A Question Of Balance

Johnny stood at the admittance desk and looked through his tears at Dr. Kurt. The doors of the hospital had been thrown open to the late afternoon, and dust danced on the sunbeam in the foyer. A withered patient sat quietly near the door, glued to the warm glow like an insect in amber. He stirred when he saw Johnny cry and leaned forward to nod in sympathy. When the nod had no effect, he winked sidelong and smiled. Then he sat straighter, winked sidelong and laughed. Before the nurses could react, he fell to the floor and rolled through the sunlight winking and laughing, till the mood moved him completely, and a brown stain ran in exultation down the back of his gown.

Even that didn’t cheer Johnny as he blinked another tear. He was seven years old and he was frightened.

“Don’t worry, Colin,” Kurt Colefield assured him. “We’ll have you better in no time.”

People were always calling him Colin. That wasn’t really his name but he’d grown used to it.

“Where shall we put this patient, doctor?” the nurse behind the desk asked, peering over half-frame glasses.

She looked kind, Johnny thought. Like Sister Meg who’d taught him in the first grade. He looked at her shyly.

“Ward 9,” Dr. Colefield replied. “For the time being.”

“Ward 9, sir? Why, this patient isn’t dangerous.” She looked sympathetically at the damp lines on his face.

“Just a precaution, Nurse Belmont. For his own good.”

At that, Johnny paid more attention. ‘For his own good’ had never been much benefit in the past . . . .