We were just about at the end of our 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. shift when the tones dropped for an assault at an adult video store next to one of the truck stops by the interstate. We all chuckled when the engine driver said he knew right where that was. “It’s not what you’re thinking,” he defended, “I had a call there before.” We continued to smirk. “Oh, whatever” he said while climbing into the cab, shaking his head.
Due to the heavy construction near the interchange, we had to weave in and out of traffic to get there, which gave us a little time to evaluate the future of retail pornography in the age of Internet porn. After all, what kind of person would take the time and effort to go rent a skin flick when there’s limitless booty, I mean bounty, a click away. Well, we found out about one such person—Smigel.
Dispatch informed us there was still a fight in progress by saying, “scene not secure.” However, when we arrived, the guy who appeared most likely to be our patient was standing in the parking lot, hands outstretched, bleeding from the right palm. The fight was clearly over, and the perpetrators weren’t at hand.
This fellow turned out to be 40, but looked not a day shy of 60. Like the saying goes, it’s not the age, it’s the mileage. And this guy had racked up way more than 200,000.
“I didn’t do nothin’,” he said.
“We’re not the cops,” I said. “We only care about your injuries.”
“I was just renting a porno, and four of them beat me up,” he explained more than once.
My partner came around the side of the rig with a towel and a couple of bottles of sterile saline under her arm. While I was trying to get some more information from our patient, she was washing his hands with the water and towel. He was wet, covered head to toe in mud and had abrasions and small lacerations to his face where he had clearly taken a beating. He had a one-inch laceration to his right palm that was still bleeding. Heather applied pressure and then wrapped it up with four by fours and cling.
By then, the cops showed up.
“Do you have any ID?”
“No, I don’t, I’m whatchacall a hobo, but I prefer to be a gypsy.”
“Where you from?”
“Where’s your stuff?”
“In my pockets.”
“That’s all you’ve got? How do you live?”
“I told you, I’m a gypsy.”
The police patted him down, and it was true—no wallet, no ID. He had a tiny portable radio, headphones around his neck, cigarettes and a lighter, and the largest permanent marker I’ve ever seen. I never did discover its purpose.
After the police had finished getting what they needed from him, we walked him to the ambulance. I covered the jump seat with a bath blanket to try to keep some of the mud off and called a report to the hospital.
“I like to drink, but I wasn’t doin’ nothing,” he kept telling me as I was trying to pry as much information as I could out of him for the mandatory fields in my ePCR.
“Call me Smigel,” he said. Alrightythen.
“I’m from Israel,” he said in his whiskey-soaked Kentucky drawl.
“What part of Israel are you from?” I asked him in Hebrew.
“Huh?” he looked up, startled.
“You said you were from Israel. I asked you in Hebrew what part of Israel you are from,” I said.
“Ancient Israel. From the line of King David and Solomon, way back to Seth. I can read Hebrew perfect, just can’t speak it. You come to Egypt with me, and I can read those pyramids just like that,” he said, eyes now shining, and snapped his fingers.
“Are you an Israelite?” he asked.
“Well, kind of.”
“From what tribe?”
“I’ve got a womb inside of me. I’m half man and half woman,” he told me, relaxing back against the seat, legs crossed, hands crossed over his knee, like a professor chatting with a student during office hours.
“Do you read fantasy?” He asked. “Do you play chess? Do you know the Tarot cards?”
“It must be really tough, being a hobo—”
“Gypsy!” he corrected me.
“Right, being a gypsy with no ID and no belongings.”
“That’s the way I am. I’m dirty though. Tried to get a shower at the Salvation Army, but they require an ID. I was struck three times by lightning, from heaven,” he told me, gesturing with his right hand, raising it up and slashing it down to the top of his head three times. “I absorbed it.”
We continued chatting in this way until we arrived at the hospital. While we were waiting for my partner to get a wheelchair, he continued his interview.
“Are you a reader?” he asked.
“Why, yes I am,” I replied.
“What are you reading now?”
“The first volume of Shelby Foote’s Civil War.”
“How far’d you get?”
“I’m up to the battle for Corinth.”
“Corinth?” he asked, puzzled.
“Right, it was above Corinth, Shiloh.”
“Shiloh” he repeated, nodding, now satisfied with my answer.
We got him through triage and registration and wheeled him back to room 52. He got up and sat in a chair, crossed his legs and crossed his hands over his knee.
“You play chess?” he asked again.
“Yes, but I’m not very good.”
“You wanna play?” he asked.
“Not tonight,” I answered.
I gave report to the nurse, assured her she was in for an interesting experience, shook Smigel’s hand and wished him luck. He winked at me, smiled through the dried blood and said, “We’ll play chess next time.”