Sunday Storytelling is where I post a piece of fiction on Sunday. It might be a complete short story, a snippet of a work in progress, a character sketch, a response to one of the thousands of creative writing prompts I’ve collected through the years. Most of them won’t be polished or “final,” so feedback and criticism is welcome, but please be constructive in your comments. Read other Sunday Storytelling pieces here.
“It’s…okay. It’s gonna be okay…” Jon patted the woman’s hand. Should he be patting her hand? Would it be appropriate to pat her shoulder? “Um, he’ll be fine. The doc said…uh, he said he’ll be released in the morning.”
The woman kept sobbing. Huge, shuddering sobs that shook her entire body. Her other hand, the one Jon wasn’t patting nervously, covered her face. “He — ee — ee — ah…” She tried to say something.
Jon looked around the waiting room. A mother sat with a toddler on her lap, rocking slowly side to side. A young girl, probably college-aged, sat slumped in a chair, an ice pack over her face. Drunk. Another girl, a little older, leaned forward, concentrating on her phone. And an older man read a newspaper while tapping his foot in an uneven rhythm. Jon’s phone buzzed in his pocket. His partner was waiting for him. They had paperwork to finish now. Reports to file. The patrol car needed gas, too.
No one else in the waiting even seemed to notice the borderline-hysterical woman in the corner. Wasn’t there a nurse Jon could call over? She was about to hyperventilate. Probably. Maybe they could give her a sedative?
“It — it — it’s — GAHH!” the woman tried to say something again.
“Ma’am, take some deep breaths, please. Ma’am? Ma’am, the doctor will be right out. You’ll be able to see him soon. Ma’am? Will you be okay?”
Jon had never been good at this. This is what happens when a boy is raised by his father, uncle, cousin, and two older brothers. Not a woman in sight, except for his grandmother and elementary school teachers, until he was fourteen. That was when Zach, his cousin, ten years older, started dating a med student and married her five months later. Six months later she gave birth — to a daughter — and nine months after that, she left. With the little girl. It was the day after Jon got his driver’s license. The second time he ever got to drive the car was to pick up Zach from a bar across town.
And now, eighteen years later, Jon still hadn’t spent more than a few months with a woman. He couldn’t understand them — their moods, their scents, their rituals in the bathroom. He didn’t not like them — he greatly admired many of them — but he felt like an environmentalist trying to observe a rare creature in the wild, unsure of what to do in case he got too close.
He placed the woman’s hand in her lap and started to stand up.
She reached back out and grabbed his hand. “No. Don’t go yet. Please?” She had gone from just gasping out sounds to full words so quickly, Jon almost wondered if she had been faking it before.
“I…ma’am, I have to get back…”
Jon looked around the room again. Was he imagining things, or did the old man’s gaze flicker his way for the briefest second? The others in the room were still oblivious to his plight.
It was a slow night in the ER.
Jon settled back in the chair and held the woman’s hand. “Sure. I’ll stay.”
Comments, feedback, and constructive criticism welcome…