Chapter 9

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Radcliff drove silently as they hit the interstate to start their journey to the VA hospital.  It was the closest one with an emergency room where Ben could be seen.  Ben grabbed his leg and gritted his teeth as pain flooded him again.  He tried to settle back in his seat and ignore his leg.  He also was trying to avoid conversation.  After what happened earlier today, anger had faded away to embarrassment. 

"So, you want to talk?" asked Radcliff

Ben shot a glance at Radcliff noticing how calm he seemed behind the wheel.  Ben crossed his arms over his chest and debated on what to say. 

"Well, I will start first.  What happened at my house was valid.  I don't want you to feel bad about how you acted."

Ben nodded in agreement.  He tried not to think too hard on this.  Thinking is where all the flashbacks came back that he didn't want. 

"What did you do after you left my house?"

"I went to the VA."

"The VA?  Why?  I didn't think you had an appointment that late in the afternoon or at all since you came by my place."

"I went there to get help."

"What's going on Grayson?"

Ben bit the inside of his lip trying to come up with the words.  His brain seemed to be consumed with images but no form of words seemed comprehensible. 

"It's hard to explain.  I'm trying to think how to explain it.  My brain just feels like it's not working."

Radcliff nodded and responded, "I get that."

The image of Nelson's face covered in dirt, blood, and sand came to Ben's mind.  He shut his eyes and scrunched his face trying to forget.

"I keep seeing shit and I'm sick of it."

Radcliff glanced over at Ben and saw his eyes were tightly shut. 

"I feel ya.  I get those too," said Radcliff solemnly.

Ben debated on telling Radcliff about hearing Nelson's voice.  But decided he didn't want to sound more crazy than he already did.  Ben looked out to the dark interstate.  It was bleak from the darkness and lack of activity.  Much how Ben felt at the moment.  He stretched out his leg trying to relieve some of the pain.  It was radiating up his leg and down to his foot.  His foot tingled as sensations were starting to grow numb. 

Ben and Radcliff didn't say much during the rest of the car ride.  It was hard to talk about a subject that both of them struggled with.  The last thing Ben wanted is to trigger himself or even Radcliff. 

The darkness lit up with the lights of buildings of upcoming metropolitan area.  Radcliff took the exit of the VA hospital.  The hospital parking lot was dark except for the occasional yellow light coming from the windows.  Employee cars and some visitors were scattered across the lot.  Radcliff parked towards the front and turned toward Ben.

"I hate to ask this, but, do you need a wheelchair?'

Flashes of Ben's stay in the military hospital writhing in pain came to mind.  His time in a wheelchair where he was bitter and angry at the world came rushing.

"No, I rather crawl if I have to,"

Radcliff nodded and walked around to his side to help him up.  Ben proceeded to try to stand but his leg was still not letting him put any weight on it.  Radcliff put his arm tighter around Ben's waist and hoisted him in an upright position.

"I'm sure we look like quite the pair.  Both broken down veterans helping each other in the VA hospital," chuckled Radcliff.

Ben appreciated Radcliff trying to make light of the situation.  They both made their way slowly to the front desk of the emergency room waiting room.  A few veterans were scattered among the chairs.  Ben grabbed the counter and stared in the glass pane in front of him waiting to check in.

A burly man made his way to the office and sat in front of the glass.

"How can I help you sir?"

"I need to check in," responded Ben as he pushed his ID card under the slot.

"What's going on, Brother?"

"My leg.  I can't put any weight on it and it's painful."

"Have you had problems like this before?"

"Yes, it's been a long time.  Most of my lower leg is missing."

The man stood up and looked down at Ben's leg.  He nodded and started typing in the computer.  The machine next to him slowly started to print a wrist band.  The man put the wristband on his arm and handed him back his ID.

"You should be seen soon."

Ben kept in a chuckle from the words "should be" and "soon".  He's been here before waiting two hours when the room was just as empty.  Radcliff stood up and came to Ben's side to help him to his seat.  Ben turned and stopped dead in his tracks.  A older veteran was sitting in a wheelchair at the corner of the room.  His head was down reading a magazine sitting on his one leg. 

Ben averted his eyes trying to keep his heart rate down.  He pushed down the memories of the hospital and kept his eyes down as Radcliff led him to the chair.  He sat down and stretched out his leg as he waited for his name being called. 

A janitor rolled by with his mop bucket and supplies.  Ben smelled the faint smell of bleach and cleaner.  He felt his mind trail off to the hospital again.

"Grayson."

Ben jolted in an upright position and looked around.  It sounded like Nelson again.  A man turned the corner and walked towards the main lobby of the hospital.  His high and tight red hair stood out.  Ben felt himself move to the edge of the seat studying the man.

It can't be. 

He looked just like Nelson.  Ben studied the scrubs he wore and noticed he had brown eyes.  Not the stark blue eyes that looked lifelessly up at him as he dragged him across the sand with half his body missing. 

"Grayson, are you okay?"

Ben tore his eyes from the man walking in the lobby and looked at Radcliff.

"Um, I thought I recognized someone."

Radcliff continued to stare at him with a worried expression.

"Grayson," yelled a woman from a door close by. 

Ben, eager to avoid Radcliff's unwavering eyes, pulled himself up.  Radcliff followed helping him limp to the open doorway.


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