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Story Time Contest: Hero Edition
is going to be a cat when she grows up.
17th Jun 2012 at 6:26 PM
Thanks: 35863 in 79 Posts
Round 1: Prologue.
I tell myself that
I'll be strong.
I say it frequently, something just under my breath, sometimes aloud, sometimes even sincerely. After all, that quote is my current desktop background. One of my (former) assistants uploaded it to encourage me. She left my office for the last time two months back, shaking, unable to say "I quit" for all the tears. I didn't have any sympathy for her, but it's all one—I don't have any sympathy left for
Call me what you will, but at least I'm consistent.
I am a doctor. Once I was a good one. I was so good that they used me up, burnt me out.
Maybe it happened because I don't have a family. I'm literally the only single doctor in the entire hospital. So I became the go-to, the clean-up crew, the one who inevitably had his vacations canceled and evening plans changed because Dr. so-and-so couldn't find a babysitter or needed to go to a school meeting or had to attend a Little League game. Sure, I make good money and have a gorgeous apartment, but I hardly ever see it. I come home in the dark and wake up in the dark. I don't get home-cooked meals; I heat up convenience store coffee in the microwave. The only time I get to enjoy my sports car is when I'm racing to the ER to pick up someone else's slack, as usual. Being used gets to you sooner or later, and the overtime money won't make up for it.
I suppose the pleasure of perpetual recognition by the medical board should be sufficient reward, but it isn't. The statutes go home and sit on top of a desk in the corner. The plaques hang on the wall and collect dust. And lately I take my pick of the pretty green bottles from the rack on the wall and drain the whole 750 ml dry before staring out of the big picture window at a very expensive view that I don't even care to see anymore.
why I went to medical school.
But in all honesty … school doesn't prepare you to face life. Or face yourself.
"Dr. Cowert. I see you're working in the dark again. I thought the office was empty for a moment. But I suppose I should have known better."
That's my latest assistant. She's outlasted the others. She enunciates the "T" in my name so that I'm always clear that she's not saying 'coward.' She brings tea without me even asking. She also turns on my lights when I'd just as soon sit in the dark. Also without me asking.
"Mrs. Hallenbeck. Good morning."
"How are you today, sir. You must be feeling well, your desk is a disaster area, as usual."
She's 23, but she seems much older. The first time we met I thought she might be a nun. As I soon found out, she is in fact Catholic. She explained this during the interview, that she could not miss Mass or Sunday service for any reason whatsoever. I'm not going to lie, I wasn't pleased. It's not like people stop hurting each other or themselves on any particular day of the week. But her nerve impressed me, so I didn't downgrade her.
After she was hired on, they sent her straight to my door. I suppose they thought we'd be good for each other. She's been cleaning up my office and keeping track of my notes ever since. And throwing my empty bottles away. It doesn't take a genius to know that she disapproves. I pointed out the first time she spoke her mind on the matter, that ring on her finger might mean she had someone to boss around, but it sure as hell wasn't
She didn't exactly get the memo.
"Your afternoon appointment with Dr. Pradyash has been canceled. Her daughter is ill."
I snort. She stares at me. "Did I say something funny, sir?"
"No. Not at all. Not. At. All."
Dr. Pradyash is my psychiatrist. I've been ordered to see her, ever since I marched into the director's office and refused to attend any future surgeries. That went over just about how you'd expect—I was threatened with disciplinary action, sanctions, having my license revoked—you name it. But in the end, I got my way. If they fired me, they wouldn't have a pool boy to clean up their messes. Still, though, it doesn't look good when a surgeon won't operate. So they force me to talk to the office shrink. She's a nice lady. Her voice is coaxing, soft. Sometimes we even get along.
"Why have you stopped performing surgeries, Eric?"
"You already know why."
"Tell me again, I believe I've forgotten some details."
"… I was on duty when they brought in the children from the Klarris County Fair accident."
I don't want to go on. She already knows all of this. But I must, so reluctantly, I recount it for her. Again.
I'd been working a double-shift with no breaks, which was against policy, but I couldn't leave because there was no one to relieve me. I hadn't slept, I'd hardly eaten. I just gotten a snack out of the microwave when the intercom went static-y with a frantic all-call for all available doctors and nurses to come to emergency trauma. A horse had gone rogue and charged through a class of small children—the injuries needed immediate care. I was assigned to a boy with broken ribs, whose eyes never once opened from the minute they laid him on the table to the last horrible seconds when the defibrillator failed to restart his overtaxed heart. I had to give the news to his mother, and listen to her scream. And worse yet, I had to step between her and her surviving child, who tearfully admitted that his brother was dead because he had dared him to go into the corral with the skittish horse.
I had to be there for them. But no one found me, when I fainted of exhaustion in the dressing room and concussed myself. I had been forgotten. Again.
"They misled me. They told me the kid had been trampled along with other students. They didn't tell me that he'd been kicked at close range by a grown horse." I was standing, shivering the way I always do when I think about it. Dr. Pradyash was standing now too, watching me narrowly, the way she always does. "I was looking at all the wrong things when I went into that OR! I missed the signs—that kid shouldn't have died!"
"As you yourself have pointed out, you were given misleading information, and you made your best effort based on that information—"
"My best effort wasn't good enough!" I shout.
Her face is stern, but still calm. "Eric, please sit down."
"What the hell for? Why bother? I became a surgeon to work on cases like this! Is talking about it going to bring that kid back to life?"
"Eric," she says, and I finally feel her hand.
"… I missed the signs because I just wanted to go home. I was so tired, and so hungry, and all I could think about was going home. I wasn't thinking about the patient. … I wasn't a good doctor that night."
"… Dr. Cowert." Mrs. Hallenbeck sounds impatient. "You blanked out again."
Damn it. "And? … don't look at me like that, I'm working here."
"Be that as it may, your lecture class is beginning in five minutes."
I hold my head with my hand. I need a drink, and that tea won't cut it. But Mrs. Hallenbeck is leaning against the drawer where I hide the booze and giving me that
stare. I guzzle the contents of the mug until it's empty, set it down hard on the desk. "You happy now?"
"Not even remotely," she says in a cold voice, and goes back to putting the scattered books away.
As I stand, my eyes flicker to my computer. As soon as I get back from lecture, I'm changing that background.
CC used: store items, custom eyes, OMSP, tipsy OMSP, skin by HP
Word count: 1,380.