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Ellie thought it odd he would choose to confide in her, but then maybe this was a standard speech he was giving to all the Culver Community nurses, so they'd get it right, and not from the grapevine.

She took Mr. Wilson's pulse, and then rested her hand lightly on his forehead. As he inhaled, his slow whistle underscored the lyrics of Dinah Shore's ballad, and the snort as he exhaled punctuated the end of every line. His radio was perpetually tuned to WXAR, and his breathing, when he dozed, seemed always synchronized with the music. It was a lot funnier than any of Spike Jones’s recordings.

"I don't see a thermometer," Dr. Higgins said as Ellie wrote on the chart at the end of Mr. Wilson's bed.

"Surely your not suggesting I wake him." She looked up at Dr. Higgins, astonished. Mr. Wilson's only respite from constant pain was when he slept. "His temperature was exactly 98.4 when I took it two hours ago. I can assure you it hasn't deviated by as much as half a degree since then."

Higgins dug vigorously into his gray beard while he considered this, then nodded curtly -- a tacit agreement not to reprimand her, rather than an approval.

"Besides," she added. "I'll gag if I hear him say 'desperados on the loose' one more time."

Dr. Higgins’ face, when he frowned, resembled one of the Smith brothers on the cough-drop box. "Oh," he said, as she replaced the chart. "The prison break."

Ellie nodded. “He’s been using the phrase ever since the news broke this morning. His attempts at humor sometimes fall wide of the mark.” She followed Dr. Higgins into the corridor, shutting off the light and gently closing the door behind her.

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