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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Shhh. (02/18/10)

TITLE: Pretending to Sleep
By Melanie Kerr


The room, painted in pastel colours, a huge patio door leading into a fragrant garden, looks deceptively peaceful. The nurses, quiet and competent, busy themselves around my bed, testing and tweaking my medication. I am quiet, lying on my side, as comfortably as the tumour on my back allows. Eyes closed, I pretend I am sleeping.

Medication may stifle the pain, for a little while, but leaves untouched the turmoil in my mind. I know that I am dying. The knowledge weighs heavily on my heart. I have done with cursing and pointing a finger at heaven, pleading for help from a God that I am not sure exists. What happens happens. I can’t console myself that my life has been long, or fulfilled, or that given the time over again, I would do things differently. I cannot lie, even to myself. I am too young, with too many things unfinished, too many relationships left broken and now it is too late.

Old conversations carve a path through my thoughts, their clarity undistorted by time. My last words to my wife, liberally sprinkled with profanities, leaked through the letterbox of a locked door. It wasn’t that I chose the wrong person to love. I just never knew how to weather the storms and guide us into a safe harbour. How swiftly our tide turned.

I cannot stop the fear that crawls through me. What if dying takes too long? I already feel the indignity of a nappy, robbed of the strength to walk the short distance to the toilet. I hate to look at my legs and feet, stretched parchment of dry flesh, barely concealing the bones, every contour visible. The only part of me that grows stronger the tumour.

My mind still functions though hindered by the drugs, a little hazy perhaps. I torment myself with snapshots of my past. I see the bar, the glasses and the bottle of whisky. I see the tobacco in my hand, rolling up the paper. A sip of warmth glides down my throat as I pick up the pen and begin to write. A bit of editing in the cold morning of sobriety, a brown envelope, the rasp of my tongue on the stamp and my next deadline has been met. Knocking on doors, selling encyclopaedias had been a foot wearying, heart draining occupation. I discovered my love of writing too late. Words and I danced and dreamed all too briefly.

Through the open door a visitor arrives. I pretend to be asleep. I don’t want to open my eyes to see the pity of someone’s look. I feel the lightest drop of a kiss on my forehead and the gentlest of touches as someone holds my hand.

“Great is thy faithfulness, Oh God my Father….”

My sister, Charlotte, sings quietly. I know that if I open my eyes she will stop. She knows my scorn, composing impossible scenarios and challenging her to defend her faith. I don’t know how to tell her that I am ready to listen. So I keep still.

“Thou changest not…Thy compassions they fail not…”

Her song speaks to the clamour of my thoughts and I picture Jesus calming the storm.


He speaks to the wind and the waves that toss my thoughts in an ocean of anxiety. My fears subside and peace, like snow, floats down to gently settle in my heart.

I open my eyes and smile at Charlotte.

Song fragments from “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1923

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Member Comments
Member Date
AnneRene' Capp02/27/10
Very touching and heart wrenching to see one suffer so. I would have liked to see the patient have the courage to ask for guidance of receiving his salvation though. :)
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/27/10
You turned a lonely ugly death into something beautiful. I have terrible death phobias and could identify with the MC, I loved how the sister never gave up.
Donna Wolther02/27/10
My heart went out to him and I was so relieved that he chose Jesus before it was too late. It definitely drew me in.
Charla Diehl 03/01/10
The superb writing in this lonely, sad story drew me into the moment. I felt like I was in that hospital room witnessing your MC's pain. So glad his sister's song spoke to him in such a powerful way. Great way of wrapping the scene up in hopefulness.
Noel Mitaxa 03/02/10
What a credible depiction of the swirling uncertainty and anxiety going through your MC's mind. I like how Charlotte's gentle approach gave him room to respond to God's grace. A couple of missing hyphens were a minor detraction early in the piece, but great work overall.
Sally Hanan03/04/10
Lovely story. Thank you!
Ruth Stromquist03/04/10
Very moving!