Sheep and Deer: A Fable

“Quit pawing the ground like that. It makes you look vulnerable.” Sheep made it his business to coach Deer on how to be less prey-like.

“Looks don’t matter. Pawing prepares me to run,” Deer replied.

“Running means something is chasing you,” Sheep replied, swaying his big head from side to side.

Moral: Beware a wolf in sheep’s clothing.


Photo by Giu Vicente on


The Mourning After

When the executive director of an organization I worked with fell deathly ill and was lying in a coma in a nearby hospital, his associate director asked me what he should do. I was puzzled by this, first, that he would need to ask someone and, second, that he would ask me. I was standing with him in their long conference room with the furniture donated from a local bank and the grimy windows that looked out over an even grimier street. I’d been in that room a hundred times helping with one project or another so I guess I was a trusted person but that didn’t mean I would know what to do.

In the offices down the hall from the conference room and in the warren of rooms downstairs, staff members were seeing clients, people who were homeless or whose utilities had been cut off. Maybe they were being evicted tomorrow or the County was threatening to take their kids. The work there was always urgent and this day was no different. Except that it was. The heartache burned like incense. I could smell it from the street.

“I’m not sure what you should do but I don’t think you go on with your day as if he’s not in the hospital and maybe dying. The people here love him. They have to be really sad.”

He sat down in the worn swivel chair, leaned back and stared at the ceiling. Then he told the story of when his daughter was in the hospital after surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor and how he would look out the window of her room at the people on the street and the cars driving past and wonder how they could all be having a normal day when this terrible thing was happening to his little girl.

I’ve thought about that conversation a lot the past few days. How everyone goes about their business. All these people being shot – not just in Las Vegas but everywhere, everyday – and we barely miss a beat. We were back to ‘fake news’ and the controversy about the Secretary of State calling the President a moron before they were done power-washing the bloodied sidewalks in Las Vegas. I get that. Life goes on. But if I was the mother of a murdered person or a wife or sister, I’d be looking out the window wondering how people could be having a normal day. I’m picking out a casket but the rest of the world has moved on.

My advice was to close the agency for a few hours, call a meeting in the chapel of the hospital, find a pastor, and do some praying. And that’s what he did. I went to the chapel and sat next to a colleague who was holding his head in his hands. People need this, I thought, I need this. We need to see everyone hurting. We need this not to be a normal day; we need it to be an exceptional day, a sad day, and be in that grief and hope wholeheartedly. That’s what tragedy requires.


Photo by Alberto Lucas Pérez on Unsplash

The Bumpy Road to Recovery

Why the heck is he waving at me? My husband was sitting in a chair against the wall, holding his puffy parka and a bundle of newspapers that he’d read to pass the time during my 4-hour cochlear implant surgery. He waved again and smiled weakly. He was always queasy around injury.

“I don’t think she should be going home tonight,” my daughter said to the nurse who had just handed me a vomit tray. My girl is tough so it scared me that she thought my home care might be over her head. I agreed. I should stay and throw up in the professional-looking vomit tray and not go home to our plastic bucket.

“Oh. She’s going home tonight. She’s going home in an hour.” The nurse was yelling. The cochlear implant meant that in a few weeks I’d hear better but right then, I was almost deaf. She removed the IV and slid the stand to the corner where my husband still sat holding his jacket. He’d stopped waving but was still mute.

“Is your bladder full?” shouted the nurse.

“I don’t know,” I answered. I had no idea if my bladder was full. Wasn’t that a medical question? Didn’t they have machines to know all that? More reason for me to stay if I had to be in charge of knowing everything.

There was no more discussion. The nurse and her aide hoisted me to my feet. We traveled to the bathroom, two cops hustling a reluctant criminal to his cell. I’d better just do what they say, I thought.

In the bathroom, the nurse settled me on the toilet. She reached across me and pulled several yards of toilet paper off the roll, handing me a wad as big as a soccer ball. I could read the message in her eyes. Wipe yourself, sister!

When I came out of the bathroom, exhausted and missing my vomit tray, the bed was gone. It seemed planned to me, the whole ‘is your bladder full’ gambit a ruse to get me out of bed so they could snatch it.

In place of the bed was a chair. I sat.

“Do you need help getting dressed?” asked the aide. I nodded, knowing now that resistance was futile. She helped me with my underwear and jeans, handed me my shirt and jacket. She considered replacing my hospital socks with the ones I’d walked in with and decided it wasn’t worth it. She said something, looking down at my feet but it was too soft to hear. She looked up at me and smiled.

“What did she say?” I asked looking to my daughter.

“She said she likes your boots.”


This was my submission to the Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop 2016 contest (very slightly edited). It didn’t win but most of the entries didn’t win so I don’t feel too bad.


Prayer might work. A poultice perhaps. Crushed flax seeds have helped some but I forget their names. A trip to the Grand Canyon to see the abyss in daylight is said to be good preparation. It’s up to you at this point.


Written in response to a Yeah Write micro-story prompt: What did the doctor say? But, alas, written too late in the wrong time zone so not linked up to Yeah Write. Oh well.