Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write CONTEMPORARY FICTION (10/30/14)
TITLE: Coffee And Donuts
By JK Stenger
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“Hi.” She gave me a tired smile. “Coffee’s just about the best thing here, isn’t it?”
“True,” I said. “Have you been here long?”
“Off and on.” She sighed. “Last time we had to stay three weeks. Then we were home again, but soon Elbert got another fever. So, we’re back in the fray.”
I nodded. It had been the same for me, ever since Gregory had been diagnosed with leukemia. The hospital provided initial treatment and then sent us home with a boatload of pills. At first it didn’t seem so bad. A few pills, a bit of discomfort. But then came the fevers. And the doctor had been very specific about it.
“If he gets even a slight fever, come straight back,” he warned. “Don’t take chances.”
For months, we traveled back and forth between home and the children’s cancer ward--traveling between hope and despair.
“How old is Elbert?”
“Seven.” She smiled. “His fever’s down again. We’re gonna beat this thing.”
I understood. In this place, you live from moment to moment. You scale mountains of hope when the fever goes down and the test results are better. You cross valleys of despair, when nothing changes, even with medication.
“My name’s Linda.”
“Steven.” I shook her hand.
“Do you have a child here too?”
“Yes. His name’s Gregory. He’s eight. We came in this afternoon. Same story; fever is back.”
So that’s how Linda and I became friends. Both of us single parents with desperately ill children. We’d visit each other, and over coffee and donuts, talk about our hopes and dreams.
A week later, Linda came into Gregory’s room. “The doctor says we can go home again.” She was radiant. “I told you, we’re gonna beat this thing. God is good.”
She looked at Gregory who was having a particularly bad day, and bit her lip. “I’ll pray for Gregory. You’re going to beat it too, Steven.”
Much as I wanted to be happy for Linda, I had to fight back tears as she stepped out the door.
“Bye Linda. I’ll pray for Elbert too.”
Then she was gone.
Gregory’s fever went up that day. We wouldn’t be going home for awhile.
“Hello.” Her soft voice awakened me as I had dozed off in the chair next to Gregory’s bed.
“Linda. You’re back.”
She nodded. I could see she had been crying.
”Elbert’s sick again. His fever’s up. ” She fidgeted with her purse. “Wanna go for coffee and donuts?”
I glanced at Gregory. He was sleeping. “Sure. I’d love to.”
We didn’t talk much on the way to the cafeteria, but as soon as we sat down, she burst into tears.
“Oh, Linda.” I put my arms around her and she cried on my shoulder.
“The doctors don’t expect he’ll pull through this time. He may die before tomorrow.”
I had no words to offer. I just held her in my arms and cried with her.
When I entered the funeral home a week later, Linda rushed over to hug me.
“Mom, Dad…This is Steven. He knows. He’s been there.
We shook hands. Her Dad tried to smile.
“Welcome, Steven. A friend of my daughter is a friend of the family.”
It was a simple funeral. Afterwards Linda asked me how Gregory was doing.
“He’s doing great, Linda.” I didn’t know what to say and felt uncomfortable.
Why is Gregory still alive when Elbert is dead? How does this work?
Linda just smiled through her tears. “I’m so glad for you Steven. Life can be complicated sometimes, but I try not to question God. It’s not for me to know the reasons why. It’s just for me to trust.”
I looked at this broken woman, who still had such faith in the midst of sorrow.
“Can we go for coffee and donuts some time this week?”
“I’d love to, Steven.”
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