Sunday, January 18, 2004

life of buddy don, chaptur 96:
frische luft!

twuz monday, september 3, 1979, whenever i wuz tuck into the hospitull. me n emily wuz thankin we wood eggscape rite to the last mint, but twernt in frau seykova to drop us off in the lobby of that thar hospitull n let us take it frum thar. i dint hardly git no chants to show em i could say furchtbar schmerzen on a counta how she wuz splainin the situwayshun fer bof me n emily. we wuz hopin we coud put the thang off n whenever they finely ast me bout the pain, i ast them rite back bout the cost. twuz a awkwurd moment on a counta them docters n nurses n such couldnt bleeve we wuz astin bout costs when health n mayhap even life wuz at stake. they gut to splainin how ifn thangs kep on, i could git infeckted n purty soon thay woodnt be a nuff money to git me healthy agin.

sides that, even tho frau seykova wuz 82 years old, she wuz strong as a ox n she wuznt a'gone let us git outta thar without me havin the operayshun. she even splained how we lived jes cross the street n they could put me in a bed while she n emily went back to git whutever i mite need.

so twuz that i gut add mitted into that thar hospitull, lack it or not. they tole us not to wurry on a counta how i wood be out in lessn two weeks, witch the instunt we herd that, we knew we wuz bankrupt. emily gut to snufflin, but frau seykova musta pinched her or sumthin since she yelped n shut up n listend to the splainayshun bout how ye kin buy mos innythang ceptn gesundheit n leben, witch thems the wurds fer health n life. so i sined the papers they needed me to sine n let them rite down the numbers frum my passport n lead me away. i kissed emily goodbye furst n i half to add mitt, i never saw such a look of fear n terror on nobidys face to match hern.

as thangs turnt out, a lot of whut wuz a'goin on wuz pure cultchur shock. we wuz used to the way thangs wuz in amurka. whenever i had the operayshun on my nose, they gut me outta the hospitull the verr nex day. even so, i ended up owin near $3,000 n had to make payments fer a cuple years to git over it. twernt such a big deal to me then on a counta how i wuz a'wurkin at carbide n makin purty good money. but thay wuznt no way i coulda paid fer two addishunull days, much less a cuple weeks. as we wuz fixin to larn, them germs had em a differnt way of goin bout givin health care than we dun over in amurka.

furst thang they dun wuz to make me take off all my cloze n take a spit bath on a counta fer sum reason thay wuznt no bath nor shower in that hole hospitull that i ever saw. in sted, they send ye to a room with a tile floor n the biggest sink i ever seen. they gut this lil hose that woodnt even go as hi as yer hed n ye kin make water cum out of it, only taint ever close to warm. bes ye could do wuz give yerself a spit bath by gittin a lil wet n then all soaped up with a wash cloth n then spray tall off. then they give me a lil cloth thangy that dint hardly cuver by backside atall n i figgerd twuz a way of makin shore i dint eggscape once frau seykova wuz gone. they give me a quick look over n twuz a bit of a shock to real-eyes they wuz checkin to see did i have lice! i wonted to cumplain, but i dint know the wurds, so i had to keep quite.

i reckon thangs wuz tuffer on emily than me on a counta nex thang i know i wuz lyin up in a bed in a room with three other germs who wuz recuvern frum operayshuns thar ownself. furst thang they dun wuz give me a pill n let me take a lil nap n whenever i woke up, they wuz givin me sum food, n not jes inny food, but seem lack they wuz puttin on the dawg fer me, mayhap to ease my mind a lil bout how i really dint wonta be thar.

but a quick look around showed me i wuznt gittin no speshul treatment. everbidy gut em a big meal. furst they cum with soup n then with sum wurst n tater cakes n sour crout n bread n later coffee n deesert. twuz a big meal on a counta twuz lunch, witch them germs lacks havin thar big meal fer lunch n then kindly snackin on cold cuts n bread n cheese n beer fer dinner. they even had sum deesert n a lil cup of coffee, witch twuz bout thonly thang they wuz stingy with n i dint hardly git no more coffee after that, ceptn fer brakefuss, n even then they wuz lack as not to brang me tea in sted.

jes to give ye a lil idee bout how differnt thangs wuz overn west germuny, they dint operate on me fer three days on a counta they spent the furst two days givin me thar aerztliche untersuchung, witch means medicull eggzaminayshun n whut they give me twuz the mos cumplete investigayshun of my bidy i ever had in my life. they tuck about a gallun of blood n had me pee fer em n even wonted a lil stool sample, witch i couldnt hardly git nuthin out only they woodnt take no fer my anser n tole me to try harder n splained how they dint need much. they tuck xray pitchers of my insides n checked my blood presshur n pulse bout evertime they looked at me.

by the secunt day i had made friends with the fella in the bed nex to mine, witch he wuz a old guy name of friedrich. tuther folk wuz across the room n seem lack they spent mos the time asleep or readin, but freidrich lacked to talk n he splained sum thangs to me. fer one, twuz a cathlick hospitull we wuz in n that wuz one of the ways them germs kep thar prices down. they had lots of idees on how to keep thar medicull costs frum gittin too hi. fer instunts, they wood larn docterin to mos innybidy frum innywhar who could git into thar collidges, but after thay wuz dun, they had to practiss thar docterin in west germany befor they wood be allowed to go home n open up thar docters offuses. seemed to me twuz rite nice of them germs to let them new docters practiss on em, but thay wuz a'goin fer the bargun they gut frum havin em wurk cheep.

they also had this thang bout how everbidy had to be inshured n they had laws bout how twood wurk. ifn ye felt a sniffle, ye could go to yer docter rite away sos ye wood have a chants to stop yer cold befor it gut outta hand or turnt into sumthin else. ye woodnt half to pay but dm10, witch that mint ye could see yer docter for bout $6. ifn ye wuz give sum perscripshun, ye could git it filled fer jes 50 pfennigs, witch a pfennig is thar vershun of a penny. turnt out them drugs wuz cheepern we wuz used to in amurka on a counta them germs also had this strange idee that the gummint wuz spozed to wurk out barguns fer the peeple n not the cumpnies, witch in our cuntry twuz kindly tuther way roun whar seemed lack the gummint wuz on the side of the cumpnies agin the peeple that mite wonta strike barguns with them same cumpnies.

furst i had to go thru a lil humiliayshun. twuz a teachin hospitull, witch friedrich wuz sprized we wood wunder bout that so he ast us wuznt ever hospitull in amurka a teachin hospitull? we sed twuznt far as we knew. but thisn wuz n i reckon mayhap thay all wuz in west germany, but whut that meant fer me wuz one day here cum my docter with about fifteen medicull students. i reckon they wuz larnin bout hernias on a counta he lined em up n had em cum over to me one after tuthern n put thar hand on das bruch n then rite near my ding dong n then thay wood make me cough by shoutin, 'hustin, bitte!' witch that meant 'cough please,' only it sounded more lack' cough or else.'

thay wuz even gurls in amung them students n twuz a sprize whenever they gut to puttin thar hands down thar, but lucky fer me i dint have no reackshun at the time. (aint it strange, tho, how later on, once i had been cured cumpletely, whenever i memberd how one of them gurls wuz a beeyootiful woman frum india with the purtiest hands ye eved did see, so purty ye could use em to make commershuls fer noxema, how whenever i thought bout how it looked fer her to put her purty hand down thar, seem lack it wood git me all wurked up!)

then they sed they wuz a'gone make me empty my bowels n i sed twood be nice only i figgerd twood half to wait till i could git inny kind a squeezin power n i dint see that happenin till after i had dun recoverd, but them germs knows whut thar a'doin. they give me a drank of sum vile tastin stuff n tole me to git down to the toilet pronto n i dun it n gut thar jes in time fer that stuff to do its bizness, witch tiz a wunder i dint turn inside out the way it gut thangs to movin.

then one of the krankenschwestern, witch twuz a man even if wurd fer wurd twuz a sick sister, he tuck me into a nuther room sos he could shave me down thar n i wished i dint have to go thru that, but he wuz quick as could be n dint seem to mind movin my ding dong frum here to thar sos he could git ever scrap of hair, tho thatn wuznt a memry that ever gut me the lease bit wurked up.

so on the thurd day they give me a pill to calm me down, witch i tole em i wuz calm as could be, but ye cant tell no germ much of nuthin, so i tuck it, n purty soon twuz true i couldnta gut wurked up ifn jimmy carter hisself wuz cumin to visit. then they put me on a lil table with wheels n they rolled me into a room so cold i couldnt stop shivern but then they ast could i count in german n i sed i shore could so they stuck a tube in my arm n ast me to proov it, so i cummenced with ein, zwei, drei n mayhap i gut to vier, but i cant ritely recolleck on a counta the nex thang i knew i wuz back in my room n emily wuz sayin everthang wuz ok.

i ast how could thangs be ok with me jes finishin a operayshun n she splained how she had found my student inshurants policy. i sed whut wuz so good bout that, n turnt out that student inshurants i had frum amurka woodnt run out till the 21st of september n we bof figgerd i wood be out by then. we wuz still wurried the amurkin inshurants wuz a'gonna balk at the idee of payin fer me to be in the hospitull fer so long, but turnt out to be cheeper to be in that hospitull fer twelve days than twuz fer me to be in that hospitull in amurka fer the one nite.

we dint find that out rite away, buta few days after the operayshun when i wonted to go home, they sed they woodnt let me lessn we sined papers sayin we unnerstood the consequentses n unnerstood how ifn i gut sicker n died, twood be my own fault. we dint wonta sine nuthin lack that, but we wonted to go. finely here cum frau seykova astin us wuz we crazy? we had inshurants, dint we? n did we thank our inshurants wuznt good fer the dm151,30 per day? that wood wurk out to bout $85 a day n twuz a big sprize whenever we herd it, so we sed twuz grate the room cost so lil, but whut bout the docters n the nurses n the operayshun room n all. frau seykova sed, 'gott in himmel' bout three times to show how she couldnt bleeve thay wuz folks on earth as silly as me n emily wuz. why wood thar be exter charges? twuz dm151,30 a day fer everthang, docters, eggzaminayshun, food, rehabilitayshun, operayshun, medicin. did we unnerstand how twuz wurth it to be healthy?

so i stayed on n let em larn me how to climb stairs agin n git used to thangs in that thar hospitull. i larnt a lot of german n kindly gut to whar i lacked the way they had thangs wurked out. twood be lack this. ever mornin a 6 am on the dot, in cum one of them lady nurses a'hollerin at the top of her lungs bout 'guten morgen!' witch that means good mornin. then she give a thermometer to everbidy n furst time i gut mine, i dint know how twurked eggzackly, so i stuck it in my mouth n kep it under my tung. the taste wuz awful, but i kep it in thar till friedrich noticed n sed, 'gott in himmel, nein! was fuer ein dumkopf bist du, junge?' witch that means, 'god in heaven, no, what kind of an idiot are you, young man?' n the reason he wuz a'sayin that wuz how i wuz spozed to stick it in a nuther place on a counta twuz a rectull thermometer. ye wood thank they wood tell ye that befor ye could make the miss take, but i cum thru it ok.

meanwhile, the krankenschwester wood go strate to the winder n pull the curtins n open it wide, a'hollerin, 'frische luft!' on a counta she wonted us to know she wuz gittin us some fresh air. twuz a lil chilly on a counta how we dint have much in the way of a blanket, but that dint matter nun on a counta she woodnt care ifn ye cumplained, witch i only tried it the furst day. nex she wood git the temperchur n take our pulse n rite it all down on a clip board.

strangest thang she wood ast us wuz had we dun made our daily stuhlgang, witch that meant she wonted to know had we tuck a dump yet. ye wood thank she wood know the anser befor astin the questchun on a counta how we wuz all sleepin peaceful till she cum in shoutin bout guten morgen n frische luft, but she dint n had to ast us. seem lack it made her a lil angry that thay wuznt nary a one of us ever made our stuhlgang in time n quick as we tole her we hadnt made it, ifn ye could walk, she wood make ye go try n git yer spit bath at the same time.

on the nose of 7 am cum fruhstuck, witch that means 'early piece' wurd fer wurd but tiz brakefuss jes the same. ye gut the same thang ever day, witch thay wuz two pieces of fresh bread, two 20 gram hunks of butter, sum jelly, a biled egg that aint hardly been warmed so tiz still runny, witch i give mine to friedrich everday on a counta he couldnt never git a nuff, n bes of all, a lil beaker with coffee. thay wuz maybe two cups in it n twuz wellcome even ifn twuz alreddy near ruint on a counta how they wood put cream in it n dint matter ifn ye lacked it black, witch i lack mine thataway. i figger they put that cream in thar to keep us frum noticin how week they made it. tiz lucky they dont put suger in.

the lady that brung yer brakefuss everday wuz maybe 55 or 60, a hefty woman with gray hair n huge blue eyes n a square bidy. she tole me in a whisper the furst day she brung me brakefuss how her cuntry wuz gittin filled up with the rong kinds of forners, witch she sed thay wuz way too minny turks alreddy n now seem lack ever other day thays new folk a'cummin in from pakistan or iran or wharever.

seemed a odd cumplaint fer her to make. thay wuz doin a bang up bizness with all them forn docters thay had n i knew fer a fack they had em sum frum iran n pakistan n india n who knows whar all else, but i dint say nuthin. ye hear more when ye dont say nuthin, even if whuts bein sed could be sumthin disagreebull. i wuz wonderin why wood she tell me all this stuff when she splained how she hoped i wood enjoy livin thar in deutschland. ye dint here folk call it that verr often on a counta mosly they sed in the 'bundesrepublik' witch that wuz kindly shorthand for 'bundesrepublik deutschland' or republick of germany.

after that ye dint have nuthin to do but wait fer four hours till lunch. durin this time them nurses n docters wood be busy gittin folks reddy n takin em fer surgry or brangin em back. they wood wash them that couldnt wash thar ownself. they swapped out inny bandages that wu gittin old n give shots n handed out medicin. the cleanin ladies cum n cleaned up the brakefuss dishes n mopped the floors n changed the bed linens.

sum folks wood read n sum wood jes sleep. friedrich wuz crazy bout read western n horror n detektiv magazines. a nuther fella lacked to read the german vershun of playboy. i read whutever emily brings, witch thay wuz a slew of agatha christie novels on a counta i coultnt read flossofy without a dickshunerry n twuz hard to juggle two books in bed. sides, she had dun kindly gut me hooked on agatha christie n she foun a box of em fer dm5 at that antiquariat n bought em with a nuther 20 doytch mark bill she had hid in a book. them paysunts that lacked to smoke wood go out to the balcony of the tagesraum, witch me n emily spent a lotta time thar with friedrich the furst cuple days waitin fer my surgry n then agin once i could walk after the surgry.

finely at eggzackly 11 am they wood brang us lunch, witch twuz the big meal of the day n lessn ye wuz fixin to have surgry or on sum speshul dite, ye gut soup, meat of sum kind whuther tiz wurst or roast pork or roast beef or whutever, always sumthin good, n two vegtabulls n puddin n sum kinda herbal tea.

twuz in that thar hospitull in west germany i larnt that thay wuz other kinds of tea sides black tea. i had always figgerd thay wuz tea or coffee or hot choclit. turns out thays all kinds of teas, sum of em made frum fruits n sum frum herbs n sum frum tea that wuz green. fer me that stay in the hospitull wuz a study in the kinds of teas ye could git. then eggzackly one hour after lunch, they bring ye more coffee or tea n deesert, witch tiz sumthin deelishus that ye woodnt thank they wood let ye eat in a hospitull lack a napolean or kaiserschmarren or even schwarzwälder kirsch torte, witch we call thatn black forest cake.

after lunch or fer sum folks, even durin lunch, ye gut to have visters but twuznt offishul vistin hours. emily wood cum round noon n ifn i had sumthin good fer lunch i mite save her a bite, witch she dint need much fer brakefuss ceptn a chants to smoke n have sum tea, witch she had to settle fer black tea n no ice since twuz immpossbull to git ice n our lil fridgerator dint have no freezer. she lacked thar puddin n i generly had a piece of bread lef over, so i reckon she gut her furst meal frum my leftovers while i wuz in that hospitull.

after my surgry they kep me so hopped up on painkillers that purty much all i dun wuz sleep, witch that had to be hard on emily ceptn that food lady give her my hole lunch, witch then she gut her a big brakefuss. but in a cuple days i could stay awake n then they gut me to walkin as far as the balcony where i could sit with emily n friedrich while they rolled up cigarettes n smoked em one rite after a nuther.

friedrich wood brang a book over to the balcony, witch that wuz good on a counta me n emily had lots to talk about n he dint speak no english. mane thang we had to discuss wuz how she wuz so deepressed. she wuz wurried bout money. she dint have nuthin to do. she wuz a german histry major, but the mane thang she had larnt on the trip wuz how folks called em germs n she could see why on a counta she dint lack it thar n dint much lack the germs n wunderd whut had she dun with her life. she wunderd  wuz we ever gonna git settled n live in a place whar we could jes relax n be happy? i unnerstood how hard life wuz n couldnt really argue agin her points much tho the same hardness bout life gut me a lil eggcited whar she turnt sad by it. she kindly wished she could go back to amurka, but she knew i couldt n wouldt go n she dint wont no deevorce.

then whenever she went back home n finely fell asleep, she wood cummence havin all these bad dreams whar awful thangs wood happen: i wood turn into duane or leave her or make luv to a nuther woman rite in frunt of her or she wood git chased by strangers n surrounded or  lock herself outta our apartment buildin at nite with sumbidy chasin her. aint much ye could say bout such cumplaints ceptn to say em back so ye kin proov ye unnerstan n thats purty much all i dun so i could jes keep her a'talkin. long as i could hold my tongue bout how eggcitin life wuz n how thangs wuz all gonna turn out all rite, she generly perked up n gut happy agin by time she had to leave of a evenin.

at five on the dot, they brund us our abendbrot, witch that means 'evenin bread' wurd fer wurd n tiz whut we call supper. they would brang ye baloney n salami n sliced ham n bread n cheese n sumtimes fruit ifn ye hadnt reported makin a stuhlgang that day. sumtimes thay wuz puddin. after that ye gut sum of them teas i wuz discussin befor n then folks wood read or watch tv till they brung ye yer schlaffsmittel, witch that means wurd for wurd sleep stuff but tiz a sleepin pill jes the same.

that dint mean i wood ever sleep the hole nite thru. i hadnt never dun that one time the hole time i had been in west germany, but i wood git thru the nite sum kinda way. i never tole emily how i dun a lotta wurryin at nite. i dint thank our inshurants cumpny wood pay the hole bill n i knew we dint have no money. they had splained how i woodnt be gittin out that furst weekend lack we speckted n i hid the news from emily till fridy, but it kep me wurried at nite. i wood wunder could i sell my blood over thar or could i mayhap git sumbidy to publish crap notes n git money that way, only i dint have no high hopes.

but no matter whut, seem lack i wuz sleepin fine whenever that krankenschwester bust thru the door in the mornin to shout, 'guten morgen.' then a nuther day wood start n purty soon i wuz climbin stairs n then cum the day i could take a visit over to the apartment.

twuz such a sprize fer emily n made her so happy that she cried only happy tears fer once. fer a lil while we fergut how we dint have a nuff money n had more wurries than we could both thank bout at the same time. i wuz tired frum all the rehab on a counta even jes walkin wuz hard n tuckerd me out. i wonted a real bath n couldnt git one. she wuz jes as wore out frum wurry as i wuz frum rehab. the place wuz a mess with cloze all over to whar ye couldnt find the floor. thay wuz cigarette butts n ashes all over. but we wuz so happy we could bust.

she wonted to lay with me n look at my wound n see fer herself wuz i ok. she kep inspecktin down thar till we wuz a huffin n puffin frum makin luv as keerful as ye kin do n i dint git injured even tho twuz a lil on the painful side. then we kissed n hugged till we wonted to doot agin only we knew we shouldnt take the risk but we did innyway. then she walked me back n we kissed agin n that nite i had to masterbait jes to git to whar i could sleep.

n sleep i did, finely, clear thru without even rollin over far as i kin tell. i dint even hear that krankenschwester when she hollered, 'guten morgen.' no, whut woke me wuz hearin a sound that made me feel lack i had jes been born n wuz startin all over, witch that made sense on a counta i wuz really gittin better n all our wurries n woes wood turn to nuthin. but i dint know it then. i only knew a nuther day wuz dawnin on a counta how that krankenschwester wuz hollern, 'frische luft!'

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