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Chapter Eighteen

The ride back to North Bridgewater via ambulance had been exciting
for Tommy. With a New Hampshire state police cruiser speeding
ahead of them, they had passed everything on the highway. And the
switchover to a Massachusetts police escort at the state line had been
impressive, too -- carried out at 70 m.p.h. with smooth precision like
stunt planes at an air show.

Irena Czinko of the Mass. Dept. of Social Services had accompanied
Tommy on the trip, sharing with him the excitement of the sirens and
flashing lights. Even after they themselves had become accustomed to
the sound and light show, they enjoyed watching the startled
expressions on the faces of people who pulled over to let them pass.
But now back in the pediatric ward of Memorial Hospital the action
stopped and the waiting began.

After an initial examination and blood test revealed that the
youngster was not in imminent danger, the hospital administration
had decided to delay the start of transfusion therapy until after the
hearing scheduled by Judge Rawlins. Attorney Jay Victor had
suggested this course to avoid unnecessary legal risk.

As the long sweep second hand slowly circled the clock in Tommy's
room, Ms. Czinko watched his mood deteriorate. No longer distracted
by the fast moving adventure of the ambulance ride, his thoughts
became fixed on the trauma ahead.

"Miss. Z," young Troulson asked his guardian, "how much blood are
they going to give me?"

"Probably just one unit to start with, I would imagine, Tommy," she

"How much is a unit?"

"I'm not the best one to answer this sort of question," Ms. Czinko
admitted honestly, "but I think it's one of those clear plastic envelopes
you've seen on poles next to other patients' beds." She had noticed
how Tommy's eyes had become glued to blood bags whenever he had
seen them suspended above stretchers in the corridor or in children's

"Do you know whose blood it will be?"

"Whose blood?" she repeated thoughtfully, the question never
having occurred to her before. "You mean who was it that gave the
blood you will receive?"

"Yeah! Will it be blood from another boy my age? Or from a girl?"
His face became distorted with distaste at the latter possibility.

"Oh, I don't think they let children give blood. So it will be from an
adult blood donor, I'm almost sure."

"Someone from around here? Someone who knows me? Will their
name and address be on the blood bag?"

"Well, I really don't know," she replied, disappointed at her own
ignorance. "I've seen Red Cross Bloodmobiles and little Red Cross cars
that deliver blood, but I don't know how far they drive with it."

Having never thought of transfusions in such personal terms, Irena
was having trouble dealing with these questions. She had always seen
blood banks as big refrigerators full of red liquid medicine, like
homogenized milk. You didn't question whose blood was in the bags
any more than you questioned which cows' milk was in the various
cartons in the supermarket dairy case. Did this half gallon come from
a tired old Guernsey named Nellie, milked by hand on a local mom-
and-pop farm? Or was it sucked by machine from a newly de-horned
Holstein heifer known only by the numbered tag on her ear, and
blended with the milk of hundreds of other Holsteins on a huge dairy
in upstate New York?

"I wish I knew whose blood it is going to be!" Tommy kicked his
foot, under the covers, as if to push away the anger and frustration
overwhelming him.

"I'll see what I can find out for you," Irena promised. "I'll go ask
one of the nurses."

As she stepped out the door leaving him alone in his room, Tommy
switched on the TV in his head. The scene he pictured in his mind
was a lonely stretch of fog-enshrouded road through a desolate
swamp overhung by weeping willow trees. Behind one of the trees --
which one he didn't know, but it could be any of them -- there lurked
a vampire.

People started coming down the road, one at a time, following each
other a considerable distance apart. They appeared dazed, their eyes
wide open but staring straight ahead, as they walked with the slow
stiff stride of zombies, their arms stretched out in front of them. This
death march, Tommy knew, was made up of potential vampire
victims. The vampire was lurking behind one of the trees watching
these people stagger by. And when he saw the one he wanted he
would emerge from his hiding place, wrap his black batwing cape
around the helpless victim, and begin drinking blood.

First came a little girl, red-headed and freckled, clutching a rag doll
in her outstretched arms. She was Sheila, Jimmy's six-year-old sister,
from two houses down the street. Next came old Mrs. Strickland, the
music teacher at school. Funeral music accompanied her ghostly walk,
and Tommy wondered whether she had much blood beneath her pale,
wrinkled skin. She was followed, at a distance, by the mailman. And
then the icecream man. He was walking, of course, without his truck,
but the familiar ring-ring of his bell kept pace with his measured
steps. Last in line was Frankie Sturgis, the elder's grandson and
Tommy's best friend at Kingdom Hall. Frankie was wearing a white
shirt and tie, as he always did at meetings.

Instead of walking on down the foggy road like the others, Frankie
came to a stop opposite Tommy's vantage point. With eyes still wide
open and staring straight ahead he removed a dinner napkin from his
pants pocket and tucked a corner of it into his shirt collar. Then he
leaned his head to the side, exposing his neck above the napkin, and
closed his eyes. Tommy, now realizing himself to be the vampire,
emerged from behind the tree and stepped forward cautiously.

Smiling, he felt his upper lip slide up over the fangs that had replaced
his eye teeth. A sudden thirst propelled him, and he lunged at
Frankie's throat -- only to be knocked back by a bolt of lightning from
the sky. The whole heavens exploded now with thunder and
lightning, and the earth quaked beneath his feet, as he found himself
standing alone before the throne of God. A fierce angel with heavy
brow hovered over him reading from a scroll: "Whereas Thomas
Troulson has been found guilty of drinking the blood of his fellow
man, and whereas this is a most wicked crime against the Law of God,
therefore the punishment decreed for Thomas Troulson is that he be
sentenced to . . . "

The TV inside Tommy's head went blank, as if from a power
failure, when Irena Czinko walked back into the room. He liked to
watch her long hair whip around when she moved quickly as she was
wont to do, and that vivid image eclipsed the horrors he had been
viewing in his mind's eye.

"I'm sorry, Tommy," she began, sitting on the edge of his bed and
folding her hands in her lap. She wanted to caress his forehead and
push back the brown locks that had tumbled there, but she felt
obligated to maintain professionalism. "The nurses tell me that the
identity of blood donors must be kept confidential. They are not
allowed to give out that information, except in cases where blood is
given for a designated patient by the patient's family or friends."

"Oh! Well we can forget that, because my family and friends are all
Jehovah's Witnesses, and so they won't give blood." Tommy kicked
again, under the covers. "How much more time do I have?"

Irena looked at the clock. They had been waiting only two or three
hours, but it seemed like six. She suddenly felt like she was waiting
with a death row prisoner, counting down the hours to his execution.

"Plenty of time for a nap," she replied. "You couldn't have slept
very well last night out in the wild. Why don't you close your eyes
and get some sleep?"

"But I'm not sleepy," Tommy yawned. "I don't like to take naps."

"Just rest your eyes, then."

"Oh, okay!" Tommy accepted the face-saving solution. "I'll just rest
my eyes. I'm not sleepy, but my eyes are kind of tired." He slurred
the last few words, yawned again, and gradually drifted off.

Irena had intended to leave the room, but decided now to keep
watch by the bed instead. Her green eyes misted over. Then a few
tears began tracing their way down her cheeks. Reverting back to a
childhood habit, she absent-mindedly daubed the tears with the tips
of a handful of long red hair.

Although she knew that blood transfusions were needed to save
this youngster's life, she was beginning to fear that they might injure
his soul. Not that this use of blood was wrong or bad in itself, but its
being forced on a child indoctrinated and pre-conditioned against it
would surely result in painful emotional injury, it seemed. Yet, what
else could be done? Without the transfusions he would surely die.

A fresh flow of tears brought more daubing with her hair. Then,
seeing the tips wet and discolored with eyeshadow, she realized what
she had done and tossed the strands over her shoulder with a sigh.

She hadn't done that for twenty years, she thought; why now? Her
thoughts drifted back to childhood, to a melancholy, rainy day when
she had sat alone by the window in her room, reading her Illustrated
Bible Stories book. The book was open to her favorite story -- the one
about the woman who wet Jesus' feet with her tears and dried them
with her hair. She used to think about that woman whenever she
cried and used her own hair as a towel. That woman was a sinner, she
knew as a child. And sins were things like stealing from the cookie jar
and lying about it when caught. But now Irena had a deeper sense of
sin. Her reminiscences moved on to high school and an athletic boy's
awkward attempts to undo her bra. And to college, where the guys
were more experienced. All the girls slept with guys -- well, almost all
of them -- so why was she plagued by guilt? Looking down now at
Tommy's innocent sleeping face, Irena wished she could cry at Jesus'
feet and wash His feet with her tears and dry them with her hair.

Suddenly Irena's meditations and Tommy's nap were both
interrupted by the rush of activity as medical personnel swept into
the room. It was Dr. Feldman and two nurses from hematology. The
court had reaffirmed its earlier order and given the go-ahead for
blood transfusion therapy, Attorney Jay Victor phoned immediately
from the judge's chambers, and the hospital administration had
decided to act quickly so as to avoid a confrontation with the parents.
When they arrived at the hospital after 6 p.m. they would find a fait
accompli: their child would already have received his first unit of

"Hey, what's going on?" Tommy called out, awakened from his nap
by a strange nurse preparing his left arm to receive the needle. With
his right hand he rubbed his eyes.

"It's all right, Tommy!" Ms. Czinko tried to comfort him, leaning
over the free side of his bed so that a familiar face would be before
his eyes. "This is the treatment that the judge ordered." She grasped
his free hand in hers, and he squeezed it tightly as Dr. Feldman
approached and inserted the needle into his other wrist.

"Hello, Tommy!" the doctor spoke as he worked, "You don't have to
be afraid of me. You've been coming to my office for years. I've been
treating you ever since you were a baby. You can trust me, Tommy.
Haven't I kept you healthy all these years?"

The youngster refused to look at Dr. Feldman's face. "Miss Z," he
pleaded, squeezing her hand more tightly, "please help me! Please!"

Then, as the blood bag was hung above his bed and connected to the
needle, Tommy lurched upward and reached for the tubing, only to be
restrained by the attending nurses who grabbed him by either
shoulder and forced him back down onto the pillow.

"Jehovah God, please save me!" he shouted, looking beyond Irena
Czinko to the tiled ceiling above. Then, as the dreaded fluid began
flowing down the tube and into his vein, he screamed, "No! Nooooo!",
and kicked his feet -- the only part of his body free to move -- in a
rapid fluttering motion, a tantrum not of temper but of terror.

"Oh, Tommy! Poor Tommy!", Ms. Czinko tried to comfort him,
holding his hand and caressing his forehead. "I know how you must
feel. Poor Tommy!"

No longer kicking, he now made a fist and clenched it tightly, all
the while pressing his arm hard against his ribs in the hope that this
would impede the entry of foreign blood. If his other arm weren't
pinned down by the nurse at his other shoulder he would have
reached over and applied a pressure point, or better yet, he would
have improvised a tourniquet. Or, as Jesus said, he would have cut off
above the needle the hand that offended him and cast it from him, lest
his whole body be ruined, for it seemed more profitable that his hand
perish than that his whole body be polluted.

But, alas, all his efforts proved futile. Nothing worked. The level of
fluid in the blood bag continued to drop, and the bag took on the
appearance of a prune as it collapsed in on itself.

Tommy stopped struggling and took a deep breath. Glancing from
Irena's face to her hand holding his, he frowned and pulled his hand
away. He had accepted her comfort in his moment of greatest anguish,
but now recalled with painful clarity that she was one of those who
betrayed him; she belonged to the camp of the enemy.

Sensing that his resistance had ended, the nurses let go of his
shoulders and looked to Dr. Feldman for further instruction.

"Wait!", he commanded. His eyes were so firmly fixed on the
collapsing blood bag that he appeared to be squeezing it
telekinetically. In fact, however, it was the force of gravity that
emptied it into Tommy's veins. The nurses remained as they were
and Feldman stood motionless until the process was complete. Then
he disconnected the tubing, removed the needle, scribbled something
on the chart at the foot of the bed, and headed out the door, signalling
his entourage to follow him.

A frown remained on Tommy's forehead as he stared at the ceiling
directly overhead. He avoided looking at Ms. Czinko, now seated on a
plastic chair beside beside him. He refused to look at her or to speak,
and she respected his silence.

How could he have held her hand, he wondered, when she was one
of those who had betrayed him? He had behaved like a prisoner of
war undergoing interrogation by torture who, in his moment of
greatest pain, grasps the hand of one of his interrogators.

It had, indeed, been a war, and Tommy had lost. Not only had he
been captured and taken prisoner, but his very body had now been
invaded. He remembered looking up at the blood bag atop its metal
pole and seeing it as the blood-red flag of the enemy flying over
territory seized in battle. The hated foreign flag signified total
conquest. Unlike prisoners in war movies who maintained their
personal integrity in captivity, Tommy sensed that he was violated to
the very core of his inner self. The red liquid that flowed into his arm
and spread throughout his body was like some fiendish potion injected
by motion picture bad guys into the helpless good guy to bring him
under their control -- a mind-altering drug destroying his will and
making him their slave. Or, more in line with modern science fiction,
the red fluid was a living entity, an alien life-form slithering into his
skin to possess him parasitically and control him from inside.
Henceforth he would live in horror as a helpless zombie, fully
conscious yet unable to direct his own body, watching as if in a dream
as the slimy red alien inside manipulated him like a puppet.

Tommy felt alone, more alone than he had ever felt in his life.
Even God had left him, he knew, since the pure and holy One could not
reside with anyone polluted by blood. But someday he would have to
face God, and that thought frightened Tommy even more than being
left alone. Tears ran down his temples and wet the pillow on either
side of his head. He wanted to pray but was held back by fear and
guilt and shame. Instead he moved his lips and whispered almost
inaudibly, "Somebody, please kill me!"

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