Canto 7 – Room 1313, Parkland
Stan brought the flowers he bought in the gift shop with him as he entered the room. The husband, David Nguyen, sat in the cushioned chair by the bed with his head in his hands. He was obviously distraught in spite of the time that passed since the mystery illness struck down his wife. The daughter, Hannah according to the notes, sat in a folding chair watching cartoons on the hospital-room TV.
Stan turned to Maria and whispered, “You make friends with the little girl. Give her your cellphone number and tell her she can call you if she wants to talk about anything.”
Maria nodded silently and walked over to the little girl.
“Um, Mr. Nguyen? I know now is not a good time, but I brought Brittany some flowers. I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to help your family out in this time of trouble?”
The man looked up. He was obviously an Asian-American, probably Vietnamese. He had been crying. His eyes were red.
“Who? Who are you? Brittany knows you?”
“I know her through her work at the charity, the one helping troubled teens. She’s a very determined activist trying to make kids’ lives better.” It wasn’t totally a lie. The information he dug up about her charitable activities was indeed impressive.
“Yeah, well, I wish she had spent more time with her own daughter and less time fundraising for future criminals and terrorists. Now poor Hannah will never know her mother as well as she deserves.”
“Oh? Did the doctor give you bad news?”
“He can’t tell me anything at all. He has no idea what caused this coma. She’s not brain-dead, but nobody can say when or even if she will ever wake up. For all they know, she will be like this until she dies.” The man was obviously filled with bitterness and anger.
“She got this way at that old antique toy store on Mockingbird Lane, didn’t she?”
“Do you know anything about what happened while she was in there?”
“Not really. She took Hannah in there just to look at the toys. Why?”
“There’s a lot of very old things in there. Some of those really old toys come from a time before anybody knew that mercury or asbestos was bad for you… even deadly.”
“You think she might’ve gotten some of that stuff from the toys in there?”
“It’s possible. Did you talk to the store owner… or whoever was there running the place? Maybe he could’ve shed some light on what she did that may have caused her condition.”
“I didn’t really talk to him. He did talk to the ambulance guy and the police while I was there. But I went here to Parkland in the ambulance with Brittany.”
Maria gave Hannah a hug and then came over to stand next to her stepdad. Stan winked at her with the eye farthest from the man in the chair.
“My daughter and I are hoping for the best. You and your family will be in our prayers. I will leave you my phone number. Anything you want to talk about or anything we can do to help, just give us a call.” Stan handed the man a piece of paper with his cellphone number scrawled on it.
“Thank you. What was your name again?”
“My name is Stanley… but you can call me Stan. Stan Menschen. My daughter here is Maria. Your daughter is more than welcome to talk to her about anything. I asked her to give Hannah her cell number.”
“Thank you. I don’t know what else to say…” He dropped his head back into his hands.
Stan walked out with Maria feeling like they did not learn much, but the groundwork was laid.