Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Number One by Nomi Liron

Nomi Liron's self-centred character Marie visits her dying sister June in hospital.

That's just like June, Marie thought angrily as she drove to the hospital. She steals the limelight every chance she gets. It's always been that way and now that she's dying, she's doing it again.

Marie grimaced at the phone. She couldn't put off returning calls from Katrina, her sister's best friend, any longer.

"Where have you been?" Katrina blasted. "I left you at least five messages. Your sister's in critical condition."

"I'm not doing so great myself," Marie answered, flying through the intersection at fifty miles per hour. "I'm dizzy. I can't breathe and my feet are swollen. I need a specialist."

Katrina snorted. "You'll live. June might not. Get here. We may have to make some painful decisions."

"You can count on me," Marie said.

Smiling, she pulled into a shopping mall and parked in front of a drug store. She ran into the store and to the aisle with medical supplies. She returned to her car triumphantly with a blood glucose meter and a portable blood pressure kit.

By the time Marie pulled into the hospital parking lot, the hospital pastor and social worker had left urgent messages. Katrina, seeing her enter the emergency room, sobbed, "We're losing her."

Marie could see her sister lying on a gurney on the other side of room. The monitor beside her emitted a continuous harsh bell. "Code Blue," a woman announced over the speaker. "Number eleven." Three additional medical personnel rushed toward her sister. "Start compressions," yelled one of them.

"Mrs. Wagner," a man held out his hand as Marie stared at her sister. "Chaplain Marks. I'm here to assist you in any way I can."

"Wonderful!" Marie placed her hand over his and held it there. "I've been having serious health problems lately and have, naturally, begun to wonder about the meaning of life. I've come to the conclusion our mission here on earth is to love each other. Do you agree?"

"Our Lord says exactly that. We carry out this teaching through selfless acts of compassion."

"Could you please pray with me? I'm worse off than my sister."

Marie dropped to her knees in the hallway, still holding the chaplain's hand. "Lord," she began. "Help this weary soul."

"Mrs. Wagner!" The chaplain struggled to remove Marie's hand from his. "Please get up. We should join Katrina and Peter . I'll be happy to pray with you later."

"I'll be there in a minute," Marie said, looking around.

She pulled the portable glucose meter from her purse and gestured toward a nurse passing by.

"Help!" Marie cried, swaying. "I'm fainting. Would you check my glucose level?" Marie pointed to her glucometer. "I brought my own to save you time."

"Are you a diabetic?" the nurse asked perplexed.

"Maybe. The symptoms fit. I just need a professional to confirm it."

"Look," the nurse said. "I have a patient with third degree burns over fifty percent of his body. Go to triage and please get off the dirty floor."

Marie crossed the room and approached the tearful crowd around her sister.

"Aunt Marie," a tall man in his twenties grabbed her and hugged her tightly. "Thanks for coming. It means so much to me."

"Peter," Marie whispered in his ear. "Could you take my blood pressure? I know you don't want to lose your aunt as well as your mother."

"You're despicable," Peter said pushing her away roughly.

The chaplain stood silently, his eyes closed and lips moving. "Have faith, not fear," he finally said.

Minutes passed. June didn't respond to CPR. The physician continued compressions. Another doctor approached Marie. "Your sister went without oxygen for more than four minutes. If she survives, she could have neurological damage."

"Does that mean I'll have to take care of her?"

"Someone would. It's not uncommon for patients in this situation to require a feeding tube and around the clock care."

Marie gulped.

There was a gentle tap on her shoulder. Marie turned to see a woman with a hospital ID clipped to her blouse.

"I'm Betty Worth, ER social worker. Let's see if they’ll let you talk to your sister."

"But she's unconscious!"

"Still, it could be very healing. It allows you, her son, and her friend to say to her the things you always wanted her to hear."

She led the way to June's bedside and talked to a nurse. The nurse nodded at them and said, "As long as you stay in that corner out of the way, you can go one at a time."

Katrina leaned over her friend. "June," she begged, tears streaming from her eyes. "I've known you since we were three years old. I can't imagine life without you."

"Mom," Peter pleaded when his turn came. "I know I’ve been a jerk. But please don't die. I want you at my wedding. I want you to know your grandchildren."

He turned and gestured to Marie. "Go ahead," he said coldly

Marie bent down and whispered in her sister's ear. "Well, Butthead, you don't count anymore." She stared at her sister's mottled body and blue feet and added, "I'm the prettiest one now."

"We have a heartbeat!" A nurse called out. "Blood pressure present and climbing."

Katrina let out a joyful yell. "It's a miracle!"

"Yes," the physician said. "We've never brought back someone after twenty minutes. This'll be one for the medical journals."

"Or the Guinness book of Records!" a nurse joked.

"No!" Marie rushed forward. "Don't bring her back! She doesn't deserve it!" She seized the doctor by the arm and tried to pull him away from her sister.

"Get her out of here," said the doctor, shaking Marie off and placing a stethoscope on June's chest.

Two security guards rushed in to the room and grabbed Marie. As they dragged her through the doorway, Marie screeched, "What about me? Why doesn't anyone care about me?"

5 comments:

  1. a reflection on modern times? are people really so
    wrapped up in themselves today? some certainly.
    hits the nail right on the head

    michael mccarthy

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  2. Every family seems to have one, and, yes, Michael, I think, sadly more folks have indeed become wrapped up in themselves. I think, however, the story points out that the sister is the exception, and, for the most part, everyone else is genuinely concerned for the real patient and the surviviing members of the family. AKA - most people are good people.

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  3. An excellent satire of the self-centred character. And an excellent ending -- Marie ruins her day by provoking her sister to come back to life. Where kind words could not bring her back, Marie's appalling and cruel selfishness made resurrection wonders. Indeed, hard not to explode back to life after hearing something like that. I really loved this story.

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  4. Loved the twist - her sister's cruel words bringing her back to life. What a character Marie is. All the little details were done so well, the glucose reader,the praying in the hall.
    Great little story.

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  5. Love the twist at the end - her cruel words bring her sister back to life. Marie is a great character, so well done in the details, the glucose machine, praying in the hall. Great story

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