We continue today with the story behind the story on the 10th and final piece of short fiction from my upcoming collection, Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure. To read previous installments, go here.
COMFORT AND JOY
Backstory: I originally wrote this story over the course of two days in December 2010 and published it in e-book form. It sold for $1, and I donated the net proceeds from those sales to Feed America. Now that it’s part of a larger book — roughly 10 percent of it — I will be donating 10 percent of the net proceeds from sales of Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure to that same organization. Also, an abridged version of this story is scheduled to appear in the Winter 2011 issue of Montana Quarterly.
Here’s an excerpt:
As spring melted toward summer, an answer to that prayer arrived. Life next door to Frank went back to some semblance of what it had been before. The woman went to work and came home. The boy went to school and then, as June rolled around and the summer break took hold, he and his friends often hung around the house, tossing a football in the yard or playing basketball in the driveway. Frank caught snippets of these things through the window. He would watch and sip his coffee, and then he would return to her.
Frank’s other prayer, that Lucy’s pain would subside, was a tougher sell with God. She barely moved some days, and Frank would have to pick her up and carry her to the bathroom. The small act of sitting on the toilet would aggravate the cancer that had metastasized in her bones, and in her agony she could barely make a sound, depleted as her lungs were. Frank would hold her close, careful not to hurt her further, and blink back the tears.
When he found the compression sores, he gave in and called for help from hospice, finally admitting that he couldn’t tend to her alone anymore. The nurses came in, and there wasn’t much they could do, either. They dressed her wounds and tried to make her comfortable.
Lucy died in the early hours of a Wednesday in late July. Nobody left flowers in her yard.
Trivia: In this story, I managed to work in some details about one of my heroes, a retired NASA engineer named John Aaron. If you saw the movie Apollo 13 — and if you didn’t, please rectify this oversight immediately — you saw Aaron portrayed by Loren Dean.
Take a look (Dean, as Aaron, shows up around the 6:30 mark of this clip):
Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure will be officially released on Dec. 6, 2011.