All Is Bright (4)

A Christmas Eve story in 24 installments

Four

George had barely reached the opposite side when the car sped past behind him, engine roaring, but with no blaring of the horn or even a yell to indicate the driver had even seen him. Over his shoulder he saw the car—a big, dark sedan, the make unknown to him—drift from side to side, over the center line and then to the right-hand curb, and back. Watching the car and not looking ahead of himself, he caught his toe on the top edge of the curb and sprawled forward, throwing his arms out to protect himself. He hit the sidewalk hard, arms crumbled beneath him, right knee scraping across the cement until he finally came to rest, face-down.

He turned his head and watched the car run three yellow lights and disappear over the drawbridge. He rolled over, slowly sat up, and examined himself. His hands were badly scraped, with throbbing red lines scoring the skin; the right knee of his trousers was torn through, and inside he could feel the fresh wound a a trickle of blood. He noticed that he no longer felt cold, despite the temperature being in the low double digits; the sudden fear and burst of adrenaline warmed him. 

His mind cleared, he instantly realized that although he had cleverly escaped from the home, he had no plan for getting back inside again. The Christmas carol program was probably over by now, with the residents tucked away and the nurses back in their stations. He couldn’t just stroll through the front door and into the elevator to return to his room. Oh, his room—the Old Fitz, the reruns on TV. How he longed to be back there, and not out here on the street, where his fear and adrenaline were subsiding, and the chill returning. The security guard, remembering the twenty dollar bill, would surely let him pass, but George would never evade the head nurse. He needed to think this through, figure out a way, but first he had to get indoors somewhere.

Looking down Chapman Street, he was surprised to see a warm glow coming from a storefront, a block away. The diner, the Marquette. Open on Christmas Eve? George wondered. As the chill deepened further, he felt an intense hunger come over him, and he remembered the meager Christmas Eve dinner he had forced down. He wanted nothing more at that moment than some good, greasy food. 

He would eat heartily until he was stuffed, and warm himself up, and figure out how to get back into his room at St. Luke’s.