A to Z Challenge: N


When the light flashed outside Room 8, Suzanne and Mary played a desperate game of NRock, Scissors, Paper. Losing, Suzanne begged, “Two out of three” only to watch Mary wave and stroll the opposite direction.

Suzanne inched toward the room, thinking they never taught a course at nursing school for dealing with a man like Jared Keith Collins who earned the death penalty six years ago and now rested in one of her beds.

“What took you so long, Flat Chest, I’m in pain here.” Suzanne checked the morphine, felt for the man’s pulse, resisted once again altering liquids that she could explain away and so many people would gratefully understand.

She swallowed her own pain, knowing she would treat – but never look at – the man who killed nine nurses before arriving in her wing.   ###


This was my most difficult entry yet, and the one I spent the most time on by far. There’s a better story here, and I couldn’t get to it, not in six sentences, so I apologize. Also, the story lends itself to shorter sentences by its nature. But I wanted to tell this story, and I gave it too much effort to throw it out. I changed the ending a dozen times trying to get it right. It needs more development and six sentences won’t get it there.

Today’s six-sentence story was brought to you by Nike, just do it. And by the National Pork Board, pork, the other white meat. And by Norelco, winner by a close shave (not really their tagline, but I can’t think of it).

We get Sunday off from the A to Z Challenge – thank goodness because my manuscript needs my attention. Come on back Monday for O — an Occupational Therapist? Probably not, so we’ll take requests for O. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy your weekend.

22 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: N

  1. Oh wow, John! This one hit me. One wonders what they would do faced with this dilemma. An episode of House addressed a similar circumstance although the patient in that was a disposed genocidal African dictator.

    You beat me today. Best efforts made, last night drew me out too late and I was exhausted. The week was too long. Drat day job. I am putting finishing touches on my A-Z challenge and then getting back on the rodent wheel that Janet mentions in today’s blog. So glad we have Sunday off so we can dance about the editing room.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve made major strides in the editing suite this weekend. Feeling charmed and trying to push off that darned day job as long as possible! Good luck on more editing this week as I’m sure you’re not finished yet.


  2. We’ve crossed the midpoint now. Yay! Thanks for this touching story. It matches my idea of nurses as people who take care of their patients, no matter how they feel about them.

    Optometrist. Oncologist. Ornithologist. Obstetrician (OBGYN). Outsider? Orange grower? That’s all I’ve got. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I also vote for the whole story if you ever get around to writing it.

    The first O “occupation” that flitted into my brain and refused to leave was Octopus Wrangler. I’m sure you can do better than that =)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha! Octopus Wrangler. I love it. They better get good benefits with that job and lotsa vacation time because I’m getting their life expectancy equals that of a protagonist in a six-sentence story. Thanks, Dena!


    1. I don’t work in a hospital, but I see how challenging some people are on their good days so I can imagine how ridiculously challenging they would be when you throw a little adversity their way. You can learn a lot about a person when things don’t go their way.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was wondering if N would be for nurse. I agree with Serenasinclair: if you write a longer story out of this, I’d love to read it. There’s definitely more there.
    PS: The beginning really made me laugh. It’s probably because it’s my job and like CynthiaMC1 said, the patients can be quite challenging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like so many things for a writer, it would be so fascinating to live the life of your protagonist for a day or a week. You’d score so many insights that would inform your writing. Sure, you can imagine a lot of scenarios and you can interview people who perform jobs, but they’re not looking for the small details that add such flavor to a story. Ah, but Father Time always plays such a role.


    1. It was totally gut wrenching, just thinking through it. I don’t think I was able to convey that feeling well enough in six sentences, so maybe I will have to give a shot at something longer. Certainly something to explore anyway. It’s what we do after all.


  5. Ooo… yes. Definitely a story worth chasing after here, John. I can feel it creaking against your six sentence limit (I recognize the sound from my own flash fiction!). Write that short story, get it published, then tell us where to find it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! A fine idea, Colin. You know, my original 2016 plan was to write a short story a month. I was on track through March, and I’ve submitted January to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. But April … HA! This thing called the A to Z Blogging Challenge — oh, you’ve heard of it — came along and totally derailed my short story a month plan. But hey, it’s only the 17th so crazier things can happen. If it does, you know I’ll let everyone know at the Reef.


    1. Zoinks, I’m trying to get to the ending point of a novel. Actually, I’m about to finish it (again!) tonight. I’ve written the final chapter longhand earlier today, and I’ll enter it later tonight. Then I have to go through for one more final (such a misleading word) round. We’ll see what happens after that! Thanks for stopping in, Kate.


  6. John – what everyone else said. A great beginning; six-sentences *did* feel too squashy; and tell me where I can get the full story (when it’s done, of course!)
    And I’d like to see that ‘Octopus Wrangler’ that Dena mentioned!
    All the best with your editing today 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kae, thank you for the good wishes. My editing — actually, my editing comes next, I’m about to finish the step of completely rewriting seven chapters. But the rewriting felt very good today and as I mentioned a moment ago to someone, I’ve finished the final chapter by longhand and now will get to enter it into the story so I’ll finally (again) be finished and ready for a final revision. Oh, it’s such a process to get to the finish line!


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