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Part 4: Why the Willow Weeps
by Jonathan Shute

Janice came to see herself less as a nurse than as a gentle steward for the
departing. Any medical expertise she might possess was of little value in the
terminal ward and she often felt as though her time at nursing school might
have been better spent on theological studies.

If she fancied herself ineffective, it wasn't apparent in her enthusiasm for
the job. Her life was devoted solely to the comfortable passage of those in
her charge and she was as kind to them as professional decorum permitted.
As often as not her days off would be spent on the ward and many evenings 
she'd sleep off a difficult shift on a cot in the break room in lieu of going  
home. Janice was the subject of gossip among the nursing staff for not having
a life away from work but she was usually too busy to suffer hurt feelings.

Although she tried not to play favorites she had, for the past several months
been especially doting on the guy who wouldn't die in 208. Old Fred was down
to one of every organ that God had given him two of and was the unhappy host
at least five different flavors of cancer. All manner of disease and attrition
were competing over that poor old man's carcass and it seemed to Janice that
the diseases themselves must be keeping him alive so they'd have a place to

Fred was the hands down record holder for taking up space on the death wing.
It had been over a year since the doctors told him he had a matter of weeks to
live and Janice took them at their word. She spent at least one day of each
weekend and an hour or two at the end of every shift reading to him from her
favorite books. Whether Janice grew attached to Fred in spite of his looming
departure or because of it seemed of little importance to her. She hadn't any
family left to cling to so she embraced the misery that had taken those she
held dear.

In her heart of hearts she knew that her affection for him was selfish.

(To be continued in September)


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