Fiction Drama

“Frank, be careful not to overuse or overextend your right arm for the next several weeks or you might refracture the navicular bones and humerus, or even worse, disturb the anchoring screws I put in “, Dr. Pullman cautioned with a glance in his direction, as he busied himself in signing Frank’s discharge form from St. Luke Presbyterian Hospital. He had been admitted nearly eight months ago and had undergone both extensive psychological and physical rehabilitation. 

Frank merely scowled as he now busied himself in dressing for his final departure from this establishment and simply waved his right hand up in silent acknowledgment of his physician's warning. At nearly six feet and three inches tall and some 250 lbs, Frank was a very large man and experienced some difficulty in dressing himself. His tight faded blue jeans and muscle shirt posed a unique problem as he only had one good arm to work with. However, at 38 years old, he was still nimble enough to overcome this shortcoming, and did so, with only minimal difficulty. 

 Frank felt the warmth of the blood in his right hand and wrist as it pulsed through his wrist's reconstructed area; transforming this maze of once crushed bone and muscle, back into a viable living component. There was some residual numbness in his fingertips, as was expected, but overall, Frank was happy that he now had full use of his right arm and hand and that the rest of his broken bones healed remarkably well. 

Although he had become accustomed to it, “Frank” was the name that St. Luke assigned to him from a piece of paper they found in his bloody blue jeans upon his arrival there. He could not assume ownership of this name or any name for that matter; as he had no recollection of the events which led up to his placement into this medical facility. 

While he struggled to recover from his multiple injuries, which included a fractured neck, lacerated spleen, heart contusion, fractured hip, and left femur; a team of psychologists tried to pry open the floodgates to his subconscious which like a faltering Kindle, had inadvertently gone “into reset mode”. At present, he had no known identity, no history or any family to speak of. He was a certified " John Doe '' and now struggled daily to recover his identity; as well as, the fabric and foundation of his life.

 Painstakingly, and after several months of psychological therapy, and reconditioning, Frank was able to recall and retrieve several mental images of “Salty”, a strong and very muscular German Shepard from the recesses of his mind. Although this breakthrough was mostly composed of scattered fragments, he knew that he must have had at least some familiarity with this creature. 

As luck would have it, he was now heading just outside the city limits and to Tucson’s South Animal Shelter where he would be, for the first time, reacquainted with this dog. Frank did not know what to expect from this encounter but was fully aware that it was important to have this meeting if for no other reason, to obtain closure.  

St. Luke’s Presbyterian Hospital was a short two-mile drive from Tucson’s South Animal Shelter where Salty had been confined and cared for by this facility's caring staff. As he drove there, his both hands shook a little against his bicycle's handlebars and he had some difficulty holding onto it since he had no feelings in the fingertips of his right hand. Although Dr. Pullman promised that full sensory perception would, one day return, the nerves in Frank’s right wrist were still not there yet, and the absence thereof was now playing tricks with his mind. Frequently, his eyes double-checked his right hand to make sure it was still holding onto the right handlebar. He had rented this bicycle from a local dealer upon learning of his imminent release from this medical establishment. His heart rate subsided considerably as a result of his reassurance, and he once again diverted his attention to his bicycle's position on this single lane road. 

Salty looked exactly as Frank’s mind had depicted him. As Frank watched his handlers prepare this dog for this visit, he could see the overwhelming excitement in this creature’s mannerisms. He watched as this massive dog pulled against the restraining straps that bound him to the visiting post. The muscles in his face, shoulders, and hind legs could be seen straining against any confinement, as he swung around feverishly to find any way whatsoever to get to him. When finally released, Salty headed toward Frank like a dart out of a toy gun. At nearly 70 lbs, Salty inadvertently knocked him over in its exuberance to get to him. Frank laughed out loud as this dog licked his face over and over as he lay on the hard ground. 

It wasn’t until he smelled this dog’s fur that a deep cold chill pervaded his being and millisecond images flashed repeatedly and in rapid succession in the back of his mind. Frank now shivered from a cold and uncontrollable sweat that permeated his entire body. It was a feeling he had never experienced before. 

“ Call an ambulance”, Frank heard one of the shelter staff say to another", as he fought to gain control of his faltering senses. 

“No, no. . please don’t !” , he replied and implored, as he sensed that the floodgates of his subconscious were about to swing wide open. Frank braced himself, as best he could, as he did not at all know what to expect. 

The dog kennel staff stood by quietly as Frank trembled as he sat on the cold and hard ground. They held onto Salty next to them. With his heart now clearly racing, and blood forcefully pulsing in his chest and throughout his cold and shivering body, bits and pieces had begun to come back to him. In just a matter of a few moments, his mind reluctantly recalled the complete horror of these suppressed memories. In an almost drunken type stupor, his body was forcefully tossed back and forth against the hard cold asphalt parking lot. 

“ Stop the water!” Frank shouted out to them, as he sat up from the cold and hard ground. His eyes were now affixed to some distant place, some distant submerged subconscious memory that now desperately pleaded for any opportunity to resurface. Both his hands, feet and legs shook, and the sinews of his jaw drew tight with each passing image now flooding his mind. 

His mind played and replayed images of his family’s car being hit by a speeding car coming at him from the opposite direction and barreling down on the wrong side of the road. His mind vividly recalled the sharp forward jolt to his body as the dashboard collapsed around him and crushed his right pelvis and an uncontrollable feeling of lost equilibrium as their crushed vehicle cascaded down the sixty foot hill while smashing into trees and rocks before plunging into the icy river below. 

“ Clara, where are you dear? , . . .. Sara, please hold on, honey . . . get me out of these fucking straps . . . . hold on dear, please hold on. . . . .no, no, no. . shit , shit, shit . . . . someone please help me !” 

He watched, in horror and shock, as his wife, Sara, struggled in vain to free herself from the passenger seat belt restraint and as the last several air bubbles broke the stinking murky water’s surface above her now lifeless body. He watched as her brunette hair flowed above her head and ebbed back and forth in the river’s ever-changing tide.

He, himself, struggled to find air pockets within his confinement and found himself, repeatedly, spitting out foul tasting small twigs, leaves and animal waste. The grit, of which, still clung to many cracks between his teeth. The underside of his tongue bled as he feverishly tried to remove this invading waste from his mouth. 

He reflected upon the extreme pain he experienced as he fractured his right wrist, in several places, during his futile attempt to get to his family and free himself. He recalled how his right wrist felt increasingly warm and throbbed in constant and excruciating pain whenever he applied any degree of pressure or with the slightest movement. 

“Clara, honey, where are you? “, he recalled screaming out loud, as he struggled to see behind himself.

 He was unable to turn around and his heart sank as he never received any reply from his ten year old daughter to his frantic inquiry. With several minutes already gone since this accident, Frank's inner being already knew that his daughter was dead although the rest of his conscious being groaned and fought for him not to accept it. The corner of his eyes twitched uncontrollably while his breathing had become quite shallow and sporadic.

 He now recalled how his body’s core temperature plummeted to below 40 degrees Fahrenheit as the cold river water quickly robbed his body of critical and sustaining warmth. He felt the numbing cold of his now bluish lips as he struggled to keep his head above water and tried his damnedest to stay awake and not fall asleep. 

Through the driver’s side mirror, he watched Salty, their two year old male German Shepherd, manage to pop open the car’s rear hatch and leave the vehicle from the rear driver’s side passenger seat. He watched as Salty’s head rose to the surface and as he swam against the strong river’s current to reach him. He watched as he fearlessly waded in the frigid water next to him, frequently propping his head up with his so he should not drown. Salty had done this with no regard for his safety. At times, the dank wet dog fur bothered Frank’s sensitive nose; causing him to uncontrollably cough on many occasions. 

He recalled how Salty threaded water for nearly four hours until some help finally arrived and how Salty carried on when he was placed inside the St. Luke’s ambulance. So much so, that the ambulance personnel were forced to allow Salty to ride in the ambulance with him. 

It was the smell of dog fur that had lured his memory back to past events trapped inside his subconscious‘s dark and foreboding abyss. It was the secret passageway to things involuntarily forgotten or things earmarked to never again see the light of day. 

An elderly kennel employee dropped down on his right knee to grab Frank whose body was thrashing around on the hard ground while he behaved in a almost trance like state. He appeared to be around 56 years old, about six feet two inches tall and about 210 lbs. He firmly held Frank’s left arm and hand so he would not strike his head against the hard floor. The firm touch of his hand holding his left arm pervaded the darkness of this memory and somehow, brought him back to full consciousness. 

“ You okay, Frank? “ the elderly kennel employee asked while studying his face to see if he was now alright. 

“ I’ll live sir . . . what’s your name?” 

“Harold, sir.” 

Well, thank you Harold for making sure that no harm came to me. Please stop calling me Frank . . . my name is James Baker.. . . . where is my dog? ” 

An overwhelming sadness overtook him as he now recalled who he was and the calamity of his sad life. The horrible events were now cemented to the back of mind and it took many more months of psychotherapy with Dr. Thompson to fully eradicate the “demons” and nightmares that perpetually haunted him. 

“ James, I can’t see any reason for any further psychological counseling visits at my office. You have made some great progress in dealing with your loss, therefore I feel now comfortable to release you to your own care at this point”, Dr. Thompson replied while thumbing through Jame’s file.  

“Did they ever find the people who did this to you, James?” Dr. Thompson asked, as he now prepared for his next patient. His wire eyeglasses were positioned on his forehead as he pulled several patient files from a gray file cabinet on the opposite side of the room. 

“Yeah . . . they arrested several teenagers several weeks ago since I was able to remember the license plate of the car which hit us. It was the last thing I remember seeing before being pushed off the road . . . . Apparently, these dopes had just left a party about three miles down the road, got drunk before heading to another party when they hit me.”

“ I recall that they found the name “Frank” written in blue ink on a sticky yellow pad in your pocket and assumed that this name was yours. . . . What was the reason for the sticky pad name, then, if not yours?” 

James got up from his chair and stood up to stretch his legs since he had been seated in the solitary position for over an hour. He felt some residual pain in his right hip but nothing that he could not handle. He shrugged it off as he proceeded to the exit. 

“Oh that, . . . My family and I were expected at my brother’s house for a BBQ on that day . . . I put his name on the sticky pad to remind me about this visit. I pulled it off my main entrance door on our way out. I usually carry everyone’s driver’s licenses and such in my wallet which was seated on the dash and got washed away with the river’s tide. I guess that caused the root of all the confusion.” 

Dr. Thompson handed James Baker a copy of a color photograph taken of him while he was asleep in St. Luke’s Presbyterian Hospital about two weeks after this accident. It showed an assortment of lines, tubes and slings attached to him.

“You know . . . I have been told that your dog, Salty . . . did not initially take things well while you were away and recovering from your injuries. The kennel staff could not get him to eat and he nearly died from voluntary starvation. They even tried to feed him intravenously, but he kept pulling out the line. At one point, Salty even tried to chew through a metal pole to get to you. “ 

“ I didn't know that”, James replied with some tears welling up in both eyes. 

“ It was this picture which changed all that. Once Salty saw that you were alive and alright, he ate and regained his strength and became much more sedated in his overall attitude to his current surroundings. It was, as though, this one picture alone, assured new beginnings “ 

“Well, Dr. Thompson . . . . I certainly owe that dog more than my life and thank you for all your assistance as well. “ 

“ My pleasure, James . . . and if I can be of any further assistance, please don’t hesitate to call.”

With that, James Baker left Dr. Thompson’s office for the last time and headed home. There, he met Salty, who sat eagerly by the front door waiting for him to return. His tail flickered from right to left and back again, in short strokes before erupting into a steady full fledged wag. 

They both headed to the back porch where James gingerly sat down on the light brown wicker patio chair. He stared out at the dull orange glow of the now setting sun. Its golden rays streaked a golden sparkling corridor across the surface of the pristine lake behind his home while Salty sat on his haunches at a spot close by. James watched as his trusted and loyal companion began to pant as a result of the dry heat of Tucson’s mid-August afternoon sun. He stroked Salty’s fine fur with his right hand, and for the first time in months, he could feel his dog’s stiff bristle on his fingertips. It was certainly a new day and both of them sat in silent reverence to its passing.

October 05, 2023 03:32

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07:38 Oct 25, 2023

An interesting story. I like the connection with the dog and think you have captured the re-gaining of memory very well. One can't help but feel for Frank but also for the dog...poor animal to have lost its master for so long. I was very happy to hear it had a good ending as I was hoping it would. Thank you for letting me read this.


Arthur McNamee
19:28 Oct 27, 2023

I just had surgery, otherwise I would have responded earlier. Thank you for your kind reply. It is greatly appreciated.


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Malcolm Twigg
21:21 Oct 12, 2023

Hi Arthur. Interesting approach. I did feel that it would have benefitted from some judicious editing. Clinical discussion of the injuries, for instance, could usefully have been lost, and his memory of immersion in cold water and the specific mention of body core temperature would surely not have been uppermost in his mind at the time. It is details like this that detract from a story's credibility to my mind. Good descriptions however. Look forward to reading more.


Arthur McNamee
05:16 Oct 13, 2023

Thank you for your candid remarks. I can see your point.


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20:35 Oct 08, 2023

I liked the moment of reunion. The way dogs remember their human’s smell is familiar and enduringly heart warming, but the idea of how we are emotionally connected to our pets smells is both true and not really talked about as much.


Arthur McNamee
01:45 Oct 09, 2023

Thanks for the kind commentary- Anne


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Arthur McNamee
18:12 Oct 08, 2023

Kevin : thank you for your kind words and pointing out some errors I had missed in posting this. I read your story and love it . I posted it somewhere on your site I think. I am just getting familiar on how to use this platform so please forgive my severe limitations. Ps: I really enjoy the way your language flows and resonates through your stories. I have read several and each has been a true gem.


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Kevin Logue
13:45 Oct 08, 2023

That car crash and being under the water really hit hard, the idea of being helpless whilst his wife and daughter died is harrowing. But that is the strength of how you wrote it. Salty is a great companion and ultimate saviour of James, the loyalty of dogs is something men do not deserve. Real nice bookend with the lack of feeling at the beginning in his fingers to feeling the dogs bristles at the end. Unsure if this piece has been approved yet but if you can still edit, near the start Salty is called Sally once and when Frank is on the...


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