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Green Popsicles MAG
I woke up hungry with a nurse smiling at me. Two of her teeth were yellow.
“Do you like popsicles?” she asked, and I nodded. Her blue scrubs rustled as she waddled across the room. “Here you go, sweetie.” She broke a neon-green popsicle in half and I sucked on it ravenously.
I couldn’t remember any part of what had happened during the last few hours. The fat man with sausage fingers had given me a shot; all the nurses and Mama had gathered around my bed as the world spun and I fell helplessly into unconsciousness.
The popsicle’s lime flavor stung my dry throat, but it felt good. I wondered where that pretty nurse with the cold hands was, and if Mama had forgotten me. It was Lyd’s birthday today; I could imagine all the screaming as they slipped down the giant slides and Tube Time, while I lay here, too weak to move. I attempted to look down at the right side of my tummy, where Mama had said they would take out my appendi-whatsits so I could get better again, but my head felt too heavy to lift up.
“Mama?” I croaked, my throat as cracked as the leaves falling outside. “Mama, I can’t move my head.” In the silence, my fears were confirmed - she had forgotten me. She had said she wouldn’t, and I had believed her.
But then I heard, “Honey, you’re up!” and she bustled into the dreary room, her familiar scent - a mix of coffee and fresh bread and rose lotion - filling my nostrils. A little fire grew in my chest; she hadn’t forgotten me after all.
I reluctantly admitted, “I can’t move very much.”
Mama gave a hearty laugh so I would ignore the worry in her eyes. “Oh, the nurse said that would happen. It will wear off. Now she is just going to move you to a different room. We can leave in the morning, okay, honey?”
The fluorescent lights made me blink as the nurse wheeled my bed down the hallway. Every little bump we went over, the nurse said, “Oops!” and I pressed my lips together; the cut on my stomach, which I knew was there even though I couldn’t see it, stung each time the bed jolted. We finally arrived at the room, which was dull and white and smelled as if the janitor had been determined to use up several gallons of cleaning supplies. After settling me in and adjusting the needle stuck snugly in my arm, the nurse gave an automatic smile and left. Mama began to read a story, and with her calming voice washing over me, I was soon lulled to sleep.
I had broken dreams, and drifted in and out of consciousness. I didn’t know why I had gotten appendicitis; the nurse with cold hands had explained that it ran in families and she remembered seeing my brother last year.
“So handsome!” she had gushed, before turning serious again. “It could severely hurt you, even kill you, if not found soon enough.” It remained incomprehensible to me, though, that I could have gotten sicker - that I could have died if Mama hadn’t noticed all my hunching over and complaining about the pain in my side.
I awoke to the sound of the other girl in the room calling for her mother. Her tongue was white and she looked much sicker than me. I searched frantically for my own mama, but she wasn’t there. Panic rose in my throat, and I tried to swallow it, like I had the green Popsicle. Then it was replaced by a different feeling as a thought occurred to me. The little flame in my chest began to warm to a bright fire. If Mama weren’t here, I would go find her myself.
Getting out of bed, however, was agonizing, since I had to be careful not to disturb the needle in my arm. I forced my body to move, my feet making little thump-thump noises on the tile as I wobbled toward the door. My right side ached and I belatedly wished I had swallowed the evil cherry-flavored pain medicine. The metal rod supporting the clear bag that my needle was attached to felt cold. Suddenly, the world began to spin. A feeling like seasickness made my knees turn to jelly. I crawled the rest of the way to the door and peered into the bright hallway: a nurse was coming my way, and I knew she expected to see me in bed. I waddled faster than I thought I could back to bed, causing my already throbbing head to hurt more. As I lay in bed, my heart beat to a single thought: Where was Mama?
Mama reappeared as I drifted between dreams. She was carrying a cup of something, and the deep, rich smell made my stomach clench; I hadn’t realized how hungry I was.
“Sorry, sweetie, I was getting some soup,” she said. Another lump rose in my throat, this one self pity. The nurses had forgotten to feed me. I had had nothing to eat but the green popsicle, and Mama had gotten soup. Then Mama tripped on the cord attached to my needle and spilled her steaming soup on my gown. It soaked through, burning my chest. Hot, hot tears sprang to my eyes, burning worse than the soup, but I knew I shouldn’t cry even though the lump in my throat was a ring of thorns. Then Mama was dabbing my too-short gown, her face looking ragged and exhausted even through my blurry eyes.
As she helped me into a new gown, the selfish part of my mind remained a pool of self-pity, moping that the nurses had forgotten me and Mama had left me. But the other part, the keener, everlasting part, realized something as her warm arms surrounded me. Mamas never leave you, not truly.
I smiled, and the thorny lump felt smaller.