There were twelve beds in the hospital ward today; tomorrow there will be eleven.

My right-hand bedmate was instantly conciliatory to the hospital staff: “Of course you are overburdened,” she said, her voice dripping with compassion, “and there is at least one person here who is creating his own disease, just for attention. At least one,” she said and shut up, her hands placed saintly on the top bed sheet.

“Is that me? Is that who you mean?” This came from the end of the row against the wall, at the end of the line. “I have been dragged about by life—do you think you can be dragged all over the place without being wounded? That life doesn’t wound you? That life doesn’t kill you? There’s no worse thing than that. I ask you,” he said, pointing to the nurse with her cart of medications. “Do you have a cure for life?”

“Oh, we all get cured of that eventually,” the nurse said, largely ignoring him and moving on. “I want to watch you take that, now,” she said severely to the skinny man past the conciliatory woman, who took it glumly and popped it in but didn’t swallow. “It could be you on that bed tomorrow, dearie. Is that what you want?”

He swallowed hastily and she put a tick on the chart on her clipboard.

Read the full story in MMR Anthology 2011.


Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in anthologies and in dozens of literary and speculative publications from Alaska Quarterly Review and Fantasy Magazine to Weird Tales. She has published two novels and a short story collection, and has won an O. Henry award. Her latest novel, Journey to Bom Goody, concerns strange doings in the Amazon. She lives in New York City with her dog, Booker Prize, and cat, Pulitzer. Learn more about Karen Heuler at Moon Milk Review’s
Author Talk.

Karen Heuler
Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 100 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Conjunctions to Clarkesworld to Weird Tales, as well as a number of Best Of anthologies. She has received an O. Henry award, been a finalist for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction (twice), and a bunch of other near-misses. She has published four novels and three story collections, and in July Aqueduct Press released her novella, In Search of Lost Time, about a woman who can steal time.