Posts Tagged ‘Hospital’

The Moment The Milk Curdles (Short Story Excerpt)

August 10, 2017

June 5th, 2017.
Stark City, Oregon.
8:03 a.m.

“No one ever notices the moment the milk curdles.” That’s what Micah Halpert’s mother always said. “One moment it’s fine, and the next…tainted. Smells bad, tastes bad, and it’ll make you sick. That’s how fast things can spoil.”

But Micah had no cause to think of that on this blessed day. The proud father stood, bathed in sunlight, in Room 217 of Stark County Medical Center’s Postpartum wing, holding his newborn daughter, Hannah. Six pounds and four ounces of pure joy, asleep in his arms. Smiling, he looked at his wife. Kyla lay in her white hospital gown, head turned, eyes closed, the sheet and blanket bunched around her midriff. Just beautiful.

“Good job, sweetheart,” Micah whispered. “Good job.”

Tears pricked his eyes. He didn’t want to cry, but what else could he do? He’d waited for this moment ever since he’d said “I do” to Kyla. And they’d done it. Together. Their lives had entered a new stage of unity and responsibility. As parents, they couldn’t help but grow closer.

Year after splendid year.

“We’re gonna be a great family…”

Sniffing, Micah kissed Hannah’s soft forehead. He wanted to kiss Kyla, too, but didn’t want to wake her. God knew, she needed her rest after six hours of labor. Besides, there’d be plenty of time for kisses later on.

“Oh, thank you, Jesus, so much for this little gift. Thank you for bringing her to us, happy and healthy.”

Micah walked to the window, looked through the slatted blinds. He saw skyscrapers, pedestrians, and passing cars; none of which interested him. Instead, he wondered if his brother, Levi, would show up. He’d already called or texted everyone he knew, telling them the wonderful news, and had gotten replies ranging from “Congratulations!” to “Be right there!” from everyone except Levi. From Levi, he’d gotten a terse: “Good luck, Little Brother.”

Not the reaction Micah had hoped for. But then, Levi had never been the type to say what you wanted to hear.

Instead, Levi spoke his mind; heedless of the result.

“But this time, you’re wrong, Big Brother.” Micah grinned at little Hannah, felt a burst of pride in his chest. “This is the best day of my life…”

Good luck, Little Brother.

Micah recalled the dubious expression on Levi’s face the day he’d told him of his plan to propose to Kyla. They’d been enjoying beer and pork ribs at Billy-Bob’s Bar and Grill on a warm summer evening. “I’m gonna pop the question at the Mariners game on Sunday,” he’d said, prompting Levi to put his rib aside and take a long swallow of Hefeweizen.

“Are you sure about this, Micah?” Levi had asked. “Because there’s a lot about marriage that nobody ever talks about. Not really…”

“Like what?”

Levi had chuckled; a wry, humorless sound. “Like the subtle change that happens as soon as the ring goes on.”

“That’s a bullshit, sour grapes attitude and you know it.”

“Is it? Because I noticed the change within the first week with my ex-wife.”

“But Racquel is nuts; we all know that.”

“Oh, and Kyla’s different, eh?”

“Of course, she is! Come on, tell me she’s not one of the sweetest girls you’ve ever met…”

“For now, sure. But I’m tellin’ you—”

“Look, Levi, I know things went bad for you and Racquel, and the divorce was ugly, but can’t you set all that aside and be happy for your little brother?”

After another swallow of beer, Levi had given Micah the soberest look he’d ever seen. “Bro…you think I’m kiddin’ around here? You think I’m exaggerating about Racquel going from sweet to nasty almost overnight? When we first met, she never nagged about anything. Even when we lived together, life was a breeze. But as soon as we exchanged vows, it became, ‘Levi, stop hanging the towels on the wrong hook!’ and, ‘Levi, why didn’t you buy the double-pleated toilet paper like I told you to?’”

Micah had laughed. “Well, if you weren’t such a slob…”

“Hey, it’s all fun and games right now. But you think I’m exaggerating about how the sex went from daily to weekly to ‘Not tonight, I’ve had such a long day?’”

“So what? There’s more to life than sex.”


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Thank you for reading!

JLR

Delirium Tremens (Short Story Excerpt)

December 20, 2016

author-3January 4th, 2017
Stark City, Oregon.
5:53 a.m.

“JESUS CHRIST!” Daniel Jax screamed as four large security guards began strapping him to a hospital gurney. Lightning cracked the air above him, and black spiders swarmed beneath his dirty clothes. Each of the guards had seized a limb, applying hard rubber cuffs for Daniel’s—and the nurse’s—own safety. “I HAVE TO SAVE ZOEY!”

“Easy, sir,” the guard securing Daniel’s right arm said. “We’ll be done in a second.”

“IT’S GONNA EAT HER SOUL!”

Daniel convulsed, turned to the guard with bulging, bloodshot eyes. He wanted to scream, I’m not crazy! but couldn’t find the words. He wanted to tell him about his family, about the beautiful Cape Cod home he’d bought by becoming one of the top insurance salesmen in northern California.

But most of all, Daniel wanted to tell him about the lightning.

“Man, he stinks!” The guard securing Daniel’s left ankle shook his head. “Gotta be wearin’ at least three layers!”

“Okay,” a tired, gray-haired nurse said. “What’s the story here, guys?”

“Looks homeless,” the guard securing Daniel’s right ankle said. “Medics found him in an alley downtown, screaming about demons. Seems very dehydrated.”

“Uh-huh. Name and age?”

“I.D. says, Jax, Daniel. Forty-three years old.”

“Daniel.” The nurse laid her gloved hand on his shoulder. “My name’s Blanche. There’s no demons. You’re having a psychotic episode brought on by severe alcohol withdrawal.”

Having screamed himself hoarse, Daniel turned his bulging eyes to Blanche. The guards had finished strapping him down and he felt helpless. Unable to sit up. Unable to reach out. Unable to do anything but gape and shudder beneath the pale overhead light.

“I know it hurts, but I need you to hold still while I insert your I.V.”
With a sad groan, Daniel shut his eyes, still squirming as thousands of spider legs pricked his flesh. “It took her!” he whispered. “I saw it!”

Nodding, Blanche slid the needle into Daniel’s arm. Daniel hissed, looked up with fear and pain etched into his face.

Another whisper: “I have to save Zoey!”

Blanche shook her head. “Alright, Daniel. Now it’s fluids, fluids, fluids. I’m gonna order a Thiamine boost, and a heavy dose of Diaxepam to help you sleep.”

Fists clenched, Daniel strained to sit up. “I have to save her!”

“You’re gonna be here for awhile, so just lie back and ride it out. Once these DTs pass, we’ll get you evaluated and outta here. I’ll do everything I can to help you, but right now I’ve gotta go check on my other patients.”

Daniel flinched from another crack of lightning as Blanche left, shut off the light, and closed the door. They’d put him in one of the rooms reserved for psychotic patients. No T.V., no sink; nothing which could excite or harm him. A beam of light shone through the observation window onto his face. Already, the shadows in the corners had begun to writhe and swirl. But they didn’t know. Medics, security guards, nurses; normal people. They couldn’t see the true horrors which lived in darkness. Daniel knew because he used to be like them—used to be normal. Then the lightning came, shattering every bit of normalcy he’d ever known.

“I’ll find her, goddamnit! Before it sucks the life out of her forever!”

Still squirming, Daniel took deep breaths. It didn’t help. The lightning still cracked. The spiders still swarmed. And he craved alcohol as never before; like a cramp in the center of his being. If not for this mission, Daniel would’ve killed with his bare hands for a sip of beer. But he couldn’t save Zoey drunk. To save her, he had to bear this agony.

The agony of Delirium Tremens.

“Great news!” Blanche said, pushing through the door. “Got your meds. How are you feeling?”

Gasping, Daniel looked at Blanche. How long had she been gone? A minute? An hour? Daniel had no clue.

“Still riding it out, I see. Well, this’ll help…”

As Blanche injected the Thiamine and Diaxepam into Daniel’s I.V., Daniel again closed his eyes. The Thiamine didn’t matter, but the Diaxepam would be his savior.

God’s mercy, coursing through his veins.

“Alright, Daniel. Nothing left to do but lie back and try to rest.”

As Blanche left, Daniel twisted in his restraints. Lie back and rest? No way. Not when he had a life to save. A life more important than his own.

I’m coming, Zoey! Just hold on a little longer…

Propelled by his racing pulse, the Diaxepam slammed into Daniel’s brain with locomotive force. All at once he ceased writhing and his eyelids began to flutter. His sharp exhalations dulled, becoming deep, almost contemplative sighs.

Hold on…Zo…ey...

One last sigh, then Daniel went slack. Head turned, eyes closed, lips parted. Not quite snoring. Several minutes of blessed nothing passed before Daniel began to dream. The same dream he’d had for the last twelve years: rummaging around his attic on a muggy March evening. His daughter, Caroline, has found a large black widow spider in her room, and he’s vowed to cleanse the house of all insects. Outside, the sky has darkened and the wind has risen; very apropos for the impending holocaust. Bug spray in hand, he’s found a small infestation of creepy crawlers in a dusty corner. As he advances upon the large, silken web, Daniel hears a clap of thunder. A storm, he thinks, taking aim. And as he pushes the spray button, a bolt of lightning strikes the roof above his head. So fast, so sudden, Daniel doesn’t feel the jolt, but collapses beneath the dry explosion—

BOOM!

“Shit!”

Daniel’s eyes snapped open. Leaving his sleeping form behind, the homeless drunk’s ethereal self sat up and slid off the gurney. He always felt the same after the dream; anxious, drained…and in serious danger of slipping into the bad place. The realm of spirits, shadows, and demons.

But this time, he wanted to go.

God help me.


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Thank you for reading!

JLR

Once You Get To Know Him (Short Story Excerpt)

October 23, 2016

January 4th, 2017.

Stark City, Oregon.

9:11 p.m.

“He’s a great guy,” they all said, “once you get to know him.” He being Gulstan Clay; a shy, slender young man who worked in Patient Transport at Stark County Medical Center. They being the rest of the staff. Doctors. Nurses. Technicians. Transporters. Clerks. Engineers. Janitors. Everyone loved Gulstan.

Everyone, except Heather Hewitt. Heather didn’t even like Gulstan, mush less love him. And she sure as hell didn’t want to get to know him any more than she already had.

No way.

“Cozy back there, sweetheart?”

Heather, semiconscious, mewled in frustration. She lay bound, gagged, and barefoot on the cold metal floor of Gulstan’s van. The carpet had been removed, and it smelled of bleach. Pungent and ominous.

Think I’m…gonna…puke…

Gulstan laughed. “Don’t worry. It takes awhile to get where we’re going, but it’ll be a smooth ride.”

Heather shuddered; didn’t dare open her eyes. Confusion intermingled with drowsiness inside her brain. The cord around her ankles and wrists chaffed her delicate skin. The back of her neck ached with a cold electrical burn. The duct tape over her lips felt sticky and stifling. All around, equipment rattled with the van’s movement. Tools, chains, buckets—perhaps a shovel or two.

God knew what else.

Fucking…bastard…

Lying there, Heather’s thoughts drifted back to the very beginning. To six months ago: July Fourth, 2016. She’d had to work, but it had been a slow Independence Day for the E.R. At lunch, she’d gone to the cafeteria with several coworkers. Ten minutes into her break, a young man in blue scrubs sat down opposite her. He had spiked black hair and wore a crooked, anxious smile. Heather noticed severe razor burn around his jawline. A fellow nurse named Blanche introduced them:

“Heather, meet Gulstan. Gulstan, meet Heather.”

She’d smiled and said hello. Gulstan looked uncomfortable, explaining that he’d just started in Transport; the new kid in town. Heather couldn’t remember her response, but Gulstan said, “Nice to meet you.” Simple as that. Heather resumed eating and gossiping with Blanche, and hadn’t even noticed when Gulstan left the table.

How could she have guessed that such an innocent meeting could lead to this?

“Oh, uh…it might get a little bumpy for the last mile or so, sweetheart. Sorry about that.”

Gulstan had put a pillow beneath Heather’s head, and now she buried her face into it.

Sweet…heart? I’m not…not your…sweet…

After that unremarkable day in the cafeteria, Heather returned to work as usual, never knowing that she’d just caused an avalanche in Gulstan’s fragile world. Two days later, she’d met Gulstan again—this time in the E.R. He’d arrived to wheel one of her patients to the x-ray room. Except Gulstan had seemed more interested in her than in doing his job. He wanted to become a nurse, he’d said, just like Heather. Then he’d begun asking questions. How long had she been a nurse? When did she graduate nursing school? Did she like it? What made her decide to be a nurse?

On and on, until Heather had to excuse herself. She’d felt annoyed, but also sorry for Gulstan. He seemed a bit awkward; unsure of himself. Lonesome.

“You know…I first met you about a year ago. Heck, I guess there’s no harm in telling you this now. But, uh, I was goaded by my old boss into going down to that strip club you used to work at…”

No…don’t…

Choking back tears, Heather sighed into the pillow. Wishing with all her heart that she didn’t have to hear the rest. Because she already knew.

Don’t…say…

The third time Heather met Gulstan, she’d just exited Intensive Care when he appeared at her side. He’d seemed nervous, stammering as he asked Heather to help him prepare for nursing school. That’s when Heather felt the first twinge of dislike, and she reacted by saying that she didn’t have the time. She’d also mentioned that her boyfriend might get jealous if she accepted.

Heather didn’t have a boyfriend, but her gut had told her to lie. And Heather always listened to her gut.

“Yeah. As soon as we walked in, I saw you up on that stage. Naked as a jaybird, too! I thought, ‘what’s a beautiful girl like her doing in a place like this?’ I’m really glad you don’t work there anymore, sweetheart. It’s best for us.”

Glad? Us?

Heather swallowed around a knot in her throat, worked her lips against the tape. She’d danced at Le Club du Mal, the classiest erotic nightclub in Stark City, for two years to help pay for nursing school. She’d even danced part-time for awhile afterward. And she’d never had any reason to regret it…until now.

Sick…

One day, Gulstan approached Heather in the cafeteria, offering to buy her lunch—anything she wanted. But Heather refused, reminding Gulstan of her jealous boyfriend. After that, Gulstan kept his distance, smiling and waving from afar; saying hello whenever they passed in the hallways. Heather felt good that she’d been nice in blowing him off.

Then things got weird. Fast.


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Show support on Patreon @ https://www.patreon.com/jesselynnrucilez

Thank you for reading!

JLR

In Spite Of Her Will (Short Story Excerpt)

January 13, 2015

January 11th, 2016.
Stark City, Oregon.
8:49 a.m.

Nurse Vanna Meadows didn’t want to go into the room at the end of the hall, but she had no choice. She’d avoided it as long as she could, and now her job demanded it. Demanded that she complete her patient rounds. And her conscience demanded that she do everything in her power to help that poor old man.

Goddamnit…why didn’t he ask the doctor for help? Why did he have to ask me? I’m just a nurse…a lowly goddamn nurse who doesn’t want any part of this!

With a mournful sigh, Vanna left the nurses’ station and started down the hall. Toward the room. Toward the emaciated old man whom Vanna wished she’d never met.

Toward the biggest, momentous decision of her young life.

Even now, Nurse Meadows didn’t know what she’d do once she stepped inside. She knew she’d see her patient lying there, hooked up to the heart monitor and inching ever toward the end of his long life. Perhaps beseeching her again with his kind yet weary gaze. Perhaps reaching out to her in his innocent yet cruel way; gnarled hand extended like a beggar seeking alms. Except in this case, alms meant quite a bit more than money, or even food. It meant the ultimate sacrifice.

Maybe he’ll be sleeping this time, Vanna thought, scrubs rustling, shoes squeaking against the tile floor as she meandered along. Maybe I can put it off for awhile…

Though twenty-three–young by adult standards–and just seven months into her job, Nurse Meadows had never given her career choice a second thought. She’d gone through nursing school with an ease which had earned her the jealousy of her peers, and had set her sights on a position at Stark City’s most prominent hospital: Stark County Medical Center. Once hired at SCMC, she’d been placed on the sixth floor telemetry unit, and in the previous seven months she’d seen it all. Heart attack victims, stroke victims, crash victims, and every other form of rotten luck made manifest in the physical world. And none of it had bothered her. Not the blood, the sobbing of family members, or the endless echoes of grief in the sterile halls. Vanna prided herself on being just as, if not more, professional than the nurses twice her age.

But all of that changed the day they wheeled Hubert Cranleigh up to her floor and left the ancient man in her charge. That had been a week ago. Prior to this transfer, Hubert had languished in the intensive care unit following a massive heart attack. At age ninety-one, his recovery had been less than ideal. But the doctor and ICU nurses had done their jobs and gotten him stabilized. Hubert could open his eyes and talk for brief periods of time; even making sense every once in awhile. So things had been looking up for everyone involved–

Then tragedy struck.

One night, Hubert’s eighty-nine year old wife, Lois, had slipped and fallen in the rest home and broken much more than her hip. She’d been rushed to Stark County Medical just as Hubert had, but even emergency surgery hadn’t been able to save her. And the single worst moment of Vanna’s life had been when she’d stood by as the doctor informed Hubert that his wife had died. That, because of Hubert’s delicate condition, he couldn’t be moved–even by wheelchair–to Lois’s room. Which meant that poor old Hubert had already seen his beloved wife for the last time.

No book, no song, no poem could ever describe the utter heartbreak Vanna saw in Hubert’s eyes that ruinous day. Hubert didn’t just cry, he bled pure sorrow from every pore of his withered flesh. His bones rattled with every breath. His heart monitor jounced in time to the childlike blubbering which still rang in Nurse Meadows’ ears.

Damnit! Vanna thought, slowing her pace even more. Halfway down the hall now, the syringe in her pocket bounced against her leg. A heavy reminder of the heavy decision she’d almost made.

I don’t know if I can do this, Mr. Cranleigh. I really, really don’t…


If you enjoyed this excerpt, please subscribe, like, and share.

“In Spite of Her Will” was featured in The Borfski Press, Issue #2.

Buy The Borfski Press Issue #2 in both print and digital format here:

https://theborfskipress.com/2017/06/19/issue-ii-out-now/

Thank you for reading!

JLR


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