Teacher Tales: Steve Kaiser
Today’s post is to help bring awareness of Our Write Side’s cancer cause: Stories R’us. They have an open call for submissions for all forms and genres, and 30% of the proceeds from the sales of their magazines (and eventually the submissions fees when they start them) go to selected families with children fighting cancer.
Steven woke up on a gurney, feeling the lurches and bumps as the way-too-tiny-for- this orderly tried to control the direction of the cart she was steering. “At least I made it off the operating table,” he wryly thought as the orderly bumped him against the door frame of his recovery room. He felt as though his body surely weighed an actual ton. Two nurses and another orderly appeared beside the gurney.
“Mr. Kaiser, we need to move you onto the bed. Can you help us?”
“Sure!” he said, not yet fully coherent.
The small group lifted the corners of the starched, white sheet, and began to try to slide his tall and heavy body towards the edge of the gurney. The steady morphine drip had dulled his consciousness, but not enough for him to quickly feel the tremendous pain in his abdomen when he sat up. After a few seemingly everlasting moments filled with searing pain, he was on the soft hospital bed.
He closed his eyes, taking in the sensation of cool sheets. He was so tired, and wanted nothing more than to sleep. He heard a soft voice from somewhere near him.
He smiled as Marie came into focus. She took his hand, and leaned down to gently kiss him.
“How are you feeling?”
“Like someone parked a truck on my stomach,” he broadly smiled.
Mr. Seefer stood beside his daughter, smiling down at Steve as he took Steve’s clammy hand in his.
“I’m so glad everything went well, son. The doctor said the surgery went well. Your parents will be here soon.”
“Thank you, Mr. Seefer. I’m glad you’re here,” he managed to say before his parched tongue refused to speak any more.
Marie handed Steve a small cup filled with ice chips. He managed, by sheer force of will, to lift the cup to his lips. Greedily, he poured the shards into his mouth, instantly feeling the frozen water melt and stream down his grateful throat. Marie pulled a chair beside the bed and searched his face.
“How are you feeling now?”
He noticed tears brimming in her dark eyes, knowing he must console her.
“ I’m feeling much better already. The anesthesia is wearing off.”
“I was so worried.”
“Nah. Nothing to worry about. Everything’s going to be fine. You heard the doctor”, he smiled. “Besides, you’re here, and that makes everything better.”
Just then, a young doctor appeared in the doorway.
“Mr. Kaiser, how are you feeling?”
“Like someone went inside of me and gave an anatomy lesson.”
The young intern wasn’t in any mood for levity, and ignored Steve’s quip.
“Well, I wanted to tell you that we offer prosthetic testicles to replace the one we removed. Do you think that is something you’d be interested in?”
Steve quickly glanced at Marie, and then back at the intern. A sly grin came over Steve’s face as he said, “ I don’t think so, Doc. My career in the adult film industry is pretty much over.”
Marie and her father burst into raucous laughter as the intern’s jaw fell open. The intern spun around and quickly left the room.
“That’ll teach him!”
“Oh my God, Steve. You can’t say those kinds of things!” she laughed. Mr. Seefer, who was usually reticent and straight-laced, was still shaking from the laughing fit. He shook his head, as if tacitly accepting that his soon-to-be- son-in-law was going to be himself, even during a stressful time like this.
The three of them relaxed, as the concern and anxiety melted away. Steve wanted nothing more than to close his eyes, but the dull pain in his abdomen just wasn’t subsiding.
“Marie, can you see what they did to me?”, he lifted the hospital gown. She gasped as the surgical scar appeared. Zipper like, the incision had run from just below his breastbone down to his pelvis. A neat, shiny row of staples were carefully spaced along the entire length of the cut. Steve tried to raise his throbbing head to see, but the effort quickly tired him.
“Why did they have to do this surgery?” she asked, incredulously.
“To see if the cancer had spread up into his abdomen, honey”, Mr. Seefer offered.
Steve nodded his head, “Yep. We’ll find out soon, I’m sure.”
“What does your gut tell you?”
“Stop moving around!” he quipped. “I don’t know. I would think everything’s going to be fine. But baby, I’m so tired, I can’t even think right now.”
She stood up and leaned over the cold railing, gently kissing him, “Dad and I are going to leave so you can sleep. Just remember I love you.”
“I love you too”, he smiled as his heavy eyelids closed.
Steve woke up confused. For a brief moment, he wasn’t sure where he was, or why he felt the pain he did. He propped himself up on one elbow, and searched the room, while his brain struggled to grasp the flood of stimuli assailing him.
A small child stood in his doorway. It wasn’t clear whether the child was a boy or girl, that is until she spoke.
“Hi,” she whispered. “What kind of cancer do you have?”
“Hi. I have tummy cancer”, he said, not wanting to try explaining it to her. “What about you?”
“Lymphoma. Mommy says I’m going to be healthy again soon,” she stated, matter -of -factly.
“Well! That’s cool! What’s your name?”
“Haley, what’s yours?”
“Steve. It’s nice to meet you, Haley.”
“How long have you been here? I’ve been here for three months.”
“Oh, I just got here today. Maybe later, you can tell me all about what it’s like here.”
She adjusted the scarf on her head, “You won’t like it here. They stick needles in you all of the time, and the food stinks.”
He smiled at her, “Well, at least I have a new friend to help me.”
“Who is your new friend?”
A smile slowly spread over her wan face. She took a half step inside the room, but then apparently thought better of it. She nervously fidgeted, her hands a flurry of motion.
“I have to go now.”
“Ok, Haley. Come back and visit if you want.”
“Ok, bye,” she turned and disappeared.
Steve, who had previously felt sorry for himself, suddenly realized that he had no business feeling like he did. He was strong; he would beat this. Haley, thin and frail, might not make it.
As tears rolled down his cheeks, he screwed his eyes shut, not wanting to acknowledge the despair he felt when he saw little Haley. He prayed, concentrating every fiber of his being into the plaintive plea that God would have mercy on that beautiful child. Peace began to wash over his heart, as what he could only describe as an angel’s voice softly reassured him that both he and Haley would be just fine.
He breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and closed his eyes to sleep, wanting a little more rest before his parents arrived. His last thought was of Haley. He would visit her tomorrow, and thank her for her strength.