Gurney Ho! — a Shakespearean hospital short


DOCTOR H. – a surgeon
BROTHER M. – an orderly



DOCTOR H. is washing his hands.

Enter BROTHER M., wheeling a gurney.

M: Gurney ho!

H: What ho! Which bleak and bloody pond hath spawned this scourge?

M: ‘Tis harrowed Harlem spews her sons and daughters thus.

H: New life’s nectar’s still fresh upon my hands.
Yet death, as e’er, runs hard upon her heels.
We’ll need more souls to staunch this scarlet stream.
Sisters! Brothers!

M: Your call doth fall upon deaf ears.
Selene hath filled our limbo to the brim.
Minds and mouths and veins and nostrils
Chock-full of fume and powder;
Hearts and hands intent upon revenge.
Waxing Luna’s magnet hauls
Sickly souls off ladders, chairs and ledges,
Draws a spring tide of humanity;
Inept, malevolent, insane.

H: Enough, sir! Lest delights to come
Should sully our enjoyment
Of the dish a-table.
What’s this gaping vista to his gut?
Blade or bolt or bullet?
Is that point-blank scorching,
Or some more infernal fire?

M: Shrapnel.
The guard did drag him thus
Near lifeless from his Mustang,
Lookers-on saw destiny
In rival colours cloaked
Serve our swarthy prince a bomb
Pitched neatly through an open window.

H: What foul shore avails them of such lethal fruit?
Did many others taste this poisoned orb?

M: He saved them as he tried to save himself.
His hands bear witness to the deed.
The guard shall henceforth seek his prints in vain.
He shall not play the lyre again.

H: Alas, he was a minstrel then?
Do lark and nightingale assail each other thus?
One songbird whistling hell out of another?
Bickering confreres in some dismal opera?

M: ‘Twas but tortured jest on my part.
A quip to turn the anguished tide
A warm and gentle breeze upon the battlefield.
In truth, he dealt in pale oblivion,
A soldier in the ranks of King Cocaine.

H: The golden trappings of that dread lord
Are now in bright vermilion bathed.
Best relieve him of his brilliant millstone.
What’s that he drones incessantly?

M: He ventures that you loved your mother
In a less than immaterial manner.

H: What torment must a man endure
To bite so savagely the hand that heals him?
Is there no end to this pumping?
What deep and distant basin feeds this spring?
More blood! More hands!
Where’s Sister Angelica?

M: Speak not of sunshine
When the night cries bloody rain!

H: (aside) A heavenly body indeed.
What man has not basked in her radiance?

M: I swear I smelt her gentle rays
When last she passed me by.
Her eyes like hazy sapphires
Mocking the sea-blue sky;
Her auburn hair, tight knotted,
In promise of a glorious cascade;
Her lips a scarlet gash
Moist upon her satin skin.
Such heavenly luminance.

H: (sneers) ‘Twere best we to more earthly matters turned
Ere this soul embarks on darker travel
To destinations deeper, pits more infinite,
Where tyrants, cowards and sundry scoundrels
All await the arrival of your fallen angel.

M: My heart’s a frozen stone!
Tell me true what I’ve surmised!
What is it you imply?

H: That though death be old
He’s fast of foot and fleet of finger.
I cannot best him on my own.
This cock’s more holy than a colander.

M: And Sister Angel’s hell-bound trip?
How dare you make such brazen claims
About a garden gazed on from afar,
Wonders you have neither touched nor tasted?

H: Do we know fair Babylon?
Yet we have ourselves immersed
In her fragrant hues and glories.
But our own angelic garden
Is neither fabulous nor far
Its gates, unguarded, ever stand ajar.
Long have men lingered in her shadows
Fruit from every bough they’ve sucked,
Smelt the sunny scent in every corner.
Her most famous flower has been plucked.

M: By our Lady! I know not what offends me more!
The fluids gushing from this cockerel’s corpse,
Or the prose pouring from your gaping wound.
Such putrid trauma should be cleaned and sutured!

H: Stay! I have more urgent duties for those fists.
Close off the shores of that blood sea
And I’ll stitch what night has torn asunder.
(aside) Seems I’ve stung this stallion’s shaft.

M: If love gave wings, I’d fly to her tonight.
I should defend her gates against
A thousand plundering armies.
I should tend her well and make her mine.

H: What use have I for one both blind and mindless!
Her garden’s a bustling place of leisure,
A venue for simple and more complex pleasure!

M: A million minions may flock to see the royal abode
Yet none have access to its sumptuous halls.

H: Kings and princes,
Counts and dukes,
Sheikhs and tsars.
And when royalty’s away
Grooms and footmen play.

M: Foul ears that deceive me thus!
Your groom shall taste the best boot of this footman!

H: Wouldst thou kick the noble cur
To still its warning bark?
Then it’s best I do not echo
What howling I have heard today.
Enough! This bleeding heart’s in greater need of care.
Come, hands, guide me through this crimson mare.

M: What wolves have crossed your path?

H: Wolves?!

M: That bayed news of Angelica!

H: Is she sole tenant of your mind?
Or do others populate its dismal floors.
This young prince is now a-rapping
On death’s door with scarlet knuckles.

M: I must know what howling you have heard!

H: I am sworn to secrecy.

M: Why trumpet the presence of a covert army?

H: To strike mortal fear into one’s foe,
And win wars without a single blow.

M: I’ll not be swept aside so simply!
What song has the wolf pack sung?

H: I have sworn the oath of wise Hippocrates
And may not share a single syllable
Told to me in confidence,
Be it good or evil.
Enough! A stitch in time saves nine,
But I fear we’ll need a seamstress,
To mend this shattered tapestry.
What’s this? More shrapnel?
What ruby tide has it restrained?

(Machines beep, lights flash)

M: Has she taken ill?

H: First the breach and then the flood,
Death’s sponge draws his waning blood!

M: Tell me what’s amiss!

H: This, this, this and this!
All signs of imminent departure.
Only the hand of Zeus can now delay
His trip across the river.

(H. prepares to defibrillate.)

M: What howling have you heard?

H: Come, Zeus, strike!

M: She is my true love.

H: Strike true, great god!

M: I beg you: speak!

H: He’s breathed his last.
His lips are sealed.

M: What howling have you heard, pray tell?

H: The wind, the wind, ever the icy wind.
The numbing north-east breath
Chilling fat men to the bone
And whispering: death.
The rest is silence.
A shudder as the soul sets off.
The curtain falls.