By Mitchell K. © 1991, 1997
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Index of Chapter 3

3.1 - Home...for just a brief moment 3.6 - On Our Knees
3.2 - The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run 3.7 - At T. Henry and C. Williams' Home
3.3 - Meeting the Doctor 3.8 - The Meeting at T. Henry's
3.4 - Back to Cleveland 3.9 - The Message is Brought to Cleveland
3.5 - In the Hospital 3.10 - Cleveland Begins to Come of Age

Chapter 3.5

In the Hospital

No person ever really lives until he has found something worth dying for.

Charles L. Allen, God's Psychiatry (New York; Flemming Revell, Co., 1953) p. 158

Clarence awakened with a start. He was disoriented, to say the least. He was in a strange room with a group of people, all dressed in white uniforms, who were milling around him. "And for some strange reason, they're giving me a bath," he quipped in telling the story.

He was then wrapped in a shorty hospital nightgown, a little bit of a thing, with no back to speak of, and just a couple of strings to hold it together. He slowly reached up to his face, unable to make any sudden movements, and discovered that he was clean shaven. His hair, the little that he still had left, was cut short; and he even smelled clean.

His mouth felt as if someone evil had packed it full of old, musty, cotton balls. His tongue felt three inches thick, and he noticed that his head was throbbing. And the throbbing was getting worse as the seconds went by.

The muscles in his body felt as if they were contracting in a rapid succession and in no particular order. Some muscles he didn't even know he had were also acting in this manner. His stomach fluttered as if it were filled with a flock of Canadian geese who were migrating south for the winter. At times, the geese all changed direction and began to migrate north. It was at these times that Clarence began to vomit.

His eyes had a difficult time focusing on anything in the room as did his brain. As he surveyed the terrain, however, there was one thing that his eyes did manage to focus upon.

A bottle of "Rub" on the window sill. Rubbing Alcohol. "My ace in the hole," he had thought. He made a mental note. This note was out of necessity. A mental note of where the alcohol was, and how to get there. How many steps were necessary to get there if he were going to need it.

Recalling the experience, Clarence said: "I was always scared of the D.T.s (Delirium Tremens). I never had `em, but I saw some of my buddies who had `em. And I saw people who died with `em... I figured if I started seeing a circus; and if there is no tent, I hear music, and there is no band. There's my answer right there. The bottle of Rub. People get the D.T.s when they quit drinking. I was scared to death of `em, that's why I never gave `em a chance to set in." He was probably never sober enough to get the chance.

The knowledge of where the bottle was, how to get there, and how long it probably would take, gave him strength. It "gave me guts, my ace in the hole, that bottle of Rub," he said. He knew that he could conquer the world knowing that he was only a few short steps from salvation. Bolstered by his newfound strength, he wasn't too concerned when the nurse walked into the room.

Clarence remembered her as a very large woman. He remembered that her starched, bleached, white uniform seemed to be bursting at the seams. Her hair, kind of salt-and-pepper, was plastered back into a bun that stood out of the back of her skull as if it were a permanent growth.

Her white nurse's cap was adorned with a couple of medical looking pins; and it looked as if it were tacked to her head. Steel-rimmed, bifocal glasses, at least a half dozen chins, on some of which were situated little, dark brown moles, with long strands of black hair growing out of them.

She wore no make-up that he could see. She had short - probably bitten-off nails - white Orthopedic shoes, and stockings with leg hair clearly visible through them. This vision was Clarence's angel of mercy as he remembered her. He, at first, thought that this was the beginnings of the D.T.s, and was ready to bolt from the bed to the Rub on the shelf. He was ready to bolt, that is, until he saw what she carried in her hands.

In her short stubby fingers, she held a small, white, metal tray. This tray was the kind you found in older hospitals with the edges chipped off and the black metal underneath showing through. Spider-web-like veins of black and rust existed throughout its surface.

Two glasses sat on top of this tray. One large, and one small. The small glass was filled with what looked like about 30-50 mg of some sort of white liquid, similar to watered down milk. The other glass, an eight ounce drinking glass, he was sure contained "booze."

She walked over to his bed, ever careful not to spill her precious cargo. With a low, raspy voice, she said, "Mister Snyder." This was the first time in a long time that anyone had called him by his name.

"Mr. Snyder," she said, "I have some medicine here for you. You drink down this nice medicine here with the milk, and you can follow it up right after with this whisky." He looked at the two glasses and then back at the nurse.

Clarence had heard a lot about that "nice medicine" from his drinking buddies. It was probably Paraldehyde. Paraldehyde is a synthetic, non-Barbiturate, sedative-hypnotic, which is now considered to be potentially dangerous. It has a bitter taste; therefor the need for the milk. It also causes burning in the mucus membranes. In hypnotic doses, such as the one they attempted to give to Clarence, it can induce sleep in as little as ten minutes; and its effects would usually last from four to ten hours.

Clarence knew what that little glass held. "That stuff will knock you flatter than a rug, real quick," he thought. No way was he going to fall for that "nice medicine" line that the nurse was trying to hand him. He wasn't born yesterday.

He sat up in the bed, put on his most sincere face, looked the nurse right in her eyes, and said, "Lady, I come down here to quit drinking, not to drink. I'll thank you to take that stuff away from me."

He later stated that it was probably one of the worst and stupidest moves he had ever made in his life until then. This was because the nurse did indeed, take the tray away. He remembered that he "suffered the agonies of the damned." He began to sweat profusely. He felt as if spiders and other small insects were crawling all over his body and his insides in large numbers. He shook and convulsed, screamed and cursed. He threw up until there was nothing left in his system to throw up anymore, and then he continued with the dry heaves. He held on to the bed railings for dear life, but not once did he make an attempt to get to that "bottle of Rub" on the window sill.

He thought about the Rub, obsessed on it, wondered if it would take away this agony. But he knew, despite the pain that he was feeling, that if he took even one little sip, his agony would be prolonged. He knew that his life would probably be over. This, he knew, was his last chance at redemption.

The date he entered Akron City Hospital and refused that one last drink was the tenth of February, 1938. The next day, his first full day free from beverage alcohol, became Clarence Henry Snyder's sobriety date. The date that he celebrated for the next forty-six years. February 11, 1938.

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