by Rick Beck

Chapter 11

Cat's Out Of The Bag

Purple mountain's majesty, whirlwinds of color, followed by fire and brimstone. Lightning against a pitch black sky. Falling, falling, falling, fireflies lighting the way. To where?

The path through the endless valley of death leads nowhere. Voices, voices, and too much light. Too bright, and more voices, voices, voices. Commotion all around, white light abounds. White light. Too much light. If this is not dying, what is it?

George's focus wasn't what it once was his head was filled with confusion, and pain, there was plenty of pain.

Images coming, and going, faces, talking, so much talking, and a long slow disappearance from whatever scene was playing itself out nearby. Nothing was where it should be, and the light was bright, too bright for nowhere. It was the super nova. End of everything or was this the beginning??

The pain seemed to consume him. The pain.

George tried but couldn't get up. If he could sit up he'd be fine. He needed to find the desk with the good Smith Corona typewriter. He could make it make sense. He needed to find his typewriter. He needed to write. If he wrote about it he'd make it make sense.

Confusion followed by silence. Where was he? George could not be sure of where he was. The noise had subsided. The chaos left behind on another plane. The bright light diminished.

He was in a long corridor. Moving, moving, moving, and then quiet. So nice to hear the quiet, and no bright light.

He was in the white room. The confusion was gone. This was better, except for the pain. George had the mother of all headaches. He didn't get headaches. He was in a white room. He was alone.

No! He wasn't alone. One figure loomed over him.

It was the Walrus.

How did the Walrus get into this cockeyed dream

"George. George. Time to wake up," Mr. Warner said.

"What are you doing here?" George asked.

"When I get a call that one of my reporters is down, I usually respond. What happened? Do you remember what happened, George?"

"I drank Johnny Walker. No, I didn't drink it. I had glasses of the stuff in front of me, but I couldn't drink it. Speaking of a nightmare, that qualifies. What happened?"

"You've had maybe a drink. No more than that. You're blood alcohol wasn't much above normal. They gave you a good going over, once you arrived here. Do you remember what happened, George?"

"Remember what happened? No. Why are you here? And where is here? Where am I? What happened?"

George's confusion hadn't cleared. He reached behind his right ear and felt the bandage.

"My head hurts," George said. "Where'd you say I was?"

"Sibley Hospital. An ambulance from here was a short distance away when the call came in that a man was down in the parking lot at Loey's. You told me you had an appointment. Were you going to Loey's, George?"

George remained silent. He wanted to remember where he'd been, but his head hurt something fierce. Both eyes felt out of kilter. The world was out of kilter. What was the Walrus doing there?

"Why are you here?" George asked, thinking he'd asked before.

He got no answer.

"Do you remember what happened, George?"

"No," George said, certain he'd answered the question before.

"You need to know, the cat is out of the bag. Your clothing are in the chair over by the window. They put you in the gown you're in. Do you understand what that means?"

"What cat? What bag? I'm confused. Why are you in my dream? Get out. Go away. Isn't dealing with you at work enough? Go away."

"I must confess, I'm confused myself, George. Imagine my surprise when the young man stringer I hired isn't a young man at all. "I looked at your chart on the foot of the bed. A newsman's prerogative. The file says that you are a Jane Doe. You had no identification on you. Once they got you out of your clothes, they were faced with the same dilemma as me. You aren't a man, George."

"I'm as much a man as you are," George insisted, being certain of those facts.

George went to sleep in one dimension, waking in another one. That seemed obvious. He had nightmares like this for most of his life.

The door opened and someone rushed into the room.

"Oh, good. I heard voices. Is our patient awake? Yes," she asked and answered her own question. "The doctor wanted to be called once you were awake. Dr. Knox was adamant. No other doctor is to be called, no matter the time of night or day. You're lucky he was here. He's one of the hospital's best. Came in with a heart patient at the same time as you. I'll be right back."

The nurse left as smoothly as she'd entered.

The nurse left without Mr. Warner or George saying a thing.

The nurse was back in two minutes.

"He's on his way. How do you feel?" she asked.

"Did anyone manage to get the license number of the truck that hit me?" George asked.

"We'll give you something a little stronger now that you're awake. The doctor didn't want to retard your becoming conscious on your own. You don't know how many head injuries we get in here, and the patient never wakes up, or he's in a coma for weeks or even months. You probably weren't hit hard enough to do that kind of damage. We stitched you up and the doctor ordered you put in a private room. He was to be called as soon as you were awake."

"Someone hit me? I feel like I'm awake but I feel like I'm dreaming? Who hit me?"

"Being disoriented is par for the course," a middle aged man in wire rimmed glass with flecks of gray in his hair said. "Nurse, you can step out. I want to speak to the patient. You are?" Dr. Knox asked Mr. Warner

"The man paying the bill," Mr. Warner advised the doctor.

"Not good enough. Do you wish this man stay in the room while we discuss who you are and what condition you are in?" Dr. Knox asked George.

"I think he's a figment of my imagination. He'll go away as soon as I wake up. He can stay."

Dr. Knox looked at Mr. Warner with suspicion.

Mr. Warner saw a very cautious man and he liked him.

"I already know, if you're worried about me finding out my young stringer left the office as a boy and now we have what we have."

"Why doesn't someone let me in on whatever it is you are sharing about me," George said. "Who hit me?"

"George, you're in a hospital. They undressed you before sending you to your room," Mr. Warner explained.

"George," Dr. Knox said. "You are at Sibley hospital. You've had a serious blow to the head. Your confusion is going to clear in a little while. Your injury isn't as serious as it might be. Concussion maybe, almost probably, but no fracture and the wound was closed with five stitches. The man apparently didn't hit you square on the head, or you most certainly wouldn't be talking to me. Even if you aren't making a lot of sense."

"Since you haven't disappeared, I assume you are really here, Mr. Warner," George said. "But Why?"

"You'd be correct," Mr. Warner said.

"Oh, my head. Please tell them to stop tap dancing in there," George said, holding the sides of his head. "If you're a doctor, prove it. Give me something to stop the pain."

"I'll order something up as soon as we talk. Do you know where you are, George?" Dr. Knox asked the same question over again.

"You said Sibley Hospital. What hit me. My arms and legs are OK," George said, moving his arms and legs. "Harold. Harold hit me. I was leaving Loey's. I needed to call Carter. I got what he wanted."

"Harold Sizemore hit you?" Mr. Warner asked.

"Yes. The mayor's number one goon," George said.

"You're sure, George? You aren't confused? Your back was turned to your assailant," Mr. Warner said.

"I left Loey's. There's a gravel parking area on the south side of the building. I heard someone behind me. I was heading for the bus stop. I needed to call Jack Carter. I heard Harold's voice and that son-of-a-bitch hit me and here I am."

"We have a witness to your mugging. It was Harold, George. Jack put a tail on you. He saw the whole thing."

"A tail. I knew someone was following me," George said.

"Let him speak. He sounds lucid," Dr. Knox advised. "You can catch him up once I am done. We need to talk before you do something you might regret."

"I need you to make me your doctor. You've got to be lucid and Mr. Warner can witness that you asked me to be your doctor," he said.

"I've been hit in the head, doctor. I might be a little slow on the uptake at the moment. I thought you were my doctor. You aren't?"

"I took the case in the ER. I took the case after they decided you weren't a John Doe. You became a Jane Doe. I was one curtain over with a heart patient. Once you make me your doctor, I can't be forced to talk to anyone about your condition," Dr. Knox said.

George looked at Mr. Warner and back to Dr. Knox.

"I want you to be my doctor, doctor," George said. "Why do you want to my doctor?"

"It's a long story. I have been treated two men who are woman. I think that configuration is more common than yours. When I heard the jokes start behind the curtain, I took charge immediately. I told them I was your doctor. With someone being in charge it was all business after that. They won't remember you after they finish a shift in the ER, and I can't talk about it because I'm your doctor."

"Jack had a tail on me. I need to talk to him," George said.

"He was here. They said you wouldn't be coming around for hours ad he left. He's beside himself with guilt because he sent you into Loey's," Mr. Warner said. "He'll be back later."

"My being hit had nothing to do with what I was doing for Jack. Once I covered the news conference, Harold was gunning for me. I knew by what he said I hadn't seen the last of Harold," George said.

"Cover a news conference?" Dr. Knox asked.

"I'm working on a story that concerns the mayor's wife. I was sent to the mayor's news conference to ask him about it," George said, having no trouble with his memory now.

"Oh, I know who you are. Editor-in-chief at the Daily News. We met once at a news conference about the Salk vaccine. It was maybe ten years ago. I'd been doing research on polio. You asked a couple of questions," Dr. Knox said.

"I remember the news conference on polio. I can't say that I remember you," Mr. Warner said. "I covered a thousand news conferences. I doubt I remember ten people I saw at one."

"I was green as fresh kale, Mr. Warner. I remember you asked the most intelligent questions. Look at you now."

"Excuse me. My head," George said.

"As soon as I talk to you about our condition, I'll order something that will allow you to get some sleep. I need some information from you," Dr. Knox said. "Might I ask, who is Harold?"

"A long story, Dr. Knox. You'll read all about it in tomorrow's edition of the City News."

"I'll look forward to it," Dr. Knox said. "I read the Daily News when I get home in the evenings, if I get home."

"They arrested Harold, George. Jack Carter put a tail on you. He had misgivings about you going into Loey's tonight, last night. He followed Harold out of the bar, after Harold followed you. He saw the whole thing. He flagged down a cop car on the street, and they took Harold into custody. There were a few bumps and bruises getting him in the backseat of the patrol car, but most were suffered by Harold."

""Jack had me followed?"

"Yes. He called me. He was here. He's very upset. He was afraid something was going to happen to you. In a way he was right," Mr. Warner said.

"I need to talk to Jack, Mr. Warner. I got what he wanted. I know who killed Max Stein. Someone witnessed the murder. It's why I was in Loey's last night. Tell him not to give that story to anyone else. I earned an exclusive on solving the Max Stein murder."

"A City News exclusive. I won't let him forget," Mr. Warner said.

"It had nothing to do with Jack or Loey's, except that's where Harold caught up with me. I had the feeling I was being followed after I left the news conference."

"By more than one guy apparently," Mr. Warner said. "Harold had no other way of knowing that you were in Loey's. He either followed you, or he had someone follow you. Which means the mayor has some questions to answer. There is a direct line from the mayor's news conference to Loey's."

"This is all very inside the news," Dr. Knox said. "And you sound quite a bit more coherent than when I came into the room. I will assume you understand where you are and why you are here. That leaves only one issue to discuss. You're lucky that I was in the ER at the same time as you. I saw you brought in. I checked on you after they stitched you up, took X-rays, and were sending you to a room."

"And I don't suppose I can sneak out of here and pretend none of this happened," George said. "I've got a story to write. Maybe two."

"Not today you don't. Probably not tomorrow. Concussion isn't anything to fool with. Complications can't be ruled out," Dr. Knox said. "My heart patient is next door. He'll make it. If I hadn't been there when I was, and heard them talking about a man coming into the ER and a woman leaving, well I heard them and I was sure I understood what they found so amusing."

George held his gown out from his chest.

"Jesus Christ. I hurt my head. Did they need to undress me?" George complained, having just discovering his vulnerability.

"The cat's out of the bag?" George said, looking at Mr. Warner.

He shrugged.

"You'd be surprised how many people come in with a stab wound and they've also been shot or have other trauma. It's protocol. Wouldn't do to lose someone because we didn't look him over. You're lucky I was where I was when the jokes started," Dr. Knox said.

"I assessed the situation as critical, and I pushed the curtain aside to tell them I would be your. They shut up and did what good professionals do. They did their jobs quietly."

"I don't remember any of it," George said. "Tell me why you're so interested in my condition?"

"The right question to ask. I told them to put you in one of the private rooms where I attend to patients who benefit from a little extra privacy. My nurses attend to my patients. It protects them from idle gossip. My nurses and I are the only ones who have access to your chart. If you need to go for tests or to use hospital facilities one of my nurses is with you at all times and they don't make jokes about my patients. They know I won't tolerate it."

"Why do that?" George asked.

"The why is a bit more circumspect. Let's say I'm familiar with gender discrepancy. I haven't scratched the surface. I stumbled on to one case and that led to a second case. As I mentioned, male to female. They live part of their life as males and another part they live as female, but they identify as female."

"In your case I decided to protect your interests before another doctor got involved. I understood they were saying you were female to male. I didn't give any thought to there being a reverse of the male to female. It was obvious to me you were such a case. I'm fascinated by gender discrepancy. Our country isn't very kind to people who are different. The less they know the better off you are. I can only protect my patients, but that doesn't mean there aren't hundreds, maybe thousand of people keeping the secret about gender discrepancy."

George hadn't thought about it either. He was the only person he knew that was born with the wrong body. The doctor knew of at least two more cases. He thought there could be thousands."

"I have what you call gender discrepancy in my family," Mr. Warner said, getting Dr. Knox's attention.

"You what?" the doctor asked.

"I know of it first hand," Mr. Warner said.

"There you go. Do you know how significant that could be?"

"I only know of one," Mr. Warner said.

"You know of one. I know of two and George has gender discrepancy. It boggles the mind," Dr. Knox said. "We haven't uncovered the tip of this iceberg."

"I thought you were surprisingly relaxed about it," George said. "You know someone like me?"

"I do," Mr. Warner said. "I'd never have guessed the truth about you. For all practical purpose you are a man, George."

"I know that, Mr. Warner but thanks for the confirmation. I somehow never pictured us talking about this."

"I took my first gender discrepancy patient quite by accident. I didn't know what I was seeing but James, Janet part-time, was willing to explain it to me. I was fascinated. James brought me Ronnie who lived much of his life as Rhonda. Coming to the doctors required them to assume their male identity because of the gender discrepancy. Now they have a doctor who will see them as a woman and not get excited about the discrepancy."

"I don't go to see a doctor because of it," George said.

"You have a doctor that knows something about your condition. What I know isn't enough to draw any conclusions. Your case proves that gender discrepancy goes in both directions. I didn't know that but it is logical. Nature has a certain balance to it. You prove it."

George was suddenly out of focus. He laid back on his pillow and he closed his eyes. The room was moving under him. He felt exhausted and Light headed. The tap dancers had come back off break and were high kicking inside his head again.

the first case quite by accident. James told me his story. He is Janet part of the time. He sent one of his girlfriends, Ronnie who is Rhonda part of the time. When I heard the jokes concerning the patient next to mine, it was clear what they had uncovered. I took charge to stop the jokes. It's very unprofessional. It's the ignorance our culture seems to cultivate. Because you were on the opposite side of the spectrum from he other side of the gender discrepancy issue. I wanted your case. I took your case," he said.

"And here we are."

"What did you call my condition?" George asked.

"Gender discrepancy or gender dysphoria?" he said.

"Dysphoria?" Mr. Warner asked.

"Dysphoria is confusion," Dr. Knox said. "In short, the gender you are born with is in disagreement with how you feel and think."

"Dr. Knox, I appreciate what you've done, but I'm not confused. I'm a man. My body parts don't match who I am. I'm George all the time. Since I turned eighteen and left home, I left Georgia behind," George said.

"When is the last time you saw your family doctor?"

"I don't have a family doctor, and if I did, I'd still be George."

"Now you have a doctor, and I don't care who you say you are. I'll treat the whole you. I simply want to hear your story and be informed of any changes, should they occur," Dr. Knox said.

"Gender dysphoria is a confusion between your anatomy and your brain. You aren't confused about it but one disagrees with the other. We need to call it something. I prefer that to some of the common slang used to describe a discrepancy. We can call it whatever you like, but you need a doctor who knows and understands your condition. I've applied for the job, George but it's up to you. I've taken your case. You don't need to take me. My lips are sealed."

"I didn't know anyone else was like me. When you are born with the wrong body parts, you wing it," George said. "You're my doctor. We can agree on that for the time being. I'm still working on the idea I'm not the only one. I thought I was."

"There are. That's what fascinates me. One day we'll be more enlightened George, but for now, when it comes to the brain and our biology, we are still mostly in the dark. I'd like to turn on the light so people like you have any easier transition. As kids everything is governed by appearance. When differences are uncovered people make a joke out of the ugly duckling."

"We say we're civilized, but many people are too uneducated to consider the idea we aren't all just a like. They'd rather make tasteless jokes and laugh," Mr. Warner said.

"We might ask why so many people reject so many of their species because they are different. Ignorance explains a lot of it. I'm ignorant on this but I'd rather turn on the light than curse the darkness," Dr. Knox said. "You can help me with that, George. One day, if you help me, children like you won't be picked on and made fun of. Someone with your condition might be treated fairly and allowed to be themselves without needing to fight for that right. I suppose I get angry about it because these are real people dealing with a difficult life because other people enjoy make it more difficult than it has to be."

, but I know doctors who are ignorant about the mind and body connection. It's all part of the anatomy, and it is all a piece of the puzzle that is human biology. Up until a hundred and fifty years ago, we were still bleeding people to get the poison out of them. It's likely the father of our country was bled to death by the doctors of the day."

"For you it's a science project," George said.

"Not a project. Part of science. Part of understanding the differences in people. I've had the opportunity to work with two male to female subjects. You are the the converse of them. Until last night, I didn't realize there were people like you. It is logical. If nature works in one direction, it would naturally go in the other direction too. There is usually a balance to nature."

"I'm not a science project, doctor," George said.

"That's what you think. You hold the key to something that I know exists, but that I know nothing about. You have opened the door to an entirely new condition for me. I am seeing it without having any idea why this is possible."

I've never had to think about it. I live it," George said.

"You can help me shine a light where light hasn't been shined before, George. You can clear up some of the mystery. Put the light on what it's like being you. Help make it easier for people like you."

"Don't get me wrong, I'd like to help with that, but all I've managed to do so far is survive it. This is new for me," George said.

"You've been able to hold your own in a dog eat dog industry, George. Don't sell yourself short," Mr. Warner said.

"Once you have time to think about it, you'll see the wisdom in seeing a doctor who you don't need to dress up for. I know who you are, George, and I want to get to know you better. That knowledge will not be shared with anyone else, not without your approval, but your anonymity will always be part of the deal," Dr. Knox assured him.

"My visit to Sibley?"

"Your file is in the name of George Hitchcock. I'm listed as your doctor. That file reflects only what I say belongs in it. You'll always come to me as George Hitchcock. Any other business we have together will be governed by doctor patient privilege. You are the only one who can violate that privilege," Dr. Knox said.

"You can do that? Make any record of what took place down stairs go away?"

"I'm a doctor. I can do anything. Didn't you know that?"

George had to give it some thought before laughing. I knew some doctors thought they were God, but your version sounds right. I've never been in a situation like this before," George said. "I'm healthy as a horse as far as I know. That's before I met Harold."

"We're lucky we came to the ER at the same time. There is so much confusion. The ER is so chaotic, few of the people there will remember you or what took place. If someone says something that isn't what we want to hear, I'll simply say they were mistaken, and because you're my patient, only what I say matters."

"I feel better about it," George said. "Thank you, Dr. Knox. I'm interested in anything you believe is pertinent. If I can help to gain some understanding about my condition, I'd like that. I'd like to think that gender in the terms that have always been accepted, are at best incomplete and woefully inadequate. There is a lot more out there than we've wrapped our brains around," George said.

"Change comes hard. Some tings, gender, sexual identity, and peculiarities we seldom see, need to be explored, whether or not people like it. Ignorance is rarely blissful, and it's often destructive. I'd like to make it less so," Dr. Knox said. "It's my curiosity as a doctor that had me thinking ahead of myself when I encountered James. My treatment of him led to him telling Ronald about a doctor he could see without embarrassment. If you have me as your doctor you've got nothing to hide. If you want to talk to me about your gender discrepancy I'll listen. You won't feel out of place in my office."

"I'd like to sit down and talk with you about this subject," Mr. Warner said. "There are questions I'd like to get the answers to. This situation with George brings to light something I experienced. Sooner or later you will need to write a paper on gender discrepancy. I'd like to be part of that. Whenever you have the time, maybe we can talk over a drink. I could come to your office if that works out for you."

"By all means, Mr. Warner. We can do that. Your experience was in what area?" Dr. Knox asked.

"My Aunt Roberta is a post operative woman. I knew her as Uncle Robert for the early years of my life," Mr. Warner said.

"Post operative. I don't imagine she'd be willing to talk to me?"

"She doesn't even talk to me about it. It's not mentioned in my family. I didn't have an aunt before," Mr. Warner said. "As I said, it isn't talked about."

"I'm dying for a cup of coffee. The cafeteria will be empty this time of night," Dr. Knox said. "If you'd like a cup we can talk. I need to get George some medication. He'll slip most of the morning away."

"Your talking my language. My head is killing me," George said.

"I have a heart patient next door. I'll be here all night. They'll page me if he takes a turn for the worse but I think he'll be OK. If I want to stay awake I need coffee," Dr. Knox said.

"George, we need to talk. You let the doctor medicate you and get some sleep. That should help a lot," Mr. Warner said. "I'll be back in the morning."

"If you are going to fire me, fire me now. I don't want to worry about that," George said.

"You are not going to be bothered by any of this, George. I might not be the most enlightened man on the planet, but I do know the difference between a reporter and a lamp post. You definitely are not a lamp post. Get some rest."

Mr. Warner followed Dr. Knox out of the room. About five minutes later, the same nurse returned to George's room. She had a hypodermic syringe in her hand.

"The Calvary has arrived, George. Dr. Knox wanted you to rest for a few hours. This will do the trick," she said, plugging the syringe into the line that ran into George's arm.

The harsh pounding became a soft relaxing beat that helped George to drift away from Sibley Hospital. The lights went out again.

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