Mr. Smith tolerated the surgery well. The anesthesia wore off quickly. One of the wheels of his gurney clattered as the orderly pushed him down the hallway towards his room. His mother, wringing her hands, wordlessly rushed towards him when he entered. She cried.
That night, his mother slept on two chairs next to his bed, as if she was guarding the wound.
Mr. Smith said little about the amputation of his left leg. He commented that the car accident was just that—an accident—and, now, he wanted to look forward, not back. The doctors and nurses marveled at his serenity. They wished all of their patients were calm like him.
The next morning, his sister came by. She brought a box full of family photographs with her. While Mr. Smith watched, his sister and mother taped them to the window. The photos formed a large “S” that occupied the entire pane. He was pleased with their handiwork.
The visitors began to trickle in that afternoon. Some were teenagers; others were about to retire. A few came in wearing tailored suits, but most were in jeans and tee shirts. Nearly all of them came alone. They told the clerk that they were Mr. Smith’s friends. The clerk often had to ask them to wait because there were already too many people in his room. Most spent less than 15 minutes with him.
A nurse turned off the lights in his room that night. Mr. Smith objected. He said he could sleep in a lit room. If he woke up, he wanted to see who was coming in. The nurse turned the light back on.
A few visitors came later. When the nurses told them that they could not see Mr. Smith, some of them became angry. They had travelled far to see him. Couldn’t the nurses make exceptions? When the nurses instructed them to come back during visiting hours, they muttered obscenities.
This went on for two days.
Meanwhile, some of the nurses noticed that the dressing around the stump of Mr. Smith’s left leg was often loose. While rewrapping the gauze, they told him to let them know if he noticed the dressing was falling off. To help the wound heal, it should be snugly wrapped at all times. Wincing, Mr. Smith agreed.
On the afternoon of the third day, screams and shouts came from Mr. Smith’s room. Nurses ran in and saw a male visitor leaning over the bed. His fist was over Mr. Smith’s head.
The nurses demanded to know what was happening. Mr. Smith said nothing. The angry man said nothing. The two other visitors in the room stared at the floor. The angry man abruptly left.
Twenty minutes later, four police officers burst onto Mr. Smith’s floor. The nurses chased after them, loudly asking for the reason for their visit. The police said that they wanted to arrest the man in the room with the S on his window. The nurses protested.
Mr. Smith was sleeping when the police surrounded his bed. Doctors arrived. His mother fled. The police asked the doctors to remove the dressing from his wound. Mr. Smith, calmly looking around, asked if it could be done later. The police insisted.
And this is how everyone learned that in the wound of his amputated leg was a stash of cocaine that he was selling to his visitors.