REUNION WITH AN OLD FRIEND (part 1)
by Poet

Viktor Lukovic stood on top of a ladder in his classroom at St. Thomas HIgh
School in Chicago. He was attempting to tape posters to the windows while
fellow teacher Andrew McKray was standing nearby to hand up each poster.

Suddenly Viktor leaned forward to far and the ladder began to tilt, causing
him to lose his balance. He automatically reached out a hand to steady
himself. But as he put his weight against the window, the glass cracked.
Suddenly his left hand went through it, all the way to his elbow.

Andrew turned to a student who had just entered the room, and ordered,
"Michael, give me a hand!" He moved quickly to Viktor's side, steadying the
ladder.

Once the ladder was steady, Viktor carefully withdrew his arm. He stared at
the dripping blood. "Damn!"

"Let me take a look," Andrew said as he and Michael helped the older teacher
over to the desk.

Viktor slumped back in his chair and closed his eyes. "What a stupid thing
to do," he muttered.

Andrew carefully examined the hand and arm. "There is embedded glass and
it's bleeding rather severely. You are definately going to need stitches,"
he stated.

"I'll go get the first aid kit," Michael said and headed for Andrew's
classroom.

Andrew finished his examination and said, "Take it easy, Viktor. As soon as
I get your cuts bandaged, I'll drive you to the ER at Cook County General.
They'll get you all fixed up."

Michael returned and opened up the first aid kit. He handed the teacher a
couple of thick gauze compresses.

Andrew placed each compress over a laceration, hastily securing it with a
gauze bandage and adhesive tape. "That'll be all right until you get to the
hospital," he said.

"I've got a free period but who's taking over your class?" Viktor asked.

"Oh, yeah. I forgot. I was going to give the kids a test. I guess now
they'll get an extra day to study," Andrew replied as as he finished up the
bandaging. "MIchael, tell Ms. Hansferd that I'm taking Professor Lukovic to
County General."

"Yes, Sir," the student replied and scurried out.

"You wait right here while I go get my car keys out of my desk," McKray said
and headed for the door.

In the ER at County General, Dr. Luka Kovac was examining a young girl who
had been in a car accident. As he checked her arm for broken bones, he
looked at the furry stuffed animal she clutched in her other arm. "It looks
like a cat but it isn't, huh?" he asked, making conversation.

"It's a Meowth," she announced. "My Meowth!"

"Meowth?" Luka asked curiously.

"My Pokemon. I plan to capture a lot of Pokemon!" she declared.

"Pokemon? What's that?" Luka asked as he finished the examination. He'd
determined that the arm wasn't broken but planned to order an X-ray just to
be certain. "I'm going to have to stitch up those cuts."

The girl proceeded to explain all about Pokemon, Team Rocket, badges and
Meowth while Luka stitched up the lacerations and bandaged her arm.
"There, all done. You were a very good patient, Stephanie," he said with a
smile.

"I think Meowth hurt his arm," Stephanie said sadly.

"Well, let me take a look." He pretended to examine the stuffed toy. "Do
Pokemon have their own doctors?"

"They have serums and potions and nurses named Joy," she replied.

"I'm afraid that I'm only lisenced to to treat people--including kids--and a
stray kitten," Luka said as he finished the examination. "I think Meowth
only sprained his arm. I'll wrap it in a bandage and he'll be as good as
new." He removed some gauze from the cabinet and began wrapping it around
the toy's arm.

"Thank you," Stephanie said and started to get up.

"Just a minute," Luka told her. He pulled off his gloves and reached into
his lab coat pockets. Pulling out a small cherry sucker, he handed it to
the girl. "For being such a co-operative patient."

"What about Meowth?" she asked taking the candy.

"I'l see if Ihave any more," Luka replied. He pulled an apple sucker out of
his pocket and pretended to hand it to the toy.

Stephanie's mother, a bandage on her forehead, stuck her head in the door.
"Oh, there you are, Sweetie. Are you okay?" she asked.

"She's fine, Mrs. Clancy. Just needed to have some stitches. Although I am
going to have her arm X-rayed to make sure that nothing is broken," Luka
told the woman.

"Thank you, Doctor," Mrs. Clancy said.

"He even fixed up Meowth's arm," Stephanie spoke up.

"And they were both very co-operative patients," Luka replied as he reached
for the phone to call Radiology.

When Andrew and Viktor arrived at COunty General, the younger teacher parked
his car near the ambulance entrance. "Come on, I'll help you inside," he
said and got out to open Viktor's door.

"Thank you," Viktor replied as he unfastened his seat belt. Clutching his
injured arm to his chest, he and Andrew started for the doors.
Amira was on duty at the Admit desk, she looked up as the two men
approached. "May I help you?" she asked.

"I cut my hand and arm," Viktor said.

"And he needs stitches," Andrew added.

"Fill this out and I'll put you up on the board for the next available
doctor," the desk clerk said as she handed over a clipboard with papers on
it.

"Thank you," Andrew said, quickly taking the paperwork and leading Viktor to
a seat in 'chairs'. "I'll fill it out--you just tell me what to write."

Amira moved over to the board to write down the patient's injury. "I think
that Exam 4 is open if you'd like to wait in there," she offered.

"I think I'd like that better," Viktor admitted.

"Okay," Amira said and escorted the two men to the exam room.

VIktor sat down on the bed and rested his injured arm on the table. "Thank
you," he told the young woman.

"Can I get you name, please?" she asked.

"VIktor Lukovic--V-I-K-T-O-R L-U-K-O-V-I-C, " he spelled it out.

"Got it," Amira said and headed back to the board.

Luka finished requesting an X-ray for Stephanie. He once again assured Mrs.
Clancy that her daughter would be fine and headed for the lounge to get a
cup of coffee.

Amira stopped him by the desk and said, "Got a new one for you, Dr. Kovac.
Arm through a glass window. HIm and his friend are waiting in Exam 4."

"Okay," Luka said and picked up the chart, glancing at the name--Viktor
LUkovic. His eyes opened wide. "Are you sure this isthe right name?"

Amira glanced to make sure she'd spelled it correctly. "Yeah. I wrote it
down just the way he spelled it. Why? Do you know him or something?" she
asked.

"Maybe," Luka replied. He grabbed the chart and headed down the hallway,
taking long strides. He thought *Viktor--after so many years? In Chicago?
No, it just had to be some kind of crazy coincidence with the name.*

In Exam 4, Andrew stuck his head out the door and said, "I think the doc's
here, Viktor."

Just outside of the exam room, Luka stopped a moment to compose himself,
certain that the man inside would turn out to be a complete stranger. Chart
in hand, he walked into the room and calmly asked, "What seems to be the
problem, Mr. Lukovic?"

"He cut his damn arm," Andrew answered.

"And they sent you in to stitch me up? I remember how you had to get
Mirjana to do your mending because you couldn't sew up your own pants,"
Viktor said.

"I still cannot sew up my pants--but I'm very good at stitching up people,"
Luka replied. He put down the chart and strode over to the bed. "My God!
Viktor! It is YOU!"

"You two know each other?" Andrew asked.

"We were roommates at the University in Zagreb," Viktor explained. He stood
up to clasp his old friend in a fierce hug, forgetting all about his injured
arm. "Luka! After so long!"

For a moment the two men clung to each other. Luka kept blinking back the
tears that threatened to spill from his eyes. As soon as he could regain
his composure, he stepped back and asked, "How long have you been here in
Chicago? I've been here a little over a year."

"Three years--teaching European History to unenthusiastic high school
students. This time I got drafted to teach summer school," Viktor answered.

Suddenly remembering that he had a patient to tend to, Luka asked, "How did
you happen to cut yourself?"

"Stood on a ladder and used the window to steady myself when the ladder
tilted. The window was the wrong thing to put my weight on--you can see the
result," his friend explained, sitting back down on the bed.

"I told the old man to leave climbing the ladder to me," Andrew added.

"I knew exactly where I wanted to put the posters," Viktor retorted.

"Old man?" Luka asked, confused by the argument between the two teachers.

"Don't mind McKray--this is his first teaching job. Anyone over twenty-five
is old to him," Viktor said. He peered at Luka. "Looks like you're getting
a few gray hairs."

"Some. But at least I have ALL my hair," Luka replied, a note of triumph in
his voice. He began removing the bandages. "Did McKray fix you up?"

"Yeah. I forgot to introduce him. Luka, meet Andrew McKray. He teaches
First AId and Health. He's also another summer schol draftee. Andrew, this
is my old friend Dr. Luka Kovac. I am assuming that Luka works at this
hospital."

"Oh, I do work here in the ER as an Attending. In fact, I'm the only
Atending this shift," Luka proudly replied.

"Does that mean you're in charge?" Viktor asked, a note of dismay in his
voice.

I guess you could put it that way," Luka answered.

"Talk about the inmates runing the asylum!" Viktor exclaimed with a laugh.

Luka looked confused as Andrew laughed and said, "At least I'm not the only
person Viktor likes to pick on."

"He's done that to me from the first day I met him," Luka explained.

Viktor nodded and switched from English to Croatian. "I've prayed
everynight that someday I'd find you," he said to Luka.

"Well, at least God answers SOME prayers. But obviously not MINE," Luka
replied in Croatian. His tone was bitter.

Andrew threw up his hands and said, "I'm assuming that you two want to have
a private conversation. Although I don't understand a word--for all I know,
you could be discussing the weather. He turned to leave. "I'll be waiting
in 'chairs'."

"Don't be bitter, Luka," Viktor said quietly.

Luka didn't reply to that statement. The conversation was starting to go
into areas that he wasn't emotionally prepared to deal with at the moment.
Instead, he reverted back to being the calm and professional doctor.
"There's a lot of glass that I need to remove. I'll get a nurse in here to
assist me. You need to get a gram of ancef and we need to see about a
tetnaus shot. Do you remember when you last had one?" he asked.

"I don'T recall," Viktor replied.

"Well, I'll make sure you get one. Back in a minute," Luka told him and
went to locate a nurse.

Viktor sighed and stared after his friend. He could tell that Luka was
withdrawing, distancing himself from the emotional pain.

Luka returned a moment later followed by Chuny. "I think I can get you all
fixed up in time to get you back to school."

"As soon as I do, I think I'd better call Roza," Viktor said.

Luka carefully positioned the arm on the table and numbed it with lidocaine.
"Still married to Rozalija?" he asked as he began removing the glass
fragments.

"Still together," Viktor replied and paused. "We have four children now."

"Really? I recall little VIktor and the baby. But who are the others?" his
friend asked.

"Five year old twins--Nikola and Jasaminka. And Roza is expecting a baby in
October," Viktor said. He reached out with his uninjured hand to touch
Luka. "Be happy for me. I know how much you loved your family. God may
still give you a new family."

"I almost found someone to fall in love with. But she and her twin
daughters went to Seatle to be with her ex-boyfriend," Luka said quietly as
he continued working.

"Then she is not the one for you," Viktor said decisively. "WHat time do
you get off work?"

"7:00. Why?" the doctor asked as he finished removing the fragments.

"You are much too thin and what you need is some of Roza's good cooking.
Besides she'll be so happy to see you," Viktor replied. "It's been too
long, Luka."

Luka turned to the nurse and said, "Chuny, could you please get a gram of
ancef and a tetnaus booster?"

"Yes, Dr. Kovac," she said and hurried out.

"So, Luka, do you still live alone?" Viktor asked.

"I have Katica--she is a very good companion."

"Katica? What's she like?" VIktor asked.

Luka laughed and explained, "Katica is a four-month-old calico kitten. She
makes me smile, she makes me laugh, she makes me happy."

"Then she is very good for you," VIktor replied with a smile.

"So where do you live?" Luka asked.

"Give me a piece of paper and I'll write down the address for you," VIktor
told him.

Luka found a small notepad and pen in his pockets and handed them over.
"I'll head over to your place as soon as I get off here," he said.

Viktor scribbled down the address and directions for reaching it. "DO you
have a car?" he asked.

Luka took the paper and studied it, realizing that he only lived ten blocks
from VIktor. "An old Saab. At the moment it is running," he answered.

"I added my phone number just in case you're running late," the teacher
added.

"Okay," Luka said, slipping the paper into his pocket. He began stitching
up the lacerations.

Chuny returned with the drugs and and Luka quickly injected them. "This
should keep down any infection. If you experience any pain or
swelling--come back here immediately. Someone will be able to take care of
you," he said.

"All right," Viktor replied.

Luka finished bandaging the hand and arm. "Kep the stitches clean and dry
for the next seventy-two hours. You can take any over-the-counter
medication for pain," he instructed and started to fill out the discharge
papers.

"Right. I'll see you tonight," VIktor said.

"As soon as I get off here. I'm finished--you can get Andrew to drive you
back to the school," Luka told him.

"Okay," VIktor said and hurried for the public telephone. He wanted to let
Rozalija know who he'd seen.

Rozalija Lukovic had just settled the twins down to play quietly so she
could rest. The telephone rang and she answered it, saying, "Hello?"

"Roza, you'll never guess who I just talked to," VIktor said excitedly.

"Who?" she asked, wondering just exactly who would excite her husband.

"Luka Kovac! He's here in Chicago. Works in the ER at County General,"
VIktor answered.

"COunty General? VIktor, what are you doing at the hospital?" Roza asked.

"Cut my arm but it's nothing. Luka was the ER doctor who fixed me up. I
told him to come by tonight after he got off at 7:00," her husband
explained.

"That's wonderful news, Viktor," Roza said.

"Luka looks like he's in desperate need of some good home cooking. The poor
man is too thin. Fix up something special tonight--I'll let you figure out
what," he continued.

"I'll see what I can come up with. Bring home a botle of that sweet wine
you like so much. This definately calls for a celebration," Roza said.

"Yes it does. I'll be home as soon as I can. Bye," VIktor said and hung up
the phone.

to Be Continued...

 

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