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Knitting Fiction

The Painter

Published on: August 27, 2023

Anna stops rocking. Holding perfectly still, she listens. A woman’s voice, calling her name. Calling, “Anna, Anna.” She can’t understand what the voice is saying. It’s not clear to her. At first she thinks the voice is saying, “We’ve come to check on you. Jane asked us to check on you.” But on second thought Anna hears, “We’re coming to get you.” 

     She rises from the stool, runs across wet tile to the bathroom door. She closes the door and locks it. Backing up. Running backwards. Her legs hit the tub and she falls backward. Her feet lift off the floor, arms flailing, it’s her head that takes the brunt of a hard landing. The back of her head hits the soap dish and slides down. She’s landed sideways in the tub, head against the back wall, legs hanging over the rim. Her hazed mind cannot keep up. But her hands can. They reflexively reach up to feel the back of her head and then show her what they have found. When Anna sees her cupped hands filled with blood she screams. 

     “Anna, Anna. Are you alright?” It’s the woman’s voice again.

     Anna grabs the rim of the tub with bloody hands, pulls herself forward and out of the tub as the voice continues. Now it’s closer. Just on the other side of the door.

     “Anna open the door, and let us in. It’s okay. We’re the police. I’m officer Grass. Your friend Jane has sent us to check on you.”

     Holding on to the tub’s rim with one hand and the toilet rim with the other, Anna manages to get to her feet. No sooner is she outside the tub than her feet slide out and she falls again, exhaling loud when she lands.

     “I don’t like the sounds of this.” It’s a man’s voice now. “Anna, this is Officer Strat, if you don’t open the door we will be forced to knock it down. We need to make sure you are okay,” 

     Anna hears his words. They are far away and have nothing to do with her, because she is leaving the room. She drifts up to the ceiling, and hovering there in the corner, she sees blood on the bathroom floor. She drifts further. Although still in the bathroom, she is somehow above its ceiling. She begins writing a list of the steps that will be needed to clean up the bloody mess on the floor. I’ve come unmoored, she says to herself.    

     Two explosions. Anna hears, BAM! Then BAM again. The first, when Strat’s boot hits the door. The second, when the flying door hits the bathroom wall. Officer Strat’s narrow frame is centered in the doorway, behind him and to the side is the woman, Officer Grass. What kind of name is Grass anyway? The uniformed presence of the police officers anchor the bathroom. They form the mooring rope between the bathroom and the earth. That’s because the bathroom has begun to float up and away along with Anna. They stand on the periphery, quiet now, and unmoving. What is a mooring rope called again? Ah, yes, it’s a painter. Her dark painter stands just outside the bathroom door. Her perspective changes and floats to another angle. Now she can see the room from the perspective of her painter. Red, red blood pulsating life. The white of the floor, and walls, and shower curtain, fixtures, towels, and even the white of the bath-robed woman on the floor—all the white is invisible. It’s the red of Anna’s pulsating blood that fills their senses. The bathroom only serves as the backdrop for blood. The serving dish. The platter. 

     Anna re-pushes the pause button. Strat steps into the room. He holds out his left arm to stop his partner's entrance, and quickly scans the room, his eyes catching momentarily on the lipsticked-red note taped to the mirror. “Okay.” He says.

     Officer Grass, breathing hard, rushes past him. “She’s slit her wrists.” Her whisper is hoarse and loud. Already gloved, she grabs a towel on the way in, kneels down and begins to wipe blood off Anna’s hands and arms. “You are going to be alright,” she says. “Everything is going to be alright.” 

     The painter tightens and Anna is pulled back through the ceiling and into the bathroom. Still watching from above, she sees Strat calling for an ambulance. Then he kneels down beside Grass. “No, the blood is coming from the back of her head,” he says. “Let’s turn her on her side. I’ll support her head and shoulders.”

     “Oh geez, you’re right. Okay, I’m ready.”

    Strat reaches his arms under Anna’s head and shoulders. The smaller Grass, must lean in close to be able to reach her arms under Anna’s hips and thighs. “One, two, three,” Strat says. Together they pull Anna towards them and roll her onto her side, facing away from them. Her short hair on the back of her head is matted with wet blood, revealing an open gash that runs from the base of her neck and up to the top of her head. 

     “Grab me a towel!” Strat says. He places one hand on the front of her forehead and with the other presses the towel into the gash. 

     “Anna. Anna. Can you hear me?” Grass says as she checks Anna’s carotid pulse. “Her pulse is strong and steady. But I think she is unconscious. There’s a lot of blood, but it might be the head injury that has knocked her out.” 

    “I agree. . . . Unless there is something else we do not know.” He looks over to the note taped onto the mirror. “Maybe she has overdosed or something. I’ve got her. Would you go over and grab that note. Let’s see what it says.”

     Grass stands and starts toward the mirror. 

     “Be careful not to slip on the blood,” Strat says. “Oh and be careful when you handle it. I have a gut feeling that this is not as simple as it seems.”

     “Funny you should say that. I have been having that same thought.” She carefully removes the note, only touching its corners. “I can hear the ambulance coming,” she says to Strat. Then opens the note and, reading it, says, “Oh shit.” 

     Strat yells toward the open bathroom door. “We’re up here. Come straight up the stairs. We’re in the bathroom on the right.” 

     A moment later two paramedics arrive. “What do we have here?” 

     Strat says, “She fell and gashed the back of her head. Then got up and fell again.” She seems to be unconscious.”

     “No back or neck injuries? No broken bones?” 

     “I don’t think so. I think the problem is the head wound and maybe a concussion. Her name is Anna.”

     “Let’s pull her away from the tub to give us more room,” a paramedic says. 

     Anna still watching from above, can feel the painter growing taut—it’s rigid— stressed, but holding. They begin to work, each saying out loud the tasks he is performing. 

    “Pulse is strong and steady. Anna, Anna can you hear me?”

     “Looks like a clean, straight scalp wound. Yes, it missed the cervical spine. Just missed it.”

     “Eighty over forty.”

     “Shaving the back of her head.”

     “Pupils are equal and reactive to light.”

     “Beginning suturing.” 

     “Starting a line. Left anticubital fossa, 1.1. Got it. Patent. Ringers. One twenty a minute.

      “Okay. She’s stabilized. We’re ready for the stretcher.”

     “Would one of you officers call down and tell them we need a stretcher?”

     “One of you want to fill us in about what happened here?”

     The two policemen had backed up against the mirror, out of the way. Grass held the note open for Strat to read. 

     “What is it? What does it say? Is it a suicide note? Has she overdosed?” Both paramedics look toward Strat, waiting for an answer.  

     “She was given MDA by some psychedelic guide.” Strat says. 

     The paramedics talk to each other as they roll Anna to her back, and prepare her for transit. 

     “Ya, maybe it’s MDA. Maybe not.”

     “Shit, who knows what she has rolling around in her veins. In her heart. In her brain.”

    “We’ve had two overdoses with drugs laced with fentanyl in a fortnight.”

     “No, make that three. One was just admitted to Humana’s ED a couple hours ago. A buddy of mine works there. It was laced in LSD.”

      “The note was written yesterday,” Grass says.

     “Okay, good. It’s probably not fentanyl then,” the paramedic says.

     Anna is still watching from the ceiling as the police officers step out of the room and two more paramedics bring in a stretcher. She wonders, Am I supposed to stay up here in the ceiling or go along with them? The painter is no longer still. It has begun to move. It has begun to pull Anna down from the ceiling. I’m supposed to go with them.

     “One hundred over sixty.”

     “She’s perking up.”

     “Anna, we’re going to move you,” the paramedic says as he crosses her arms over her chest. 

     “Hey, she’s opened her eyes.”

     “Anna, can you hear me? You are going to be okay. We are moving you onto a stretcher. You are on your way to the Emergency Department,” a paramedic says. 

     “She’s saying something,” a paramedic, leans down with his ear down to her mouth. "She's saying something about painters."

They are carrying the litter past the uniformed police officers. Anna a hand to them as she passes.

"She's trying to say something." Strat says, holding up his hand for them to stop. He leans down close to better hear her. “No Anna, we are not the painters," He says.

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