March 17, 2010
((due to some bad editing on my part in the middle of some long gone night, I overlapped sections from part one with sections from part two. So, I’m doing more middle of the night editing))
Plane crash. Right.
Brandenhoff’s argument that they ultimately weren’t to blame for my condition *coughs* depended on the idea that planes crash, and therefore the plane crashing was a perfectly natural occurrence, as natural as rain falling from the sky or a bear shitting in the woods. Their idea was that, because it was a perfectly natural thing for planes to crash, safety equipment is in place for the well-being of the passengers on planes. The safety equipment is not supposed to fail. Therefore, the real liability here is with the manufacturer of the safety devices on the plane, not the airline. I saw a fucked up logic to it, but being able to see the logic in an argument doesn’t make the person making the argument right.
Enter Miss Lucy DeLano, a nice enough chick, who stepped into the fray at the request of the higher ups at Martin-Raytheon….specifically, the president of the company. Lucy DeLano was an expert and researcher of safety equipment. She was a connoisseur of safety equipment, if you want to think of it that way. She was the next person that the Stevens and me talked to, and she was…I hate to say it like this, but she was a fucking genius. DeLano told us everything we’d want to know about safety equipment. Then she told us more.
But, the most interesting thing she talked about was the concept of no fault accidents. She cited precedents going back to the 21st century, talking about plane crashes, train crashes, shipwrecks, orbital decompressions, you name it. The point she was trying to drive home was that, in each of these accidents, people died or were horribly injured, and in the end nobody was ever found to be at fault…Not the airlines, not the ocean liners, nobody. But, in each of these cases, the injured were still reimbursed for their injuries by the various companies involved. “Of course,” DeLano said, “The laws were different back then. Nowadays, companies are not inclined to be so amicable in settling on injury or death claims.” I said to her, “So, who do YOU Think is at fault here? I mean, I get what Brandenhoff is saying. Part of me can even see their point, I guess, but for fuckssake…” Then I realized something.
“Wait a second,” I said, “What if MR really is at fault?” DeLano looked at me like I’d just pissed on her face. “MR is willing to concede to the concept that there was a failure of the passenger protection systems on the plane,” she said.
“MR’s position is that it will provide a monetary reward to Mr. Lawson, along with full recompensation for medical treatments and related conditions. It will not admit full responsibility for the injuries he sustained.” Lucy DeLano went silent for a moment. Then she said, “Assuming this doesn’t go to court with Brandenhoff. If it does, Brandenhoff will drag us in as a co-defendant.”
“So,” I said, “What is this? Is this a negotiation of terms or something?” I asked her. She said, “We’re not negotiating. I’m stating MR’s position on the matter.” It was a script. Of course it is, I thought, looking at her face twitch a little. She didn’t look happy to be here, I thought.
“Hey, I’ve got a question,” said Stevens. “Who,” she asked, “designed the ejection system? You know, the one that left Sam stuck in the plane when it crashed? Nobody seems to have mentioned that. It seems to me that the party that is truly liable for his injuries is the company that made the ejection system. The one that failed.” Lucy DeLano looked at Stevenson for a moment or two, and then she slowly nodded, as if she’d just been told something she didn’t know. Who knows, maybe she hadn’t thought of it. She was probably so focused on defending Martin-Raytheon, it hadn’t occurred to her that the manufacturer of the ejection system designed around the ejection pod was to blame.
“So who made it?” I asked. “And,” I continued, “Why hadn’t we already thought of that?”
Stevenson looked over at her husband and then at me and said, “Well, shit, I don’t know about you two, but I’d been thinking about that since I took you on as a patient.”
For her part, DeLano agreed to find out the names of all the companies listed as having built or designed parts of the ejection system. That made me smile. She was a good chick.
All of that aside, it still left us in kind of a fucked up position. Brandenhoff Airlines blamed the maker of the ejection pod/restraints, the maker of the ejection pod/restraints blames the company that made the ejection system, the company that makes the ejection system blames someone else. It was a circular argument. Really, it was a failure of every company involved, I thought. Sue everyone, I thought, and let God sort it out later.
DeLano (smart chick that she was) talked to us by video link for about an hour or so, talking about the repercussions of all the different issues that a lawsuit could have on us settling. I said to her, point blank, that I wasn’t interested in dragging MR into a lawsuit as a co-defendant with Brandenhoff, but if a lawsuit was the only way to get the court order removed, or to get out of my current situation, then that’s what I was going to do.
Now, I know I’m skimming over the details of a lot of this shit. But this all happened years ago, and just talking about it now, I don’t remember a lot of the details, so fuck it. I remember a lot of the other shit that happened after that, the really good stuff, so relax.
Anyways. I’d already accepted DeLano into our little group, and apparently Stevens and Buck had too. She was polite, intelligent…cute…I’ll admit it, if I’d had a body back then, I would have straight up asked her out on a date with less than noble intentions, you know? It was when she started expanding on Stevens’ question about who the manufacturer of the ejection system was that things started getting interesting. It fired up a whoooole lot of conversation about Brandenhoff as well. Like, why had Brandenhoff suddenly blocked my body transplant? If it had been on Martin-Raytheon’s shoulders, and it really had been a failure of the pod and the restraints (and yeah, the restraints fucked me up good, no doubt about that), why had Brandenhoff even given a shit?
Put two and two together, it goes like this. DeLano said “The way I see it is this: If Martin-Raytheon had taken responsibility for your injuries from the get-go, we would have of course launched our own investigation as to who was to blame. It’s standard procedure for a company.” We listened to her, none of us making wisecracks like we normally did when it was the three of us talking. “Brandenhoff knew before they filed the injunction that Martin-Raytheon was prepared to accept a medical claim for Mr. Lawson, and they knew that we’d do an investigation into all aspects of the failure of the safety pod, from the moment it didn’t eject to the moment Mr. Lawson was removed from the pod. They also knew we’d request the names of all companies that had designed or manufactured any parts used in the plane, so that we could check the safety standards and manufacturing facilities of those companies. We’re legally entitled to investigate them.” DeLano stopped talking for a few moments. Buck looked at Stevens, and they looked over at me.
“So,” Buck said to DeLano, “Are you saying that they made a defacto claim to responsibility for this so that you couldn’t find out that they fucked up somewhere?” “Not my words,” DeLano replied, “but, yeah. They blocked his procedure so that we wouldn’t investigate them. And, I can pretty much guarantee that someone, somewhere, at Brandenhoff, is aware of the conversation we’re having right now. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Lawson—“ “Call me Sam,” I said to her. “Fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sam here ends up getting a visitor of the legal persuasion sometime soon.” “More lawyers? Jesus Christ,” I said. Buck looked over at me and said, “Hey, that’s just mean.” I smiled inwardly at Buck and said, “You’re not a lawyer. You’re a goddamned soldier of the law. There’s a difference.” “Gee, thanks Sam.” Buck smiled.
“Question,” I said to her. “What happened to the pod I was in?” “It’s in a warehouse somewhere in the FAA investigation compounds,” she said. “What if it isn’t?” Buck asked her. Then he said, “According to someone I know, the FAA is dragging its feet to investigate the crash. Maybe the reason is because they themselves are also hiding something.”
It was paranoid, but I understood what Buck was saying. Leave it to a lawyer to be suspicious, right? Dr. Stevens looked over at Buck, probably thinking the same thing I was, that he sounded like a nut.
“I think,” DeLano said, “You should talk to Tom Edwards. He’s actually been wanting to talk to you, Mr. Lawson. He just wasn’t sure what your disposition would be towards us.” “What does he want to say?” I asked.
Dr Stevens spoke up again. She’d been kind of quiet, soaking in what DeLano was talking about. It wasn’t a question so much as thinking out loud.
“Soooo- -let me get this straight- -if Brandenhoff dragged Martin-Raytheon into a lawsuit as a co-defendant, wouldn’t that make Martin-Raytheon legally entitled to launch an investigation into the companies involved in the various aspects of the construction and maintenance of the plane? I mean, if you’re going to be dragged onto a ship, you’re going to look for where the leaks are, right?” DeLano looked kind of stunned. It was the first time I’d seen her lose composure during the entire meeting. Buck looked at Stevens and said, “That’s why I married this woman. She’s right. If we were to go forward with the lawsuit against Brandenhoff, and they drag Martin-Raytheon into it as co-defendant, then Martin-Raytheon will be legally obligated to investigate any possible issues with the plane Sam was on, as part of their defense. If Brandenhoff blocks their investigation, it would automatically sink their defense and demonstrate guilt.”
A voice we hadn’t heard before came through the speakers. It said, “You people are damned clever.” It was Tom Edwards.
“I didn’t realize this was a three way,” said Buck, looking around at me and Dr Stevens.
I laughed. Stevens kicked Buck really hard in the leg. “OW!” Buck yelped, and smiled at her. “Love you, babe,” he said to her. She smiled back at him and punched him in the shoulder. “OW!” he yelled again, “Would you stop hitting me?” “Don’t be a bitch,” she said to him.
Tom Edwards’ face appeared on the video, watching what was happening. He said, “Are you people always like this?”
Stevens and Buck looked at one another and laughed. Edwards had a wtf look on his face. “Yes we are”, I said, and added, “It helps us think.”
There was one complication with what was happening, and that was that I couldn’t sign documents. I had no hands, obviously I couldn’t sign anything. You’d think there’d be some way for me to digitally sign them, but you’d be wrong. I was going to have to get somebody I could give power of attorney to, but I couldn’t actually sign anything authorizing that either. The only person that could act on my behalf without actually having to get anything in writing was my ex-wife, Holly. You can imagine that I really did not fucking want to do that. I’d been doing my damnedest to keep her away from me, and now I saw that there was no fucking way I could do this without her, and I’d have to drag her in.
It wasn’t that there was any animosity between us. The thing was I didn’t want her to see me like this. Hell, I didn’t want any fucking person I knew to see me like this. Yeah, Buck and Dr Stevens saw me in this condition, but they were used to fucked up shit. I didn’t want to put the mother of my children through having to see me. She’d be obligated to come to the hospital every couple of days, or whenever there were documents that needed signing, plus there would have to be witnesses there showing that she was acting on my behalf. I didn’t want her to hear my voice coming through a speaker. I didn’t want her to know what I was going through. She was always a sensitive person…if a person could be empathic, I mean really able to feel what another person is feeling, it was her. Plus, I just had a really bad feeling about getting her involved with the shit. You know that gnawing feeling you get sometimes, when you think about doing something and you hear that voice in your head that says “No”? That’s what I was hearing when I thought about bringing her in. Images of badness went through my head every time I pictured her signing papers for me.
Despite the fact that alarms were going off in my head, I knew that I couldn’t do what I needed to do unless I got her to help me. I cursed the gods and the universe, and Brandenhoff for being a bunch of bastards. I imagined Holly walking into the room and seeing my brain floating in a jar with wires and tubes, and hearing the gurgling and rasping of my life support system. She’d break down and start crying, and I wouldn’t be able to hold her, or do anything to comfort her. I wouldn’t be able to do a damned thing to keep her from feeling all the things she’d feel once she really knew, and that’s the part that pissed me off the most, that out of all the pain and trauma and shit I’d gone through, the worst was, ultimately, the pain that SHE’D feel because of it.
It horrified me, thinking about that, that she’d have to see me like this. Yeah, this isn’t getting redundant at all, right? Christ, I sound like I felt sorry for myself, but it wasn’t like that. I was just pissed.
So, a week went by after the long chat with Martin-Raytheon about things, where we were sitting on pins and needles. Tom Edwards was looking at MR’s options, and trying to sort some shit out. Stevens made a point of stopping in every day now to check on me, to see how I was holding up. She couldn’t always stay as long as she wanted to, but she’d at least make the effort. Buck would stop in, or leave a message for the Orderly to give me if he couldn’t stop by personally. Sometimes it was a lengthy note, sometimes it would just say “You’re an asshole. Smile.” Yeah, me and Buck became good friends pretty quick. It’s that whole male bonding thing I guess. Put two guys that enjoy dirty jokes and talking shit, and next thing you know they end up being best man at each other’s weddings. It’s just how it goes, you know?
We got to talking about Holly one day, which is how this whole power of attorney thing came up in the first place. Buck was drinking water, going over some transcripts of the conversations with Robertson and MR, and he looked up at me in the middle of it and said, “Shit on me. I need you to sign paperwork.”
“How the fuck am I going to sign paperwork?” I asked him, “I haven’t got any hands.” Buck looked depressed for a second and then said, “Well…we need someone with power of attorney.” I thought for a second, which is when I realized that we’d need to call Holly, and she’d need to come to the hospital, etc. “You know what that means, as well as I do,” he said,
I said to him, “Well, you’re my attorney already, right?” “Not technically,” Buck answered, and then he told me that since I hadn’t actually signed any papers, nor had somebody acting as my representative sign any papers, he was simply acting on my behalf as a lawyer on retainer. “So, wait,” I said, “You’re telling me that it has to be somebody that would already be enabled to have my power of attorney.”
“Fuck me,” I said.
He knew what I was thinking. He hadn’t wanted to even bring it up to me, but he really had no choice in it, he’d just been putting it off. Now Buck was at the point where he couldn’t just fuck off and not say anything about it any longer, but I knew that he meant I’d have to ask Holly.
Goddammit, I thought. Goddamn, Goddamn, Goddamn. GODDAMN.
Another bunch of shit to deal with, I thought.
Ok. I know this isn’t the most well written piece of verse, folks, but it is what it is. It sounds completely backwards the way I’m telling this part, but it’s my memoirs, so suck it.
“I think we should have Stevens ask her,” I said. Buck nodded in agreement, and then randomly said, “Why don’t you call her by her first name?” “It’s a professional thing,” I answered. “Yeah,” he replied, “But I’m your lawyer.”
“Not yet you’re not.”
We sat there for the rest of the afternoon that day, neither one of us talking much about the Holly thing, just talking about shit with the pending lawsuit. We avoided talking about it as much as possible. Me for obvious reasons, and Buck because he knew it was the obvious thing to avoid talking about. He didn’t need me thinking about it anymore than I needed to think about it. We had other things to talk about. Things like what Robertson was doing, and the pending lawsuit against Brandenhoff. I make it sound so simple, right?
“I don’t want to ask her,” I said as he was getting ready to leave. “I know, man. There isn’t another way to do this,” he said. “I really don’t want her to see me like this,” I said. Buck looked at the floor, absentmindedly looking at his shoes, and said, “I know, Sam. I know it isn’t right, and I know this…situation…it’s an obscenity. Every part of me screams and rages against what’s happening to you. But sometimes you just can’t get around doing certain things, and some of those things are shitty. If I could do anything but this, I’d do it. Even if it meant giving the devil a blowjob, I’d rather do that than drag her into this, even if she’s just signing papers for you.” “You’d suck the devil for me?” I asked. “No, no. I’d promise him a blowjob from you once you got out,” he said.
“I don’t want to ask her.”
Dr Stevens arranged to meet Holly a day or two before we had another meeting with Robertson. According to her, it would be easier (and I didn’t argue…I bet you’re not surprised by that.) to deal with my situation if she met Stevens first. Me and the doctor had a long discussion about what it would be like. OK, maybe it wasn’t a long discussion. It was actually a very short, intense discussion, to be honest. A very short, intense, emotional discussion.
The gist of it was that I told her about all of Holly’s quirks, and how Holly would probably react to it, that she’d be absolutely furious that the only reason anyone had asked her to come to see me was because we needed her for the power of attorney. That was a no brainer though, if only because anybody would be furious if they were desperate to see someone and they refused, and then suddenly they were all, “oh, come see me” and it was because they wanted something from them. But, shit, people have been doing that from the beginning of time…from the moment the concept of “fuck off, I don’t want to see you” was invented, that’s been going on. I was just hoping Doctor Stevens could make her understand why.
I’m not really certain just where I’m going with all of this at this point…I mean, I know I want to talk about what happened with Brandenhoff, and Martin-Raytheon, and the Senate Hearings, and all that…plus I’ve yet to tell you the really funny shit with the reporters…I still haven’t talked about that yet, and I keep forgetting to…and to talk about this thing with Holly, and what happened with her and Doctor Stevens, it’s almost…too personal. It’s not the kind of thing I like to talk about, and to be honest, I’m not sure I even have the right to dump it all here. After all, it’s not me that we’re talking about at this point, it’s the mother of my children, the woman to whom, in my heart, I’m still married to, even if we agreed in a court of law that we wouldn’t be married anymore. I almost feel like I’d be raping her privacy, you know?
I asked Doctor Stevens if she’d write this part, about her meeting with Holly, and she said no, she was saving it for her book she was writing about the family members of brain cases. “Good on her,” I thought. So you’ll have to read her book to find out what all happened when they met. I think Holly is going to be chapter five. I’m not really sure. The book she’s writing is less about brain cases and more about the effect it has on family members. I’m looking forward to reading it.
Anyway. So, yeah, long story short and all that shit, Holly agreed to do it, on the condition that I talk to our kids, among other things. The other things were that I agree to divide any possible monetary award from any hypothetical lawsuit between myself and her and the kids. I was a little surprised and hurt that she’d felt she needed to ask for it. I mean, I had already figured on doing that, dividing the money between me and her and the kids. College funds, all that shit…Yeah, I’m in an “all that shit” kind of mood right now. It’s just, there were a lot of “all that shit” moments with all the shit that happened, so if I tend to indulge myself in redundant and excessive use of that particular expletive, that’s just me. Of course, there were also a lot of “oh fuck” moments, as I’ve already talked about.
She also told Dr Stevens that if she was going to be the agent of my power of attorney, she was going to attend every single meeting. She’d be there whenever anything important might be going on. She wasn’t going to be some peon on a leash, coming when she was called, all that shit. Also, I was going to allow other visitors, not just her and the kids. I figured that was coming too. Dr Stevens read a note Holly had given her, from my mother. And that is way too personal to go into. I’ll just say it made me feel like a fucking asshole. I’ll also just say that when someone loves you and they’d go through hell to know you’re ok, and when you refuse to let them talk to you, or you refuse to let them see you, that’s a goddamned shitty thing to do to them. It hurts them more than anything you can do, when they know you’re hurting and they want to know if you’re ok, and you say “fuck off, I don’t want to see you”.
Family was always a big thing with Holly. She’d insisted on meeting my parents when we started dating. Her folks, they lived in another state. Yeah, you can be sure we went and visited them, together, whenever we could…once we realized how serious we were about each other, that is. I like her folks. We don’t have the same political views. They’re kind of moral conservatives; I’m more liberal than that. What it comes down to is, me and them, we respect each other, and me and them both wouldn’t allow some idiot to kill someone just because of that person’s beliefs, or skin color, or whatever. They’re live and let live folks…Don’t piss on their lawn, they won’t burn down your house. I mean that figuratively, fyi. But, for the record, I did once see Pops (that’s what I call her dad) beat the shit out of some guy because he’d slapped his daughter really fucking hard on the back of her head. This was during the second visit to their place in Tennessee. When the cops showed up, I just said the only rational thing I could think of. Keep in mind I was with the father of the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. This is what I said to the cops. I said, “well, I don’t know how the guy got all the bruises and red marks on his face, but I can tell you that that little girl got the cut on her head from a ring on his right hand, when he smacked her.”
The cops got really cold to the dude after that. Turns out that cops don’t have to necessarily arrest you for assault, if they don’t want to. And, when they have the choice of arresting someone for assaulting a child, or arresting a guy for beating the crap out of someone that’s hurt a kid…That’s a no-fucking-brainer. Hell, when the ambulance arrived, the first thing the paramedics did was take a look at the little girl’s head and Pops’ knuckles. I decided right then and there that it was an honor to know this guy. I know that’s not really deep, and it counts for fuck all in the grand scheme of things, but seriously, to know this guy would do what he did that day…and he didn’t care if I stood up for him or not…he just did it because it was the right thing to do…hell, that says a lot about a person’s character. You do what’s right, and to hell with what happens later, you did the right thing. Of course, people that burned witches at the stake were probably thinking the same thing, but not everyone has a good sense of right and wrong. I’m just saying.
By the way, I’m only telling that story because the statute of limitations has run out on the assault.
One of the things I really haven’t done a good job of really saying is how far gone I had gotten. I was right there at the edge of not giving a shit about anything. If Dr Stevens hadn’t come along, I really would have gone completely insane. Eventually, I really would have just stopped being me. No talking, no responding, I’d have sat there in my head behind a wall. Everything she was doing, she was doing as my doctor. The friendship was there, sure. We’d gotten close, and we were as close to being buddies as a doctor and a patient could be. But I wasn’t going to be “cured” in her eyes until I was finally out of the jar. That was her thing, to see it through until I was in a body and able to live without having to use a fucking speaker as my fucking mouth. So, she saw agreeing to Holly’s conditions as what was best for getting me to that point, and to hell with what I thought.
So Stevens lays this all out, what Holly said, and I said the only thing I could at that point. I said, “ok.”
Martin-Raytheon had made a show of being morally indignant about the lawsuit, but it was a front. It was part of a greater strategy to get to the bottom of the plane crash, among other things. For his part, Senator Robertson made a show of going first to Brandenhoff, and then to Martin-Raytheon, on the pretense of rooting out who the real villain was in my situation. He was accompanied by Federal marshals when he went and visited them, to let them know he meant business. And I’m not talking about one or two marshals. I’m talking about a whole squad of them. He went in, locked down the headquarters at Brandenhoff, and made a really scary show of it. “This company is now under investigation by the Senate committee for fraud and negligence,” he said. “Any and all employees are now subject to a thorough background check, and all company holdings and business partnerships will be subject to inquiry at a federal level. As part of this inquiry, all information systems in use by the company have been digitally copied to the Federal Database pending review by Congressional authorities.” Man, I wish I could have seen the look on their faces.
He did the same thing at Martin-Raytheon, but again, it was just part of the act. Martin-Raytheon had already transferred a copy of their information database to the Federal Investigatory Database…secretly, of course. Nobody wanted to tip Brandenhoff that we were on to them, and whatever dirty secret they were hiding. I know anyone reading this already knows what happened, but I’m the narrator, dammit. I’ll tell it like you don’t know already know, if I damned well please.
Oh, right. I’m telling the story out of order. Senator Robertson came to the hospital in person. One of the marshals he came with was, in fact, the marshal that accompanied the Brandenhoff lawyer that delivered the Court Order. Just going to start capitalizing that, so you know I’m talking about the one that left me stuck in the brain case. Anyway, I had been looking at one of the marshals. He looked damned unhappy. He looked like he was returning to the scene of the crime. I said to him, “Hey, you. The guy with the moustache.” “Yes, sir?” he answered. I say to him, “You ok?” Robertson turned and looked at the guy, turns back to me, and says, “Oh, this is officer Thompson, he’s the marshal that helped deliver your Court Order.” “Ah,” I said. The marshal didn’t say anything else the whole time. He just stood there looking twitchy for the rest of the meeting.
“Sam,” Robertson said, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that we’re going to begin an investigation into Brandenhoff Airlines, and their role in what happened to you. The bad news is that I wasn’t able to get enough support for actually making any headway on wide support for a revision to the existing law that put you here for so long. At any rate, even if we were able to revise it, it couldn’t be retroactive. Laws don’t work like that. You can’t make a law to fit a crime and then prosecute afterwards.” I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t expecting a miracle. Then he said, “The investigation will, however, be multi-layered. We’re going to comb through everything with Brandenhoff’s name on it, and anything that has the name of a Brandenhoff employee’s name on it. And that goes for their lawyers and accountants, too. The long story short, Sam, is we’re working on it. I can’t do anything more than what I’m already doing. Oh, and we’re also investigating Martin-Raytheon’s dealings as well, since it was their pod, after all. You know I don’t like having to tell you any bad news, but I am working on making the entire cloud silver, instead of it just having a silver lining.” “So, you’re going to choke the shit out of Brandenhoff, right?” I asked.
“Oh, hell yes,” he said enthusiastically. Robertson sounded like a kid in a candy store when he said that. I smiled at the thought. He told me that he was going to Brandenhoff to announce the investigation personally. The guy was like just like that. It was good to know, that after all this time, I finally had people actually helping me. Hell, it didn’t just feel good. It felt fucking heroic…I pictured angels flying through the air, blazing swords in hand, swooping down on Brandenhoff’s corporate headquarters. I told Robertson that, and he smiled. Then he got real serious. “Sam, I don’t know how much longer you’re going to be like…this. I wish I could give you some idea of what’s going to happen. I can’t.” I imagined a mental version of me standing by him, nodding at him, with a stern, understanding look on my face.
Things move slowly when you’re waiting for something to happen, but a year plus in the jar had finally granted me a kind of calm that most people wouldn’t understand. I knew that whatever happened, it would take awhile.
I’d met with Robertson without Doctor Stevens or Buck being present. Holly was in town, living in a place Stevens had helped her get set up in; the kids were spending vacation time at her parent’s house, then they’d be going to my folks’ place. Then my parents were going to drive in with them, and there’d be a big meeting with all of them. I was beginning to feel like faking my death might be a good solution after all. The note from my mom was still eating at me, and it’s not like I had any way to distract myself. I thought about getting an orderly to ask the doc to bring some audio books down for me to listen to, but decided I needed to actually think about what was happening now, instead of blocking it all out. I hadn’t really even given much thought to what was happening; I’d been too busy meeting with Buck and Doctor Stevens, and Brandenhoff, and Robertson and, to be honest, I was sleeping most of the time otherwise. The bad dreams, I found, had finally stopped. The bad dreams…dreams about Holly, and sometimes about the plane crash, and sometimes dreams about me being where I was in my jar, but nobody ever came to talk to me…no orderlies or nurses, no doctors, not a single person. In my dream, there was a sign on the door of my room that said “nobody cares about you” and in the dream I couldn’t move my camera around to look anywhere else, it was fixed in one position so I had to keep looking at the sign. Thank God that finally stopped. I think that was the worst one. That was the one that really got to me. You’d think you’d get used to recurring nightmares, but you never do. No matter how many times you have them, they always leave you with that same terrible feeling.
Until I was in the case, I hadn’t had nightmares that kept happening. I mean I’d have nightmares that were kind of the same…falling, that sort of thing…I even had a nightmare where I was being stabbed. I woke up from it in some weird position that made my back feel like something was stuck in it. But they weren’t recurring dreams and none of them scared the hell out of me like the ones I had in the case. Really I hardly ever dreamed at all before I was de-bodied. So when I started having the nightmares…I know the dreams about Holly wouldn’t seem like nightmares to most people, but they just reminded me of everything I’d lost. Anyways…
So the bad dreams stopped. Maybe it was because I finally had some hope. I don’t know. I didn’t dream at all. It was really nice.
Ah, hell. I keep forgetting what I’m talking about…I don’t know, I guess I’m good at rambling. The point I’m getting at was, I stopped focusing on how miserable I’d been finally, and started THINKING. I started giving a shit about what had happened to me of course. At some point, I’d kind of given up hope. But what I was really thinking about was how I’d hurt my family. I kept thinking about why I’d done what I’d done, shutting them out like I had. I couldn’t help thinking about how bad I wanted to cry, and how I couldn’t…I just felt that vague nothing, like I got when I saw Dr Stevens for the first time and I couldn’t get a hard on, but I knew my brain was expecting it.
So I couldn’t cry, and finally, I realized, I had no right to cry. That wasn’t self pitying bullshit, that’s just the way it was. I had no right to release the pain I was feeling. Don’t misunderstand me, I had my reasons, and I’d do it again, but now I was at the point where I had to explain what I did to the people that cared about me the most. I had to tell them why I shut them out.
What I wanted to do was talk to Pops about it. He was always a good listener…He was also good at calling bullshit when he heard it. I figured, if anyone in my family could understand…and yeah, I considered him family…he taught my boys how to swim for fuckssake…he was their granddad…of course he was still family…it’d be him. Plus, talking to him would help me get my head straight. The thing was I really wasn’t sure why I shut myself away from everyone and kept them away. I keep telling myself it was because I didn’t want to cause them any pain, and that’s the truth. But I don’t know that wasn’t the only reason for it.
See, at first I was so caught up in what was happening when I first got in the brain case, expecting to get out, and dealing with the shit from being bodiless, that I didn’t want anyone to know that I was suffering like that. And then when I found out that Brandenhoff was blocking my medical procedure, well…that just screwed me up completely. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I didn’t want anyone to come see me…It was too much to deal with. And then it just became how it was. It might have been pride or some stupid shit like that. I dunno. I still haven’t ever figured out why I didn’t let anyone come and see me, you know? But nobody gives me shit for it anymore…everyone gave me shit for it for a good long time, but they finally stopped. I guess they got it out of their system.
But I still feel like a fucking asshole, all that said. And, when I talked to Pops about it, that’s what he said…That I was a fucking asshole for doing that shit. His exact words, in fact, were, “You fucking asshole, Sam. You have any idea what kind of hell you’ve put my grandchildren through? What you’ve put HOLLY through?” That’s what he said when I told him why I did what I did. He didn’t care about why I did it. That didn’t matter to him. What mattered was that the only reason I had contacted Holly was because I needed her for my power of attorney…and that was a shitty fucking thing to do. So I said to him, “Pops, listen to me.” And I told him. I told him everything. Everything that I couldn’t tell Dr Stevens, everything that I felt, and everything that I’d been through. I told him about the plane crash, and about Brandenhoff, I told him everything about everything I’d had happen to me. I told him what it felt like when I wanted to scream and when I wanted to hit somebody, and how it felt when I wanted to run away, and I told him about the nightmare I had about the sign. And then I had Dr Stevens turn off the voice so he could hear what I sounded like when anyone was actually in the room with me. And he said, “Jesus Christ, Sam. What the hell did they do to you?”
Again, I’m telling the story out of order. I had gotten it in my head to call Pops and talk to him. Dr Stevens wasn’t entirely sure it was a good idea for me to call him, if only because of how long I’d gone not talking to anyone at all. It wasn’t a medical concern, or a professional opinion, she honestly thought it would be a bad idea…by now she was speaking her mind pretty freely about things. I agreed it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. But she agreed to help. The Orderly was hanging out in the corridor outside my room standing watch, so to speak. Really he was just out there to make sure a hospital admin couldn’t sneak up. Dr Stevens made the call, and turned on the speaker on it, so I could hear him. The Orderly had suggested the voice emulator. Dr Stevens thought it was dishonest, but I explained why I wanted to use it and she understood.
The call went something like “Hey, Pops. It’s Sam.” Pops said, “Bullshit.” “No, really,” I said, “It’s me.” “Bullshit.” It took my telling him about the story with the kid and the father and the cops to get him to believe me. The first thing he said was, “Jesus H Christ, Sam. You shouldn’t be calling me. You should be calling Holly.” And I told him why I was calling him, which is when he called me a fucking asshole. And what could I do? I said, “I know, Pops. I’m sorry.” Again, he called me a fucking asshole. I can’t say I didn’t deserve it. But it was important to at least know that one person understood why, which is why I told him everything, like I said. Dr Stevens gave me funny looks the whole time, like she felt kind of insulted that I hadn’t opened up to her like that. I felt kind of guilty, because I’d held out on her, but I figured she could handle it. Still…I can’t help but feel like I’d kind of betrayed her by not trusting her with everything I dumped on Pops.
So, once I turned off the voice emulator, which had included voice inflections and everything, and it was just a monotone voice talking (why they couldn’t have connected one of those emulators to my speakers, I’ll never know) he really got it. He didn’t like it, but I knew he understood. It didn’t justify what I’d done, cutting everyone off like I did, but he understood. I think it really upset him, and that did justify what I’d done. I figured, if I could make him of all people get it, I could get on with what needed to be done without feeling like quite as big of a shithead about it. “Pops,” I said to him, “You can’t tell anyone what I told you. It’s too much for anyone to know.”
So, yeah, now I guess you’re wondering why I’d be talking about all this now, if it’s too much for anyone to know. Beats the hell out of me. Just seemed like the thing to do. You know?
So Pops agreed not to talk about it to anyone, but he also set a condition that I stay in touch. I told him that I wasn’t allowed to make phone calls. “Bullshit,” he said. “You’re talking to me right now.” “I know, but…well…I’m breaking the rules,” I said. “I’m not even allowed to have net access…but there’s different reasons for that.” He said, “I know, Sam, you told me. I didn’t forget that already. Son, is there anything I can do?” “Yeah,” I said. “Convince Holly not to bring the kids to see me.” He didn’t answer me right off. I could hear Holly’s mom in the background, asking him who he was talking to. “It’s Tom from work,” he told her. “Tell him to give you a raise, if he’s going to call you at home,” she said. I agreed with her; Pops’ boss was always calling him about one thing or another, even when Pops was on vacations, he’d call him and ask him about shit, or tell him about something going on. Pops said his boss was the one guy he couldn’t just tell off. He always said, “I like my job. And if he’s calling me all the damned time, at least I know I’m indispensable.” Pops had a good point there.
He finally got done talking to Holly’s mom. “Maria wants me to tell you to give me more money,” he said. “Tell her I’ll think about it,” I said. Finally, after he talked to her a bit more, he said to me, “Sam, I don’t know that I can do that. I know you don’t want them to see you like you are. I don’t know. I’ll talk to her about it. Do you want her to know that you called me?” “Hell no,” I said, “I’m already going to be getting it from her as it is.” Pops said, “Well, she’s her father’s daughter.” “Yes she is,” I said.
The Orderly tapped on the door and came in. “Ok, folks. Time to change his fluid.” “Sam…I said some unkind things, and I meant them, but I want you to know…Hell, I know you, you don’t like people to say things like that…I know when you divorced Holly, you didn’t want anyone telling you it would be okay, and I know that you didn’t want anyone saying things like ‘that’s a damned shame’, but I’m just…I’m so damned sorry about what happened to you.” I said to him, “It’s okay, Pops. I’ll be alright. I gotta go.”
He told me to give him a call when I could, and I promised I would, and I meant it.
Pops died a few years back. With some of the money I got, I started a foundation in his honor, for kids. It wasn’t for kids that were beaten to shit…well, not specifically for that…but it was mainly for kids that had parents that just weren’t particularly nice to them. I think Pops would have liked that. That man loved his kids, would have died for them. He just loved people, really, and kids especially, and he fucking hated people that hurt them. So I set up the foundation and named it after him. I’m a sentimental motherfucker, yeah, but mainly I just wanted people to know who he was and what he did. You know, Holly’s mom never knew about what happened with the kid and the kid’s dad until I told the story at a press conference publically announcing the creation of the maltreated children’s foundation. She laughed when she heard it. I think, her hearing that story, it finally gave her some peace of mind after Pops passed away. She kind of stopped living for awhile after he died. My kids tried to get her to go on vacations with Holly or me, but she’d just stay in her house, and talk to herself. After that, after I started the foundation…I guess whatever was in her that was keeping her from being alive finally left her, and she was able to live again. I can’t put it any better than that.****************************************************************The investigation and the lawsuit were going parallel to each other. The Senator from California and Martin-Raytheon were trading information about things, putting pieces together, trying to sort out what really happened. The biggest shock came when Tom Roberts and DeLano did a conference call with me. They forced the hospital with legal action if they didn’t allow me to take the call. The first thing Tom said to me was, “Hi, Sam. We’re moving you to another hospital. The one you’re currently in is actually owned by Brandenhoff. It took us awhile to sort it out, but they bought the hospital not long after they filed the court order.”The next big shock was when he told me that Dr Stevens was actually a plant.
Just kidding. The orderly…the one I’d grown to hate…had connections in the hospital, it turns out, and had found out that a company that owned a company that was owned by a company that owned a company that was owned by…etc…you get the picture…was actually owned by Brandenhoff. It wasn’t a far stretch to imagine the heads of Brandenhoff making the decision to cut me off from the outside world. They couldn’t cut my life support, so they’d decided to do their best to make me fucking crazier than a loon, so crazy that I couldn’t make any decisions or think straight…and that would end any possibility of a legal fight right there. I said the only thing I could at that point. “Sonuvabitch.” Tom got mightily serious at that point. “Sam,” he said. “Go on with the lawsuit. I’ve talked to our lawyers, and they know what’s coming. We’ll write it off and say it’s just us paying what we would have given you had Brandenhoff not interfered. Simple as that. That’s assuming you win the lawsuit, which you surely will. But I want you to know, I’m on your side. I’m rigging the fight. Brandenhoff decides to drag us in, we’ll fuck them. I still can’t believe…” Tom’s voice trailed off. Then the next shock. DeLano says, “Sam, does the name John Michael Jones mean anything to you?” “Nope,” I said to her. “John Michael Jones is the son of a VP at Brandenhoff. He’s gay,” she said. “Ok…and?” I said. “He was in your seat at the beginning of the flight, Sam,” she said. “Ok. AND?” I said again, “Get to the point.” “The point is, you traded seats with him, that’s what he told me.” “The fuck are you saying?” I remembered the kid, he was about 18. He hadn’t wanted a window seat…Made him nervous, he said. “I’m saying, he was going to be in your seat. He would have been the one to be where you are now. He…well, you got fucking lucky and lived, but…more than likely anyone probably should have died from what happened.”“What are you saying?”“Sam. I’m saying, your pod was rigged to malfunction.”“Are you saying…Are you telling me that someone was trying to kill him?”“Probably his father, we think.”“And you’re telling me this, while I’m at Brandenhoff’s hospital?”“You’re safe. There are in fact federal marshals on their way. The orderly you told us about…the one who told us…he’s standing outside your room right now keeping watch. Senator Robertson is currently enroute to Brandenhoff’s corporate headquarters. He’s planning on arresting some people, I think.” “Christ, fuck fuck fuck fuck.” “Yep.”
OH, yes. This is the good part of the story. “So, wait,” I said at that point. “The son is gay, or the vp is?” “The son. We think that when he came out of the closet, his father was furious. Gay hate is a rare thing nowadays, but some people still refuse to believe that it’s anything but a sexual perversion. His father was VP in charge of safety. We…”Tom spoke up and said, “Sam, we have reason to believe his father paid off some people at the airport your plane took off from. We think he paid them to sabotage the plane. And, well, we THINK that Brandenhoff…somehow they found out after the crash, and they covered it up. That’s what they were hiding. That’s why they filed the court order.”“MOTHERFUCKERS! MOTHERFUCKERS! MOTHERFUCKERS!!!!!”
I started screaming, distortion from the volume maxing out, distorting the sound of my voice, making it sound horrific. The orderly opened the door to my room, and stared at me. “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU LOOKING AT ????” I screamed at him.
************************************************************All that I’d been through…you can imagine what was going through my mind. Even as a couple of doctors came in to start disconnecting me…all the things going through my mind…all the anger and hate that I was suddenly feeling…The overwhelming urge to commit murder…to hurt people…it was too much. As they started connecting me to a portable life support, I actually passed out. I never got to see the corridor outside my room, as they wheeled me down it, or look at the sky for the first time in over a year. I was unconscious the whole time, as they rolled me away to another hospital. ***********************************************************************The orderly was there, when I woke up. I’d been out of it for 12 hours, the first few hours because I’d fainted, and the rest because I was sedated. They didn’t want me to have an aneurysm. Would have looked bad. I was now at a military hospital, under guard. Senator Robertson had demanded it, just to be on the safe side. When I came to, I was surrounded by people. Holly, Dr Stevens, Buck, Tom Roberts, Senator Robertson, Pops was even there. The look of fury on his face…Roberts had told them everything, and when I woke up and saw them there, the look on their faces…It was more than I could stand. “Listen, I love you all, and I know you want to know if I’m okay…but right now what I really need is some time alone. The orderly just nodded. He’d known me the longest. “Ok, people. Give the man some rest.” “But I’m his FUCKING WIFE!” Holly screamed. I didn’t realize…that until she said that…that she’d never really gotten over the idea that we weren’t married anymore. “Sorry, ma’am,” the orderly said, “but as his personal medical staff, I’m telling you to leave the room.” They shuffled out. Stevens looked back at me with a worried look on her face. Buck had one arm around her, the other on his cane as he limped along. I couldn’t help thinking what a weird couple they were. When it was just me, and the orderly, I started crying. “Mr. Lawson,” he said to me, “it’s just a ride. All of this that’s happening, it’s just a ride. You get through this, you can get through the rest of anything that might happen. You know that right?” He went about the business of checking my vitals, making sure everything was hooked up, and that somebody hadn’t screwed something up somewhere. He didn’t trust anyone else to do it right.I thought about what he said, knew he was right, and I said to him, “Yeah, fuck it. It really is just a ride.”I didn’t say anything for a few minutes, as he did his nurse thing. I’d only been conscious for about thirty minutes, after having been out of it for a good length of time…longer than anyone would want to be, if they were in my position. That is to say, a brain in a jar.I kicked it there, for a little bit, just thinking about what had just happened. Gears shifting, everything suddenly warped and broken up and split apart, the situation and the game suddenly called on account of shitstorms…there was still going to be a lawsuit. But, there wasn’t going to be much of a fight. In fact, at this point, there probably wasn’t going to be much of Brandenhoff Airlines by the time we got done.