Short Stories 

 

 

 

Monday
Jul122010

Two short Stories by Joan Hero and Raul Loera

This issue contains short stories from two authors who are new to Lost Coast Review, Joan Heron and Daniel Fiddler, as well as one story by Raul Loera, who has published in the Review before and whose poetry also appears in this issue.

 

Just one Thing, by Joan Heron

 

  “Git up off yo fat ass and do some work. It’s goin’ on 6:30 and Ah ain’t doin’ no mo til you come help some,” LuAnne yells at Celia.

 I open the door to the tiny hospital kitchen and push the medicine cart partway in so that it holds the door open.   Celia is sitting next to the counter, her large body squeezed into a light green, nurse’s aide uniform.  Thin blonde hair is pulled into a snaky ponytail. Cigarette smoke fills the small room. She’s using an off-white institutional saucer as an ashtray.  LuAnne stands over her, fists planted on her broad hips. Her brown eyes flash in her round face.  Her fury fills the room as strongly as the smoke.

 “Soon as I finish my cigarette,” Celia says quietly, unperturbed by LuAnne’s insults.  Tendrils of Celia’s fine, blonde hair quiver as she speaks.

“You been smokin’ since you got here two hours ago,” LuAnne continues to shout, her mouth inches from Celia’s ear.

“Come on, ladies.  I know this is hard work.  Just the three of us for 44 sick patients.  I need both of you right now. Celia, take care of Mr. Geary in Bed 22 first. He needs to be turned.  His bedsores are really bad.  And it doesn’t help that he’s so skinny.  LuAnne, I’d like you to give out the juice and fresh water. Meet me in the nurses’ station at 6:30 and we’ll make a plan for this evening.  You all know the patients better than I do. I’m giving out the 6 o’clock meds now.”

I push the medicine cart with the wobbly wheels along the grey tiled hallway of the men’s surgical unit.  Forty little fluted paper cups contain red, green, yellow and white pills and capsules for the patients. As I walk under the bright overhead fluorescent lights, I mentally review the status of the men in my care.

 Twelve IVs, four special treatments, ten dressing changes, transcribing the new orders, charting, 9 PM meds.  Always a struggle to make a connection with so many sick people. Hope I don’t have any trouble with Celia and she and LuAnne do their jobs

Halfway down the hall I stop at the door to the staff bathroom.  I better go now.  Who knows when I’ll be able to stop again, I think as I unlock the door and push the cart inside. As I relax for a minute I reflect on the magnitude of responsibility I accept as a per diem nurse.  I’m in charge of a different unit each night.  Last night it was patients in chest respirators, the night before premies in the neonatal unit, last week psychiatry.  They should pay me more and I get no benefits but at least I can work evenings when Vic is home to take care of the kids. I remember my interview with the director of nurses when I came to this large city hospital two years ago.

“I can work Monday through Thursdays from 6PM to midnight,” I had told Miss. Ringleitner, the nursing director who is sitting stiffly behind a grey metal desk with a large calendar in the space between two piles of papers and file folders. The office had one large window overlooking the parking lot.  Several tired looking plants with drooping leaves sat on the window sill.

 It was 1958.  I had been a nurse for four years.  I’m sitting in a blue padded chair facing the middle aged nurse who wore the starched white cap from Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital on her short grey hair. Four white bobby pins held it in place  Her long sleeved high collared white uniform added to the tight feeling emanating from her body.

“The shift starts at 4PM,” she responded.

 “I know. Maybe I can start then when my baby is a little older.  She’s just two months old; I’m still nursing her and my husband doesn’t get home until 5:30.”

 “What about weekends?” she asked as she picked up the ringing phone on her desk.  “What did he do this time?” she asked in an irritated manner. After listening for a few seconds she picked up a pen and made some notes on a yellow pad she took from one of the piles beside her.  She sighed and said more quietly, “OK, I understand. Send him to my office. I’ll call you back.  I have someone with me now.”

Miss R. faced me again. “Where were we?’

“I can do one weekend a month,” I offered.

“That’s good,” she said with a smile, the first I’d seen since I sat down.. “What services can you cover?”

“All,” I responded.  Miss R sighed as her shoulders relaxed.

 “That will help us with coverage. Most of our per diems want to be on the same floor every night.”

It won’t be easy to be in charge of a different unit each night but it won’t be boring.  I can keep up with my practice in all areas. I’ll prepare myself on my way up in the elevator each night.

 A resolution I had made when I first experienced the weight of my responsibility in this understaffed hospital comes to mind as I open the bathroom door and push the cart out to continue my rounds.

If I can do just one thing each evening to make a difference in one patient’s life, I will feel OK about my work here. One personal connection.

At Bed 18, Mr. Rinaldi’s IV isn’t working. Blood is backed up in the plastic tubing. I quickly push the cart back to the nurses’ station. I page Dr Beck, the intern on call.  Only physicians can restart IVs.  It’s almost 7PM. Got to finish these meds.

Mr. Johnson in Bed 21 looks at me anxiously as I approach his bed.  He’s 78 years old, a black man with inoperable colon cancer.  His wrinkled hands fidget with the edge of his bed sheet. He turns his face away from me.

“Mr. Johnson, are you in pain?” I ask, taking his hand.

He faces me and I see tears running down the furrows of his cheeks.

“Tell me what is wrong, Mr. Johnson,” I say, gently stroking the back of his hand..

“Ma big pain is in heah,” he whispers placing his hand over his heart.

“Ma chile, Laara. She don’ know ah’m heah.”

“Would you like me to call her,” I ask.

“It be long distance, she  in Jogia,” he says with a questioning look in his eyes, as though it might be too much to ask of me.

“I can call, Mr. Johnson,” I say as I squeeze his hand, lean over the bed a little and smile.  “Just give me the number.”

He sighs with relief, squeezes my hand briefly as he points to the drawer of his bedside table.  “It be in theah in ma address book.”

I put the book in my pocket and prepare to leave.

“I’ll call Laura as soon as I finish giving out the medications. I’ll come back to tell you what she says.”

“Oh ma Gawd!” his daughter Laura screeches over the crackling phone line. “Is he verra sick?  Ah knew he be havin’ some stomach problems but it nevva sound seerious.”

“Yes,” I begin. “He had surgery yesterday…”

“Ah’ll come tonaht,” she interrupts.

“OK I’ll tell him.  I know he will be glad see you tomorrow.”

When I tell him the news, Mr. Johnson relaxes as grateful tears continue to flow.

LuAnne is pushing the juice and water cart into the room as I leave.

“How’s it going, LuAnne?”

“Ah don’ know what to do ‘bout that Celie,” she began while shaking her head from side to side. “She done took carea’ Mista Geary but now she back in the kitchen, makin’ smoke.”

“Ok.  I’ll talk to her again.  Thanks for doing your job well.”

The rest of my shift is full of getting everything done before the night nurse arrives.  Celia needs intermittent reminders to do her job.  LuAnne efficiently but resentfully drags Celia through the evening.  My thoughts return often to Mr. Johnson and his daughter.

  Hope she really is on her way.

   The following day I’m in the elevator on my way to Pediatrics on the 5th floor. As I focus on toddlers with diarrhea,  teenagers with broken bones from whizzing around in wheelchairs, Mr. Johnson comes to mind.  After getting the report from the day nurse and making rounds, I call the men’s surgical unit.

“Did Mr. Johnson’s daughter get there today?” I ask the nurse who answers.

“Yes.  She arrived just before lunch. She was with him when he died.”

Goosebumps rose on my neck.

 “What time did he die?”

   “3:30 PM.”

  Just one thing.  Yes, just one thing.

 

Joan Heron is a nurse and writer. She has published  Chai Budesh? Anyone for Tea? A Peace Corps Memoir of Turkmenistan. (Publish America, 2008) as well as several articles in academic journals, mostly Nursing (e.g. Creating Health for A New Age in Home healthcare Nurse, 1984)

 

 

 

Street Cleaner, by Raul Loera

 

Chapter 1

Making Friends

There they were on the corner like always, intimidating their neighbors, selling dope, gang banging, and making their neighborhood a shitty place. Robert knew this wouldn’t be too hard but dangerous, he was dressed in a black suit, wearing a white shirt, gray tie, with thick glasses. His hair neatly combed to the side, he was clean shaven, with his bible in hand. Two years ago his 4 year old son was murdered by a gang member’s errant bullet. He remembered it every day, every fucking day. It tore him up so much that he became obsessed with finding the perpetrator. The investigation was still active but cold, the whole experience caused him to be very angry inside. He and his wife just couldn’t stay together any longer. She reminded him too much of his son, her round eyes, her smile, It was fucking hell. They had no other children and their relationship soon fell apart. Last he heard she was engaged and pregnant. He was happy for her but felt he needed to make the type of people that killed his son pay. Pay for it as long as he lived, until he died. He didn’t really want to live anymore but he figured he would inflict the maximum possible damage. He had allies throughout that believed in his cause and helped him by even calling in false calls so that he could do his job without being disturbed, they gave him weapons, money, anything they could. Some were well off citizens, others were cops.

“Hi guys can I talk to you about the Lord and about peace?”

“Chingate ese ,”said one of the thugs, This one was their leader and you could tell because the others waited for his reaction before they too assaulted Robert with profanities. One of the other guys called him Spider and it was tattooed on his neck.

“Hey Mr. Spider I just wanna talk to you about saving your soul.”

“My soul, my soul,” Spider said laughingly, “I got no soul, ese and who the fuck are you to come into our neighborhood and wanna talk to us?! You don’t know me, ese, I’m the devil! You wanna do business and buy some mota, firme, you wanna sell me and my boys some cuetes (Kuh eh-tes - slang for guns) alright then, but you wanna talk about the bible and shit like that, man fuck you puto!“

“Hey I’m sorry bro,” Robert said.

“You got any money?” Spider asked as the other got closer to him.

 Robert felt the adrenalin rush through his veins, he was packing a 40 cal. Tucked behind his back. Yeah Robert said “I got $40 on me.”

“ Hand it over bible puto!” Spider demanded.

“Take it bro. I can give you more if you come to my bible study, Spider’s eyebrow raised as he was unfolding the folded cash. What? We just jacked you for your funds and you wanna give us more?”    “That’s exactly what I said replied Robert.

Spider looked at him with a confused yet inquisitive look.

“Yeah listen guys I just try and get as many people to go, I pay you and then it looks good on me and then the state pays me.” Now Robert knew what he was saying was a bunch of bullshit but there was no way the state would pay a church since churches survive on donations, fairs, bake sales rummage sales etc. etc. But he knew these thugs were not aware of anything but their gang and drug world.

“OK,” Spider said, “can I bring my homies?”

“Yeah but only bring about 10 at the most. I’m going to meet you at the church off of 4th street there’s a house across the street in the back of the church, stand in front of the garage and I’ll meet you there tomorrow around 4PM.”

“ How much are we each getting?”

“ You’ll get enough trust me. I’ll take care of you boys! Don’t bring any girls or little kids. Robert said laughingly.

“Don’t lag on us or we’ll find you and cap your ass puto,” Spider said menacingly looking at Robert as if he was ready to kill him.

 

Chapter 2

Money Talks and Idiots Die

The next day Spider and his homies drove up to the front of the church. They were in a large Van followed by a vehicle with 3 other guys. One of Spider’s homey named Smokey said, “hey Spider what if this guy is gay and he wants us to suck his dick?”

“ Well you’ll be the first one knees,” Spider said laughing.  They all started laughing as they pulled up to wait. Spider took a hit of a joint and passed it on.

“Spider do we have to stay and hear all this bullshit or can we just take the money and get the fuck out of here?” asked another of Spiders gang thugs named Oso (bear) obvious for his large size.

“ Okay let’s all walk over to the garage and wait. I got a plan,” Spider said as they gathered outside the garage with a large avocado tree hanging over it. “Check it out homies, this puto’s gonna have all kinds of funds on him. So when he starts to give out the cash I’m gonna pull out my fusca (another slang word for gun) and rob his ass. Let’s say he gives us each $40, he has about $400, maybe more. We can use it to buy more guns. Anybody else packin a cuete?”

“ Me Spider,” called out another guy named Flaco (slim).

“What you got on you?” asked Spider.

“ A twenty five, ey.”

“ Fucking pussy gun, it doesn’t matter anyways I got mine and we’re not gonna need it, this guy’s a pussy” Spider said confidently.” If he gets crazy we’ll just jump his ass!”

Spider’s phone rang (his phone was a stolen phone with a hacked number) as was Roberts.” It’s the puto,” he said referring to Robert. “What up, ese, you got the funds?” He asked Robert.

“I do buddy,” Robert replied.” Hold on I’ll be there in a minute or so.”

 Spider was becoming impatient as he thought more about the money. “ Hurry up fool I ain’t gonna wait all day! How much money you got on you for me and my homies?”

“ Spider I got enough for you, I got about 2500 on me because I’m waiting to give some to other people. You and your friends will make about $400. Alright?” Robert asked.

“ Okay homie,” Spider said in a nice voice. He closed the phone shut and looked over at his friends. “Can you believe this fool? He told me he has $2500 on him, we rob him and we get $2500!”

 “Fuck it ey,” said Flaco. They were in front of a garage smoking their weed as they waited. They were excited about the money they were about to make. “With this money we’ll buy a few AK’s and some crazy ass navy seal shit! Then in a few weeks we’ll swoop down on those vatos over on 5th street and smoke them all. We’ll do a massacre on those putos, anybody gets in the way cap’em! Kids, women, abuelas, don’t matter to me.”

“Flaco since you’re packing go over to where the back of the church is and hide behind the dumpster next to that other building. Keep me posted when you see him. “

Flaco ran across and hid behind it. He pulled out his small twenty caliber handgun and cocked it, he then put it back into his pocket. He thought to himself I’m out if site so that fool won’t see me and I can cap him if he gets crazy. Unbeknownst to him Robert was watching him. From the side of the church which was also covered with a storage from an adjacent building which was part of the church. Slowly Robert came up behind him with a silenced Walther 380 Caliber PPK handgun. He raised it slowly taking careful aim to the back of Flaco’s head. He was about 20 yards, Robert felt the surge of adrenalin pump through his heart and into his body. He was excited and felt a surge of rage go through him, remembering his dead son. He pulled the trigger, the pistol recoiled back and whispered its shot of death. The bullet zipped out of the gun at high velocity crashing into Flaco’s head and exiting out his left eye, Flaco dropped. He was dead. Robert picked up the shell casing and shoved it into his left pocket. He pulled out an ace card and dropped it on Flaco’s lifeless body.

 

Chapter 3

Good Times and Social Events

As they were talking and laughing about their future mission they heard a voice. “Huh?” They looked up, before them stood Robert, his hair a bit messed up, a five o’clock shadow, dressed in black with a dark jacket, dark sunglasses, jeans, and his favorite shoes: pair of black full leather converse low tops covered with surgical boots, in each hand he held an HK MP5 (an automatic sub machine gun usually used by SWAT and or Special Forces, Usually a nine millimeter with 30 round magazines and can be equipped with a silencing system, collapsible stock for easy concealment and or navigation of the weapon in confined areas, the recoil is low so it would be possible to fire two at the same time) His hands gloved with a double layer of surgical gloves.

“Spider I told you I brought enough for you and your boys!”

“ What the fuck is this? You think you’re crazy ese, I’m Spider from Calle East Side Sur treze (Sur for South, Treze  for the number 13. Sur 13 used by Hispanic prison gangs from Southern California). These are my calles (streets) puto!”

“ I’m sorry to break the news to you Spider but…….

Spider reached into his waistband to retrieve his Smith & Wesson 9mm but before he could, Robert pulled the trigger on both his MP5’s, the machine guns instantly burst into life, fire and hot 9mm rounds zipped silently out of them, rounds striking and tearing into their victims.

“ Ahhh shit, no please!!!!!,” as the bullets struck Smokey, blood spattered onto the garage door, the door looking like Swiss cheese. You could hear the rounds slapping flesh, then the ping, ping, ping sound of the rounds slamming into the garage door after exiting their target as well as the sounds of shells ringing as they hit the concrete. It was like a melody of death created by an orchestra played with instruments of death. One guy had both palms on the garage door and slowly slid down the aluminum door leaving a trail of smeared blood and palm prints.

As the gang members fell, one of the bald headed gangsters was on his knees trying to get up as he bled out. Robert took careful aim and unloaded the last four rounds into his face, adrenalin and rage, still coursing through his body, the rage of his lost family still fresh on his mind. Tears flowed from behind his dark glasses, knowing that someday he too would pay the price. But for now he knew this is what was needed. The bodies were heaped upon each other or touching each other. The scene was one out of gangster era of the twenties and thirties resembling that of the Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Robert could see that Spider was still alive and breathing as were some of the others. Robert knew what he had to do. He systematically aimed at each gangster and put one round in their head. He didn’t get too close as he didn’t want to track blood. “I told you Spider that I had enough for you and your boys and that I would take care of you,” Robert said as he loaded a fresh clip into his pistol and cocked it back. That clean, sweet metal clack sound as the pistol is cocked was all that could be heard. “You had a chance and now you get to be put down and maybe someday will be my turn but until then I will continue to do my job, you are my job Spider, and I’ll kill as many Spiders as I can before I go. You and your little friends had many chances but as you are artist of chaos, so am I but with an added twist, I am the chaos to befall artists such as you. Remember yesterday you said to me, ‘you don’t know me I’m the Devil,’ Well I say to you, You don’t know me, I’m not the devil but I am going to help you see him soon, Godspeed.”

He could hear Spider saying something in whispers. “No, no, no, no, Don’t kill me, Don’t…..” the pistol whispered once more into Spiders left temple. The shell ejected and flew sideways crashing onto the concrete. The last shell sounded so loud as it hit the concrete. It resonated in his mind. Blood spilled out of Spider’s head like a broken bottle of tomato juice. He dropped another ace card on Spider's holy head.

Robert pulled out one of his favorite smokes, he normally didn’t smoke except in social occasions, he loved cloves, the slow burning tobacco, the cinnamon taste, he lit it, took a few deep drags as he walked away from the dead gang members, This is a social occasion of sorts, I hope to have more social gatherings, he said to himself.

Reader Comments (3)

Great new issue Casey!

July 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Saslow

Love this story, so real, great imagination.!!

July 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLupe Montoya

Thank you!

August 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRaul Loera

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