I’ve been having a few very tentative chats with some lovely and talented followers about what to do with the Tuesday slot when Bipolar isn’t much of a consideration.
Flash fiction didn’t go down well. So today I’m sharing an old piece from a writing prompt. I’d be SO GRATEFUL if you would take the time to comment even though this is two years old.
WARNING: Content involves themes of death and young babies.
~ Pola ~
She laid her head against his chest and listened to the irregular thump of his heartbeat. Of course she’d already detected the arrhythmia with her stethoscope, but this was more an act of apology. Regret at the need for the cold weight of metal, resolute on the delicate birdcage containing his heart. She felt she owed him the human warmth of a brush of hair, the gentle texture of an attentive ear. An echo of the maternal skin-on-skin: “I’m here.”As if he couldn’t smell her out.
I’m still new to all this. I’ve got to get a thicker skin. My heart is like a marshmallow.
As her head swung up again, she tucked away the stethoscope and played with his tiny fingers until they lodged around one of her hers. All the while she reflected that working in paediatrics as a specialism would have terrified her. She’d have nothing confirmed to her in this line of work other than that humans were puny and all too fragile.
Over time, it would probably skew her mind, stilling the typical platitudes expected at a baby-shower: because she’d be unwillingly imagining tiny corpses. Small feet under white blankets in coffins which were unjustly the wrong size and therefore innately distressing. She would picture them propped jarringly on the coffee table of a suburban home alongside ‘cake pops.’ Those too would transmute luridly into skulls like those colourful candies eaten on the Days of the Dead in Mexico.
For others, working with children brought hope and wonder at their strength and capacity for growth. The task served merely to confirm the overarching duty of the Hippocratic Oath from as early on as possible. Heal, do not harm.
She’d taken a shine to the baby they brought in two days ago. He’d been abandoned next to a clothing bank in the car park of a big, faceless supermarket. Since then, she had taken to filling the scant time between rounds with eating and drinking and then coming down to check on the baby. There was still no sign of the mother despite an almost instantaneous search via media-machine.
“Kate, did anyone notice this baby has arrhythmia?”
“Woah, you’re sure? Initially we were just glad to find a pulse at all. Poor wee lamb.”
“I really think you should add it to his chart. Here take a listen.”
“No, I trust you.” Kate paused, watching the worn out junior doctor who still had a little bloom in her cheek but tiredness around her eyes. Those eyes were filled with a blend of both professional competence and real compassion that would probably make her bedside manner very reassuring. “Don’t you have anywhere to be?” Kate asked.
“Oh, not really, for a bit.”
“Would you… Would you like to be added to the feeding rota for him?”
“What are you feeding him on, glucose solution?”
“Yep. We can for a while.”
“And after that…”
“He’s in the right place.”
A worried look shifted over her face and Kate squeezed her shoulder.
“They always surprise you, even after years. Can I put you down…?”
“Sure. Let me know when.” She smiled. “But please -”
“Get the arrhythmia checked out.”
“Thank you. Now I just have to let him go….” She prised his fist off her finger with the thumb and index finger of her other hand in a gentle slide.
For her, two things always inspired awe: the fingernails and the eyelashes.
Who would ever leave you, and why?
He shifted in his sleep and then settled. So she waved and left. All the while her shoes made a more regular thump along the hospital corridor and she wondered anew if she really had the guts to tough it out here; as something other than a theoretical exercise.
(© Copyright Pola Negri November 2014.)