MARVIN GOES TO THE HOSPITAL
by Madeline Sonik
When the ambulance finally arrived at the hospital, Marvin's throat was raw from shouting. The troubled ambulance attendants took his blood pressure, they took his pulse, and inspected the pupils of his wide pleading eyes once more. They maneuvered the stretcher bed from the vehicle and wheeled him through the thick glass doors.
"Name?" a voice barked from a booth.
"It's Percy you need to get. It's Percy you have to go back for. I keep telling them," he shouted, trying desperately to wave his strapped down arms at the attendants. "But they won't listen to anything I say.".
"What's your last name, Percy?" the voice barked again.
"My name's not Percy. Percy is my cousin's name."
"Percy Cousins." The voice snapped, satisfied, like the fastening of a clunky gold clasp..
"No," Marvin shouted. "That's not my name!"
The ambulance attendants collected around Marvin. They explained to the voice that he'd bumped his head.
"No sign of concussion," the pony-tailed attendant announced..
"Pulse and blood pressure normal too," the other attendant confirmed.
The barking voice belonged to a woman who sat at a desk typing. "Parents?" she asked the attendants.
"I expect his mother will be along soon," the attendant said.
Finally the barking woman stood. She attached a vinyl bracelet with "Percy Cousins" printed on it to Marvin's wrist. A small happy nurse dressed in pink appeared, it seemed, from thin air and wheeled Marvin down a long corridor, past door after door after door. "This is a mistake!" he yowled, but his voice was beginning to falter. "It's Percy," he choked.
"Everything will be just fine, Percy," the little nurse chirped. "You've had a kabong on the old noodle," she said, lifting one of her elfin hands from the swivelling bed, flicking her forehead with two fingers. "You'll be right as rain before the rain can hurt the rhubarb or fall onto the plain in Spain," she said.
Marvin was beginning to panic.
"Just follow me," she said with a mischievous giggle, launching the bed recklessly forward, faster and faster down the long, straight corridor that seemed to extend forever. "Wheeeeee," she sang, lifting her small body with a hop onto the bed. "Wheeeee," she cried. "Isn't this fun?"
"No!" Marvin called hoarsely, as the bed he was strapped to careened like a wobbling truck out of control. "This isn't fun. This isn't fun at all!"
The little nurse paid no attention, but leaned her body forward to generate more speed. "Candy's dandy, but liquor's quicker," she called.
"Please stop!" Marvin pleaded. "Let me go home."
"Don't you know that home is where the heart is?" the little nurse asked seriously, then giggled.
She hopped from the bed, which had now slowed to a crawl, and guided it and Marvin into an open elevator. "Ladies' hats, purses, lingerie?" she said, pressing a variety of green glowing buttons, "Percy Cousins, beaming up!"
"Where are you taking me?" Marvin rasped.
"Ask me no more questions, and I'll tell you no more lies." She leaned over Marvin's face and winked.
"Please," Marvin begged, "please listen!"
The little pink nurse hummed, she polished her fingernails on her uniform, she did not listen to Marvin. She would not hear a word Marvin said. The elevator stopped with a bump, the doors divided open. The little nurse pushed Marvin out into a blindingly bright ward.
"This is Percy Cousins," the little pink nurse explained to another nurse, who could have been her identical twin in lime green. "He's had a kabong on the old noodle. He doesn't know how to have any fun!"
"Welcome, Percy," the other nurse said. "The doctor will see you presently." She wheeled the bed away from the little pink nurse. The little pink nurse skipped towards the elevator and clicked her heels. "Good bye, Percy Cousins," she called, waving her tiny open hand. "Good bye, Percy Cousins. I hope they can teach you how to have fun! I hope they can teach you to enjoy the ride!"
Her voice followed Marvin and the lime green nurse into an examining room. Marvin was sure it was an examining room, because there was a huge chart on the wall with a large letter E at the top, a blood pressure gauge attached to the wall, a tall white scale for measuring height as well as weight and, lining a counter, a display of implements that included a small hammer for testing reflexes and a light for looking into ears and throats.
"Dr. Blackseed will be here in moments," the little lime nurse whispered.
Marvin did not like the name.
"Dr. Blackseed is a noodle specialist," she giggled. "He's going to ask you some questions."
"Will he listen to my answers?" Marvin asked, frustrated, losing patience.
"Only if the answers you give are the right ones," the lime green nurse said matter-of-factly.
"What do you mean?" Marvin inquired, but the nurse did not respond, for Dr. Blackseed now stood at the door.
Dr. Blackseed was a tall, disheveled man with wild white hair and a face like a crumpled paper bag.
"What have we here?" he asked, rubbing his hands together. "A boy?".
"Percy Cousins," the lime green nurse specified.
"Cousins? Hmmmm. Are you related to the South Hampton Siamese twin Cousins?" he asked. "They were joined at the head. They had a devil of a time putting on tee shirts and poloneck sweaters and things like that."
"My name's not Percy Cousins," Marvin said. "It's Marvin Smith and I shouldn't be here at all. I'm perfectly fine. It's my cousin Percy who needs a hospital."
"I see," Dr. Blackseed said, removing a small notepad from inside his jacket, and jotting something down, then returning the notepad. "It's your cousin Percy," he said in an exaggerated way, winking at the nurse, "who's off his beam, not you!"
"Off his beam?" Marvin asked.
"Derailed," Dr. Blackseed enunciated slowly, "You know, slipped a widget, come unglued, got himself unhinged." The doctor looked into Marvin's uncomprehending eyes. "I see…." he said again, and again removed the notepad from the inner pocket of his jacket and began madly scribbling.
"All right, Percy, how many fingers am I holding up?" the doctor asked. The doctor wasn't holding any fingers up. He was still jotting things down in his notebook. "None," Marvin said.
"Very good!" Dr. Blackseed said, as if Marvin had surprised him. "And how many hamburgers are you currently consuming?" the doctor asked in an earnest voice.
"Hamburgers?" Marvin asked.
"Yes...you do know what a hamburger is, don't you, Percy?"
"Marvin," Marvin corrected, "and obviously I'm not eating any hamburgers."
"Obviously?" the doctor asked slowly, flashing a light on and off in Marvin's eye.
"My hands are strapped to my side. Even if I could eat a hamburger now, which I can't, where would one come from?"
"Only Dr. Blackseed can ask questions like that on this ward," the lime green nurse said defensively.
"That's all right, Nurse Stealth. Percy Cousins doesn't know the rules yet. But he'll learn. He'll learn in time."
"My name is Marvin Smith," Marvin hollered. "I'm perfectly all right!"
"No need to shout," Dr. Blackseed said, pressing a tongue depressor in Marvin's mouth. "Do you often find yourself getting agitated?" He left the stick in Marvin's mouth. "That's what I figured," he said after a moment of Marvin's garbled response. The notebook made its third appearance then. Dr. Blackseed jotted furiously.
"Well, Percy Cousins, I'm afraid you're a very sick young man," Dr. Blackseed finally said with a sigh. "I'm afraid you're going to have to stay here with us for the rest of your life, maybe even longer."
"What?" Marvin shrieked. "This is absolutely crazy!" There was a void expanding in the pit of his stomach, a rush of blood moving quickly to his brain.
Dr. Blackseed shook his head. "Nurse Stealth, put Percy Cousins into the room with the hopeless cases."
"Very good, Dr. Blackseed," Nurse Stealth cooed..
"And make very sure, Nurse Stealth, that at all times Percy Cousins is strapped securely in his bed. I don't trust him. I don't trust him at all. He has shifty eyes. But what can be expected from someone related to the South Hampton Cousins? They were both murderers, Nurse Stealth. They strangled each other with a necktie, don't you know? Very bad business. Very sad for all concerned. You keep this Percy Cousins away from neckties, do you understand, Nurse Stealth?"
"Yes, Dr. Blackseed!" Nurse Stealth said gravely.
This was the last thing Marvin heard before the room began to spin and grow hazy, before his troubled mind and body fell into a death-like swoon. It was the only way his mind could cope with this craziness. He could not understand what was happening. Why no one would hear him. Why the hospital was inhabited by such deranged people or why he had fallen victim to their care.
Marvin had not learned that the world is a web and that what touches each strand cannot help but shake the entire mesh. All he knew was that Percy's light had been devoured, that he had watched as it occurred. But Marvin did not know the ramifications of this event. He did not know that this ghastly experience he was suffering was a direct result of the sudden loss of light in the world. Although he did not know any of this yet, he would soon find out that it was his duty to bring the light back.
Illustration by Simone Maxwell
UBC's Journal of Children's Literature
Mail: Chameleon C/O UBC Creative Writing
Buchanan Room E462, 1866 Main Mall Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1
Email: Helen Kuk --