McGee was missing, my first day rounding at the VA.
A “frequent flyer,” in and out of the hospital…
been with us two weeks. Chronic osteomyelitis,
an old infected shrapnel wound of the tibia.
So were Armstrong, Lewis and Lee. “They’re a foursome at cards,”
the nurse said beside me, while pushing the chart rack along.
“You can find them in the lounge.”
I walked over. Four guys sitting round a table. “Who’s McGee?”
They looked up as one, said nothing ‘til the big bald guy spoke up.
“Doc, you’re new to this place.
Wait a minute, working with a sweet meld,
lots at stake in the game.”
“You guys should have been at your bedsides.
I’m here now and won’t be back. You, McGee?”
“I’m Ho Chi Min, Doc…next to me Bien Hoa, Saigon, and Da Nang.
We’re grads of Nam. Got our hard knock lessons there.”
“You seem the leader, McGee.”
“Master sergeant, Marines.
You bring that with you to this place.
Fall to men! Doc says it’s time to fold.
Meet you at my bed. I need a favor.”
He laughed, ambled back to his room.
“Take a look at the leg, Doc. I’m ready
to meet my friends down south,
winter in the Miami VA. How about it?
I’m cured, and the guys are waiting.”
He’d been admitted for pain, placed on antibiotics.
I pulled up his pajama pants, looked at his leg –
no redness, no tenderness; he had no fever.
“Don’t make me sign out AMA. It’ll look bad for both of us.”
“OK, Ho, I see nothing more to treat.
I’ll give you your discharge. Someone else
will have to deal you a new meld in Miami.”
He high fived me.