Thunder and White Lightning

(Excerpt from Soldier’s Hospital)


Emma went with Mattie to the hospital and from the day she arrived she took over. After she got the bookkeeping in order, she moved on to what was euphemistically called the sunroom. The windows were so dirty the sun could hardly get through and what little light did get in was quickly swallowed by the washed-out gray walls.

The next day the women showed up with a dozen half-full cans of paint in various colors. Emma didn’t ask for volunteers, she issued orders. If she heard murmurs of “it’s just like back in the army,” she ignored them. She assigned three men to a wall, one on the ladder, one standing and one in a wheelchair. Each wall was to get a different color. “Get busy.”

That taken care of, she turned to the windows. By the end of the day, the patients had transformed the room. The afternoon sun poured through the sparkling clean windows and bounced off the colorful walls. It was a good start.

The next morning Emma and Mattie were shocked to see that someone had written all over the newly painted walls. Emma was about to go on the warpath when Mattie noticed that the scribbles were actually cartoons of the patients, wounds and all.

As the GIs arrived in the sunroom, they were upset too, until they realized what they were seeing and then they started looking for themselves and laughing! It was the most beautiful sound Emma or Mattie had ever heard.