Saturday, August 4, 2012

Short Story Memory Lane: The Patient

I was cruising through memory lane (otherwise known as procrastinating) and came across some of those old shorts and flashes that kick started my publication journey. One caught my attention. It's a couple years old and was published in a college literary magazine.

This one was an odd ball. First, it's literary. Second its not speculative or science fiction. Third, and most intruiging to me, it stemmed off an experience my mentor had when she was still an OR nurse.

So, because it seemed to call to me, I thought I'd share it with you all today. It's very short, so a quick read.

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The Patient

Victoria adjusted her position in the seat, but never let go. Not like she could even if she wanted too. The patient held her hand like a vice. The clock ticked, filling what would be silence.

Two hours she'd been sitting there.

She’d planned to take her husband out for a surprise dinner, then relax at home with a glass of red wine and a book. “It’s okay. I don’t mind really,” Victoria said and meant it.

The hospital sitter for their unit had called in sick, so her supervisor had asked Victoria to stay with the patient after the surgery ended. Ten-hour shifts were hard, but worth it for three days off a week. Besides, Victoria was grateful she’d been around for this case.

“Where is his family?” she’d asked, glancing at the young man on the bed.

“Out of town. They are on their way in,” Gina, her supervisor had replied.

Victoria looked at the patient now and wondered what color his eyes were. With her free hand, she lightly moved the hair off his face. The wound on his forehead had darkened to a deep purple. Peeking from under the gown, the skin bulged through the suture gaps.

You look so pale, Sweetie. “Poor thing.”

The surgery had started with a rush several hours before, breaking what had been a slow night.

“One coming by airlift. ETA fifteen minutes. Prepare room five.” Gina had sounded like a roman commander readying for battle.

It was very much like combat. The enemy was Death. Some battles they won, and some they lost, but the war itself never ended.

“You battled hard, young man.” Victoria eyed at the clock. Two and a half hours. “It’s been a long wait, but they should be arriving soon. Don’t worry.” She double-checked the snugness of the hospital blanket.

She wondered again about the color of his eyes under those closed lids. That’s the thing about being a surgery nurse. You never get to see the color of their eyes. With blond hair, she knew they’d most likely be blue or green. She supposed they could be brown but she had a feeling they weren’t .

“My son’s a little older than you. Just starting college.”

She wondered if the young man had started college yet. She’d been lucky her son picked a school in the area. Daniel came home every weekend and break. The patient’s family lived three states over.

“They must be out of their heads with worry.” She rubbed her thumbs along his. “I’d be worried if you were my son.”

She wondered if he went home for school breaks and how often he called home. I bet you call at least once a week. His warm hand tightened around hers and she squeezed back.

“I know. It’ll be okay.”

She looked up at the clock. Almost three hours. Muffled conversation on the other side of the door broke the silence. Moments later, Gina entered with the surgery director. The director smiled down at the hands locked together and then at Victoria.

“Thank you so much for keeping him company. The family has arrived and would like to visit with him now.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful.” Victoria stood and started to let go, but the patient wouldn’t loosen his grip. Sadly, she looked down at him and squeezed one more time. It’s time. She smiled at the director. “It’s been a while. Rigor mortis as set in.”

With tender care, she grabbed the young man’s forearm, ice cold from being dead so many hours, his hand only kept warmed from her touch. She stretched the hand that held his, felt the crack of his stiffened fingers against her skin, then slipped free and petted his blond hair once more before leaving.

The hallway filled with the noise of busy workers in green scrubs. Everything went on as if a soul hadn’t been lost. Victoria knew; she’d never forget him. That peaceful young man who’d died so tragically. Years of hardened nursing kept her from crying, but she grieved.

Turning left towards the lockers, she spotted a blond couple pass by. Through the redness of grief, both had eyes of dark green.


  1. Great story, Amber! I'm going to repost to FB. :)

  2. Aren't you a sweetheart Patty! ((HUGS)) I'm glad you liked it. Share however you want, it's what it was posted for.

  3. So tender and touching. There are so many good and caring people in our world. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thank you Paisley. I know that my friend and mentor is one of those people. I'm so glad I met her.

    LOL, it was a surprise to me to when she told her experience.