My roommates in the course of several hospital stays deserve to have their stories, or at least part of them, in print.
I still don’t know whether to laugh or cry at Buddy’s tale. A seemingly bright young man of 43, he had spent 23 years behind bars in California and Nevada prisons for non-violent crimes. After serving his latest sentence, he was being treated for a bad back in a Stockton hospital as prison hospitals are no longer available to him.
Buddy disclosed that he had earned the nickname “Copper Wire Kid,” after his penchant for locating building sites and dragging off pricey rolls of copper wire. Sometimes, he used “Google Maps” to locate building sites. He was on a roll, no pun intended, with successful strikes at several building sites. But ill fortune caught up to Buddy. In attempting to pull a too-large roll of wire through a too-small fence opening, he wrenched his back, but was fortunate to escape a guard and guard dog. Whew.
All was not lost. Buddy applied for, and received Workman’s Compensation for being injured on the job.
Now out of prison, he swore to finally go straight. He learned the art of welding in prison and hoped that would be his future. Still, he confided that after much experimentation, he learned to manufacture methamphetamine (meth).
Well, which came first? Chicken or egg? Welding or meth?
I think of another roommate, Wild Bill, unkempt wild hair flowing to his shoulders and a temper that was short to mean to nurses and janitors.
• • •
Wild Bill into firearms
Wild Bill boasted of subscribing to 15 gun and rifle magazines. He also revealed that he owned 11 rifles and had just purchased 2,000 rounds of ammunition, on sale. Why? Were the Russians marching down from Lodi, I asked? With all of that weaponry Wild Bill owned no clothing of his own and was forced to wear a hospital gown, even to therapy. Why not sell just one rifle and use the money to buy trousers, shirt and shoes?
Never! Never! Never! he cried.
“Why do you need 11 rifles and 2,000 rounds of ammunition,” I asked? For hunting, he answered.
“Hunting? You mean going into the woods and killing innocent animals?”
“We help thin the herds. Besides, who do you think is the biggest re-stocker of wild game?”
With that we exchanged few words for the rest of my stay. I did on two occasions summon help for Wild Bill when he experienced severe coughing attacks during the night. Yet at my departure, he rendered this epithet: “Get thee gone, Satan.”
I worried not about Wild Bill’s future. During his stay, two young men arrived, offering a warm greeting to Wild Bill.”Who are you, Wild Bill asked?
“We’re your nephews, your brother Ernie’s sons.”
“Ernie? He’s dead.”
“Never mind. We’re here to take care of you. You’re family.”
• • •
A true SF Giants fan
Wilson Wing was my favorite.
He is America. He is also a San Francisco Giant fanatic.
Mr. Wing is about 90, maybe a little older his family said. Suffering from a second stroke, he was in and out of consciousness, The stroke hit the right side of his brain, which left him coherent at times, drifting in and out of wakefulness at others. His wife died two years ago.
He refused to wear a hospital gown, insisting on wearing his Giants T-shirt that more than covered the top of his diaper
According to his family, Mr. Wing traces his ancestry to Gold Rush and Transcontinental Railway days. Failing to strike gold, they turned to the mercantile life, selling cooked rice by the ladle to railroad workers, charging a penny or two, more if they found vegetables to toss into the pot. Their pennies became dollars and soon, sandwiches priced 25 to 50 cents were added to the daily fare. Working seven days a week, they accumulated enough capital to open a small grocery, that in a few years became a small supermarket.
While the family didn’t acquire real wealth, its prosperity enabled sons and daughters to attend college. Mr. Wing’s daughter was a lawyer and an almost daily visitor. His son, an investment banker, earned a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, bringing his father to financial comfort and Giant fanaticism.
He has always been that way, his daughter said.
First came weekend outings to the ballpark. Then a trip to Arizona for spring training. Then, with his buddy fanatic, Morgan Han, partial season’s tickets, with seats behind the Giants dugout.
After countless seasons of disappointment, came the glory years of three World Series championships. Now, he felt he could die with a special place in heaven awaiting for Giant fanatics.
Twice, during the middle of the night, I heard a sleeping Mr. Wing muttering the names of Giant greats. . .”Alvin, Barry, Juan, Vida, Will, Willie, Orlando. . .”
It made no difference when I told him I had seen the old Giants play in New York’s Polo Grounds. “Hmmph,” he dismissed me.
It came to pass that on one Sunday we had a collision. The Giants and the hated Dodgers were playing while the 49ers were playing the hated Seahawks at the same time.
I never miss a 49er game even for the Giants and Dodgers. Even with Mr. Wing in Giants t-shirt and hat. But, I had control of our single television.
With Mr. Wing’s daughter and son visiting, I heard muffled entreaties to switch the channel. I pulled my covers to my ears.
“Please, Mr. Bookman, you wouldn’t ignore the request of a dying man, would you,” I heard his lawyer/daughter ask?
How could I?