The Waiting Room

This is a short fictional story based on the writing prompt “two strangers meet in a waiting room, what happens?” this story is available in audio, on my YouTube channel. You can find it here:

https://youtu.be/4llStyMjgcw

The sirens were deafening, and the flashing lights were blinding. I was having a horrible time running in my heels. I followed the paramedics as quickly as I could through the hospital doors. The tears blurred my vision. My throat hurt, but I didn’t really know what I was yelling. I didn’t know what the staff was yelling at me either. All I knew was my Stephen was headed into the hospital with tubes and machines making him live when we were supposed to be having dessert.

“Mrs. Cunningham? Could you come with me, please? We need some information.” A young blond nurse guided my elbow away from the scene but brought me to an area where I could still see. She was petite, Pretty. Her blond hair was perfectly secured in a low ponytail, and her eyes perfectly lined. Mine just looks a mess. The nurses’ name tag indicated her name was Tracy, and she was an RN in the emergency department.

“Mrs. Cunningham, can you tell me what happened, please?”

“Please, dear, call me Phoebe,” I requested.

“Okay, Phoebe, what was going on when your husband collapsed.”

“We were having dinner. It’s our anniversary. Ten years today, we have been married. We were having a perfectly normal conversation when he grabbed his chest and collapsed. I screamed. Luckily there was a doctor at the next table who did CPR, and the restaurant manager called 911.”

“I see. Phoebe, does your husband have any allergies?” Tracy asked.

“Yes, he’s allergic to shellfish. I made sure the waiter knew, and he assured me the chef had everything separate.”

“Is he on any medication?” Tracy asked.

“Yes, He is on 40 mg of Lisinopril for his blood pressure. That’s it”

“So he has high blood pressure?” Tracy asked.

“Yes, he’s a lawyer; they all do.” II was true; all of his closest law friends were all on blood pressure medication. The girls and I exchanged healthy versions of their favorite junk foods to serve for rotating poker nights. We knew they threw them out and ate what they wanted, but we tried.

“Tracy?” My eyes filled with tears. “Is he going to be alright?”

Just then, the glass door to his ER room opened. “OR is ready. He’s heading up!” The doctor shouted.

I ran over with Tracy at my heels. She urged me not to get in the way. I watched the Staff wheel Stephen’s bed through the double doors to the Operating Room. The emergency doctor stayed behind.

“Mrs. Cunningham?” He addressed me

“Yes, doctor? How is he?”

“Your husband has a pretty serious blockage causing him to have a heart attack. He is headed to emergency surgery to clear the blockage. He should be fine once the blockage is cleared, but there is a chance part of the blockage could break off and cause problems.”

“What kind of problems?” I inquired.

Dr. Phillips gave me that look.

“Oh.” My eyes welled up again.

Tracy retook my arm. “Come on, Phoebe, let me bring you to the family waiting room.”

I nodded and went with her.

The room was stark. The fluorescent lights made the white walls whiter. Someone had tried to put up some cheer with a colorful flower border at the top. The pink padded chairs matched the pink in the roses on the border. There was a vending machine in the corner advertising overpriced, almost expired snacks. Next to it was a brochure wall about all the different hospital departments and underneath that was a table of magazines and local ad and coupon books. A TV was mounted in the corner. It was playing a documentary about horses.

There was a man already in the waiting room. He was likely late 50’s. His salt and pepper hair was thinning on top. The loose strands combed across his scalp. He wore an oversized sport coat and his gold-rimmed round glasses perched on the end of his nose, which was in a book. I noticed it was Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

I sat down a few chairs from the man and rested my head back against the wall. I let out a big sigh, trying to keep my composure. I could feel my eyes welling up again. The man offered me his pocket square.

“Oh, thank you, but I don’t want to ruin it.”

“It’s fine,” He said, giving me a sweet smile. “I have at least 50.”

I smiled back as I took the fabric from him. “Thank you,” I said, dabbing my eyes.

“My wife is in there,” he said. “Having heart surgery.”

I nodded. “My husband too. Today is our anniversary. He collapsed in the restaurant at dinner.”

“Ah, anniversaries. My Elizabeth and I celebrated our 25th last week.” He looked wistfully in the air as if recalling their wedding day. “Amazing how time flies.”

“Yes, it certainly is,” I noted his book. “What a classic,” I remarked.

“I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then,” he quoted. “Seemed fitting for today.“

“You speak the truth,” I agreed.

“Have you been married long?” He asked.

“10 years today. They say he had a heart attack.”

“That’s young,” he commented. “You two must be in your 30’s.”

“I’m 39, and he’s 42.”

“Yep, young. Do you have kids?” He asked.

“No, children were not in the cards for either of us. Stephen is a lawyer. He’s always swamped. I have a condition that leaves me unable to have children. So I keep busy with my online craft store, and I do what Stephen needs. It’s a full-time job keeping track of him.” I studied the older man. “What about you?”

“Elizabeth has blessed me with two beautiful daughters. April is 22. She is finishing college, and Amber is 20. She chose a trade and is an apprentice to an electrician.”

“Wow, Impressive,” I commented. “It sounds like you two raised them well.”

“Well, we certainly tried. Elizabeth and I were raised in the city. We have known each other our whole lives! We’ve always gone to school together. We used to sneak onto the highway bridge and spit on cars” he chuckled at the memory. “I asked her to marry me right out of high school. She said no.” he chuckled again. “She went to college. I went to the service. When I came home, she had a degree. I tried again, and this time she said yes.” He leaned close to me and looked me in the face like he was telling me a secret. “We eloped to Vegas,” he winked at me.

“Ooooh,” I admired. “Saucy”

“Yes,” he chuckled. “Our parents were so mad. They didn’t forgive us until April was born. We moved out to the country. Horse farms everywhere. Our girls played in the dirt. All I can hope now is that my girls find the loves of their lives as we did.”

I smiled. The older man just warmed my heart talking about his beloved.

“Where did you meet your young man?” He asked.

“College. I’m the first female in my family to go. I grew up a country girl. Barefoot in the dirt and tire swings were my normal. I graduated with my BA, Stephen went to law school. He asked me to marry him on graduation night. We had a huge wedding. I felt like a princess. He’s treated me like one ever since. I adjusted well to the city. Made friends with his friend’s wives. We have a book club on Thursdays. The boys play poker on Friday. We rotate houses for both. It works.” I leaned back against the wall again.

“Are you a religious person?” He asked.

“I was raised in the church, but I haven’t been active as an adult.”

He held out his hand. “Would you like to pray with me now?”

I moved closer and took his hand. We said the “Our Father” together.

Just as we finished, a woman appeared in the doorway. “Don!” She yelled at the old man, “What are you doing?”

Don looked like a deer in the headlights. He gripped his chair. I think he was debating making a break for it. “Don’t you dare,” the woman warned. “Dr. Harper, Guys, He’s in here!” she called down the hall.

Soon there was a small gathering of hospital employees headed by a doctor in a white coat taking hold of Don. The doctor studied him. “Don, that’s my Jacket; where did you find those pants? Those are the nurse’s glasses. Oh, Don” The orderlies walked him away.

I stood up to the doctor. “I suppose then this is your pocket square?” I held it out but was still wringing it in my nervous hands.

Dr. Harper eyed it and my nervous stance. “Keep it,” he said. “I’ve got 50.”

I glanced around the room. The coupon book advertised a Spaghetti dinner at St. Elizabeth’s church, followed by Vegas night. The calendar was set in April, and the picture was “amber waves of grain” with America the beautiful set on it. The copy of Alice’s adventures in wonderland had fallen to the floor. I picked it up Quoting Don Quoting the book. “I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”

“I understand you must be very confused.” The woman who had come to get Don began. “My brother is a regular patient here. He suffers from a type of dissociative disorder, and they believe schizophrenia. He just randomly makes up who he is based on his surroundings.”

“So nothing he said was real? He doesn’t have a wife having surgery? No daughters?” I asked.

“Sadly no, our parents passed away a few years ago. They managed him his whole life. I have been trying in their absence with the help of Dr. Harper, but clearly, I’m not doing well enough.” She sighed.

“I’m sorry.” I offered. “that must be such a difficult thing to deal with.”

“Well, I will leave you be,” she said. “I have to go deal with the consequences of his escape. I hope whoever you are here for is okay.” With that, she was gone.

I picked up the book and sat back down. I didn’t know how even to begin to process today.

“Mrs. Cunningham?” A doctor in surgical scrubs entered the waiting room.

“Yes?” I got up and approached him eagerly.

“We were able to clear the blockage, and your husband is doing well. He was fortunate! We’re going to be keeping him a few days to keep an eye on him and run some more tests, and then he’ll be ready to come home with you.”

“Oh, thank you, doctor, that’s fantastic news! I’m so relieved. May I see him?”

“Sure, the nurse will come to get you when he’s awake enough for visitors.”

I sat back down and breathed a sigh of relief. I looked up at the TV and saw the horses running around on the documentary. “Horse farms everywhere,” I thought of Don. I shook my head and laughed.

“Mrs. Cunningham, you may see your husband now.”

I followed the nurse into Stephen’s room. He looked so frail, laying on the bed in a hospital gown. He had tubes and monitors everywhere. He was still my handsome man, though. I walked up and kissed his forehead.

He opened his eyes. “Hey baby,” he said, taking my hand and bringing it to his lips, “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.”

“I could say the same for you! How are you feeling.”

“High,” he answered. “I’m sorry I ruined our anniversary.”

“Not at all, my love. If anything, almost losing you made me realize how much I love you and how much I cherish our life together.”

“It was the strangest thing.” He said, “I blacked out, but then I woke up, and I was in… Wonderland? Nothing made sense.”

I put the book on his lap. I guess this was meant to come to us today.

Stephen studied me quizzically “where did you find this?”

“In the waiting room.”

“What a strange day.” He observed.

“Stephen, you have no idea.”

The End

Bad Service

This story can be found with narration on my YouTube channel https://youtu.be/G4VB_jMU2OQhttps://

The following is a short story based on the prompt “tell a crazy story of a waiter giving bad service.”

“Julia?”

I heard my name from behind me at the bar. I don’t know what I’m doing here. My friends made me sign up for this stupid “Blind date” dating app. You fill out an extensive questionnaire about yourself, your likes, your dislikes, and what you would like in a partner. The app then matches you up with someone in your area and suggests a place to go. I guess anything beats spending another Saturday night staring at the walls of my dorm.


“Kevin” appeared to play football for our rival college. His profile picture was in his uniform, kneeling with the football. He had his “Game face” on. I could find no emotion whatsoever in that pic. His description said he was athletic, loved animals, family-oriented, and was looking for a girl who could be both serious and fun.
My friends all but hit the “accept” button for me to select this date at a local bar/restaurant between our two schools.


“Come on! It’s been like a decade since you and Jeff broke up,” Stephanie encouraged.
“Steph, it was last month,” I argued.
Jeff was my high school sweetheart. We had talked about getting married after college graduation. The marriage conversation ended as I returned to my dorm early due to a canceled class and found Jeff getting it on with my roommate. I threw his clothes out of the third-floor window and kicked him out. I haven’t seen either of them since.


I spent the next week wallowing in tears and chocolate ice cream. I had since stopped crying, but my social interactions were limited. It seemed everyone on campus knew either of them. Luckily I had my life-long friends Stephanie and Jenna to keep my head on straight, until today.


I was standing in front of both girls in the middle of my dorm wearing a red wrap dress and black heels. Jenna was busy floofing my hair while Stephanie squirted me with body spray.

“Enough,” I said, waving my hand through the glittery cloud and coughing.” I’d rather he saw me before he smelled me.”


“Sorry,” Stephanie mumbled, replacing the cap and putting the sparkly substance back in her handbag.


I did a final spin in my mirror before tapping the notification button on the app that I had started toward our date destination.


I was halfway through my first glass of pinot grigio at the bar when I heard my name. I turned around, looking for the source of the voice.
“Hey, It’s me, Kevin,” the man standing behind me said.


“Oh, I’m sorry, I was expecting a college football player,” I replied. The man standing before me hadn’t played football in quite a few years.


“Yeah, I’m sorry. That was an old pic, but I am still in college! Just taking the 10-year plan,” Kevin explained.


A young waiter behind him appeared to choke on his gum, listening to our conversation. The waiter looked familiar. I was pretty sure he was in college, making Kevin look that much older. Kevin glared at the man, who quickly busied himself with the table behind him.


“Shall we dine?” Kevin asked me, gesturing to the seating area behind him.


I was already here and hungry. What could one meal hurt? I thought to myself. “Sure,”


Kevin let out a low wolf whistle as I climbed off the bar stool. “Wow, are you from Tennessee?” He asked.


“No,” I replied, “Florida.”


“Well, you’re the only ten I see,” Kevin said, winking and giving me the fake finger gun.
The waiter coughed, I downed the other half of my wine, Kevin glared at the waiter.


The choking waiter soon approached. “Good evening, I’m Nate. Can I refill your Pinot?” he asked me.


“What the hell did you just ask my date?” Kevin glared at him.


“Yes, please,” I replied, handing Nate my wine glass.


“Oh,” Kevin said, finally understanding that ‘pinot’ wasn’t a dirty thought.


“And what can I get for you, sir?” Nate asked.
“Beer will be fine,” Kevin replied.
Nate hurried away.


“So, what brings you to ‘Blind Date?’” Kevin asked.


“Oh, my friends created the profile for me,” I confessed.


“Oh, your’ friends,’ got it,” Kevin said, using air quotes at the word friends and winking at me.


“Yeah,” I continued, ignoring the fact he thinks I’m lying. “My two best friends, Stephanie and Jenna, said I needed to get out more.”


“Oh, your actual friends put you up to this,” Kevin replied.


“Yes, that’s what I said. What brings you here?”


“I like that app doesn’t stare a lot of personal Info,” he said. “After the date, you can just disappear.”
Nate returned with our drinks. I took the wine right out of his hand. “Thank God for that!” I replied to Kevin.


Nate sensed the tension and gave me a sympathetic look. I realized he went to my school, and we sat near each other in psych. He was always super quiet. Looking at him now, he’s kind of cute with his dark curls and blue eyes.
“Can I get you an appetizer this evening?” Nate asked.


I looked at Kevin, wondering what he thought. “Nah, we’ll just take a minute to order dinner,” he said, without asking if I wanted an appetizer.


Nate backed away, glancing at me. I rolled my eyes, he smiled, showing me just a hint of a dimple in his left cheek.


Kevin ordered spaghetti and promptly stuck his linen napkin in his shirt collar. Nate stood just out of his field of vision and gave me a look like, ‘Is he serious right now?’


My return look must have signaled pain. Nate stuck his lip out in an adorable pout before transforming his face into a mischievous grin. I watched him walk away.


Kevin saw where I focused my gaze. “Can you believe that guy?” he said. “He’s been kinda rude and not the greatest service.”


“Yeah,” I replied. “We definitely shouldn’t come back.”


“So after this,” Kevin began, “Maybe we can head back to your place?”


“Um, no. I live in the dorm.” I informed him.


“Oh, alright then, my place. My neighbors are out of town, and their hot tub is open.”


“You know what? It’s been a long day, and I’m pretty tired. I think after this, I’ll just go home,” I informed him.


“Aww, come on, babe, the night is young, you’re young, come to have some fun!” Kevin encouraged.


Nate came back holding two large dishes. He set my chicken down gently and then dumped the plate of spaghetti in Kevin’s lap, missing the linen napkin entirely.


“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Nate exclaimed. He winked at me as Kevin jumped out of his seat and tried to get the hot food off his lap.


“I’m out of here!” Kevin yelled. “And I’m not paying for this!” He stormed out the door.


I crumpled into a fit of laughter after he left.


“I’m sorry, it looks like I ruined your date,” Nate offered.


“Are you kidding? you’re my hero!” I replied.


“Wow, it’s not every day a pretty girl calls me a hero,” Nate said. Our eyes met and held for several seconds.


“Can I buy you a drink? I can hang around until you’re off, maybe,” I asked him.


“I’d love that, but I’d rather buy you dinner, and I’m not off until 2 am. I’d kill to get out of here tonight.”


Soon the restaurant started to fill up. “Ah, I gotta seat these people while my manager naps in the back. He’s too lazy to work. Your dinner is on the house tonight; enjoy the chicken.” Nate said, walking off to handle the rush.


I did enjoy my chicken, left Nate a tip, and walked outside. “I don’t feel like going home,” I said out loud. I had a thought.


I sat on a bench around the corner and dialed the phone number of the restaurant.


“Hello, Marco’s,” a man answered. He sounded like he had been asleep.


I plugged my nose before saying, “Hello, this is Julia Murphy from the health department. I’m afraid I’m at the college, and I will need Nathanial Hargrove to return to campus right away.”


“Health department? He’s working right now, and he’s my best waiter.”


“Sir, you can send Nathanial to me, or I will come to the restaurant and get him. Do you want someone from the health department to come to your restaurant right now?”


“No, ma’am!” the man said. “I will send him home right away!”


Shortly after I hung up the phone, I saw Nate leave the restaurant and head back to campus.

“Ahem,” I cleared my throat.

He turned around and gave me a huge heartwarming smile.
“Julia Murphy of the health department, I presume?” he teased.


“Guilty,” I confessed.


Nate and I caught the bus to a coffee shop across town. We had coffee and pie and talked for hours. He escorted me back to my dorm and asked me to a movie the following night. I gladly accepted.


The next evening I stood in my room in jeans, boots, and a sweater. Jenna and Stephanie eyed me as I put on makeup with a smile on my face.


“Where are you going tonight?” Jenna asked.


“Nate is taking me to a movie and then probably a late dinner or drinks.”


“I thought you went out with a guy named Kevin?” Stephanie asked, confused.


“I did,” I replied as I grabbed my handbag.
I winked at my friends, sitting side by side on my bed, studying me.

“Don’t wait up,” I said and walked out the door.

The End