everything was confusion in the ward with the thruway disaster victims.
doctor varney, with imelda in tow, approached a tall woman in a white coat with long hair down to her ankles.
"ah, doctor varney. how good of you to make time for us, and this is - ?"
""this is imelda, doctor benway. one of our new interns, and willing and eager to help."
doctor benway looked down coolly at imelda. "excellent. right now we need to record all the patients stories so that we can coordinate them later. you can take down some of their stories - i assume you have been trained in basic interrogation techniques -"
"oh yes, doctor, it was the first thing we learned," answered imelda.
" - or you can hand out pills." doctor benway took a large bottle of pills out of the pocket of her white coat.
"what is in the pills?"
"what do you care what is in the pills? they are pills."
imelda looked down at her feet. "i'm sorry. i will be glad to record stories."
"good." doctor benway put the bottle back in her pocket and took out a small pad and handed it to imelda. "you can start with those patients against the south wall. "
the patients were seated in folding chairs lined against the wall. the first patient imelda approached was a chubby little man with his head completely wrapped in a bandage. the bandage was covered with writing, and imelda began to read it.
"aren't you going to ask me anything?", asked the little man.
"i'm sorry, sir, i have to read the ambulance attendant's report first."
once upon a time - the writing on the little man's bandage began - there was a beautiful young princess. she lived in a faraway castle at the edge of a faraway sea. everybody in the kingdom loved her, because she was so good and beautiful, and they hoped that she would become queen some day. the reigning queen, her stepmother, was totally wicked and had been in a deep sleep for many years.
"if she was in a deep sleep, how could she do anything wicked?" imelda asked the little man.
"i'm sorry," imelda mumbled. "i am new to this. just let me check something here."
she turned to the patient in the next chair, a young woman wearing a flaming red dress and stiletto heels, whose head was also wrapped in a bandage covered with writing.
it was a terrible night - the second patient's bandage began - a night for madness. a lone horsemen rode furiously across a blasted landscape.
"i guess this is the way they do things," said imelda to herself. she turned back to the first patient and the story on his bandage.
the princess' twin brother, prince carlo, had been on a quest to recover the golden bullfrog, which had been stolen from the royal zoo many years before by -
"what are you doing?" asked the little man. "why don't you just get me a pill."
"sir , this is the procedure i have been trained to follow."
"that doctor over there, with the long hair. she has a whole bottle of pills in her pocket. i saw them. go get me one."
"right now, young lady."
"yes, sir." imelda turned and started back toward doctor benway when she was thrown backward by the sound of furious screaming.
"you coward! you treacherous scum! betrayer! do you really think you can treat me this way?" doctor benway was screaming in doctor varney's face. although there was no breeze in the room, her long hair was flying around her head and white coat. "not just the board, doctor, not just the board but your wife, doctor, shall hear of your perfidy and unseemly behavior!"
imelda hesitated. everyone in the room was watching the encounter, including the patients who had been half asleep in their folding chairs. doctor benway continued her screaming. "no one treats me this way! not even the oh so handsome doctor varney!"
"is there a problem, intern?'" another doctor had come up behind imelda, a round little woman with a green face and purple hair cut in bangs. her eyes were hidden behind thick goggles and her name tag identified her as doctor gogol.
"that patient over there - the first on the south wall - wants a pill."
"no problem there. that's what we are here for." she reached into her coat and took out an even bigger bottle of pills than doctor benway's. "why don't you just pass these out to all the patients."
"doctor benway told me to take the patients' stories."
"and now i'm telling you to pass out these pills."
"i want to find out if prince carlo recovers the golden bullfrog. did you know that the bullfrog is the only creature that never sleeps?"
"no (. i didn't know that. but no knowledge is useless." doctor gogol's eyes were expressionless behind her goggles. 'i will let you know if prince carlo finds the golden bullfrog. and also what happens to the lone horseman, and who he was, and why he was going where he was going. everything will be revealed in time, imelda. everything."
doctor benway had stopped shouting and now scanned the room. "what are you all looking at? doctors and interns, get back to work." she pointed a long red fingernail at imelda. "and you, you wretched little plaything, didn't i tell you to take the patients' stories? what are you doing?"
"i told her to hand out pills.' said doctor gogol.
"oh you did, did you? do you ever stop undermining me, for one minute in the day?"
doctor gogol put her thumbs in her ears and wagged her fingers at doctor benway.
"nyah, nyah, nyah!"
doctor benway knocked her down and they began rolling on the floor, punching and kicking each other and shouting in languages imelda didn't recognize. the patients along the walls laughed and cheered as a couple of interns tried to pull them apart.
sally yawned and stretched. the others had grown tired of waiting for tania
and larry and left her alone in the office.
imelda and doctor varney were walking back down the corridor.
"but weren't they violating a human contact law?" imelda asked.
"no no no no no," doctor varney replied. "some things are left between doctors. doctor benway and doctor gogol are really good mates. but they work long hours and get a little wired sometimes. and besides - " he smiled down at imelda. "neither of them are human anyway."