2017 NYC Midnight Fantasy Flash Fiction challenge.
Fantasy/a cancer treatment center/a chain-link fence.
A family matriarch takes a walk through her to life to make a fateful decision.
Martha Lutz knitted while Nurse Barnes hooked the intravenous drip into the PICC line. Martha’s blue and white yarn had numerous dropped stitches and obvious flaws. Following the pattern had been difficult due to the necropathy in her fingers caused by her cancer treatment.
Nurse Barnes noticed her patient having trouble, “Why don’t you take a break. Maybe try to get some sleep?”
“Thank you, dear, but I need to finish this for my granddaughter. She’s having my great-grandson any day, and I’m afraid this still needs a lot of work.”
Nurse Barnes smiled and walked away.
Martha struggled to fix some of the defects, and had decided to give up for the time being when an older nurse approached her and placed her hands on Martha’s. Despite Martha’s loss of feeling, her touch comforted her.
“Hello, Martha.” she said. My name is Nurse Schmidt. I’m going to help you. Let’s go for a little stroll shall we?”
Martha’s eyes brightened, “Schmidt is my maiden name.”
“Oh really, that’s nice. Maybe we have some common relations. It’s a small world after all.”
Martha said, “Thank you for the lovely invitation, but I can’t go anywhere. The medicine, the tubes.”
“Don’t worry dear, I’ll take care of them.”
Before she was even aware that she had been disconnected, Martha and Nurse Schmidt were walking on a great green field along a chain-link fence. The day was overcast, the sun’s rays dimmed by low grey clouds. The field on the other side seemed darker, somehow just out of focus. It appeared as though on that side, it might rain.
Through the steel wire, Martha could make out a familiar house. As they drew closer, she recognized it as her childhood home. They stopped at a locked gate. The silver padlock did not appear to have a slot for a key.
In the home’s backyard, her father played fetch with a black Labrador retriever; her mother and Martha’s twin sister as a young girl were tending to the flowers in the garden.
“I’m the only one who escaped the fire.” She wiped her cheek with the back of her hand. “Momma and Bertha loved working in that garden. Bertha was my best friend, I miss her terribly.”
“She knows, Bertha spoke very fondly of you when we took our walk along this fence.” Nurse Schmidt shook her head, “She was in so much pain. She’s waiting, but is in no hurry for you to join her.”
They stopped at another locked gate, she saw Kurt—her late husband—throwing a football to their son, Max. Tears obscured her sight. “My boys, my sweet, sweet boys. Kurt and Max would play catch for hours, they were so close.”
Martha explained, “My Kurt had heart issues. It was very hard for him to do anything. On the night he passed, he kissed me goodnight, as he always did, and said he was sorry for the times I had to be on my own and regretted that he’d be leaving me.”
She pressed closer to the fence, “He never woke up.” She sniffed back the tears, “And our son Max left his young pregnant wife to fight in the war. He never met his daughter, our only grandchild.”
Martha gazed at the two playing and smiling.
“I wish they could be back with me.”
Nurse Schultz pulled a small golden key from her pocket.
“Some get to choose; others have that decision made for them. You’re one of the lucky ones. You can decide to be with them, but you must be sure.”
The crack of a bat and a cheering crowd behind them caught Martha’s attention. She turned to see a girl, running around the bases, arms waving about her head. “There’s our Ada now. She had just hit her first home run, we were so proud of her that day.”
Martha looked at Nurse Schmidt and said, “She’s pregnant with my great-grandson. I’m making her something to keep him swaddled and warm. But that poison they’re pumping into to me to fight the poison that’s killing me, makes it hard for me to feel the knitting needles.”
“Don’t worry about that right now. I’ll help if you choose to stay.”
They reached the end of the fence line. The final gate closed, but did not lock.
Kurt stood by the gate holding a bouquet of white roses. Martha’s favorite. He smiled despite the tears streaming down his cheeks. He held his free hand out to her.
Nurse Schmidt said, “It’s up to you, Enkelin, to walk through the gate and be with them. It’s your choice.”
Martha reached for the gate.
The musical lilt of a giggling baby stopped her. Turning, she saw Ada pushing a carriage.
Stepping to Ada, Martha peered inside the carriage and saw a smiling child snuggled in a pink and yellow wrap.
Martha said to Nurse Schmidt, “No Oma, I’ve got some knitting to finish. And it looks like I must start it all over again.”
Kurt lowered his hand, nodded and faded into the fog beyond the fence.
A gentle rocking awakened Martha. A very pregnant Ada stood before her.
“Oma Martha, I’ve come to drive you back to Shady Gardens.”
Martha eyes brightened as she reached up and touched Ada’s face.
Ada noticed the knitting on Martha’s lap. A flawless, pink and yellow baby-cocoon. “Who is this for?”
“For your little liebling, of course.”
“It’s beautiful, how did you manage with the numbness?”
“A nurse helped me.”
Ada looked at Nurse Barnes unhooking her grandmother.
“Not her my dear, Nurse Schmidt. The older one. She has my maiden name.”
Nurse Barnes shrugged and whispered to Ada, “We don’t have a Schmidt. The chemotherapy sometimes gives them very vivid dreams. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Ada looked back to Martha, “Oma, I thought that I had told you the doctor said our baby would be a boy?”
Martha laughed, “Trust me, Enkelin, Omas know things.”