WIPpet Wednesday: Mauve’s Story

Welcome to WIPpet Wednesday -K.L. Schwengel’s weekly blog hop which encourages writers to move their WIPs (works-in-progress) to publication by posting excerpts related to the date.

WIPpet Math:

Today is April 23, 2014.

  • Today’s math…
  • 2+3= 5(adding the digits of the date) 5+ 4=9(adding the digit of the month)=9 sentences, today.

This month, I’m offering up a taste of myBlogging from A to Z April Challenge. So, today, please allow me to introduce another of my Kifo Island Chronicles characters….

Warning: Raw Honesty and Potential Grief Triggers past this point. Please proceed with caution.

Let’s all give a loving WIPeteer welcome to Mauve Carson

Mauve is two months old, and she’s dying. She’s lived her entire life in a coma. Her story is told from the point of view of the NICU nurse assigned to her care.

Doctor Harris held the baby gently, at an arm’s length, her feet against his chest, then firmly manipulated her tiny body. Even though Lara knew that it was impossible, she still rooted for baby Mauve to push into the man’s burly chest, or cry-

Or anything.

Anything at all.

But, of course, she didn’t. Couldn’t.

Her mother sat in the upholstered rocker, her gaze fixed on the man who held her infant daughter, her face faraway and expressionless. She hunched over her own middle, thin arms wrapped around herself as though to shield her. She couldn’t be more than twenty, but the marks on her arms said that she was very determined at escaping- or had been, until reality presented itself in the form of a beautiful baby girl.

This post is a loving tribute to Elijah James Burton, July13-25, 2003. <3

Mauve is very close to my soul. Her story is the most autobiographical I’ve written for this challenge.

On July 13,2003, after a textbook pregnancy, our second child, Elijah James, was born. It was a hard labor, and, eventually, forceps were used, because he was in distress. He wasn’t breathing, and, once, he was resuscitated, he was whisked off to the NICU before I even saw his face.

I was luckier than Mauve’s mother. When Elijah was four hours old, I met him. Our gazes met. I knew that he recognized my voice, and his were the wisest, most accepting, most peaceful eyes I have ever seen.

The next day, Elijah was put into a medically induced coma, in the hopes that his seizures could be abated.

Four days after that, still in a coma, he had a massive, two-minute grand mal seizure. I feel that whatever made him unique and human vanished in that violent electrical storm of the brain.

Five days after that, we were told by the neuroneonatologist – a specialist who made grand rounds in the NICU monthly, that Elijah had “a nearly flat brain wave architecture” – not brain dead, but very near.

The next afternoon, Elijah died peacefully in my husband’s arms. He never woke up, never cried. He simply slipped away.

There’s not much more to say, except that he is with me always, every moment. He makes me a better mother, and a better person, because I know how very precious life is, and how fragile.

Will you do something for me, for us? Will you do something sweet, right now, for someone you love?

Will Mauve’s family find peace and healing? Will they be shattered by her life, and her death? Can there be meaning, when a newborn dies?

Last question: Have you done that something sweet and loving yet? If not, please do. I’ll wait.

Want more Kifo Island Chronicles posts?

These posts are the seeds of a project that will germinate over the next months, so input is especially valuable. No need to feel shy; I’m a friendly sort, and will keep my talons sheathed…for the most part.

Want more WIPpets?

I’ll leave you with the one song I have sung to all three of my babies…


Blogging from A-Z: T is for Timothy (Kifo Island Chronicles)

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Drea threw one of the couch pillows at the door. It made a muffled but potent thud. The cats, who had crouched low at the sudden explosion of sound, slunk beneath the couch as Drea whirled back to face him. “I came here – I came, even with the ghastly purpose of this place -”

Tim could hear her quick sharp breaths, far more potent than the sound the pillow had made. Her blue-gray eyes seemed almost to snap as she glared at him.

He gathered his own impotent breath, and said, into her pause, “There’s nothing ghastly about it. “

He needed to rest, to prepare for his next breath, and he could feel a coughing spell rising. Maybe it would hold off long enough that he could say what needed to be said, to help her to understand…

When she opened her mouth to speak again, he raised one hand in a waiting gesture, and reached for hers with the other, bringing her gently to the couch where they had spent so many hours – on his therapies, watching television, petting the cats and each other…and talking. Always, they talked.

“It’s not ghastly to me, Drea. I want to be here. This is where-”

“Where you want to die!”

She flung the words at him harder than she’d thrown the pillow; an accusation meant to hurt, the way she was hurting. But Tim didn’t accept her assignment of guilt. He’d never lied to her, and she’d gone to every appointment with him, over the last ten months. She knew; he’d made sure she had books and people to talk to, so that she would know. He couldn’t be responsible, if she refused to believe what everyone and everything had told her.

Oxygen:the stuff of life…By Dr. Warwick Hillier (Australian National University) via Wikimedia Commons.

“Yes, ” he said, simply, a syllable forced out just ahead of the coughing coughing almost choked out by the blood rising from his ruined lungs.

Drea got up, striding away, returning with the box of tissues and the wastebasket, which she placed forcefully, as though that could erase the stark reality of cystic fibrosis. The fury in her eyes was gone, now, replaced by the telltale sheen of tears, and she pressed her teeth so tightly together that her jawline was trembling. She curled herself into the other end of the couch, facing away from him.

He couldn’t stop coughing, and, when there was a small space between spasms, he used it to draw gasping breaths, his entire body straining and starving for air despite the canula in his nose that delivered a steady diet of concentrated oxygen. His lungs were disintegrating into dried and useless chunks – they couldn’t digest enough to sustain him.

Maybe it was as well that Drea sobbed. Tim wanted to, but the coughing robbed him of his own tears.

He didn’t want to leave her. He didn’t want to die -here, or anyplace else.

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Blogging From A-Z: S is for Serrah (Kifo Island Chronicles)

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Serrah was crying. And she was all alone.

No, not all alone. There were doctors and nurses here. But not the ones she knew from home.

Mommy and Daddy weren’t here. Wascally, her puppy, wasn’t here. She was too sick for them to be here all the time, the doctors said.

Weren’t they supposed to be, when their little girl was sick?

She didn’t want to cry. It made it hard to breathe, and it made her heart hurt. And that made her cry more, and that hurt her…

She tried to look at the picture of Mommy and Daddy, and the one of her and Wascally. But she couldn’t see them with all these tears in her eyes.

That made her cry harder, too.

Serrah wanted to curl into a ball, like she used to when she was little and sad. But now she was almost four, and she had too many tubes and wires in her to curl up without making something beep. The beeping always hurt her ears. She never told that to anyone but Wascally – when she was in the hospital, Mommy and Daddy always looked worried. She didn’t want to make them feel that way any more.

She didn’t want to feel this way, either.

Albert Roosenboom [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

But she didn’t know how not to. All she could do was to hold to the quilt she and Mommy had made together. She didn’t know if it made her feel better or worse, to smell home and Wascally in it, but it was something that she knew, and so she breathed in as deeply as she could, and, after a while, her tears stopped, and she started to fall asleep.


It was Dara, her very most favorite nurse. She had short curly dark hair – like the black sheep in the song – and blue eyes that always seemed happy.

She hummed when she came in, but always stopped if Serrah asked her to.

And she always let Serrah know she was here. Some of the nurses didn’t.

‘I’m awake,” she said, but she didn’t ask to sit up. She was tired, and sad, and lonely.

“There’s someone here who wants to say hi to you, if you want company.”

“Mommy and Daddy?” Serrah said, and now she did try to sit up, and, just like that, Dara was there to help her.

But Mommy and Daddy always just came in. Dara shook her head, and her smile was big. “They’ll be here in a little while. This is someone I told about you, someone who wants to be your friend.” Serrah liked that Dara never talked to her in a high voice like most of the nurses and all the doctors did.

“Who is it? ” Serrah asked.

“It’s my friend Iris, and her friend Pequita. Do you want to meet them?”

Serrah nodded. Dara looked like Mommy looked, on Christmas morning. Like she had a wonderful secret.

And she did.

A big girl came in – a girl darker than anybody Serrah knew. Her bright white teeth flashed; her smile was bigger than Dara’s.

And, next to her, on a leash just like Wascally’s, there was a teeny tiny little pony!


Want to learn more about the Kifo Island Chronicles?

Seeking more“S” posts? Read them  here!



Blogging from A-Z: R is for Robert (Kifo Island Chronicles)

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Robert sat on the back porch, kicking at the step.

Thump. Thump. Thumpthump.

“Robert, stop that. Your brother is napping!”

Mom’s voice through the open window was too loud, too high, and too sharp. Robert held his head; Mom got mad when he tried to plug his ears, ’cause that was ‘diss-specful.’ She didn’t want him to be loud. But she was even louder!

“It’s not fair!” he whisper-hissed, pretending he was a Cobra Bad Guy. He liked to be a bad guy. Mom and Dad were always telling him to be a good boy, but being a good boy meant doing what they said, when they said, the way they said.

But Robert usually couldn’t do everything that would make him a Good Boy. He couldn’t always remember that he had a brother, when Joey was sleeping. He didn’t know when he was too loud, or why Mom and Dad could talk about anything they wanted, but, when he did, he was “a pest”, and “went on and on, even when no one wants to listen.”

Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton, used with permission of Jeremiah F. Burton

He didn’t always want to listen to them , either!

What made things OK for them, and not for him?

Because he was a kid!

“And it’s not fair!” The Cobra Bad Guy was mad now, and mad was bad, at least if he let the mad come out in a yell, or throwing, or hitting….

But the mad had to come out. Robert couldn’t hold it. It was bigger and stronger than he was.

He could run though. That’s what Dad had said. He could run around the yard, and up and down the quiet sandy road, until he was tired.

So he ran for a while – but running where he was told to did not make the Cobra Bad Guy happy. The Cobra Bad Guy was a bad guy, after all, and what made a bad guy a bad guy?

Doing what he wasn’t supposed to, that’s what.

But what bad thing would the Cobra Bad Guy do?

He could spy. Yes. Mom and Dad hated when he listened to their “grown-up”talks. Usually, what they said was boring and didn’t make any sense, but sometimes he listened, just because he wanted to get even and they didn’t like it any better than he liked being bossed around.

This time, though, they were talking about Uncadan, and now Robert had to listen, had to know, because Uncadan was his very best friend in all the world. And Uncadan was sick, and Mom and Dad never answered when he asked about him.

“I don’t know how we’re going to tell Robbie,” Mom said. She was crying, and Robert almost forgot that he was a Cobra Bad Guy, almost forgot how much he hated being called Robbie when his name was Robert. Robert Daniel Saylor- Daniel, like Uncadan was. He almost forgot, and went to hug Mom – but then she’d know he had been listening.

But then he remembered that Cobra Bad Guys didn’t hug crying people. They made people cry, because they were bad guys.

He stayed where he was.

Dad was hugging Mom when Robert peeked in at the window, keeping to the side and hoping they wouldn’t look. “I think we need to just tell him. He’s six, now – old enough to learn about these things. He’s going to grow up, and we can’t protect him from the hard things forever.”

Hard things? Robert’s finger found the loose paint at the edge of the window, and slipped underneath to peel it back. It jammed under his nail, and he almost yelled, but bit his finger instead.

When he looked again, Mom was staring at Dad, and her face was all red and messy from her crying. “But how are we supposed to do that? How are we supposed to tell a little boy that his favorite uncle – his only friend in the whole world – is dead?”

Dead? Uncadan? No!

Robert Daniel Saylor, who had been a Cobra Bad Guy, ran from the porch, ran to the ocean, ran to get away -

Want to learn more about the Kifo Island Chronicles?

Ready for more“R” posts? Read them  here!



Blogging from A-Z: Q is for Quincette (Kifo Island Chronicles)


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Quincette stared at the water cooler, trembling. From the room behind her, across the hall,there was a tumult of noise- chairs scraping over tile, voices rising and falling in conversation, broken by ripples of coughing or laughter.

The sound was a wall, a wave, pressing her toward the water cooler -trying to force her to get a drink.

Quincette swallowed. Her throat felt stuck together; it was hard to breathe. She licked dry lips, and looked again up and down the hall, searching for a water fountain, although she’d already walked it twice. But all there was was this damned cooler, humming as it chilled the water to at least a degree or two cooler than a fountain would.

She couldn’t drink water that was too cold.

“How dare you?” she whispered at the unit. It only sat there, humming, mocking all the systems Quincette had developed to handle situations in public buildings. Systems that depended upon a water fountain.

Not a cooler.

She tried to imagine taking one of the little cone-shaped cups. When she was very young, she’d thought they looked like ice cream cones, and had begged her parents to let her get a drink every time they were near one.

Quincette remembered the last ice cream cone she’d eaten. She’d been ten then, and she and Mom had gone out shopping for her first bra. Quincette had cried – none of her friends, at school or at gymnastics, were anywhere near ready. Why did she have to be first?

And Mom had smiled sweetly, told her time would change the way she saw these things, and bought her a double rocky road cone with rainbow sprinkles…

[Hank O'Day, manager, Chicago NL (baseball), 1914, courtesy The Library of Congress; via The Commons at Flickr.

Quincette could almost taste it, nine years later. Ice cream had always made her thirsty. And she didn’t see her body’s blossoming ripeness any differently now than she had then.

Mom had been wrong. Ice cream and time were just pretty platitudes.

She needed a fountain. The room behind her settled; they’d started, then, and, if she walked in now, it would draw everyone’s attention, and they would all be watching and guessing…

A fountain. If there was a fountain, she could walk up the length of the hall, counting out the steps, and take three sips as she returned. Two more laps, and six more sips, and she would be protected from their stares, insulated from what they would think.

But just the thought of touching one of those paper cones was enough, almost, to make her vomit- if there were anything in her to bring up.

She thought again of ice cream, and empty stomachs, and empty promises, and her stomach convulsed in warning.

Quincette ran for the door, making it barely in time to avoid hearing her retching echo up the hall to blend with the sounds from the water cooler.

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Blogging from A-Z: P is for Percy (Kifo Island Chronicles)

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“Why, hello there, Chiquita! Would you like to see something you’ve never seen before?”

Percy smiled past the rising and persistent headache as Iris skipped up his walk, swinging a basket of carrots. She had a way of lightening his mood instantly, and he was glad to see her- especially today. The headache was harder to ignore today, and he felt a little faint. But that wasn’t going to stop him from sharing this with his favorite little girl.

She stopped when she reached him, and her dark brow wrinkled beneath her wild cap of dark brown curls. She considered every question the same way, as though it needed deep thought before any answer could be given.

“That depends on what it is, I think,” she said, after a moment, and her gaze fixed on him. She wasn’t joking, Percy knew – she was a little girl who had lived through things many adults would be terrified by.

“Well, it’s small, and precious,” he told her. “And, if you want to see it, you’ll have to be very quiet.”

She studied him for a moment, then decided, again, to trust him. That was, maybe, the best medicine for the insistent aching in his head.

Iris smiled. “I can be so quiet, you might forget I’m here.”

“No, Chiquita. I could never forget you’re here. Even when you’re quiet, you sparkle.”

His reward was a bright-eyed grin, and a hug. Percy placed a single finger against his lips, and opened the pasture gate. Iris’s basket swung, bumping her bare knees, and she said not a word. From the first, she’d seemed to know that the miniature horses he raised liked calmness, when they were loose in their fields.

Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton

Pequita was standing in a dip at the edge of the line of flowering brush, close to the stream, where the songbirds sing gently. She lifted her tiny, delicate head, and whickered softly at them.

Iris’ eyes were wide, but she spoke not a word. Percy eased up to the little mare, Iris sticking close to his side. She gasped in delighted wonder when she caught her first glimpse of the little red foal, which was no bigger than a teddy bear, and soundly asleep.

Pequita didn’t move away from her baby, but she stretched out her neck, and whickered again.

“You can give her a carrot, Iris, and ask your questions quietly. She’s telling us that she trusts us, and that she’s worked hard, and she’s hungry.”

But Iris didn’t seem to have any questions, now. She eased slowly up to the mare, who stood only to her waist. Pequita was the smallest of his little herd, and Iris’s favorite. Seeing them together eased the pain in Percy’s head, and gave him deep pleasure. He’d always loved children and horses.

Iris fed the mare the carrots, one by one, then reached into the basket for the curry brush Percy had given her. Percy watched her as she groomed Pequita, trying to ignore the growing pressure knocking at his skull from the inside, and the nausea it brought. Iris brushed, carefully, as Percy settled on the orange crate bench she’d made for him to sit on. She spoke to the mare, grooming her with great tenderness and care, until the small horse tossed her head, and the foal woke and stood spraddle-legged before wobbling its way to her teat. Iris didn’t need to be told that she needed to back off.

She came toward Percy – and her figure blurred as an anvil crashed somewhere within his brain -

“Percy!” He heard Iris scream, and then everything was slumping and slipping away from him.


Blogging from A-Z: O is for Ophelia (Kifo Island Chronicles)


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“I don’t want to rush your visit, but I would like to discuss Mauve’s prognosis, and some possibilities on the horizon.” His voice was gentle, but Ophelia could hear a note of something unpleasant in the tone; something Marilyn wasn’t going to want to hear, but which had to be said.

Marilyn looked up at the man with her empty eyes, and nodded without saying anything. She’d said less than a hundred words in the three days they had been on Kifo Island.

“We’ll come back, afterwards. “Marilyn looked at her; Ophelia wondered if she was in shock. She didn’t seem to be having any reaction at all. Ophelia took her sister’s arm, and led her after the doctor, who gestured to the small meeting room just outside the main NICU room.

Ophelia helped her into one of the chairs. Marilyn didn’t look up, she just sat there, playing with the vinyl seam.

Doctor Harris sighed softly, and shifted his gaze to Ophelia. “I know you aren’t Mauve’s mother, but you seem better at reaching her than I am. Will you relay this information, when she can hear it?”

Turbulence by Shan Jeniah Burton.

Ophelia nodded. “I’ll do my best.” But could her best come anywhere close to what Mauve and Marilyn needed?

“I’ll give you my private number; either of you may call me if you need to clarify anything.” He paused, and looked at Marilyn again. “Sometimes, mothers can’t absorb the fact that their child is dying. Hopefully she’ll come around – but it might be best if she signed a document allowing you to make decisions, if she can’t. And for you – is there someone you can call to come support you here? A parent, or – ” He spoke carefully, his eyes on Marilyn.

“I can call my mother. She’ll come. Is that all? I’d like to get back to the baby.” While she still could; while Mauve was alive.

“There’s one more thing. Your niece is dying, and that’s a tragedy. But there could be something positive in it.” He took a deep breath, and met Ophelia’s eyes, his were soft and determined. “Mauve could give the gift of life to other families. Has your sister ever discussed her views on organ donation?”

Marilyn bolted up so fast she almost fell. “I need to use the bathroom,” she said, breathlessly, and whirled, almost running from the office, the door slamming behind her.

Ophelia looked after her sister, the weight of the doctor’s question making it hard to push air through her lungs. She wished she thought that Marilyn was going to come  back.

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Blogging from A-Z: N is for Norman (Kifo Island Chronicles)

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Norman glared at  the young woman’s backside, scandalously dressed in a business suit, as she strode down the walk and out into the island sunlight.He wanted to tear the documents up, the same way he had the ones she’d sent him, back home. Sent him? No, she’d had them served, all official and proper-like.

Both times.

Norman wished he knew what to make of it. In all the years they’d been married, Alma had never defied him in even the smallest of ways. She had promised to honor and obey, and she was a woman of impeccable integrity.

At least she had been -

Until the Devil, disguised as a beast called cancer, had invaded her body and taken her soul.

Norman supposed some people would think he was crazy. Most people today, though, were held even tighter in Satan’s grip than Alma was – many so long, they couldn’t even see the Deceiver working in their lives, giving with the one hand, and taking with the other. But Alma could see, before the wasting sickness.

“It’s Lucifer’s doing,” he growled, clenching his hand into a fist  . The thick pages crumpled, but resisted him, as though Satan was in the paper, maybe put there by Alma, when she put her name to them, and signed her soul away.

Did Alma know that she’d been duped? Would it even matter to her, or was she too far gone to damnation?

He looked at the stiff legal documents; they poked out of his fist as though still fighting him. He could tear them, like he’s done with the first ones. He could burn them, but fire was Satan’s favorite tool.

They were hot in his hand, damning him to a life alone.

He opened his fist, and the crumpled ball dropped to the floor. He kicked it into the corner behind the door, wanting to curse – but he wouldn’t let the devil have his tongue.

“Satan, you are fallen!. You were cast out! Tempt me as you will!  I will be stronger than Job, and, even though you have taken my wife, you will never have my soul!”

It felt good to shout, to shake his fist at that ruined proof of his wife’s disobedience.

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WIPpet Wednesday: Francois’s Story

Hi there! Welcome to WIPpet Wednesday -K.L. Schwengel’s weekly blog hop which encourages writers to move their WIPs (works-in-progress) to publication by posting excerpts related to the date.

This month,I’m offering up a taste of my Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. So, today, please allow me to introduce another of my Kifo Island Chronicles characters….

Let’s all give a gentle WIPeteer welcome to Francois Thierry!

Francois is a 45 year old scientist who has lived several years on Kifo Island. He is researching clinical aspects of dying, death, and grieving. He has always been reserved and detached, and he’s nearing the end of a quarter-century long study, and is, at the beginning of this excerpt, looking forward to wrapping things up, and moving into the next phase of his work.

However, life and death have come to have new depth and meaning…

And now, on to the WIPpeting!

WIPpet Math:

Today is April 16, 2014.

  • Today’s math…
  • 16(for the date) + 4(for the month)=20;
  • 20 +1 ( in honor of the one Palindrome Week of the year!; and because it finishes the thought…) =21.
  • Voila! 21 sentences!

“I didn’t ask for this!”

Francois stared at the tidy stack of research notes, and the blank space on the form; the place where he was intended to record, in specific detail, the circumstances of the death he had witnessed an hour ago.

He hadn’t asked that he be any part in this death, or any other, beyond his role as a clinical observer.

4,987 deaths, before this one. He’d recorded the manner and time of each, faithfully, objectively.

Only 13 deaths left to take account of, including the one fresh in his mind. He’d intended, when he sat down, to update the file, and tick it off his tally. But he couldn’t do it.

Francois squeezed his eyes closed against the tears that were blurring the print on the stack of files – pages that held nothing at all of the people they were meant to define.

He’d gutted real lives here, leaving nothing but statistics and the particulars that differentiated one from another. He kept only those that applied to his own research, as though they were nothing more than this.

He turned away from those pages, and thought of the old woman in the hospital bed, her breath growing shallow, the sorrow he hadn’t expected to share in. He hunched his shoulders against the pain, the memory – for the first time in his life, Francois truly felt the grief and permanence of death.

He couldn’t pretend she was nothing other than part of the running tab at the head of those notes, in his computer, on his phone… in his mind.

Francois wouldn’t sterilize her that way – he could still feel her struggle to breathe, to say everything she felt needed saying, the worries she carried with her through whatever passage she made, when her breathing stopped -

Worries that he couldn’t ignore, now. Somehow, through no logic this damned useless research could define or quantify, her worries had become his own.

What will happen next? Will Francois be able to finish his research progress, now that he’s emotionally involved? Will he regain his detachment? What affect will his emotional involvement have on him, as a scientist, and as a human?

Want more Kifo Island Chronicles posts?

These posts are the seeds of a project that will germinate over the next months, so input is especially valuable. No need to feel shy; I’m a friendly sort, and will keep my talons sheathed…for the most part.

Want more WIPpets?


And now I leave you with a song that echoes the sudden personal cataclysm Francois is currently experiencing…



Blogging from A-Z: M is for Mauve (Kifo Island Chronicles)

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Doctor Harris held the baby gently, at an arm’s length, her feet against his chest, then firmly manipulated her tiny body. Even though Lara knew that it was impossible, she still rooted for baby Mauve to push into the man’s burly chest, or cry -

Or anything.

Anything at all.

But, of course, she didn’t. Couldn’t.

Her mother sat in the upholstered rocker, her gaze fixed on the man who held her infant daughter, her face faraway and expressionless. She hunched over her own middle, thin arms wrapped around herself as though to shield her. She couldn’t be more than twenty, but the marks on her arms said that she was very determined at escaping- or had been, until reality presented itself in the form of a beautiful baby girl.

The doctor went through all the reflex tests – not a glimmer of response from the baby; not a glimmer of hope for the mother. Around them, the NICU was alive; nurses bustling about, parents rocking babies, holding babies, chatting with one another about their progress or setbacks, or, like this mother, sitting in stunned silence, unable to comprehend the mixture of love and hopelessness that they felt for this tiny person who had just entered their lives, and was already in danger of leaving it.

The doctor passed the baby to Lara as he turned to the computer. He had an expert, reassuring manner of handling the infants, even with the most complex life support and monitoring equipment. Lara settled Mauve in the nestlike incubator, fitting a clean and rolled gauze square into each clenched fist. There was little reason – this baby would never open her hands, never use these muscles, except during a seizure. Already, she was on enough anti-seizure medication to have toxic side-effects – and she still seized several times a day.

This post is in memory of Elijah James Burton, July 13-25, 2003.

“I’m sorry.” Doctor Harris used that tone they all affected with bereaved parents. Kind, but distant – a Joe Friday delivery of simple facts that allowed them to keep doing this job that held both tragedy and joy.

“Sorry…” The mother echoed, tonelessly, as though she was tasting the word, but not taking any meaning from it.

“No!” said the other girl, at the same time. She hovered over the young mother’s shoulder, as though she could protect her if she only stayed near enough.

“I am sorry,” Doctor Harris said again, meeting the stunned and accusing syllable with compassion. He frowned a bit as the child’s mother just sat there, hugging herself and rocking slightly.

“Then there’s no hope?” the dark-eyed girl asked.

“It’s as near total ancephaly as I’ve seen. If she had any less of her amygdala or brain stem, she would not have survived to this point, and quite possibly would have died before birth.”

A baby girl without a brain.

Sometimes, Lara saw things here that were unspeakably cruel, and she wondered why she stayed.

The girl – she couldn’t be more than sixteen – came nearer, stared at the screen. The glow bathed her face, as her composure crumpled, and she began to sob. “This just isn’t fair!”

Lara sighed to herself. No. It wasn’t fair. It never was.

As if the exclamation had awoken her from whatever trance she’d escaped to, the mother leapt from the chair, and pressed her hand against the plastic that separated her from Mauve. Then she stared at Lara, and stabbed out at her with a trembling finger. “You have to save my baby!”

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