TODAY’S challenge was to write a dialogue scene with two characters who had opposing views. This is what I came up with. Rules for the Flash Fiction challenge are simple: respond to the prompt, less than 1000 words, and no editing.
“I don’t care what you say, we don’t want anything to be done.”
The tired mother-to-be gripped her husband’s hand, her knuckles blanching against so much pressure. He turned to her, agony scrawled with the harsh marks of inevitability across his brow. He leaned down to kiss the top of her head while another powerful contraction ripped through her fragile body.
Dr. Monroe stood beside the labor bed, shifting foot-to-foot. “I don’t think you understand—”
“We understand just fine, Dr. Monroe, but we don’t want to raise a cripple.” His face contorted with pain, whether through the pain of his wife’s vise grip on his fingers or due to a moment of conscience, it didn’t really matter. He wasn’t in the right mental state to discuss life or death decisions.
Nor was his wife. Her agonized breathing fought to control the pain of another contraction.
“But survival is better than fifty percent—”
“We understand the numbers, doc. It’s not about survival. It’s about giving our son a chance to live a normal life.”
“He has a good chance of a normal life. Yes, he’s three months premature, but with the right care, he has a good chance.” Dr. Monroe wanted to strangle the short-sightedness of these parents. Already they failed in their most trusted obligation.
He glanced at his phone, hoping for the text to come through from the legal department and social services. In twenty years of practice taking care of the smallest and most fragile patients, he’d rarely been on this side of the argument. Usually, he was telling the parents about the grim prognosis of their child, and when appropriate recommending comfort care rather than aggressive medical support.
Sometimes, the best life a child could have were those few moments sheltered in its mother’s arms before the angels came calling.
Those were the times he stood on the other side of this argument. Parents who refused to acknowledge the severe birth defects were inoperable, and by insisting on full resuscitation they were merely condemning their child to short, but very painful life, full of procedures and needle sticks, oftentimes several times a day. Those children suffered great agony on the belief good was being done.
But this child, this tiny infant whose only fault in life was being born fourteen weeks too soon, had every right to live.
“Babies at this gestational age do much better than in years past.” His desperation to convince this couple laced the air with unspoken hostility. Despite their wishes, there was no way this baby would be allowed to die. They couldn’t withhold treatment. They didn’t have that right.
The mother screamed at the height of her contraction, her angry red stare latching on to Dr. Monroe. She breathed through the last few seconds, then lay her head back on the bed, exhaustion taking its toll.
That was the problem. This was the worst possible time to have this sort of discussion with parents, but they hadn’t had time for a long sit-down. She’d been rushed to the emergency room, then carted up to the delivery suite. This baby was coming and it was coming now.
The obstetrician rushed to the foot of the bed. “The baby’s crowning,” she said. “And there’s a lot of blood.”
The mother’s placenta had separated from the uterine lining too soon. The mother was bleeding and her baby wasn’t receiving the nutrients she needed.
Dr. Monroe walked away from the side of the mother’s bed and rechecked his equipment at the infant warmer.
“We’ll sue,” the father said, anger hanging heavy in his words.
Fortunately, the father stood on the opposite side of the bed, trapped behind the nurses and OB taking care of his wife and delivering his son.
The tiny infant entered the world with his mother’s ear splitting shriek. The OB tied and cut the cord, handing the infant into Dr. Monroe’s waiting hands.
He placed the vigorous child on the table, and he cried. His first breaths squeaked into the room. Monroe’s nurse informed him the heart beat strong and steady. His team followed their well rehearsed dance, stabilizing the tiny new life with expert care.
The mother turned her head. “Is that…is that Kevin crying?”
Dr. Monroe turned to the stunned parents. “Yes.”
Tears fell from the new father’s face. “Whatever it takes, take care of my baby boy.”
With a deep breath, Dr. Monroe turned back to little Kevin. He needed the tiniest bit of support, and with time, he would do very well, like Dr. Monroe’s son, who was also born too early.