Vitals

Carla had been watching the monitors, so she was already dashing toward her patient’s room when the code blue announcement came on overhead. Aurelio was coming from the opposite direction with the crash cart, but she was the first to reach the room. What she found was a panicked tech alongside a very awake and alert patient. What she couldn’t find however, and what none of the other doctors, nurses, or other clinicans could find were any vital signs. No pulse, no respiration, no blood pressure, and a temp slightly above room temperature.

“Is something wrong?” the elderly man would ask.

Carla would look to whichever practioner was fumbling to assess the patient, and when they avoided eye contact, she would answer, “Just some trouble with our equipment.”

He was still apparently fine the next day, though his appetite had vanished with his heartbeat. Security was posted outside the room to keep away the curious, leaving Carla even more uncertain what to tell the visitor who had shown up asking about him.

“Are you family?” Carla asked.

“Not quite,” the old woman answered. “He broke a promise, see? And he doesn’t get to die until I get what I’m owed.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Dimple

As soon as Maren stepped into the room, my pain started to lessen. “Alright Dell,” she said flashing a quick, radiant smile, “let me just scan that bracelet.”

Maren moved with brisk efficiency, but I still had opportunities to note the playful bounce of her short natural curls, the shifting muscles in her forearms as she typed, and the dimple that emerged in her cheek when she grinned. It almost made being in the hospital feel tolerable.

“Three pills and a shot this time,” my nurse announced.

Immediately my vision started clouding, and I felt beads of sweat on my neck. “I . . . I don’t really like needles,” I admitted, looking down at my hands.

“That’s alright,” she said handing me the pills. “I’ll see what we can do.”

I felt relieved, but still shaky. Maren waited patiently while I forced down the meds, then asked, “May I see your hand?”

“O-okay.”

She placed two fingers on my wrist as though to check my pulse, but instead of checking a watch or clock, her eyes shifted to mine. Perfect lips asked, “Will you marry me?”

“W-what? OW!”

A dimple in her cheek. “Sorry!” And Maren walked away with an empty syringe.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox