Home, Safe?

The doctor lifted the sheet and peered at the injury on the boy’s leg.  It appeared to be a bullet wound, deeply infected, oozing yellow and green.  But, still.  I could’ve been worse.  He would mend.  “Looks like you’ve had some luck.”    Carefully, she turned the leg to the side. 

The boy winced. 

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “It hurts?”

“Of course it hurts, Doctor.”  The father frowned at her, as if she were responsible for the boy’s condition. 

She nodded.  Was the bullet still lodged inside?  And why had the parents taken so long to get the boy to the hospital?  “Although I’m not sure what I see.” 

“You see a severely damaged leg.”

This part of medicine, she hated: The anger.  She could heal the physically wounded, but she couldn’t diffuse the anger that was sometimes directed at her.  Maybe it was stress and frustration.  Perhaps it was her accent or her skin coloring.  Maybe it was the economy, she didn’t know.  Anger stressed her, though.  She felt more pressure.  She was more liable to make mistakes.  She tucked the sheet back into place and looked at the boy’s parents.  “And I might be too early.”

The father jumped to his feet, arms clenched at his side.  “Too early?  We’ve been here for two hours waiting to be seen by a doctor and now you tell me you’re too early?” 

Eighteen years in this country.  She prided herself on her English.  But every so often, it failed her.  What was the word she’d wanted?  Not early.  No…She searched her memory banks.  Hasty.  That was it.  She smiled.  “Sometimes my words mix themselves up in my mind.  I’m sorry.  What I meant was…”

 “You know something, Doctor?”  The father got close to her now—closer than what was acceptable in either of their cultures.  “You want to practice medicine in the United States, you’d better start speaking American.”

“Hank.”  The mother stood and put a hand on her husband’s arm.  “Calm down.”  She looked at the doctor.  “I apologize for my husband.  He’s just worried.”

The doctor asked the nurse to start the boy on a course of intravenous antibiotics.  She checked his eyes.  Prodded his skin.  Still…The doctor looked at the boy’s mother.  ”Your son will be fine.”

“How can you tell?  You’ve barely even looked at him.”  The father again, neck veins throbbing.  “This is serious!”

The doctor turned to the boy’s father.  “Sir, when my brother’s legs were blown off by a bomb and I had to stitch him back together, while my mother held him down against the pain, that was serious.  When my husband was murdered before my very eyes, that was serious.  This…”  She gestured to the boy.  “This is nothing.”

After, she stitched up the boy’s leg.  The pull of thread through skin reminded her of the way her mother used to lace up a stuffed chicken before tucking it into the oven.  She felt the tears well up in her eyes.  Blinked them back. 

The boy was watching her.  “Why are you crying?”

“I miss my mother.”  She smiled. 

“Did she die?”

She shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I had to leave my country very suddenly.  I left everything behind.”

The boy blinked.  “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

She patted his leg—the good leg.  “You know what I wish?”


“I wish I could stitch up a fractured country as easily as I did your leg.”  She pulled the thread through and knotted it. 

“You know what I wish?”


“I wish my father would stop hurting me.”

She nodded.  “I wish that, too.” 

She wished her husband were still alive.  She wished to see her mother and her brother again.  Most of all, she wished she could go home. 

“Home is supposed to be safe,” the boy said.

Again, the doctor nodded.  “I know.”

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, SAM challenged me with “Write a story based on this line from Patricia Coldwell’s Cause of Death: “Looks like you’ve had some luck,” I said. “Although I’m not sure what I’m seeing. And I might be too early.” ” and I challenged Kirsten Doyle with “Write a story from the perspective of someone just entering or just about to leave earth (or life).”

This has also been linked up with this week’s Yeah, Write Challenge.

46 thoughts on “Home, Safe?

  1. That’s so powerful. The boy is so matter of fact, too. “I wish my father would stop hurting me”. That father is sure to report her for her ‘that is nothing’. I just hope her report of abuse gets more attention than his does.

  2. Extremely well written. I have not read Patricia Coldwell’s Cause of Death, but this in itself was great. I liked the ending, though it was sad “I know.” You don’t want adults just saying “I know”.

  3. I like.. Such a natural flow of dialog, such a smooth finish.. the relationship between the boy and the Dr.

  4. There’s just too many parts here that I liked to start listing; you so perfectly put us in her shoes, I was emotionally engaged right through, which I think is what we’re all striving for. That was an excellent response!

  5. Wow! That was an incredible beginning! The characters seemed so real, so complete in and of themselves, that I immediately began to care about them. I want to know what happens!

  6. I don’t think I’ve read it either. No, you don’t want her saying I know. She’s as lost as he is.

  7. I have just found you but I shall return to read more.
    Stories of pain are so hard to read as Jamie says but we do come back to see how things turn out, Thanks for this.

  8. Your characters really drew me in. What happens next? I hope you’ll continue to write this story.

    This line is so evocative: “…the pull of thread through skin reminded her of the way her mother used to lace up a stuffed chicken before tucking it into the oven.”

  9. This was great, Kelly, I loved the common ground that the doctor and the boy found. Such sad common ground though. I loved the “Home is supposed to be safe” line…how heartbreaking.

  10. I actually sympathize with the father’s anger (until the obvious divide!) and don’t think the doctor was appropriate at all. On the other hand, I also sympathize with the doctor’s need to hold in her anger and fumble for words – because I’ve been there! Oh you have me so conflicted! Which means you did a great job. 🙂

  11. I read this last night, late, but wanted to reread it again today and its even better the second time around. I love how you split the lines up throughout the story. I do hope you will do more with this. Your characters are very believable and the horror at her comments was felt. Great writing here, Kelly, as always.

Comments are closed.