Day: March 27, 2020
#ReleaseBlitz “Dagger (Vegas MMA #1)” by S.L. Sterling
I sat and looked up at the clock that hung on the pale-yellow cement wall. My head was pounding, and a pool of blood was building on the floor in between my feet. The wait times here were getting ridiculous. It was a good thing it wasn’t a matter of life or death, I thought to myself. I had been waiting for over two hours before they had finally acknowledged I was even in the waiting room.
It was busy tonight; not as busy as some of the other nights I had been here, but that’s what I get for having to come into the emergency room on a Friday night. At least I made it through registration where they had taken my blood pressure and other vitals, and listened to my heart, then the blond behind the desk sent me here, into this hellhole of a waiting room. Across the way a child cried out and I glanced around at the other patients who sat there waiting, just like me, to be seen by the next available doctor.
While I waited, I thought back to the first time I had come walking in here and chuckled to myself. It had been a bad fight that night and I was a fucking mess. At that time, I was still an amateur in the ring and hadn’t quite learned the concept of blocking.
The nurses who were on that night had taken one look at me as I walked through the door and had rushed me in to see a doctor. There was no messing around, none of the now usual “go sit in a corner and wait.” Both of my eyes were swollen shut, my nose was bloodied and broken, I had a mouth full of blood from a cut on my inner cheek, and a large gash on my head, and I was clutching my side as if I had been shot. I was sure they thought so too, due to the blood-soaked shirt I had been wearing. They had cleaned me up a little, and within minutes, I was on my way down for a CT scan and X-rays to make sure I didn’t have any type of brain trauma or broken bones.
Once all the results were in and I had been stitched up and put back together, they had released me. Shortly after that visit I had become a regular and normally came in with the same type of injuries on a monthly basis. Apparently, you become less of an emergency once they find out that you are doing this to yourself, and now they make you wait.
“Hey, Dagger. Another fight I see. Tell me you at least look better than the other guy?” one of the regular night nurses said as she walked by, handing me a clean towel to hold to the cut above my eye. “Make sure you’re keep pressure on it. That will help stop the bleeding.”
“I know, I know. This isn’t the first time this has happened you know.” I grumbled nodding and held the clean towel she had given me up to my eye. I took the other blood-soaked towel and dropped it into the bin labeled bio-hazard. I sat back against the chair, ignoring the sharp, agonizing pain that shot down my back. There were times lately I felt as if I were being punished for the choices I had made in life. It wasn’t my fault I had grown up fighting in the streets. Besides, having a drunk of a father at home, I’d had no choice but to learn how to defend myself at a young age, first from him, and then from the others who picked on me and stole what little lunch money I had. However, if I hadn’t learned then, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here now. Instead I would have become some nameless victim and my body would have been found facedown in a ditch or back alley somewhere.
Regardless, fighting was now in my blood, so it was no surprise I had made a career out of it. Becoming an MMA fighter was probably the best thing I could have done. I was good at what I did, one of the best in the area, as a matter of fact, and it paid the bills. However, it just so happened that this career choice also came with a lot of injuries. Good thing I was a tough son of a bitch.
“Still kicking ass and takin’ numbers, huh, Dagg?” Bree, one of the nurses, said as she entered the room carrying a clipboard. Bree had looked after me the last few times I came in. “Come with me. I had a feeling you might stop in tonight. We haven’t seen you in a while, I was getting a little worried,” she said as she pulled open a curtain to one of the little exam rooms and patted the paper-covered bed.
I listened to the familiar sound of paper crinkling beneath me as I took a seat and groaned from the pain shooting up my back again.
“I’m just going to take your temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen saturation, but you probably know the drill by now.” She smiled.
“Yep, sure, use and abuse me, just like all the pretty girls.” I chuckled and extended my free arm so she could put the cuff on while continuing to hold the towel up to my head. One thing about head wounds: they bleed like a bitch.
I let her do her thing, watching the monitors on the machines. “Why are you here, Dagger? Everything is normal, same as it always is.”
“I missed you ladies here at the good ole’ emergency room. You guys always take such good care of me, and being a single man, a lady’s touch is always nice. Plus, my coach dropped me off here and made me come in.” I winked at her as she tore the cuff from my arm and smirked.
She pulled the towel away from my head and checked out my face. Taking her gloved hand, she gently touched the cut above my eyebrow, causing me to jump. She pushed my hand back up, so the towel rested against the cut again, and went to a drawer and pulled out a couple of bandages.
“For the time being I will butterfly suture this until you see the doctor. It should help stop the bleeding a bit. You’ll probably need stitches again.”
“Yeah, as you can see, that is the same as always too,” I said, looking her in the eyes as she looked over my face again. I flinched this time as she touched another spot under my left eye. I had taken a left hook to that cheek; hadn’t even seen it coming until I felt the hit.
“That is probably going to be a lovely shade of green and purple in the coming hours.”
She pulled the towel down away from my face and examined the gash closer this time. “Yep, you are going to need stitches. Hold still, this might sting.” She smiled at me, while placing the bandages across the gash. I shrugged it off as if I didn’t care that I needed to be sewn back up, but, honestly, I hated stitches, and Bree knew it.
Bree was always good to me, and she gently fastened the gash closed with the bandages. “However, this time you should probably come in and have us remove the stitches, instead of doing it yourself.” She tsked. “It says here that you left with twelve last time, but you never came back for your follow-up.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know, I was short on time.” I said, standing up. It was the same lecture as the last time and the time before that. I had become good at removing stitches on my own.
“Every time you remove them on your own, you risk the fact that the wound may not be closed properly and subjecting yourself to infection,” she scolded.
“Well, what can I say, I’m a glutton for punishment.” I shrugged, smiling.
“Don’t flash me that sexy smile of yours. It’s serious.” She frowned at me and muttered something under her breath as she marked something down on my chart. “All right, you know how it goes now. Take a seat out there.” She pulled the curtain open, signaling for me to go and sit down.
“Yep, I know how it goes, go wait and you’ll call me as soon as there is a room ready.” I grabbed my sweatshirt and walked out into the waiting room. I suddenly realized I spent entirely too much time here. I practically could have done the full check-in myself.
I was just about to head over to where I had been sitting but noticed my seat had now been taken by an older man, and the room was twice as full than it was when I had left. I walked across the room and grabbed a different seat over in the corner, off by myself. This time when I sat down, the pain in my kidney area was bad enough that it ensured me I would probably be peeing nothing but blood in a few hours. Sadly, I knew that feeling too. Guess I probably should have told Bree about the multiple kicks and punches I had endured to that area tonight as well, and perhaps she might have sped things along.
I shrugged off that thought and threw my sweatshirt on, pulling the hood up over my head to cover my eyes. The least Bree could have done was pass me a couple of pain pills on the sly, and she might have if I had told her I had a headache. I felt like shit, and the last thing I wanted was to have a bunch of people sitting and staring at me as if I were some monster out of a movie. Few people in the area new who I was, and I didn’t want them to think I was just some looser who had lost in a street fight. I had too much pride to allow them to think that. I would never waste money on a stupid street fight.
The longer I sat there leaning up against the wall using my hood as a pillow the more comfortable I became. Finally, the pain in my back settled and I was just about to fall asleep when I heard another familiar voice call my name.
“Mollie, is that you?” I asked as I pulled the hood off my head and carefully rubbed my half-swollen shut eyes.
“Yeah, Dag, it’s me. Come on, handsome, let’s get you looked after, shall we?”
I stood up, blinking hard trying to see where I was going. I walked toward the door to the exam rooms, right where Mollie stood. I smiled as I approached her. I had seen her plenty of times here before as well. “Hey, Mollie, are you finally showing your old pal to a room?”
“Yeah, come on, you poor thing,” she said, her voice full of pity, grabbing my arm and walking beside me to keep me from banging into things. “Just a warning, I’m not your nurse tonight. You’ve got the new girl, so make sure you’re on your best behavior and that you treat her nicely, okay, Dagger?”
“I’m insulted! When have I ever been mean?” I asked innocently enough to make her laugh.
Even though I couldn’t see it, I could imagine her rolling her eyes at me. “When aren’t you? You’re always impatient, snappish, and the looks you give are enough to knock people to their knees,” she said as she pulled the curtain back for me to enter the little cubicle of a room.
“The look you’re referring to is part of my charm,” I answered, sitting down on the table. “Really, though, the attitude is just because of the pain, Mollie. You guys poke and prod around; it hurts more than the actual fight,” I argued, defending my behavior.
She placed my chart in the holder on the wall and went to pull the curtain across. “Well then stop the fighting and be nice, Dagger. The girl looking after you tonight is new here and she isn’t used to you yet. She’s a sweet girl, so don’t give her a hard time. Her and the doctor should be in very soon,” she said as she pulled the curtain back across the doorway and left the room.
I sat there for a few moments until the pain got so bad I had to lay back. I pulled my sweatshirt over my head and kicked my feet up on the gurney, resting my arm across my abs, and closed my eyes. Seconds later, I balled my sweatshirt up and shoved it under my head to use as a little pillow and laid there staring up at the ceiling. I could barely wait to see what little mouse of a girl they sent in to take care of me. If Mollie had warned me to be on my best behavior, this girl must be weak.
Within minutes, a woman walked into the room wearing cute purple scrubs and carrying a clipboard. She didn’t greet me or look at me; she just walked over to the wall and removed my chart, setting it on the counter. I couldn’t help but check her out; she had an ass that any man would be foolish to forget. When she looked at me, I felt my pulse start to rise. She had gorgeous glass-blue eyes and long, dark eyelashes, perfect lips, and the cutest nose. Her hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail. She sat down and slipped on a pair of frameless glasses and started going over my chart.
“Could you please remove your T-shirt so I can hook you up to the monitors. If we must shave you, we will,” she said, showing me a razor blade.
“No need,” I answered as I pulled my shirt over my head. I watched her eyes dance over my chest. I wanted to see if there was any reaction from her, but she just went about her business placing the electrodes on my chest, then she pressed a few buttons and the monitors started to beep. As her fingers grazed over my bare chest, lead to lead, the steady beeping from the machines started to get faster, the numbers climbing.
“Are you feeling okay?” she questioned as she continued to attach the pads and fiddle with the wires. I had been through this a thousand times—it was all just part of the protocol—but this time it was my attraction to her that was causing the machines to go haywire.
“Yeah,” I said, swallowing hard.
“Whoa!” she exclaimed as the numbers continued to climb. “Something here has got to be defective.” She rested her hand against my chest. “You’re sure you feel okay?” she asked as she fiddled with the leads for another few moments before taking her hand off me and searching through the drawers for something.
I watched as the numbers on the machine instantly started to fall. She turned back to me and placed her hand on my chest, prepared to replace one of the leads, and the numbers started to climb again. She removed her hand again from my chest and watched as the numbers fell. A soft smirk floated across her lips, and that was when she realized that it was her that was making my heart rate go crazy. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes met mine as she rested her palm against my chest again.
“Perhaps you should stop touching me,” I teased, grabbing her hand that was still resting against my chest as she watched the monitor.
She smirked at my comment and rolled her eyes. “Did you at least win your fight?” she asked, studying the injuries on my face. Then she looked at my back and ran her fingers over the bruising that I was sure was already starting to show in my kidney area. The machines started beeping wildly again, and without even waiting for my response, she started writing her notes.
“Why is there is no mention of trauma to the kidney area on the forms?” she asked impatiently.
“There is no mention because I didn’t say anything,” I grunted as she lightly pressed in the area. “Oh and I won. The other guy looks way worse.”
“Well, then I’m glad I’m dealing with you and not him then.” She kept her head down and continued making notes, studying the monitor. “Any other areas of injury you’re not telling us about?” she questioned, those glass-blue eyes glaring at me.
I was going to say something smart, but when I saw the fire in her eyes, I decided to shut up and just shake my head. I didn’t need another fight on my hands tonight.
#BookBlitz “Please Return To: Toby Solano” by Frank Morelli
Frank Morelli is the author of No Sad Songs, a 2019 YALSA Quick Picks nominee and winner of an American Fiction Award for best coming of age story. The first book in his debut middle grade series, Please Return To: Norbert M. Finkelstein, was released in September 2019. His fiction and essays have appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Cobalt Review, Philadelphia Stories, and Jersey Devil Press. A Philadelphia native, Morelli now lives in High Point, NC where he has been a classroom teacher for almost twenty years. He holds an MFA in Fiction from National University and thinks dogs are the most respectable beings on the planet. Connect with him on Twitter @frankmoewriter or on his website frankmorelliwrites.com.