I am a Rock, Guernica
At the Bedside, New England Review
There’s the guy that stole a stack of prescriptions and wrote “Mofeend. One pound.” Classic. Pharmacist wanted to fill it but got confused by the “one pound.” Called me, said the max she could dispense was a gram. That’s what I’m talking about: every day something new, something funny. Not forward-round-the-office funny. So funny you have to hold it in, at the bedside. Best feeling in medicine, when you’re holding it in and the patient laughs with you. After telling you something awful. How her teeth have grown apart. How veins bulge from her chest. You know what it means. What little time. Still, you can’t help but laugh. Because symptoms are funny.
Good Not Great, Zyzzyva
Blackhawk lived the first thirty years of his life not necessarily programmed but following a path. His father had been shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in Medicine after developing a surgical technique used to treat stomach ulcers. The elder Blackhawk didn’t invent the procedure: what he did was simplify it, refine it, apply it to at-risk populations. He collected outcomes data, published an article in Nature, packaged everything Ikea-like so that the blueprints on how to stop gastric exsanguination were accessible to even the world’s most remote and poor villages. Thanks to Dr. Blackhawk Sr., any bushman with the ability to follow instructions could now save lives.
Tunk, Camera Obscura
Or the guy who, when I asked if there was a history of head trauma, said, “Couple of barstools. Not really.” Boston was his name. We rounded on him first each morning. What Boston wanted was to teach me how to play Tunk. Tunk’s something they play on the streets. It’s an easy rummy. The deal was, when he got out of here, we’d find a game beneath one of the overpasses. I’d pay in all well-dressed, using big words nobody understood—get them to think I just gave money away—then clean up: my book smarts, his street smarts kind of thing. Split everything down the middle.
Mort Naturelle, Ninth Letter
There is the case of the skydiving instructor.
A woman celebrating her son’s thirtieth birthday jumps out of a plane harnessed to the skydiving instructor, Jim. Jim’s forty-five and a veteran of the original Persian Gulf War. The woman’s a state employment counselor turned headhunter, age unlisted.
A week ago I discovered my nurse, Miss Mary, has ties to the mortuary business. For fifteen years she’s been self-referring my end stagers to Abe’s Funeral Home in the Fifth Ward. How I find out is me and the wife are in line at Alfreda’s, a barbecue joint, when who should roll in but Claude Arceneaux, Jr., and his big black posse.
Bull, Yalobusha Review
At my father’s funeral and who do I see but Bull from Night Court. I nudge my sister. “Look. Bull.”
Minutes later she nudges me back. “I really think it’s him,” she says.
Dog Bites, McSweeney’s, Best American Short Stories
Dad was explicit about everything growing up. I was treated like an adult from as far back as I remember. For instance, I knew exactly what happened to Mom.
“Your mother works as a nurse in Rwanda. There was a genocide there and she felt herself morally obligated to help out,” he told me. “To this day she continues her work there.”
This was when I was in second grade.
“Do you understand?”
Status Post, Indiana Review
We had him in close obs, fluids running, white sheets over his white pants, vitals stable, tucked in as if all that was left was for transportation to wheel him to autopsy—his Adidas laced, the sheets down to his ankles—like they did so fluidly on the full moon calls when supposedly they get more of those, though I don’t remember it being a full moon. Sleeping like a baby. Charge nurse wanted him in ICU, said he was in a barbiturate coma. But he was arousable—maybe not to voice but to noxious stimuli. I sternal rubbed him and saw the right side of his chest was tattooed with the words “Do Not Resuscitate” in red, Courier font, and I thought to myself this guy’s seen things.