He's Not Heavy. He's My Cousin
Balki's eyes opened slowly, the visions of a good dream quickly fading from his mind. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. His room was still. Everything was quiet. So why was he awake? He rolled over to look at the clock on his nightstand: 2:00 AM. He frowned slightly. He was a very sound sleeper and never woke up this early on his own.
A low, pained moan echoed through the open bedroom door. That, he realized instantly, was what had awakened him. With a pang of worry he threw the covers off and padded across to Larry's room and carefully opened the door a crack. An eerie glow from the streetlights filtered in through the curtains, illuminating the room just enough for Balki to see. Larry was laying on his side with both arms wrapped tightly around his stomach. The covers lay in a jumbled mess on the other side of the bed.
"Cousin, are you alright?" He asked quietly, knowing instinctively that he wasn't.
The answer was a long time in coming. When it did come it was pained and through clenched teeth. "I'm fine. Go back to bed."
Ignoring the order, Balki moved to the bed and bent down next to Larry. "You're in pain. What's wrong?" Now that he was closer he could see that his friend was sweating profusely, his curly hair plastered to the side of his face. "Oh, po po, Cousin! You look awful!"
"Thank you." Larry mumbled sarcastically.
Balki brushed a lock of damp hair away from his cousin's eyes. "You got a stomach ache, hoh?"
"Yes, yes, I have a stomach ache!" He shouted, and then let out a pained whimper, realizing instantly that raising his voice was not a good idea.
Balki winced in sympathy. "I get you some Tums." He stood and started for the door.
Balki stopped and kneeled down so he could talk to his cousin at eye level. "What you want me to do?"
"Balki," Larry continued more quietly, his face still contorted in a tight grimace. "What was in the Mok Bokk Tokki?"
"I thought you don't want to know."
Balki's mother had sent him several new recipes and for weeks he had been begging Larry to try them. Having had enough of his cousin's constant nagging he had finally given in on two conditions. 1. He wasn't obligated to take more than one bite and, 2. Balki was forbidden to tell him the ingredients. Larry had been pleasantly surprised by one dish Balki had called Mok Bokk Tokki. So much so that he had eaten a whole plate of the stuff.
"Well I changed my mind. The way I'm feeling it may be a matter of life or death."
Balki's jaw dropped in indignation. "That not what make you sick! There's nothing in there but pickled chicken tongue, chopped goat kidney and a little garlic."
Larry's face turned slightly green and he let out another groan. The intense pain was already making him nauseous and dizzy and the revelation that he had eaten chicken tongue certainly didn't help. "I should have known!"
"It couldn't have been the Mok Bokk Tokki!" Balki insisted, the very idea of causing his cousin so much pain made him want to cry. "My family have it every Wednesday night. And nobody ever get sick."
"Yes, well, the Myposian stomach is made of steel." Larry continued to argue, hoping the conversation would somehow divert his mind from the pain. It wasn't working very well. "You could eat the slime in the garbage disposal and not get sick. But the rest of the world has limits! And pickled chicken tongue is way past the..." He suddenly let out a sharp cry, startling Balki, and clutched at his stomach where an explosion of pain seized his senses. After a couple of seconds it lessened somewhat and he relaxed slightly, breathing hard.
Balki stroked his cousin's face gently for a moment trying desperately to soothe his cousin's hurt. He suddenly frowned, then took his palm and placed it across Larry's forehead. His eye's widened in alarm. "Cousin, you feel like you've got a forest fire in your head! I get the thermometer." He leaped up and hurried out the door. Upon returning he carried a thermometer, a wet rag and a bottle of Tums. After setting the bottle on the nightstand he switched on the lamp and stuffed the thermometer in Larry's mouth.
Larry removed it immediately. "Balki, you don't have to baby me. Go back to bed. Its just indigestion. I'll get over...ow ow OW!"
Balki took the thermometer from him and again placed it in Larry's mouth. "I'm not going to bed until you feel better." His voice was soft but determined as he gently ran the damp rag over his cousin's face. Larry closed his eyes and breathed a little slower, the cool caress seemed to calm him. "I couldn't sleep knowing you were in here hurting all by yourself."
After a couple of minutes he removed the thermometer. His eyes grew wide at the reading. "Cousin, you've got a fever. I think maybe we should go to the hospital."
Larry shook his head insistently. "No, Balki. I'll be just fine." In an effort to prove his statement he pushed himself up so he was sitting on the edge of the bed. His body protested the upright position by making the world spin wildly. After a couple of seconds it leveled out to just a sickening rocking sensation. "I'm not going to rack up a hospital bill over indigestion!" With that he stood up. The movement sent a knife through every nerve in his abdomen and he let out a long loud scream as he collapsed. Balki barely caught him before he hit the floor.
"Balki," His words came between quick, pained breaths as he hung in Balki's arms, unable to regain his balance. "Call 911."
"This is no time for a phone call. We have to get you to the hospital!" With seemingly no effort at all he reached down and scooped Larry up in both arms, cradling him like a child.
Larry took a sharp breath, betraying the pain that the sudden change in position had caused him. He then settled humbly in place, knowing all too well that he couldn't get anywhere on his own.
By the time they reached the car Balki was becoming ever more worried. The weight of his cousin's increasingly limp body and the heat radiating from it stirred a vivid memory of the time when Dolly, one of his older sheep fell ill. He found her on the edge of the pasture by herself, burning with fever and unable to get to her feet. He had carried her seven miles to the nearest doctor but by the time they arrived it was too late. He swallowed the growing lump in his throat and prayed it wasn't too late for his cousin.
He opened the car door with his foot, gently set Larry in the passenger's seat and buckled his seatbelt. "Everything's going to be fine." Balki put a hand on Larry's shoulder, trying to keep the worry from his voice. "The doctor will know how to make you feel better. That's why he's called a doctor." Balki waited for the chastising glare but the only response he got was a vague nod. More worried than ever he jumped into the drivers seat and stomped on the accelerator.
The car raced through the empty streets and Balki's mind with it. He knew he was driving way over the speed limit and somewhere in the back of his mind he felt guilty for breaking the law. But his cousin needed help and he needed it now. What if Cousin Larry was right and it was the Mok Bokk Tokki that had made him so painfully sick? But how could that be? To his knowledge it had never harmed anyone before. Unless...unless the chicken tongue had not been pickled properly. That must be it. So it was his fault. The horrible thought gnawed at his conscience but he tried desperately to push it away. He needed to concentrate on getting to the hospital.
Larry sat, doubled over in his seat, staring at the road ahead without really seeing it. With his blurred vision there was only black with two lines of orange lights flying by overhead. Even that image was beginning to fade. He couldn't believe he had let Balki talk him into eating that stuff! He should have known better! He didn't care how much Balki begged, he swore right then and there he would never ever touch Myposian food again. Then, all at once, his mind decided the pain was just too much and simply switched off. His thoughts faded away and the world turned black.
"We're going to be there soon." Balki said, trying to divide his attention between Larry and the road. He reached over to run a comforting hand through his cousin's damp hair. This time Larry didn't respond at all to the touch, which brought Balki's fear back with renewed force. "Cousin, can you hear me?"
He glanced quickly at the road and suddenly realized had to turn. He jerked the wheel, making a sharp right. The centrifugal force caused Larry, now completely unconscious, to topple over, his head landing limply in Balki's lap. With a horrified gasp panic rose up into his throat. He patted Larry's face, frantically trying to elicit some response, any response. "Cousin? Cousin! COUSIN LARRY!!" Balki's breathing began to quicken along with his pulse. He tried desperately to hold back the tears that were burning his eyes and making the street ahead blurry. "Please...please don't die!" He stroked Larry's face gently, as much for his own comfort as that of his cousin's. "We're almost there."