"You were bitten by a squirrel?" She choked on the word "squirrel."
"Were you, uh, trying to feed it?" She was no longer able to control her smile; her lips curled up at the ends between each question.
"No, it just attacked me out of nowhere," I snapped sarcastically. "Okay, okay. I was trying to feed it."
"Squirrels are rodents, you know," she pointed out.
"Yeah, so I've heard." She looked at my finger, which had stopped bleeding, probably a result of the pressure I'd been exerting on it as I waited.
"A doctor will have to see you, I'm not sure what the protocol is in this situation. If at any time, however, you feel that your wounds are...[suppressed laughter] life threatening...[more suppressed laughter], then return to this window."
"Go on, let it out," I suggested. "It's okay, you can laugh."
"I'm sorry," she said, beginning to giggle. "It's just, you know, we usually get people here who are withdrawing from drugs or suffering from violent crimes. It's refreshing to treat someone who was trying to do something nice. And it's funny."
A young man in light blue scrubs led Jenny and me to the exam room. On the way, he turned to me and said, in that familiar, strained tone of voice, "Feeding squirrels today, eh?" I shrugged my shoulders. "I'm sorry, it's just, uh, well, it's pretty funny. Wait here and the doctor will be right with you." I could hear a muffled staccato laughter as he walked down the corridor.
Jenny and I waited in that little room for almost an hour, testing everything from the foot-pedal sink to the "are they or are they not locked" file cabinet drawers (they are not). The doctor, in dark blue scrubs, appeared in the doorway and said, "So, I hear you were feeding...Ha! Ha! Ha!" He was much freer with his laughter, and even finished up with a little "Ho, ho!" before he managed to speak the word "squirrels."
"Gee, I'm so happy I can be such a source of amusement for the emergency room staff today," I said in a snarky tone. He could read from my smile that there was some truth to my words -- what's a little squirrel bite if you can make a bunch of hardworking health-care professionals laugh for a day?
"Squirrels are rodents, you know," said the smiling doctor.
"Don't worry, you can't get rabies from them. But we're going to give you a tetanus shot and some antibiotics to ward off any infections." The doctor disappeared and another woman who was obviously informed as to my predicament came smiling into the room to give me my shot.
While she prepped the needle, the doctor popped his head in the door and said, "I just want you to know, I had a really hard time dictating that. I had to keep stopping the tape while I laughed."
"Thanks for letting me know," I said, but he was already off to see another patient, and then there was a needle in my arm. Jenny was laughing quietly as she scanned through her pictures. When she came across the picture of the chubby rodent that attacked me, she held it up for me to see. "He looks so cute and fluffy," I said. "Don't you just want to pet him?"