Screaming Blue Miss Helen

A daddy, a daughter, an emergency room.

She bolted upright. I hugged her to my chest and wiped her tears with my T-shirt. Brian Jones took another look up her nose and reached for the first of the four pairs of tweezers he'd try for the excavation. He made an exploratory dab. She jerked her head away. He did it again. She did it again. He left the room for a few minutes and came back with a nurse and a Q-tip swabbed with numbing gel. The nurse put her in a gentle headlock, I pinned her legs down, and she started screaming for her mom.

Brian Jones put the swab up her nose and she bucked like he'd just put electroshock pads on her chest and yelled, "Clear!" I could only see her eyes, which howled with daddy-betrayal, but now the entire hospital could hear her how much sh-sh-she w-w-w-anted to go home. Brian Jones put down the swab and gently inserted tweezers #2 in her nostril. With artful expertise, he calmly navigated the flesh around the opening and peered in. No luck. He backed away and left the room. She sprang up, got on her knees, and affixed herself to me like a koala bear to a tree, which was good because in that position she couldn't see what Brian Jones was holding when he came back in the room: a tray of utensils like the ones Jeremy Irons used in Dead Ringers.

He unwrapped the sanitary paper from the tray and sat on the edge of the bed. Another, male, nurse joined the female nurse and they both took hold of her head. She went wild. The female nurse called her sweetie, the male nurse told her about his dog Hershey, but she wasn't buying any of it. Her screaming hit first-Wednesday-of-the-month levels as Brian Jones dug in with tweezers #3. Her eyes bore into mine with rage and blame. I pressed down on her legs, kept talking to her, and told her everything was going to be okay, even though I was starting to realize she'd have to go under the knife. After a few minutes of gentle burrowing, Brian Jones backed away and sprinted out of the room. The nurses unclenched her head. She got on her knees and tried to make a break for it.

James O'Brien

I picked her up, held her on my lap, and wiped the sweat and tears off her face. Brian Jones came back into the room with tweezers #4--a small scissors, actually, with a tiny fishhook meant for those hard-to-reach-spots. As we pinned her down, she started writhing and weakly screaming, "No, no, no! Daddeeeee!" All the adults said the same thing, which at this point--20 minutes after our first kiss--sounded like bald-faced lies: "It won't take much longer, honey." Brian Jones adjusted his glasses with a newfound purpose and dove in. C'mon, baby.

She arched her back as the nurses held her head in a nurse-vise grip and I held her ankles and listened to high-pitched tales of Hershey the dog and people all around us murmuring about that poor little screaming kid in there and, just as I started to think it was going to be the knife at worst and the shot at best, Brian Jones uncoiled from her face, like a gardener pulling a weed. "There it is!" we all told her in unison. Brian Jones held it up. It was huge and blue and by far the most beautiful thing I've ever seen come out of a nose. She crumpled into my arms and whimpered.

They gave her a Popsicle. We signed out and thanked the nurses and anyone else we could thank, but we couldn't find Brian Jones, who was off putting out another fire. It was almost midnight.

We drove home along the perfectly quiet city streets and didn't play the radio. I held her hand and told her how good she'd done. She sucked on her Popsicle and made me promise to tell everybody "every detail" of our adventure. And every time I have, somewhere in the background, Evan Dando's been singing, "All my life I thought I needed all the things I didn't need at all/All my life I thought I wanted all the things I didn't want at all."

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