Every day Sam Adamski wears his Packers cap, blue dungarees and dark flannel to work at Banders Paper Co., a mere five minute drive, or fifteen minute walk, down the road from where he lives, a white two-story house with off-white whitewash and dark grey shingling, the mortgage paid for after the accident by his older brother, well-off, who lives off a well-laid investment in computers up in his apartment in Wausau.
Sam Adamski, in his thirties, his dark beard broken only by a two inch scar beneath his right cheekbone where five years ago men found a pinewood stake lodged, as nearby a half-unconscious Sam complained for the last time through a mouth of bubbling blood that there was a problem with the chipper and would someone please fix it, please. The work of those doctors, who painstakingly extracted it and most of the splinters in his lower gums and the roof of his mouth, is something his wife and father will never forget.
It was not the accident but the infection that stole Sam’s mind. Whether he was not prescribed enough medication or, because of soaring medical bills, his wife took him home for a week’s bed rest until the fever capped—only the lengthy settlement process and Rose’s conscience can truly reconcile.
When he finally woke, something had gone. What was mistaken, at first, for bliss, was something perpetual, something slow. Sam had been a drinker, a thinker, a man they’d pegged to go on to found a business or join something National or International. The words, all there, and still spoken, but delivered with unnatural slur. His eyes dart back and forth in vague confusion as his two daughters, three and five, are brought to his hospital bed. When he rises he wears a look of dawning recognition, as though he’s always about to get the joke.
Banders County Clinic quietly shoves money in his direction, hoping to avoid a lawsuit. His wife packs up their trailer home with the help of St. Anthony’s strongest teenagers and picks a choice piece of real estate situated between downtown Schafer and the Mill, where Sam will likely work until an early retirement. On paper, it’s tragic. Yet every night Rose would spend crying alone is spent in the arms of her silent husband; every evening her children might have come home to find their father drinking cares, he’s pacing the floor to welcome them with open arms. Sign language is beyond him, along with most writing and reading. Yet his life carries on; his drinking buddies welcome him with open arms to work, to all-star barbecues and football on the lawn and, in the winters, hockey out on the lake. On weekends he’ll wear jerseys and walk the neighborhood like a restless dog.