo around the world. I was surprised when she left it to me in her will. It's nearly fifty years old."
Todd whistled appreciatively. "Still looks nearly new."
"I take good care of it," Matt replied.
Matt pushed open the door and was greeted by honking horns, and a crush of pedestrians on the sidewalks. 'This is where I get off," he told Todd. "Thanks again."
"Not a problem." The two men parted ways and Matt wended his way through the crowds until he arrived at the doors to the office.
Jackie was coming up beside him. "Bump your head?"
Matt looked at her. "Yeah."
"I see the profile. It's like the size of a small orange. You all right?"
"I'm fine. Slipped during solo hoops."
"Harriet's gonna make a fuss over you," Jackie warned jokingly as the two doctors entered the offices. Matt went to the side of the front desk where the patient boards were hung. He checked his patient board and noted that he'd have to swing by the medical library to pick up some literature on managing diabetes for his 11 am patient.
"Matt! What happened?" Harriet said from beside him. "That is a nasty bump on your head. Let's get you checked out." She tugged on his arm, and instead of protesting, Matt found himself following Harriet down the hallway to where Nicholas kept a small office for the inevitable times when someone needed stitches.
"I'm fine, really, Harriet," Matt protested weakly as the two entered Nicholas' office.
Nicholas looked up. "Matt?"
"He bumped his head. Quite noticeable from the side," Harriet said.
"I don't need stitches."
"Were you knocked out?" Nicholas inquired.
"Any dizziness? Ear ringing? Double vision?" Nicholas inquired as he took a small light and checked Matt's eyes.
"None at all. I'm fine, really."
"I'll leave Nicholas to check you out," Harriet said as she left the room, and Matt wished he had stopped off for some breakfast. He could have avoided meeting Harriet at just the precise moment he did. Still, he decided to grin and bear the situation.
"Solo hoops before work again?" Nicholas inquired.
Matt chuckled. "Yeah. Good stress relief."
"Good workout," Nicholas observed. "You appear to be fine. Just remember the usual: any dizziness or ringing in the ears, see your doctor."
Matt was about to respond when the faceless female voice came over the intercom.
"Paging Doctor. Nicholas. Kokoris. Please report to Surgery. Doctor. Nicholas. Kokoris. Please report to Surgery."
Nicholas put his penlight away and smiled cheerfully. "That's my cue!"
Matt smiled. "The intercom does have the tendency to enunciate between the words."
"Helps to differentiate between docs when more than one share the same last name."
"What about Doctor Mary Michaels?" Matt asked, and the two men laughed. There were two Mary Michaels. Fortunately, one Mary was an ER physician and the other Mary was in physical therapy.
"Guess she'll say 'paging ER physician Mary Michaels," Nicholas commented. "Gotta run."
"Thanks," Matt replied as
Nicholas exited his small suturing room.
"Matt!" Jackie called. "Wait up!"
Matt turned, and seeing Jackie, he stopped and allowed her to catch up.
"Feeling better?" she inquired as she caught up to him.
"Much. Hardly notice the bump," Matt replied.
"Got your lottery ticket?" she asked him, holding up a handful of lottery tickets. Her other hand carried a clipboard that Matt knew contained the names of those in the office lottery pool.
"You're worse than a kid," Matt teased her as he reached into his pocket. Pulling out his wallet, he counted out ten dollars and handed the money to Jackie.
She ticked a box next to his name that indicated he'd paid into the office lottery pool for that week. Jackie handed him the clipboard and a pen and Matt wrote his signature on the appropriate line. He looked at the list of numbers on the paper.
"These the numbers of the lottery tickets?" he asked Jackie.
"Yeah. Makes things easier. Some people like to buy tickets on their own, outside the office pool. This way we know if a pooled ticket wins, or if an outside ticket wins."
"Seems reasonable," Matt commented, handing Jackie back the clipboard.
"Sad thing is, we've never won anything," Jackie complained.
"The lottery pool has only been in force for a few months."
"But with all the tickets we buy, surely we should win something," Jackie commented. "Oh! There's Jules. She's been avoiding me all day!" Jackie said then shouted, "Jules! Wait up!" Jackie took off down the hall at a virtual run.
Matt saw Jules look around to see if she could reasonably avoid Jackie. Seeing no avenue of escape, Jules shrugged her shoulders and squared off to meet a charging Jackie. Matt smiled at Jules. Then, as earlier in Nicholas' office, the efficient faceless female intercom voice intoned:
"Paging Doctor. Matt. Slingerland. Please report to the ICU. Paging Doctor. Matt. Slingerland. Please report to the ICU."
Repeating Nicholas's words, Matt said to no one in particular, "That's my cue!" and he wended his way down the hallway, passing a chattering Jackie and Jules, both of whom waved to him.