JUSTIN'S GIFT OF GAB

"Gus Peterson's parents? Follow me, please." The emergency room nurse nods with practiced professionalism, leading Lindsey and Brian down a long, cold corridor to their broken son.

"We've set his fractured femur and tended to the abrasions, but it's the bump on his head that concerns me." Gus's attending physician speaks briskly and doesn't mince words. "I need him to stay awake for the next twenty-four hours," he says, "maybe even longer."

Thanking the doctor, the boy's parents exchange a few worried glances.

"So, Sonny Boy, have I ever told you about the time I got hurt playing soccer?"

. . .

"Mel, I'm so sorry. I was running behind him, holding him up, and then he just took off on his own. He was pedaling so quickly!"

"Justin, don't blame yourself. We certainly don't. It was an unfortunate accident." Taking ahold of his hand, she squeezes it reassuringly. "You're the only one of us who's young enough and fast enough to teach him to ride his new two-wheeler."

"I wish they'd let us in to see him," Justin says uneasily. "I'd feel a lot better if I could see him."

"I hear you." Mel's anxious to get some good news.

. . .

Drinking stale vending machine coffee in the emergency room's waiting lounge, Melanie and Justin nervously check the time every ten seconds.

"Lindsey knows we're waiting, itching to find out what's going on. She'll tell us something soon."

"Brian probably never wants to see me again. I bet he holds me responsible for damaging his son. I feel so awful."

"Justin, I told you. Don't go there. It could have happened to any of us. Gus is big now."

"Shit! Here comes Brian. He's gonna kill me!"

"Sunshine, Gus needs you. Start talking to him, and don't shut up until tomorrow!"

The End