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In the Hospital

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Annie woke up with a start. I could hear her gasp in the next room. She seemed to be having a nightmare. Poor thing. Hospital kids like her always had nightmares if they stayed for too long. The soft, even breathing coming from an awkward hospital chair in her room told me that her mother was sleeping still despite Annie’s awakening. Annie had probably wanted some reassurance from her mother, but she seemed reluctant to go over and wake her mother.

I glanced toward a toy bin in the corner. The hospital play room had been closed since seven, and Annie had left her stuffed frog doll in that bin. That’s why I was waiting here. She would eventually come to get it. I want to talk to her one on one.
Annie got out of bed slowly. I heard the creaking of the springs on the hospital bed then the rolling sound of an IV being pulled across the floor. I wasn’t sure if she was still looking for Froggie in the bathroom or if she was actually coming my way. I knew that whatever she did, she would do it alone. Annie had an independent streak, I could tell. People are always surprised by how well I could read them

“Hello?”Apparently, Annie had come to me.

“Hey. How’s it going?” I answer casually, trying not to frighten her. She looked like she might fall over if I breathe too hard. Paper pale skin stretched over a sickly frame that stares at me with deeply bagged black eyes. It’s a wonder she made it to the playroom.

“Who are you?” Annie asked hesitantly.

“I kind of work the night shift here. Are you all right?” I asked. I knew, of course, that she wasn’t; otherwise I wouldn’t be here, but she was swaying a bit too much for my taste. I was surprised she didn’t push at my glossed over excuse for hanging out in a hospital play room at night, but she was only six or seven. Kids are almost too trusting of adults.

“No I’m not I’m in a hospital”

“Oh right,” I chuckled, “You younger ones are so cute.”

Annie approached the small table at which I was sitting, playing Solitaire. “I’m not little I’m six, and I can’t find my frog. Have you seen him?” She stated confidently.

This girl did not mess around. I just looked down at my cards and placed down the four of spades on a pile.

“He’s a toy and his name is Charles.”

“No I haven’t.” I lied. I liked to talk to people sometimes before getting down to business. I especially liked kids. They’re always nice to chat with. “How long have you been in the hospital Annie?” I asked, although I already knew the answer.

“I’ve been here for a while. Where is my frog?” She was stubborn about Froggie, I mean Charles.

“Did the doctors tell you what was wrong?” Another question I knew the answer to, but I tried to see the situation from their point of view. Asking them questions helped me remember they were people, not just a job.

“They said my heart is broken real bad.” Annie answered. Suddenly, she started to talk more about her experience. I had the feeling she had been wishing to say this for a while. “They won’t tell me when I get better but mom cries now when I ask… I’m kind of scared.” Annie’s voice started to break a bit, but she continued, “I don’t like it here. The nurses all don’t like to look at me anymore and there are too many machines and I’m too tired all the time.”

I leaned towards her and placed my hand lightly on her frail shoulders. It was time to get on with my business, I could see that. “You want to leave this hospital don’t you?” Annie nodded mutely in reply, still too choked up too talk. “Do you want to leave and never come back?” I asked, hinting at what I was trying to do.

“I have to find my frog first.” Annie said, nonplussed.

“Of course. I’ll help you.”

“…and tell my mommy.”

“Umm… If you want to go, we need to go fast,” I hated getting others involved. This was kind of a private moment for Annie and me. People shouldn’t have to know of this until it’s their time.

“I just want to say goodbye”

“Okay, really quick then.” I couldn’t deny this kid her dying wish. We searched for her frog Charles, and I let her find him in the toy bin one of the nurses had accidentally put him in. Then I waited in the doorway of her room as she kissed her mother and said goodbye. Thankfully, the mother stayed asleep the whole time, but Annie still felt satisfied with her final words.

I felt like I was rushing her, but her little heart was going fast. The younger ones are so fragile. Secretly though, I wished less kids like Annie would die. They seemed so fiery, yet so easy to put out, like small flickering candles. I wished I could go over there and start whispering in Annie’s mommy’s ear. Saying the same things I had told myself year after year. They are better off this way, really. It’s not goodbye forever, but I held back. This was business.

“I’m ready to go now,” Annie nudged my side. We walked off with Charles the frog in tow. We walked out the hospital doors into the place I called Other. Many people have walked down this path with me. It is never as terrifying as some people have said. Annie was enjoying herself already; she even started to smile as I helped her walk down the pathway.

“I don’t feel so tired anymore.” Annie said.
“That’s good,” I replied.

“I think I can keep going on my own now.” She said, letting go of my hand.

“Sure,” I replied. She continued down the path with her frog, leaving me behind to go back. I always have to go back. I’m never allowed to hang around for the part where people realize this is a happy ending. It’ my job.


The next morning I was back at the hospital, going to an appointment I had with a Mrs. Peterson, an old woman with some nasty kidney failure. I walked past Annie’s old room. I’m still not sure whether or not I did this on purpose. There were was a nurse there, comforting a crying mother over an empty bed. I had to keep moving though, I had to forget Annie for now, even if I wanted to remember her, all the people like her. I was very busy.



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