It was the nurse, Miss Gillam, who first noticed his toes when she stripped off his socks.
As soon as she had him in bed she called the intern, Dr. Lewis, the new one who looked at least five years younger than the twenty-six he was.
Dr. Lewis glanced at the chart, took a quick look at the blackening toes and said, “Well, you’ve got yourself quite a frostbite.” He frowned and turned to Miss Gillam. “Call Dr. Resnick immediately, nurse.”
Dr. Resnick, the resident, whose premature baldness gave him the look of a much older man, confirmed Dr. Lewis’s suspicion. “It’s gangrene all right. Diabetics are particularly susceptible. Get an electro-cardiogram on him right away. And …”
“Emergency liver and kidney function tests?”
“Correct. Call me as soon as you know the results.”
Manley Halliday lay comfortably in the white bed, fully restored to consciousness. With an overwhelming sense of relief, he was giving in to his exhaustion. At least he was rid of Love on Ice. What would he do now? Shhh, like his own physician he warned himself against undue anxiety. Don’t press now. Just lie back. Rest. Knit. Sleep. An irrational confidence sustained him. Every man had a destiny to fulfil. A Manley Halliday couldn’t leave off in the middle this way. Not with Folly and Farewell merely begun …
Dr. Lewis was calling Dr. Resnick from the cardiograph room. “You can come down and look at the wet tracings, doctor.”
Dr. Resnick read the evidence. “Mmm. Considerable myocardial damage.”
“You’re not kidding.”
“I’m afraid this complicates things.”
“What’s the story—digitalis right away?”
“Yes, a rapid and full digitalization. Call me as soon as you have those tests.”
When Dr. Resnick returned to his office he tried to get in touch with Dr. Wittenberg again. Dr. Wittenberg would not be home until evening. It had been old man Wittenberg’s reputation not to have been out of communication with the hospital in thirty years.
Meanwhile Manley Halliday was coasting on in a delicious half-sleep. In his drowse he was describing sleep in some elaborate new work: sleep is deeeep releeeeece is peeeeece he kept dreaming his little random poems and dozingly drifted on.
A few hours later Dr. Lewis had the results of the other tests.
“N.P.N.’s no. You suppose that’s all renal, Doctor?”
Dr. Resnick shook his head. “Unquestionably part of it is hypatic. Because, look, his cholesterol is only 104 and the free cholesterol is 52 percent.”
“What you think his chances are?”
“Well, analyze it. Bad heart. Liver and kidney damage. Diabetes which can’t be adequately controlled in the presence of the gangrene and the toxemia. And with that he’s facing surgery within twenty-four hours.”
Dr. Lewis whistled. “I’d lay twenty to one against.”
Dr. Resnick frowned at him. “That’s a little extreme, Lewis. An infusion set immediately. Glucose in saline solution, insulin added to cover the sugar, of course. After 2000 cc’s add 500 cc’s of whole blood. And start giving him sulfa,” Dr. Resnick said over his shoulder as he hurried back to a dozen other urgencies.
Manley Halliday was a little surprised when he saw the infusion set rigged up, but he didn’t say anything until he noticed those 500 cc’s of whole blood.
“Blood transfusion?” he asked the adolescent in the white uniform. Could this be his doctor? Where in hell was old Dr. Wittenberg?
“Right,” said Dr. Lewis.
“For your foot.”
Oh, he had almost forgotten. “You mean the frost-bite. Transfusion for frost-bite?”
“It’s more than that, fella. You have a” (Lewis remembered how Dr. Resnick would say it) “a serious condition.”
“Don’t give me generalities, damn it. What is it? Tell me exactly.”
He struggled to draw his foot up to see for himself.
“All right. You have gangrene, right foot, first three toes.”
Gangrene. The ugliest word in the language. The crazy chasing after the train in the unheated cab. The useless trudge to the ski-jump. The numbness. From Love on Ice to frost-bite to gangrene—what was it made the word so horrible?
He made an effort to phrase his question as much like shop talk as possible, something he always took pride in doing with professional men. “So the blood’s to get me in condition for amputation? That what Dr. Wittenberg recommended?”
“We haven’t been able to get in touch with Dr. Wittenberg since he left the hospital.”
Strange. Wittenberg practically lived in her room when Jere had her post-natal repairs. That’s what he always had admired about Wittenberg, the conscientiousness, the reliability.
“Then who ordered the operation?”
“The resident, Dr. Resnick. He’ll get Dr. Wittenberg in as soon as he can reach him.”
“Get me Dr. Resnick.”
He waited angrily. What were they trying to do, see how much he could take? God damn them. From the start he had tried to tell them. He was angry with all of them. Gangrene. God, he hated that word. Three of his toes turned black with death.
Dr. Resnick was looking down at him, with eyes that showed a fine intelligence, inspired confidence. He liked Dr. Resnick’s face. Dr. Resnick wasn’t the sort of man who cut your toes off just for the hell of it. Only where was old Doc Wittenberg? He’d feel even safer with good old Dr. W.
“So how soon will it be, Doctor?”
“Not for twenty-four hours.”
“What’s the delay?”
After all it was just dead tissue to cut away. Like cutting away dead tissue in a manuscript, leaving what lived intact.
“Liver and kidney aren’t functioning too well. Have to stimulate your heart.”
Manley Halliday looked up at Dr. Resnick. “What kind of— operative risk am I?”
Dr. Resnick withdrew behind the fuzzy curtain of medical diplomacy. “In twenty-four hours time a much better one than you are now.”
“Even chance of—not dying?”
“Oh, we’ll do a good deal better than that for you. You can do a lot, these days, in twenty-four hours.”
Twenty-four hours. They were gambling on twenty-four hours. How recklessly he had gambled away these last twenty-four years!
Shep was in the room. Shaved at last.
Manley Halliday smiled when he was sure it was Shep. An old friend.
When Shep looked down at the vulnerable figure with one arm attached to the infusion set, he felt that he had never known anyone so well.
From where Manley Halliday lay, Shep loomed bulky and overpowering in his youthful camel-hair wrap-around.
“Well, I really fouled it up this time, baby.”
“Manley, listen, I haven’t had a chance to tell you, but I finished those chapters on the train last night. They knocked me for a loop. Nobody writing today can touch it. Nobody. It’s the old Halliday—but no, it isn’t, it’s new, sounder …”
Ah, pour it in, pour it in, better than insulin, better than blood and glucose.
“Christ, baby, I’ve got to live.” He wasn’t sure whether he was saying or thinking. “Give me ten years. That isn’t much to ask. Ten years of nothing but work. Never, never let it come second again.”
Manley Halliday fell silent.
“But you’ve got to finish this book.” Shep was close to him.
“This time you see it all, not just what happened and how it happened but why. You never knew why before.”
If only the light behind his eyes didn’t flicker out. In such panic as he had never known before he said, “Shep, please, I want you to call Ann.”
“Yes. I must’ve told you. Ann Loeb.”
“Ann Loeb, the cutter?”
“Yes, yes. Still get her at the studio. Tell her I said: come.”
So that was Ann. He couldn’t imagine them together. Ann Loeb. He had never heard of them even seen together. He wouldn’t have thought her Halliday’s kind at all.
Shep called her from the booth in the waiting room. When he had told her the worst of it, she said: “I see. I think I can make the six-o’clock plane. If I don’t call you back by eight-thirty your time, tell him I’m on the six o’clock.”
Shep tried to tell her a little more of what had happened but she made him feel garrulous the way she cut him short with, “Thank you for calling. I should be at the hospital just before noon.
In the morning when the first visitor was allowed, the nurse told Shep, “He had a very fitful night. He kept calling and calling for somebody named Jerry. Would you have any idea who that could be?”
When he went in to see him, Shep asked, “Manley, they say you kept calling for Jere. Should I phone her? Do you want her to come up?”
Manley Halliday shook his head. “I don’t want to see her. Ever again. I want to see Dr. Wittenberg.”
When Dr. Wittenberg came in, Manley stared suspiciously. “Dr. Wittenberg? You’re not Dr. Wittenberg.”
Dr. Wittenberg smiled. “I’m Dr. Wittenberg all right. You must be thinking of my father.”
“Oh, isn’t he taking care of me?”
“Dad passed away nearly five years ago.”
What was this, was everybody dead? It shook him badly;Burt Seixas, and now Dr. Wittenberg. He closed his eyes to concentrate. People let go into death when their will wasn’t strong enough, didn’t they? It was like falling asleep. People could stay up for weeks if they willed it strongly enough. Like Marathon dancers. Remember the time he and Jere for a lark—Jere. “Jere.”
“There he goes again.” The nurse. “Do you think we ought to call her?”
“I don’t know. He says he won’t see her,” Shep whispered.
Manley Halliday didn’t think he was going to like this Dr. Wittenberg. This Dr. Wittenberg was telling him, “The moment we undressed you we recognized the gangrene. But there’s nothing to worry about. There isn’t a better surgeon in the city than Dr. A. A. He’s had enormous success with these cases.”
He would have felt so much safer with old Dr. Wittenberg. That was silly, of course. Nothing much he could have done from this point on. It was up to surgery now.
A Miss Loeb was outside. So soon? Hadn’t he just asked Shep to phone her? O Lord, he was losing track of time. And he needed every one of those twenty-four hours. That doctor had warned him. He couldn’t afford to lose any. He had to be a miser of time and keep counting the hours to be sure he didn’t lose a single one or give any away; he had given so many away.
“Ann, I—took a drink.”
“Yes, I know.”
“I tried to think about his silly story.”
“That’s behind you now. Just think ahead to getting well.”
“Ann, Shep read my opening chapters. He likes them.”
“But I took a drink, Ann. I had to. I was so tired, and worried.”
“Should you be talking so much? I think they want you to rest.”
“But you can stay here, can’t you, Ann?”
“Yes, I’ll be here. But rest, rest. I want you to get well.”
In the waiting room Dr. Wittenberg decided to tell them the truth. The operation was a calculated risk. “He’s toxic, feverish.I wish his heart were better. But he’s in the best possible hands. I don’t mean to sound too pessimistic.”
“Christ, if anything happens I’ll feel it’s my fault.” Shep wanted to confide in Ann. “That champagne on the plane. And not thinking of frost-bite.”
“I shouldn’t have let him go unless I went with him,” Ann said. “And of course I should have warned you about him. But he didn’t want anybody to know about us. He’s surprisingly old-fashioned about some things.” Her strong sense of self-discipline reasserted itself. “But there’s no point to all this. I don’t think Manley would approve of it either. He knows himself well enough to assume full responsibility.”
Miss Gillam, the nurse, came up to Shep. “He’s calling for Jere again. Begging us to find her. Don’t you think …”
Shep: “But every time I asked him …”
Ann: “I think she ought to be here.”
Her positiveness decided it. Miss Gillam took the number and went to make the call. Shep slipped in to see Manley again. He was groggy with the pre-operative medication.
“We’re sending for Jere. She should be here soon.”
He shook his head again. “No. Won’t see. Don’ wan’ her t’ come.”
“But the nurse keeps saying …”
“Ann. Ann here?”
“Yes, of course.”
“You talked to her. Remember? You saw her.”
“Ann? Ann here?”
The nurse came in with more nembutal.
For Shep it was something of a shock and a disappointment, after all his imagination had done with Manley’s description, to see Jere. It was impossible to picture how this dumpy-figured woman with the anachronistic bangs and the obviously touched-up hair ever could have served as the model for Manley’s vision, the belle of a ball that had lasted a decade. Her dress was a ridiculous length that had been out of fashion for years. It was weird, seeing this Jere, as if she had been aging in an old wardrobe trunk that hadn’t been opened since the Hoover days. Even her gestures and her emotions were out of style, the way she entered with her arms flung out—“Where is he, where is he, my poor baby?”—like the performance of an old melodrama by a third-rate road company.
Fighting for a future, Manley Halliday was plummeting deeper and deeper into the past. He was losing all sense of north from down or why he was going where. Cease to be whirled about.
“Jere, Jere,” it came out. “Why can’t you find her. Find her. Jere, Jere, where are you?”
She was bending over him, smeary with tears, her face coming down to his searching.
“Mannie. Mannie. I’m here. I’m right here, darling.”
“Jere, Jere.” He pitched his voice up into the void. “For God’s sake, can’t you find her? Can’t you find her?”
“Mannie, Mannie, look, it’s me, your Jere.”
He peered upward, hoping to see once more the fabled radiance of Jere Wilder. But all he saw was a strange middle-aged woman whose face was too close to his, pressing down against his mouth, cutting off his breath.
He needed that breath; it was all he had. “Get away. Get away. I want Jere, Jere. Find her for me, someone. Jere, Jere …”
Jere withdrew from him her tear-stained, worn-out flapper’s face.
“It’s no use,” she said heavily. “He’s too delirious. He doesn’t even recognize me.”
Published as The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg (1950).