Elijah Kaczmerak’s throat rattled, his coughs insistent as he spit blood into his handkerchief. Gregory stood close by, fearful the old man might collapse.
“Where’s that *cough* goddamn doctor?” In the weeks Dr. Ziantara had been at the house, she had yet to find a new mixture to help the old man.
“I’m not sure, sir.” Gregory winced as he spoke.
“Fuckin’ cunt.” Tears slipped from Kaczmerak’s weathered eyes as he gasped for air, pounding the console on his chair in frustration.
“Fuck!!” The word echoed off the high ceiling as the leather-bound books inhabiting the shelves absorbed the rest of his cry.
Sylindra Ziantara walked into the library, soft shoes masking the doctor’s approach. “Elijah, I’ve told you to stop acting like a child. You can’t expect to get better if you insist on being foolish.”
The old man glared at the doctor as she approached him. “What the fuck *cough* have you got for me?”
“I decided to try something different. I took one of the vials left and mixed Methandrostenolone with your DNA sample. Theoretically, it should bolster this sample enough to cultivate a new batch of stem cells.” Her voice trailed off, the final word hanging between them.
As wasted as he was, Kaczmerak still caught the hesitance in her voice. “What the hell are you not telling me? *cough* And don’t bullshit me doctor *cough* I don’t need that from you.”
“If it works – and there’s no guarantee it will – I don’t expect these cells to hold up very long. You need a donor if you want to see your next birthday, Elijah.”
“Don’t fucking cry over me *cough* I’ll most likely outlive you.
*cough* “When the fuck *cough* will it be *cough* ready?” Kaczmerak doubled over as another fit took hold of his body. Blood spattered the back of his hands as mucous trickled from his nostrils. Sylindra knelt beside the old man “it’s okay” and rubbed his back as she took one of his hands “it’ll be all right” in hers, trying to will the man’s pain away “I will find something.”
Gregory watched for a minute and then exited silently from the room.
It was nearly four minutes before Elijah was able to catch his breath, the air rattling in his throat as it passed over his scarred esophagus. “How much time?” he whispered.
“Three months. Maybe six –”
“No, you dumb bitch. How long until the batch is ready?” Elijah dropped his head, closed his eyes, wouldn’t look at her.
“Oh,” she said. “It should be ready by the end of the day.”
“Good,” said Kaczmerak. “Get me a glass of water. Then you can leave.”
“Hey. Wake up.”
Karen Kaczmerak opened her eyes, squinting at the harsh light that streamed through the window.
“The rain stopped. We’re headin’ down to the square, check things out. You should come.” Jamal had a big grin on his face like some little kid that just got his first ice cream of the summer.
“No. I don’t think so,” said Karen as she brushed the hair from her face.
“What is that? You been here weeks now, that airsplint’s kept your ankle in place, an’ it should be healed already.
“So why can’t you come down to the square?” Jamal’s smile had vanished.
“I just don’t feel like it.” Karen pulled away, wrapping herself in her arms as if warding off the chill of a winter morning.
“Hey.” Jamal’s features softened as he crouched beside the mattress Karen was using for a bed. “I didn’t mean to snap. I’m just worried about you bein’ cooped up here all the time.
“It ain’t healthy. And it ain’t no way to find your brother.”
“Don’t talk about him!” Karen snapped and pulled her chin into her chest.
“Whatever.” Jamal stood up, throwing his hands in the air as he shook his head. “You wanna keep feelin’ sorry for yourself, go ahead, but I’m not about to help you with your pity party. You decide you wanna see the world again, come on down and let me know. Maybe we talk then.”
Jamal was pulling the door closed as Karen spoke up. “Hey,” she said from beneath a mop of blond hair, her voice pulling the tall man back around the doorframe. “Are you leaving right now, or do I have time to freshen up?”
Jamal smiled thinly, curiosity filtering through his eyes. “I can prob’ly wait a couple minutes. But don’t take too long. Had a girl once was like that. Never could get anywhere on time, and she was a bitch anyway, so I had to drop her.
“Don’t make me drop you,” Jamal said with a wink.
Karen smiled as she got up from the mattress. “Don’t worry about that.
“I’m not a bitch.”
To be continued . . .