Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In a land where nurses can fly

My sister Mary tells me that this is Nurses Appreciation Week. She should know, as she works in Big Bend Hospice in Tallahassee, Fla. Our mom was a nurse, as was our fraternal grandmother. Two sisters are trained nurses, although they've found more lucrative careers outside nursing.

I only have one short story featuring nurses. Actually I have two. But this one is a short one and was just published in the latest edition of High Plains Register, Laramie County Community College's excellent literary mag. I share the pages with some excellent writers, poets, artists, photographers and musicians. How do you get music into a litmag? Attach a CD. I'm playing it right now.

Thanks to all nurses, both within and outside my family.

Here's the story:

Flying Nurse

The nurse left work at five o’clock.

The car struck him ten minutes later at the corner of Elm and Vine.

He sailed through the air, all the while thinking that this was a silly thing to happen to an E.R. nurse. He spent long days tending to patients struck by cars or bolts of lightning or random suicidal thoughts or stray bullets. “There, there,” he’d say. “You’ll be right as rain in no time.” Into the E.R. came distraught parents with banged up kids – and grown-up children with disoriented elderly parents. Dog bites and bee stings and everyone feeling sad, as the song says.

Don’t think of the sad parts, he thought as he sailed through the warm urban evening. It didn’t hurt yet but he knew it would by the time he landed with a splat in the street on the sidewalk or on top of another car or in the path of a rush-hour bus. He was light as a feather now. When he landed, he’d be heavy as a ton of bricks even though he only weighed 190 pounds which was only, what, one-tenth the weight of the brick load. Bricks on the brain, that’s what he had. He and his lovely wife and two unruly kids lived in a brick house just a few blocks from downtown. If they looked out the south-facing front window right now, would they see him? “Mommy, I see Daddy sailing through the air – and he has a funny look on his face.” “That’s nice kiddo.” Children and their imaginations! As if nurses could fly.

But here he was, flying just the same.

“Jim, when the end comes – God forbid – your final thoughts won’t be on insurance.” That was Bob, his insurance agent, who was lousy with predictions. His wife Jane’s face in ecstasy – that’s what he should see now. Playing soccer in the park with his kids. His parents when they were young and vital. A geeky ten-year-old Jim riding his bike to school. That raucous college party when he first met his wife and he had to shout over the music to make himself heard and she said, no, she didn’t want to go out with him and he thought it was because he was drunk but it was really because she was engaged to a guy who didn’t last – and that’s when Jim came back on the scene. He lasted and lasted.

Jim hoped for two outcomes. Instant death on the asphalt. Or a miraculous feet-first landing in which his sneakers slapped the pavement one-two and he broke into a run that brought him all the way home. “Run, Jim, run.” The citizenry lined the sidewalks. “Run, Jim, run.” He ran and ran. It was easy as pie. He could do this all day. “Run, Jim, run.” He was flying no more. Running home, Jim was. Running to his family.

When he opened his eyes in the E.R., the wall clock read 8:05. He had a headache and his right leg throbbed. Mouth dry as a desert wind. A nurse swam into view. She looked familiar but Jim couldn’t conjure a name.

She smiled. “Didn’t your mama teach you to look both ways before you cross the street?”

“I was flying,” he said.

The nurse patted his arm. “That’s what they all say.”

You can absorb the latest High Plains Register at http://en.calameo.com/read/000197327b247d5bebebe

No comments: