Eleanor’s Inevitable Christmas

The ward’s youngest nurse had the annoying habit of teasing Eleanor about her few freckles, and the attending resident was a bit cold, referring to her as a “case” in front of his massed interns. The young doctor had once left her wounded ankle uncovered after an examination. She had lain that way for an hour until a nurse arrived to cover her aching limb. However, Eleanor took comfort in the gracious manner of the specialist, Dr. MacMillan, who was in the process of featuring her case in a teaching movie. Every morning at ten a.m., he would stride into her room with a cheerful, “Good morning, Eleanor! How are you feeling today? Did you sleep well? Any pain or numbness in you ankle?” Unlike the resident, the senior man actually listened when she spoke and exuded a genuine concern for her well-being.

While the rarity of Osteomyelitis and Dr. MacMillan’s teaching interest garnered her more attention than Eleanor desired, it also worked in her favour as the specialist’s attention improved the attitude of the sarcastic nurse and the indifferent resident. She would enjoy her brief medical fame and hope it sped her healing and quickened her exit from the VG. Eleanor glanced over at Carmen and felt a guilty gratitude that she could at least move around on her bed. Her roommate might never walk again. Another hospital day of routine passed and Eleanor read until the nurse came around with the evening’s pills and her five minutes to lights-out warning.

Christmas Eve dawned with unwelcome brightness for the pair of self-declared Scrooges and their bland breakfast was quickly followed by a round of visits, including a brief call from Dr. MacMillan who spent more time filming Eleanor’s ankle with his video camera than speaking to her. “We’ll, it seems to be improving a bit, Eleanor,” the doctor remarked before taking another look at her IV drip.

Finally, he made a few quick notes on his pad and strode quickly out, passing Carmen’s attendant physician in the doorway.

After Dr. MacMillan left, Eleanor turned to Carmen and remarked, “How do you like that? I ‘seem’ to be improving. How comforting. To hell with him and to hell with Christmas, too!” Just as she settled back in her pillows, the room’s large door banged open to admit a throng of nurses, the resident and a beaming Dr. MacMillan. “A merry VG Christmas to you both!” they chimed in unison and then the specialist fixed his intense gaze on Eleanor. “Well, we’ve reached the end of the filming process Eleanor, and I have some good news for you. I think we can send you home in two days’ time since I don’t foresee any change in your condition,” Dr. MacMillan said.

“Unfortunately, there are no Oscars for medical training films but your right ankle will always be famous,” he added with a wry grin.

Beside him, the nurses hoisted long surgical stockings stuffed full of Christmas treats. “Open the stockings now and then choose your dinner. The kitchen is taking special Christmas orders,” the head nurse declared. Eleanor and Carmen looked across the room at each other, and; in spite of their Grinchy vow, broke into simultaneous grins. Eleanor dumped her stocking on the bed and a nurse did likewise with hers to reveal fancy chocolates, Brazil nuts, tiny oranges and other goodies. Dr. MacMillan himself handed each lady a menu and Eleanor said, “Carmen, let’s order everything on the menu. It looks like there’s no escaping Christmas! Perhaps for our sins! “ As the nurses festooned the room with “decorations” that were literally loops of surgical tubing and ribbons of bandage cloth, Eleanor came close to tears for the second time that day. Later, while enjoying the twinkling lights of holiday Halifax, Eleanor called the hospital operator and asked for an outside line. She knew a man and three children who needed some good news.

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Morgan Duchesney is a Canadian writer and martial arts instructor with deep roots on Cape Breton Island. His fiction has been published in Static Movement, Morpheus Tales, Death’s Head Grin, Blood Moon Rising, the Danforth Review and the Naashwak Review and the short story” Wrong side of the River” recently received an honorable mention from the Ottawa Crime Writers Association. As well, he contributes a monthly political column to Baddeck’s Victoria Standard. Eleanor Shaw was born and raised in Alder Point and Point Aconi, Cape Breton. The daughter of Viola Burton and Simon Fraser; Eleanor was one of five girls who shared their home with three boys and grandfather John R. Fraser who lived to the impressive age of one hundred and four years. Now retired, Eleanor lives quietly in Baddeck with her husband Jake Shaw and their cocker spaniel Darby. This is her first work of fiction.
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