Currently viewing the tag: "Maryland Tuberculosis Hospital"

written by James Rada, Jr.

A new serial fiction story for your enjoyment

2: Learning the Rules

Tim Ross straightened up from the railing of the barracks-like housing unit at the Maryland Tuberculosis Hospital. He looked at his hands. They were shaking.

He wasn’t afraid. He knew that. It would take a lot more than a whispered warning to cause him fear. The air this high up was a little chilly, but not enough to make him shake. Had he lost his tolerance to cold? Or was it the tuberculosis (TB)? He had lost his speed and stamina to the TB that racked his body. His strength was going.

Tim focused on his hands and stilled the trembling. Then he closed his hands into fists and hammered them down onto the railing and was rewarded with a deep “wham” that seemed to vibrate through the wood.

Tim smiled. He might not be strong enough to fight any longer, but he was far from weak… and far from giving in to the TB. He would fight this, and just like with his boxing matches, he would win.

He left the pavilion and walked to the dining hall. He enjoyed the walk and paused occasionally for quick sets of deep-knee bends or to throw shadow punches.

The dining hall was a stone building connected to the rear of the administration building and was roughly in the center of the surrounding pavilions. He entered the building and paused. The room was filled with rectangular tables covered with tablecloths and surrounded with wooden chairs. People moved through a cafeteria line with trays of food.

What caught Tim’s attention was the people. They didn’t look sick, or at least not very sick. Should he take that as a good sign? They were young adults in their 20s to the elderly. Some were dressed as if this was a night out. Others looked like they had walked in from a garden.

Tim got in line with a tray and got an open-faced turkey sandwich covered in gravy, green beans, and mashed potatoes. He found an empty table and sat down. He ate slowly, paying more attention to the people in the dining room. They seemed too quiet. People were talking, but they acted as if they were in a library, whispering to each other. Some cast suspicious glances around themselves. More than a few watched Tim as if he was a threat as a new person at the hospital.

He had finished half of his sandwich when a man about his age sat down across the table from him.

“Hi, there. My name is Max Wenschof,” the man said.

“Tim Ross.” He reached across the table and shook Max’s hand.

“You’re the new guy. You don’t look too sick. Well, I guess if you were, you wouldn’t be in here. Where are you staying?”

“I’m in Pavillion Five. What do you mean if I was sick, I wouldn’t be in here? Doesn’t everyone in here have TB?”

“Sure, sure, but we either have mild cases or we’re on the mend. Some might even be ready to go home. The real sick patients stay in the receiving hospital. Nurses and orderlies bring them their meals.”

“Oh, it’s good to know I’m not too sick.”

Max clapped him on the shoulder. “Of course not. You can walk around.” Max cut into his sandwich and took a bite.“By the way, I’m in the shack right next door to you. Four.”

“Shack?”

“That’s what everyone calls the pavilions. Too fancy schmancy. They’re shacks.” Max paused. “Are you from Baltimore? You sound like you might be.”

Tim nodded. “I lived out near Sparrows Point.”

“This place must be a bit of a shock for you, then.”

Tim snorted. “You don’t know the half of it.”

“Don’t worry. You’ll get along fine once you learn the rules.”

“That’s what I hear, but no one has told me what they are.”

Max chuckled. “They are vague on purpose. They would rather you break a rule and catch you at it, so they can correct you. And if you don’t break enough rules, I think they make them up, so they can punish you.”

“Punish?”

Max nodded and concentrated on his feet.

Tim wondered what sort of punishment they could inflict, but Max seemed not to want to talk about it.

“So, what is there to do here?”

“Officially, you can go to the recreation hall. It has cards, games, and a radio, although you can’t pick up much up here on the mountain at night.”

“That doesn’t sound like much.”

“It’s not.”

“You said officially. Are there things to do that are unofficial?”

“Well…” Max looked around and then lowered his voice. “A good-looking guy like your yourself could probably find a cute nurse for a little romance. They’re not supposed to fraternize in that way, but it has happened. You could even find a woman among the patients. It depends on how much you want to kiss a gal with TB, but hey, I say, it can’t make you any sicker.” Tim didn’t point out that was exactly what Max was expecting the nurses to do.

“What if I just want a drink?”

Max drew back. “Officially, the word is that absolutely no alcohol is allowed on the property. Not only is it Dr. Cullen’s rule, but it’s the law.”

“And, unofficially?” Tim asked softly.

Max clapped him on the shoulder. “See? You are learning about this place already. We are near the Pen-Mar resort and far from police. There are stories of lots of stills and moonshiners in the woods on this mountain. They sell to the resort and places like Hagerstown and Frederick.” He slowed his speech. “Some of them are very close by.”

“Are you saying there’s a still on the property?”

“I would never say that. You can draw your own conclusions.”

Tim shook his head. “Why does everyone seem so nervous that they won’t talk directly?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He suddenly concentrated on his sandwich as an orderly walked past the table.            

“I just don’t get it,” Tim said.

Max sighed and looked around. “You seem like a nice guy, Tim, but you’ve got to be careful. You don’t want to be corrected too many times. Watch what you say and who you say it to. Don’t attract too much attention to yourself, but you also want people to notice if you are gone.”

“Gone?”

“That’s all I can say.”

Tim shook his head. He didn’t need another cryptic warning. He needed answers. He wondered if he tried to leave the hospital and go elsewhere, would he even be allowed?

A cute red-headed nurse who still looked like a teen walked into the dining hall. She looked around and then walked over to Tim’s table.

“Mr. Ross?” she asked.

“That’s me,” Tim said with a forced smile.

“Dr. Vallingham will see you now.”

“Dr. Vallingham? I thought Dr. Cullen was in charge?”

The nurse smiled. “Oh, he is, but he can’t see all the patients here and run the hospital, too. Dr. Vallingham is the assistant director.”

Tim wondered why he had not heard of this doctor before now. Dr. Victor Cullen was the man credited for the hospital’s success. Not only had he saved the lives of many of the patients here, he had also recovered from TB himself. He was the one Tim wanted treating him.

Tim stood up. Max laid a hand on Tim’s arm. He glanced at the nurse, then back at Tim.

“Remember what I said.”

Tim nodded. “I will, and I will see you around.”

He turned and followed the nurse out of the dining hall. They walked through the hallway back to the administration building.

“You look barely old enough to be out of high school,” Tim said to the nurse.

The girl laughed. “That’s about right. I graduated last year. I go to the nursing school here.”

“Are all the nurses here students?”

“Most of them. Most of the nurses here are also former patients.”

Tim paused and stared at her. “You had TB?”

The young woman shook her head. “No, but my father did. He was a patient here until he died. I wanted to do something to honor him.”

“How do you like it here?” Tim asked, wondering if he would be given another mysterious warning.

“I enjoy it. People are sick but not as bad as a lot of patients in regular hospitals. It’s given me time to get used to dealing with ill people.”

“I guess that would be important.”

“Some of the pictures I’ve seen in class make me queasy, so I definitely need time to make the adjustment.”

She led Tim to an office on the second floor and knocked on the door.

“Come in,” said a voice from inside.

The nurse opened the door. Tim stepped inside and met the man whose hands his life was in.

Administration Building, Maryland Sanatorium

written by James Rada, Jr.

A new serial fiction story for your enjoyment

2: Learning the Rules

Tim Ross straightened up from the railing of the barracks-like housing unit at the Maryland Tuberculosis Hospital. He looked at his hands. They were shaking.

He wasn’t afraid. He knew that. It would take a lot more than a whispered warning to cause him fear. The air this high up was a little chilly, but not enough to make him shake. Had he lost his tolerance to cold? Or was it the tuberculosis (TB)? He had lost his speed and stamina to the TB that racked his body. His strength was going.

Tim focused on his hands and stilled the trembling. Then he closed his hands into fists and hammered them down onto the railing and was rewarded with a deep “wham” that seemed to vibrate through the wood.

Tim smiled. He might not be strong enough to fight any longer, but he was far from weak… and far from giving in to the TB. He would fight this, and just like with his boxing matches, he would win.

He left the pavilion and walked to the dining hall. He enjoyed the walk and paused occasionally for quick sets of deep-knee bends or to throw shadow punches.

The dining hall was a stone building connected to the rear of the administration building and was roughly in the center of the surrounding pavilions. He entered the building and paused. The room was filled with rectangular tables covered with tablecloths and surrounded with wooden chairs. People moved through a cafeteria line with trays of food.

What caught Tim’s attention was the people. They didn’t look sick, or at least not very sick. Should he take that as a good sign? They were young adults in their 20s to the elderly. Some were dressed as if this was a night out. Others looked like they had walked in from a garden.

Tim got in line with a tray and got an open-faced turkey sandwich covered in gravy, green beans, and mashed potatoes. He found an empty table and sat down. He ate slowly, paying more attention to the people in the dining room. They seemed too quiet. People were talking, but they acted as if they were in a library, whispering to each other. Some cast suspicious glances around themselves. More than a few watched Tim as if he was a threat as a new person at the hospital.

He had finished half of his sandwich when a man about his age sat down across the table from him.

“Hi, there. My name is Max Wenschof,” the man said.

“Tim Ross.” He reached across the table and shook Max’s hand.

“You’re the new guy. You don’t look too sick. Well, I guess if you were, you wouldn’t be in here. Where are you staying?”

“I’m in Pavillion Five. What do you mean if I was sick, I wouldn’t be in here? Doesn’t everyone in here have TB?”

“Sure, sure, but we either have mild cases or we’re on the mend. Some might even be ready to go home. The real sick patients stay in the receiving hospital. Nurses and orderlies bring them their meals.”

“Oh, it’s good to know I’m not too sick.”

Max clapped him on the shoulder. “Of course not. You can walk around.” Max cut into his sandwich and took a bite.“By the way, I’m in the shack right next door to you. Four.”

“Shack?”

“That’s what everyone calls the pavilions. Too fancy schmancy. They’re shacks.” Max paused. “Are you from Baltimore? You sound like you might be.”

Tim nodded. “I lived out near Sparrows Point.”

“This place must be a bit of a shock for you, then.”

Tim snorted. “You don’t know the half of it.”

“Don’t worry. You’ll get along fine once you learn the rules.”

“That’s what I hear, but no one has told me what they are.”

Max chuckled. “They are vague on purpose. They would rather you break a rule and catch you at it, so they can correct you. And if you don’t break enough rules, I think they make them up, so they can punish you.”

“Punish?”

Max nodded and concentrated on his feet.

Tim wondered what sort of punishment they could inflict, but Max seemed not to want to talk about it.

“So, what is there to do here?”

“Officially, you can go to the recreation hall. It has cards, games, and a radio, although you can’t pick up much up here on the mountain at night.”

“That doesn’t sound like much.”

“It’s not.”

“You said officially. Are there things to do that are unofficial?”

“Well…” Max looked around and then lowered his voice. “A good-looking guy like your yourself could probably find a cute nurse for a little romance. They’re not supposed to fraternize in that way, but it has happened. You could even find a woman among the patients. It depends on how much you want to kiss a gal with TB, but hey, I say, it can’t make you any sicker.” Tim didn’t point out that was exactly what Max was expecting the nurses to do.

“What if I just want a drink?”

Max drew back. “Officially, the word is that absolutely no alcohol is allowed on the property. Not only is it Dr. Cullen’s rule, but it’s the law.”

“And, unofficially?” Tim asked softly.

Max clapped him on the shoulder. “See? You are learning about this place already. We are near the Pen-Mar resort and far from police. There are stories of lots of stills and moonshiners in the woods on this mountain. They sell to the resort and places like Hagerstown and Frederick.” He slowed his speech. “Some of them are very close by.”

“Are you saying there’s a still on the property?”

“I would never say that. You can draw your own conclusions.”

Tim shook his head. “Why does everyone seem so nervous that they won’t talk directly?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He suddenly concentrated on his sandwich as an orderly walked past the table.            

“I just don’t get it,” Tim said.

Max sighed and looked around. “You seem like a nice guy, Tim, but you’ve got to be careful. You don’t want to be corrected too many times. Watch what you say and who you say it to. Don’t attract too much attention to yourself, but you also want people to notice if you are gone.”

“Gone?”

“That’s all I can say.”

Tim shook his head. He didn’t need another cryptic warning. He needed answers. He wondered if he tried to leave the hospital and go elsewhere, would he even be allowed?

A cute red-headed nurse who still looked like a teen walked into the dining hall. She looked around and then walked over to Tim’s table.

“Mr. Ross?” she asked.

“That’s me,” Tim said with a forced smile.

“Dr. Vallingham will see you now.”

“Dr. Vallingham? I thought Dr. Cullen was in charge?”

The nurse smiled. “Oh, he is, but he can’t see all the patients here and run the hospital, too. Dr. Vallingham is the assistant director.”

Tim wondered why he had not heard of this doctor before now. Dr. Victor Cullen was the man credited for the hospital’s success. Not only had he saved the lives of many of the patients here, he had also recovered from TB himself. He was the one Tim wanted treating him.

Tim stood up. Max laid a hand on Tim’s arm. He glanced at the nurse, then back at Tim.

“Remember what I said.”

Tim nodded. “I will, and I will see you around.”

He turned and followed the nurse out of the dining hall. They walked through the hallway back to the administration building.

“You look barely old enough to be out of high school,” Tim said to the nurse.

The girl laughed. “That’s about right. I graduated last year. I go to the nursing school here.”

“Are all the nurses here students?”

“Most of them. Most of the nurses here are also former patients.”

Tim paused and stared at her. “You had TB?”

The young woman shook her head. “No, but my father did. He was a patient here until he died. I wanted to do something to honor him.”

“How do you like it here?” Tim asked, wondering if he would be given another mysterious warning.

“I enjoy it. People are sick but not as bad as a lot of patients in regular hospitals. It’s given me time to get used to dealing with ill people.”

“I guess that would be important.”

“Some of the pictures I’ve seen in class make me queasy, so I definitely need time to make the adjustment.”

She led Tim to an office on the second floor and knocked on the door.

“Come in,” said a voice from inside.

The nurse opened the door. Tim stepped inside and met the man whose hands his life was in.

Administration Building, Maryland Sanatorium

written by James Rada, Jr.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

1: Arrival

Timothy Ross stepped off the passenger car at the train depot near the Maryland Tuberculosis Hospital. He was used to the large platforms in cities like Baltimore, Washington, and Philadelphia. This was a small 15×30-foot wooden building surrounded on all sides by a wide porch. It could fit inside of the washroom of Penn Station, where he had boarded the train.

He noticed he was the only person on the platform. He expected more activity here, but it was still a bit early in the season for vacationers to be heading to Pen Mar, the nearby resort area. Green was starting to appear on the trees, and the sky was a bright blue. He felt just a hint of chill in the air. It wouldn’t be long before vacationers sought to escape the heat and humidity in the cities and headed for higher ground.

“So this is where I’ll die,” he whispered to himself.

He wondered if he had made the right choice coming here. He was a city boy, born and raised. He had never been able to escape the city, even in the heat of the summer, to come to a place like this. Tim lived in the night, in the gyms and arenas where he made his living in the ring…or at least he had.

His chest heaved, and he started coughing. He grabbed for his handkerchief and covered his mouth. When the hacking stopped, he pulled the handkerchief away and saw phlegm and spots of blood. So much for the clean, fresh mountain air helping him.

Tim walked into the station. He saw no people, just empty benches. There wasn’t even a stationmaster. It was as if people were only dropped off here, and no one ever left on the train, so no one needed to buy a ticket. That thought sent a chill down his back.

A door opened, and a man walked out of the washroom, drying his hands. He was a large man, almost as large as Tim had been before he had gotten sick. He was dressed in white, so Tim guessed this was the man he was supposed to meet.

“Are you from the sanatorium?” Tim asked.

The man nodded. “I’m Frank Larkins, one of the orderlies there and a driver when they need one.”

“I’m Tim Ross.”

Frank smiled and clapped his hands together. “Great! Let’s load your bags in the car and get you to the administration building.”

“Is it far away?”

“Not at all. You’re actually on the sanatorium property now. This is our station.”

“I thought this was the station for the resort.”

Frank shook his head. “That’s Blue Ridge Summit. It’s a little further up the line, just across the Mason-Dixon in Pennsylvania.”

Frank grabbed the two suitcases Tim had brought with him and headed out the front door. He walked down the steps from the front porch to the waiting car. It was a gray four-door Ajax sedan. Tim had seen plenty of them in Baltimore, but this was a newer model that had come out in 1926. Frank went around to the far side and put the suitcases in the back while Tim climbed into the car.

Then, Frank climbed into the driver’s seat. He started the engine and drove along a dirt road that led uphill.

“I used to live in Baltimore until I got this job,” Frank said. “I saw you fight Rusty Barrett last year. I won five dollars when you knocked him out.”

Tim grinned. “Seems like a lifetime ago.”

He hadn’t fought in three months. His stamina and speed were gone. He was withering away. Even if he got rid of the tuberculosis, he wondered if there would be enough of him left to recover.

Frank seemed to read his mind. “Don’t you worry, Mr. Ross. You got diagnosed early enough that this place can help you. You aren’t even in the main hospital. You’re in a cottage. That’s where they put the people who are in good shape.”

Tim shook his head. “No, they put them on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. There’s as many trees here as there are people in Baltimore.”

“And that’s why you’ll get better. You aren’t in Baltimore. That’s what made you sick. They did a study last year that said there’s an area of the city that has the highest death rate in the country from TB. The best thing you could do was get out of that cesspool.”

He turned onto a drive that swung around in front of a three-story stone building that could have passed for one of the rich people’s homes in Mount Washington. Frank turned off the engine, and they walked onto the porch and through the front doors. They were in a hallway that led to a staircase to the second floor or the rear of the building. The rooms off the hallway all had closed doors. At a desk near the door, an attractive young nurse sat smiling up at them.

She looked at Tim and smiled, showing bright white teeth.

“Emily, this is Tim Ross, a new patient,” Frank said. He glanced at Tim. “Emily is one of the student nurses at the training school here, and if she wasn’t behind that desk, you’d see she has great gams.” Emily blushed and giggled. “I need to know what shack he’s in.”

Emily nodded and looked at her notes. “He’s in pavilion five. Also, I’ll need you to come back here after you finish putting your things away. I’ll have the paperwork you need to sign, your schedule, a map of the grounds, and a few other things.”

Frank and Tim walked back outside. Frank drove the car around the side of the administration building. Tim saw two rows of long, wooden buildings leading away from the back of the administration building. Frank stopped in front of one, and they walked to the entrance. Tim saw four people sitting on chairs on the porch that ran the length of the front of the building. The building was wood frame, but it sat on brick piers.

Inside, there were two wards, one off to either side of the entryway, which was a large sitting room. Frank looked at a chart on the wall, turned left, and walked to an empty bed near the end of the ward. Tim saw that all the windows on the ward were open, as well as doors that led onto the porch. More fresh air.

“So, this is your bed, but you’ll keep your things in the back,” Frank said.

He walked through a doorway behind the bed that led into a long rear room that nearly ran the length of the building.

“These compartments are where you can change and store your stuff. You have compartment three, which is also your bed number. The toilet room is in the middle.”

Tim nodded numbly.

Frank laid a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry, Mr. Ross. It’s confusing now, but everything will be all right.” Then, he looked around, leaned closer, and whispered, “Be careful. Don’t wander off alone and don’t trust anyone. No one is safe. Don’t say anything about this.”

Frank then straightened up and smiled, but Tim could tell it was a fake smile.

“I’m going to leave you to unpack, because I have some other things to do. Once you’re finished, head back and talk to Emily.”

Tim nodded. “Thank you.”

Frank left and Tim walked out onto the porch, although with the large sliding windows between the wall columns, it was almost as if the ward was part of the porch.

He had to admit, the view was nice if you liked to look at trees and lawn. He started coughing so hard, he nearly dropped to his knees. Instead, he leaned on the rail and watched Frank drive off.

What had the man been talking about? More importantly, what had Tim gotten himself into?