“What do you mean you ain’t touchin’ it?” Heath whimpered.
“Just what I said. I ain’t gonna touch it. I sure as heck don’t like the look of it and I ain’t wantin’ to be catchin’ anything.” Nick glowered with consternation, his intense, hazel eyed stare not moving from his brother’s belly button.
“No Nick. I don’t think you should touch it. You don’t know what it is.” Shaking her head, Victoria advised, putting her arm on her second born, assuring him to stay away.
“There you are Heath, even Mother is wary of it.” Nick remonstrated.
“Well I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.” Victoria expressed, the worry evident as her eyes, in pity for her youngest son, took on a more woeful look.
“Well I’ll touch it if you’re not up to it,” stricken by his young, half brother’s pitiable expression, Jarrod bravely moved forward.
“It isn’t that we’re not up to it Jarrod. We don’t want to cause any more grief. I just think it is something best left to the doctor. He’s experienced, he’s used to this kind of thing and he’s probably seen it before and I’m sure he’ll know exactly what to do with it.” Victoria tried to assure her stepson, not at all happy about the bulbous swelling she could see protruding from his navel.
The family stood round Heath’s bed, all looking intently at their brother’s and son’s exposed abdomen. After they had finished eating their breakfast, they had been drawn to their brother’s and son’s room on hearing the anguished cries of distress coming from Heath. Panicked, Nick had been the first to barge into the room to find Heath, a horrified expression on his handsome face, looking down at his midriff, with the bed covers, gripped in his white knuckled hands, pushed down to expose his belly button, but carefully high enough to afford him dignity.
“Sweetheart, Howard should be here shortly,” Victoria comforted. “He was hoping he would be able to give you the all clear today and you’d be able to get out of bed.”
“I am sorry,” said Audra with tears glistening in her eyes as she took in the tortured expression on her beloved brother’s face.
“It looks kinda familiar.” A bit braver, Nick moved closer, “It reminds me of an engorged tick,” he stated, rubbing his chin while bending down to closer peruse with a penetrating stare at the protrusion. “You been rompin’ around in the long grass again with Jasmine Violet?”
“No of course he hasn’t,” Audra defended. “He’s been stuck up in here in bed for the past week.”
“Really brother Nick, have some concern,” Jarrod cautioned. “Besides, with that,” with distaste he pointed at Heath’s belly button, “does he look like he’s in any fit state for courtin’?”
“No, well, I just thought. Mind I ain’t ever seen one that big,” Nick thought he had better clarify himself, “a cattle tick that is.” The family could see Heath visually squirm at Nick’s words.
With those words spoken, Howard Merar entered the room and made his way over to the bed. “Good morning, Silas sent me straight up,” the doctor explained himself and putting his bag down and opening it, removed his stethoscope. “Right Heath what have we here?” he asked, looking toward where everyone was staring, at the dark, purplish-red, egg shaped swelling, with a healthy bloom about it, protruding from Heath’s belly button?”
“We hoped you’d be able to tell us that,” Nick barked with frustration at the doctor.
“Yes Nick. Let me just examine it first please,” the doctor responded. “How do you feel?” He said putting his hand on Heath’s forehead. “You don’t seem to have a temperature,” he answered before Heath could say anything, “that’s a good thing.”
He then prodded his fingers into the abdomen around Heath’s navel. “That alright Heath, not tender or anything?”
Not daring to take his eyes from the swelling, neither trusting himself to speak, Heath shook his head.
“That’s good,” Howard Merar gave his patient a quick smile, then put the earpieces of the stethoscope to his ears, and bending down, put the cold bell to the heinous swelling. He listened, he frowned, he groaned, “Well it isn’t living,” he stated. “That’s a good thing,” he looked reassuringly at each worried, family member.
“So what ya gonna do about it?” Nick asked, hands on hips, somewhat relieved with the doctor’s diagnosis.
“I think I might have seen something like this before, in fact quite recently,” the doctor said, squinting over his spectacles at the invalid’s bowl of fruit before delving into his bag and pulling out a syringe with a very large needle. “This should do the trick.” He said holding the instrument, the long needle pointing upward, ensuring he was drawing Heath’s attention to it.
Heath’s eyes, terrified, opened wide, “What you gonna do with that?” he stuttered in anguish.
“Just extract a little of the juices,” the doctor said, stabbing into the growth before Heath or any of his family could stop him.
Shaken, Victoria screamed and Audra went faint and was steadied by Jarrod. Nick, who had not taken his eyes from the operation, took on a thunderous expression. If looks could kill, Heath knew he was going to pay dearly for this little deception. He gave a crooked smile of innocence which he prayed would melt everyone’s hearts.
“This is from one of your vineyards I assume. That which goes into making the prize, vintage, Barkley Burgundy wine you are so proud of.” Howard made his final diagnosis, lifting into the air a large, black grape, expertly skewered by the syringe.