"The Best and Brightest" by Karen
Johnny woke up with one his usual headaches, refusing to take any kind of medication to alleviate the dull buzzing sound and the dull ache behind his eyes. He's had enough head aches to know the warning signs of a portending vision.
In the landscape of his mind's eye Johnny stand atop the summit of a steep hill. The sky above his head is heavy with dark swathes of cloudbank. Almost directly below his lofty perch dense green woodland is lined with evergreen trees.
The sky opens up, and the rain comes pouring down, and in a detached part of his mind Johnny realizes that its one of those summer lightning storms, the kind that are fierce and awesome to behold, but hardly ever last very long.
Pulled up alongside a deserted country road is a beat up pickup, stalled by the shoulder while a disheveled and highly irate Sheriff Walt Bannerman curse fluidly. Applying the kind of logic that usually accompanies such of his precognitive visions Johnny wants to shout out to the other man to find shelter, because a big storm is heading his way. However, his voice is eerily silent, as he watches a stroke of lightning lance down and hit the pickup, ricochet off of the highly conductive metal, and hit Walt Bannerman squarely in the chest, knocking him a good five feet or more backwards towards the tree line.
Walt's hair stands on end as he staggers to his feet, dazed but otherwise unharmed.
When he comes out of his trance vision, for lack of a better word, Johnny realizes that he never left the room, never actually was in the vicinity of where he has witnessed his best friend, Walt Bannerman, struck by lightning.
The sheets at the foot of his bed are bunched up, tangled, and half on and half off the bed
He bolts upright, rubbing his temples and wondering where he is and what has happened
In his peripheral vision Johhny realizes that nearby is a white-garbed figure holding a clipboard and a thermometer in hand, waiting for him to wake up. He turns his head to take in his immediate surroundings and realizes that he is not in his own room, the windows to the east look out on a crisp, cold Maine winter, he remembers that much of the past 48 hours. However, the walls are papered in alternating patterns of pastels, the floor is tiled, and he realizes with some dismay that he is in a hospital room.
"Back with us so soon?" the male doctor asked; as he bent forward to rest a cold stethoscope on Johnny's neck and then went on to check the rest of his patient's vital signs. With that task complete the doctor sets it aside.
"Where am I?"
"In a hospital, son," the doctor replies, "I'm Doctor Ruben Lyndale, and you're in the trauma ward of the Banglor, Maine hospital. You've suffered a nasty knock to the head, but luckily nothing is damaged beyond repair. Do you remember anything?"
"The last thing I remember was the empty box of pizza I had for dinner the other night."
"Are you hungry, thirsty?"
"I guess so, but I'm not wild about hospital food. How did I get here?"
"There was an accident, one of your neighbors called 911 and you were brought in shortly afterwards. You've been asleep for quite a while now, how are you feeling?'
"Lousy. Johnny blinks, shaking his head to clear it of the inevitable cobwebs, trying to summon the required puppet strings in his mind to recall events of the past twelve hours. All he can come up with is a big gray blur, and it is irritating the hell out of him. He tells the stubborn part of his mind that he should be able to remember something like this, 'Damn it!' he thinks. "Why can't I remember?" he says aloud.
"Please try and relax, I'll need to run a few more tests in order to be certain, but my initial diagnosis is that a part of your short term memory is gone."
"Gone?" Johnny clenches his fists around a handful of the sheets on his bed. "What do you mean by gone?"
"As in not there, but there's no need to fret. It might just be caused by the trauma you suffered to the head. It probably is only temporary." Lyndale said, bending down to glance at Johnny's medical chart. "I see you've had a prior history of trauma to the head Mr. Smith, I'll have to take that into consideration.
"Your name, Johnny Smith."
"Oh, I guess that's okay then, doc. But keep my informed huh, I wouldn't want to miss out on anything."
"Now we're making progress." Lyndale smiled encouragingly and then left the room to make his rounds and check up on a few things.
It took the better part of a week to locate any next of kin of Johnny Smith, and having to be the one to inform her of Mr. Smith's amnesia.
Doctor Ruben Lyndale sits behind his desk with Vera Smith, a stack of official
documents in a manila folder, and removes the release form.
"Mrs. Smith, thank you for coming by on such short notice. I 'm sorry for the trouble we've put you through."
"No need to apologize, I should have come visit my son on a regular basis, I just wish it were under better circumstances."
"So do I, Mrs. Smith, so do I. With amnesia patients it's more anyone's guess than a science so we can't say for sure how long it will last or how severe it is."
"Yes, you mentioned that over the phone."
"I know, but humor me, I have to go over this again. You know how it is, hospital policy, especially if I am going forward with releasing a patient, your son." Lyndale said.
"I can take him home?" Vera Smith asks.
"It might be the best way to go, surround him with familiar sights, sounds, smells; help jog his memory as it were."
Two Weeks Later
Vera Smith had tried and retried all of the various recommended therapies to bring back her son's lost memories, to no avail. Even surrounded by the familiar surroundings of his childhood home in Indiana did not do the trick. According to the big erasable marker calendar, squarely mounted on the door of the quietly humming away fridge, told her it had been two weeks.
Walt Bannerman had dropped by, on his day off from the sheriff's department, to pay a visit and talk to Johnny. Figuring if anyone needed a friendly and familiar face, well, then he would damn well be there for him.
The doctors had told him about Johnny's accident and resultant amnesia, and on the phone, he had promised to do everything he could to make sure Johnny recovered as quickly as humanly possible.
"Thanks for coming by, Walt," Sarah began, after offering him a cup of freshly brewed coffee from the big machine percolating away on the kitchen counter. Vera Smith then bustled over to a rack of chocolate chip cookies cooling on a baking rack, and mittens in hand, removed a dozen on to a waiting plate, set then down on the kitchen table in front of him, and took a seat. "I hate to see him like this. Some I feel responsible for his condition."
Walt reaches across the expanse of the table and takes her hands in his: "Don't. There was nothing you could have done. It's a damn difficult situation, by any consideration, and you're doing exactly what you have to, taking care of him until he regains his memory."
Vera nods and disentangles her hands long enough to remove her apron and the mittens. "I know, I know, it's just hard to have to watch him stumble around the place like he's a stranger. The doctors told me they had no way of estimating how long it would take, it could be sudden it could be longer, but it still would be up to him."
"Well, then I wish he would get on with it."
"Walt! Vera exclaims in some indignation.
"I'm, kidding, Mrs. Smith, a little." Walt replied, then reached for one of the cookies on the plate in front of him. "After all, look on the bright side, at least it's just his short term memory, he could have been crippled or in a coma, so there are worse things."
"I suppose," Vera cautiously replies. "What that supposed to make me feel better?"
"Yeah, did it work?" Walt grinned.
It occurred to Walt even as he reassured Johnny's mother that perhaps the lengthy delay in his best friend's recovery might have something to do with psychic visions dating back to that long ago car accident. Walt cocks his head to one side, thinking the matter through; all not all of those lost memories had been Johnny Smith's to begin with. Walt thinks back to the incident that occurred many years ago, when they had both been children.
It's a cold, crisp winter day in Maine one that makes Johnny Smith, age six, eager and somewhat anxious to get out to the ice of the local skating rink. It will be his first time on the ice and the weight of his ice skates hang heavily over his shoulders. It's not that he fears that the other kids will laugh at him or anything like that, after all, falling flat on his face and making a fool of himself, it's a more unexplainable sensation. He hasn't found the words to express what he's feeling to his parents or his best friend, Walt, so the pressure has been building to the point where he feels he is fit to burst if something doesn't happen and soon.
When he finally straps the final laces of the skates to his feet, and stands upright once more, Johnny realizes that another of the boys on the rink is watching him: It's' the boy he'd seen on a prior outing to the rink. It's the ring leader of a group of boys Johnny had observed from a distance and admired not only for their skill in skating, and playing ice hockey bust also for the ability to skate backwards.
Skating backwards had been part of his plan to try out on this outing.
At first the initial rush of exhilaration and adrenaline at having succeeded in his goal, skating backward, picking up speed as he went, hearing the encouraging roar of the onlookers, his parents among the faces in the crowd, clapping and beaming in shared delight. It's a heady feeling, one that Johnny wishes he could somehow capture and hold on to, its only when he detects an all but subtle undercurrent, a change in the charged atmosphere of the crowd that he begins to doubt.
He can not stop. The roar of the crowd becomes a dull throb in the back of his skull and the next thing he's coming up on the backboard of the skating rink's enclosure, and when he and the obstacle make contact with an audible thud, and whoosh. The next thing Johnny feels is a dull lump on his forehead. He reaches up to touch it and his mittened hand come away streaked with his blood. It's only later that he realizes that the blood is his own.
The last consciousness thought before blackness overtakes him, 'How come they never
teach you how to stop? It's a lot harder than it looks'
Present Day Conclusion
"Walt!" You can't go out tomorrow night!" Johnny exclaims, all but falling out of his chair. "There's a big summer storm passing through this part of the country and you're right in its path."
"Relax, sounds to me like some one is back in the fortune telling business, Walt exchanged meaningful glances with Vera Smith, one that said, it appeared that Johnny was going to be all right. "All kidding aside, do you remember anything that's happened in the past week or so?"
"I remember a hospital and lots of kind doctors and nurses. And you making me listen to the entire collected hits of Johnny Cash and something about you wanting to go Graceland. Johnny slumped back into a loose-limbed relaxed posture in his chair, the lines of his face relaxing as well as some of the tension drained out of his mind and body. "Other than that, was anything in particular I was supposed to remember?"
"I guess we're back to normal, or as normal as things ever get for us?" Walt asks as he rubs the grit of the road away from his eyes.
"I guess so," replies Johnny, shrugging his shoulders, "All things considered, I was more concerned about you then I was about sudden lapse in memory."
"I hate to say this, but I sometimes wonder about the jacked up capers I get involved in because of you," Walt grimaced and then grinned the familiar devil-may-care one that Johnny recalled very well. "Wouldn't miss it for the world, you know?"
"Thanks, man." Johnny returned the grin, "I know that. I just need to be reminded every once in a while."