"Hello, Franklin residence."
"Hi, I'm calling to inquire about the add in this morning's Times."
"May I have your name, Sir?"
"Yes, my name is James Hamilton."
"Thank you Mr. Hamilton. Please hold while I connect you with Ms. Franklin."
This was a stab in the dark but I really needed a temp job and I just had to find out what this strange ad was about. It said only, "Seeking companion for male adolescent. Some medical background preferred," then it listed a phone number. I had a reasonably good medical education as a paramedic but I'd never worked as a 'companion' before, whatever that was, and I was very curious to know what that meant.
"This is Beth Franklin. How may I help you?"
"Ms. Franklin, my name is James Hamilton and I'm calling in reference to the ad in the Times."
"Thank you for calling, Mr. Hamilton. May I ask what kind of medical training you have?"
"I've been a paramedic for eight years. I recently moved here from Arizona and I'm in the process of applying to the State EMS Division for reciprocity."
"And when do you anticipate being certified here?"
"From what I've learned, it looks like six to eight weeks."
"I see. I'd like to interview you personally, Mr. Hamilton. Can you come to my home today?"
"Um, sure. What time and what's your address?"
I pulled up to the gate of an incredible mansion a few miles out of the city. There was an intercom box on a post. I pushed the button.
"James Hamilton, I believe I'm expected."
"Yes, Mr. Hamilton. When the gates open, please drive to the front entrance."
I was met at the door by a very attractive woman in her late 30's, dressed in jeans and a loose-fitting sweatshirt. She seemed familiar for some reason but I couldn't place her. She greeted me with a friendly smile and asked me in. "Would you care for some coffee James? May I call you James?"
"Yes, Ma'am, James is fine and, yes I love some coffee."
"Call me Beth; Ma'am makes me feel old. Let's go into the kitchen and talk." From looking at the house, somehow I expected a butler or a maid or at least a secretary. Still, I was glad I wore my suit. I sat on a stool at a breakfast counter while Beth poured coffee. It smelled rich and strong, just the way I like it.
"So, James, I imagine you're a little in the dark about what this position is all about."
"Well, yeah, I am. Is the male adolescent your son?"
"Got it in one. So here's the story. Three weeks ago my son, Jeremy was assaulted by a gang. The police still don't know who they are. They beat him with baseball bats and took the trouble to break his hands, his arms and his legs. Fortunately, he didn't suffer any internal injuries, but he lost a lot of blood and had a pretty bad concussion. I'm thankful he's alive. He's coming home from the hospital today and, since he's bound up in plaster on all four limbs, he's going to need someone to look after him and see to his needs. You may wonder why that job doesn't fall to me."
"It's really none of my business, Ms. – uh – Beth."
"Well, I'll tell you anyway. I'm an actress." Now I recognized her face! Elizabeth Franklin! I'd seen her in several movies and had been impressed with her acting skills - and her body. "I'm due on a movie set in New Zealand day after tomorrow. I was going to ask out of the role to take care of Jeremy but he wouldn't hear of it. He doesn't need a full time doctor or nurse, just someone to help him through his days. Do you think that's something you could deal with?"
"Um, sure, I don't see why not. What would my hours be?"
"That's another issue. I'd need you to live here for the next four to six weeks until his casts come off and he's able to take care of himself."
"Oh, I see. Well, I'm staying with my aunt until I get settled so that wouldn't be an issue."
"Of course, I'd need to run a criminal background check on you. Would that be a problem? It can be done in a matter of hours."
"No, no, not at all. You'd be silly not to."
"I pride myself on being able to read people pretty well, James. Why don't you tell me a little about yourself?"
I gave her the short version of my upbringing and my education, my dislikes and my passions, trying to be as general as possible.
"With a BS in chemistry, why did you decide to become a paramedic?"
"It's hard to say, really. I was just drawn to it, I guess. I'm thinking about applying to medical school but the thought of going into debt for a quarter of a million bucks gives me the jitters."
"Lord, is that what it costs to become a doctor?"
"I'm afraid so."
"I never would have guessed. Well, James, pending the background check, I think you're the man for the job. Can you cook?"
"I've been told I'm a pretty fair hand in the kitchen. I enjoy cooking. Uh, don't you have other people to interview?"
"What for? I'm satisfied if you are. Like I said, I think you're the man. Can you start today?"
"Well, I'd need to go back to my aunt's house and pack some stuff. What happens if Jeremy isn't happy with your choice?"
"He'll have to agree of course, but I know the kinds of people he likes and I don't anticipate any objections. If you can hang around for a couple of hours, he'll be arriving by ambulance. You're welcome to join us for lunch if you wish. Why don't you take off that coat and tie and get comfortable?"
"Thanks. I usually only wear suits to weddings and funerals and I try my best to avoid both. May I ask what the pay would be?"
"Oh, of course I should have mentioned that. The pay is negotiable but I'll offer $200 a day, room and board of course and use of a car."
"I'd be happy with that." I felt like I'd just hit the jackpot.
Beth pushed a button on an intercom and said, "Melissa, the position has been filled. Mr. Hamilton will give you the information you need to request the background check."
Jeremy was wheeled into the house on a stretcher and lifted onto a kind of wheelchair that allowed him to recline with his legs strait out in front of him. He still had a little trace of a shiner under his left eye. Both arms were casted down to his fingers and both legs from his groin to his ankles. He had to be incredibly uncomfortable.
Beth made the introductions. "Jeremy, this is James Hamilton. James, Jeremy. If you approve, James will be staying with you while I'm in New Zealand."
Jeremy smiled and said, "Nice to meet you James. I'd shake hands but it's a little inconvenient."
"It's good to meet you, Jeremy. Sorry for all the misery you've had to endure."
"That makes two of us," he chuckled. "I can't imagine why you'd want to spend your time taking care of a crip like me but I'll try not to be too much of a pain."
"Well, I'm a paramedic so taking care of people is what I do. That and I also need the job."
He laughed. "Fair enough. What's for lunch, Mom?"
"I'm going to make turkey wraps and a salad for James and myself. You can have that and one of us will feed you or you can sip on a fruit smoothie. You decide."
"I'll do the wrap. I'm getting used to being hand-fed like a baby."
The initial background check sailed through as I knew it would. I drove the Suburban I'd be using to my aunt's house to packed and was back by late afternoon. Beth asked me to look around and make a list of things that would facilitate taking care of Jeremy; apparently money was no object. All I could think of was a portable massage table that would fit into the huge shower in the bath between his room and the one I'd be sleeping in. That would make it easier for me to wash him every day. Beth asked her secretary, Melissa, to have one delivered the next morning.
"If you need anything at all, James, just ask Melissa. She's in her office weekdays from seven to five and her home phone number is on this cell phone that you need to keep with you at all times. I'm going to go pack now and I'll be leaving at four in the morning for the airport. I'll see you guys when I get back." She kissed both of us on the cheek and disappeared up the stairs.
"Break a leg, Mom," Jeremy called after her.
It only took a couple of days to get a routine established. First thing in the morning, I'd move Jeremy from his bed into the bathroom. Since he could bend at the hips, he was able to use the toilet, but since his elbows and wrists didn't bend, he couldn't wipe himself. He explained that was why he insisted on someone who was male and physically strong. If he just needed to pee, the cold duck was the receptacle of choice. He could perch his butt on a stool and lean over the bathroom sink while I flossed and brushed his teeth. He was blond and still baby-faced so shaving was every other day with an electric razor. For his showers, I poked strips of cloth around the ends of the casts to keep the water out, then helped him onto the massage table. Since I had to be in the shower with him, it was convenient to wash us both at the same time. I washed his hair and his backside first, then laid him on his back to do the rest.
"I'm glad you thought of this, James. It beats the hell out of sponge baths."
"Yeah, me too. If you've got any ideas for other innovations, let me know and we'll try them out."
The only thing he could wear conveniently was the type of hospital gown that snapped at the shoulders and down the back and heavy socks to keep his feet warm but, since we weren't planning to go anywhere, fashion wasn't a consideration.
.... There is more of this story ...