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An Excerpt from The Talisman

Short Fiction Break has the rights to my entire short story until January of 2021, but to give you a peek to decide if you'd like to read further, here's a short excerpt from The Talisman. If you want to continue reading, the link is:

A cold spring rain falls softly as she sits on the damp curb skirting the asphalt drive. She should have grabbed a blanket, not that it matters. She is emotionally anesthetized most of the time and too tired to care. For the umpteenth time, quitting crosses her mind, especially after she loses a patient. Three died this morning.

Meditation sometimes helps her unwind. She reaches into the depths of her heart, seeking a spark of nostalgia to recall the last time she laughed. Pictures and sounds of joyful exuberance with her family at Christmas fill her thoughts. She closes her eyes for a few moments in remembrance.

Everyone is here. Siblings, spouses, in-laws, outlaws, grandparents, even cousins from Seattle, and Sacramento. It’s as if everyone knows this will be their last time together. It’s crowded and stifling in her parents’ small suburban home, but they open a few windows, cram themselves in, sing off-key carols, eat too many cookies, and drink rum punch.

Painful memories intrude upon her reverie and invade her battered heart. Her mother died two weeks ago, close to the doors where she sits. There were a few desperate minutes to say goodbye. Another patient coded from the ravages of an unseen viral enemy, relentless in its quest to survive, taking few prisoners. Her tearful farewell was cut short so she could save someone who might still have a chance.

Grief takes time, and she has none to spare, not even for her inconsolable father. There are others in epic struggles with death who also mean the world to someone. So many are losing the battle. They are armed for a sword fight with only a butter knife.  

The distant sound of sirens is unnerving. Their arrival means her precious solitude will end. She takes a calming breath, then another because few of her patients can. The odds she could occupy a gurney in the ICU are high. If fate in its dispassionate randomness chooses her, she hopes a friend is on duty. It’s not dying she fears. Death is a familiar foe. What she dreads is having no one near who loves her should that be her destiny.

Death Be Not Proud. Who wrote that? She can’t even remember the last time she ate. Yesterday? The day before? She never imagined she could be too exhausted to eat.

The sound of footsteps splashing through puddles on the pavement pierces her tangled thoughts. Shift change. She sits up and glances at her phone. Its green digital numbers show five minutes. Three hundred seconds of sanity, a few more moments to relax the knot in her stomach which has been her constant companion for months.

Someone stops next to her, disturbing the random pattern of raindrops in a pool near the cracked concrete curb.

“Are you Sarah?”

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