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1-The MOON & Stars!

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Moon Madness - 4, Copyrightę 2001-2006 By
Larry K. Hockman, "All RIGHTS RESERVED"

Angel Of Mercy

Vince awakened, somewhat groggy, as if from a long dream in another time and place. There was an IV in his left arm, and his left leg, securely bound in a bulky plaster cast, was suspended from the ceiling by a length of braided nylon cord. His breathing was slightly hampered by a tight, stretch bandage starting at his armpits and running down to his waist. A large patch of gauze covered his calf and his bare right foot was perched on a double pillow. Moon slept awkwardly astride his right thigh, looking no less the worse for wear himself. Bare skin peeked out from the dressing covering most of his rear and right leg. The ominous ends of a heavy steel wire shone brightly from its exit near Moon's foot and the far side of his backbone.

Vince reached down to scratch his ears and wake him up, but his companion did not stir. The slight movement caused a piercing pain in his side. He slumped back to the pillow and drifted back into a sedated daze.

A rather plump lady in starched white nurse's attire was busy changing a glucose bottle when Vince became fully conscious. Moon had not moved a muscle. Alarmed, he confronted the nurse with, "Excuse me, Miss, but what's the matter with my cat?" She jumped, startled at the break in silence, and replied with a pronounced English accent, "Lordy, Mr. Casey. You'll cause a lass to take leave of her bloody senses, sneakin' up on her like that!" Chuckling, Vince said, "From my position, it seems that you more or less sneaked up on me." He repeated the question, "What's wrong with Moon?"

The nurse, eyeballing Moon suspiciously, informed him, "You talkin' 'bout that bloody feline laid up on yer leg there, are you, Sir?" Vince nodded politely. She continued, "The doctor had to sedate 'im. We couldn't keep the bloody creature offa yer bloody busted ribs, we couldn't! Every time we put the wretched creature on the floor, the bloody thing would squall and jump 'isself right back up there, 'e would, like that was where 'e was 'sposed to be. How it done that with only one good back leg 'isself is beyond my worldly wits, it is. 'Tisn't natural, I tell you. An overgrown, ferocious-looking feline such as yers might've been spawned straight from the bloody devil 'imself, I say. I wouldn't trust 'im, no sir. It 'ad that peculiar, evil stare in 'is eyes, like 'e was aimin' to suck the breath right outta yer bloody body, 'e was. The doctor said 'e was either gonna hurt 'isself more than he already was, or 'e was gonna hurt you, 'e was, so 'e stuck 'im where 'is long tail used to be, 'e did. Lord only knows where or how 'e managed to git shed of part of 'is rear like that! 'Tisn't natural, I'm tellin' you. I stayed up the whole night, I did, just watchin' the three of you."

Vince had managed to decipher the explanation as the nurse rambled on about Moon's questionable origin and intentions; however, the part about watching the "three" of them aroused his curiosity. Not particularly wanting to get the nurse started again, he asked anyway, "Who else was here all night?" She looked over her broad shoulder with a raised eyebrow, searching his face for sincerity and finally spoke, "My, my Mr. Casey. You really did get a nasty bump on the head, you did. You don't remember anything, you don't. Dr. Fontain was who called us out here last night. We understood that you was expectin' the doctor to be here." Vince recalled yesterday's phone call and replied, "Yes, I did." She went on, "You got lucky, you did. The doctor brought you in from the woods and kept you from freezin' or bleedin' till yer death! If the doctor hadn't been here, neither would you, either dead or alive, you wouldn't!" Wishing to express his gratitude, Vince inquired, "Where is the doctor now? I would very much like to thank him for saving my life and getting Moon patched up as well."

The round-faced woman appeared utterly shocked at the simple request. She studied him carefully, shaking her head as if in serious doubt before stating, "You're a strange one, you are, almost as strange as the doctor. That bout with the rock musta rattled your belfry right smartly, it did. You and the doctor would make a handsome couple, you would, but I can't say as how the children might fare, what with their mum draggin' in busted-up men, crippled creatures of the devil's makin's and even bloody dead swine! 'Tisn't becomin' of a pretty lass such as herself, no sir, and 'tisn't proper either for her to stay all night with the likes of you if you don't intend to ever wed the poor lass. It would be justly befittin' to her honor if you was to include some careful words of apology for callin' her a "him" when you thank the lass for savin' yer bloody life, she did!"

Amazed that the "doctor" turned out to be female, Vince suppressed another chuckle over the nurse's incessant observations and asked the simple, direct question, "Where is Dr. Fontain?" The garrulous nurse changed her tone and said rather sarcastically, "Mr. Casey, if you was to be kind enough to take your eyes offa me, and just look around, you might just spot the lass without my help. 'Tis a good thing for her that you got a busted leg 'cause the bloody likes of you might've trampled her before that bloody addled brain of yers ever knowed she was there!"

Despite the uncomfortable pain from the rib, Vince raised up enough to see over the edge of the fluffy pillows propping his head. He had kept a large sheepskin-covered chair with a small matching ottoman from his grandmother's mountain home after she passed away. It was warm and comfortable on cold winter nights. Situated in the corner between his small roll-top desk and the bathroom entrance, it provided a cozy spot for reading late at night with a convenient lamp situated within easy reach on the desk. He and Moon had often fallen asleep there while he read aloud Moon's many "fan" letters. Moon had claimed the ottoman as his personal spot to wait for Vince to exit the bathroom every morning before breakfast.

Gracing the fuzzy sheepskin now was, in Vince's opinion, a world-class beauty! She was snugly wrapped in the authentic Indian blanket he had purchased at a reservation in New Mexico, along with one of his favorite patchwork quilts sewn by his late grandmother. Long, wavy brunette hair with a slight hint of red, almost leaning to auburn, flowed silently past her high cheekbones bordering rosy cheeks flanked by a small button nose and full lips accented with light, peach-colored lipstick.

Vince felt truly honored to have been rescued by such an exquisitely beautiful specimen of the female gender. He wondered exactly how she had managed to get him to the cabin. He smiled, thinking that she could easily pass for Sleeping Beauty in any man's fairy tale. As an afterthought, he pondered on the question of who the lucky prince was in her life. He settled back on the bed with a different outlook on the new day and closed his eyes.

The pleasant stream of new thoughts was short-lived, being rudely interrupted by the harsh ring of the phone. Vince heard the nurse answer it and talk for several minutes, evidently taking down instructions from a doctor, by the scattered bits of the conversation he could discern.

Dr. Fontain had shifted her position slightly, revealing the silhouette of gracefully curved hips attached to a seemingly infinite set of legs!

Vince was still admiring the shapely scenery when the nurse suddenly appeared in the doorway behind, effectively destroying the serene moment with, "Mr. Casey! I'll kindly thank you not to be gawkin' at the pretty lass underneath the cover of her own slumber while I'm a guest in this 'ere household!" Not being used to having a bossy woman around scrutinizing his every action, Vince interjected, "Correction Miss, uninvited guest in my household." In the interest of his integrity, he quickly added, "Besides, I wasn't gawking. I was simply admiring. It's not often a man is blessed with the presence of such a beautiful angel of mercy! She's probably married anyway." The nurse retorted, "All the more reason for me to keep my eye on the likes of you, I will. A smart man would be tellin' the lass in question all those nice things when she's awake, mind you." Vince came back with, "Maybe I will if she ever wakes up." She informed him, "That's because the good doctor gave the lass a sedative to help her sleep. The poor lass was quite upset and exhausted from wrestling the likes o' you from the jaws of a freezin' death, she was, not mentioning her draggin' in that frightful bloody dead swine t' boot. She done more than you know, Sir, she did." Vince mumbled a remark about everyone sleeping except the true victim, and the nurse left the room.

Vince turned his head slowly toward the window to see the black boar gutted and hung neatly beside the large buck. He turned slowly back, elevating himself simultaneously to gaze once more at the stark beauty belying the remarkable woman inside. He felt a deep respect growing inside his heart for this extraordinary lady whose first name he didn't even know.

The thought of names reminded him that he didn't know the strange nurse's name, either. He called her to the bedroom and apologized for his previous behavior concerning her and Dr. Fontain, politely explaining his lack of contact with women during the previous years. She said she had not been offended and took it for granted that Vince was simply "out of practice", . . and any advice he needed in the future, she would gladly give. Her name was Elizabeth, but she told Vince that he could just call her Liz. She told him the doctor was on his way out to see him. Also, she would cook breakfast whenever everyone was awake and ready. Vince's initial opinion of Liz changed for the better after they understood one another.

Moon woke up a short time later, partially at least. For fifteen more minutes, he was somewhat disoriented and seemed disturbed over why his rear end didn't act normally. Vince held and stroked him to divert his attention from from the wire brace.

The rhythmic sound of clicking tire chains on the frozen driveway signaled the doctor's timely arrival. Liz showed him in and brought steaming mugs of hot coffee back to the bedroom. He examined Moon first, then Vince. Moon had regained control of his senses by that time and seemed content with the general situation after he hobbled around the room and figured out he could actually walk, though not to his unusually high standards. When the doctor was through with him, he curled up as best he could on the ottoman between Dr. Fontain's feet. She did not even flinch with Moon's intrusion. Jokingly, Vince teased, "I'm gonna have to change your name to Benedict!"

Dr. Allman instructed Vince to avoid any unnecessary movement for a couple of days to allow the fractured bone ends to properly fuse without shifting. Liz would stay overnight again to assist with meals and housework if necessary. He gave Vince a shot of antibiotics to help ward off infection, as well as a tetanus booster and a prescription for pain if he should need it. As a precaution, he gave Vince a tube of antibiotic ointment to use on the stitches in his forehead and on Moon's flank wound. He said Moon's bandage and brace could be removed after the swelling subsided from the stretched ligaments in his hip.

Before leaving, Dr. Allman woke Dr. Fontain, checking her vital signs and reflexes. Satisfied with his findings on all of his new patients, he complimented them on their overall physical fitness, stating it was rare to be in such superb shape given the escalated stress and problems associated with this day and time.

Dr. Fontain politely volunteered to stay in Liz's place if Vince had no objections. Naturally, Vince had none whatsoever, adding that the stay would give her a chance to observe Moon, and save the busy doctor an extra trip out on the icy roadways simply to pick up Liz. They all agreed. Dr. Allman stated that they missed a real treat by skipping one of Liz's famous breakfasts. The comment made her blush, and it was evident that she was quite fond of the senior physician and his gentle, complimentary nature.

Dr. Allman loaned Vince a pair of aluminum, adjustable crutches, complete with insertable ice cleats for traversing snowbound driveways or sidewalks, sternly cautioning him of their inherent dangers and limitations. Vince thanked the pair again, and they headed outside to the doctor's jeep.

Dr. Fontain had followed the pair out, so Vince made a break for the bathroom and the terry-cloth robe that usually hung on a peg behind the door. Clad only in his underwear, the cabin air was overly cool compared to the warm bed. He relieved himself and reached for his robe, only to discover that it wasn't there. Only then, he remembered dropping it by the fireplace as he dressed for the previous day's hunt.

Leaning on the crutches, Vince peeked out the door. He was in luck. Dr. Fontain was either outside or in the front somewhere. Opening the door wide, he guided the cumbersome crutches through and reached to extinguish the light. The slight delay brought him face to face with his guest emerging from the hallway. The surprise was mutual. Catching her breath sharply, she exclaimed, "Oops! Bad timing, Anna," as if scolding herself for the awkward situation. Vince simultaneously said, "Damn! Caught in the crossfire," in a sheepish tone. Moon observed uncaring from the ottoman as Anna covered her eyes while executing a brisk U-turn and Vince propped the crutches on the nightstand and slid back into bed. During the brief moment of confusion, Vince caught the unmistakable flash of a wedding ring on her slender left hand.

From around the corner, a timid voice apologetically asked, "Mr. Casey, is it safe now?" Vince chuckled and said, "Vince, please Anna. It is Anna, I presume?" with the ice of awkwardness effectively shattered, she stepped back in smiling, politely curtsied, and playfully said, "Anna Marie Fontain, humbly at your service, Sir Vince." They both started laughing. She continued with, "I'm really sorry, Vince. I didn't mean to just barge in like that. Since the morning is almost gone, I came to ask if you wanted breakfast or would rather have an early lunch." Vince, in his usual calm manner, replied, "Actually Anna, I'm sorry. I thought my robe was hanging in the bathroom, but remembered it was by the fireplace after I didn't find it. I did not mean to startle you." Anna informed him, "All points considered, you were more startled than I. After all, who do you think cut off your pants last night?" Vince raised an eyebrow, but before he could answer, she asked, "How about a sandwich brunch?" Still pondering her previous statement, he answered weakly, "That'll work just fine." He quickly added, "Hold the bread on Moon's." At the mention of his name, Moon yawned and stretched. Anna told him, "Come on Moon, you can supervise." He trotted off behind her with an odd gait caused by the brace. Moon seemed to share Vince's growing fondness for their lady visitor. The wedding band disturbed him deeply. He would have to restrain himself for his own good.

Anna returned shortly with a platter of sandwiches, iced tea and chips. Moon had opted to curl up by the crackling fire Anna had rekindled to knock out the creeping chill. She and Vince chatted between bites, Anna relating the story of how Moon had found her in the driveway and brought her attention to the keys attached to his collar.

Anna had let herself in and called the hospital, requesting an emergency helicopter, but the freak snowstorm had grounded them. Every ambulance in the city was tied up at several major auto accidents caused by the limited visibility. Almost in a panic, she had found Dr. Allman's number in Vince's personal directory and called him. He told her he could get there within a half hour and to follow Moon back to Vince. She had then tied a rope to the shiny new sled she had gotten Danny for Christmas, hidden in the back of the rented Bronco. She quickly loaded it with blankets from Vince's closet and armed only with a flashlight, set out behind the lead of Moon.

When Anna first arrived on the grisly scene, it looked as though Vince was already dead. He had been face down in the bloody snow with an inch of new snow covering his body. After quickly lashing a small sapling beside the broken leg to immobilize it, she rolled Vince onto the sled and tied him to it after covering him with the blankets.

Anna had managed to drag the sled over the rocks to the bottom edge of the basin but could not pull it up the grade. She tried it from the top to no avail, either. Half exhausted and frustrated, she told herself she would go for help when she caught her breath. With the long rope wrapped securely around her arm, she had leaned against an oak tree, slipped on the ice-covered bark and fell backwards off the basin edge. The rope had checked her fall and at the same time, her weight alone had pulled the sled halfway up! Realizing the mechanical advantage of her weight combined with the pulling power of her legs and the pulley effect of the tree, she leaned into the rope and pulled down the steepest part of the slope. The heavy sled went right to the top! She had no problem towing him the rest of the short distance home.

Dr. Allman and Liz took over at the cabin, highly commending her heroic efforts. He said in another hour, Vince would have died. Anna had warmed up and rested, then returned for the boar, which she gutted and hauled out using the same, newly-discovered technique. With Vince's truck, parked in the back near the tree, she hoisted the pig up next to the buck, just as he had.

The final major event of the night took place after the doctor had set the bone and finished the cast. Vince's blood pressure had dropped to a dangerously low level. Dr. Allman had plasma on hand to help the volume, but at least a pint of whole blood would be necessary to insure that he did not slip into a coma. Vince was in the A+ blood group. Miraculously, Anna was too. Dr. Allman performed a transfusion directly between Vince and Anna before proceeding to stitch up Vince's calf. The doctor had given her a mild sedative afterward, and she had slept until he awakened her this morning.

Anna's precise account of the ordeal totally captivated Vince. Enthralled, he sat silent for a full minute after she had finished, analyzing each aspect of the events. Eventually, he blurted out, "That's why you slept so long! I thought you were just getting your beauty sleep, like you really need any! Anna, I don't know what to say. I owe you my life. How can I ever repay you?" Gazing out the window beyond him with a strange, distant look in her eye, Anna softly said, "You have already, Vince." Taken aback, Vince replied, "I don't think I understand." Returning her eyes to contact his, she told him, "I'm not sure I do either, but should there ever be a right time, perhaps I'll try to explain."

Vince sensed a wonderful peace in her words like something of which she was unaccustomed to had touched a long forgotten part of her very soul. He extended his offer further with the question, "Is there anything I can do to make your stay more pleasant? Anna's serious outlook switched back to the carefree mode, evoking a mischievous chuckle followed by, "Well, I'm a little sore from all of that exertion last night. A gentle body massage after a hot bath would be relaxing." Thinking of the wedding ring, Vince countered with, "That might be dangerous." Not fully comprehending Vince's answer, Anna changed the suggestion to something less physical and said, "You could save the foundation a week of hotel expenses by allowing me to stay with you and Moon through the Christmas holidays and give me a chance to observe Moon and get to know you better. I promise to take good care of you both." Vince laughed, extended his hand and stated, "Deal" Anna shook Vince's hand and a broad smile broke out across her lovely features. Vince could not help to notice the warm softness of her hand. She thanked him several times.

Vince and Anna discussed Moon's colorful background for a while before she expressed her need to return to Danny's grandparent's home to collect her luggage and explain her altered plans. She asked Vince to make a grocery list to cover the week and they could split the cost. Vince informed her of the "Big Buck Contest" and where he needed to have the deer weighed and registered. Anna told him she would take care of everything if he would draw her a simple map showing locations of the sporting goods store, the grocery, the packing house and a department store. She would be most appreciative. Vince said he would call the packing house and give them instructions on his choice of cuts and the sausage mix. His leg had begun to hurt after the bathroom encounter, so he added the pharmacy on the crude map. He would call them as well, to ensure there was no problem with Anna picking up the prescription.

Moon followed Anna outside to crank Vince's truck to let it warm before leaving. The extra snow dumped by the arctic storm had completely obliterated the evidence of last night's chain of events. Moon's belly skimmed the crown layer prompting him to move in short jumps rather than walking. Vince, watching Anna frolic with Moon in the crystal powder, exposed the last pictures on the film in his camera and added more to Anna's list. He found himself wishing he were going with her. She backed his truck beneath the frozen animals, lit a cigarette and lowered them into the bed. Scooping Moon from the cold snow with one arm between his legs, Anna grabbed a stick of split oak from the wood rack with the other and returned back inside.

Anna found Vince adding a carton of cigarettes to the list and seized the opportunity to playfully lay her cold hands on his bare chest. He gasped and deftly rolled her over his cast, lightly pinning her shoulders to the soft mattress through a chorus of innocent giggles.

Anna's sparkling green eyes seemed to beckon him closer, but he resisted the powerful urge he felt to kiss her and momentarily studied her expression for some small clue to indicate her intentions before relaxing his loose grip. Though her beauty intoxicated his senses, he broke the spell by telling her that she would have to get going if she wanted to return before dark. Anna politely agreed and lit another cigarette, handing the remainder of the pack to Vince to tide him over until her return. She asked him if he liked seafood. Vince replied, "I love it." After a short pause, he added, "Anna, please be careful." She looked deep into his eyes as conflicting thoughts of caring and rejection wrestled within her mind concerning Vince's odd behavior. Perhaps he had been badly hurt by some woman earlier in his life. She would ask him tonight to protect her own feelings. Anna smiled and told Vince not to worry while she reached up and pushed his hair to one side of the bandage on his forehead, lightly dragging her nails across the stubble on his cheek as she slowly dropped her hand and turned to leave. Vince heard her tell Moon good-bye before the door latched. He watched her through the window until she turned and waved as if she had hoped he would be there. Vince smiled and waved back. In another instant she was out of sight around the corner of the cabin.


Author's Note: Feel free to copy/paste the text contained herein to build your personal copy of "MOON Madness". As this is COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL by ME, the ORIGINAL AUTHOR, please DO NOT copy for UNAUTHORIZED DISTRIBUTION in any form or fashion. "ALL RIGHTS RETAINED & RESERVED" by Larry K. Hockman! Please don't hesitate to E-Mail me for permission to use my works in the classroom, etc. ThanX for Visitin'! I hope you enjoyed the story and pass it on to your friends. LKH

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Copyrightę 2001-2006 By Larry K. Hockman, "All RIGHTS RESERVED"

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