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Kim Chinquee

Farmer

 

Nurses watched the TV at the station. The patients didn't need much, and news was the ending of a princess. I'd finished someone's blood work and went to the labor room, although I wasn't in labor. There was rarely more than one delivery and it was where I stayed on call. It was Labor Day weekend.

I used to live in the town, and when I was called, I'd drag my son out of bed, sometimes two a.m., and put him in the lounge chair while I worked on someone's blood work. One time when he was three, he woke up and wandered in the ER, where technicians put a defibrillator on Mrs. Mahoney. She would have been his first grade teacher.

After that I moved thirty miles away to go back to school for something else. I made enough money working hospital weekends and from what I got from the GI Bill. Now my son stayed with a sitter.

I lay in the delivery room. I liked the way the bed moved. I'd had an emergency C-section with my son. I'd poked plenty of babies' heels; some babies were normal, some weren't.

Someone knocked on my door. If I got called, they'd ring me on the beeper. It was the nurse who'd asked what I was going back to school for and when I told her journalism, she asked if I'd be famous.

She asked if I'd seen Mister Morrow.

I asked if they had ordered blood work.

It was a small hospital, ten-bed, and I learned that Morrow was the man in 111 with Alzheimer's whose children had left him for the weekend.

No one could pinpoint where he'd gone. He'd had dinner, only eating peas, and that was the last time anyone saw him.

She described him to me and I hadn't seen any old man in flannel. I hadn't seen anyone besides the woman with false contractions and the nurses.

An hour later, I was out with the townspeople. Some of them carried candles, as if already mourning. I carried a flashlight that I'd borrowed from the police, and in my other hand, my beeper.

We shone our lights through the stalks of corn. I walked with that nurse and a woman who used to be my neighbor. As we walked, I thought about my classes starting back on Tuesday. My old neighbor said it was too bad about Diana, but she forgave those people with their cameras. I shone my light in and out the stalks, remembering when I was small, my mother telling me to stay away from the fields after the corn grew.

My beeper went off. I had ten minutes to get back. I ran. When I got to the ER, I found Mr. Morrow on the table. He'd been a farmer and firefighters found him naked between stalks. I said to him hello. I felt for a vein.


Kim Chinquee teaches at Central Michigan University. Her work has appeared in Noon, Conjunctions, elimae, Fiction International, and Denver Quarterly, and is forthcoming in The Pushcart Prize XXXI: Best of the Small Presses.

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