09-04-2011, 11:19 PM
"United 483 now arriving at Gate 14A."
JD rose from his seat in the waiting area, his spirits high. United 483 was the incoming flight from New York his mother had taken. He checked his watch: ten-forty-five, right on schedule, he was pleased to note. He regretted the fact that neither Costa nor Criss could be with him to greet their mother, Dimitra, when she arrived, but Criss had his physical today and Costa said he was too busy. Well, he'd better not be too busy to take Mom home with him tonight, JD thought irritably, because that's where she's staying while she's here. Normally, Criss would have booked a suite for her at the Luxor, but since this was such short notice there was no time to make a reservation. Besides, Dimitra had always expressed a desire to see Costa's new home. At least it's bug-free, JD joked to himself.
The doors swung open, releasing a stream of passengers relieved to be free from the confining space of the plane. Among them was a petite, fashionably dressed, black-haired elderly woman towing a wheeled carryon bag. JD spotted her and waved. "Hey, Mom!" he called out. "Over here!"
Dimitra saw her eldest son and waved back. "JD!" she cried happily, sailing right into his arms. "So good to see you!"
JD hugged her back. "How was your trip?" he asked.
"Long," Dimitra replied wearily. "Long and tiring. I think I dozed off for a while there."
JD laughed. "Hey, a four-hour flight crossing three time zones--yeah, I'd find it tiring, too."
"So, where are your brothers?" Dimitra asked.
"Well, Criss is at the doctor--"
Dimitra suddenly became alarmed. "The doctor!? What's wrong with him?" she demanded. "Did he get hurt or something?"
"Take it easy, Ma," JD assured her. "Nothing's wrong--he's fine. He's just there for his annual physical, that's all."
"A physical?" The alarm faded. "Oh, well, all right then. That's good to know."
JD was not at all surprised at his mother's anxiety. Her youngest son had been in and out of emergency rooms and hospitals so many times during the course of his career that everyone had lost count. Neck injuries, puncture wounds, burns--it was a wonder Criss wasn't already six feet under, or at least crippled for life. It seemed to JD that his famous brother had more lives than a cat--how many he had left had yet to be determined.
"Costa couldn't make it because he said he was busy," JD continued, "but he's got a room waiting for you at his house."
"Too busy to say hello to his mother?" Dimitra said indignantly.
"Ma, you know he's not like that," JD spoke in his brother's defense. "You can see him tonight, okay?"
"Well, all right, then," Dimitra sniffed.
JD decided to change the subject. "So, how long are they going to fumigate the house?" he asked.
"Three weeks. Two weeks to fumigate, then another to clear the air. I had to take out all my clothes and store them with your Aunt Stella, and Minx, too; empty all the cupboards, and unplug all the appliances, including the refrigerator, so there won't be any sparks to cause a fire."
They approached the luggage carosel to claim Dimitra's baggage. "Geez, just for a bunch of little bitty ants?" JD said.
"They're everywhere! In the kitchen, in the bathroom, in all the bedrooms--all over the place! I have no idea how they got in, but they're huge! Big red ones, crawling all over the floors and walls. I found a few crawling all over me in bed two nights ago--that's when I called the exterminator. Hopefully, they'll be gone when I get back."
Dimitra's suitcase rolled into view. JD grabbed it and pulled it off the carosel. "Gassing them for two weeks? Yeah, they'd better be gone when you get back! How much is this gonna run, anyway?"
"Twelve hundred dollars."
JD was appalled. "Twelve hundred dollars to kill a bunch of ants?" He shook his head in disbelief. "For that kind of money, there'd better not be anything alive when you get back!"
"Well, at least I can spend time with my family while I'm here," Dimitra said. "That is, if none of them are too busy to spend time with me."
"You know we always make time for you, Ma," JD said. "You can watch Criss tape the show, and George's got a boxing match coming up this Friday, so you can go see him there."
"George is in a boxing match?"
"Yeah, he's been taking up boxing for over a year now," JD told her. "He's trying to qualify for this exhibition match at the Excalibur in a few weeks. He's been training like Rocky Balboa for it. We even got a few shots of him at the boxing gym he goes to."
Boxing. Well, that's nice, Dimitra thought. Boxing was a respectable sport; they even had it during the Olympics. And boxers wore padded gloves and helmets, and there were rules to follow, enforced by a referee, so there was no danger of serious injury. Compared to her son Christopher's dangerous demonstrations, George's pursuit of boxing was normal, wholesome and safe. Yes, she would enjoy watching her nephew fight in his match on Friday. It would be a welcome diversion compared to whatever life-threatening stunt her famous son had in mind for his series.
Back at Rose Memorial Medical Center, Criss had nothing in mind for his series, or for his cousin's upcoming bout, or for his mother's recent arrival, or for anything else at the moment except how to get through his physical with what little dignity he had left. After the humiliation of the "preliminary exam" at the latex-gloved hands of Dr. Melinda Shyne, he had been shuttled to the cardiac wing for the ordeal known as the "stress test". There, Criss trotted on a treadmill, stripped to his CKs (he thanked God he didn't have to wear another one of those half-assed hospital gowns again) while a medical assistant observed his vital signs on a computer monitor, picked up by sensor pads attached to his chest and a plastic respirator clamped between his jaws. I feel like a cyborg, Criss said to himself. How the hell long are they going to keep me running like this?
The medical assistant looked up from the monitor. "Are you doing okay, there, Criss?" she asked.
"Uhh-huhh," Criss grunted through the respirator.
"Let me know if you start feeling dizzy or nauseous or anything."
Criss nodded as best he could with the respirator strapped to his head. He wasn't dizzy or nauseous, he was just plain fed up with the whole business and wanted to get out of there. After this was over, he still had to go to the lab to give samples of his urine, blood and whatever other bodily fluid they asked for, another indignity to suffer at Rose Memorial. God, get me through this day, he prayed fervently.
"All right," the medical assistant said. "You can stop now."
Criss stopped running. The assistant removed the sensors from his chest and released him from the respirator. He rubbed his aching jaws as he dismounted from the treadmill. "How'd I do?" he asked.
"Very well," the assistant replied. "BP, 110 over 70. Respiration, 60. Heartbeat, 30. You're still going strong. I've seen men your age almost pass out on the treadmill in half the time. Keep up the good work."
Criss grunted, "Thanks."
"Now you just need to go to the lab for your tests," the assistant reminded him, "and you're all set. Have a good day!"
"Yeah, same to you," Criss mumbled as he pulled on his clothes. Only one more ordeal to go, he told himself, and he was free for another year. He stumbled to the lab area, pausing at a drinking fountain to refresh his mouth and tongue, dried out from the plastic respirator. When he arrived at the lab reception area, he was surprised to see his friend, Sully Erna, sitting in the waiting area, his right hand wrapped in gauze.
"Hey, Sully," Criss called out. "What's up, dude?"
Sully looked up, himself surprised. "Hey, Criss! How's it goin'?" He sheepishly held up his bandaged hand. "Sorry, man, but as you can see..."
Criss sat down beside him, staring at the gauze bindings. "Yeah, like, what the hell happened, man?"
"Beer bottle broke," Sully explained. "Cut my hand open like a mother(bleeper). Came here to get the results of my blood tests, see if there's any infection or something."
"Gee, that's too bad."
"Me? Oh, just the annual checkup," Criss replied airily. "Gotta check my fluids, you know. It's part of my contract with the Luxor--they want to protect their investment, namely me. I just came out of a stress test, and before that, well..."
"What'd they do?"
"Let's just say there's not a part of me that hasn't been poked, prodded, and probed, inside and out," Criss told him.
"Even up your--"
Sully laughed sympathetically. "Hey, dude, I've been there before. Was it a male doctor who, you know..."
"Female," Criss replied. "Dr. Melinda Shyne. Nice lady, good doctor."
"Well, you're lucky," Sully said. "I had some fifty-year-old guy with stubby fingers go prospecting up my ass. Swore I'd never go through that again."
Criss nodded. "Well, like I said, it's part of my contract." He leaned back casually in his seat. "So, what's new with you?" he asked.
"Besides the hand, not much," Sully replied. "Say, did you hear about that Vegas Flasher? The (bleeper) going around opening his trenchcoat to little old ladies around here?"
"I read about him in the Sunday paper yesterday," Criss said. "His last victim was a fifteen-year-old girl with her grandma. That's gonna lead to some serious jail time, exposing himself to a minor. Hope they find him soon."
"Why? He ain't hurtin' nobody."
"You may not think so, but if he's targeting little old ladies, he's probably gonna trigger a heart attack in one of them someday. And if he's going after minors, then he's a child molester--and you know how I feel about child molesters."
"You and me both, pal."
"Before, he was a nuisance," Criss continued. "Now, he's a threat. I'm sure the police will find him soon."
Sully began to laugh. "I keep thinking of Uncle Shermie," he said.
"Who's Uncle Shermie?"
"Oh, he was this character on a switchplate in my first apartment," Sully explained. "My roommate called him Uncle Shermie for some reason--don't think he was a relative or anything. Anyway, it was this cartoon of a flasher printed on a switchplate screwed onto a lightswitch. There was a hole around the groin area where the lightswitch went, so it looked like he--"
Criss held up his hand. "Don't go there!" he said, repelled.
"Anyway, it was pretty funny," Sully said.
A lab technician came into the waiting area. "Mr. Erna?" he called out.
"Gotta go," Sully said. "Catch you later."
Criss waved goodbye. "Later."
He sat back in his chair, emptying his head of all thought save one: it would all be over soon, and he could get his life back to normal again. A few more tests, and he was free. Just hang in there, pal, just hang in there. Forget the Vegas Flasher, Uncle Shermie and all that nonsense. Just hang in there, and it will be all over.