'Bad News Discussion' by Nick Fordham
LISP 4th Quarter 2020 Official Selection Flash Fiction, 'Bad News Discussion' by Nick Fordham
Bad News Discussion
I knew from the moment they entered it would be a Bad News Discussion. Despite the fever, steroid-induced haze, and sleep deprivation, I could tell. Dr Sandman held the door -- unusual in itself -- but without his standard vitality, or smile. Then, in trooped the team, all struggling to lift their eyes to mine, except Nurse Sally. The student nurse (whose name was never mentioned) ushered Thomas, my younger brother, out to the playroom. I mean, I might only be a teenager, but give me some credit.
Mum and Dad were too nervous to notice. They knew something was coming: Mum tapped her knees; Dad stared, stoic. Silent. Yet, despite their years and the four previous Bad News Discussions (BDNs as we termed them -- an avoidance technique from Mum), they had not telegraphed the outline of this conversation.
What will they do without me?
Dr Sandman sat his beige chinos on the bed and spoke in his deep, eloquent voice. “So, Lottie. How are you feeling?”
I could have, perhaps should have, told him what I suspected. He continued, however, a normal consultation in appearance only. Everyone awaited the pending test results -- the elephant in my room.
Eventually: “We need to talk about the bone marrow test results.”
Mum gasped. Dad studied the floor. I nodded. I can’t pretend to have been unaffected; my eyes filled.
To his credit, Dr Sandman delivered them well. No bluster. Direct, but kind. I was (selfishly) pleased to see moisture clinging to his eyelashes.
I felt Mum gripping my hand before I heard the sobbing; Dad shifted, perhaps to comfort Mum; I focussed on Dr Sandman. I nodded acceptance, then turned to my parents.
“It’ll be ok Mum,” I said, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze.