Ohlone College
Creative Writing Stories

I can hear the drone of our generators as they begin to hum, the dim lights in the corner of the room become brighter as my eyes adjust, the emergency room's mercury vapor lights cast an eerie glow on the sheet shrouded bodies of our car wreck victims. Blood is no longer red, but black- gray tinged with maroon. Two of the Children's whining is loud and frantic; they are more frightened of the dark than of the bone fragments sticking out at odd angles from their legs and arms.  

The Children's Parents are both laying corpse-still on their respective gurneys. We silently agree that the Mother is already dead, and that the Father will soon follow her into that same valley of darkness if we do not treat him immediately. His shortness of breath is erratic and out of tune with the generator's constant humming. While a young nurse known for her compassion goes to the aid of the Children, I take the Father's pulse, and his rapid heartbeat combined with the bluish color of his skin tells me he has air or blood around his lungs, a sure sign of Pneumothorax.

Father needs surgery now, so I yell at the idle orderly, "Bring me a Chest Tube Kit," as I prepare to perform the procedure. There is no time for x-rays, and the hospital corridors are too dark to transport him away from His Family. They are going to live, or die, together in this room of shadows. I wash the Father's chest with iodine, cross myself, and stick my scalpel deep in his fifth intercostal space, ignoring his weak screams.

Using a stainless steel spreader I crank open a four-inch space, just size of my chest tube, and jam it in until I feel resistance. My diagnosis is correct, and blood fills the tube immediately. The lazy orderly turns on the pump and its accordion action keeps tune with the generator. Someone hollers, "Get that dead Woman outta here, now!" Father is now fully conscious and gasping above the generator's hum says, "Wo--man?--- You--mean--my-- wife?!" Not intending to sound cold I tell him, "Shut up and lay flat Dad." I should ask him to recite the 23rd Psalm.

Where is God when we need him?

This is not the time for a "higher power" failure.


Email author Susan Mountain

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