Tuesday, March 31, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 13

I went to a Baptist Church about six blocks from the shelter. The church had an auditorium bigger than a movie theater. Everyone was dressed in fancy clothes. No one came up to me to say that I was welcome. In small churches out in the country or in a small town, folks would let you know how happy they were to have you with them.
On the way back to the shelter I felt disappointed about the church service. I miss so many people, I miss my Grandad, my Daddy, and my Mom. Now I miss my church. God is still with me. That was shown to me several times recently. The most recent time was when those young men chased us, and God made them run into the door.
At the school Sister Carmela met me with Mrs. Cartright.
“Dana, do you know this lady?”
“Yes, Sister, Mrs. Cartright took my Grandad in the plane with her so that he could get to a hospital.”
Mrs. Cartright spoke.
“Dana, I am sorry to have to tell you this but your Grandad died on Thursday night at Arkansas Heart Hospital. They did everything they could do, but his heart had suffered too much damage. He had two heart attacks before he arrived at the hospital.
“I found your father. He is working with the National Guard in Blytheville looking for survivors that might be trapped. His job will be complete on Wednesday evening and he will be coming back to Little Rock on Thursday morning. We will have your Grandad’s funeral at 4PM on Thursday. I am trying to locate your mother. I will try to have information about her when I see you on Thursday.”
I hugged her. “Thank you, Mrs. Cartright for all you have done for us.”
I sat down and cried for a while. Then I laughed.
“Grandad always said, ‘Crying don’t fix the bucket.’”
On Monday after lunch, the parish priest called Sister Carmela, Rosalita, and me into his office.
“I have just received a call from the police station. Evidently, you three were involved in an altercation on Saturday evening on the sidewalk in front of the school. I want to make it clear to you that I do not want you to press charges against these boys. Sister Carmela, I have been informed that if you press charges, the boy’s parents will press counter-charges of assault against you.”
“Respectfully, Monseignor, you are not the one who was attacked.”
“Sister, if those boys’ parents withhold their contributions to the church, I most certainly will be attacked.”
A police car took us to the arraignment hearing. The judge asked me to tell what had happened. Sister Carmela and Rosalita were taken into another room so that they couldn’t hear my testimony.
“We had been to the mall to see a movie and we had hamburgers and milkshakes afterward. We took the bus back to the school. We got off at the bus stop, crossed the street and were walking to the school. Three boys jumped out from behind the trees, went ahead of us and blocked our way. One of the boys called Sister Carmela “Chicquita” and some other words. He grabbed her hair at the back of her head and pulled her into his body. He put his mouth on hers and tried to kiss her. She yelled, ‘Run girls into the school. Lock the door; I have a key.’
“We ran and the other two boys chased us. One of them grabbed my arm and held onto me, he ripped my blouse, but I got away. Rosalita got to the door and ran inside. The boy chasing her ran into the door and was knocked out. As I ran into the door and reached to pull it shut, the boy chasing me ran into the door and was knocked out.
“Meanwhile, Sister Carmela had overcome her attacker. She knows some Karate. She called the police. The police took our statements. They took photographs of my ripped blouse and the marks on my arms.”
“How old are you, Dana?”
“How old are the three boys, Officer?”
“Two are nineteen, the other one is eighteen.”
“Did the officers who responded take photographs such as she has described?”
“Yes, Your honor, but they could not be found this morning when we were getting ready for court.”
“Dana, are you and Rosalita the two girls who were on television news leading a lot of little children in games and singing in a hangar in the earthquake area?”
“Yes, sir.”
“You can sit down. Bring Rosalita into the courtroom.”
Rosalita was timid and nervous. The details of what she said were the same as what I had said.
Finally, Sister Carmela was brought into the courtroom. The judge said to her,
“Ordinarily I would be asking you if you want to press charges. You are the only one who could press charges since Dana and Rosalita are minors. This is so outrageous that I am not going to take a chance that you won’t press charges. I am going to turn the testimony of these girls over to the District Attorney myself and the police had better have those photos and the report of the responding policemen on my desk by the end of the day. I see a reporter from the Democrat-Gazette. I am sure he will be calling my office this evening to see if I received those photos and the policeman’s report. Just to think that two twelve year old girls who have just gone through the horrors of an earthquake and seeing loved ones taken from them come to this quiet suburb and are attacked by young male adults.”
The next day there were protesters marching out on the sidewalk. Even worse, on Tuesday at noon Sister Carmela was called into the office of the parish priest.
“Sister Carmela, the Bishop has transferred you to the St. Labre Indian School in Montana. Pack your clothing. A car from the Bishop’s office will pick you up at 4PM this evening with a travel itinerary and tickets.”
There was no one to take Sister Carmela’s place. Rosalita and I could entertain the children. Who would help the mothers with paperwork and bureaucracy that they didn’t understand? Who would order food for the meals? That day a woman came from the Red Cross to give out “comfort packs”. I tried to explain the problem to her.
Wednesday, a representative from Department of Human Services came. Usually Sister Carmela would bring the mothers to the representative and then would interpret for the two. When none of the mothers came up to the representative, I explained that Sister Carmela had been transferred to Montana. I told her that Sister Carmela did more than interpret. She had managed the shelter – bought food, took the sick to doctors. Now there was no one.
The representative went to see the parish priest. Her remonstration gave him the excuse that he had been looking for. The shelter would be closed. All the women and children in the shelter would be transferred to other shelters.
Thursday my thoughts were filled with the funeral, with seeing my father, Mrs. Cartright’s promise she hoped to have news about my mother. In all the confusion of that day I managed to tell Mrs.Cartright and my father that we were all going to be moved to another shelter on Monday. She gave me a card with her phone number and address. She said for me to tell her where my new shelter was located and my father could call her and find out.
The funeral was sad and not the kind of funeral Grandad would have wanted. He liked country churches too. The happy part of that day was to find out that my mother is alive. She is in a hospital in Louisiana and part of her leg had to be cut off. Both of those are hard to digest. She will probably have to stay in Louisiana for a good while. Will I get to see her anytime soon? Even then it will probably be for just an hour or so. .
All too soon the car pulled up in front of the shelter. The picket line was still there. I had to say goodbye to my father. He said that he would see me again soon and I saw him write down my address. Well, I need to get back into the shelter. The children and mothers and Rosalita will be needing my help.
On Sunday I went to the Baptist church again.. When I came back, my father was waiting for me. He told Rosalita that he was taking me to someplace where we could have a meal and talk. We rode the bus until we began to see restaurants. Then we got off the bus and walked to a restaurant. After we were seated at a table, he said,
“Dana, tomorrow I am going to Monroe, Louisiana to see your mother. I can’t take you with me this time, but I will take you the next time that I go. I called Mrs. Cartright and asked if you could call her if you need help or if you are in trouble. She said that you can. Here is her phone number. Carry it with you wherever you go.”
I asked him what work he had been doing in Blytheville. He didn’t want to talk about it.
“Just operating a bulldozer and keeping all the diesel engines growling like they are supposed to do.
“How are things at the shelter?”
“Up to now it has been all right. Rosalita’s mother has allowed me to stay in her family unit. Now that the shelter is going to be closed, we don’t know what to expect. I was told when I came here that legally I should be turned over to Child Protective Services because I didn’t have a parent in the shelter. I am afraid.”
“I know you are, Dana Honey. I am going to do the best that I can to get a job and then a place to live so I can take you out of the shelter.”
The next day, we were told to pack up whatever belonged to us, go outside and get on the bus. 
The bus took us to Ferndale, west of Little Rock, where a Baptist church had built its own camp and conference center. It looked run down. For a church camp to be unused in the summer months – there must be a story in that,
The camp was already occupied by survivors of the earthquake. We had to be squeezed in wherever there was space. Rosalita and I were put into a large cabin of teenage girls. It had bunk beds made of timber so rough that it had splinters. The mattresses smelled of sweat and mildew.
The girls already there were from Blytheville, Osceola, or Gosnell. They were town girls and snickering they called us “Hick” and “Jalapeno”. At lunch we were shoved aside by the people already there. Rosalita and I tried to help the mothers who had come with us get food for the little ones. We were ordered to go to the tables assigned to our cabins. The girls at our tables were flirting with the teenage boys at some other tables.
Apparently we were not allowed to go back into our cabins until after supper. There was a place where it was supposed to be safe to go swimming. Some of the teens headed there. There was rope which divided where the boys could swim and where the girls could swim. It soon became obvious that both girls and boys were swimming under the rope to get to where a particular girl or a certain boy were swimming.
Rosalita and I found some swings and were swinging until some older girls came over and told us to get off, that those were their swings. In the end, we just passed the time walking and talking.
At supper the girls sitting at our table would distract us and would take food off our trays or mess up the food on our trays whenever we weren’t looking. After supper we went back to our cabins. I looked under my bunk and the black garbage bag with all of my clothes, my other pair of shoes, my teddy bear, and my Mamaw’s Bible was gone.
“Where is my bag of clothes”
A chorus of snickers and guffaws was the answer. Then some began mimicking me. I went outside to find one of the adults in charge. There was a woman standing outside.
“Get back inside the cabin, little lady.”
“All of my clothes were taken. They were in a black plastic garbage bag.”
“Maybe someone threw them in the garbage then.”
“That is what they gave us to put our belongings in.”
“There is nothing I can do about it. You just lost your clothes. Too bad.”
I was glad that I had some money my father gave me and Mrs. Cartright’s phone numbers safely tucked into my jeans’ pocket. Back in the cabin, my teddy bear and Mamaw’s Bible were on my pillow. The bag hadn’t been thrown in the garbage. Someone had stolen my clothes. When I was in bed, I asked teddy bear, “What am I going to do?”
“Wait until tomorrow after lunch, start off walking and just keep walking. I’ll tell you which way to go.”
The next day after lunch I started walking into the woods. Teddy bear appeared as soon as I was in the woods and he guided me to a road. Walking along the road, I came to a store with a phone booth outside. I went into the phone booth and called Mrs. Cartright. She asked where I was. I looked up and on the wall of the booth was a card with the location and how to get there. When I walked out of the booth, it disappeared. A half hour later Mrs, Cartright’s car drove up.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 12

After he spoke with Mrs. Cartright, Major Fromme sent a soldier in a Humvee to look for Karl Cusak and tell him that Major Fromme wanted to see him right away. At the time the soldier found him, Karl was holding up the wall of a house with his dozer blade while two brave soldiers crawled underneath of it to pull out some dead bodies.
     “Tell him that I’ll see him tonight when it is too dark to work.”

“He said to tell you that he wanted to see you right away.”
      “You told me what he told you to tell me, now you go tell him what I told you to tell him.”

The soldier went away muttering.
      The soldiers who worked with Karl looked up to him. They trusted him and worked like dogs for his approval. Several times a day he would say to them,
      “I sure am proud of you guys. You really get it. These people were killed by something they didn’t expect, didn’t see coming. The least we can do is see they get a decent burial. Lying out in the open, in no time the vultures, rats, and maggots will be feasting on them.”

On they would go working until their uniforms were crusted with dirt and soaked with sweat. The unit sent MREs, coffee, and water. None of them stopped for a lunch break. They would grab something as they walked by, or gulp down something to drink. The unit stopped sending supper because the men wouldn’t eat until they had to stop working.
      About 9 PM, after he had showered and put on clean clothes, Karl went to Major Fromme’s tent.

“Karl, I have news about your family. Your father-in-law died on Thursday night at Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock. Do you know a Mrs. Cartright?”
      “Yes, her husband was the accountant and bookkeeper at Wesson Farm in Victoria. I lived in Victoria and worked for Wesson Farm. I saw Mr. Cartright several times a week when I needed to buy parts for a piece of equipment, when I turned in my time card, and so on. His father-in-law is a part owner of Wesson Farm.”  

“Mrs. Cartright’s father sent a plane to Victoria to bring his daughter and her children back to his home in Little Rock, if they had survived the quake. They had been rescued from their house by a rescue team. When the plane came for her and the children she also took your father-in-law because he had suffered two heart attacks. When they arrived in Little Rock, she took him to Arkansas Heart Hospital before she went to her parents’ home. Her name was the only contact the hospital had. When he died, they called her.
      “Mrs. Cartright is a persistent woman. She located your daughter and yesterday she located you. Somehow she found out how to call me and she called me this morning. That is when I sent a messenger to you. Mrs. Cartright called me again a couple more times. I told her that you were out in the field and couldn’t be found. I promised that you would call. Here is my cell phone and here is her number.”

Karl’s hand was shaking as he held the phone. When a man answered the phone, he asked for Mrs. Cartright.
     “Mrs. Cartright, this is Karl Cusak. Thank you for all that you did for my father-in-law, for locating my daughter, and for contacting me.”

“In times like this we all have to stick together.
      “Here is what I have done Mr. Cusak. I had a funeral home pick up Mr. Fairfield’s body. I also secured a burial plot in a cemetery in Little Rock. I went to the shelter and told Dana about her grandfather. Major Fromme explained to me that you are a vital member of the team that is recovering bodies from the ruined houses and buildings. He said that he expected that the work would be completed by Tuesday night, but to be safe he would say Wednesday night. I asked the funeral home to plan for the funeral at 4PM on Thursday. Unless you have another minister in mind, I’ll ask our minister to do the service.

“Now, as to your wife. I am still working on that. So far I have found out that she was injured and was taken by a recovery team to Osceola airport from where she was flown to a city to be admitted to a hospital. So far, I can’t find anyone who knows what city or what hospital. I found out that they were taking them to Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Memphis, Tennessee, and Monroe, Louisiana because the Little Rock hospitals were filled to overcrowding on the first day.”
     “Thank you so much for all that you are doing.”

“One last thing, tell Major Fromme to call me when you fly out and tell me whether you will be arriving at Little Rock Airport or Little Rock Air Force Base. I will have a car waiting for you.”
      “Thank you, thank you. God bless you.”

After he finished speaking on the phone, MAJ Fromme said,
    “Thank you for all that you have done. Tomorrow I am going to call the commanding officer at Osceola. I am going to give him a heads up to expect her calls. I am also going to let him know that I would take it as a personal favor to me if he would do all he can to find out where your wife was taken for treatment.

“By the way, tell all the guys in Jack Raymond’s group to give me the registration papers from their vehicle if they have them or a description of the vehicle and its license plate number. I will have my clerk type up a letter which I will sign saying that your vehicle was destroyed in the earthquake. That should expedite getting your insurance payment unless your policy has some “act of God” clause in it.”
      There was no laundry service and they were getting covered with dirt and all kinds of detrita every day. Even their underwear got dirt stains because they were wet with sweat. Even if there wasn’t dirt and sweat there was the smell of death that got into the clothes. They all seemed to have the same idea at once. They would go into the shower fully clothed, rub soap all over their outer clothes, then drop them onto the shower floor. They did the same thing with their underwear, dropped them to the floor and scrubbed themselves. Then they would hold the soapy clothes under the running shower a piece at a time. While others were showering, they wrung out their clothes. They hung them on ropes that had been strung outside. After a day at work, they came back to clean, dry clothes on the line. They took them down, went into the shower and repeated the process.

By Tuesday night they had covered every street in Blytheville. They decided that on Wednesday each team would again go along every street that they had done and look for any place that they had passed over the first time and see if they should give it a closer look. For the most part, they had done a thorough job. However, every team found several bodies they had missed – ten bodies in all.
      Thursday morning at 7AM there was a small plane waiting for Jack Raymond’s group to fly them back to Little Rock. The plane would land at Little Rock Air Force Base. Major Fromme called Mrs. Cartright and gave her this information. She told him that she would send a van for all the men. He called Little Rock Air Force Base so that the van would be allowed on base and would be allowed to pick the men up at the plane.
       The van took the other men to the shelter. Then it took Karl to the home of Mrs. Cartright’s parents.

“Mr. Cusak, welcome to my parents’ home. They have asked me to welcome you on their behalf. They have gone to Kentucky to visit my brother, his wife, and the grandchildren. I think that my two little ones are too noisy for them. My brother’s children are in middle school now.
      “You will be using my brother’s room. I want you to go now and try on his black pinstripe suit. He left some clothes here because they no longer fit him. He has gained some inches around the middle since he was able to get into those clothes. There are some white shirts in the drawer, some ties in the closet. There are also several pairs of shoes. Try all those on now so that if you need to buy some clothes for the funeral, there will be time to do so.

“Before you go, let me tell you what I have found out about your wife. She is in St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, Louisiana. She is in ICU so they won’t let her use the phone. The hospital wouldn’t tell me anything about her condition. However, I spoke to the lady whom the Red Cross sent to tell her about her father. She told me that your wife seemed to be in fairly good spirits. She did have part of her right leg amputated. That is why she is still in ICU.”
      “Thank you, Mrs. Cartright. I’ll go try on those clothes now, but I better take a shower and shave first. Then I’d like to go over to the shelter where Dana is staying and bring her over here, if that would be all right.”

Melodie Cartright said, “I’ve talked to Sister Carmela. She suggested that we pick her up at 2PM. Mary helps with the other children in the morning and at lunch time. After lunch the children take a nap. Then Dana can get dressed for the funeral and be ready for us to pick her up at 2PM. You will have over an hour to visit with her at the funeral home before the funeral begins. Before we leave to pick up Dana, the minister would like for you to write down what you remember about Mr. Fairfield – his work, his wife, his children, what he was like.”
      “Thank you, you have arranged everything. One thing, before I shower and change clothes, I must go to the shelter to register. I want to get into the same room with my buddies. It is important to be registered with them if they find a job for any of us. If I wait until this evening there won’t be anyone there to register me.”

“I understand. Try on the clothes first to see if you will need to buy anything. Then I’ll have the car drive you to the stores and to the shelter. Here is the telephone number of St. Francis Medical Center. You can call them from the car on your way into Little Rock.”
      By 11AM Karl was in the car on his way to Little Rock. He had a Trac Fone which he bought the first time he was brought to Little Rock. He called St. Francis Medical Center. At first he got a run around. He got testy.

“Listen, I was in an earthquake and so was my wife and daughter. We were separated and I have just found out that they are alive. My wife Mary Cusak is a patient in that hospital and I want to speak to her or to her doctor who can tell me why I can’t speak to her.”
      He was put on hold.

      “Mr. Cusak, this is Doctor Kubicki. I am Mary’s surgeon. Mary was pinned down in a building. Her right leg had a crush fracture and about half of the lower part of her leg had to be amputated. She has been in intensive care since the surgery. She has made good progress and barring an unforeseen setback, I will be moving her to a private room on Monday. Then she can receive telephone calls or have visitors. I will tell her that you called, that you love her, and that you will call her on Monday when she is in a room.”

“Thank you, Doctor.”
       At the shelter Karl registered and asked to be assigned to the room with Jack Raymond and his crew. He saw Shorty in the lobby and asked him to tell the others that he would be coming in this evening after the funeral.

The clothes belonging to Melodie’s brother fit Karl well enough for one time use. He wrote a page and a half of what he remembered about his father-in-law.
       At a quarter to 2PM Karl and Mrs. Cartright got into the car to pick up Dana at the shelter. When they arrived at the shelter, Karl was surprised to see a group marching up and down on the sidewalk carrying signs and chanting slogans, “GET THE WETBACKS OUT OF OUR SCHOOL.” “GET THE MEXICANS OUT OF WOODLAWN.” “WE DON”T WANT YOU HERE.”
      Karl was angry.

“Do you know who you are picketing and chanting about? Those are the widows and orphans of men who labored out in the blazing sun last summer to raise the food that you are buying in the store now.
      “Wetbacks? Do you know what that word means? It means an illegal alien. Let me tell you that no big farm would dare hire an illegal alien. The feds would fine that farmer big bucks. The husbands and fathers of those widows and orphans were all U.S. citizens or they had green cards. I have been working with them for over a year. Now their bodies are crushed or burnt like toast by the earthquake and its aftermath. And you are adding to the sorrow of their widows and orphans.”

Just then Dana walked out, dressed in a black dress and wearing a black straw hat. Karl wished that Mary could see her.

They drove to the funeral parlor and he and Dana talked until it was time for the funeral. Most of the funeral was like the service in a large city church except that Dana had requested to sing “Standing On The Promises”. Before she sang she said,

“On the Sunday before he died I was at Grandad’s house. We decided to have our own church service since the earthquake had made it impossible to go to any of the churches. As part of the worship we had at his house, I sang “Standing On The Promises” because I knew that it was one of his favorites.”

Karl promised Dana that he would try to see her often. After the car took them all back to the home of Mrs. Cartright’s parents, Karl went up to her brother’s room, changed back into his own clothes and came down.

“Could your car please take Dana back to her shelter and then take me to my shelter? You’ve been most gracious to us. God bless you.”




Tuesday, March 17, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 11

Mary was so happy. She couldn’t think of anything else than, “Dana is alive. I saw her. It was her.” Mary couldn’t wait until Reverend Rowell came
She had needed something happy to think about. After they dressed her stump, the nurse wrapped it with an elastic bandage. The whole leg hurt, even the part that was no longer there. When time came to lay on her stomach and then two hours later to lay on that leg, she thought that she would go out of her mind the pain was so bad. Shawanda came by to examine the dressing to see if the elastic bandages were causing an increase in drainage. They weren’t. She noticed Mary grimacing in pain.
“Honey, how bad is the pain, one to ten?”
Shawanda laughed. “I heard that! We don’t want you to endure severe pain. We know there is a certain amount of pain all the time that you are healing, but severe pain. That’s no good. Let me see what I can get you.”
In the nurses’ station Mary heard Shawanda arguing with Wanda. She said, “If you won’t call the doctor, I will.”
“When little foxes eat spinach, you will.”
Wanda called Dr. Kubicki and in a deprecating tone told him what Shawanda reported. He ordered morphine with phenedrin.
“Yes, sir, Dr. Kubicki.”
After the shot, Mary felt like she was lying on a cloud and drifting across the skies.
That night, after the elastic bandage was removed, the old dressing was removed, the stump washed, a new dressing applied, and then a new elastic bandage was wrapped around the stump, Mary was given another shot. She slept through the night like a baby.
On Friday morning Dr. Kubicki came to her bed and inspected the stump.
“Your stump is healing nicely. I am going to reduce your pain medicine to one-half today and one-fourth tomorrow. If the pain is too bad, let the nurse know, but I don’t think that it will be.
“We will continue the dialysis another week. It looks like the kidneys may resume functioning. We can’t be sure at this point. Keep drinking your mamaw’s cranberry juice remedy and keep praying. We want those kidneys to function. We don’t want to have to remove them.”
After he left, the new dressing and elastic bandage was applied. That afternoon the dialysis equipment was rolled into her cubicle. The dialysis process took about two and a half hours. As the nurse was coiling the various hoses and wires, the Reverend Rowell came in, girded with a paper gown and a mask. She told him the good news she had about her daughter Dana. After their visit, he prayed and included thanksgiving for preserving Dana from the danger so many had faced last weekend.
It was time to be turned onto her stomach. She was surprised that there was not the severe pain of yesterday. It was uncomfortable but bearable.
When it was time to lie on her left side, she was glad because that was the best time to read or play games on her Kindle. When it was time to turn her onto her right side, they turned her onto her back just while she ate supper. Then they turned her onto her right side.
Now that she knew Dana was alive, Mary wondered about the men in her life – her husband Karl, and her father.  She wondered if the Red Cross was getting set up so that she could ask about Karl and her father. Tomorrow was Saturday, Ilene would be coming back and Shawanda and Shawnda would be going on a wild weekend with their boy friends. They were going to be introduced to the past time of “mudding”. They had no idea what it was. She couldn’t wait for the day they would be back to find out what “mudding” involves.
On Saturday she received the same treatments and medicine, but there was something about the atmosphere of the hospital that was different, maybe more relaxed, on the weekend. She tried to imagine what Dana might be doing on the weekend. She knew that Dana would find a church and go to church no matter where she was.
That thought led her to think of when Karl had gone to Iraq with his National Guard unit in 2010. Dana was only eight years old then. Karl had been working in the Fort Smith area. She didn’t know many people there. Her father and mother were living in Whistleville in Northeast Arkansas, a long drive from Fort Smith. Karl had told her to look at the moon and stars when she was lonely.
“The same moon and stars will be looking down on me.”
Mary couldn’t look at the moon and stars now. She knew the same God that she prayed to, that Dana was praying to, and if her father and Karl were still alive, they were praying to Him also.
When Ilene came to change her bandages, Mary asked her,
“I guess I couldn’t go to it, but do they have a church service somewhere in the hospital?”
“No, but remind me in the morning and I can find a church service for you on the television set.”
Even though it was the ICU, Mary could tell that there were a lot more visitors on the weekend. Monday she was going to ask the Red Cross person to try to locate her father, Karl, and Dana. If she could just send them a card and get a message from them, that would be a comfort.
She was starting to get tired of cranberry juice every meal and at snack time at night, but she had been the one to suggest it, so she would stick to it until the doctor told her that her kidneys were working again. He said something about removing them. If they remove your kidneys, what do you do then?
For the rest of the day she occupied herself reading or playing puzzles on the Kindle whenever she was in a position where she could do so. It was awkward and uncomfortable when she was lying on her stomach. It was virtually impossible when she was on her right side, lying on the stump. Those times she tried to nap.
On Sunday Mary watched the morning service of some large Baptist Church. She didn’t know if it was a church located in Monroe, Louisiana or someplace else. Monroe, Louisiana would be as far away as Fort Smith had been if Dana and Karl are located in Little Rock, Arkansas or its vicinity.
The dinner meal on Sunday was a bit nicer than ordinary. Otherwise, the day went by the same as every other one. Mary noticed that Wanda worked better with Ilene than she did with Shawnda and Shawanda. Wanda came in at the end of her shift.
“Well, I’ll be off for the next three days. I’m sure this place won’t fall apart without me. Keep your chin up, dearie. You are doing fine; much better than any of us expected. No doubt its mamaw’s cranberry juice. You sure she didn’t make some kind of moonshine or brandy with it?”
There were two nurses on night shift who did Mary’s dressing and turning. They were two middle aged white women. One was plump. Her name was Matilda. Matilda’s face was what Mary thought of as a “baby face.” She smiled whether she was happy or not. Her personality was placid. The other woman, Linda, was thin and wiry. Her face was wrinkled and leathery. Mary thought to herself, “She is a heavy smoker.”
 Matilda and Linda worked well together. Linda gave all the orders and Matilda did exactly what Linda told her to do. Mary noticed that they were not as coordinated in working together as were Wanda and Ilene or even Shawanda and Shawnda. Of all of them Merrybelle was best. In the morning Matilda bathed her before going off shift. She worked much smoother and more confident while working alone.
When the Monday morning shift came on, Shawanda came to change her dressing. Just as she had removed the elastic bandage and dressing and was about to wash the stump, Dr. Kubicki came in. He looked at the stump intently, then motioned to Shawanda to continue what she had been doing.
“Mrs. Cusak, you cannot know how pleased I am with how your stump is healing. It is healing as well as any amputation I’ve ever done. It pleases me that I don’t have to share the credit for that with Mamaw.
“Beginning tomorrow, you will be kept busy with exercise and physical therapy. You’ll be doing exercises while you are lying down, and exercises while sitting on the edge of the bed with both legs hanging down. In addition to that, you will begin learning how to get out of bed into a wheelchair AND you will learn how to put those elastic bandages on by yourself.
“As far as your kidneys are concerned, we will continue the dialysis and Mamaw’s Miracle Medicine. There is some indication that the kidneys may be resuming some minimal amount of functioning. I can’t be sure. We will just watch and wait. Keep saying your prayers and drinking cranberry juice.”
“Thank you, Doctor Kubicki.”
After he left, Mary said to Shawanda,
“Whew, I’m exhausted already. Shawanda, I am dying to find out what “mudding” is and whether you had a good time.”
“Mrs. Cusak, you know what? Men never stop being little boys. We went out to this place where they had flooded a half dozen acres until it was just gooey mud. Then these grown-up, oversize boys had four wheel drive trucks on which they had put oversize tires –some of those tires must have been six foot tall and three feet wide, well almost. Then they ran those trucks out in the middle of all that mud and tried to get to the other side. Of course they were slinging mud up in the air.
“Spectators couldn’t help but get covered in mud. Some of the vehicles got stuck out in the boggy mud. Men would slog out in the mud to attach cables and chains to the stranded trucks to rescue them. While they were trying to pull a truck out, the driver would be roaring the engine trying to help. I tell you, I can’t think of anything more childish than deliberately running a forty-thousand dollar truck out into a mud bog to show off that the truck can make it to the other side.
“You know what? I hope that I never fall in love and marry a silly fool like that. He would probably just want a wife who could work and buy him a set of those tires. I’ll bet they cost $500 a piece or more.”
By the time Shawanda finished her account, Mary was laughing so hard, her stomach and sides were aching and tears were rolling down her face.
“Thank you, Shawanda. That is the first good laugh I’ve had since before the earthquake.”
The day went on in its usual routine of bandages, turnings, meals, and dialysis. As the dialysis nurse was leaving, Reverend Rowell came in for a visit. Mary was grateful for his visit, for reading the Scriptures, and for his prayers for her and for her family.
After he left, Mary was turned onto her right side and she found herself watching the clock, counting the time until she would be turned onto her back. Another visitor came into her cubicle.
“Mrs. Cusak, my name is Elizabeth Fontaine. I am a volunteer for the Red Cross. I have come to bring you some bad news and some good news. “
Mary steeled herself.
“Your father Henry Wallace Fairfield was taken to the Arkansas Heart Hospital last Monday. He was flown there from Victoria. He had had two heart attacks the previous week. He was taken there by a Mrs. Cartright and she is the one whom they notified. He died in their Cardiac Care Unit early Saturday morning.
“Mrs. Cartright evidently tormented the Red Cross in Little Rock and Osceola so persistently that they located your daughter, then your husband, and today she found out that you were in Monroe, Louisiana. She wouldn’t give us any peace until we went through our records, found out what hospital you were in and promised her that we would go today and bring the news to you. She took down all the information about you, so she will undoubtedly be trying to contact you herself.
“Your daughter is in a shelter with other women and children in Little Rock. Your husband is in Blytheville working with the National Guard until this Wednesday, then he will come down to Little Rock. The funeral for your father will be on Thursday when your husband and Dana can be there. Your husband may not know where you are. It was hard for Mrs. Cartright to contact him in Blytheville. She may wait until she sees him on Thursday to tell him.”
“Thank you so much, Elizabeth. God bless you.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 10

Rosalita and I sat together on the plane. She was scared and so was I. I heard the children crying.

“Hug your teddy bears. Everybody hug their teddy bear.”

The plane hit bumps in the air and it would bounce like a car on a road with holes and rocks. When the plane came into Little Rock it dived straight toward the ground. When it touched down the wheels screeched. Then the engines roared.

When we got off the plane and went into the terminal, the airline had someone lead us to the escalator.

“If you are afraid of the escalator, there is a pair of steps beside it.”

On the ground floor a woman met us and led us to the far end of the terminal. She gathered us around her.

“I am Mrs. Hammons from the Pulaski County Office of Emergency Management.”

I interrupted her.

“Mrs, Hammons, many of these women cannot understand English. If you would like, my friend Rosalita can interpret for you. Just give your instructions one sentence at a time.”

She agreed. The two women office workers and some women that I didn’t know looked very annoyed.

Mrs, Hammons continued a sentence at a time.

“The bus outside will take you to a church which has set up a shelter for women and children. At the shelter there will be representatives of the Red Cross, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Employment Security. They will only come to the shelter several times a week and only for two or three hours so watch the bulletin board for the times that they will be there. There will be breakfast in the mornings and sandwiches at lunch and supper. Each of the mothers will receive a money card for $200 for herself and one for each of her children. This is money to buy clothes and other items you need.”

The bus took us to St. Edward’s Catholic Church. There was a school next to it. They had taken the school desks out of the classrooms and filled these rooms with cots. There was a gymnasium which had showers. The gymnasium itself was a play area for the children. There were basketballs and soccer balls, jump ropes, and hula hoops. The cafeteria was where we would eat. It was certainly more comfortable than the hangar at Osceola.

Mrs. Hammons took me aside when the bus reached the school.

“I don’t know what to do about you. Since you are not with a mother, I am supposed to turn you over to Child Protection custody. They would try to find a foster family and meantime they would send you to a youth facility. Neither option would be very nice.”

“Couldn’t I stay with Rosalita and her mother>”

“I really shouldn’t, but I saw you on that television news cast where you were leading the children in games. I really think you would be a big help here, especially with so many Mexican mothers and children. They like you. I think you should stay with them, even though it is against the rules.”

Providentially, there was a Spanish-speaking nun, Sister Carmela, who taught at the school. She had worked in a mission school in San Salvador and her Spanish was fluent. Since she was a nun, the Mexican mothers looked up to her, She took Rosalita and me. Together we formed a team.

“Girls, the families will be getting settled today. This afternoon I want us to sit down with the mothers one by one and help them make up a shopping list to use those $200 money cards. If they go into Walmart, without shopping lists, they might be confused and spend all the money without getting all they need. Tomorrow we’ll take three mothers at a time. Each one of us will accompany a mother in the store and help her find the items on her list. They will probably take their child or children along with them. We can help mind the children while the mothers shop.

Rosalita and Carmela sat with one mother at a time. Several of the  lists had Spanish on one side and English on the other side. Those were for me. While they were helping the mothers make shopping lists, I had the children out on the gym floor. The boys were kicking the soccer balls. The girls were either jumping rope or twirling the hula hoops.

Thursday was the most exhausting day of my life. Sister Carmela took a van that belonged to the school and hauled each group to Walmart. The children wanted to go to the Toy department. I couldn’t allow them to leave their mother, because I had to help her shop. In choosing clothing, the mothers wanted to hold the children’s clothes up against them to see if it was the right size. The child or children would be whining and tugging at the mother’s skirt. When a child was particularly bad, the Mexican mothers didn’t spank their child, they twisted their ear.

I accompanied two mothers and their children on two trips. On the second trip, after the second mother was finished shopping, Rosalita and I had to accompany Rosalita’s mother while we did our shopping because she had our cards. I was able to get a skirt, a pair of jeans, two blouses, socks, a pair of tennis shoes, and some personal items.

Sister Carmela did some grocery shopping while Rosalita and I shopped. That evening we smelled an odor coming from the kitchen that made our mouths water. She was frying hamburger with onions and lots of peppers. At supper time she had stacks of tortillas, the fried hamburger mixture and all the fixings for burritos.

Everyone went to bed that evening tired but happy after a full day.

One by one Sister Carmela spoke at length with the women about their future. Several of the injured men were husbands of the women in the shelter, but others did not know what the fate of their husbands had been. None of the women were citizens. None of them wanted to return to Mexico. She tried to explain to them that something would have to be worked out for them with the immigration officials.

Rosalita and I kept the children busy playing in the gym. At one point I said to the children,

“We are going to have a Sunshine Parade. Everyone needs some sunshine and fresh air to stay healthy. We are going to go outside and march in a Sunshine Parade. Everyone, keep hold of the hand of the one in front of you and the one in back of you. Anyone who lets go of a hand, has to go back inside.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
          Rosalita repeated my instructions.

Outside I sang while they marched,

“Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for Him each day.
         In every way try to please Him, At home, at school, at play.
         A sunbeam, a sunbeam, I’ll be a sunbeam for Him.”

The children loved their Sunshine Parade and we decided to make it a regular part of play time. After lunch the children went in for their naps.

Sister Carmela came to Rosalita and me after lunch.

“You two girls are a big help to me and to the mothers. As a token of appreciation, I would like to treat you. Let’s go the mall and see a movie and then we can have hamburgers and milkshakes for our supper. We’ll be back before dark.”

We both clapped our hands and hugged Sister Carmela.                 

The mall had a lot of stores. Its cinema was showing seven different movies. We looked at all the posters and picked a movie about high school foibles and romances. Sitting in the darkened room, watching the movie, we forgot about the earthquake, the shelter, and our missing family members. We lived in a whole different world. We laughed and cheered and booed. After the movie ended we didn’t want to go back “home”.

There were a half dozen vendors in the Food Court. We chose Wendy’s and got a hamburger and a Frosty and savored the change from sandwiches and milk.

We had to take two buses to get back to the school. We got off the bus, crossed the street, and were walking toward the school entrance. From behind the trees lining the sidewalk, three young men leaped out.

“Ay, Chiquita, sweetie pies, how about some kisses for three lonely guys? See, I told you guys that building is filled with feminine wares.”

The young man who had been speaking came up to Carmela, grabbed her by her hair, and attempted to push his lips against hers.

“Girls, run for the entrance and lock it behind you.”

Rosalita and I started running, but the other two young men were right behind us. Several times one of them grabbed at me and tore my blouse, but I got away. I opened the door and let Rosalita go past me. I was sure the young man would capture me, but he ran into the door and fell down unconscious. The other young man charged at me. He could easily have gone through the open door, but he also ran solidly into the door and was knocked out cold.

Carmela yelled to me,

“Get inside and lock the door. I have a key. I see those two are on the ground. Mine is too. I knew enough Karate to defend myself. The police have been called and they are on their way.”

After I showered and went to bed, I hugged teddy bear and said,

“You’ll never believe what happened to us tonight.”

“I saw the whole thing my child. Who do you think made those two guys not see straight.”

“I’ll always feel safe knowing that you are protecting me!”

“It is not me who is protecting you, but God Himself and I think you forgot your prayers. You owe Him a big thank you.”

I dropped to my knees immediately, thanked God for His protection and asked Him to watch over my father, my mother, and my Grandad.

         At the Arkansas Heart Hospital where Henry Wallace Fairfield had been taken, a nurse in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit found Henry in full cardiac arrest. She called a code. Nurses, technicians, and a doctor rushed to his cubicle. They tried everything in the protocol. Henry Wallace Fairfield was dead.

The only emergency contact number they had was Mrs. Cartright who was staying at the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Stauer. The hospital called her on Saturday morning.

Mrs. Cartright knew Dana, her father and her mother. She called the Red Cross and asked them if they had a Dana Cusak, a Karl Cusak, or a Mary Cusak in their records. They told her they would call her back. Next she went to her father, told him that the old man she brought back on the plane had died. She asked if he would be willing to pay for the man’s funeral and probably a grave site.

“Of course, Melodie. Those people lost everything in the earthquake. They are in the same boat with you. Whatever I can do.”

Before the end of the day Melodie Cartright had called a funeral home to pick up Mr. Fairfield’s body and had found out the shelter in Little Rock where Dana was staying and that Karl Cusak was working with the National Guard in Blytheville. The Red Cross said that Mary Cusak had been found by a rescue team and brought to the collection point at the airport in Osceola. From there casualties had been flown to hospitals in a half dozen cities. Unfortunately they had not recorded to what city she was taken.

On Sunday Melodie called the National Guard in Blytheville and asked to speak with Karl Cusak or the officer in charge or the Red Cross whichever was available to come to the phone. Eventually someone from the commanding officer’s office answered the phone. She explained the circumstances and asked for Mr. Cusak to call her on her cell phone as soon as possible.

Next she went to the shelter. She asked for Dana Cusak and was told that Dana had gone to a Baptist Church about six blocks from the shelter. She should be coming back within the next half hour. Sister Carmela asked why she was looking for Dana. When she told her, Sister Carmela said,

“That is very sad news. I know she loved him dearly.”