A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital (8 page)

BOOK: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital
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Chapter Eleven

Operating theaters are not nearly as popular as dramatic theaters, musical theaters, and movie theaters, and it is easy to see why. A dramatic theater is a large, dark room in which actors perform a play, and if you are in the audience, you can enjoy yourself by listening to the dialog and looking at the costumes. A musical theater is a large, dark room in which musicians perform a symphony, and if you are in the audience, you can enjoy yourself by listening to the melodies and watching the conductor wave his little stick around. And a movie theater is a large, dark room in which a projectionist shows a film, and if you are in the audience, you can enjoy yourself by eating popcorn and gossiping about movie stars. But an operating theater is a large, dark room in which doctors perform medical procedures, and if you are in the audience, the best thing to do is to leave at once, because there is never anything on display in an operating theater but pain, suffering, and discomfort, and for this reason most operating theaters have been closed down or have been turned into restaurants. I'm sorry to say, however, that the operating theater at Heimlich Hospital was still quite popular at the time this story takes place. As Klaus and Sunny followed Olaf's two disguised associates through the square metal door, they saw that the large, dark room was filled with people. There were rows of doctors in white coats who were clearly eager to see a new operation being performed. There were clusters of nurses sitting together and whispering with excitement about the world's first cranioectomy. There was a large group of Volunteers Fighting Disease who seemed ready to burst into song if needed. And there were a great many people who looked like they had simply walked over to the operating theater to see what was playing. The four disguised people wheeled the gurney onto a small bare stage, lit by a chandelier that was hanging from the ceiling, and as soon as the light of the chandelier fell on Klaus and Sunny's unconscious sister, all of the audience members burst into cheers and applause. The roar from the crowd only made Klaus and Sunny even more anxious, but Olaf's two associates stopped moving the gurney, raised their arms, and bowed several times. "Thank you very much!" the hook-handed man cried. "Doctors, nurses, Volunteers Fighting Disease, reporters from The Daily Punctilio, distinguished guests, and regular people, welcome to the operating theater at Heimlich Hospital. I am Dr. O. Lucafont, and I will be your medical host for today's performance." "Hooray for Dr. Lucafont!" a doctor cried, as the crowd burst into applause again, and the hookhanded man raised his rubber-gloved hands and took another bow. "And I am Dr. Flacutono," the bald man announced, looking a bit jealous of all the applause the hook-handed man was getting. "I am the surgeon who invented the cranioectomy, and I am thrilled to operate today in front of all you wonderful and attractive people." "Hooray for Dr. Flacutono!" a nurse shouted, and the crowd applauded again. Some of the reporters even whistled as the bald man bowed deeply, using one hand to hold his curly wig on his head. "The surgeon is right!" the hook-handed man said. "You are wonderful and attractive, all of you! Go on, give yourselves a big hand!" "Hooray for us!" a volunteer cried, and the audience applauded another time. The two Baudelaires looked at their older sister, hoping that the noise of the crowd would wake her up, but Violet did not move. "Now, the two lovely ladies you see are two associates of mine named Dr. Tocuna and Nurse Flo," the bald man continued. "Why don't you give them the same wonderful welcome you gave us?" Klaus and Sunny half expected someone in the crowd to shout, "They aren't medical associates! They're those two children wanted for murder!" but instead the crowd merely cheered once more, and the two children found themselves waving miserably at the members of the audience. Although the youngsters were relieved that they hadn't been recognized, the butterflies in their stomachs only got worse as everyone in the operating theater grew more and more eager for the operation to begin. "And now that you've met all of our fantastic performers," the hook-handed man said, "let the show begin. Dr. Flacutono, are you ready to begin?" "I sure am," the bald man said. "Now, ladies and gentlemen, as I'm sure you know, a cranioectomy is a procedure in which the patient's head is removed. Scientists have discovered that many health problems are rooted in the brain, so that the best thing to do with a sick patient is remove it. However, a cranioectomy is as dangerous as it is necessary. There is a chance that Laura V. Bleediotie might die while the operation is being performed, but sometimes one must risk accidents in order to cure illness." "A patient's death would certainly be a terrible accident, Dr. Flacutono," the hook-handed man said. "It sure would, Dr. O. Lucafont," the bald man agreed. "That's why I'm going to have my associates perform the surgery, while I supervise. Dr. Tocuna and Nurse Flo, you may begin." The crowd applauded once more, and Olaf's associates bowed and blew kisses to each corner of the operating theater as the two children looked at one another in horror. "What can we do?" Klaus murmured to his sister, looking out at the crowd. "We're surrounded by people who expect us to saw Violet's head off." Sunny looked at Violet, still unconscious on the gurney, and then at her brother, who was holding the long, rusty knife Esme had given him. "Stall," she said. The word "stall" has two meanings, but as with most words with two meanings, you can figure out which meaning is being used by looking at the situation. The word "stall," for example, can refer to a place where horses are kept, but Klaus knew at once that Sunny meant something more along the lines of "We'll try to postpone the operation as long as we can, Klaus," and he nodded silently in agreement. The middle Baudelaire took a deep breath and closed his eyes, trying to think of something that could help him postpone the cranioectomy, and all at once he thought of something he had read. When you read as many books as Klaus Baudelaire, you are going to learn a great deal of information that might not become useful for a long time. You might read a book that would teach you all about the exploration of outer space, even if you do not become an astronaut until you are eighty years old. You might read a book about how to perform tricks on ice skates, and then not be forced to perform these tricks for a few weeks. You might read a book on how to have a successful marriage, when the only woman you will ever love has married someone else and then perished one terrible afternoon. But although Klaus had read books on outer-space exploration, ice-skating tricks, and good marriage methods, and not yet found much use for this information, he had learned a great deal of information that was about to become very useful indeed. "Before I make the first incision," Klaus said, using a fancy word for "cut" in order to sound more like a medical professional, "I think Nurse Flo and I should talk a little bit about the equipment we're using." Sunny looked at her brother quizzically. "Knife?" she asked. "That's right," Klaus said. "It's a knife, and--" "We all know it's a knife, Dr. Tocuna," the hook-handed man said, smiling at the audience, as the bald man leaned in to whisper to Klaus. "What are you doing?" he hissed. "Just saw off the brat's head and we'll be done." "A real doctor would never perform a new operation without explaining everything," Klaus whispered back. "We have to keep talking, or we'll never fool them." Olaf's associates looked at Klaus and Sunny for a moment, and the two Baudelaires got ready to run, dragging Violet's gurney with them, if they were recognized at last. But after a moment's hesitation, the two disguised men looked at each other and nodded. "I suppose you're right," the hook-handed man said, and then turned to the audience. "Sorry for the delay, folks. As you know, we're real doctors, so that's why we're explaining everything. Carry on, Dr. Tocuna." "The cranioectomy will be performed with a knife," Klaus said, "which is the oldest surgical tool in the world." He was remembering the section on knives in A Complete History of Surgical Tools, which he had read when he was eleven. "Early knives have been found in Egyptian tombs and Mayan temples, where they were used for ceremonial purposes, and mostly fashioned out of stone. Gradually bronze and iron became the essential materials in knives, although some cultures fashioned them out of the incisors of slain animals." "Teeth," Sunny explained. "There are a number of different types of knives," Klaus continued, "including the pocket-knife, the penknife, and the drawing knife, but the one required for this cranioectomy is a Bowie knife, named after Colonel James Bowie, who lived in Texas." "Wasn't that a magnificient explanation, ladies and gentlemen?" the hook-handed man said. "It sure was," one of the reporters agreed. She was a woman wearing a gray suit and chewing gum as she spoke into a small microphone. "I can see the headline now: 'DOCTOR AND NURSE EXPLAIN HISTORY OF KNIFE.' Wait until the readers of The Daily Punctilio see that!" The audience applauded in agreement, and as the operating theater filled with the sound of cheers and clapping, Violet moved on her gurney, ever so slightly. Her mouth opened a little wider, and one of her limp hands stirred briefly. The motions were so small that only Klaus and Sunny noticed them, and they looked at one another hopefully. Could they keep stalling until the anesthesia completely wore off? "Enough talk," the bald man whispered to the children. "It's lots of fun fooling innocent people, but we'd better get on with the operation before the orphan wakes up." "Before I make the first incision," Klaus said again, continuing to address the audience as if the bald man hadn't spoken, "I would like to say a few words concerning rust." He paused for a moment and tried to remember what he had learned from a book entitled What Happens to Wet Metal, which he had received as a gift from his mother. "Rust is a reddish-brown coating that forms on certain metals when they oxidize, which is a scientific term for a chemical reaction occurring when iron or steel comes into contact with moisture." He held up the rusty knife for the audience to see, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Violet's hand move again, just barely. "The oxidation process is integral to a cranioectomy due to the oxidative processes of cellular mitochondria and cosmetic demystification," he continued, trying to use as many complicated words as he could think of. "Clap!" Sunny cried, and the audience applauded once more, although not as loudly this time. "Very impressive," the bald associate said, glaring at Klaus over his surgical mask. "But I think these lovely people will understand the process better once the head has actually been removed." "Of course," Klaus replied. "But first, we need to tenderize the vertebrae, so we can make a clean cut. Nurse Flo, will you please nibble on Viol--I mean, on Laura V. Bleediotie's neck?" "Yes," Sunny said with a smile, knowing just what Klaus was up to. Standing on tiptoe, the youngest Baudelaire gave her sister a few small nibbles on the neck, hoping that it would wake Violet up. As Sunny's teeth scraped against her skin, Violet twitched, and shut her mouth, but nothing more. "What are you doing?" the hook-handed man demanded in a furious whisper. "Perform the operation at once, or Mattathias will be furious!" "Isn't Nurse Flo wonderful?" Klaus asked the audience, but only a few members of the crowd clapped, and there was not a single cheer. The people in the operating theater were clearly eager to see some surgery rather than hear any more explanations. "I believe you've bitten her neck enough," the bald man said. His voice was friendly and professional, but his eyes were gazing at the children suspiciously. "Let's get on with the cranioectomy." Klaus nodded, and clasped the knife in both hands, holding it up over his helpless sister. He looked at Violet's sleeping figure and wondered if he could made a very small cut on Violet's neck, one that could wake her up but wouldn't injure her. He looked at the rusty blade, which was shaking up and down as his hands trembled in fear. And then he looked at Sunny, who had stopped nibbling on Violet's neck and was looking up at him with wide, wide eyes. "I can't do it," he whispered, and looked up at the ceiling. High above them was a square intercom speaker that he had not noticed before, and the sight of the speaker made him think of something. "I can't do it," he announced, and there was a gasp from the crowd. The hook-handed man took a step toward the gurney, and pointed his limp, curved glove at Klaus. The middle Baudelaire could see the sharp tip of his hook, poking through the finger of the glove like a sea creature emerging from the water. "Why not?" the hook-handed man asked quietly. Klaus swallowed, hoping he still sounded like a medical professional instead of a scared child. "Before I make the first incision, there's one more thing that has to be done--the most important thing we do here at Heimlich Hospital." "And what is that?" the bald man asked. His surgical mask curled down as he gave the children a sinister frown, but Sunny's mask began to curl in the opposite direction as she realized what Klaus was talking about, and began to smile. "Paperwork!" she said, and to the Baudelaires' delight, the audience began to applaud once more. "Hooray!" called a member of V.F.D. from the back of the operating theater, as the cheering continued. "Hooray for paperwork!" Olaf's two associates looked at one another in frustration as the Baudelaires looked at one another in relief. "Hooray for paperwork indeed!" Klaus cried. "We can't operate on a patient until her file is absolutely complete!" "I can't believe we forgot about it, even for a moment!" a nurse cried. "Paperwork is the most important thing we do at this hospital!" "I can see the headline now," said the reporter who had spoken earlier. "'HEIMLICH HOSPITAL ALMOST FORGETS PAPERWORK!' Wait until the readers of The Daily Punctilio see that!" "Somebody call Hal," suggested a doctor. "He's in charge of the Library of Records, so he can solve this paperwork problem." "I'll call Hal right now!" announced a nurse, walking out of the operating theater, and the crowd clapped in support of her decision. "There's no need to call Hal," said the hook-handed man, holding up his hooked gloves to try to calm the crowd. "The paperwork has been taken care of, I promise you." "But all surgical paperwork has to be verified by Hal," Klaus said. "That's the policy of Heimlich Hospital." The bald man glared down at the

BOOK: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital
10.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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