Lucky's Tale
« Thread Started on Oct 15, 2009, 6:04pm »

I don't think I'll ever forget that day. It started out right enough - a good breakfast, which in the past had meant a cigarette or two afterwards up on the fantail, going over the day's work. But Andamo and I had both agreed to quit smoking and now it was coffee instead of smokes. I really missed those, but that's Life, I guess. When we finished, Andamo went to get ready to go out to see Mrs. Firth to discuss the details of her daughter's wedding reception on the Fortuna II. I'd been doubtful about Andamo's idea of hiring out the Fortuna for wedding receptions, but we'd been pulling in cash hand over fist on that plan. Weddings always made me nervous, but the party end of it could be quite profitable. After Andamo left, I went down to the office to hit the pile of paperwork on my desk.

I should have gone with him. Maybe nothing would have happened. I've always been lucky that way. But I didn't go and it did happen.

About an hour and a half into produce bills and personnel requests, the ship-to-shore phone rang. It was Rovacs, and I chuckled and told him that I hoped it wasn't an official call. He was silent for a few seconds, and I knew something was wrong. Rovacs had been passing along bad news for years, so he didn't hold back.

He said Andamo had been in an accident, hit by a drunk driver who ran a red light, broad sided. He was being taken by ambulance to Oceanside Hospital and it was pretty bad. He talked about a head injury, emergency rooms, surgeons and our power of attorney documents as there would be decisions to make.

Decisions? I wondered what kind, but didn't have time to think about it. I hung up on Rovacs and called for the launch. While it came over, I grabbed the phone and called Maggie. She wasn't in but I left a message with her landlady. I grabbed the legal paperwork and ran out to catch the launch just as it pulled up. The crew looked at me like I had answers for them. I didn't, but by the time we landed on shore Pudge told me to tell Andamo he'd hold the launch for him. My throat tightened up.

I really needed a cigarette.

I know everyone says it doesn't seem real when something like that happens, but it didn't feel real. How could this be? He had just left to do business. How did he find a drunk driver at 11:00 in the morning? Who drinks then? If any of our clientele had too much to drink, we always put them in a cab and had them driven home. We were very careful. How could THIS happen?

Rovacs had a squad car waiting for me and we flew along with sirens going, and I wondered what was the hurry? Is he in that bad of shape? Was he crippled? In pain? Could he possibly be . . .? No, that was impossible. Andamo had been my friend and partner for so many years I had forgotten how many. He'd always been there – always by my side. Good and bad times, whether he agreed or not, he was always there. It wasn't possible.

I REALLY needed that cigarette.

At the hospital, Rovacs' grim face met me in emergency. No news; they were still working on him. Working on him? That didn't sound good. We sat in the waiting room for what seemed like hours. I kept checking my watch so much I think the chimes were starting to irritate other people in the waiting room, people waiting for news just like I was, so I started asking Rovacs what time it was, which, after awhile, annoyed him, too. Maggie came, upset and tearful. We held on to each other until the doctor came out.

The doctor was a tall, Dr. Welbyish looking man who explained to us, in layman terms, that Andamo was stable, but still unconscious. He was breathing on his own, but had some broken ribs, a bruised lung, and his left arm broken in 2 places that would require surgery to pin it back in to place. His most serious injury was a severe blow to the left side of his head, and a fractured cheek bone. This had resulted in a nasty concussion and they would have to do a surgery to relieve the pressure in his skull, which also included the possibility of brain damage. Maggie stifled a groan at this news. The doctor said he understood that I had power of attorney for Andamo, and could give permission for the surgery, which I did, although I asked if we could see him first. He said they were prepping him for surgery and they needed to take him to the operating room immediately. So we let him go.

Rovacs had to leave, but I shook his hand and thanked him for all his help. He said to call him when there was any news. I had to smile at that, because I could just see the look on Andamo's face when I told him Rovacs had been worried about him. The two enjoyed irritating each other whenever possible and I enjoyed watching. It could be pretty funny. I hoped I'd be able to tell him.

Maggie and I got some coffee and headed to the surgical waiting room. There were a lot of worried folks there, too. I guess hospitals are full of worried people. There was a non smoking sign, or I think I would have bought a pack of cigarettes. People could go outside to smoke, but I wanted to be there if there was any news. I was worried, but I couldn't believe he'd die. I had to put it out of my mind.

We sat in the waiting room, chatting comfortably, trying to calm each other with casual topics. I kept my watch in my pocket as much as possible. It was hard to believe that only three and a half hours had passed since the accident. A few employees and friends came by, wanting to help, but not wanting to intrude, they drifted in and out. News travels fast, I guess. I was told by a waiter who was also going to college that Andamo had given him the money for his books and an electric typewriter, and had asked that he didn't tell anyone who gave him the money, and the Carlisles who run a small grocery near the docks said he had helped them when they were about to lose the shop. Again, Andamo had asked them to keep it a secret, but they thought we should know. It figured. He always was a soft touch. Not many like him, Mr. Carlisle had said. I couldn't disagree with that.

Two more hours and three more cups of coffee later, the surgeon came out and said Andamo had come through the surgery and was doing pretty well. They were taking him from recovery to a room in intensive care, and as soon as he was settled in, we could see him, in about an hour. He was still unconscious, but they were hopeful.

Maggie and I went to the cafeteria for some food. It was late for lunch, but early for dinner, but neither of us had eaten for awhile. We grabbed a quick bite and then headed up to the intensive care waiting room for more waiting, more worried people. There was a higher level of worried here, and people spoke in softer tones. I was on the phone to Rovacs when the nurse called us in. I think I hung up on him again.

We entered the small room, the last light of the afternoon streaming in the window. Several machines were blinking lights, giving off graphs and numbers, and attached to the still form on the raised bed. If the nurse hadn't told me, I'd have thought we were in a stranger's room. Andamo was lying on his right side, his left arm raised on a pillow with nasty looking pins sticking up from the bandages, holding his bones in place. His head was wrapped also, and his face was badly swollen, and he was wearing an oxygen mask. He didn't look like Andamo, and he definitely didn't look like he was doing well. Maggie lightly touched his swollen cheek, and told him we were there, that he was alright. He didn't respond.

I needed him to sit up, to tell me it was all a joke everyone was in on, that none of this had really happened. I held my hand against the bandage covering his head, and also told him we were there and he'd be alright. I guess that's all I could think of – we'd had over tens of thousands of conversations in our time, and that's all I could think of to say to him. My throat started that damn tightening again. Maggie leaned up against me and put her arm around my waist. I had to turn and take her in my arms. She felt so reassuring. We stood that way for a long time. You lose track of time in those places.

There were two rather hard looking chairs and we sat down to wait some more in that small room. The nurse came in and said visitors weren't allowed for long periods of time, but she would bend the rules a little. It seems that half the nurses on the floor had been to the Fortuna at one time or another, and we had been so gracious, they decided we could stay. For another three or four hours we sat quietly, the room growing darker, my arm firmly around Maggie's shoulder, her hair against my cheek, the scent of her light perfume filling my nose. So strong and beautiful, I couldn't figure out why I hadn't committed to her.

Suddenly, Andamo shifted slightly in the bed, moaning once or twice, and he called for Marisa. I hit the call button for the nurse and gently held him down by his
shoulder. I told him she wasn't there, it was alright, and that he had to lie still. He said no, Marisa was there, he'd seen her, and he called for her again. The nurse came in and asked us to sit in the waiting room until a doctor had seen Andamo. He called my name as we were ushered out and I turned – wanting to go back, but Maggie pulled me away.

When we sat down in the waiting room, Maggie asked me about Marisa. Andamo had never asked me not to discuss Marisa with anyone, but he never spoke of her so I had kept it to myself. I could have lied and said I didn't know, kept my mouth shut, but I didn't think he would mind if I told Maggie. So I did. I held my pen like the cigarette I couldn't have, put my arm around her and told her the whole story. I wish I hadn't opened my mouth.

So I told her about Andamo and Marisa. I told her that Andamo had been involved in a revolution or two in his country when he was very young until he met Marisa, sweet Marisa with the beautiful green eyes and incandescent smile. He was a goner as soon as they met. She agreed to marry him after awhile, but only if he gave up his revolutionary ways. She had four brothers working against El Presidente and she couldn't stand to worry about him, too. He agreed and that's when he came to work for me at the casino. I hired him even though he had no experience, but I had a hunch he'd be great, and he was. The casino never ran better or made more profits. I was happy, and Andamo happier. They were married in the casino, and she gave him that silver bracelet he always wears. He and Marisa seemed to have a great life. I'd see her coming by the casino when he was working, just to say hello, or to bring him a home cooked meal. They'd eat in one of the back rooms and if I was passing by I could hear them laughing or talking in low, warm tones. Sometimes they were just quiet. Andamo was actually one person I knew who was happy to be married. Maggie asked if I had ever been happy like that. I said something stupid like it wasn't something I could relate to, that there were other types of happiness. But I knew Andamo was extraordinarily content.

There weren't a lot of people in the waiting room, the lights were low and that late at night most people were sleeping in chairs, under blankets, not paying attention, so I continued the story.

They'd been married about 2 years when Andamo came in one day and told me Marisa was pregnant. He was ecstatic, and we had a few drinks to celebrate. Andamo said the doctor suggested she had to take it easy, and it worried him a bit, but I knew he'd take care of her. He did. How could he not? Andamo softened every time I saw them together. Their little world was complete and they only needed each other.

In her 7th month, she watched all four of her brothers executed one night by El Presidente's troops and she ran over two miles to the casino to Andamo. He tried to hold her and calm her while she tried to tell him what had happened, screaming and gasping for breath. Of course, the baby started to come. Andamo picked her up in his arms and we took her to one of the back rooms with a bed. He gently put her down and kept trying to calm her. I sent for the doctor, and Andamo held her hand as the doctor worked feverishly to save the child as Marisa bled out.

He couldn't save either one.

Andamo just sat next to her for hours, holding her hand, not saying anything. Some local women tried to coax him away, so that they could tend to her, but he wouldn't move. He never made a sound. I sat in the next room, but I didn't know what I could do. I hadn't seen sorrow and pain like that. I just didn't know how to help. Unfortunately, several of El Presidente's men came by looking for Andamo and they pulled him away. He was under arrest, they said, and even though they knew he hadn't been involved in the brothers' activities, one of the lieutenants thought it would be a good idea to beat him up, as he was associated with Marisa's family and it would serve as an additional lesson to others. They might have killed him except a big bribe helped distract them from their idea of civic duty.

Andamo was back to work in about a week, and he never mentioned Marisa's name again. I knew different people grieved differently, and I assumed he had put it all behind him. I didn't press him. He continued to come to work, he smiled and bowed whenever El Presidente came to the casino and it seemed like nothing had happened.

Two years later, El Presidente was dead, assassinated, the government was in shambles and the small army fell apart. Andamo had masterminded it all. I didn't go into detail for Maggie. There were stories no one really needed to know. Even in a quiet place like the waiting room, it wasn't for me to share Andamo's secrets with Maggie, or the few strangers gathered there. That was it, and that was all.

Maggie was quiet for a long time, but then she pulled away from me and said she needed to stretch her legs. I offered to go with her, but she gave a small smile and said I should wait there in case Andamo needed me. She said she'd be right back. Her eyes were moist as she turned away, and I can't say if she was saddened for poor Marisa, for her friend, Andamo, or for us, realizing for the first time that maybe I couldn't give her that kind of life or love she wanted so badly, and only heard about in other peoples' stories.

The nurse called us back to my friend's room, and he was asleep again, his pain lessened by morphine. We sat by his bed for the rest of that day. There were a lot more days of sitting in different hospital rooms, Maggie coming by less and less as Andamo healed more and more. He noticed the coolness between us, and asked about it. I could have told him, but I think he knew. He'd warned me once that I would hurt her, but I thought we'd just go on as always – no strings, no commitments. I thought it would be enough. I was an idiot.

So, I didn't lose my good friend, Andamo, on that terrible day, but it was the day I started to lose Maggie. She wanted something I didn't think I could give her. I may be lucky in gambling and business, but not lucky enough to hold on to Maggie. It was my fault. I was a fool.

I never did have that cigarette. Some things you don't miss and can get over.

Some things you can't.