333. Doctor, Doctor

Antonio carried Ziggy straight from the stage to the ambulance. I stuck to them like glue. The paramedics didn’t stop me from hovering. They had the gurney outside the back of the ambulance so there was plenty of room. Carynne was at my elbow.

I didn’t really absorb what they were saying at that point. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He had closed his again, though he had to open them to respond to what the EMT was saying. Ziggy lifted his hand and put it to his throat and I felt a stab of panic, pure, visceral panic. When your singer does that, it’s like seeing a thoroughbred horse limp. You just think: oh shit.

Carynne was talking to me. It took me a moment to focus on her. “What?”

“You know that guy I told you about? I’m having him come out in the morning,” she said.

“What guy?”

“The doctor. The one I said I’d call if we needed medication.” She meant drugs for Christian, or me and Ziggy if we needed it.

I felt sick to my stomach. “Can he come out tonight?”

“We don’t need him tonight. Zig needs rest more than anything.”

“Are you sure?”

“Daron, relax. He’s going to be fine.”

“You’re just saying that to calm me down.”

“And it’s a bad thing if you calm down?”

Ziggy must not have been as out of it as he looked. “Daron, calm down,” he said from the gurney. “I’m fine.”

“You sound like hell,” I called back. “Your throat is shot.”

“It’ll be fine.”

“If you rest it,” the paramedic said.

“Detroit tomorrow, then a day off,” Ziggy said. “I’ll rest it then.”

She shook her head but didn’t say anything else to him. To Carynne she said, “An M.D. might be able to give him a shot. I don’t know. For now, hydration and rest. I’m just going to have him sign some forms and then we’ll give him back to you.”

Carynne went into the bus then, and I waited until Ziggy eased himself off the stretcher. He leaned on me, and we walked slowly around to the bus door.

Carynne had turned part of one bench of the back into a bed, having moved Ziggy’s pillow and sheets out there. Ziggy lowered himself to sit.

No one else was in the bus. Everyone else was packing out or setting up the hibachi or something. We were staying the night in the parking lot and not planning to roll until after rush hour ended tomorrow.

Carynne sat down on one side of him and I sat down on the other. “Okay,” she said. “Seriously. How long has the throat thing been going on?”

Ziggy coughed a little. “I don’t know. It might have started a while ago but with the painkillers, I wasn’t feeling it. I mean, I had a little something, probably just allergies, all the way back in SoCal.”

“And then you weren’t sleeping, and then you’ve been overdoing it, singing yourself raw every night because you can’t feel how you’re ripping it up,” Carynne said. “How’s your sleep now?”

Ziggy shrugged. “Sometimes it’s okay.”

“Sometimes?” she asked.

“Sometimes,” he admitted, with a bit of a defeated slump of his shoulders.

“Ten more shows, Zig. Ten more. You have to make it,” she said. “Though right now I’m more worried about tomorrow than the rest of the ten.”

“You say the doc’s coming tomorrow?”

“Yeah. If we’re lucky he’ll have some fix other than just more painkillers. That’s obviously not working. I’ve seen it happen where they give a cortisone shot.”

Ziggy put a hand on his throat, and for the first time looked alarmed.

“I’m pretty sure the shot goes in your arm,” Carynne said, “not directly in your voice box.”

“Thank god for that,” Ziggy said. “What happens if we cancel?”

“We’ll deal with it if we have to,” Carynne said.

“No, I mean, I’m asking, what really happens? We talked about suing Megaton over cancelled dates.”

“It’s just money,” Carynne said.

“How much?”

“Detroit? Seats twelve thousand, tickets were about twenty bucks each…”

“That’s almost a quarter of a million dollars,” I whispered, thinking about the talk Louis and I had by the lake. Yeah that was $250K gross, our take was just a fraction, but no matter how you looked at it a lot of people depended on that money. But so what. I looked at Ziggy, my voice strengthening. “Don’t you think of it that way. I can always buy another guitar. You can’t buy another voice. It’s fucking priceless. You! Are fucking priceless, okay?”

“Okay.” He cracked a smile.

The tailgate party was a bit more subdued that night. Magenta had once had something like this, she told me, and said her doctor had told her that talking was worse than singing and had banned her from speaking. I had her repeat that to Ziggy who nodded and then made a motion like he was locking his lips and throwing away the key.

She and I left him alone then, and sat down together on a crate outside the bus.

“It’s right scary, isn’t it?” she said. She pronounced it “innit.” Her hair looked dark purple in the parking lot lights.

“Terrifying. I swear, I thought he had died when he fell off the stage.” I had to clamp down hard on a lump in my own throat then.

“Yeah,” she said, which pretty much said it all.

We sat listening to Topher and Bart playing the mandolin and the zither together for a bit. Then Magenta asked, “Was there blood?”

“I don’t think so. Wait, you mean when he fell? Or in his vocal cords?”

“If he was coughing it up, like if he’d literally ripped himself up inside, that’s worse than if he’s just got swelling or scarring. If he’s got blood, well, we all have a day off tomorrow. If he’s just got swelling, the shot will at least get him through.”

“At least?”

“See, the problem is the shot gets the swelling down, but if he’s got the flu or a cold it makes that worse, and there are side effects.”

“How did I know you were going to say that? I’m afraid to hear what they are.”

She hesitated a little. “Yeah. They’re… well… trouble sleeping and mood swings.”

“Great.” I hung my head a little.

I was surprised to find her hand rubbing my shoulder. She hadn’t struck me as the touchy-feely type. “It’s all right,” she said. “He’ll be all right. You’ll get through it.”

“We don’t have any other choice. We have to.”

“You will. It’s just two weeks. You can make it. We’ll all do whatever we can. You need someone to sing the high parts? I’ll learn them. Or Toph will. He’s got a great falsetto.”

I looked at her more seriously then. “You really mean that.”

“O’course I do. The whole point a’running away and joining the circus is that we freaks have to stick together, yeah?”

“You don’t know how good it is to hear you say that. Magenta…”

“Madge, please, we’re friends now.”

“Madge. Thank you.”

“There you are, dear.” She patted me on the leg, then stood up. As she moved I could smell cloves.

Ziggy climbed into the bus. I followed him.


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