Close To Home (Westen Series)(4)

By: Suzanne Ferrell

If it hadn’t been for his uncle’s stabilizing influence in their lives, he, his brothers, and sisters might have turned out as some kids from broken homes did; in trouble with the law, on drugs, or living on welfare. Only because of his mother’s determination that they all succeed, and his uncle’s part in their lives as a male role model, had they become successful professionals.

While he waited for the films to be developed, and the boys safely under Harriet’s watchful eye, Clint walked to the kitchen/staff lounge of the clinic his aunt and uncle had lived and worked in for years. They had converted the lower level of the building into a medical clinic—complete with exam rooms, suture room, x-ray and office, while upstairs was a comfortable three-bedroom apartment for them.

In the lounge, he poured himself a cup of the brew his nurse had the audacity to call coffee. Clint swore he’d be able to run his car on it all winter. As he took a sip and stared out the back window into the late-summer morning, his thoughts wandered to what had brought him back to the rural town of Weston, Ohio.

A month ago he’d been working in a busy emergency room in Columbus. After eight years he’d grown dispassionate about the job. He performed his duties like a robot, distancing himself from all the muggings, stabbings, shootings and abuse cases.

The night Johnny Wilson’s limp body landed on his emergency room table, he knew he was burned out. Losing that boy, despite doing everything humanly possible, became the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

The hospital’s chief of staff and his personal mentor, Dr. James, had called him into his office to “discuss the unfortunate state of his practice”. He’d told him his current mindset had placed Clint’s promotion to head of the ER in jeopardy. In blunt terms the older man had ordered him to “get counseling or get laid”, but do something to snap out of the funk before the pressure inside him exploded.

When his uncle called and asked him to take over his family practice in Weston for six months, he’d jumped at the chance.

“The films are ready, Doc,” Harriett called as she and the boys trooped past the door.

A quick look at the x-rays in the lit view box where Harriett had put them showed that each boy had a hairline fracture of the ulna bone of their injured arms.

“Looks like you guys are going to need casts.” He pulled down the x-rays and turned to his nurse. “Let’s get them cleaned up, Harriett. I’m going to go find their mom and get permission to set their arms.”

“Don’t need to,” Harriett said as she gathered supplies for the casts.

Clint eyed her suspiciously. “Why not? Don’t tell me their mother doesn’t believe in treating broken bones?”

“No. Emma’s smart. She’d want them set. Once she realized how rambunctious these two were, she signed a permanent release for Doc Ray to treat them whenever they walked in. I suppose it covers you, too.”

“You mean they come to the doctor all by themselves?”

What kind of mother was this woman? She didn’t even care enough to bring her frightened children to the doctor? Although he had to admit, they didn’t seem the least bit scared, and tolerated the pain from their breaks better than most adults.

“It’s not like that, Doc. Sometimes they get into mischief and...” Harriett began.

“...we aren’t supposed to be on old man Thompson’s property,” Benjamin interrupted before she could finish.

Clint swallowed the caustic remark poised on his tongue. Whatever he wanted to say to their mother, who very obviously neglected her sons, he’d say to her in person when he took them home. And he would be taking them home.

While he set the boys’ wrists, Clint quizzed them about where they lived. It surprised him to discover they had only to cross the street to get to the clinic from their home. He also learned that the boys loved pets and apparently their mother let them keep whatever they brought home with them. At best count he determined they had two black garter snakes, four hamsters, two guinea pigs and a warren of rabbits.

“The mommy rabbit had more babies,” Brian informed him.

Despite his anger at yet another neglectful parent, Clint found himself enjoying his patients’ chatter. The boys were entertaining and outgoing, a nice change from so many of the shy children he’d seen in the ER who were victims of various forms of abuse.

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