Ellie’s End: My Winning Entry

Last year, I helped judge one of the contests for Carrot Ranch. Reading through the entrants taught me two things:

  1. People don’t read instructions very well.
  2. More people ought to enter!

I therefore challenged myself to enter all of the contests Charli posed for 2019. Imagine my surprise when she posted one of my stories as a finalist. I thought I’d place in all of them!

In all seriousness, entering contests is difficult and subjective and …wait. You all know this because of my Terrible Poetry thingie every week. Charli knows. A superhuman in her own right, she posted a spot-on description of writing, contests, revisions, and letdown.

Read it.

Oh, and here is my ONE entry that ‘won.’ I’ll schedule one contest entry for each of the following days, now that we’re allowed to.

—–

Ellie prided herself on her independence. Nothing, no one could affect her -certainly not internet whispers or radio station warnings.

She left for work with her earbuds in. She returned to her lonely apartment in the same way. She never listened to the wind, the silenced birds, nor the ever-increasing beeping of impending doom.

In fact, one might say that Ellie was the least prepared for the aliens when they came. No matter -hers was a quick and painless death, immediately decomposing in the stomach of Earth’s attackers. It was those silly survivalists who dragged out humanity’s inevitable demise.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Since the Bombs Fell: Six

Continued from One, then Twothen Threethen Fourthen Five.

Finn’s entrance into the fallout shelter was therefore not a graceful one. Their imminent pursuers, his rescuer’s voice, and her near-pushing him in order to secure the door befuddled him. Patrick was better at instant decisions; perhaps he would know what to do and wouldn’t be walking at near-gunpoint to a foreign elevator shaft.

Perhaps.

Finn stumbled again. “We ‘ave to get b’low,” his companion said. She activated the elevator, then gestured to enter once its heavy cross-doors opened. Finn nodded and went first. She followed, turning a key in the wall and pressing a red button.

They dropped to a chorus of pained and rusting gears. Patrick’d be able to fix those, Finn thought. And the entry. Thinking of his brother worried him. Even one leg down, the rash young man might go looking for Finn if he didn’t return. Muties made the surface dangerous, yes; but there were ways to get back if Finn needed. Not all the train tunnels lay in ruin nor all the rooftops proved unsound, he knew.

They stopped. The door ground open to reveal a dim and untidy living area. The layout resembled Finn’s, albeit in greater disrepair. He made a mental note to thank Mary, should he see her again, for insisting they fix up and clean their post-apocalyptic warren.

“Home sweet home,” she’d said, once things were in order. She’d smiled that charming smile of hers, the one she’d borne since Mother’d first noticed Mary wasn’t -as Father said- “Quite all there.”

After exiting the elevator, his companion sealed the door and punched at the filtration system. It whirred like a hoarse donkey, but worked. She then began extracting herself from her breathing gear. Finn shrugged and did the same with his. He felt this an odd game to play with a stranger; making himself more vulnerable, piece by piece. If she wanted to kill him, however, she could have shot him back at the hospital.

He set his breathing system on the counter. His helmet followed suit. He turned as the woman did the same, her auburn hair falling sweaty and loose. It rested in a disheveled braid and framed a pretty but scowling face.

“All right, then,” she said, setting her helmet next to his. She rested her right hand on her hip and studied him. Then her eyes widened. “Finn?”

“Aye,” Finn answered. He smiled a crooked half-grin at his former girlfriend. Of course she’d been skulking around the hospital; they’d first met there. He’d been a patient and she a surgeon. “An’ how you doin’, Livvy?”

Olivia Green could not reply. She looked at Finn again, who wished he’d shaved before surfacing. “Where …Where’s Patrick?” Olivia gasped. “Oh, no! Where’s Mary?”

Finn waved a calming hand. “They’re fine, though waitin’, I’d wager.” He smiled fully. “Would you like to go to them?”

THE END

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

Wilhelmina Winters, One Hundred Eight

Jakob went first, allowing their father to walk with Wil. Dr. White, with a, “Please call me with any questions,” offering of business card, and final wistful look, departed. The three remaining members of the Winters family walked down the hallway in silence.

Each time a doctor or nurse and patient came hurrying past, Wil was surprised. She saw her father, heard his solid steps. She saw her brother, heard his solid steps. Yet, she also saw herself, from a panoramic view apart from feeling. How curious, that dark-haired, serious-faced girl! Her eyes saw somewhere beyond the flurry of a busy hospital while her boot-clad feet carried her on and on.

Wil thought of her mother. Although they’d seen her body and said their goodbyes, Wil realized she still expected to find her mother alive. This was the hospital they’d visited countless times; surely they were all walking to whatever room Cynthia had been checked into. Surely they would knock, enter, and find her mother and her kind, apologetic smile. Cynthia always apologized for the trouble she’d caused, as if she and they didn’t know about her incurable and fatal condition.

Jakob reached the door to the lobby. Ah, Wil’s feelings told her, We’re leaving the hospital and heading to the apartment. She’d see Cynthia there, at home. Her mother would be resting on the couch; again, with that recognizable smile.

“How was school today, Wil?” She’d say, and sit up. “Tell me all about it.”

A tear slipped down Wil’s cheek. She heard her mother laugh, cough, recover.

“Oh, Wil. Only you could have a day like that…”

The echoes of her mother’s voice and expressions lingered in Wil’s mind as she, too, exited the hallway and entered the small waiting area beyond. She saw Jakob had stopped; to her side, her father stopped as well. All stared as a woman rose from one of the pastel couches and strode toward them.

She was not someone Wil had seen before, yet her appearance seemed familiar. Long, dark, thick hair framed a pale almond shape. As she walked toward them; locks swishing, scarf waving, arms swinging with confidence; Wil noticed the woman’s blue, stormy eyes. They locked onto Wil’s and held her gaze.

“Hello, Wilhelmina.” The woman stopped before Wil, smiling a smile very different from Cynthia’s. “I’m Guinevere Greene, your mother. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

 

THE END

 

Continued from One Hundred Seven.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty-Four

Here we are again, Wil mouthed to her friend. The pale, dark-haired girl in the waiting room window spoke the same words, without sound. Wil shifted on the floor. Crinkling paper noises from her left fist warned her to be careful in her movements; she glanced at them and remembered.

Returning to her friend, she whispered, “I’m adopted.” Her friend frowned and furrowed her brow in confusion.

How is that possible? she replied.

They shrugged.

Wil extracted the birth certificate and read through its official type once more. A few, lingering last-hopes evaporated from her imagination as she found each line filled out with correct name, date, father, location, and features. “I was a small baby,” she said.

They nodded, seriously.

“Of course you were, Minnie Mouse,” Jakob called, from his slouched recline a few feet away. He moved deeper into his chair and adjusted his feet on the table.

Wil and her friend shared a look. What did he know?

“You were a preemie.”

They blinked. Wil turned away from the window wall. “A what?

“Preemie, dummy.” He rubbed his back inside his slouch. “Means you were early. Rob told me.” Closing his eyes, he tilted his head against the chair back. “Said you were lucky to be born and that he didn’t even know.”

She shared a stupefied look with her friend. Thinking over this new information, she asked, “How did he know?”

“‘Bout you?”

Wil nodded. “Yeah.”

Jakob groaned and tried to crouch into a side-lay within the small seat. From a yawn, he answered, “Not sure.”

A few more seconds told Wil her brother -her stepbrother- was unlikely to tell her more. The conversation had already run longer than any of his had in the last five years. She was about to resume the more satisfying exchange at the dark glass before her when Jakob stirred enough to add, “Ask Rob.”

Her friend tilted her head, considering. Not a bad idea, she told Wil.

They were all interrupted by a click, a creak, and a cheery, “Well, here we are!” Nurse Bea entered the waiting room, and then turned to hold the door for Rob. Just behind him came Cynthia.

Jakob stopped pretending to sleep and Wil waved goodbye to the window. Both rose and walked to their favorite mother.

“They’re releasing you?!” Wil asked. Jakob snickered and put his hands in his coat pockets.

Nurse Bea laughed outright. As expected, hers was the sort that came from deep in her stomach and affected her entire body upon its release. A moment of breathlessness later and she wiped her eyes. “That’s right, darlin’.” She smiled, though she already had been, and wagged a stern finger to Wil. “Now, you jus’ make sure you take care o’ your mom. She’s an angel.”

Wil’s pleasant return smile slipped off her face.

“Thanks, Nurse Bea,” Cynthia enthused; her smile radiating as usual. Supported by Rob and trailed by her anxious children, she walked out the waiting room doors.

If Wil had not been so preoccupied, she’d have caught the sparkling tear on the cheek of Nurse Bea.

 

Continued from Sixty-Three.
Keep reading to Sixty-Five.

Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty-Three

“You sit, too, Mina,” Rob gruffed, not taking his attention from Dr. Sullivan. Blushing, Wil moved to the couch and sat. She almost missed, but only Jakob’s sigh indicated anyone had noticed.

The doctor, meanwhile, closed her eyes for a second and released her own exhalation. “I see, from your hospital notes, that you were in here just two days ago, Mrs. Winters.” She ran a clean, practical finger down her tablet of notes. “Respiratory infection, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” Wil’s mother answered.

“And you were discharged with intravenous medications?”

“Yes.”

“Have you been following your regular medication and exercise schedule as well?” Dr. Sullivan’s left eyebrow rose as she looked up at Cynthia for answer.

Cynthia, however, looked down. “Just the medications.” Her thumb stroked Rob’s comforting hand. “Oh! And the lung therapy. Once.”

“Well, that’s to be expected,” her interrogator replied, not unkindly. She scrolled through more notes.

Wil shifted on the plastic couch. She stifled a yawn, studied the painting of a girl over the bed again, and watched the neutral-colored window curtains sway in the room vents’ warm air. Her letter and birth certificate crinkled as she sought a new position for her hands. One look from her father settled them into her lap.

“I see that you were also informed about Cystocaftor, and that you were able to receive a lung transplant over a decade ago.”

“We know all this!” Wil blurted. Jakob snorted in amusement.

Rob was not amused. “Wilhelmina!”

Wil returned to fidgeting with her papers. “Sorry,” she mumbled.

“I realize you want to move on to the main topic at hand,” soothed Dr. Sullivan. “However, Wil -may I call you Wil?”- Wil glanced up to meet the professional woman’s cool, dark eyes and nodded. “Wil, it’s important to be sure we are all on the same page. Also, these points are imperative to discussing the immediate issue.”

Wil blinked from a blank expression.

“They’re important as …things that led to what I am going to talk about,” Dr. Sullivan simplified. She looked around at them all, finishing with and lingering on Cynthia. “Number one big issue: despite the effectiveness most patients are experiencing with the new drug options, I’m afraid that your current state severely limits that efficacy.” Clearing her throat, she said, “Your more advanced age and the state of your complications are the main causes.”

“But,” Rob stammered, “We were told it would guarantee her at least five years.”

The respiratory doctor dropped her gaze to give a slight, negative shake of her head. “No. I’m sorry, Mr. Winters.” She pulled a stray wisp of graying brown hair back with its fellows at the sides of her head; patted her strict bun. “I’ve read over the trials, and the most optimistic bet puts you at two years.”

The silence following her words was filled with a thousand shocked thoughts and at least as many silent denials of what they were suddenly faced with.

“We have two years?” Wil asked in nearly a whisper.

“No, Wil,” Dr. Sullivan’s eyes met Wil’s again. “Probably less.”

“How-” Jakob’s voice was husky. “How long?”

“I’m afraid that is the question everyone wants the answer to.”

“But,” Cynthia spoke up, startling her family. “Surely you have some estimate?” Her clear blue eyes and openly trusting face would have melted a statue.

“Of course.” The doctor folded her hands around her tablet and rested them in her lap. “Depending on how this ‘flu season turns out, I’d give you between three months and a year and a half before serious complications interfere with normal life.”

 

Continued from Sixty-Two.
Keep reading to Sixty-Four.

Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty-Two

Dr. Sullivan didn’t even wait for a response, a welcome. The door closed smartly behind her starched coat and the curtain rings made no more sound than was necessary. Wil even saw the swirling waves of heat from the wall registers keep to their proper paths. Dr. Sullivan strode past them all and stood near the foot of Cynthia’s bed.

Pulling out a tablet and barely glancing at its activated screen, she said, “And how are we feeling today, Mrs. Winters?”

Cynthia sat up a bit against her pillows. Rob’s hand and her IV followed along. “I..” she looked at Rob, Jakob, and lingered on Wil. “I had a little trouble breathing.”

“She had two coughing spells.” Rob said. “Couldn’t seem to stop.” He lifted his chin to meet Dr. Sullivan’s gaze, avoiding his wife’s.

Wil studied the doctor as well. She saw Jakob’s head move upward, from the corner of her eye. The respiratory physician smiled slightly, checked her records a second time, and addressed Cynthia. “Is that true about the coughing, Mrs. Winters?”

The angelic blonde hair on the bleach-white pillow shifted as Cynthia repositioned again. “Yes,” she whispered.

“Would you say these spells are increasing in intensity and/or frequency?”

Cynthia’s blue eyes met Wil’s dark ones, then each looked down at her hands. “Yes.”

Dr. Sullivan cleared her throat. “I’d like to discuss a few more issues with you, Mrs. Winters, Mr. Winters. But, perhaps you’d rather do so more …privately?”

False-down coat rustling told Wil that Jakob moved when she did, though she was the only one to stand. From a dark tunnel of recovering betrayal, a small part inside her found an anchoring emotion: indignation. “No!” she almost shouted.

Even Dr. Sullivan looked at Wil in surprise, though the stern-faced woman kept her peace. Instead, Cynthia spoke. “We just determined to not keep any more secrets,” she explained to the doctor.

If she wondered at how many secrets they could possibly have entertained recently, Dr. Sullivan chose to move past that revelation. “I see,” she said. “Are you certain? Many patients feel the information to be…” she searched the suspended ceiling tiles for the right word.

Deadly, thought Wil.

“-emotionally stressful for family members,” Dr. Sullivan finished.

Rob’s hand found a stronger hold on Cynthia’s fingers. “We’re sure.”

Wil’s focus shifted to her father. She thought back to the letter she’d just read, from a woman who claimed to have birthed her. Dependable, Guinevere Greene had called Rob, after crossing out boring. His deep-voiced response to the impersonal doctor echoed in Wil’s mind and his strong, determined profile sat before her. “You’re wrong,” she whispered to the phantom letter-writer, “He’s even more than ‘dependable.'”

Rob gave his daughter a confused expression, then turned back to Dr. Sullivan.

“In that case,” Dr. Sullivan said, “I’d better take a seat.” Her eyes roved the room till they caught sight of another plastic and metal chair resting by the cream-patterned curtain. She pulled the chair over and perched on its edge. “We will need a few minutes, and I want everyone to be clear about what I discuss with you.”

 

Continued from Sixty-One.
Keep reading to Sixty-Three.

Wilhelmina Winters, Fifty-Nine

A few minutes later, the Winters sat together in Cynthia’s neutral-toned hospital room. This one had a different print hanging on the wall over the bed, a nice one of a girl with two braids standing among a garden of flowers. Its life and color stood out against the stark sage-beige theme that otherwise permeated the chilly room, and drew Wil’s interest at once.

Cynthia sat resting where she had for their last visit, and many before that for her entire life: propped up in the bed with IV and oxygen tubes dripping life into a body that seemed to repel it. Wil looked down from the picture of springtime to the face of her favorite person. Her mother’s misty blonde hair reminded Wil of a halo, even against the ugly bedspread of green sheets and paper pillows. Wil began to cry.

“Oh, Wil,” her mother began, opening clear blue eyes of concern. “It’s all right.” Wil cried harder, knowing otherwise. Rob and Jakob shifted uncomfortably; trying to find distraction in the tan walls, off-white window shade, or interlocking squares of cream and blue-green printed uniformly across the door curtain.

Cynthia offered her left arm to Wil, and Wil hurried to it. She tried to hug her mother gently, to not weep so deeply. Self-control seemed futile. They had talked about death, given it a name, and said it was coming. The moment she’d seen her mother laying there and thought of angels, Wil felt how very close Death actually walked. His form stood near enough that his cold shadow made her shiver; his voice whispered from the corners of their lives of imminent loss and despair.

“That’s enough, Wil,” Rob said sternly. He came around the bed and pulled Wil gently but firmly from Cynthia’s arm. Wil collapsed on him, instead. His rough face melted from surprise to a quiet pleasure. He shied from emotion, overwhelmed at his daughter’s level of expression; receiving it only when caught off-guard as Wil had done.

“I..” Wil choked, “I’m trying.” She lifted her wet face from her father’s chest, sniffed loudly, and breathed raggedly. “I just … it’s so… I didn’t want to actually lose Mom!” Wil concluded in a slight wail, and dropped her face back onto Rob. He patted her back, a bit awkwardly, trying to ignore Jakob’s sigh.

Turning to give him a reprimanding look, Rob was surprised to see that his stepson was sighing because there were tears streaming down his cheeks as well. He hadn’t seen Jakob cry in public for a decade. Rob adopted Jakob after the baby years, and often thought the boy just didn’t cry. He looked over at Cynthia, and was not surprised to see her smiling his favorite, sweet smile through her own tears.

Despite the oxygen, Cynthia began another coughing fit. Three sad faces -two stained with tears- immediately lifted to look at her. She raised a hand of reassurance as she coughed, and they relaxed slightly.

Incessant beeping began from behind the bed. Wil realized that her mother was on monitoring equipment, and that the erratic oxygen levels induced by coughing had set it off.

Cynthia finished in a few seconds that lasted forever. The machine quieted. In the absence of noise, Wil heard thumping from a neighboring room or two receiving treatment, then picked out approaching footsteps. The door opened and Nurse Bea rushed in, clinking the door curtain to the side. She looked nearly as out of breath as Wil’s mother, though much more cheery.

“Ah,” Nurse Bea breathed in relief, “I see it’s stopped now.” She looked around at the somber assembly, and her expression became more bittersweet. “Don’t y’all worry for now.” She met Rob’s and Cynthia’s eyes. “The doctor will be in in a few minutes. She’s just finishin’ up on down the hall. I’ll leave you to it till then and you just holler if that ole machine acts up in the meantime.”

Leaving them with a parting smile and wave, she slid the separator back, left the room, and quietly pulled the door closed behind her.

 

Continued from Fifty-Eight.
Keep reading to Sixty.

Do Not Acknowledge When the Grim Reaper Calls

Old Folks

I am afraid of dying. It’s not a unique fear, nor a novel one.

From people in the religious community to which I belong, my statement draws vocalizations of denial. They say life persists after death. They know I will see my passing friends and relatives again in some grand family reunion.

But even they avoid reminders of The End.

They do not house dying relatives, attend festivities at Adult Day Care centers, or wish to visit those inevitable hellholes that await the living: nursing homes.

They’re just as afraid as I am. We’re all afraid.

My parents took us to visit relatives in “care centers” when we were young. I didn’t like going. I resented being forced to sit there while some wrinkled, age-stinked woman barely recollected her younger years. I didn’t realize my parents didn’t like the situation, either. Still; it was a sense of duty, family, and love.

Perhaps our problem is not entirely a fear of death.

True, we are scared. We do not wish to stare at the handiwork of The Grim Reaper and know it is our end as well.

However, the whole picture of avoiding age is a painting of mural dimensions. The painting, of course, is not a happy scene of meadows, sunlight and wildflowers. It’s more like those dark-shaded scenes of swirling landforms and moody lakes.

painting

(Pinterest)

See those painted weeping willows over the water? They are not happy trees. They are our own, selfish sadness at losing our loved one. We feel the hole in our lives, to some degree. We recall happy (or sad) memories and accordingly droop to the reflective surface morosely.

Mountains and hills shading the background represent trials and difficulties. Why is an entire range present, and why are they so far away? We want them far; we don’t like discomfort.

Real life, adult life, needs people willing to face and overcome uncomfortable things.

One such uncomfortable activity is the care of helpless, dying humans. If you think you don’t want to do it, think about the people who are paid by hospice companies or care centers. The high turnover rate is an obvious sign that no one likes wiping old peoples’ bottoms.

Filler scenery like grasses, dips, valleys, and bushes are the long, unknown journey. It’s not a cushy trip, nor one we can predict the duration of. It’s annoying. It’s a detraction from our regular life and a depressing play on our emotions.

Finally: the lake. Water is a favorite metaphor in creative works. We think we see the bottom, though it’s a murky, weed-choked one. Simultaneously, saddened viewers may see a reflection of themselves on the surface, of their mortality.

The water is the dying one’s life. The size and depth thereof depends on their personality and experiences.

So, what now, art lover? Do you wish to continue avoiding your picture as it takes on more and more of your regrets and negligence?

Dorian Gray

(Wikipedia)

I don’t blame you, really.

I’ve brushed closer to Death within the last week than I’ve had to for many years. Good healthcare, I suppose.

My grandmother is drawing her last breaths, completely unaware of the world around her. She hasn’t been awake or eating for five days. She hasn’t known who I am for a few years.

She was moved to a special Alzheimer’s facility last autumn. It’s only ten minutes from my house, but I have not gone frequently. I’ve felt impotent, as she stares at everyone around her in confusion.

I’ve felt deeply saddened as I briefly made eye contact and saw only emptiness.

Why go, then? She doesn’t know.

Fear of an eternal religious judgment? I’m not that superstitious anymore. Mostly.

Judgement

Let me draw you a death-scene a little different than the one my grandmother is part of now. Different, slightly, than her being completely asleep; with her anxious children staring at each other for hours, for hours of days.

Over a year ago, we were told my husband’s grandmother was failing. Confined to her bed in a home shared with her oldest son, she woke occasionally and spoke little.

When I arrived, armed with disruptive children and a picture book of garden flowers, I found my husband’s cousin already there. She had brought a guitar. Patiently, sweetly; she strummed it and sang.

She had a lovely voice.

Right then, I decided I wanted to be loved enough that someone would sing me off to Eternal Sleep.

And that, fellow Thanatophobics, is my impetus for care of the elderly. It’s a Golden Rule sort of thing. How would I want to be treated? What attentiveness may I expect?

Given the obvious truth that I may be susceptible to Alzheimer’s as well, I’m likely to degenerate to a similar state of ignorance. When I am anxiously rubbing my hands, wondering at the empty walls of strange rooms, and feeling a strange sort of violation at having others bathe me -who will care enough to visit?

Will you?

Wilhelmina Winters: Twenty-Three

To everyone’s surprise, Rob spoke first.

“Jakob. Mina,” Their father began. “Your mom and I love you very much. So, we want to make sure you know everything going on.”

Wil’s mother looked gratefully at her husband, then bestowed each of her children with a tender look of sad love. Jakob and Wil sat on the edge of the cushion, and attended their parents dutifully.

Rob looked a bit lost for words to continue with. He didn’t like long speeches, especially when they were wanted from himself. He looked to his wife, and found courage and inspiration in her trusting blue eyes. He cleared his throat.

“We’ve known about this condition from early on, but not as early as they should have.” He explained. “Your mom would have done better if they’d found it even earlier,” Rob glanced at his audience, who all nodded understanding.

Wil tried very hard to sit still, despite the torture of time it took her father to produce words, and the fact that he was repeating what they already knew. Fidgeting when he was talking made him take even longer.

Rob nodded, himself, then continued, “We’ve been fortunate to have your mom live this long, with what we can pay for.”

He rubbed the back of his neck, and looked at the floor.

“It’s been hard to pick what to pay for, because we know what will happen.” Rob swallowed, then said quietly, “In the end.”

“But, Mom always says we will all die,” Wil blurted out. “So, we should live for as long as we can.”

Wil’s father and stepbrother began to hush Wil, when Cynthia held up a hand. The IV tube dangled from it, down her arm. “Not quite, Wil,” she corrected gently. She pushed herself into a slightly more comfortable position, and sighed carefully.

“I said,” Wil’s mother continued softly, “We all die, so we should live the days that we can.” She looked fondly at them again. “The question of whether the cost is worth each new idea or treatment has always been there.”

Jakob glanced at his step-father before impetuously asking, “So, do they know how much longer you have left?”

Cynthia closed her eyes as Rob exclaimed, “Jakob!” and turned to fix his stepson an angry, disapproving look. Wil was glad that he had asked the question instead of her, although she equally longed for and dreaded an honest answer.

Jakob crossed his arms in a typical, defiant fashion, and waited. Rob rubbed a hand in irritation over the right side of his own face, then through his thinning blond hair. Wil had seen her father do this many times when he tried to talk with her.

“It’s okay, Rob.” Cynthia said quietly, and opened eyes of resigned sorrowing. She breathed her oxygen and room air deeply and slowly in, then out. “Just tell them.”

Rob set his jaw, then softened when he realized he needed to get this speech over with to stop the necessity of talking.

“There’s a new drug out, but we would have to borrow to afford it.” He looked to the swirling desert sea print on the wall for distraction. “And, we’d only buy about five more years if all goes well.”

Wil and Jakob both thought about this news and what it would mean. They knew what the family would have to pick, but would feel like callous traitors for it.

 

Continued from Twenty-Two.
Keep reading to Twenty-Four.