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 Post subject: To See The Light (Short Story--Complete) G/PG13
PostPosted: Sat Jul 09, 2005 2:39 pm 
7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 3:47 pm
Posts: 565
Location: Canada
Hey guys. This is a very different story from what you've seen from me: it deals with end of life, and trying to come to terms with that last moment with a loved one. The story was written around a poem I wrote (To See The Light) this past winter. The story is dedicated to my wife's grandfather, Jack, who with his last breaths lead me to a moment of peace. I put up G/PG 13 because of the subject matter.

Feedback...sure, especially for this story. I hope I've done it some justice.

Distribution: If you think there's something here to share somewhere else, sure go ahead, just let me know by PM where it's going. I'm planning to re-work it and submit it for publication later, but in the mean time...thanks for reading.



To See The Light

“No! Don’t ask why. I can’t. It’s just…” Kerry Allen’s voice carried down the long corridor.

“Kerry, please,” John Allen called to the retreating figure in the worn leather jacket.

Hesitating before stepping into the elevator, Kerry looked over her shoulder and shook her head, wiping away tears with the back of her hand. The elevator dinged; John watched the doors close behind his sister-in-law, and sighed.

Several people, having heard the kafuffle, glared at John. He turned to the nurse’s station, red-faced. “I just don’t get it,” he mumbled to the young woman with the hospital ‘Social Worker’ badge pinned on her burgundy lapel. “I don’t know what to do.”

Wiping at his own tears, he felt a small hand tug his shirtsleeve. “Daddy, why’s Aunty Kerry so mad?”

“Aunty Kerry’s not angry, Honey,” he said, bending on one knee as he took his daughter’s hand, “She’s just sad because she doesn’t understand Aunty Ellen’s journey.”

Puzzled by her father’s answer, the little girl frowned and scrunched her nose. The public address system interrupted them. Penny looked up at the social worker, “What does ‘Code Blue’ mean?”

A flurry of activity began around them. John’s face paled, and then he felt a pang of guilt. The nurses and emergency staff were rushing in the opposite direction.

“Mr. Allen, perhaps we should go into my office. I have some literature that might help. And,” speaking directly to the little girl, “Penny, I have some books for you too, we can talk about it then.”

John shot a hard look at the elevator doors. Hand-in-hand with his daughter, he reluctantly followed the social worker down the corridor. “I don’t understand…” John muttered.

“Don’t understand what, Daddy?” Penny squeezed her father’s hand and looked up at the tall dark-haired man whose large fingers intertwined with hers. “Aunty Kerry always tells me, when I say that, let’s learn it together. Like we’re going to do now.”

John smiled and affectionately mussed the little girl’s dark brown hair, “That’s right, Penny. Let’s learn together. You know Aunty Kerry loves Aunty Ellen very much. When we get to Mrs. Isanti’s office, we’ll do it together, and this time you can help Aunty Kerry understand. Okay?”

The elevator doors opened to the underground parking level. Kerry couldn’t get out of the stifling box fast enough. “God, those things are like a giant coffin,” she said aloud, shuddering. The people waiting for the elevator politely stepped back. Realizing Kerry was speaking to herself, they looked at one another, and then at her.

“What? It’s true. Just like a bloody coffin. This whole place is an icon of death.” Fighting back tears, Kerry hurried past them to her car. “I’m sorry Ellen. I promised, but I just can’t do it.”

Kerry sat with keys in the ignition, numb. “I tried,” she said, wiping at her mottled face with her sleeve. “I tried. I can’t.” She pulled her cell phone from her leather jacket pocket and dialled. “Damn it.” Ellen had always been there for her, but Kerry knew the phone would be ringing on the nightstand, beside their empty bed.

Motionless, she stared through the driver’s side window at the grimy walls of the parking garage before pulling her gaze to the picture taped on the dash. Ellen’s beautiful dark eyes and warm smile looked up at her from the faded, sun-bleached image. The two of them, light and dark, polar opposites in every feature, with arms locked around each other. Kerry sobbed; she wasn’t going anywhere.

The cell phone’s shrill ring startled her. McMaster Hospital flashed on the display. “Oh shit!” Kerry’s heart raced, “It can’t be so soon.” Sniffing, she answered with a quiet, “Hello?”

“Hi, Aunty Kerry,” the pippy voice chimed.

“Hey, Baby Girl,” Kerry breathed a half-sigh of relief. “What’s up?”

“Um, Aunty Kerry? Can you come and see me?”

“Of course, Penny. I have to…I need to stay here for a while. Ask Daddy and maybe we can have supper together tonight. How’s that?”

“That’d be swell. But, can you come and see me now, just me? Pretty please?”

“Where are you, Hun?”

“I’m in the nice lady’s office reading books. Daddy’s gone to read to Aunty Ellen.”

The knife twisted in Kerry’s heart as tears sprang afresh in her eyes.

“Aunty Kerry?” Penny’s voice dropped to a whispered confusion, “Are you still there Aunty Kerry?”

“I’m here,” choked Kerry.

“I’m sorry you’re sad. I thought you were mad. Um, Daddy said that’s not the right word. You were sad. I’m sorry you’re so sad. I’m sad too. Will you come and see me?”

“Of course, Baby Girl. I’ll be there soon. Love you.” Kerry turned her phone off, and then eased the photograph from its treasured place on the dash—the same location it had been placed in every vehicle she’d owned for the past twenty-two years. Holding the picture against her heart, she made her way back to the giant coffin.

The elevator doors opened to the long corridor. The ward’s antiseptic smell assaulted Kerry once more. Lining the dull-yellow walls intermittently, were trolleys filled with linens, both clean and soiled. A medicine cart, empty wheelchairs, gurneys and IV poles dotted the path to her lover’s room. Visitors, and staff dressed in washed out pastels, moved slowly; shoes squeaked on freshly polished floors. A burgundy flash at the corridor’s end caught Kerry’s attention, and the social worker beckoned.

Steeling her senses against the unwelcome smells, sights and sounds, Kerry approached the woman standing outside Ellen’s room. Drawing closer, Kerry recognized the look etched on Mrs. Isanti’s face.
Dropping a tray of coffee and milk she’d picked up on the way to the ward, Kerry rushed forward, hand covering her mouth. A nurse, Joanne, joined Mrs. Isanti as Kerry approached Ellen’s room.

“What’s…but it’s only been…just half an hour,” began Kerry, “It…she can’t…is? Where’s John and, and Penny?” Kerry studied the two women’s faces, and both relief and dread washed over her. The nurse laid a comforting hand on her arm.

“They’re with her now,” said Joanne. “John tried your cell phone.”
“I, I turned it off. Just went to get coffee. I’m sorry, the mess, the coffee, I’ll clean…What’s happened?” Kerry looked with confusion at the nurse. “How? When?”

“Just after you left, Ellen’s vitals began to change. I’m sorry.”

“Kerry,” said John in a whispered voice, tears streaming down his face as he appeared at the door, “Please.”

The door opened a little wider and Penny’s face peeked around the doorframe. “Hi, Aunty Kerry. Will you come in while Daddy reads to Aunty Ellen? Daddy and Mrs. Isanti have been e’splaining stuff and said maybe we’d have to wait a while for just you and me time. Will you come in with us?”

Pulling the beat-up leather jacket, Ellen’s first Christmas present, tightly around her like a shield, Kerry entered the room she hadn’t stepped foot in since Ellen slipped into deep unconsciousness the night before. Kerry had stayed outside her lover’s room, interrupting her vigil only to nap briefly in the lounge after assurances from the nurses they would wake her.

The private room was warm, lights dimmed. The door closed, sealing them into a private world of grief. Two chairs sat empty beside Ellen’s bed; gone, the myriad of machines and wires, tubes and mask. One single IV pole dripped fluid, morphine, and the LCD monitor beeped intermittently, its numbers irregular.

“Let me turn off the sound,” Joanne said.

In silence, Kerry stared at her lover. Ellen’s features were sunken; her once vibrant skin, sallow. Once powerful lungs now laboured for breath; the ravage of illness wasted her. Putting down the bedrails, Kerry gently kissed Ellen’s clammy forehead and stroked her dark hair before taking her love’s hand in her own. “I made the hard choice. I followed your wishes, our wishes. When there was…was nothing left to be done. But, but I didn’t…I couldn’t…I couldn’t stay for this.” Anguished, Kerry looked into the dark eyes of her brother-in-law. “Oh God, John. I can’t do this.”
A small hand rested lightly on Kerry’s arm. Fighting back tears, Penny said, “Daddy said you didn’t know how, and I told him we could all learn together. We could see Aunty Ellen off on her journey, together. Right, Daddy?”

Kerry blinked through tears and looked at her niece, whose features so reflected the young girl’s father, and aunt.

“Please stay with us,” the small voice asked, “Please stay with Aunty Ellen.”

Tormented, Kerry looked once more at John, then into the face of the woman she loved more than life.

“I was reading poetry. Ellen asked me to read this…Kerry, please stay,

To see the light dim from your eyes,
The room is hushed with silent cries.
Holding your hand, tears stain my face,
Moments now until you find grace.
A life lived well, death not disguised

Time slowed. Ellen breathed; shallow, laboured breath, slow, irregular; no need to watch the fading numbers on the machine’s display.

My parents left; they claimed the prize,
With me not there to say goodbyes;
From life they vanished without trace,
To see the light.

Warmth encircled them. Peace settled gently over the room. One breath.

How it is, I cannot surmise,
The pain you feel when someone dies.
Their deaths had seemed so out of place,
But now I know that’s not the case…

Holding Ellen’s hand, Kerry placed the worn photograph between their intertwined fingers, then easing her leather jacket from her shoulders, laid it gently on her lover’s fading body, the sleeve binding them together; and placing a final kiss on her love’s lips, hushed she finished;

As I watch through tears, a soul rise
To see the light.

The End

Last edited by Patches on Wed Aug 24, 2005 5:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: Re: To See The Light (Short Story--Complete) G/PG13
PostPosted: Sat Jul 09, 2005 3:12 pm 
30. Sweaty and Kinda Gay
User avatar

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 7:17 am
Posts: 5210
Location: Oregon
Oh wow patches...that was beyond powerful. Kerry's pain was very evident and illustrated beautifully. I really felt that you gave a good glimpse at the internal journey she had to take in order to accept what was happening to Ellen. I really felt for her. And I loved the support she recieved from the people around her. That was awesome.

I thought on the overall this peice was very well written, but there was one thing that I wanted to bring up, as you've said that you want to rework this for publication. I hope you don't take this the wrong way, because I really like the story, but I noticed Penny's dialogue to be a little on the cliche` side. When Penny is speaking to Kerry she seems to be talking in that rather well scripted, all-too sugary sweet type of dialogue that children always seem to get saddled with. (not that there's anything wrong with that, because I have known many children who, from time to time say well scripted, all-too sugary sweet things....they just don't talk like that all the time. ) I don't just, in my opinion that kinda hurts the believability of the piece as a whole.

I hope I didn't come off sounding too harsh...I just thought I'd leave a little constructive feedback this time. :glasses

I really like it. Thank you for sharing.


G Wing

 Post subject: Re: To See The Light (Short Story--Complete) G/PG13
PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2005 4:20 am 
2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
Posts: 35
Location: New Jersey
Very nice.

You’ve avoided the common trap of melodramatic narrative quite well in this, and that makes it very powerful. You leave us a tale with a steady pace, touching moments, and a level of character introspection uncommon in most third-person omniscient stories.

Your descriptions touch all senses-- Mostly only when necessary. That really keeps the forward motion steady and compelling.

A few points stood out to me as needing a little attention:

Why the last names? You could easily do away with them. They lend nothing to the story and dilute the opening drama with unnecessary words and information. You make the relationships of everyone clear early on… with no mention (because it’s not needed) of last names. Though this might seem like a fussy nitpick on my part, I’m compelled to point this out since the start of a story should be as smooth and compelling as possible and this superfluous character naming really stood-out, immediately making me think “Oh boy… First ^and^ last names. For a short piece, this must be very complicated… Maybe some of the major characters have the same first name… Ugh.” Again, that’s a paraphrase of my thoughts as I started to read. I may not be alone in that first impression. Then again, maybe I am. ;)

The private room was warm, lights dimmed. The door closed, sealing them into a private world of grief.

Replace the second ‘private’ with ‘secluded or something. It’s the only noticeable repetition that I found.

“Don’t understand what, Daddy?” Penny squeezed her father’s hand and looked up at the tall dark-haired man whose large fingers intertwined with hers. “Aunty Kerry always tells me, when I say that, let’s learn it together. Like we’re going to do now.”

This is the first appearance of your very clever and touching ‘learn it together’ device. A few ideas on this:

1) Most little girls look up to a stranger and perceive a tall, dark-haired man with large fingers. Penny should see her father, not objective physical traits. The sentence places an odd distance between the two, but not in a way that jibes with their other interactions.
2) Consider rewording the “Aunt Kerry always…” dialogue. Find a way to make it simpler and smaller. The person delivering the line is simpler and smaller than the greater goings-on, and, as a result, more able to grasp what’s relevant to the circumstances at-hand.
3) Definitely lose the last fragment ‘Like we’re going to now.’ When I first read the above paragraph, I saw what might be a simple, touching insight from a child character… Until the last part, that is. I can’t explain it, but for some reason that last bit feels tacked-on and out of place. We all have moments like that in our character’s dialogues, but in a piece this short, at a moment so important as to be echoed later in the tale, I caution you to handle this juncture in the dialogue with greater care. As sucky as it might seem, a misplaced or overplayed nuance—even one as seemingly fleeting as this—can kill an entire story. The shorter the piece, the more this applies.

Overall, your work on this is very high-quality. In the past few years I’ve witnessed your skills grow with each piece and installment that you’ve chosen to share. This one in particular may be your best yet. With only a few minor adjustments, this will be ready for print.

Great work, Patches. Better each time.


 Post subject: Re: To See The Light (Short Story--Complete) G/PG13
PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 7:31 pm 
7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 3:47 pm
Posts: 565
Location: Canada
Back to the KB after a long absence. Grateful these works are still here; time to look at publication. SQ, took me six-years, but I'll take your advice, tighten the story and move forward.

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