19 August 2011
TO CRUISE OR NOT TO CRUISE
By Curtis C. Chen
Liz's phone always seemed to buzz when she was in the middle of something that required two hands, like changing an IV or catheter. This time it was a protomyelin shunt. She clicked her jaw once to decline the call and finished locking Mr. Carton's collar back into place. He looked up from the bed and grinned.
"That your boyfriend again?" he asked.
"Probably," Liz said. "How's the shoulder today? Still sore?"
"Don't change the subject," Mr. Carton said. "He still trying to get you to go on that vacation?"
"Does everyone in this hospital know everything about my personal life?"
"I demand daily updates from the nurse's station. Answer the question."
Liz sighed. "He's afraid it's going to sell out. Apparently it's a very popular cruise."
Mr. Carton shook his head. "Don't go."
Liz frowned. "You're not going to tell me life is short? I should live with no regrets? All that stuff?"
"You're not an idiot," Mr. Carton said. "Cruises are expensive. And what do you get out of it? Some pictures, a sunburn, probably gain ten pounds 'cause you've got nothing to do but eat. And get ripped off by island tourist traps."
"It's even worse than that," Liz said. "This is an interplanetary cruise. No stops. One week to Mars, one week back—"
Mr. Carton sat up. "Are you insane? Trapped in an enclosed space for two weeks? You'll be lucky if you don't kill each other!"
Liz recoiled. "Calm down, Mr. Carton. Your neck—"
"Listen to me," he said. "I speak from experience. My wife, God rest her soul, convinced me to go on a road trip once. Ten days. Trapped in the same damn car, eating together, sleeping together. We never spent more than a few minutes apart. It was miserable. I nearly divorced her. Hell, I almost left her by the side of the road more than once."
"Lie down," Liz said. Mr. Carton groaned as she helped him. "It can't have been that bad. Weren't you two married for a long time?"
"Fifty-two years, until the cancer took her. But I tell you, that stupid road trip was the toughest ten days of my entire life. If anything had gone wrong—a flat tire, a bad meal, the wrong hotel room... I thought about strangling her more than once."
"But you didn't," Liz said. "You stayed together."
"You're not listening," Mr. Carton said. "We got lucky. It could have ended then, and I wouldn't have had the good life I had with Corrine. Do yourself a favor. Don't risk it. You got a good thing going with this guy, what's-his-name."
"What kind of a name is that? Don't get me started." Mr. Carton waved a hand. "Trust me. You'll be happier if you don't go. Just be satisfied with what you have, don't ask for more."
Liz pulled the covers up to Mr. Carton's chest and looked at her left hand.
"Get some rest, Mr. Carton," she said. "I need to go make a phone call."
CONTINUED IN "Phobos Cruise Crazy"...
Image: Sunset Cruise by Evan Leeson, August, 2008