AW Flash Fiction — Burden — 9/26/10

This one is one those angsty kind of stories, not feel good at all.  I was going for irony but splashed down in the deeper, darker end of the pool.  Sorry in advance.


Mrs. Angel Fairfax never wanted to be a burden, so when, at 82 years of age, the fog snuck up on her, she knew her time was up.

Her daughter, Linnea, also concerned about her mother’s deteriorating mental state, had taken her to see Doc Armistead. He’d been her mother’s doctor for most of her adult life and Linnea’s for her first fifty. Her mother trusted him implicitly but Linnea had expressed her doubts as the man was pushing 80 and probably should have given up his practice years ago. But her mother would not be dissuaded.

Linnea sat with her mother in the small examining room waiting for Doc Armistead to join them after he finished with his other patient in the next room.

“I don’t want to be a burden,” Angel said, wiping away the bit of moisture that had pooled in each of her eyes.

“Mother, you aren’t a burden. A little bit of fogginess is to be expected, and for all we know, it could be something as silly as a drug interaction.” She patted her mother’s hand to reassure her.

Angel dropped her eyes and shook her head, her gnarled hands clasped together in her lap as she sat on the table. “I wish you were right, Linnea, but sometimes a person just knows when it’s her time to go.”

A faint knock on the door announced the doctor’s arrival. He didn’t wait for an invitation but walked straight in.

“Ah, and how are you Mrs. Jones?”

Linnea shot up out of her chair, “Doctor, this is my mother Mrs. Angel Fairfax, not Mrs. Jones.”

He cast Linnea a glare that clearly conveyed his displeasure at being corrected. File in hand, he opened it to the first page and read the words in front of him. “So Ms. Fairfax,” he turned to Linnea again, his glasses clutching for dear life to the end of his nose, “your prognosis is not what we’d hoped. The MRI we ran did reveal some serious abnormalities.” He patted Angel’s hand then whispered, “Inoperable, I’m afraid.”

Angel began to cry softly. “How long?”

Dr. Armistead removed his glasses and sighed. “Six weeks? Perhaps a couple of months. There’s really no way to predict these sorts of things.” He gave a sad shake of his head.

Linnea’s face crumpled. She choked back the tears and marched to her mother’s side. “Mother. We need to get a second opinion and maybe even a third.”

Angel lifted her teary eyes to Linnea’s and shook her head.

The doctor cleared his throat, Angel’s hand still in his, and regarded Linnea with contempt. “Why torture your poor mother with more tests?” He looked back at Angel and said, “Perhaps we should discuss hospice at this point, Ms. Fairfax. We have some excellent care facilities in the area.”

“No! Mother, no! We need to get a second opinion. I don’t even remember you getting an MRI. Dr. Armistead, when did she have this procedure done anyway?”

The doctor set his mouth in a firm line. After a quick consultation in his file he turned back to Linnea. “The MRI was done last Tuesday when she came in for blood work.”

Linnea frowned. “She had blood drawn and an x-ray to check her cough but that’s all. You all kept her waiting for over an hour just to have those done. I’d have remembered if there’d been an MRI in there too.”

“Well apparently you weren’t paying close attention Miss…because I have the results right here.” He shook the file under Linnea’s nose.

“Let me see them.” Linnea held out her hand but Doc Armistead stood and tucked it under his arm.

“I’m sorry but that’s a violation of our ethical standards. I can’t share the information with you unless you have power of attorney. Do you?”

Linnea sighed and looked first at her mother who seemed to be in a daze then back at the doctor. “No. I don’t.”

The drive home from the doctor’s office was an interminable session of tearful exclamations of not wanting to be a burden, being ready to meet the Lord and hoping that she didn’t suffer. Linnea interjected repeatedly that her mother should not lose hope until they got a second opinion and her concern that Doc Armistead hadn’t behaved very professionally and that she doubted his competency. That set her mother off even more and as Linnea pulled into the parking lot of her mother’s assisted living home, a fresh round of tears began anew.

“Mother please. I know you’re upset right now but please don’t give up hope. When I get home, I’m going to make you a couple of more appointments with different doctors, okay? Please go to your church group meeting tonight and try not to dwell on what Doc Armistead said. Okay? Please mother?”

Angel nodded as she got out of the car and walked into her building. Linnea couldn’t help but wonder how a woman who looked so vibrant could really be so ill. Something wrong was happening and she wasn’t going to let it suck her mother into its malevolent grasp.

The next morning, Linnea called Doc Armistead’s office and asked to speak to his nurse.

“Hi, Janelle, I’m Mrs. Fairfax’s daughter, Linnea Lineberry and I was wondering if you could tell me the date of my mother’s MRI? I forgot to write it down when Dr. Armistead told me.”

“Sure thing, Ms. Lineberry. Let’s see…okay, yes…oh wait. That’s strange. It says ‘he’…uh oh…”

“What? What do you see?” The hairs on Linnea’s neck stood up on end.

“Well, there’s an MRI report in your mother’s file but it’s not hers. Must have been misfiled I guess. Actually, I don’t see an MRI report in your mother’s file nor do I see any orders for one, so I’m concluding she hasn’t had one yet. Did Doc mention he wanted to run an MRI on your mother?”

Linnea hung up the phone, her heart pounding. Before she could pick it up again to call her mother, it rang.


“Mrs. Lineberry?”


“Mrs. Lineberry, this is the Montrachet Assisted Living Home. I’m afraid I have some bad news. Your mother is in a coma and is being taken to the hospital. I don’t know how this happened, but somehow she convinced the other members of her devotional group to give her their medications and it appears she overdosed in a suicide attempt. We also discovered that she’d somehow swapped her thyroid pills with Mr. Lewis’ anti-depressants a week ago, and had been taking them all this time. I’m so very sorry. A representative from Montrachet will meet you at the hospital to discuss the situation further, including the intensive care she will probably need….Mrs. Lineberry, do you have any questions? Mrs. Lineberry?…”

4 thoughts on “AW Flash Fiction — Burden — 9/26/10

    • I love that description. It’s like Burgess Meredith’s episode where he only wants to read, doesn’t give a damn that the entire world’s been nuked and he’s the only survivor. Until he realizes the eye glasses that he needs to read have been pulverized.

    • Yeah, pretty dark and dreary. I almost didn’t post it on my blog but then again I like dark and dreary sometimes.

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