I had a hard time sitting up straight in the ambulance. The seat was a narrow shelf-like affair along one side, with a green plastic pad, which my shorts tended to slip on, and the ride was bumpy. I kept being thrown one way and another, and, because of the straight jacket, I couldn't use my hands to steady myself.
Julie's shell posed another problem. The bouncing slowly moved it toward the edge of the seat, and I couldn't reach out to grab it. I finally managed to push it back with one leg—my good one—although I nearly fell off the seat in the process, but I got it against the wall of the ambulance, about a foot and a half from me. It was resting on the curved side, but seemed to want to roll toward the wall, so it was stable enough.
I was sweating heavily by then, from the exertion. It was a hot day to begin with, and straight jackets are not designed for comfort.
After a while, Jonesy called back to me.
"Been out to sea lately, Gabe?"
Jonesy was a nice enough guy, actually, but a bit of a smart-ass, and I really didn't feel like bantering with him at the moment.
"Not lately," I said.
Jonesy turned to the driver. The driver was a new guy, since my time in the hospital. I didn't know him.
"We're privileged characters, Al. You don't get to meet a dolphin in person every day. Ain't that right, Gabriel?"
"It was just a story, Jonesy—just a game I used to play."
"Just a game? Hey, Gabe! Maybe you're cured!"
"Yeah," I said, "Maybe I am."
* * * * *
Back at the house, Julie stood in front of her mirror, with a comb in her hair. She was supposed to be getting ready for the party, but the hand on the comb wasn't moving.
Ann appeared in the mirror, behind her.
"Only an hour left, Honey."
Julie nodded, but the comb still didn't move.
"Do you think he'll be all right?" she asked.
Ann smiled reassuringly.
"Of course he will, honey. He's not bad, you know—just sick."