Kingman, Arizona; 0800 (8AM for the rest of you) on day 4 I awoke to the bewitching aroma of coffee, sizzling bacon, and Southwest omelettes. Melanie (ER nurse) and Kevin (ICU nurse)- the married couple who so graciously took this wayward colleague and his wrecked toe into their home for a day- had just arrived home from their shifts and were preparing what was shaping up to be a smashing breakfast.
I pulled the blanket from over my eyes and sat up on their couch, squinting against the brilliant sunlight that streamed in from the living room window. With some trepidation, I carefully lifted the blanket from my left foot and was relieved to see that my big toe had returned to normal proportions. While the bruising to my foot looked like hell, it had not extended; and I felt only very mild pain, although the ibuprofen had worn off at least two hours ago. I had good distal capillary refill and sensation. The perforated nail looked, well... perforated; but no signs of infection were evident.
I stood up tentatively, testing my ability to bear weight on my left foot. Standing was okay, and walking was... well, not so much; but it was quite bearable, and I could probably get by alright with ibuprofen and stops every two hours for ice and elevation. I tested my ability to withstand using the clutch pedal by putting all my weight on the ball of the left foot, and had no trouble. I was ready to hit the road again.
I hobbled over in my scrubs (which also serve quite nicely as pajamas) to the breakfast nook as Kevin turned around to greet me with a big mug of coffee.
"Morning, friend. How's the toe?"
"Much better than I thought, thank you. But if this ever happens again, I think I'll forego the digital block. How was your night?"
"Mine was uneventful," Kevin replied. "Mel's was busy."
"Nothing awful, I hope." I said, resting my elbows on the counter and lifting my coffee up for a sip.
"Nothing awful. Just your typical Sunday Night crowd. But every time we would discharge a patient, we'd get another one back there. We never really had anyone waiting in triage; they just kept coming in one or two at a time all bloody night long. Nobody had a break all night, and I'm starving." Mel emphasized her point by staring sad-eyed and waif-like (with a boo-boo lip thrown in for good measure) at her husband as he flipped an omellete.
"Oh, stop," Kevin retorted as he reached out with his free hand to ruffle Mel's Tinkerbell pixie-do. "You're going to make me cry and I'll ruin breakfast."
I snorted in my coffee. Mel snickered and handed me a paper towel to dry off my nose.
"Thanks," I said. "Listen, guys: I can't tell you how much I appreciate your hospitality. I'm glad I listened to you and stayed off my foot for a day. It made a huge difference. But I ran through all my crossword puzzles and I have to say that daytime television ranks a ten/ten on the Suck-O-Meter."
Kevin nodded. "That's one of the greatest benefits of working the night shift: sleeping through Oprah."
I nodded and sipped more coffee.
"So are you heading to Phoenix this morning?" Kevin asked as he placed a plate of bacon and eggs before me.
"No, I have to skip Phoenix. I already called my kin down there to let them know. I will be going to San diego today. My sister is graduating from nursing school at San Diego State tomorrow."
"SDSU?" Mel asked over her tea. "Didn't they just have a huge drug bust there?"
"Yeah. My sister told me about it. She said the bust has prompted the Administration to give up any pretense of dignity, embrace its licensious culture, and change the school's name to "SDEASU."
Mel laughed. I handed her a napkin to dab the tea from her nose.
Kevin asked, "When are you leaving?"
"Well, as soon as I help you clean up I'll load up Baby-san and be off."
"Baby-san?" Mel furrowed her brow. "Who is that?"
"Oh, my God," Mel laughed and set down her tea. "You gave your car a name?"
"Yes, I gave my car a name," I answered with a childish defensiveness. "It creates a kind of bond."
"I gave our car a name," Kevin offered. Mel turned to her hubby with her hands on her hips.
"Oh, really? And just what did you name our car?"
"Squeaky," Kevin said with a grin.
"'Squeaky'? What inspired you to name our car 'Squeaky'?
Kevin answered in the form of a smirk and an upward roll of his eyes.
Melanie shrieked and punched Kevin on the shoulder. It was an odd, Newlywed Show kind of moment. I covered my face in my hands and cleared my throat.
"So Mel, would you like me to help you clean up the blood and hide Kevin's body before I head out?"
"Naw. I can take care of that," Mel replied as she launched a fiery glare at her imperiled husband (who laughed), and punched him again.
An hour later, freshly showered, I emerged wearing a pair of baggy shorts, wide-soled Keens, and a Hawaiian shirt loud enough to strip the paint off a Buick at fifty meters.
"Wow," Mel said as she shielded her eyes. "I guess I'll cancel my chemical peel now."
I packed up my things and got squared away for departure. After an exchange of telephone numbers and email addresses, Mel gave me a hug and a peck on the cheek and instructed me to call when I got to San Diego and let them know how the toe held up. I promised I would (and I kept it). Kevin shook my hand in that huge paw of his and wished me well. I told him I would pray for his safety, since upon my departure there would be no witnesses to his impending demise at the hands of his 5'3" powderkeg of a wife. He laughed and kissed his bride. She punched him on the shoulder again, but followed up with a kiss, so I guessed he might live to see another day.
After stopping at a market for more ice and snacks, I gassed up and headed west toward San Diego with a roar, a cloud of dust, and two new friends.