Sarah Harris Wallman
Dogwood 2014 Grand Prize Winner
A few feet away from the incubator, the nurses talked through the night. Fair enough. The young mother had had jobs that involved a lot of sitting around. You talked to your coworkers about anything that crossed your mind. When you worked a job like that, the hours were there for filling.
Tonight the subject was ghosts: were they real, whose uncle’s friend had seen one in the woods, etc. The redhead claimed a creepy feeling overtook her in the old brick wing of the hospital. The black nurse was unimpressed. Ghosts, if they were real, wouldn’t like hospitals any more than the living, who miserably pace the waiting rooms or languish in the beds. Hospitals are the boring part of death. The monotony broken only by bedsores. The final proof that life is just waiting around for the last bad news. Now what were they going to have for lunch? Thai truck, said the redhead. Drunken noodles.
It was time to pump milk. She did this using a pair of plastic funnels attached to a groaning machine. As she pressed the funnels into her breasts, she stared at the baby. Because of the hormones, this was supposed to help.
The baby beeped, or rather, its designated machines did. The beeping escalated and was accompanied by a flashing light. Every time this happened, the young mother gasped, but the nurses finished talking before one of them came to check. He’d probably just pulled a sensor. Could it be, mused the redhead, that UFOs were actually ghosts, souls that could go no higher than the sky? And was it too early in their shift for a Diet Coke?