Chapter 4

Written by: Ken Burns

The head of ICU, Dr Mohammed Mohammed held Cate’s limp, crushed left arm in his hand and examined the dressing. He bit his bottom lip between his white teeth and a frown formed beneath the fine hair that joined his dark eyebrows. He placed the hand gently back on the bed and studied the electronic screen that measured her heart beat. The blue flat line told him all he needed to know and the dull beeping in the background reinforced the message.

He turned his pitted bald head to Francesca who sat anxiously looking from him to Cate, to the floor, and then back again.

Mohammed sucked in his breath as he thought about the costs of keeping Cate alive and knew she would be on life support for a very long time. His memory flicked to the Head of Department berating him about saving costs and the large number of people he had on life support already…’too many!’ he had thundered, slamming his fist down on the table.

Mohammed breathed a heavy sigh.

‘We must turn off her life support,’ he said with a controlled calmness.

Shocked, Francesca exclaimed….’But there’s still hope…!’

Mohammed slowly shook his head and reached across to close the knobs that gave Cate life sustaining nutrients.

 

Anger shook her.

‘You’re wrong!’

She reached into her hand bag and her hand closed over a sharp HB pencil. As her fingers gripped it, her heart thudded against her chest. For a moment the world was silent. Her chipped red varnished nail caught the light as her hand buzzed through the air.

‘No stop!’ she shrieked plunging the pencil into his shoulder.

 

Gasping Mohammed fell, hand closed over the wound. With bloody fingers he reached for the emergency button and held it down. A bell clanged in the distance.

 

Collapsing into her chair Francesca stared at him, squirming on the floor. She stared blankly at him.

 

Anxious nurses hurried down the corridor with the beat of croc clad feet. Security waved batons as they rushed into the room. They barely noticed Francesca who sat, statue-like, staring straight ahead with blank eyes that saw nothing. Two nurses knelt beside Mohammed and pressed bandages against the bleeding wound. Others rushed away to gather the dressings they needed.

 

Slowly Francesca stood and walked from the room and entered the empty glass lift that hissed as it glided down to the ground floor.

 

Francesca climbed into her SUV and turned the key. She drove erratically to the Police Station and stormed into the interview room where Maxwell was interviewing Jim. Maxwell stopped mid-sentence and Jim lifted his weary head to take in his sister-in-law’s angry upright stance. He sneered.

 

Meantime, the life support beeped on and the jagged heart line registered Cate’s return to her body. She knew that she had every reason to live. The back-up and love given her by her outraged sister was living proof of that.

 

Ken Burns (NZ)

Comments

Getting your chapter on the grid when it's put forward is no guarantee that it will be published. This was a learning experience for me. This chapter is very similar to the original but not the same. That is part if the editing/publishing process. Really happy to get this chapter out there and living through the critical process of writing.
Good comment Ken. We all need an editor with pan and brush to tidy up the work. What makes a good writer is someone who understands this and passes that knowledge on. Your comment is one of the reasons we are all here - to show, not tell, our fellow members.
Stabbing someone in the shoulder with a pencil would probably not even cause bleeding for several reasons. The pencil would not go in more than a few millimeters for one thing. You would also not be writhing on the floor in pain. And if she had done something to cause serious injury--like stabbing him with a knife in the back for instance, the security people would not just let her walk out of the hospital today. Every hospital in the civilized world has protocols to deal with violence. This is totally unrealistic. This is supposed to be a believable story, the writer needs to know what is believable and what is not before he puts the first word on the paper.
You will not get my first response Mrellan so I gave it a few hours and then came back with this. Your comment is not unexpected but predictable. I learnt with writing the preface to Deadman's Ring to let go of where each chapter would go as different writers from around the world contributed to the story. Details in each story are not up to me but the editor about how it is published. It is a story! So don' t just dwell on details. The same thing happened with Go West Young Man. You came back after your first comment to correct your complaint about my chapter to say I had done my research. I am happy with this chapter and complaints don't affect me.
First up I want to wish everyone a very happy NEW YEAR! May 2013 be an amazingly creative year for each and everyone!!
Thank you everyone for the incredibly important contribution you make to The Story Mint. Without each one of you The Story Mint would be nothing!
Now to the comments above.
It is important to remember that these serials are writing exercises and that we all bring different levels of skill to the table when we write a chapter. It is an opportunity to learn from each other. It is important that we offer encouragement as well as suggestions for improvement. The focus here is not necessarily about how factually correct a piece is (although a passing comment is fine) but about how a piece of writing is crafted. We offer our comments in a kind and generous way remembering that writers expose a part of themselves....often a tender part when they publish something.
Please bear in mind that we learn best when we don't feel a need to defend what we have written.
A stab in the shoulder from a pencil may not generate the reaction that is described, point this out and then move on to comment helpfully on the ways the story's crafting works. A kind and generous spirit must lie behind what we write to each other. Focus on the principle as that is the area that will guide the writer the next time he or she writes. The importance of getting things factually correct is the principle here and once mentioned need not be laboured. Go on to focus on the creativity and the way the story is told....in other words look for the things you can commend along with those that need improvement.
The Story Mint is not an exclusive club to which only writers of a particular skill level can belong. I can not emphasise this enough. Everyone is welcome and it is our job (those who have been part of the scene since The Story Mint began) to make all newcomers feel welcomed and included. No one writer is better than another and everything we say to each other must reflect that understanding.
Again my very best wishes to everyone. 2013 will be an amazing year for The Story Mint and I look forward to you sharing that year with us! All the very best, Suraya.
Interesting turn of events, Ken!
Happy New Year Everyone! Have a successful 2013!