I’ve been taking advantage of some of our traveling to get back into writing fiction (something I did a lot of in middle and high school)–and I’ve been reminded more than ever that I am definitely not the writer I want to be. But you know what they say about practice making perfect…so I hope you can overlook the rough edges and enjoy. Feedback welcome!
She signed in at 8:57:45 for her 9:00:00 appointment. Perfect. She had timed her arrival to eliminate the wait. She and the receptionist exchanged fake pleasantries. She made her way to her corner seat and settled there. The receptionist finished prepping her chart and slid it into place. Thwunk. 8:59:02. It was a thick chart. She focused on a small scuff near the center of the door. Any second it would swish open on the grey carpet and Amanda’s curly head would appear.
A magazine slipped from a sloping stack on her right. She let it fall. A magazine was no distraction, she’d learned, only at best a trite depressant. At worst, it provided a screen behind which to think. In the beginning, she’d come early because it was expected for appointments of this nature. Run early, hide behind a magazine, and think. But not any more.
9:01:21. No sign of Amanda. She picked up the magazine and straightened the pile. It sloped because a genie bible hid four magazines down. She pulled it out and placed it on top. HOLY BIBLE it said in gold on the black and red cover with the genie lamp underneath. Rub three times and make a wish? She flipped the book front side down.
9:03:07. The 9:30 appointment walked in with her daughter, maybe, or a friend. They sat across the room and avoided her eyes same as everybody. No doubt theirs was a routine check like her own 11:15 sixteen days ago. Everything looks fine, healthy as a wild blueberry, we’ll call with lab results tomorrow. Lies, all lies. Three days later they’d worked up the nerve to call her at work. Cell counts a bit off, schedule another test, not to worry, can you come this afternoon. She had, and again four days later, and again the next week–twice.
They think I have Leukemia.
9:06:54. The doctor was late.
She’d read about it online. It wasn’t pretty. A computer image flashed behind her eyes before she could block it, a picture of a young, yellow, emaciated corpse that increasingly resembled a sister. Today, she would find out who that woman in the picture was. A stranger? Her sister? Herself. Amanda would usher her through the door into a room with a doctor who worked up courage for a living. That’s probably what was making him late now.
How long? she tried not to wonder, because it led to until I’m dead? (That’s how I am today, Ms. Receptionist. I’m fine. I’m dying. You have a nice day, too.) She was dying, and they expected her to read magazines. What then? Here was the ultimate question to avoid. And here she was thinking it, this 80-year-old’s question consuming her 25-year-old brain. What then? It kept her friends from meeting her eyes. It kept her from reading magazines. It kept her thinking. What then?
9:09:01. She rubbed a finger along the cardboard edge of the bible. I wish… What did she wish? She wished to know. That was all. Not even to live, because now she knew that no matter what the doctor told her today, she was dying. What then? Whether later or sooner, the end would come. It would be over. Answer me, genie: what then?
9:10:58. Where was Amanda? What was taking so long? The room was filling up; a young child stared at her cheek. She reached up and touched wetness. The genie book jumped into her hands and she hid behind it. It was smaller than a magazine but much thicker: not as good a hiding place but much better for repelling curious glances.
The first page was labeled HELP IN TIME OF NEED. She searched for a category on death. A few pages in, she saw something about heaven: There shall by no means enter it anything that defiles…but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. The Lamb’s book? She didn’t think she’d ever read it. Just below was a section on Hell: Those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ…shall be punished with everlasting destruction. Everlasting destruction…those who do not know God. Did she know God? Of course she did. She was no atheist.
9:14:11. She flipped back a page to WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT GOD: And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and Savior–none besides Me. Look to Me and be saved. Did she? Did she know God? Didn’t everyone? Those who do not know God…look to Me and be saved.
Words began to run together as they dodged around her tears into her mind: Jesus said to them, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me. Look to Me and be saved. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life. Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Jesus said, I am the life. Obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. Look to Me and be saved.
She snapped the book closed. Amanda was there in the doorway, chart in hand, calling the name that wasn’t written in the Lamb’s book of life: Rachel Hall, come on back. The doctor will see you now.
She couldn’t move.
Amanda, I’m dying. Rachel? Amanda left her post at the door, moved to stoop in front of her chair. Sweetie, what’s wrong? I don’t know. I don’t know God.
I’m dying and I don’t know God.
Amanda took both her hands until their eyes met. Come back with me, Rachel. Bring the book.
I’ll introduce you.
9:32:07. She got what she wished for–she knew.
The doctor ran twenty-seven minutes behind for the rest of the morning and took it out of his lunch.