PERSONAL BAGGAGE
A Tale of Marriage, Medicine and Murder

Penny

This is a list of how often and where the term 'Penny' appears in the book PERSONAL BAGGAGE.


Search result for 'Penny' in PERSONAL BAGGAGE

Chapter 1: Chapter One
"...At the sound of Penny’s alto voice, the fluffy feline looked up. Under usual circumstances, a small droplet of moisture rested at one corner of the animal’s mouth, but happiness accelerated her salivation rate and she had drooled from both corners until the two strands converged in the middle forming a Y. Disrupting ..."
12.
"... “I need to ask you something,” she called. Penny climbed out of the hammock, sauntered down her driveway, and crossed Oakwood Street, where heat waves rose from the pavement into air thick with the watermelon fragrance of freshly mown grass. Misty spoke in a tone Jackie Kennedy might ..."
"...Long past the puppy stage, Penny’s dog Zac seized any opportunity to swipe the neighbors’ papers. He dug up flower beds with joyous barking and pilfered trophies from all over town: a cell phone which rang incessantly, several hats from a baseball cap to a bonnet, and innumerable shoes from the porch of their ..."
18.
"... fact, until his masculinity was removed, he had distributed his DNA all over town. Penny attempted to imagine her neighbor in black lace undies. “I’m sorry. I really try to keep him out of your yard.” Misty acknowledged the apology with a wave of her hand, collected mail from her ..."
20.
"... lace undies. “I’m sorry. I really try to keep him out of your yard.” Misty acknowledged the apology with a wave of her hand, collected mail from her box, and smiled at Penny. “How are things with you?” Avoiding a direct reply, Penny shifted her gaze to the mailbox. “Did you ..."
22.
"... at Penny. “How are things with you?” Avoiding a direct reply, Penny shifted her gaze to the mailbox. “Did you see in the paper that the county has sold River Park Hospital to the corporation that built Jacksonville Medical Center?” “No, but I know many hospitals are ..."
"...Penny faced her neighbor. “I’m changing jobs: I am going to work full-time at the Jacksonville hospital.” She paused, afraid her friend would disapprove. Jacksonville Medical Center, a new 300-bed hospital, was 75 miles northeast of the town of Dixiana. Penny would begin her new job ..."
27.
"... Misty nodded and Penny continued. “Three twelve-hour night shifts or thirty-six hours a week will qualify me for full-time benefits, and I can still work day shift in Dixiana every other Saturday and Sunday on the Baylor Plan, which pays time and a half for each hour of weekend work.” ..."
29.
"... More than a profession for Penny Pewitt, RN, nursing was her avocation yet something was missing. Neither nursing, with its multiplicity of demands, nor the animals her children, Tom, Dick, and Harriet, had abandoned to her care filled the emptiness they had left behind. Tears stung ..."
30.
"... Tears stung Penny’s eyes. Her steps in deciding had been littered with second thoughts, but Misty agreed with her. Recently named Dixiana’s Citizen of the Year, Misty managed the Garden Club and ­organized pilgrimage house tours for the entire town. God knew Misty understood business! ..."
"...Her decision validated, Penny looked both ways before stepping into the street. A shiny black car was slowly approaching from the left, allowing her ample time to cross, but after she had taken a few steps, the vehicle accelerated, its motor roaring as it surged forward. Startled, Penny raced for her ..."
"...Unnerved, Penny felt every heartbeat like someone was kicking her in the chest again and again. Had the driver tried to run her down? It was lucky that both she and Zac had escaped injury! She sprinted over her lawn while Zac scampered ahead of her. His ..."
"...Entering the house from the garage, Penny undressed in the laundry room and tossed her muddy yard clothes into the washer. Yesterday’s rain had made the weeding job messy. She envisioned her immaculate, stylishly-dressed mother. As a child and even later, Penny had thought that when she grew up, she would live in ..."
35.
"... the kitchen, where she snatched up the receiver and plopped into a chair. She braced her elbows on the table. “Hello?” Penny, something bad has happened here!” The urgent sound of her sister Faye’s voice sent Penny’s blood racing. “Reva phoned from Westview to tell me Dad ..."
36.
"... a chair. She braced her elbows on the table. “Hello?” “Penny, something bad has happened here!” The urgent sound of her sister Faye’s voice sent Penny’s blood racing. “Reva phoned from Westview to tell me Dad knocked her down and yelled at her, that he’d call the police if ..."
"...“Oh great!” Penny stood up, barely able to listen to what might come next. Her mother’s mental status had declined at an alarming rate since coronary by-pass surgery two months ago, and her father, a retired Presbyterian minister, was unable to manage his home. Reva Ryder was their most recent ..."
40.
"... Dad was doing to Mom, and when she interfered he told her to get out. Then he pushed her and she fell.” After a pause Penny’s voice quavered, “So...what happened next?” “Well, I assured Reva that we know she did her best and that she’s a wonderful person and I apologized for ..."
44.
"... mean. So I have just now come back to my office.” Penny pictured Faye’s office in the Charleston Chamber of Commerce building, the soft folds of her sister’s skirt swinging as she paced. “Faye, did you leave them alone?” “Well...Mom was in bed and Dad seemed calm. I’ve got ..."
"...Penny had assumed that when the need arose she would be the one who would take care of her parents in the same way in which her mother had cared for her grandparents, but it had turned out that she and her husband, Johnny, a high school coach and history ..."
"...Penny, torn between obligations at work and her parents’ needs, walked barefoot through her kitchen, across the den, and down the hall to the bathroom. She was standing in the shower running hot water on her head when Faye called again. Grabbing a towel, she scurried to the ..."
50.
"... Let’s hope she’ll start on Monday.” Later that afternoon, Penny was slicing Roma tomatoes with a steak knife when Johnny arrived. Her husband crowded their small kitchen like a boulder, exuding an earthy odor of dirt and grass. His deep voice filled the quiet house. “Sorry ..."
52.
"... and grass. His deep voice filled the quiet house. “Sorry I’m late. What have you been up to?” Penny wanted to keep supper conversation away from her new job. “I made tuna salad.” “Sounds good. Just give me a minute.” While Johnny shaved, showered, and dressed for an ..."
"...While Johnny shaved, showered, and dressed for an Investment Club meeting, Penny, who was worried about passing Jacksonville Hospital’s qualification tests for RNs, worked on a practice sheet of drug calculations at the kitchen table. For some reason, math was harder for her than it used to be, and it had been a while since she had grappled with problems ..."
"...“Did you finish?” Penny asked, not listening to his reply. Johnny knew Mr. Puckett, the hospital’s administrator, better than she did. Her husband could say something chummy to anybody, and he knew everybody because he volunteered for everything; he volunteered out of sheer habit! He was a serial do-gooder who ..."
"...to know their names and who their relatives were, but also he wanted to help them. He said he must repay the debt he owed his stepfather, a gentle man who had been his “Pop” since Johnny was ten years old. Before they married, Johnny had told Penny about his father’s illness, the agonizing six weeks before leukemia killed him, and the lost little boy he became at the age of seven. ..."
59.
"... weeks before leukemia killed him, and the lost little boy he became at the age of seven. “And hickory dickory dock,” Johnny said. Penny looked at him. “You’re not listening. Why did you ask me if you didn’t want to know? You don’t give a flip about what I do.” Penny felt ..."
61.
"... not listening. Why did you ask me if you didn’t want to know? You don’t give a flip about what I do.” Penny felt hollow in her abdomen. What he said was partly true. Getting up from the table, Johnny stood at the refrigerator with his glass of iced tea. He looked like he was ..."
"...Getting up from the table, Johnny stood at the refrigerator with his glass of iced tea. He looked like he was puzzled about something, and the solution was written on the linoleum. “I thought you liked sports when I married you.” He glanced at Penny with an amused smile. “We went to the football games and you came to all my baseball and basketball games. You know?” ..."
64.
"... we were dating then. I loved you, not sports.” Johnny settled into his chair and stared at her with alligator eyes, his mouth a tight seam. He started to speak, but Penny needed to make her point before she forgot what it was. “You came to my choral performances, and I didn’t ..."
67.
"... out when you didn’t come to our boys’ games...” Penny interrupted. “But when the boys played you were always there and I was at work or washing or cleaning. I guess you remember that none of our children helped around the house.” She closed her eyes, lowered her head, and pinched her ..."
"...To a certain extent, Penny had enjoyed her children more when they were young: so cuddly, cute, and so eager to learn. As they grew older and after she became a nurse, their needs multiplied in the dark. Penny had once believed that if she tried hard enough she could be a ..."
"...Penny ran cold fingers through her faded-blond hair, inhaled, gripped the edge of the table, and shifted in her chair. Her bare toe touched his shoe, and she jerked her foot back as though it had been burned. She felt so upset she couldn’t sit while Johnny explained ..."
"...agree that when a relationship fell apart there should be a sign to show that something life-changing had happened—not like this: just keeping on keeping on. Even lovemaking, which her mother described as “your privilege to do something for your husband,” had become just another chore before Penny could sleep. ..."
"...After cleaning up the kitchen, Penny fed Callie and Zac and retired to her room. She needed rest to be at her best the next day, but her thoughts returned to the week during which she had agonized over whether to apply for the job in Jacksonville. She had asked Johnny’s opinion, since ..."
"...Penny’s uncertainties swarmed in. She must have been crazy to think she could work in Jacksonville! It took all her energy just to make it from one day to the next, and yet she was vegetating in Dixiana. At the big hospital, she would learn to manage ..."
"...her major which failed to prepare her for the working world. The realization that she had to work outside their home came upon her like a locomotive: a tiny speck in the distance which became larger and larger until, with a deafening roar when Harriet was only four, Penny had left her crying at day-care and returned to college. ..."
"...Although starting work with an Associate Degree in nursing bore no resemblance to the experiences of her childhood literary heroine, Cherry Ames, Penny stuck with it because there was no other choice: they had no money for music lessons, no money for braces, no money for clothes. On Johnny’s salary, their family of five had met the ­requirements for reduced prices on school lunches. ..."
"...Determined to make a good first impression, Penny selected her outfit carefully: black slacks, a silky gray blouse, and her new Bass flats. With her clothes laid out and the room tidied, she propped up in bed and scribbled a letter describing Zac’s panty theft to her parents. They enjoyed receiving mail, and Penny made ..."
83.
"... muddled by little black cars zooming back and forth as she drifted toward sleep. On that August evening, Penny had no idea that she would soon be swept into a realm of greed, intrigue, and, ultimately, murder. ..."

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Chapter 2: Chapter Two
0.
"... weekends, starting tomorrow. Awakened by soft music from her Bose clock/radio, Penny shut off the alarm and dressed quietly to avoid disturbing Johnny, who slept in another bedroom. Because of her work schedule, they had stopped sleeping together years ago. Each time Penny looked at her ..."
"...Each time Penny looked at her reflection she hoped to find herself improved, her features suddenly beautiful, but as she adjusted the makeup mirror and painted yellow coverup over her under-eye shadows, the same odd eyes frowned at her: one brown, the other one blue. She parted her shoulder-length hair at ..."
6.
"... the kitchen. Summer daylight usually arrived by six, but this morning the sky appeared overcast, and it seemed earlier. Penny positioned herself at the kitchen table so that her view through two large windows took in the patio, the backyard, and a wooded area behind the house. She drank the ..."
10.
"... up into his face. “You’re determined to do this!” Penny gazed into her lap and shook her head. “I didn’t just decide overnight. I asked for advice, but you wouldn’t help.” Her husky voice was unsteady and defensive. He corrected her. “Couldn’t help—you always do ..."
14.
"... to do it!” Penny raised a hand, palm to chest, to meet the rush of emotion against his accusing words. She had spent her life trying to do the right thing. Now, with years of striving for perfection behind her, she was a taut E-string, tuned too high and ready to snap. She rinsed her ..."
"...Penny changed the subject because the discussion was futile. As a child she had listened to her father’s mockery of the stupid things people said and had learned to critique her thoughts and to weed out comments he would deem less than “worthwhile.” As a result, she listened ..."
"...Once Johnny started telling something he took a while to wind down. He recounted details of his meeting, gesturing with arms made muscular by years of throwing baseballs. His movements gave the impression of controlled strength. Penny inspected his un-parted hair tousled from sleep, his heavy overnight growth of beard, the permanent indentation in his square chin, and the happy dimples that came and went in his cheeks. ..."
"...But at this early hour, Penny met only five cars before rolling onto the interstate and setting her cruise control for the trip to Jacksonville. She drove well, ordinarily constraining her speed to the legal limit, but morning commuters pulled her along at a pace outside her comfort zone. She held her car ..."
"...As she approached the city, Penny worried about taking the wrong exit and losing her way, although she had traveled this route many times with Johnny at the wheel. Beside the interstate, Jacksonville Medical Center’s billboard advising EXPECT EXCELLENCE was a welcome sight. She flicked on her blinker and slowed as she turned ..."
"...It was only a short distance to Recovery Road. Suddenly energized, Penny turned and accelerated into the hospital lane. Surging forward, her Chevette whomped over the first speed breaker and rebounded before hitting the second one with another jarring thud. Clenching her jaw and jamming down the brake pedal, she slowed the car enough to bounce over the third ..."
33.
"... rear of the hospital and entered the ­employees’ parking area. Walking on wobbly legs across the pavement, Penny breathed the city’s dense air, its molecules weighted with apprehension and buzzing with anticipation and hope. Inside the employees’ entrance a message board directed her to ..."
"...Inside the employees’ entrance a message board directed her to the right along a hall to the hospital’s classroom, where a stack of selected policies adorned each desk. Her mind in a frenzy, Penny read and reread the words, trying to remember everything. She studied a long form with carbon copies which were to be passed along to several departments. Of course! Reporting a questionable event to more than one person made sense. That would work better than the ..."
36.
"... would ever learn about it. It had been years since Penny had taken a pass/fail exam. Working her drug calculations with a shaky hand, she held her breath at the beginning of each question and let it go with a sigh when she figured out how to set up the equation. Next, CPR was a relief. She ..."
38.
"... start again with ABC. After lunch, and after watching demonstrations on operating nursing equipment, Penny joined new employees from other departments to watch a video analyzing a hospital fire in which smoke was not controlled and three-fourths of the patients had died. The mood shifted from ..."
"...The mood shifted from tense to jovial as they moved outside and took turns using a bed sheet to smother a fire set on top of a dummy on a stretcher. Next, they were directed into a small building a short distance from the emergency entrance. Penny stretched to her full five-feet, nine-inches and palmed the ceiling while she watched a fireman ignite a barrel filled with papers. Along with the others, she lowered herself to the floor and crawled outside to experience breathing beneath the smoke. ..."
41.
"... fire. Before starting home, Penny stopped at the hospital grill for lemonade and a sandwich, and a platinum blond she recognized from the fire in-service sat down beside her at the counter. Her brown bloodshot eyes were rimmed with black eyeliner, which had smudged down her cheeks. ..."
42.
"... eyes were rimmed with black eyeliner, which had smudged down her cheeks. Attempting diplomacy, Penny said, “Today was a strain, wasn’t it?” The young woman’s badge read: Kerri Kenyon, Housekeeping. Kerri concentrated her big racoon eyes on Penny. “Are you new here, ..."
43.
"... said, “Today was a strain, wasn’t it?” The young woman’s badge read: Kerri Kenyon, Housekeeping. Kerri concentrated her big racoon eyes on Penny. “Are you new here, too?” “I was in orientation with you this afternoon.” Penny pointed to her own badge. “I’ll be working ..."
44.
"... concentrated her big racoon eyes on Penny. “Are you new here, too?” “I was in orientation with you this afternoon.” Penny pointed to her own badge. “I’ll be working in Nursing Service. Where do you start?” “In laundry. Beside the elevator in the basement.” Kerri’s chin ..."
46.
"... think I’ll ever suggest anything again?” Dumfounded, Penny arranged her face in what she hoped was an expression conveying sympathy while she wolfed down her sandwich and excused herself, exhausted by the effort of being cheerful and polite. Strolling through the parking lot toward her ..."
48.
"... “I hope that someday you will be as sweet and beautiful as your mother.” Penny had tried to emulate her mother but she was a poor copy. Sweetness and beauty took a back seat to the daily crises of her life. The trip back to Dixiana was effortless. She passed a car whose driver was ..."
"...The trip back to Dixiana was effortless. She passed a car whose driver was tapping the steering wheel and singing along with music Penny could not hear. She turned on her own radio as Michael Bolton screamed “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Changing to the FM band, she located a Vivaldi concerto broadcasting good cheer. ..."
"...golden rod and Queen Ann’s lace lined the roadway, and across the interstate in the top of a dead tree, a hawk balanced on a branch that looked too fragile to support its weight. It appeared to be watching traffic, its profile black against a buttermilk sky. Penny remembered reading that hawks’ eyes had five times as many cones as the human eye, making it possible for them to see a sharper image and to distinguish shades of color. Johnny, on the other hand, was nearsighted and color blind; he could tell true, clear colors but ..."
53.
"... had originally occupied the whole block. Penny turned into her own driveway as the sun set behind puffy pink clouds. She could see that Johnny’s light blue Mercury Marquis was missing and remembered that he had gone to a Summer League baseball game. The unmistakable odor of snake defecation ..."
54.
"... a Summer League baseball game. The unmistakable odor of snake defecation hung in the sultry air and assaulted Penny as she entered the garage. When her son Dick had married and moved to his own home, he left his glass aquarium in a bedroom at the end of the hall. Hence, every month, in order to ..."
"...Hence, every month, in order to feed the gopher snake until Dick found a buyer, Penny purchased two large mice and placed them in the tank. Ordinarily, the reptile ate right away, but at times when he shed his skin, it might be several days or even a week before he became hungry. While his eyes glazed over and he lay motionless on ..."
57.
"... When the aquarium was finally clean, Penny aired out her house. She released Zac from his pen for a brief back-yard romp in the fading light, and watched as dusk deepened and darkness moved forward through the trees and spilled unevenly across the yard, leaving patches of light. ..."
"...Presently, Penny dined in the den on graham crackers spread with peanut butter and washed down with vodka-spiked orange juice. She curled up on the couch, purchased with Johnny’s investment gains, and tuned her television to the Jacksonville news station and her favorite TV personality, Elijah Storm, who was wearing ..."
62.
"... from this station for the last time.” Penny watched Dr. Storm’s entire broadcast. She would miss his smiling face, his crinkly, blue eyes, and his thick, shining hair. His reports had been part of her life but, like Penny, he was moving on. Later, running water as hot as she could ..."
65.
"... him from his father’s insurance. Thinking about finances upset Penny’s nerves. She didn’t understand the risks Johnny took playing the stock market, but since she had never understood their financial position, she trusted him to take care of their money. Setting her alarm, she looked ..."
"...who had been her friend for the past ten years. Maureen had cleaned and cooked for a doctor’s household through high school and after graduation had worked as an aide in the now-demolished old City Hospital while studying to become a licensed practical nurse. She had taught Penny the fine points of nursing procedures and of surviving in the profession. The Director of Nursing for Dixiana’s ­fifty-bed River Park Hospital had agreed to schedule Maureen to work each of Penny’s weekends, starting tomorrow. ..."

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Chapter 3: Chapter Three
"...In a fraction of a second, Penny passed from a dream world surrounded by blazing fire to wide-awake, gasping at air that seemed stiff with smoke. Sensing someone standing beside her bed, she peered into the darkness and fumbled with the lamp switch, trembling like a patient with escalating temperature. Squinting her eyes against ..."
"...hits! Their best pitcher was tipping off what he was about to throw so at the last possible instant I let my batter know what was coming. He made hitting look easy—I think he’s the smartest kid I’ve ever coached!” Johnny, still recapping the game, joined Penny at the table. ..."
"...Mirroring his enthusiasm, Johnny’s hazel eyes sparkled with green flecks, reminding Penny of the loving looks he used to give her and his intimate, simmering gazes that had seduced her. Now, when he did look at her, his eyes were cold. She excused herself to brush her teeth and to apply lipstick. ..."
15.
"... wouldn’t tangle. “You look nice.” Her eyes downcast, she smiled. “I hope you have a good day,” she said, pulling the kitchen door closed behind her. To Penny’s way of thinking, what Johnny meant was, “You usually look bad.” Enroute to meet Maureen, the musical phrase ..."
"...Enroute to meet Maureen, the musical phrase that plagued Penny increased its tempo, making her conscious of her fingers, playing the notes on the steering wheel as if it were a keyboard. She raised the radio’s volume until Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” filled the car and she could feel the thump of the bass in her chest. ..."
"...The Dixiana hospital appeared, a sprawling fortress shrouded in mist. Penny circled behind it, continuing to the end of the parking area because of a recent regulation requiring that employees park on the back row of the lot in order to leave the closer spaces for visitors. She pulled in just as Maureen Martin was getting out of her ..."
26.
"... were framed by caramel skin and Bible-black hair straightened into a pageboy style that never moved out of place. Penny grinned. “So you predict weather from bugs.” “It’s true! If I say a chicken’s dipping snuff, you’ll find the tin under his wing.” Laughing, they ..."
"...Penny breathed disinfectant-laced air as she surveyed her home-away-from-home, which appeared smaller than it actually was because of its flowery wallpaper. The room contained eight beds separated by green curtains and arranged around a central desk, above which monitor screens traced the electrical activity of CCU patients’ hearts as ..."
32.
"... used as an entrance by doctors, each of whom had a key. In the tiny nurses’ lounge, lanky Penny and short, stocky Maureen dug through stacks of puke-green scrub uniforms for their sizes, suited up, and sipped hot coffee while they waited. Eager as babysitters to relinquish their charges when ..."
34.
"... tired nurses hurried out the door, headed for home and bed. Penny stepped to the desk to make sure the alarm on each monitor was activated. “It would be nice if we had a tech to watch the screens and take care of desk work.” “We’ll do all right as long as those alarms stay on,” ..."
"...“I’m counting on you to tell me if you notice anything I should tell a doctor.” Penny said this because Maureen, at times, seemed hesitant to overstep her role as LPN when Penny was the RN in charge, and yet Maureen’s years of experience and keen eyes often picked up information Penny missed. “I’ll start assessing up here and meet you in the back.” ..."
37.
"... the back.” Penny began with a black woman who had been admitted the day before with an allergic reaction: wheezing, her eyes swollen shut, and her lips huge. “I’m going to turn you over so I can listen to your back. Please take a deep breath and let it out, Mrs. Brown.” “Yeow! ..."
"...“I’m sorry.” Penny apologized and signaled Maureen for help, observing Mrs. Brown’s heart pattern on the monitor screen above the bed until Maureen arrived to stand across from her. They turned the patient back and forth, maneuvering the waterproof pad, which had wrinkled into a lump, back to its proper position ..."
"...With the assessments completed, Penny moved from bed to bed, raising each patient to a sitting position and passing out warm wash cloths and clean towels. The dietitian brought the breakfast cart and Maureen positioned over-bed tables and distributed food trays, removing lids, opening milk cartons, and offering assistance. Penny rolled the ..."
"...Brenda Bumbalough, housekeeper, was currently assigned to South and to the Unit. With dyed-brown hair and a constant frown, she vacuumed when people were talking and brought down dust from light fixtures and monitors onto the patient’s beds. Penny brushed a powdery film off the desk and made an effort to smile at Brenda through the mote-filled air. ..."
"...Maureen had learned young to get along with “white folks” and had taught Penny to grumble behind the backs of irritating people but to smile sweetly to their faces. Maureen could scowl and mouth silent words behind a cursing patient’s back, then deliver “Bless your heart” in a honeyed tone. A champion heart blesser, Maureen tailored the phrase to the occasion. ..."
"...Jiggling coins in his pocket, he appeared more interested in the monitor patterns than in what Penny was telling him about the IV. “All right,” he conceded. “I’ll write the order and you can move him to the hall.” He swaggered to the bed and addressed his patient. “Didn’t I say I’d make you well if you’d trust me? I’ve kept ..."
"...After examining his patient, Scales sat at the desk, pulled out the bottom drawer, and rested his foot on it. His black, size-twelve shoe reflected light like a mirror. He was good-looking in a patent-leather sort of way, but his lemon-colored hair reminded Penny of a cut worm, the shiny, cream-colored killer of crops. While her father had worked his garden, it had been her childhood job to pick these pests from the soil and to smash them. ..."
"...It had only been a month since Dr. Scales, with Penny assisting, stuck an actively-bleeding GI patient twenty-seven times trying to get a subclavian IV established when the nurses had been unable to start a peripheral IV. Scales used all four subclavian kits they stocked in the Unit, and there was blood everywhere when Penny called the supervisor for ..."
52.
"... that Dr. Scales receive training in subclavian insertion. Turning from his patient’s chart, Dr. Scales regarded Penny with tan, unfriendly eyes and lifted his lips into a curt grin as he dropped his foot to the floor and stood up. Penny questioned her distaste for him: she couldn’t ..."
53.
"... lips into a curt grin as he dropped his foot to the floor and stood up. Penny questioned her distaste for him: she couldn’t remember the names of most of her patients but he even knew his patient’s tobacco preference! The fog lifted and sun shone through the windows suffusing the room with ..."
55.
"... and he had pushed to have Dr. Scales’s hospital privileges revoked. Dr. Ghent selected the charts of his two patients from the rack, then watched the door close behind Scales. “How’s it going with him, Penny?” “Fine this morning, but I never know when he’s going to explode about ..."
"...“The lab drew her blood at eight, Dr. Ghent. Night shift thought you meant to let her sleep and not wake her at five o’clock when they usually come to stick our patients. I’ll go get the results for you; they should be done by now.” Penny started toward the door just as a young man in black-rimmed glasses and a lab jacket pushed it open and paused, casting an anxious glance around the Unit. ..."
59.
"... and a lab jacket pushed it open and paused, casting an anxious glance around the Unit. The man was new on staff, and Penny had not met him. She waved and stepped around the desk, introducing herself. He bounded forward to hand her the report. “Buck Dalton,” he said, giving her hand a ..."
61.
"... black hair which tumbled back down over his glasses, then he turned and retreated out the door. Reaching over Dr. Ghent’s shoulder, Penny inserted the lab sheet into its proper place in the chart. “He’s a new duck,” the doctor said, flipping the chart pages back and forth between lab ..."
63.
"... back in his chair to visit with the nurses. Penny related a happening with one of his patients, a seventy-three-year-old woman who was almost completely blind and heard only out of her left ear, and then only when her hearing aid was turned up. “You can’t get her attention without ..."
67.
"... retired Navy nurse, a lieutenant commander...could probably teach us all a thing or two.” Penny and Maureen looked down when Dr. Ghent stumbled. He was not wearing socks and his shoes didn’t match. “You were in a hurry, Dr. Willie.” Maureen pointed to his feet. He pulled up a pants ..."
"...Penny delivered carbon copies of the new orders to the pharmacy department and transcribed the changes the doctors ordered onto the Medication Administration Record on which meds were checked off as they were given. She then copied the meds and the treatments onto the Kardex, from which Report would ..."
"...Maureen moved from bed to bed straightening the covers and asking the patients if they needed anything. She leaned over Penny and ran the second print-outs from each of the telemetry monitors. “It’s time for visitors and it’s my turn to post these strips at South Station, unless you need to escape.” ..."
"...Penny looked up with a sigh. “I’m okay, go on out and leave the hall door open. I’ll survive fifteen minutes of interrogation.” Curiously enough, some visitors would peek under the covers and ask a poor, sick patient if he were cold or in pain or thirsty ..."
"...of alcohol and ancient sweat, a combination which Maureen said, “would gag a maggot.” When his wife had been so swollen, he had threatened to kill the nurses if she died, but upon discovering his wife’s eyes open and her lips back to their normal size, he shook Penny’s hand and laughed. ..."
"...After visitors and before lunch the nurses reassessed their patients, looking for changes. Penny began with one of Dr. Lawrence’s two patients, a thirty-six-year-old male named Darryl Dodson, admitted with chest pain to rule out heart attack. As she approached his bed, a sudden dread squeezed her throat and her heart shifted. His skin color was ashen. His monitor pattern ..."
"...“I’m going to increase your oxygen so you can breathe easier.” The patient was receiving oxygen at two liters by nasal cannula, so she turned his flow meter up to five and called Maureen. Penny’s voice sounded louder than she had intended and Maureen was at her side immediately, looking down at the man’s bluish-tinged nail beds along with her. ..."
"...When Penny was new to the Unit, Maureen had counseled her to calm down. “Don’t get excited until I do–-I’ll tell you when.” This time, with her stethoscope against the young man’s back, Maureen confirmed what Penny had heard with wide eyes and bared teeth and Maureen remained at ..."
83.
"... By phone, Penny described the patient’s condition to Dr. Lawrence and received orders for a STAT electrocardiogram, arterial blood gasses, and a portable chest X-ray. As she replaced the receiver, one of Respiratory’s summer-student helpers arrived to answer Penny’s page. “Where ..."
84.
"... summer-student helpers arrived to answer Penny’s page. “Where is Mr. Hall?” Penny said. “We need a Respiratory Therapist now! Go find him! Never mind, I’ll page him. Bring us the EKG Machine as fast as you can.” The teenager fled. When Penny returned to Darryl Dodson’s ..."
87.
"... as you can.” The teenager fled. When Penny returned to Darryl Dodson’s bedside, Maureen had raised him to a sitting position and placed pillows under his arms. “If you’re okay here, I’ll go back and finish what I started,” Maureen said. Hansel Hall, Director of Respiratory ..."
"...Hansel Hall, Director of Respiratory Therapy, jogged into the Unit and glanced at Penny, then at Dodson. He set out his syringe and swabbed and palpated for a radial artery while Penny introduced him and explained to the patient that Dr. Lawrence needed to know exactly how much oxygen his blood was carrying so he would know how much more he should ..."
"...As Mr. Hall finished, Penny checked her watch and pressed a ­cotton ball firmly against the artery, holding it for five minutes to ­prevent bleeding. It had only been ten minutes since she had called Dr. Lawrence, so she was surprised when the doctor entered by the back door at the same time ..."
90.
"... the hall. Dr. Lawrence listened to his patient’s chest, then moved to the desk, allowing the X-ray technician and the student Respiratory Tech to do their jobs. The doctor dialed a number and Penny overheard him make arrangements to transfer Dodson to a cardiologist in Jacksonville. Dr. ..."
92.
"... “What’s going on in here? Do you-all need some help?” We’re going to need a chart copied to send with a transfer,” Penny said. “It would be a big help if you’d come back in a few minutes and copy it for us.” Dr. Lawrence joined them. “I want him to go to Jacksonville ..."
94.
"... Penny called Life Flight and notified Ambulance Service while Maureen gathered Dodson’s belongings. Desperate to catch up on her charting, Penny documented the sequence of events, realizing with a start as she noted the time that it had been forty minutes since Dr. Lawrence arrived. In ..."
96.
"... won’t have to work extra.” The roar of the helicopter filled the Unit, and the noise became deafening when Penny opened the back door to watch bent-over medical transport nurses in black jump-suits run toward her from beneath the still-rotating blades. Dr. Lawrence strode into the Unit ..."
97.
"... blades. Dr. Lawrence strode into the Unit from the hall and motioned the helicopter personnel into the nurses’ lounge while Penny and Maureen adjusted Dodson’s pillows and his portable oxygen and the EMTs collected his personal belongings and the copied chart. Coming out of the ..."
98.
"... the copied chart. Coming out of the lounge, Dr. Lawrence gave Darryl Dodson a thumbs-up and a reassuring grin. “Let’s get this show on the road!” He ushered the procession to the back door, then stood in the doorway with Penny, watching the red and white bird lift away. The excitement ..."
99.
"... in the doorway with Penny, watching the red and white bird lift away. The excitement over, Penny and Maureen collected lunch trays, which Maureen had served in the midst of the crisis, and Dr. Lawrence checked on Mrs. Brown. When Dr. Frank Lawrence examined a patient he expected the nurse to ..."
"...He made rounds after lunch so that results from tests he had ordered the day before would be completed and in his charts. However, one X-ray report was missing. He sighed and ripped open an alcohol swab to decontaminate his stethoscope while Penny phoned the radiologist to retrieve the results. Alarms from the telemetry monitors and the ringing telephone pushed him over the edge and he jumped up, slamming the metal chart down on the desk. ..."
104.
"... bad morning, and this is too much! Call the results to my office when you get them.” After the outside door banged shut, Penny turned to Maureen. “Of course we, on the other hand, had a lovely lunch.” “Bless his heart,” Maureen said. “Well, let’s find something to eat and catch ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
0.
"... would be Sunday and another day with Maureen. Penny leaned against the desk as she washed down her last bite of peanut butter cracker with orange juice. “It feels good to rest a minute.... You’d think somebody would notice we missed lunch.” “You got to look out for yourself, ..."
"...Sixty-year-old Maureen worked accurately at a speed Penny could not match. She helped Dr. Scales’s tobacco-chewing patient into a wheelchair, loaded up his belongings, and rolled him out to a room on South Hall. Following Maureen’s example, Penny opened the door for visitors and called the X-ray results to Dr. Lawrence, who ordered his patient ..."
"...Maureen set a cup of fresh coffee on the desk in front of Penny and pulled up a chair. “We can handle whatever they throw in here, you know it? We tore through that like tornadoes in a trailer park! Now. Tell me about JMC—you like it?” Maureen listened to Penny’s description of her day at orientation, the ..."
9.
"... to go back to sleep.” “Probably a spirit.” Responding to Penny’s dubious expression, Maureen continued. “Old City Hospital was haunted, built on an Indian burial ground–-didn’t I tell you about that? Strange things were all the time happening.” “Like what?” “I ..."
15.
"... with the heating—like some rooms turned cold for no reason. Everybody knew the spirit had done it.” Penny snickered, thinking Maureen was teasing. “But you never saw it.” “I didn’t want to see him! Plenty of folks saw him: six-foot-tall, walking backwards all over the ..."
21.
"... lacked the equipment to run them. Penny took afternoon vital signs and rechecked the two remaining patients, then returned to the desk where the new lab tech looked more pathetic than a mourner at a funeral. “Has this place got you down already?” Buck was perched on the desk leaning ..."
"...Buck was perched on the desk leaning forward, his shoulders slumped and his limp arms supported on his knees. He gave Penny a brief sideways glance from under bushy, half-moon eyebrows, then shifted his gaze to the ceiling. “It’s basically...my wife’s pregnant and my hospital insurance won’t cover her because I haven’t been here long enough.” ..."
25.
"... been here long enough.” It surprised Penny that this young man she knew only by name was so frank. His square face had a shadow of dark beard down both cheeks and onto his neck, where it converged into curly black hairs sticking up from under his tee shirt. “Maybe you could sign up for ..."
26.
"... from under his tee shirt. “Maybe you could sign up for overtime or work at one of the doctor’s offices until you catch up.” Penny watched him massage the back of his neck. He removed his glasses and rubbed his forehead. “Do you have a headache?” she asked. “My head feels like ..."
27.
"... she asked. “My head feels like it’s full of cotton and my heart’s real weak.” He yawned so wide that Penny could see his molars. “I didn’t sleep last night, as far as that goes. Not at all.” He watched Penny take a bottle of pills from the medicine cart. She shook out two ..."
"...At the bedside Penny patted the woman’s leg, pressed the hearing aid into her hand, then raised the head of the bed and positioned the over-bed table. She explained where the food was located on her tray: fruit salad at ten o’clock, iced tea at two, and on the dinner plate: fish ..."
34.
"... but it was beautiful at night when the lights reflected in the water.” It occurred to Penny that this woman knew about things she would never experience. “PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT IT, Mrs., I mean, Lieutenant Commander.” “You said your name is Penny, didn’t you? I wish you’d call me ..."
35.
"... never experience. “PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT IT, Mrs., I mean, Lieutenant Commander.” “You said your name is Penny, didn’t you? I wish you’d call me Sylvia. I was that other person a long time ago.” Penny placed a hand on her patient’s arm, impressed that someone who couldn’t see ..."
36.
"... I was that other person a long time ago.” Penny placed a hand on her patient’s arm, impressed that someone who couldn’t see her badge remembered her name. “SYLVIA, IF YOU FEEL LIKE IT, PLEASE TELL WHAT IT WAS TO BE A NAVY NURSE.” The woman’s voice took on a conspiratorial ..."
"...always like you’d think. Once I was stationed at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands where the Commander was a fan of horse racing. He saw to it that we got our pay in time to bet the horses on Sundays.” She laughed, then turned toward Penny with a distant expression. “I was at one of those horse races when some fancy-dressed woman with a cigarette holder in one hand and a drink in the other said, ‘Oh my dear, I hear they’ve bombed Pearl Harbor.’ I had no idea where Pearl Harbor was ..."
38.
"... where Pearl Harbor was then.” Sylvia stopped talking and Penny placed the fork in her hand. “WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO SWEETEN YOUR TEA?” The patient shook her head and Penny prompted her to continue. “WHERE WAS THE WORST PLACE YOU WERE STATIONED?” Sylvia scooped up some potatoes and ..."
41.
"... to different places.... There was plenty of it, anyway.” “I CAN PUT SOME KETCHUP ON THE FISH IF YOU WANT.” “That would be good, Penny. Am I keeping you from your work?” “NO MA’AM, THERE’S NOTHING I NEED TO DO RIGHT NOW.” Penny squeezed ketchup on the fish and loaded the ..."
42.
"... FISH IF YOU WANT.” “That would be good, Penny. Am I keeping you from your work?” “NO MA’AM, THERE’S NOTHING I NEED TO DO RIGHT NOW.” Penny squeezed ketchup on the fish and loaded the fork. “I was married but nobody knew it. The Navy didn’t allow nurses to marry so we did ..."
47.
"... giggled like a school girl. “Both, if I can.” Later, her shift almost over, Penny completed her charting as the hall door crashed open and a wheelchair carrying a pale woman in street clothes sped in with Maureen behind, pushing hard. “Dr. Ghent dismissed her this morning and they ..."
"...With Maureen there as backup, Penny had grown accustomed to starting IVs in tense situations. In this case, she set it up quickly, cleaned her site, entered the vein, and Maureen returned, holding out torn-off pieces of tape for Penny to use in securing the device to the patient’s damp, bone-white skin. ..."
"...woman in Critical Care. She was still short of breath after they had raised the head of her bed to a forty-five-degree angle. Her vital signs were within normal limits, but neither nurse could hear breath sounds on the front or back of her right chest. Penny started oxygen and called for Respiratory Therapy while Maureen gathered the equipment needed for emergency chest tube insertion. ..."
"...what the nurses said and placed his stethoscope against the patient’s right lung fields. He ordered a STAT portable chest X-ray and arterial blood gasses. By this time the woman seemed comfortable, even embarrassed at all the fuss. While the diagnostic procedures were carried out, Penny gave Report to the two night-shift nurses who were drinking coffee, waiting to take over. ..."
55.
"... Penny gave Report to the two night-shift nurses who were drinking coffee, waiting to take over. Walking toward the time clock, Penny said, “We gave new meaning to the term STAT, didn’t we?” “Yep. We hopped on that like cross-eyed crickets.” Penny continued. “In Jacksonville they ..."
57.
"... that like cross-eyed crickets.” Penny continued. “In Jacksonville they require STAT and NOW orders to be done within fifteen minutes but ASAP orders can take whatever is a reasonable amount of time. I always thought ASAP meant within thirty minutes.” “ASAP means As Sweetly As ..."
"...Exhilarated by her professional performance and by the companionship and security she enjoyed in her relationship with Maureen, Penny arrived home and turned the Chevette into her driveway. Behind the house, lightning bugs spun circles in the darkening trees and signaled to one another through foliage so dense that only here and there could she glimpse pieces of colored sky. As she opened her back door, ..."
"...Johnny had set the table and piled up a plate with KFC to accompany cartons of slaw and mashed potatoes. Penny gave him a thank-you kiss before going to the bathroom, where the mirror above her sink revealed dark shadows had reappeared under her eyes. She returned to the kitchen area of their long den as Johnny poured tea into two glasses filled with ice. ..."
63.
"... glasses filled with ice. “Welcome home. How was the day?” “It went fast.” Penny sat down at her place and began devouring a thigh. “This food is wonderful. How’d your day go?” She mumbled with her mouth full. Johnny joined her at the table. “Well, this morning I worked ..."
"...Penny gobbled while her husband talked. She nodded and smiled and shook her head at appropriate times. She contemplated the large painting she and Johnny had struggled to buy when they had no money for frivolous things. It was an impressionist rendering of a red house on ..."
69.
"... low census. “Well, Maureen and I caught the problem fast, and Dr. Lawrence sent the guy for emergency surgery. Everybody helped; South even copied the chart for us.” Exhaustion overwhelmed Penny and she leaned down, slumped out of her chair, and stretched out on the floor. “Are you ..."
73.
"... feel you have too much to do and you’re too tired to live?” Anger surged into Penny’s stomach and she sat up. “I learned reflecting techniques in Counseling 101! I’m telling you how I feel! How do you feel?” “How do I feel? Man, well, I feel sorry you’re so ..."
77.
"... I think sleep is overrated. I’m too busy just trying to do whatever I have to do next to be a navel gazer.” Penny struggled to her feet. “So you think I’m a navel gazer!” “I like your navel.” Johnny stood beside her, stretching his arm toward her jeans’ zipper. Penny stepped ..."
79.
"... like your navel.” Johnny stood beside her, stretching his arm toward her jeans’ zipper. Penny stepped back, her hands raised to keep him away. “But you think I dwell on how I feel.” “I think you feel unhappy, and I feel pretty helpless to do anything about it.” Johnny ..."
"...When their youngest child left home, Penny had asked Johnny to stop some of his activities so that they would have time for each other. When asking didn’t work, she wrote a letter to him explaining how she felt. After reading it, Johnny said he loved her, but he was doing the best he ..."
"...That was when Penny had stopped trying. There was nothing she could do to make Johnny love her: if she worked more and brought home more money, he wouldn’t care; if she cooked fancy meals and dressed up every day, it still wouldn’t change how he looked at her with those apathetic ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
"...Finding Mr. Harris’s bed stripped was no surprise when Penny entered Dixiana’s CCU on Sunday morning. Dr. Ghent had told the Harris family a week ago that the old man would not regain consciousness and had recommended moving him to a nursing home, but the Harrises had refused to have him transferred. ..."
2.
"... nursing home, but the Harrises had refused to have him transferred. Arriving behind Penny, Maureen checked out the Unit. “You know what this means, don’t you? I’ll get pulled to somewhere I have no business going!” Penny grimaced. “It makes me tired to work outside the Unit; I ..."
3.
"... this means, don’t you? I’ll get pulled to somewhere I have no business going!” Penny grimaced. “It makes me tired to work outside the Unit; I have to walk more and it’s hard to find what I need.” “You aren’t the one who’ll have to leave! I should be used to it, but it gets ..."
9.
"... keep a low profile whoever’s supervising won’t notice we’re down to two patients.” In the nurses’ lounge, Penny and Maureen stared at the bulletin board, on which the new rule was displayed: CCU STAFFING POLICY UPDATE. EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY. UNIT SCHEDULING WILL CONTINUE AS BEFORE ..."
15.
"... looks like the better we do this job, the less business we have.” From the doctor’s disheveled appearance, Penny guessed that he had been through a rough night. “Did you have to come in to pronounce Mr. Harris?” “The ER Doc did it. We’ve got rent-a-docs back there twenty-four ..."
"...“The ER Doc did it. We’ve got rent-a-docs back there twenty-four hours a day now, but I suppose you’re too busy learning about Jacksonville to keep up with the big things going on in our little town.” He bestowed a fatherly pat on Penny’s shoulder, then wrote an order to move Sylvia to the hall, and ordered a portable chest X-ray for Caroline Chumley, the patient he had readmitted yesterday and who last night had had a chest tube inserted to re-inflate her lung. ..."
"...Maureen bathed Sylvia and wheeled her to the floor while Penny combined a bath and linen change with her assessment of Mrs. Chumley. Penny collected Sylvia’s meds and her chart in preparation for going out to give Report to South when Maureen returned, since both nurses could not be out of the Unit at the same time. ..."
"...When Penny re-entered CCU from South, Maureen and Dr. Ghent were in grim-faced discussion. Maureen summarized their conversation. “Brenda said the linen-truck driver told her Dr. Wiseman died Thursday night, and one of the ambulance drivers told Dr. Ghent it was from an accident at the Jacksonville Hospital.” ..."
22.
"... accident at the Jacksonville Hospital.” Heat rushed to Penny’s face as her heart plunged to her Reebocks. Dr. Vera Wilhelm Wiseman had been Director of Critical Care before she moved her practice to Jacksonville and Dr. Ghent took over CCU. Dr. Wiseman had spilled her brilliance all ..."
"...Dr. Wiseman had spilled her brilliance all around, and had brought their hospital up to date with new policies and new equipment. Penny admired the fierce way in which the woman had stood up to Dixiana’s older physicians when any one of them, having fixed on an idea, became as unwielding as a slab of marble. Moreover, Dr. Wiseman had offered Penny a job in her new office in Jacksonville. ..."
25.
"... Dr. Wiseman had offered Penny a job in her new office in Jacksonville. “Had you heard about this?” Dr. Ghent asked. Both he and Maureen looked at Penny as though they expected her to know all about it. Penny refocused her mind. “I’m new up there; no one told me.” “Well, ..."
27.
"... Dr. Ghent asked. Both he and Maureen looked at Penny as though they expected her to know all about it. Penny refocused her mind. “I’m new up there; no one told me.” “Well, keep your ears open,” Dr. Ghent said. “Get all the details. I’m taking my wife to visit her ..."
"...Maureen’s husband, Carl, had died almost a year ago, and Penny usually avoided talking about her own husband. “I don’t think Johnny really cares; he’s busy all the time.... Tonight he’s got a committee meeting for Investment Club–-he’s the one who buys and sells stocks and keeps the club records. He’s been working for the park commission ..."
36.
"... is then.” “My grandson says your husband’s been helping him extra with his throw.” Penny remembered that Maureen’s grandson played second base. “Johnny’s proud of his infield players.” “And... What did he say?” Maureen doted on her grandson. “I don’t ..."
40.
"... “I guess Johnny would say it’s because I’m too busy thinking about myself. We had an argument about that last night, anyway.” What Penny didn’t say was that for her, the techniques involved in playing baseball were about as interesting a topic as un-labored respiration. “But ..."
"...Maureen laid down the telemetry strip she was interpreting and looked at Penny. “You know you’re pretty, don’t you? I’m giving you a compliment–-all you need to say is thank you.... And I’ll tell you something else: I used to think you were stuck up because you don’t talk much.” Maureen nodded her head. “Now I know ..."
44.
"... nodded her head. “Now I know it’s because you’re backward.” Penny pressed her lips together and frowned. To her, backward screamed retarded. She checked Maureen’s expression to see if this was a criticism. “Backward means shy,” Maureen added. “Anyway, what I mean is you ..."
46.
"... all that makeup looks pasty-like up close. You’re more sparkly without all that stuff.” Folding her arms tightly across her chest, Penny asked, “Did you and Carl ever quarrel?” “Just when I had to jerk him straight about something. The best advice I heard, I got from my ..."
"...jerk him straight about something. The best advice I heard, I got from my mama: Fight Naked. It always worked with Carl and me. Then afterwards, he filled up my church, and I received his offering.” Raising her chin, Maureen looked down her nose at Penny. “Aretha Franklin,” she said. ..."
"...Penny propped open the hall door and apologized to their patient’s husband who had been waiting so long. When he asked if his wife could sit in a chair beside the bed, Penny showed him how to help manage the tubes and wires, and they settled her into a ..."
51.
"... an MVA about thirty minutes ago.” Penny considered her situation: Dr. Scales’s handwriting was so poor that even the pharmacist had trouble reading it. She would have to figure out his orders, process them, and take care of the patient by herself. The phone rang again and the ER nurse ..."
53.
"... orders, process them, and take care of the patient by herself. The phone rang again and the ER nurse gave Report. Penny said, “Why didn’t you send her to Jacksonville?” “Because Dr. Scales told the family we can take care of her here.” The nurse added a sarcastic sniff. Penny ..."
55.
"... family we can take care of her here.” The nurse added a sarcastic sniff. Penny paged the supervisor overhead. She needed to get her chest-tube patient back to bed, and she would need help with a new admission. The supervisor called, and Penny explained her predicament. “ER’s sending ..."
56.
"... new admission. The supervisor called, and Penny explained her predicament. “ER’s sending me a patient who should probably have gone to Jacksonville. ER usually just stabilizes head injuries and transfers them to a neuro unit where they can monitor inter-cranial pressure.” “If the ..."
"...Wearing a small bandage on her forehead, the patient entered the Unit in a wheelchair pushed by an ER tech and trailed by a short, wiry man and his two teenaged children. The man, whose face was a mustache, insisted on remaining at his wife’s bedside, but Penny finally persuaded him to wait in the hall until she completed her assessment. He herded his offspring, a gangly boy wearing a denim shirt with the sleeves cut away at the shoulders and a plump girl with severe acne, out to the waiting room. ..."
"...Connecting the over-bed monitor, Penny observed her patient’s heart pattern: a little fast but with only a few irregular beats. Her blood pressure, temperature, and respirations were normal. She was oriented to time and place and obeyed instructions to grip Penny’s hands and pushed with the balls of both her feet against ..."
61.
"... too sleepy to have just been in a car wreck. Dr. Scales entered the Unit through the back door, glanced at Penny and at his patient, then strolled to the desk. From Penny’s point of view, he resembled a garden worm looking for flowers to kill. Penny followed him out of the patient’s ..."
62.
"... Penny’s point of view, he resembled a garden worm looking for flowers to kill. Penny followed him out of the patient’s hearing and lowered her voice to relate her observations of pupil reaction and drowsiness. “I saw her in ER.” The doctor, brazen as a lion tamer, waved a hand to ..."
63.
"... and drowsiness. “I saw her in ER.” The doctor, brazen as a lion tamer, waved a hand to dismiss Penny’s fears, drawing her attention to his gold ring inset with four large, sparkling diamonds. “Here’s my beeper number. Call me if you have any problems.” Scales opened the hall ..."
"...Dr. Ghent’s chest-tube patient was asleep in the recliner, her ­partially-eaten lunch tray in front of her. Penny called the desk at South to ask that someone come help her to put the woman back into bed. In a few minutes, a nursing tech arrived and agreed to stay and take Mrs. Chumley’s vital signs so Penny could return to the new patient. ..."
"...Dale Spoonhouse was asleep with her happy family around the bed. Penny asked them to return to the waiting room. The woman woke up when Penny called her name and cooperated with the neurocheck, although she seemed weak and held onto Penny’s hands after she had been instructed to release her grip. Still, she did let go or maybe ..."
67.
"... not observed this before. Penny experienced a sudden rush as fright attacked her nerve endings because she knew that clinical assessment did not always reflect increasing inter-cranial pressure until it was dangerously elevated and compromised cerebral blood flow. It had been thirty minutes ..."
68.
"... dangerously elevated and compromised cerebral blood flow. It had been thirty minutes since Dr. Scales left, and Penny dialed his beeper number, punching in the Unit number at the tone. In three minutes the doctor returned her call. “What do you want, Mrs. Pewitt?” “Your patient’s ..."
72.
"... you want, but don’t worry so much.” Dr. Scales ended the conversation. Penny wrote a phone order for Tylenol and woke Mrs. Spoonhouse, who swallowed the pills easily and remained on her back with her eyes closed. Penny decided to call Dr. Ghent, since he was in charge of the Unit, but she ..."
"...Penny decided to call Dr. Ghent, since he was in charge of the Unit, but she remembered that Dr. Graham was covering his patients. She found Dr. Graham’s number on the call list taped above the phone. Old, tired Dr. Graham always had a joke to tell and ..."
74.
"... but he made a quick exit if a patient wanted to ask questions about his or her illness. With Dr. Graham on the line, Penny described the patient’s symptoms, including her own fear that they were worsening. “It’s not nice to criticize the doctors, Mrs. Pewitt. I’m only on call for Dr. ..."
76.
"... only on call for Dr. Ghent’s patients so this is none of my business.... Just do the best you can.” It had been ten minutes since she talked to Dr. Scales. Penny beeped him again. “Yes, Mrs. Pewitt.” His tone was condescending. Penny could feel her throat tightening into her ..."
79.
"... His tone was condescending. Penny could feel her throat tightening into her chest. “Dr. Scales, I gave Mrs. Spoonhouse the Tylenol and she swallowed it without any problem, but she can’t stay awake even a minute. I think she needs to be evaluated further.” “I told you that patient is ..."
81.
"... that patient is all right! You do your job and I’ll do mine: I’m the doctor here!” “Well Dr. Scales”—Penny heard her own voice waver–-“I’m giving you my nursing opinion that she’s...” “Thank you, Mrs. Pewitt.” He cut her off with exaggerated appreciation. Knocked ..."
83.
"... appreciation. Knocked off-balance like a tree with shallow roots in a windstorm, Penny phoned each station in the hospital to avoid overhead paging, which might alarm Mrs. Spoonhouse’s family. Finally, she located the supervisor on Obstetrics and explained the situation. “Okay. Get ..."
85.
"... the doctor and tell him again.” Knowing that he would be furious, Penny dialed his beeper numbers with cold fingers, punched in the Unit numbers and waited, her heart racing. Four minutes ticked by before the phone rang and she picked up the receiver. “HOW MANY TIMES ARE YOU GOING TO ..."
"...The supervisor notified ambulance service and carried the chart to South’s copier while Penny telephoned Report to the Jacksonville Neurology Unit. Maureen woke the patient, pulled the privacy curtain, and helped her onto a bed-pan. Dr. Scales ushered the family into the Unit, and they waited outside the hanging screen until she had finished voiding. Mr. Spoonhouse, his eyes dark ..."
93.
"... a while, anyway. God’s taking care of your mother; your job is to get up there in one piece.” Penny helped transfer Mrs. Spoonhouse to the ambulance stretcher and gave Report to the paramedic. Maureen was working on the stack of telemetry rhythm strips, interpreting them in preparation for ..."
"...Maureen was working on the stack of telemetry rhythm strips, interpreting them in preparation for taping them onto sheets in the charts at South Station, when Penny slumped into the chair beside her and began to sort through Mrs. Spoonhouse’s dismantled chart, looking for the nurses’ notes. “What do you suppose Dr. Scales told that family?” ..."
97.
"... mind. Just thank your lucky stars you got her out of here.” I guess this is another thing I’ll have to write up.” Penny described to Maureen the multiple-copy incident reports she had learned to fill out in Jacksonville. “We could use those here! Yes Ma’am, you’re chopping in ..."
101.
"... high cotton up at JMC.” As they crossed the parking lot together, Maureen said, “You can expect a late frost this year.” “Worms or bugs?” Penny asked. “I heard a katydid last night: frost will be in ninety days, ‘round about the middle of November, I’m thinking.” Penny ..."
103.
"... November, I’m thinking.” Penny unlocked her car and waved to Maureen. “I’ll depend on you to tell me when the time comes to stock up on spray cans of Frost Off. See you in two weeks.” She could feel Maureen thinking, “If the Creeks don’t rise.” Tchaikovsky’s “Song ..."
104.
"... She could feel Maureen thinking, “If the Creeks don’t rise.” Tchaikovsky’s “Song Without Words” from Jacksonville Public Radio helped to patch up Penny’s peace of mind during her short drive home. ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
"...Penny rubbed her eyes and stretched out beneath the covers. Outside her window, the sun was already high in the sky. She remembered yesterday’s run-in with Dr. Scales and experienced such an awakening that she could not imagine she would ever sleep again. She stood beside the ..."
"...She pulled on shorts and running shoes, untangled Zac’s leash, and walked out through the garage to his pen. Zac jumped up ready to go, then sat panting while Penny stretched her legs. Starting this late there shouldn’t be much traffic since most of the neighbors were already at work. Zac ran in front, straining his leash to go faster. At the end of the driveway, they turned left toward the corner, then climbed the hill ..."
6.
"... Reaching the top, heart pounding, sucking air, Penny realized that she had been counting every step. Was something wrong with her mind? Nobody cared how many steps it took to get up the hill, and her brain played that infernal tune over, and over, and over...like an obsession! At the ..."
"...Her return run seemed shorter. As she stopped at the end of her driveway to collect the mail, Penny accidentally dropped the leash, and Zac picked up the hand loop with his teeth. He trotted through the yard and jumped up, panting frantically, to sit beside Penny on the bench at the edge of the woods. The air was so muggy that breathing was an achievement. ..."
12.
"... recognize what was important. On her way to the shower, she phoned Dixiana CCU. A monitor alarm was ringing in the background when Maureen answered, and the familiar sound comforted Penny. “Hi Maureen. Have you heard anything about Mrs. Spoonhouse?” “Dr. Scales says she’s doing ..."
18.
"... in time—you know.” Doubting her judgement, Penny reconsidered yesterday’s events in the shower, but by the time she put the finishing spray on her hair, she concluded that in a do-over she would still have pushed to send Mrs. Spoonhouse to Jacksonville. She slipped on a new purple ..."
"...At the square, members of the high school band were selling doughnuts to raise money for new uniforms. They had blocked off all four corners around the courthouse, so Penny dutifully bought a box and drove on past CLAWS & PAWS, the veterinarian’s building, smiling at the mandate on Dr. Allen’s sign: WAG YOUR TAIL. ..."
"...In the grocery store, a woman who looked familiar seemed overjoyed to see her. The minute Penny said, “How are you,” she realized her mistake. The person was a former patient who promptly launched into a blow-by-blow description of the latest emergency in her family of sick people. Penny guided her basket out of the walkway and braced herself against a shelf. ..."
26.
"... Finally winding down, the woman scrutinized Penny. “What a pretty shirt.” She leaned forward covering her mouth with her hand as though about to tell a delicious secret. “You know, I’ve been to two funerals where the loved ones were dressed in purple and they just looked so good!” ..."
31.
"... anybody look good. Don’t you?” On Penny’s return trip, cars were backed up around the square while their drivers bought doughnuts. She placed her box on the dashboard and waved to the uniformed teenagers through her closed window as she crept past. Johnny had just arrived home and ..."
32.
"... uniformed teenagers through her closed window as she crept past. Johnny had just arrived home and helped her carry groceries into the kitchen. “That’s a nice shirt,” he said, then looked bewildered when Penny laughed. “I received a compliment from an ex-patient at the store. She ..."
36.
"... make money for something.” Suddenly they were both laughing, rekindling ashes of the intimacy Penny had once felt with her husband, but she had been in the relationship long enough to know that loneliness was a silent shadow waiting just around the next corner. Over lunch Penny said, ..."
38.
"... know that loneliness was a silent shadow waiting just around the next corner. Over lunch Penny said, “Sunday at work, Maureen and Dr. Ghent told me Dr. Wiseman died in an accident at the Jacksonville hospital.” “She was younger than we are! What happened? When did she die?” “They ..."
42.
"... it.” “I picked up a paper on the way home. It should be in there,” Johnny said. Penny cleaned up from lunch and stashed away the new canned goods while Johnny rustled and snapped the local paper. “Here’s her obituary, but I can’t find any write-up about her.” Johnny laid the ..."
"...but I can’t find any write-up about her.” Johnny laid the paper on the table. “I’d better hurry or I’ll be late for my haircut.” In a few minutes he hustled back from the bathroom, smiling. “I like it when you laugh.” He gave Penny a quick kiss, his mind already out the door. “Don’t wait supper for me. You have to get up early and I’ll be late. After practice I’m going to sit in on a meeting at the high school. A guy from one of the big ..."
"...Penny glanced at the The Dixiana Gazette, still open to the obituary. Linden, TN...Wiseman, M.D., Vera W.–Age 52. August 25, 1991. Memorial service 2 p.m. August 31, 1991. Speck Funeral Home, (910)373-2135. That’s all there was in the local paper. Next, she searched ..."
"...Penny’s brother got to the point. “Let me catch you up to date—I’m in Charleston, by the way. Dad flew up to Roanoke at my request last week because an assisted living apartment is available, and I didn’t want to rent it unless he approved. He planned ..."
46.
"... trying to sleep here and manage Mom’s sitters and work.” “Oh David, I’m sorry.” Penny wondered if her brother could detect the guilt in her voice. Her sister, a single parent, had heavy responsibilities at work and at home. Mrs. Nichols required around-the-clock supervision, and only ..."
"...“You’re going to have your turn,” David warned Penny. “We’ve got to move them as soon as possible. We’ll pick out what they need for the apartment and cart it up there, so take at least a week off. Your mission is to accompany them on the plane to Roanoke and your choice is to ..."
49.
"... and your choice is to accept it.” Penny’s mind raced. “I work in Jacksonville tomorrow. I’ll find out when I can be off so we can get a time worked out and order plane tickets. It costs less if you order them two weeks to a month in advance.” “You can forget about waiting a ..."
"...“All right.... I’ll ask for two weeks off in Jacksonville, between my Dixiana weekends. They’ll probably let me have it since I’m still in orientation. I’ll call you when I know. How is Alice?” David’s wife was a social worker. It seemed to Penny that either one of them could unravel any problem and work out a solution. ..."
53.
"... solution. “She’s hanging in there.” After the phone call, Penny tried to imagine how such a mission would go. David had been managing her parents’ finances. He planned to buy their house and to rent it, so most of the decisions would be his. On Tuesday morning, Penny worked in ..."
"...On Tuesday morning, Penny worked in JMC’s Critical Care Unit with a young nurse who sent her to the laboratory for a unit of packed red blood cells. Penny had read Jacksonville hospital’s procedure for this in the policy manual but actually doing it was another matter. Ignoring the elevator, she ..."
56.
"... At the Blood Bank, the odor was a combination of acetone and reagents. Another nurse was checking out blood and Penny waited her turn beneath a bulletin board displaying snapshots of lab employees with their pets. Under each picture were the names of both the animal and its owner. The ..."
57.
"... were the names of both the animal and its owner. The nurse ahead of Penny talked with a white-jacketed lab technician. “I’m telling you that we have orders to type, cross-match, and transfuse two units. No parameters are written.” The tech, whose picture showed her hugging a ..."
"...When it was Penny’s turn, she asked, “Does this happen often?” Penny had never heard of a patient admitted for a blood transfusion who didn’t need it at the Dixiana Hospital. Glancing at the previous entry in the blood ledger, she read that the patient’s physician was Dr. Scales. ..."
"...Penny read aloud the numbers on her patient’s unit of blood, and the lab technician verified them with the paperwork. After they both signed the ledger, Penny climbed the deserted stairway to the third floor. The CCU nurse would watch as she administered the blood so that, if ..."
"...At the bedside in CCU, Penny and the patient’s nurse checked the unconscious woman’s wrist bands against the labels on the blood bag. Jacksonville’s policy was for a nurse to remain in the patient’s room for the first fifteen minutes, so while the blood infused the nurses sat at the bedside watching television. ..."
63.
"... minutes, so while the blood infused the nurses sat at the bedside watching television. Penny said, “The tech in Blood Bank told me Dr. Wiseman changed hospital policy for blood administration.” The young nurse shot a wary glance at Penny. “Yes, now they always check a hematocrit. ..."
64.
"... me Dr. Wiseman changed hospital policy for blood administration.” The young nurse shot a wary glance at Penny. “Yes, now they always check a hematocrit. There was a lot of controversy over it...I guess because of cost.” “Dr. Wiseman was our Critical Care Director in Dixiana last year ..."
65.
"... because of cost.” “Dr. Wiseman was our Critical Care Director in Dixiana last year and she was great. I can’t believe she’s dead; she was so full of life. Do you know how she died?” To fill the awkward silence, Penny added, “Her obituary was in the paper.” The nurse kept her ..."
69.
"... had an accident on the stairs, but that’s all.” Penny’s expression did not betray the depth of her desire for more information, and she struggled to keep her voice casual. “You mean there’s more to it than just an accident?” “Well, rumors...but I want to keep my job. In this ..."
71.
"... After lunch, Penny visited Human Resources, explained her family emergency and received approval for her time off. Next, she located Neurology, where the unit secretary pointed out which nurse was taking care of Dr. Scales’s head-injury patient but would not give a condition report. ..."
72.
"... head-injury patient but would not give a condition report. Penny introduced herself to Mrs. Spoonhouse’s nurse. “I admitted her to CCU in Dixiana and transferred her to you this past Sunday. Please tell me how she’s doing.” “She won’t last much longer; she’s got brain stem ..."
"...It took only a minute for Penny to comprehend that she had been right—dead right! Mrs. Spoonhouse should have been sent straight from the Emergency Room to a neurosurgeon. Maybe she would have died anyway, but Dr. Scales should not have admitted her to Dixiana. Penny had planned to speak to the family ..."
75.
"... Although she continued to help the nurse with whom she had been assigned, Penny’s mind was not focused on the work. She spent her spare minutes either documenting Dr. Scales’s admission and transferral of Mrs. Spoonhouse or dreading her trip to Charleston—moving her parents would be hard. ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
"...After a drought so severe that no amount of watering could revive Penny’s impatiens, rain splashed on the pavement like tiny people dancing in the street. It spilled over into cracks in the parched earth, and the air smelled wet and summery as she drove to the Jacksonville Airport. She stopped beside the long-term parking gate and watched the machine ..."
"...Eventually, Penny boarded her plane. Always before, Johnny had taken her to the airport and picked her up or they had traveled together in the car to Charleston. This was the first time she had tried to go there on her own, and, to Penny’s surprise, everything was working ..."
"...Growing up as the oldest of three children, Penny had enjoyed the tree house and the sandbox where she played with her brother and sister, and the swings and stilts her father had made for them. Those were happy times, but as Penny grew older, the tension increased until her father’s depression became a breathing force. ..."
"...Her mother was busy caring for the family in addition to her duties as a minister’s wife. Parishioners, neighbors, and friends came to Mrs. Nichols for counseling and comfort, but her most challenging task was cheering up her husband. As a child, Penny knew she wanted a husband who stayed happy by himself and whose feelings would not be her responsibility. ..."
"...Three hours later, the pilot turned on the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign, and in window seat 14-A Penny sighed and stretched stiff muscles. After flying above white clouds that humped and dipped in uneven globs over a sea of black-bean soup, they descended through a bumpy, grey mist into a driving rainstorm, soaking the runway and the terminal. ..."
"...At the luggage carousel, Penny watched her red suitcase emerge from the cave and bounce toward her. She reached for the handle and another hand beat her to it, grabbing it away from her. Her brother set the bag down and grinned. David and his wife had rented a car and ..."
"...Petite Alice, her short brown hair shining, smiled and hugged her sister-in-law. David was almost bald, but in Penny’s mind he was still the tall, golden teenager he had been when she left for college. Arthritis made him limp as he stepped around the luggage to hug her. “We beat you by thirty minutes and returned our rental car. Come on! Faye’s waiting for ..."
"...Elizabeth Faye Nichols, Penny and David’s middle sibling, was Public Relations Director for the city. Resembling their mother more than Penny had remembered, Faye smiled and fluttered a hand at them from behind the wheel of her Volvo. Her once-dark hair, now silvery, was dramatized by hoop earrings and a silky ..."
"...Rev. Nichols opened the front door before they knocked. Stooped and balding, his smile appeared forced, and when he hugged Penny she smelled his underarm sweat. At 90, he was overwhelmed with responsibility for his wife, their finances, and this property, and frustrated by caretakers entering his home. ..."
27.
"... go on forever, but its time had run out. David carried in the luggage. “Penny, have you got weights in this suitcase? There’s no way I’m gonna carry this thing up the steps.... You’ll be the one who sleeps down here on the couch.” While Faye and Alice set places at the picnic ..."
"...While Faye and Alice set places at the picnic table on the porch, Penny held her mother’s small cold hand and chattered about Johnny and the children. Instead of thinking what she would say in reply, Mrs. Nichols gave the gift of her undivided attention. Her gaze was on Penny as she smiled and nodded, recognizing the names of her ..."
"...The next day, Alice would drive the Nichols’ car to Roanoke. They loaded it with hang-up clothes, breakable items and paintings, and a suitcase containing the things Penny and her parents would need in Roanoke from Sunday evening until David arrived with the U-Haul truck on Monday. Clothes for the flight to Roanoke were set aside, and they packed the rest into the drawers of furniture selected for the IP apartment. These pieces and the ..."
"...After supper, young friends from next door brought dessert and stayed to visit while David, Alice, Faye, and Penny walked out onto the dock. They sat close together on the bench Rev. Nichols had made, facing west while the setting sun scattered gold, pink, blue and lavender over the water, its glittering surface dimpled by flying insects. On the opposite bank lights were just flickering on. ..."
36.
"... sisters watched, unbelieving, as he produced four chilled Budweisers from a small cooler in the boat shed. “This is good!” Penny said. “Too bad our parents are teetotalers.” David snorted. “Yeah, a drink now and then might have helped Dad—but hey, he’s doing okay! He tells me ..."
38.
"... He tells me more than I want to hear about how sex with Mom gets better every year.” Penny bent forward to see David on the other end of the bench. “I told Mother about blow jobs last summer.” Alice gasped and covered her mouth. David placed both feet on the wooden dock with a thud ..."
41.
"... mouth gaping. Penny shrugged, “She said Daddy didn’t have enough energy to make love. She was worried about him and she asked me, as a nurse, if I had any suggestions, so I mentioned oral sex. She asked me to describe how it’s done, but I didn’t know she’d tried it.” “She’d be ..."
47.
"... his facial expressions, David, but you’re not like him—I was afraid of him when I was little.” Penny sighed. “I thought it was just me. Even now I still do things that set him off.” The pleasant breeze had vanished, replaced by a swarm of gnats. David stood up, rubbing his arms. ..."
50.
"... the air. “I’ll be going along just fine with him and WHAM!” Penny slapped her chest hard. “I say something wrong and the bats zoom in. That’s why I was a skeletal-looking teenager: at home on some days I was too upset to eat, and away from home I was too self-conscious.” Faye ..."
51.
"... too upset to eat, and away from home I was too self-conscious.” Faye jumped up, fluffing her hair. She took her sister’s hand, pulling Penny to her feet. “We’d better get inside fast or we’re gonna itch all night.” David led the way along the dock, up the wooden steps at the bank, ..."
55.
"... wearing pajamas and squinting against the light, opened his bedroom door. “Can I help you with anything?” “No thank you, Daddy,” Penny said. “I’m sorry we woke you.” “It’s pretty late. Try to get some sleep now,” he said. That was Friday. The next morning, Penny took ..."
"...The next morning, Penny took care of her mother as she would any disoriented patient, except her mother was not just any patient and her care was laden with emotion. Penny clipped Mrs. Nichols’s ragged nails, then helped her climb into the footed tub, recalling the other tubs in which her mother ..."
"...Next, Penny placed a large packing box on the kitchen table beside a mound of time-worn items, whose odors crowded the room like shadows. She filled the crate with ten of her father’s sermons, a book written by her mother’s brother, old photographs and newspapers, and some of her own ..."
"...and the nail holes in his hands. Underneath was the declaration: “Christ is the head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” This intimidating picture had spoiled each of the Nichols’ kitchens. Looking at it as a child, Penny had refrained from talking at meals. She felt guilty because every day she broke one if not two or three of God’s commandments. If she admired someone, she envied. If she shopped, she coveted. She stepped on ants and killed bugs, and that commandment neglected ..."
62.
"... Returning to the kitchen, she found her father lacing up his shoes after a nap. She emptied the medicine cabinet, helped him pick out current prescriptions, and then chauffeured him to the island pharmacy for refills. Penny placed the drugs that would be needed for the trip in her handbag. ..."
63.
"... Faye and David were still packing boxes, so Penny improvised supper, and they were eating on the porch when Alice called to let them know she had arrived safely in Roanoke. After the meal, Faye, Penny, and David walked around the bend of the island to watch the moon come up over the marsh. ..."
66.
"... murmured. They continued around the other side of the island, coming back to Westview from the opposite direction. David disappeared into the garage, then caught up with Penny and Faye as they skirted the house to sit again on their father’s bench, their last night on the river. “Would ..."
69.
"... behind the receding tide. Night birds called and a thousand frogs croaked. “I never knew warm beer was so delicious,” Penny said. She felt lightheaded. “Do you think Mother and Daddy have had a good life?” “I always hoped to take Mom to Europe so she could revisit the places she ..."
71.
"... life?” “I always hoped to take Mom to Europe so she could revisit the places she told us about,” Faye said. “But do you think they’ve been happy?” Penny persisted. “I think people are about as happy as they make themselves,” David said. “Dad is happiest fishing and Mom’s ..."
74.
"... look at you two! What happened to your posture?” Penny moaned. “I remember walking around the dining room table with a book on my head, but I don’t remember any instructions about correct posture for drinking beer on a dock.” Faye arched her back and pressed both hands against her ..."
76.
"... seems to take more energy every day.” “You walk perfectly, Faye,” Penny said. “I always walked a tight rope, afraid I would offend somebody.” The pitch of her voice climbed and she closed her eyes. “I was afraid all the time.” “I didn’t try to please them as hard as ..."
81.
"... learned early to say what she wanted to hear.” “Faye and I had already worked them over,” Penny said. “We wore them down so by the time you came along you didn’t have as many rules. I spent Sunday afternoons memorizing scripture.” “In the world, but not of the world,” Faye ..."
"...“Well, I wasn’t suited for it like Jesus was,” Penny said. “And somewhere along the way the rules changed. One summer I came for a visit and David had the entire youth fellowship out here for boating and fishing. ON SUNDAY! Everybody was happy and acting normal and I was shocked to death!” ..."
85.
"... his sisters toward the house. “It wasn’t a question of love,” Penny said. “I couldn’t live up to their expectations. But now that I’ve been through raising children myself, I can see that there would be more complications in a minister’s family.” They entered the house from ..."
86.
"... I can see that there would be more complications in a minister’s family.” They entered the house from the river side where Rev. Nichols was waiting at the door. He asked Penny to come with him to the bathroom. Suddenly, she was a child again, feeling as guilty as she had felt the time he ..."
"...Suddenly, she was a child again, feeling as guilty as she had felt the time he caught her and Faye singing a jazzed-up version of “The Old Rugged Cross” and dancing in the kitchen. Did he know they were drinking beer on his dock? It would be Penny’s fault, of course. She was still the oldest. ..."
90.
"... sure I labeled its box—stay here and I’ll find it.” Penny explained the emergency to David and Faye, and they searched through the ready-to-be-loaded boxes, giggling and reading labels until they located “Medical Equipment.” Too tired to shower, Penny prepared the convertible couch ..."
91.
"... Equipment.” Too tired to shower, Penny prepared the convertible couch and climbed into it before removing her shoes. On the outskirts of sleep, she mused, “I know Mother and Daddy did their best; I know they love me; but I’ve been more myself since I left home.” That was ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
"...On Sunday morning, the air carried the scent of decaying marsh as Penny and David settled their parents in Faye’s Volvo for the drive to the airport. Faye navigated the familiar roads while Rev. Nichols, his arms folded across his chest, sat beside her and glowered out the window. Penny and her mother occupied the back. ..."
"...When they reached the airport, Faye parked in a spot for the handicapped and helped Penny escort Rev. and Mrs. Nichols from the car to the automatic door of the terminal. Penny and Faye pressed on into the terminal ahead of their father, who pushed his wife’s wheelchair. He moved at a turtle’s pace, shuffled to the end of a row of seats, ..."
5.
"... number of passengers is small, it is our policy to downsize the aircraft.” Faye exchanged a despairing look with Penny, whose apprehension turned to alarm. Both Penny and Faye knew that it was too late to reschedule. Faye, wearing tiny, rhinestone-encrusted glasses low on her nose, raised ..."
9.
"... be any stairs!” The long-faced ticket agent made a pained expression as two uniformed airline attendants arrived to push Mrs. Nichols’s wheelchair, and Penny took her father’s arm. He walked as though his connective tissues could barely hold his bones together. Faye watched from ..."
"...Once inside the plane, Penny and her parents were on their own. Unable to stand upright because of the low ceiling, they crept down the narrow aisle, across a long hump in the floor, then over a series of wrinkles in the carpet. Finally, they took their seats: three together across the ..."
"...Digging in her purse, Penny located her father’s bottle of Ativan. She placed a half-tablet under his tongue and encouraged him to relax and breathe deeply while the recorded instruction lecture told them how to use air vents that would not blow air. Rev. and Mrs. Nichols were comfortable with temperature ..."
18.
"... When they landed to change planes in Charlotte, Penny waited until the rest of the passengers had deplaned, then made her way over the wrinkles and the hump to the door and requested help. Attendants appeared with a chair, strapped Mrs. Nichols in, and carried her down to a waiting wheelchair. ..."
"...Compared to the heat outside, the cool temperature of the terminal felt frigid against Penny’s damp clothing and she wrapped her mother’s legs with her sweater. During a forty-five-minute wait, both of her parents complained about the cold, then an announcement was made overhead. The flight for Roanoke would be delayed for three hours due to difficulty with pressure in the cabin. ..."
24.
"... Sustained by a light supper in her brother’s home, Penny helped her mother up the steps to a guest bedroom and unpacked the suitcase. Rev. Nichols joined them and silently accepted his belongings. After a trip to the toilet he climbed into bed and left Penny to undress his wife. In ..."
"...In the bathroom, Penny unbuttoned her mother’s skirt and dropped it and her panties to the floor before seating her on the commode. She lifted Mrs. Nichols’s feet, shoved her skirt and panties aside, then took off her heels, stockings, and garter belt. Penny tried to remove her mother’s jacket but ..."
28.
"... from a tar baby. The light in the tiny room was dim, and with the thermostat on eighty the air was suffocating. Penny’s legs quivered and her back ached. Straightening up, she glimpsed her own reflection in the mirror over the sink and recognized her father’s scowl. “Never mind, ..."
31.
"... beside her silent husband. On the way downstairs, Penny visualized her neat bedroom at home where everything was calm and in order. She detested having to look for anything. Since she had left Dixiana, everything was out of place and every day was more stressful. Entering the kitchen, she ..."
32.
"... everything was out of place and every day was more stressful. Entering the kitchen, she found Alice loading the dishwasher and talking on the telephone. Alice extended the receiver to Penny and fetched a second phone from the den. David was on the line. “I’m at the Holiday Inn outside ..."
34.
"... outside Charlotte, so I should be in Roanoke by midday tomorrow. How was your trip?” Alice directed Penny out the back door to a recliner on the deck and mixed two drinks while Penny talked to her brother. “After I called you, Mother and Daddy wouldn’t eat lunch,” Penny told him. ..."
"...“After I called you, Mother and Daddy wouldn’t eat lunch,” Penny told him. “Daddy said he was sick and most likely would freeze to death. Honestly, David, it felt like the Klondike in that terminal! After we had waited for three hours they announced another delay while the ground crew changed a flat tire on the substitute ..."
39.
"... you realize that what happens next depends on how well Mom does in the morning.” After the phone call, Penny and Alice unwound beneath a star-frosted sky, comforted by a cool breeze and powerful gin and tonic. “Mother’s strong,” Penny said. “She’s tired and confused and in a ..."
40.
"... comforted by a cool breeze and powerful gin and tonic. “Mother’s strong,” Penny said. “She’s tired and confused and in a strange place—I couldn’t get her clothes off. What would we do if she failed the test tomorrow?” Alice sighed, closed her eyes, and gulped down the rest ..."
"...The next morning, after breakfast and before leaving for their appointment, Alice and Penny warned Rev. Nichols that the Nursing Director, Mrs. Coal, would not be amused if he persisted in calling her “Colonel Coal” and her facility “Imperial Prison” and that the other residents were not to be called “inmates.” ..."
49.
"... and assisted me in my work.” “Sir, I am directing these questions to your wife,” Mrs. Coal told him. “He grows flowers and I arrange them,” Penny’s mother said. “Now, take your time Mrs. Nichols. I want you to spell wolf.” Penny’s mother giggled. “W-O-L-F, ..."
51.
"... flowers and I arrange them,” Penny’s mother said. “Now, take your time Mrs. Nichols. I want you to spell wolf.” Penny’s mother giggled. “W-O-L-F, wolf.” “Now spell wolf backward.” Unable to answer, Penny’s mother looked to her husband, and Penny doubted that she could ..."
53.
"... wolf.” Penny’s mother giggled. “W-O-L-F, wolf.” “Now spell wolf backward.” Unable to answer, Penny’s mother looked to her husband, and Penny doubted that she could pass this test herself. Colonel Coal directed her last question to each of Penny’s parents. “Are you happy ..."
55.
"... and Penny doubted that she could pass this test herself. Colonel Coal directed her last question to each of Penny’s parents. “Are you happy about coming to live at Imperial Palace?” She turned first to Mrs. Nichols. “If we can’t live in our own home, I suppose this is a good ..."
60.
"... today.” During lunch, David phoned from the building to which the Nicholses were assigned, so while their parents napped, Penny and Alice drove over to help David unload the truck. Instead of a number, each building in the retirement complex carried the name of a plant. Moving their ..."
"...Moving their belongings up to the fourth floor of the Camellia Building was complicated by the nine-story building’s two elevators which were in constant use. The elevators stopped on every floor, top to bottom, and on each Penny, David, and Alice were greeted by elderly figures leaning on walkers and canes. They had to capture an elevator, get rid of its passengers, take it to the basement loading dock, and turn it off with the key provided for incoming residents. ..."
63.
"... the key provided for incoming residents. Returning alone to check on her parents, Penny found her mother hobbling around upstairs and her father lying in bed with his eyes closed. She leaned over him. “Daddy, would you like to get up now?” “No!” He bellowed at her, his voice and ..."
65.
"... bellowed at her, his voice and his glare filled with fury. “I can’t get up.” Indignation boiled in Penny’s mind. Her mother could have fallen on the stairs while he lay there thinking only of himself! Frightened by the lifetime accumulation of anger raging within her, Penny was unable ..."
"...Frightened by the lifetime accumulation of anger raging within her, Penny was unable to make herself comfort her father. She helped her mother down the steps and into a recliner on the sunlit deck, wrapped her in a blanket, and turned the pages of a House Beautiful magazine while Mrs. Nichols smiled, pointed, and made eye contact with her ..."
"...When Alice and David arrived with carry-out for a late supper, David tried to console his sobbing dad, who refused to eat. After supper Alice volunteered for bedtime care and Penny, driving David’s car, followed the truck back to IP and helped him set up twin beds and fill the closets. Then they returned the truck to a U-Haul dealer. ..."
69.
"... Then they returned the truck to a U-Haul dealer. So that David could drive his car home, Penny slid from behind the wheel over to the passenger seat and said, “I thought Daddy believed all those things he preached. Just look at him now!” David rolled his eyes and exhaled through his nose. ..."
72.
"... do you think your soul is still intact somewhere?” “How should I know, Penny? I feel like I’m drinking out of a fire hose. I’m so tired I don’t think I can make it through tomorrow—it’s like God has fast-forwarded the world.” “Yeah, you could be right. I remember long ..."
"...David parked the car in front of his house. Turning toward Penny, he laid his arm along the seat behind her shoulders. “I read an article about time perception. It said that older people have the distorted feeling that time passes faster because we don’t do as many new things as we did when we were young. First- ..."
75.
"... made more memorable memories so that the early period of our lives just seemed to take longer.” Penny kissed his cheek. “This week has been memorable enough to slow down my time perception.” As was his custom, Rev. Nichols gave no apology for his tantrum and spoke only when necessary ..."
77.
"... my time perception.” As was his custom, Rev. Nichols gave no apology for his tantrum and spoke only when necessary during the remainder of Penny’s visit, and as she traveled on the airplane back to Jacksonville, her last few days in Roanoke seemed like a blur. However, the scene Sunday ..."
"...before his closet, already emptied of everything except his preaching robe. He stared at it until Faye, in her gypsy skirt and fringed shawl, arrived and helped him into his sweater, then took his arm and they walked out of the house and through the screened porch. Penny watched from a window as they crossed the yard to stand on the river bank, and as they returned to circle the house. ..."
82.
"... me goodbye.” From the back seat, Penny noticed Faye’s bare feet as she stepped into her car to drive them to the airport. David scrambled back into the house to locate his sister’s sandals amid the jumble of boxes, then Faye backed the car out of the driveway. Riding beside her ..."
83.
"... jumble of boxes, then Faye backed the car out of the driveway. Riding beside her mother, Penny looked through the rear window and saw David standing where they had left him, and the friends next door on their porch, still waving. After such an emotionally charged experience, it would have ..."
"...After such an emotionally charged experience, it would have been better if Penny had taken time to rest and regroup, but she was obligated at two hospitals, and at this point she would not have believed the things that were about to happen even if someone had told her. As she drove back into Dixiana, where crepe myrtles were in full ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 9: Chapter Nine
"...More than half of the year had passed; days were growing shorter and hurrying by. Acorns littered the concrete and spun like ball bearings when Penny stepped across them to her car, and as she drove down Oakwood pine needles tumbled beneath her tires. Now that Penny knew the way, the interstate flowed beneath her like a gray river, and her commute to Jacksonville was a time of solace. ..."
"...From Employee Parking, she went into the basement of the hospital through the staff entrance, planning to burn calories by climbing the steps to Oncology on the fourth floor. The elevator and the stairwell were side by side, and as Penny approached, the housekeeper with a commode-seat fixation called her name, beckoning and holding open the elevator door. Penny sneaked a look at Kerri’s name badge before she was enveloped by her arms and her flowery fragrance. ..."
6.
"... she was enveloped by her arms and her flowery fragrance. “Oooo,” Kerri cooed. “You’ve had your hair cut—I love it! Come in here with us, Penny. My boss wants to show me some stuff, then we can ride up together.” Although not an easy hugger, Penny enjoyed the goodwill and ..."
8.
"... up together.” Although not an easy hugger, Penny enjoyed the goodwill and entered the elevator. She watched the tough-looking housekeeping supervisor sway from side to side like a metronome keeping time to inaudible music and wondered if the woman heard music in her head. The elevator ..."
12.
"... Penny restrained the door while Kerri and her boss moved three IV poles, two suction machines, and a vaporizer out of the way, then shoved a cooling-blanket tank onto the lift. Penny pointed to a metal door at the other end of the storage room. “Where does that go?” Kerri ..."
16.
"... that goes out to the maintenance building behind the hospital.” “I’m not very observant,” Penny said. “I’ve never noticed that the elevator opens to this other side on every floor but the basement!” “I doubt if many people know about the elevator room,” the ..."
"...the elevator room,” the supervisor said. After the back of the elevator snapped shut, she depressed the red button, then opened the front door and turned to Kerri. “Carry this machine up to Four Main. I want to check today’s linen delivery while I’m down here.” Penny watched the woman enter a doorway marked LINEN across the basement hallway. ..."
28.
"... When the elevator door opened on the fourth floor, Penny helped roll the large cooling device out into the hall, then waved to Kerri and entered the staff lounge with a renewed sense of self-worth at being part of a medical community where everything was up to date and top of the line. ..."
"...“Hi ya, chick!” Barbara Ruth Tackett, RN, a sun-streaked blond with whom Penny had worked several times, was already dressed, her eyes mirroring Oncology’s distinctive royal-blue scrubs. Barb, who was the age of Penny’s youngest child, laid her newspaper aside and sprang from her chair to give Penny an enthusiastic hug. “I brought you something.” She lifted a small ..."
"...Penny observed in the sink mirror as Barb worked gel into her hair and pulled the strands straight up to stand out from her scalp. In her mind Penny felt young, but comparing the rosy-cheeked woman’s reflection to her own, she could see why Barb said “Yes Ma’am” and ..."
32.
"... can’t fix my hair without it.” Thanking Barb, Penny was again surprised at the reaction her haircut had received. While she was in Roanoke, her sister-in-law had encouraged Penny to let a hair stylist work on her and the result was almost embarrassing. “They were, like, totally slammed ..."
"...Maria was taking vital signs and Penny could hear her joking with patients about “my big black booty.” Afterward, she would prepare the paperwork for tomorrow and manage the desk until 11 p.m. From 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. Oncology usually operated with two RNs, but tonight a nurse, remaining after day shift, ..."
"...After Report, Barb counted narcotics and acquired the keys. Penny checked the crash cart and discharged the defibrillator to be sure it was working properly, then checked on one of her patients who was receiving the second of two units of blood. A small amount remained in the bag, and her IV site looked good. ..."
"...Penny approached the nurses’ area where Dr. Child stood with his back to the elevator, his patient’s chart resting open before him on the counter. He thrust the chart across the counter at Maria and complained, “You mean to tell me you’re infusing the second unit of blood now? ..."
"...Red-faced Dr. Child looked about sixteen years old to Penny. He wore a crisp white jacket, and three gold pens gleamed from his breast pocket. Penny stepped behind the desk and looked over Maria’s shoulder at the order, trying to read the cryptic handwriting: “T @ Xmatch IIV PRBC’s STAT and give IV over 4 hours.” ..."
41.
"... TO KILL MY PATIENT?” Penny intervened, “I’m her nurse tonight. It looks like your order says to give two units of blood IV over four hours STAT. It was started almost four hours ago and the second unit is not quite finished. Do you want me to stop it?” “What does my order ..."
42.
"... almost four hours ago and the second unit is not quite finished. Do you want me to stop it?” “What does my order say?” The baby doctor pointed to the chart, his voice mocking Penny. Maria leaned forward, reading the scribbles. “IV?” she suggested. “One unit! One unit! How ..."
46.
"... got upset because, as she said, nothing at work equaled what she went through at home. Dr. Child shot Maria a withering glance and turned to Penny. “I want you to give her 20 mgs of Lasix IV right now.” Penny said, “Her maintenance IV runs at 75 mls an hour. Do you want me to slow it ..."
47.
"... a withering glance and turned to Penny. “I want you to give her 20 mgs of Lasix IV right now.” Penny said, “Her maintenance IV runs at 75 mls an hour. Do you want me to slow it down?” He looked at Penny as though explaining this to her was useless. “No, I want to dilute her white ..."
48.
"... Do you want me to slow it down?” He looked at Penny as though explaining this to her was useless. “No, I want to dilute her white cells. She has leucocytosis.” He turned back to Maria. “Get me the supervisor. I’ll find out whose fault this is.” At her patient’s bedside, Penny ..."
"...At her patient’s bedside, Penny disconnected the empty blood bag and took vital signs to complete the transfusion sheet. She reconnected the maintenance IV and smiled at her patient. “I’m giving you some Lasix and you will need to pee soon. The bedside commode is here, but call me if you ..."
"...The day-shift nurse completed and signed off orders left from first shift, most of which had been done, but not signed off by an RN. In the medicine room Penny and Barb checked their patients’ MARs against the Kardexes, verified each other’s insulin dosages, and looked up anything they were not sure about. Then each nurse moved among her charges, answering questions and passing meds. By midnight, the patients and their family members were settled for the ..."
53.
"... patients up here! You’d better tell me what happened; I need an incident report.” “Dr. Child’s orders were confusing, and we gave blood to his patient faster than he wanted us to,” Penny said. “He says he only ordered one unit and you gave two. What’s the matter with you ..."
"...you’ll still need to fill out an incident report and clip a copy of this order to it.” He turned to Maria. “I need you to stay a few minutes longer so Barb won’t be alone—they have a hard stick out on Four Main, and I want Penny to do it while I attend to something else.” ..."
55.
"... on Four Main, and I want Penny to do it while I attend to something else.” Penny looked at him, her mouth open. This was the first time, in Jacksonville, that she had been asked to start an IV outside her department. “Word gets around,” Mr. Crouch told her. “You’ll be right ..."
59.
"... asked. The nurse looked at Penny and pointed down the hallway. “Four-twenty. Everything’s in there.” Walking toward the room, Penny heard the nurse speak about another problem. “I’ve notified his doctor and called Security and his family, but we can’t get to him....” In 420, ..."
60.
"... notified his doctor and called Security and his family, but we can’t get to him....” In 420, a black man with thick, flaky skin greeted Penny. “I’m glad they finally sent me the old pro.” To Penny the word “old” seemed louder than the rest of his statement. “Wait ‘til I ..."
61.
"... with thick, flaky skin greeted Penny. “I’m glad they finally sent me the old pro.” To Penny the word “old” seemed louder than the rest of his statement. “Wait ‘til I get it in to be glad.” “You’ll get it.” Penny located a snake-like vein standing up, just asking to be ..."
"...Penny located a snake-like vein standing up, just asking to be stuck, but to her palpating finger it felt as hard as rope, and she could see multiple areas of bruising from previous attempts on both of his lower arms. Above his elbow, she palpated an invisible vein that ..."
65.
"... spongy and entered it on her first try. “Did you get it?” he asked, raising his head to look. “Hold on a minute,” Penny warned. “Let me tape it down. We were lucky this time.” “Not luck. That’s know-how. You can start all my IVs.” Penny thanked him, cleaned up her ..."
67.
"... time.” “Not luck. That’s know-how. You can start all my IVs.” Penny thanked him, cleaned up her mess, and pushed the IV cart out into the hall where she was met by the man’s nurse, who had stopped crying. “What happened over here?” Penny asked her. “I’ll tell you, but ..."
68.
"... up her mess, and pushed the IV cart out into the hall where she was met by the man’s nurse, who had stopped crying. “What happened over here?” Penny asked her. “I’ll tell you, but first I need to hang a piggyback. Why don’t you chart your stick, and then I’ll walk you back ..."
71.
"... Maria had left by the time the nurse from Fourth joined Penny and Barb in Oncology’s lounge, where she painted a vivid account of her horrible night in which everything had gone wrong. “...and then one of my patients, a depressed seventy-year-old man, jumped out of his window.” ..."
75.
"... on the prowl!” Barb nodded. “Awesome.” But Penny frowned and stood up. Her patient’s call bell was ringing and she hurried off to answer. Barb returned to the desk, and the nurse from Fourth headed downstairs. “What is Eye?” Penny asked Barb when 4 a.m. vital ..."
77.
"... off to answer. Barb returned to the desk, and the nurse from Fourth headed downstairs. “What is Eye?” Penny asked Barb when 4 a.m. vital signs were done and they were tabulating intakes and outputs. “This hospital’s built around a section of the old Jacksonville Hospital. It was, ..."
80.
"... if there had been any changes in their patients during the night. “Dr. Child’s patient put out 1000 mls after IV Lasix, and here’s the incident report you wanted,” Penny said. “What about the man who jumped?” “He was dead when security got out there. The hospital ..."
"...Their shift finished, Barb and Penny sat in a corner booth of the almost deserted cafeteria. It was still too early for office personnel to arrive, and the surgeons and their staff were already at work. Only a few family members who had spent the night at a bedside were there at that ..."
85.
"... portraits from which four penetrating brown eyes judged anyone venturing onto the gleaming tile floor of the lobby. Penny nodded. “I can see why you nicknamed it ‘Eye’.” Barb continued, “When we moved to Jacksonville five years ago, I applied for work here and they put me on the ..."
90.
"... believed Dr. Spate didn’t want activity in his building at night.” Penny, remembering Maureen’s story about the old Dixiana hospital, asked, “What about temperature changes? Did the heating system work right?” “You know what? They talked about ‘The Eye Chill’ when Spate was ..."
92.
"... out of that unit and came to Oncology as soon as there was a position open.” “What about now? Do things like that still happen?” Penny leaned forward and listened as if her life depended on hearing every word. “Absolutely. That unit where I worked contains offices now, and Eye First ..."
95.
"... I’ve been to Eye Second and I won’t ever get on that elevator by myself again.” Penny relaxed, finally able to breathe normally. She had not felt sleepy, but fatigue was beginning to invade her body. Barb pulled the long strap of her tote bag onto her shoulder. “Hey, you’ve got to ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
"...Penny sat behind one of many computers connected to a teaching module in a newly decorated basement classroom as Ruth Robertson, Clinical Director and part-time Supervisor at JMC concluded her lecture. “Thank you for your patience. We are among the first hospitals in the country to try this ..."
"...The in-service over, Penny stretched her stiff shoulders and added the handouts to her collection of instructions and examples for the program-in-progress. Three months ago, she had not known the difference between hardware and software, and after this demonstration that was the only information of which she was sure. ..."
4.
"... the only information of which she was sure. Before heading home to lunch, Penny ran up the stairs to Oncology to find no one at the desk and the phone ringing. Breathless, she picked up the receiver. “Oncology Department, Penny speaking.” “My buddy’s real sick. He needs to go to ..."
11.
"... If I don’t get a recliner, I’m takin’ Watt to another hospital.” Penny assured him that all the rooms had recliners. “If you can’t drive, call an ambulance. They will bring both of you to our ER.” Penny replaced the receiver as Ellen, the day-shift unit secretary, returned ..."
13.
"... can’t drive, call an ambulance. They will bring both of you to our ER.” Penny replaced the receiver as Ellen, the day-shift unit secretary, returned to her desk. “Thanks, I was helping them turn Darlina.” Penny gave Ellen a wry smile. “That was Colonel Philpot.” “I know ..."
15.
"... as Ellen, the day-shift unit secretary, returned to her desk. “Thanks, I was helping them turn Darlina.” Penny gave Ellen a wry smile. “That was Colonel Philpot.” “I know him,” Ellen said. “We’ve had his friend a couple of times—Watt Weeks, a real nice man—but ..."
"...Thankful for the afternoon off, Penny cruised home. Crossing the line back into Riverdale County, she opened her window, drew in a deep breath, and felt a difference in the air. High over her car, seven wild ducks flapped in formation. It was the second week of October, and cool. Trees ..."
"...Along Oakwood, her neighbors’ tree trimmings, bright as confetti, awaited pickup at the curb, and in her own driveway the tangy odor of chrysanthemums reached Penny as she stepped from her car, welcomed by Zac’s insane barking and howling. In the garage she discovered that UPS had delivered the box she had packed for herself in Charleston. Leaving it unopened, she ate a cheese sandwich, changed into yard clothes, and released her pet ..."
"...The wind had picked up, and airborne leaves filled the backyard with dancing color; the ground was covered and still they hurried down. Zac exhausted himself chasing squirrels, then rested nearby observing as Penny raked crisp leaves into three large piles. She planned to load them onto a piece of canvas and drag them into the woods before the expected evening rain arrived. ..."
"...Penny sank deep inside herself, oblivious to the beauty around her, consumed with trying to imagine her parents’ life in Imperial Palace. She called them every week but they didn’t talk much—her mother seldom spoke. After all, they had expected to live the rest of their lives together ..."
"...She had finished raking her first pile onto the canvas when Zac jumped to his feet, ran in a circle around her and the canvas, and tore into the center of the pile, thrashing back and forth, scattering the leaves. Stopping, he looked at Penny, awaiting her reaction. “Atta boy, Zac.” Penny encouraged the dog who now attacked the second pile, disappearing like a diver beneath water. He surfaced and rolled onto his back kicking his legs in ecstasy, creating a boiling disturbance of red and gold. Penny beat him ..."
"...After feeding Callie and Zac, Penny took a shower and dressed quickly. It was an open Friday night for the football team, and Johnny would soon be home for supper so she broiled hamburgers, one of his favorite foods. After supper, he remained at the table calculating something on a legal pad beside ..."
29.
"... trousers, and walked around the table. “Your mother showed it to me one time.” Penny had not enjoyed her mother’s stories of their ancestors’ lives, but Johnny, the history teacher, had listened. “You know what you’re holding, don’t you?” Penny offered him a sheepish grin ..."
31.
"... lives, but Johnny, the history teacher, had listened. “You know what you’re holding, don’t you?” Penny offered him a sheepish grin and extended the yellowed roll. “It’s an account of how your great-grandmother started Memorial Day. You don’t have your glasses.... Here, ..."
33.
"... let me read some of it to you.” Penny watched the muscles in Johnny’s thick arms working beneath his freckled skin as he unrolled the large sheets of paper, then her gaze wandered out the window as details disappeared and the trees merged into darkness. “On the eastern bank of the ..."
"...Penny fetched her glasses and leaned over the sheets. The paper was The Columbus Mississippi Tri-Weekly Index, dated Tuesday Morning, July 23, 1888. The part Johnny had read was on another page under the heading “A Peep Into The Past.” It was an article about the reunion ..."
41.
"... veterans, which had been held in Columbus, Mississippi during the preceding week. Penny blinked with incredulity. “I’ve always hated the name Augusta, but Mother must have named me for her grandmother.” “Well, it’s all spelled out in the book you’ve got there; your uncle ..."
"...After cleaning up the kitchen and putting away the dishes, Penny searched her dresser drawers for the box of old jewelry her mother had given her. Finding it, she lifted out a small velvet bag and loosened its drawstrings. It contained a gold-link chain from which dangled a circular pendant, which was approximately two inches in diameter. ..."
46.
"... her neck and the pendant rested comfortably on her chest. Tomorrow was Saturday, a Dixiana hospital weekend, so Penny climbed into bed early and read her uncle’s book until she fell asleep listening to the racket of rain on the roof. ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 11: Chapter Eleven
"...Set against a background of rain-rinsed pine and live oak, Dixiana appeared fresh and clean as Penny drove across town to the hospital early Saturday morning. A few leaves clung to the deciduous trees, but last night’s 30-mile-per-hour wind had sent all but the most stubborn foliage down to become part of the dead, brown mat concealing acorns and ferns until their resurrection in the ..."
"...A vivid dream haunted her. A black-clad woman standing by a window in a cold, smoke-filled room had extended her arm, stretched out her fingers, and beckoned. Penny had wanted to touch her hand—to feel her skin, but fear held her back, and the woman disintegrated as the Bose alarm sounded. Her form disappeared into the air like dust particles separating. ..."
"...Fortified with coffee, Penny took Report by herself because Maureen had called in sick during the night. Director of Nurses Agnes Gwen breezed into the Unit escorting a woman Penny had never met. “I want to introduce you to Flossie Mae Fox, Dr. Scales’s office nurse, who will be working with ..."
8.
"... finishing breakfast when Mrs. Gwen returned with Flossie Mae, a dark-haired LPN with a great tan. Penny pulled Mrs. Gwen aside. “Did you find my write-up about a head-injury patient?” “Yes, thanks.” Mrs. Gwen smiled reassuringly. “I asked the physician about that patient and ..."
12.
"... Mrs. Gwen smiled reassuringly. “I asked the physician about that patient and he said she was doing fine.” “She died.” Penny watched her boss for a reaction. Mrs. Gwen’s expression was stony, her eyes unreadable, and she changed the subject. “Penny, did they tell you in ..."
14.
"... died.” Penny watched her boss for a reaction. Mrs. Gwen’s expression was stony, her eyes unreadable, and she changed the subject. “Penny, did they tell you in Report about the telemetry patient in 304 with a toxic digoxin level?” Deciding that her boss didn’t want to talk about ..."
16.
"... patient in 304 with a toxic digoxin level?” Deciding that her boss didn’t want to talk about Mrs. Spoonhouse in front of a new employee, Penny tried to concentrate on what Mrs. Gwen was saying about the patient down the hall. “We discontinued her digoxin when she was admitted, ..."
"...Penny touched the monitor screen with a finger. “Her pattern has been fine so far, but I’ll watch her. She’s on telemetry number two.” Penny showed Flossie Mae. “We have four on telemetry today; you can see the patient’s name, room number, and doctor’s name on ..."
"...“Flossie Mae,” Mrs. Gwen added, “telemetry patients are cared for by South Station nurses, but Unit nurses are responsible for their monitors: replacing batteries, electrodes, and lead wires as needed to maintain a readable pattern on their screens. Call me if you need anything, Penny—I’m supervising today.” ..."
26.
"... bad! She never takes sick days or even a vacation!” “I know,” Penny said. “She’s saving her time off so she can retire early. Well, Flossie Mae, welcome to CCU! We need to start on the baths; I haven’t done either of them.” As Penny and Flossie Mae stood before the linen ..."
27.
"... As Penny and Flossie Mae stood before the linen closet, a lab tech named Louise entered the Unit to chart some test results. “You might want to let your visitors in,” Louise said. “One lady’s brought a plate of homemade breakfast rolls for you and they do look good!” Penny ..."
28.
"... of homemade breakfast rolls for you and they do look good!” Penny propped open the door to South Hall, and Louise joined the nurses in their lounge to sample the sweet rolls while the patients visited with their families. “Louise works a second job too,” Penny told Flossie Mae. ..."
29.
"... the sweet rolls while the patients visited with their families. “Louise works a second job too,” Penny told Flossie Mae. “She bakes. I saw a beautiful Holly Hobby cake she decorated.... You still at it, Louise?” “Uh huh. I made Buck Dalton a motorcycle cake.... For my first ..."
31.
"... I made Buck Dalton a motorcycle cake.... For my first motorcycle, it turned out really well.” “Buck was pretty low the last time I saw him,” Penny said. “Sounds like he’s doing better.” Louise said, “He’s working two other jobs besides this: one in the Jacksonville hospital ..."
"...A monitor alarm bell sounded, and Penny walked to the desk to watch the strip print out automatically, waiting to see if it was a true dysrhythmia or just patient movement. Of course, the bells rang a lot during morning care, but this strip was for real: a slow rhythm from monitor number four. ..."
"...After baths and noon assessments, Penny and Flossie Mae served lunch. Dr. Lawrence’s patient was a woman two days past a stroke who could now move her left hand, but she still had difficulty expressing her thoughts. The other was Dr. Scales’s seventy-five-year-old Mr. Aceworth with end-stage heart disease. Close monitoring ..."
38.
"... of the Unit. As the two nurses ate their sandwiches in front of the monitors, Penny observed Flossie Mae’s hands: each finger, and even both thumbs adorned with rings. “Do you like Dr. Scales, Flossie Mae? He’s so difficult here—I can’t imagine working in his office.” “The ..."
40.
"... they need is some attention. Buck Dalton works with us...draws blood at the office and runs it in this lab.” Penny shook her head. “Doesn’t Dr. Scales ever get mad at you?” Flossie Mae thought for a minute. “I used to worry about giving everybody Decadron injections and I asked him ..."
42.
"... people feel better.” Flossie Mae grinned, exposing the gums above her protruding upper incisors. Penny persisted. “But what about his skill! Do you think he’s a good physician?” “Sure, and I think he likes to help people. He’s had a hard life–-struggled and sacrificed to ..."
47.
"... him way too many times!” What Penny didn’t say was that Dr. Scales had told the patient that the reason he was having to stick him so many times was because his chest was malformed. Penny again visualized the man apologizing for the shape of his chest as he died. Number four monitor alarm ..."
"...Number four monitor alarm sounded again, and the strip of Mr. Tribble’s heart pattern showed a brief period of complete heart block. His heart rate had slowed to thirty, but now was back up to seventy-two. Penny notified the floor nurse to check his vital signs, and she telephoned Dr. Scales to describe the heart pattern. ..."
50.
"... coming to transfer him.” Penny sorted the pile of print-outs which had curled up on the desk and taped them in order onto a sheet to put into Mr. Tribble’s chart so copies could be made to go with the patient to Jacksonville for the cardiologist to interpret. Mrs. Gwen brought the man’s ..."
51.
"... for the cardiologist to interpret. Mrs. Gwen brought the man’s chart into CCU from South Station so Penny could write the phone order and took the chart and Flossie Mae out to South to demonstrate the way a transfer should be accomplished. After a while, Dr. Scales arrived to check ..."
53.
"... the way a transfer should be accomplished. After a while, Dr. Scales arrived to check on his CCU patient and glanced at Penny as though she had leprosy. He picked up Mr. Aceworth’s chart and stalked to bed seven for a visit. Scales had ordered daily subcutaneous injections of ..."
55.
"... blood coagulation. In a few minutes, Dr. Scales returned to the desk and wrote an order discontinuing Heparin and prescribing Vitamin K, the antidote for Heparin overdose. He laid the chart, open to his order, in front of Penny with a stiff, “Thank you, Mrs. Pewitt.” The doctor had left ..."
57.
"... a stiff, “Thank you, Mrs. Pewitt.” The doctor had left by the time Flossie Mae returned to thank Penny for her day of orientation. “Mrs. Gwen says I can work with you again tomorrow if Maureen’s still sick, and if it’s okay with you.” “That’ll be great,” Penny said. ..."
58.
"... “Mrs. Gwen says I can work with you again tomorrow if Maureen’s still sick, and if it’s okay with you.” “That’ll be great,” Penny said. “See you in the morning.” A South Station nurse brought the telemetry she had removed from Mr. Tribble, who was now connected to a portable ..."
59.
"... the morning.” A South Station nurse brought the telemetry she had removed from Mr. Tribble, who was now connected to a portable monitor for transfer, and laid the box on the desk because Penny was phoning Dr. Scales’s order to the Pharmacist: “Vitamin K, 2.5 mgs IV.” Penny replaced ..."
"...Penny replaced the receiver and reached up to turn off the screen displaying a straight line, but she could barely process what she saw! The monitor with a straight line was number three, labeled for Dr. Lawrence’s patient Bridget Sasser. Number four, labeled for Jerry Tribble, had a ..."
61.
"... Tribble, had a heart pattern still blipping right on across the screen! Penny’s own heart rate accelerated as she realized she had sent the wrong patient! Should she tell Dr. Scales? Which patient had heart block?” The monitor she had just turned off—number three–-was labeled with ..."
"...Panic-stricken Penny phoned South Station and requested that a nurse go to room 301 and replace the battery in the monitor. She stood staring at screen number four, watching an irregular pattern with pauses, a disturbance that needed to be addressed. A minute later, the screen displayed a straight ..."
69.
"... was supposed to be the job of CCU nurses. “Thank you.” Enveloped in fear, Penny tried to speak casually, but she knew she must call Dr. Lawrence and tell him about his patient. She dialed his number and described the irregular heart pattern. “Get a STAT EKG and I’ll be there as soon ..."
71.
"... ready for a transfer. We need to get her on up there by ambulance.” Penny called Respiratory to do the EKG, then asked South Station’s unit secretary to bring the charts of the patients in rooms 301 and 306 to CCU. It was not all Penny’s fault because it would not have happened if ..."
"...It was not all Penny’s fault because it would not have happened if somebody else had not mislabeled the monitors. Now there was nothing to do but to correct the mistake. Penny would have to exchange the monitor strips from last night and today on the two charts—these were the only ones ..."
73.
"... the only ones she knew for sure were wrong. On Mrs. Sasser’s chart she wrote the order for a STAT EKG, then paged Mrs. Gwen. “I need a chart copied,” Penny said. “Dr. Lawrence is coming to send Bridget Sasser to Jacksonville for a pacer.” “You’re keeping me busy today!” the ..."
76.
"... to copy it and I’ll be down there as soon as I can.” Presently, the pharmacist himself entered CCU and handed Penny a vial of Vitamin K. “I’m sorry this took so long. I’ve been tied up with sales people.” Penny gave him the carbon copy of Scales’s order. “That’s ..."
77.
"... of Vitamin K. “I’m sorry this took so long. I’ve been tied up with sales people.” Penny gave him the carbon copy of Scales’s order. “That’s okay. There wasn’t any rush on this.” He stepped closer. “I hope it’s time for visitors because one came in with me.” A ..."
80.
"... visitors because one came in with me.” A little while later as Penny collected intakes and outputs, Dr. Lawrence opened the outside door. He waved as he hustled through the Unit, and Penny hoped everything was in order for him at South Station. CCU’s single visitor had left, so Penny ..."
"...CCU’s single visitor had left, so Penny closed the hall door. At the medicine cart, she checked the vial of Vitamin K against the order she had copied onto the MAR and drew the prescribed amount into a syringe. She prepared another syringe with 10mls of normal saline and approached Mr. Aceworth’s bed. ..."
82.
"... prepared another syringe with 10mls of normal saline and approached Mr. Aceworth’s bed. “This is the medicine the doctor ordered to regulate your clotting time.” Penny said. “How are you doing?” “If I was any better they’d arrest me for it.” “I hope they don’t do that,” ..."
84.
"... said. “How are you doing?” “If I was any better they’d arrest me for it.” “I hope they don’t do that,” Penny laughed. “How do you manage to stay cheerful with your life so restricted?” “It’s the only life I have.” His eyes were serious, then he smiled. “And I ..."
86.
"... then he smiled. “And I like to be waited on by pretty nurses.” Penny slowly injected the liquid vitamin into a port on his IV line, then flushed behind it with normal saline and returned to the desk to finish charting. When the loud alarm sounded at bed seven, she looked at Mr. ..."
"...When the loud alarm sounded at bed seven, she looked at Mr. Aceworth’s heart pattern on the screen above the desk. My God! Either his electrodes were off or his heart had stopped! Penny started running before she was out of her chair, sending it crashing backward. Her heart knocked about in her chest as she stumbled to the bed and stared down at the still, ashy-faced man, who only a minute ago had been joking with her. His eyes flicked ..."
"...Forgetting to breathe, Penny ran to the desk, grabbed the phone, and dialed the number to page overhead. “Code Blue CCU; Code Blue CCU.” She tried to focus her racing mind. “A for airway, B for breathing, C for...what is C for?—um—circulation.... Let someone else push the crash cart ..."
"...The code team had arrived. A nurse from ER pushed the crash cart toward the bed, and Penny grabbed the backboard from its slot on the cart. The respiratory tech and the ER nurse lifted the patient while Penny pushed the plastic board under him and positioned his head into the cupped-out headrest. Penny plugged the crash cart’s electrical cord into one of the pigtail ..."
94.
"... Dr. Scales?” “I’m ringing him now,” Mrs. Gwen called from the desk. Penny tried to think what to do next: she would have to put on the pads so she could shock him and someone must write the code record. “There’s a living will on this chart but I don’t see a No Code order. Is ..."
95.
"... have to put on the pads so she could shock him and someone must write the code record. “There’s a living will on this chart but I don’t see a No Code order. Is that right?” Dr. Lawrence asked Penny. “Dr. Scales didn’t want to write one,” Penny said as she tore open the plastic ..."
96.
"... Penny. “Dr. Scales didn’t want to write one,” Penny said as she tore open the plastic pack containing two pre-lubricated pads and positioned them on her patient’s chest. Avoiding chest compressions, she connected the defibrillator’s three monitor leads to his electrodes. Dr. ..."
97.
"... Avoiding chest compressions, she connected the defibrillator’s three monitor leads to his electrodes. Dr. Lawrence said, “All right then, let’s shock. Start at 200 joules, Penny.” With her icy finger she pushed the button that charged up the defibrillator. “Ready?” Dr. Lawrence ..."
"...Penny called, “Clear!” Glancing about to be sure everyone was back from the bed, she leaned over, placed the two defibrillator paddles on the pads, and simultaneously depressed both buttons. It sounded like a light bulb blowing out, and the man’s chest jerked slightly under the electrical discharge. ..."
101.
"... the electrical discharge. Everyone watched the screen as the blip of the shock flattened to a straight line, stretching on and on. “Are all the electrodes connected?” Dr. Lawrence felt for the carotid pulse. “Go on up,” he told Penny. “Finish it out.” Penny repeated the ..."
"...Penny repeated the procedure, shocking at 300 joules. They watched the blip, then a straight line crossed the screen. She charged the defibrillator to 360 and delivered the third shock. Its sound reminded her of the time she plugged her hair dryer into a faulty socket in ..."
108.
"... Code blue all clear.” Penny’s mind slowed and physical discomfort swept over her: a growing heaviness in her chest and pain in her stomach. She gripped the foot board, her gaze locked on Mr. Aceworth’s face. Had she caused his death? She gasped a jerky breath. ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve
0.
"... would be more than she bargained for. As quickly as they had come to help, members of the code team returned to their own departments and Penny was left with Dr. Scales. She stood at the desk while he phoned Mr. Aceworth’s family and scribbled in the chart. Finally, he spoke to her. “How ..."
4.
"... he spoke to her. “How did it happen?” Penny’s eyes burned but she did not cry. “I had just given him the Vitamin K. I flushed the line with normal saline, walked over here to the desk, and sat down to finish charting...and he arrested!” “It was an embolus then.” Dr. Scales ..."
"...Alone at the desk, Penny picked up the chart. “Had she flushed too fast? Dr. Scales must think that when she flushed the line she had dislodged a clot, and Mr. Aceworth’s circulating blood had picked it up and carried it into a smaller vessel where it lodged and blocked blood flow ..."
"...A nursing tech had come to help clean up from the code and night shift would be here soon. There was no time to think. Someone had laid telemetry unit number four on the desk and turned off the monitor. Penny removed the battery and put it away. Feeling fragmented, scattered as a shipwrecked boat thrown onto a rocky shore, she walked to the bedside of her remaining patient who had slept through everything, and whose skin color and monitor pattern looked beautiful. ..."
"...After giving Report on the CCU patient and two telemetry patients, Penny dismantled Mr. Aceworth’s chart. She taped the defibrillator print-outs in correct sequence onto a sheet, and completed the code form describing the occurrence and the measures taken. Night shift would close out the nurses’ notes after the funeral home picked up the body. She placed the ..."
17.
"... to tell whether it said IV or IM. The night-shift nurse drank coffee and ate a stale breakfast roll, looking forward to an easy twelve hours spent reading her book. She didn’t even notice that Penny was covering her butt for the second time in one day. Turning her back on River Park ..."
"...Turning her back on River Park Hospital, Penny drove home Saturday evening beneath a fading sunset that resembled a strep throat. Lights shone from her neighbors’ houses on Oakwood Street but her own house was dark, and when she turned into her driveway a wave of acute disappointment swept over her. Johnny’s Mercury was gone, ..."
"...Zac howled a greeting and by the dim light of a fingernail moon, she walked with him around the yard before opening his can of Alpo. Callie was nowhere to be seen, but plenty of cat chow remained in her bowl. Penny tried to remember the last time she had watched the cat creeping up on a bird. It had been a good while. She remembered feeding the snake sometime last week. She had marked it on the calendar but she would have to check the date. ..."
"...In addition to teaching high school history, Johnny assisted Tod Burke, the football coach, who, in turn, assisted Johnny with the baseball team in the spring. Tod’s wife, Betty, taught grammar school, and the four of them were friends. Craving companionship, Penny dialed their number, but no one answered. Betty must have gone to the game with them. ..."
"...Penny’s body hummed with apprehension. She would probably be fired. They would take away her nursing license and put her in jail. Their house would have been paid for in a few more years, but now they would lose everything. A current ran through her muscles ..."
32.
"... and if it was that man in bed seven, he was on the way out...Mr. Aceworth, that who it was?” Her voice shaking between gasps, Penny described the event, ending with Scales’s evil wink. “It was his time,” Maureen said. “Haven’t I told you that? When somebody’s time comes, ..."
38.
"... needs one, and don’t worry about the strips. Dr. Scales and Dr. Lawrence use different cardiologists for their consults.” Penny sobbed, unable to speak. “Listen to me now! If you go telling something like this to Dr. Scales, it would be like giving binoculars to a Peeping Tom. ..."
43.
"... all right. We’re both gonna get through this. Goodnight now.” After a restless night, Penny left her house Sunday morning comforted by the fact that Johnny was asleep in his bed, even though she hadn’t talked to him. Flossie Mae had arrived early and waited for Penny at the time clock. ..."
44.
"... talked to him. Flossie Mae had arrived early and waited for Penny at the time clock. Her shiny-black hair, pulled back from her face into a low ponytail, emphasized the rim of white sclera between her eyelids and her dark brown irises giving her a startled, hyperthyroid look. Penny found ..."
45.
"... eyelids and her dark brown irises giving her a startled, hyperthyroid look. Penny found scrub pants and a top in Flossie Mae’s size, and they settled down with cups of coffee to take Report on the one CCU patient. “Do you have any children?” Penny asked Flossie Mae when their first ..."
46.
"... Flossie Mae’s size, and they settled down with cups of coffee to take Report on the one CCU patient. “Do you have any children?” Penny asked Flossie Mae when their first chores were done. “A nineteen-year-old son. He used to be a problem, but he finally got himself a job, so now Ma’s ..."
48.
"... so much. That’s why I work extra. I need more cash!” While Flossie Mae talked, Penny watched her clasp and unclasp her fingers; her nails were bitten down to the quick. Penny said, “Doesn’t your husband help you?” “He deserted when I was pregnant. It’s always been just Ma ..."
52.
"... feet, heart problems, and her latest thing is cataracts.... Sweetie, do you have a headache?” Until now, Penny had been unaware that she was massaging her temples. “Yes, I’m just tired.” “I can help that if you’ll let me.” Penny agreed, not knowing what to expect. Flossie Mae ..."
54.
"... had been unaware that she was massaging her temples. “Yes, I’m just tired.” “I can help that if you’ll let me.” Penny agreed, not knowing what to expect. Flossie Mae held her flattened palms on either side of Penny’s head and shadowed them around the contour of her skull. ..."
55.
"... what to expect. Flossie Mae held her flattened palms on either side of Penny’s head and shadowed them around the contour of her skull. “There’s a disturbance in your energy fields. I sense two or three disturbances causing the pain and I will realign the fields.” Penny had worked ..."
56.
"... the pain and I will realign the fields.” Penny had worked with mental patients and screwball MDs and weird families but nurses were usually pretty regular. She wondered if Flossie Mae was a nutcase–-the woman seemed completely serious. “There. Is the pain any different now, ..."
59.
"... more to the back of my head.” “That means it’s trying to break up. Let me try again.” Flossie Mae removed a silver chain from around her neck and dangled a medallion in front of Penny’s face. “This is a quicker way to diagnose a disturbance.” Penny reached down her scrub top, ..."
60.
"... face. “This is a quicker way to diagnose a disturbance.” Penny reached down her scrub top, into the neck of her tee shirt, and pulled out her great-grandmother’s medallion, holding it up for Flossie Mae to see. “You have a pentagram too!” Flossie Mae’s eyes were big as ..."
64.
"... five fingers or toes on each extremity. The circle around the star symbolizes spirit–-it connects spirit to the senses.” Penny examined Flossie Mae’s medallion. “You know how we talk about the four elements: earth, water, fire, and air,” Flossie Mae continued. “Well, the fifth ..."
66.
"... Flossie Mae continued. “Well, the fifth element is spirit.” Penny held her medallion next to Flossie Mae’s. They were similar, but Flossie Mae’s was made of silver and her stone was white. “Our stones are different.” Flossie Mae said, “My crystal is moonstone, but see the blue ..."
71.
"... The door to the hall opened, and Mrs. Gwen entered the Unit. “Penny, there’s a drug overdose in ER and our paramedic is tied up with something else, so I need you to ride the ambulance to Jacksonville. I’ll stay with Flossie Mae until I can get a critical care nurse in here.” ..."
72.
"... stay with Flossie Mae until I can get a critical care nurse in here.” Penny hated transporting a critical patient in an ambulance and opened her mouth to protest, but she couldn’t think of a believable excuse. In the ER, two emergency medical technicians were strapping a young man onto ..."
73.
"... think of a believable excuse. In the ER, two emergency medical technicians were strapping a young man onto a stretcher. Penny recalled the names of these EMTs: Earl, who was small and wiry, and Bubba, generously overweight with a bushy, red beard. The ER physician said, “We don’t ..."
"...Penny climbed into the back of the ambulance with her stethoscope and turned on the portable EKG machine. After loading the patient and securing his stretcher, Earl jumped into the back with her and helped her to connect the oxygen and the heart monitor. The IV site was ..."
76.
"... it was in a vein, while Earl shuffled through the patient’s papers. “All set?” Bubba spoke to them through the open sliding-glass window between the front seat and the back of the vehicle, and Penny gave him a thumbs-up. As they pulled away from the hospital the patient’s heart rate was ..."
"...As they pulled away from the hospital the patient’s heart rate was normal, a regular rhythm in the high eighties. Penny applied the automatic blood pressure cuff and cycled it. The screen displayed 250/120. That couldn’t be right—way too high! She removed the automatic cuff, applied the manual cuff, and pumped it up. Listening with her stethoscope, she heard the thump begin at 170. It ..."
79.
"... were sixteen-a-minute. “You’re in charge,” Earl said. “How fast do we go?” Penny disliked speeding, but shortening the time she was in charge sounded good. “Let’s go emergency traffic.” Its siren screaming, the ambulance accelerated, and Penny had to shout to be heard. ..."
80.
"... shortening the time she was in charge sounded good. “Let’s go emergency traffic.” Its siren screaming, the ambulance accelerated, and Penny had to shout to be heard. “Where did they find him?” “He had passed out in a car registered to some old woman but the police couldn’t find ..."
82.
"... kid who works at the Hi Octane Station.” Penny took in the grey circles under the young man’s eyes and noticed that his face had become less flushed. His respirations were shallow gasps. She shook his shoulder, “Bob! Bob, can you hear me?” His eyelids fluttered but did not open. His ..."
"...His eyelids fluttered but did not open. His heart pattern on the monitor was irregular and had dropped into the fifties. Penny counted his respirations at twelve-a-minute. She turned up the oxygen to six liters and cycled the automatic blood pressure cuff: 70/40 appeared on the screen. All the color had left his face and his pallor called attention to his delicate features and jet-black hair. ..."
84.
"... All the color had left his face and his pallor called attention to his delicate features and jet-black hair. “He stopped breathing in ER,” Penny said. “Quick–-grab an airway!” Earl produced an airway and Penny inserted it, drawing Bob’s tongue forward. He neither coughed nor gagged ..."
85.
"... stopped breathing in ER,” Penny said. “Quick–-grab an airway!” Earl produced an airway and Penny inserted it, drawing Bob’s tongue forward. He neither coughed nor gagged and did not open his eyes. With the ambulance bouncing them all over the place, Penny couldn’t tell if ..."
"...With the ambulance bouncing them all over the place, Penny couldn’t tell if his chest was rising and falling, so she positioned her stethoscope below his collarbones and listened for breath sounds. “I can’t hear any air entering. Try bagging him and let me listen again.” This time his chest rose and Penny heard, over the ..."
87.
"... pushed in by the ambu bag. “Keep on bagging.” On the monitor screen his heart pattern raced between 120 and 150 beats a minute. Penny increased the monitor’s volume so they could hear the irregular bleeps, like a wren with hiccups. The trip seemed endless. Looking out the back ..."
"...The trip seemed endless. Looking out the back window, Penny wished she could levitate herself into any one of the vehicles they passed. The hot air reeked of sweat mixed with alcohol, and she was unbearably nauseated from the bumpy, backward ride. Finally, she turned around, leaned down, and peered out the windshield. Ahead was the ..."
91.
"... for ABGs. Maureen was right: they wouldn’t use Dixiana’s lab results. They were drawing their own drug screen. Penny gave Report and handed the patient’s papers to the receiving nurse. Relieved of her charge, she helped Bubba straighten up the back of the ambulance. One of ..."
93.
"... nurses yelled from the open ER doorway. “Y’all really oxygenated him! His level is 300.” Penny had never heard of an oxygen level that high. Normal was 90-100. “Don’t knock it,” Bubba called back, “We got him here alive, didn’t we? Your super docs can fix him ..."
94.
"... that high. Normal was 90-100. “Don’t knock it,” Bubba called back, “We got him here alive, didn’t we? Your super docs can fix him right on up now.” Bubba held the passenger door open for Penny to climb up into the middle of the front seat. Earl started the engine and inserted ..."
96.
"... yelled over the music. “It won’t take too long, then we’ll eat lunch.” Penny checked her watch: it was noon. Maybe she could get back to the Unit in time to visit with Flossie Mae before she left at three. At last, they finished eating hamburgers at McDonald’s and climbed into the ..."
98.
"... At last, they finished eating hamburgers at McDonald’s and climbed into the front seat of the ambulance. Earl drove and Penny sat in the middle, holding her knees together and her feet back to avoid touching anything that might set off the siren or the lights on the way home. ..."
102.
"... was one feisty doctor!” It was after three when the EMTs dropped Penny off at Dixiana CCU. The same RN who had worked last night opened the back door at her knock, and Penny glanced around the empty Unit. “Thanks for covering for me.” “No problem; I was awake when Mrs. ..."
104.
"... already moved Dr. Lawrence’s stroke patient out to telemetry before I got here.” Penny flopped into a chair. “I’d like to go on home if you can stay. They don’t need both of us, that’s for sure.” “Call the supervisor. If it’s okay with her, it’s fine with me.” Penny ..."
"...Penny arrived home in the middle of Sunday afternoon and stepped from her car into a gusty wind carrying a trace of wood smoke. Exhilarated by unexpected free time, she changed into jeans and running shoes and unhooked the gate to Zac’s pen. He could not be still ..."
108.
"... as Johnny’s blue car pulled into the driveway. “Hold on a minute and I’ll go too,” he said, with a smile for Penny and a howl, mimicking Zac’s. He extracted a pair of Nikes from his trunk and leaned against the car to change shoes. Following Penny’s usual route, they walked at a ..."
109.
"... Nikes from his trunk and leaned against the car to change shoes. Following Penny’s usual route, they walked at a brisk pace while Zac strained ahead, pulling the collar so hard against his throat that his respirations were noisy. “I was at a Salvation Army meeting,” Johnny said. ..."
111.
"... such a mad scramble to pull it off.” Penny remembered frantic shopping trips with Johnny, trying to find toys and clothes for the angels still left on the tree when the deadline was past. “Will the bank let you put the tree in their lobby again?” “Sure, and if the teachers get the ..."
113.
"... it before want to do it again. I think timing was our problem.” At the top of the hill Penny pulled back on Zac’s leash. “Johnny, I shouldn’t tell you about this, but something terrible happened at work yesterday.” They turned around and he took her hand as they started toward ..."
"...Johnny slowed his pace and listened to Penny’s account of her telemetry mistake and the death of Dr. Scales’s patient. He asked questions, then summarized the facts to be sure he understood. “Nobody’s perfect,” he said. “You know that, don’t you? Everybody makes mistakes, but it doesn’t sound to me like any of ..."
117.
"... “You know that, don’t you? Everybody makes mistakes, but it doesn’t sound to me like any of that was your fault.” “I wasn’t careful,” Penny said. Turning back onto Oakwood, they passed in front of their house and continued on toward the dead end. Pausing beside the ..."
118.
"... said. Turning back onto Oakwood, they passed in front of their house and continued on toward the dead end. Pausing beside the Vanlandinghams’ dying flower garden, Penny unsnapped Zac’s leash. There was no traffic and the dog ran free, zig zagging from side to side down the street. Nearing ..."
119.
"... Nearing the end, they turned into the driveway of a house under construction and Zac explored it with them, his paws clicking on the plywood floors. As they left the garage and proceeded down the driveway, a red motorcycle roared up and stopped. Penny called Zac and reattached his leash. ..."
121.
"... fingers through unruly hair, pushing it back from his glasses. “Hello.” Penny tried to remember his last name. “Buck, this is my husband, Johnny...Buck works at the hospital.” It finally came to her. “Buck Dalton.” Johnny shook Buck’s hand. “How’re you doing? We’re ..."
125.
"... in his leash, pulling away. “Louise told me you’re working in Jacksonville,” Penny said, skirting the motorcycle as Zac drew her toward the street. “I’ll be up in Oncology Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights so maybe I’ll see you at work.” “Hey!” Buck yelled after ..."
128.
"... car made a U-turn at the dead end and drove back by them. Johnny waved to the driver. The temperature was dropping and Penny shivered in the cold breeze the car had created. She walked fast, heading home. “You work with right interesting people, you know it?” Johnny said. “It sounds to ..."
"...Penny had never told Johnny about Mrs. Spoonhouse: how Dr. Scales admitted her to Dixiana’s CCU when she should have been sent straight to Jacksonville. As they walked, she struggled within herself: confidentiality never used to be such a big issue, and Johnny wouldn’t tell anybody. Penny ..."
"...But Penny walked on. That was close! She should be strong enough to keep her mouth shut! She provided fresh water and canned food for Zac, then checked the cat’s bowls in the garage. Callie’s dry food appeared untouched, and Penny couldn’t remember when she had added ..."
137.
"... tempt her, Penny set a bowl of StarKist tuna on a step halfway up. Later Sunday night, Johnny entered Penny’s bedroom and handed her a stack of papers. “If you don’t mind, sign these for me before you go to sleep.” Accustomed to the request because Johnny managed their finances, ..."
"...Accustomed to the request because Johnny managed their finances, Penny signed whatever he put in front of her, grateful that he took care of it. As a child overhearing tense, whispered conversations about money, she had been afraid her parents would not be able to pay for food—an unfounded fear—but thinking about money still unnerved her. ..."
143.
"... it?” “I’m putting these stock certificates in both our names. They’ve been in mine only.” “Okay.” Penny signed her name on the forms as Johnny pointed to the signature lines. “When you started working,” he said, “I thought you might leave me, and I kept these separate so ..."
145.
"... you started working,” he said, “I thought you might leave me, and I kept these separate so I would be ready.” Penny handed him the pages, trying to make sense of his words. Johnny continued. “You left once when you weren’t happy, and I wasn’t sure you would stay with me. I thought ..."
147.
"... now things seem better. At least, I hope they’re better for you.” Penny felt as though an ice cube had slipped down into her stomach. “You mean you thought we were going to divorce?” Her voice sounded like a croak. “I didn’t know what would happen.” Johnny spoke casually, as ..."
148.
"... like a croak. “I didn’t know what would happen.” Johnny spoke casually, as though talking about the weather. Removing Penny’s glasses, he placed them on the night table, then cupped his fingers under her chin and kissed her. “Goodnight.” He turned and left the room. Penny, ..."
"...Penny, suddenly shot into the ozone, tried to understand what had just happened. Her neurons were churning. It sounded like honest, trustworthy Johnny had been protecting himself against her! She stepped into her slippers and padded to his room as he stuffed the certificates into a Manila ..."
"...“Johnny.” Penny’s voice was strangely hollow. “I know you take risks in the stock market, and I trust you to do the best you can for us, but...” She couldn’t verbalize her thoughts: All the time I was trusting you, you didn’t trust me! “I wasn’t getting ready ..."
153.
"... Believe me, I know what it’s like to be left!” “I was unhappy because I couldn’t do it all. I tried to tell you I couldn’t, but you just kept on with all your stuff.” Penny’s usually deep voice sounded high and child-like. “Maybe it seemed that way to you, but I was doing ..."
155.
"... up.” Johnny chopped the air with vertical hands to emphasize each word: “I-COULD-NOT-DO-ANY-MORE!” “But now you think we’ll stay together?” Penny spoke in a small voice. “I think we’ve got a shot at it. We’re a better team than we were. I love you.” Johnny smiled as ..."
157.
"... soft and he curved his arms around her. Penny held herself away from him. “I’ve been on your team all along.” She stepped back. “Johnny, are you talking about that night about ten years ago when I got mad and drove around for a while?” Johnny nodded. “That went all through ..."
159.
"... “But I came back that same night—I didn’t leave!” Penny hugged him. “I won’t leave you unless I die, and I’m not dying as far as I can tell.” Returning to her room, she clicked off the light, curled into her bed, and attempted to silence the tune galloping through her brain. ..."
"...Emotional things could blind-side a person; one couldn’t plan for them. Penny was too confused to relax. Reviewing the conversation in her mind, she couldn’t decide whether it was good or bad. It was not a good discussion to have at bedtime. Remembering her necklace, she shifted to her back, pulled it from inside her gown, and balanced ..."
163.
"... Penny slid her bare feet forward on his rug, feeling for obstacles with her toes. She perched on the side of his bed and looked at him by the light from his Bose. “I hate dealing with money, but I need to know about our finances. If you’ll teach me, I want to learn to pay our bills.” ..."
"...On Monday morning, Penny woke with a sense of urgency on her day off. She was worried about Callie. Still wearing her robe, she inspected the untouched bowl of tuna on the stairway in the garage and on the top step found the cat lying on her pad beneath the plywood ..."
169.
"... to finish getting Westview ready for the painters–-we have renters who want to move in the first of next month.” Penny swallowed. “That sounds good.” David continued. “But we’ve had to relocate Mom to the nursing home at IP. She’s not able to feed herself, and Dad can ..."
173.
"... Anyway, we don’t want to leave them for six days without somebody checking on them.” Penny felt pressure mounting in her chest. How could she ask for time off when she had just started a new job? “If you would fly up here on Friday, visit with them and wash their clothes over the ..."
175.
"... them and wash their clothes over the weekend, you could go home on Monday.” “Next weekend I’ll be off...so, yes, I can do it.” Penny tried to speak with enthusiasm. “I’ll schedule my flights today.” Her day off suddenly consumed, she went into overdrive. She called the local ..."
177.
"... ask Dr. Allen what to do with Dick’s snake. As Penny carried Callie to the car, she looked at the cat cuddled so trustingly in her arms, her once-fluffy long fur, now matted and dirty. Under all that hair she was so little and helpless. Dr. Virgil Allen had always taken care of their ..."
"...Dr. Virgil Allen had always taken care of their pets; in fact, he had given Callie to their youngest child. “According to her record that was eighteen years ago,” he told Penny. “She’s had a good long life, but now she’s old and sick. She has an intestinal obstruction—I can’t make her well, but I can make her death easier. Why don’t you take her home and sort out what you want to do. It doesn’t have ..."
"...Tears sprang from Penny’s eyes, and she fumbled in her purse for a tissue. “I don’t want to take her home; I don’t think I could bring her back for you to...” She removed her sweater, arranged it on the floor of one of the small cages, set Callie on it ..."
"...By 2 p.m., Penny had the sheets back on the beds and stopped ironing to write a grocery list. She would have to shop fast to finish in time to fix supper. Maybe she would know what to do about Callie and she could stop by the vet’s office on the ..."
185.
"... “I couldn’t do it today.” Penny spread their supper on the table, substituting dishes for the plastic containers. “David called this morning, and they need me to go to Roanoke and check on Mother and Daddy this weekend. I’ll fly back home on Monday so I won’t miss any work.” ..."
189.
"... worry about the money; our stocks are going great guns.” “What do you think we should do about Callie?” Penny could barely get the words out with such a choking sensation in her chest. She leaned on the table beside her plate. “She’s really your cat. You’ve been the one taking ..."
191.
"... do it myself, but it’s your call.” Penny wiped her eyes on a paper napkin. “I don’t know how much she’s hurting. I don’t want the reason I do it to be more for my convenience than for her comfort and,” she sobbed, “I’ll miss her.” “You’ll miss her the way she used to ..."
195.
"... Right now I have an appointment with The Colonel.” Penny picked up a wing. “I drove to the Trace today and thought about how it used to be a wagon trail, and I looked in the woods and imagined pirates and slaves hiding in the gullies.” “It actually started out as a series of buffalo ..."
197.
"... the invention of the cotton gin and the steamboat...don’t you just love getting a history lecture with supper?” Johnny continued eating as Penny carried her dishes to the sink. “I’m about finished,” he said. “Let’s leave all this.” “I need to shower before we make love.” ..."
199.
"... to the sink. “I’m about finished,” he said. “Let’s leave all this.” “I need to shower before we make love.” Penny walked past him on her way to the back of the house. “I’m all stinky.” He waylaid her, kissed her lips, then raised her shirt. “I don’t care. You ..."
201.
"... stinky.” He waylaid her, kissed her lips, then raised her shirt. “I don’t care. You smell good to me.” Penny pushed him away. “But I care! Let me clean up first.” In the bathroom she brushed her teeth, then stripped and stepped into the shower. The warm water felt good on her ..."
"...His skin was still damp when Penny kissed him in areas to which he responded. She pushed his hands away from her body, hoping to give him pleasure and then go to sleep. Turning onto her back, she invited him to enter, then moved with him until she could move no more. Twice ..."
206.
"... ejaculate. Finally, Johnny rolled to his side. “Thanks for trying. I guess we were too tired to pull it off tonight.” “Didn’t it feel good?” Penny asked. “Sure, but I was trying to hold off so you would enjoy it. I waited to long, I guess.” Penny snuggled against him and he ..."
208.
"... I was trying to hold off so you would enjoy it. I waited to long, I guess.” Penny snuggled against him and he pulled her closer for a goodnight kiss. As he left her room, she said, “Thank you for holding me.” “I love you,” he answered. Tuesday morning Penny slept until noon. ..."
211.
"... “Thank you for holding me.” “I love you,” he answered. Tuesday morning Penny slept until noon. After brunch, she made herself call Dr. Allen, beginning the conversation by asking him what she could do with the snake. “I don’t know anybody who would take him,” he said. “And ..."
215.
"... to put Callie down.” “All right, and do you want to bury her at home or shall we take care of that for you?” “Do it all.” Penny was crying too hard to say please. She felt miserable: too tired to exercise, too restless to nap, unable to stop thinking about Callie. She wanted the ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen
0.
"... Penny—only a little bit worse because of all his long-haul truck trips. Jacksonville’s Oncology Unit was a beehive of activity Tuesday evening as Penny slid into a chair in the staff room. “We must be full!” Barb munched a nacho and shoved the plate toward her. “Every bed! Day ..."
2.
"... must be full!” Barb munched a nacho and shoved the plate toward her. “Every bed! Day shift’s flitting around too fast to give Report.” Fetching a cup of coffee, she placed it in front of Penny. “Drink up! We won’t be stopping to eat again anytime soon.” The Evening Unit ..."
"...“Screw ‘em,” Barb told Penny. “Let’s divvy up between us. We don’t have a rat’s chance of getting help. I’ll take the new admission and the people I had last night, okay?” Barb unplugged the pot and distributed the remaining coffee into their cups. “I had Watt Weeks—have ..."
6.
"... coffee into their cups. “I had Watt Weeks—have you heard about his friend, Prader Philpot?” “I talked to him on the phone last week,” Penny said. “I understand he’s a nut.” “Prader’s like...like he should be wearing an electronic monitoring device! He’s a ..."
"...Penny took a minute to digest this information. “You know, Barb, until I took the chemo class I didn’t know that nadir is when chemotherapy has killed so many white blood cells that there aren’t enough healthy cells left to fight infection. I thought nadir had something to ..."
22.
"... After Report, they collected their clipboards and stethoscopes. Penny and Barb faced an uphill battle to assess eight patients, dispense night meds, pain meds, and snacks, and there sat Dr. Scales and Dr. Benson writing away, heaping on new orders that would have to be carried out. One ..."
"...“I can’t do that—we’re not allowed to chart for each other,” Barb said, frowning as the exasperated nurse rushed out. With a helpless expression, Barb looked at Penny and shrugged. “I don’t know the places she stuck, and if I put in my access code, everything I enter is attributed to me.” ..."
"...Steering clear of the computer where Dr. Scales was working, Penny entered the medicine room and checked her patients’ Medication Administration Records as Dr. Benny Benson approached, holding out a chart for her to see. Penny, pivoting suddenly and misjudging the distance, knocked the chart with her arm. ..."
32.
"... chart with her arm. “Watch out there,” Dr. Benson laughed, grabbing the chart. The short black physician with his ratatat laugh was one of Penny’s favorites, but she would be hard pressed to choose between the two oncologists who attended most of their patients. “I just wanted to ..."
34.
"... after her first treatment I had to call in a dermatologist.” Penny, trying to keep pace with notes playing at top speed in her brain, scanned the order, then bolted toward the patient’s room stumbling over her own feet. Dr. Benson laughed like a machine gun. “Looks like you’re in ..."
35.
"... stumbling over her own feet. Dr. Benson laughed like a machine gun. “Looks like you’re in for a big night. Slow down, Penny! Rushing won’t help; it clouds your judgement. I’ll go see if I can convince the Supervisor that you need some help up here.” “Thanks! Maybe you’ll ..."
36.
"... your judgement. I’ll go see if I can convince the Supervisor that you need some help up here.” “Thanks! Maybe you’ll have better luck than Maria did.” Penny flashed a skeptical smile. In Pauline Curry’s room, Penny introduced herself, then reduced the infusion rate. “Dr. Benson ..."
"...In Pauline Curry’s room, Penny introduced herself, then reduced the infusion rate. “Dr. Benson wrote some new orders for you. Is there anything you need?” The woman’s diagnosis was kidney cancer and she was receiving her second round of treatment. Tumors that had spread into her lungs and abdomen had ..."
39.
"... off.” “I’ll check it now, and when you’re ready to go to sleep I’ll put the automatic cuff on your arm and set it to cycle every hour so I can watch your pressure without waking you up.” Penny completed her assessment and added ice to the water pitcher beside the bed. Maria ..."
40.
"... Penny completed her assessment and added ice to the water pitcher beside the bed. Maria beckoned Penny to the desk where Barb was talking with an LPN, sent to help them. Barb had given her a total-care patient. “Thank you for coming!” Penny said. “Please take over my fourteen-year-old ..."
41.
"... help them. Barb had given her a total-care patient. “Thank you for coming!” Penny said. “Please take over my fourteen-year-old male with an infected laceration, and then just help me take care of a stroke patient named Darlina.” “They told me you and Barb had it rough up here, and ..."
43.
"... right.” The small, redheaded nurse giggled. “Anything you can do will be great,” Penny said. “The patient I need help with weighs 320 pounds and has breast cancer. She doesn’t like to turn over, and I can’t turn her by myself.” Darlina was asleep, so Penny returned to the desk ..."
"...Darlina was asleep, so Penny returned to the desk to load Mrs. Curry’s vital signs into the computer. She sat in the chair Dr. Scales had just vacated, and discovered that he had not backed all the way out of the program he was using, and his access code was still ..."
"...Dr. Hutton, a young physician who blushed easily, stepped out of the stairwell breathing hard. Next to medicine, running was his passion and he often answered their beeper calls from a gymnasium. “I’m on call tonight; is there anything you want to tell me now, Penny, so I won’t be hearing from you at four in the morning?” ..."
49.
"... order finger sticks before meals until we see where she is. Thanks.” Penny reviewed the list of medicines on her patient’s Medication Administration Record. “You started her on IV Solu Cortef this morning.” “Yes, any steroid will cause those side effects: Prednisone, Solu Medrol, ..."
51.
"... her on IV Solu Cortef this morning.” “Yes, any steroid will cause those side effects: Prednisone, Solu Medrol, Solu Cortef.” “Decadron?” Penny asked. He looked at Penny, pursed his lips, and nodded his head slightly. “Yep, that would do it.” Dr. Hutton always took time to ..."
52.
"... cause those side effects: Prednisone, Solu Medrol, Solu Cortef.” “Decadron?” Penny asked. He looked at Penny, pursed his lips, and nodded his head slightly. “Yep, that would do it.” Dr. Hutton always took time to answer questions. On a slow night, he would have given Penny a ..."
53.
"... head slightly. “Yep, that would do it.” Dr. Hutton always took time to answer questions. On a slow night, he would have given Penny a blow-by-blow account of the scientific process by which steroids increase the number of white blood cells. Shortly thereafter, Penny responded to Darlina ..."
54.
"... process by which steroids increase the number of white blood cells. Shortly thereafter, Penny responded to Darlina yelling. Her room smelled like soured milk and Penny dreaded what she would find beneath the neat covers. It was bad. Consequently, both Maria and the LPN helped Penny bathe ..."
"...It was bad. Consequently, both Maria and the LPN helped Penny bathe and reposition Darlina’s mammoth body on fresh linens, then Penny straightened the room, emptying the yellow bath water into the sink beside the bed. Finally, Penny approached the desk to enter Darlina’s assessment and vital signs into a computer. ..."
57.
"... Penny grimaced. So many E-mail notices came out every day that it would take an extra half hour per shift just to read them all. “Thanks, Maria. It’s a big help when you pick out the important ones and post them; I don’t know how they expect us to keep up with everything!” Penny ..."
"...Penny looked at the array of information: (1) a medical joke, (2) a reminder that the word “unit” must be written out, not abbreviated with the letter U, (3) a notice, “Effective Immediately,” of a change in policy: STAT orders must be carried out within thirty minutes and ASAP orders ..."
59.
"... that Dr. Child was no longer on staff. Penny stood behind Maria. “The collage on the back of that door looks like one of my grandmother’s crazy quilts.” Bending down, she whispered into Maria’s ear, “What happened with Dr. Child?” “He didn’t keep his charts caught up, and ..."
"...As Penny stepped around the end of the counter and into the hall, a tall man wearing camouflage fatigues, a slouch hat, and combat boots, shuffled toward her. He carried a duffle bag and glared out from under bushy eyebrows. “I’m Colonel Philpot.” His skin was the color ..."
"...Penny nodded, trying to look as though she understood. The man was so bent over it made her want to arch her back. She entered the room next door to Darlina and found Pauline Curry, her face beet red, standing at her sink, holding dentures in her trembling ..."
63.
"... Pauline’s sink bowl from the drain. Penny grabbed the dentures and directed Pauline to sit down on the side of her bed while she fetched the automatic ear thermometer. Pauline’s temperature was 102, so Penny checked Dr. Benton’s standing orders. Finally, two hours later, after ..."
64.
"... 102, so Penny checked Dr. Benton’s standing orders. Finally, two hours later, after Phenergan, Tylenol, and Ativan, the woman was asleep and Penny fastened the automatic blood pressure cuff to her patient’s arm as she had promised. It was 1 a.m. when Penny joined the other two nurses ..."
65.
"... blood pressure cuff to her patient’s arm as she had promised. It was 1 a.m. when Penny joined the other two nurses working at computers. She slid into a chair and leaned over to tell Barb, “I met the Colonel.” Barb grinned. “He told me the reason he got here so late tonight was ..."
67.
"... the rest to Watt’s grandson.” “I don’t know how you remember all that! He scares me—I’m glad he left!” Penny answered the ringing phone and handed the receiver to the LPN, who grimaced and sighed as she listened to her next assignment. “They’re pulling me back to Third ..."
68.
"... next assignment. “They’re pulling me back to Third for AM admissions,” she said. “The kid you gave me is okay, Penny. His mother spent the night so she helps him. I’ve changed his dressing, given all his meds, caught his chart up, and written out your Report.” “It’s too bad ..."
69.
"... meds, caught his chart up, and written out your Report.” “It’s too bad you have to go just when we catch up,” Penny said, then answered the phone again. When she placed the receiver to her ear, Philpot was in mid-sentence. “...because I had a wreck on the way home from the hospital ..."
71.
"... Just send somebody to get the ham and bring it to him.” “I’ll do it, Colonel. You get some sleep now.” Penny bit her bottom lip. What he said was untrue but not uninteresting, and it was beginning to make sense. She gathered her patients’ Kardexes and typed her code into a ..."
74.
"... to Oncology to draw blood around 5 a.m. Eventually, Buck Dalton stepped off the elevator pushing his lab cart, ready for morning sticks. Seeing Penny, he mimicked astonishment. “What’s happenin’? Is this the wrong hospital or what!” “Hi Buck. Have you bought your house ..."
"...Barb gave Report first, and while Penny waited her turn she extracted from her locker the list she had printed of Dr. Scales’s patients and examined it. In addition to Mr. Tribble, there were seven others. Two of the diagnoses were identical: Infection of Unknown Origin. Another was Anemia/Rule Out GI Bleed, and ..."
"...Barb was working at a computer when Penny pulled on her jacket, so Penny descended the steps alone. In the basement, the door opening onto the parking lot was barricaded and a sign pointed down the hall to the left. Kerri, her eyes thickly rimmed with mascara, talked with two other housekeepers at a window ..."
81.
"... eyes thickly rimmed with mascara, talked with two other housekeepers at a window beside the door. “How are we supposed to get out?” Penny asked her. “This is the door I’ve always used.” “Come on, I’ll show you,” Kerri said, walking back toward the elevator, around a corner and ..."
83.
"... the corridor past the classrooms where they had orientation, and past a door marked Morgue. “Didn’t you tell me that elevator-room door opened to a hallway that went by the morgue?” Penny asked. “Yes, but this is the front of the morgue. That hall goes by the back of the morgue down ..."
87.
"... “The sewer’s backed up and while they’re here, they’re moving the air return for the heating/cooling unit away from the loading dock to keep exhaust fumes from delivery trucks out of the hospital.” Kerri placed her mouth close to Penny’s ear. “Can you keep a secret?” ..."
88.
"... trucks out of the hospital.” Kerri placed her mouth close to Penny’s ear. “Can you keep a secret?” Penny nodded, expecting to hear that Kerri was engaged or pregnant. “A fetus was blocking the sewer line. They think some patient must have flushed it,” Kerri whispered. On ..."
91.
"... or pregnant. “A fetus was blocking the sewer line. They think some patient must have flushed it,” Kerri whispered. On the drive home, Penny considered the night. A baby flushed down the commode explained her problem with Mrs. Curry’s sink. They gave Mr. Tribble a pacemaker. Did he ..."
"...a lot of Dr. Scales’s office patients Decadron. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease would require an elevated white count, so maybe Dr. Scales used it to increase their white cell counts and then admitted patients for infection. Doctors were paid for each patient they admitted to the hospital. Penny thought Scales personified the spectacular autumn-scarlet of poison oak leaves: tempting and dangerous. ..."
"...Had she uncovered a medical conspiracy like those she had read about in crime novels? No, she was probably just blaming other people because she felt guilty herself; and she was sleep-deprived.... It could be that Mr. Philpot was just sleep-deprived like Penny—only a little bit worse because of all his long-haul truck trips. ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 14: Chapter Fourteen
"...After three night shifts that made moving her parents out of Westview seem like a walk in the park, Penny’s trip from the hospital to the Jacksonville airport through rush-hour traffic was a nonevent. Leaving her car in the long-term parking lot, she pulled her suitcase toward the terminal, wondering when exhaustion would overtake her. Sometimes, after working three night shifts, she could hardly drive home in ..."
"...Before her parents were relocated to Roanoke, at times when she couldn’t sleep, Penny had relaxed by visualizing herself driving into Charleston. She would envision the bridges and marshes until she could almost smell the paper mill and swamp air, then she would picture herself crossing the last bridge onto the island, driving beneath overhanging live-oak branches, and arriving at Westview where ..."
"...Sometime later, waiting for her suitcase to come around on the carousel in Roanoke, Penny couldn’t remember when she fell asleep; she barely remembered changing planes in Atlanta, and a feeling close to panic hit her. She had been crazy to think she could find her way around in the big city! David had made it sound easy, but if she tried ..."
"...Locating a taxi outside the terminal was no problem, and when the driver stopped at her brother’s home, Penny asked him to wait. She located the house key under its special rock, deposited her suitcase, and had the cabbie drive her on to the retirement center. She asked him to draw a map of the route and, uncertain of the appropriate amount, tipped him ten dollars. ..."
18.
"... hair was in tight curls from a recent permanent. Rev. Nichols leaned over his wife, “This is your daughter Penny,” he told her. Penny, feeling excited and sad and tired at the same time, kissed her mother and hugged her father. “Let’s go to Mother’s room where we can ..."
22.
"... Following her father, the room Penny entered had a bathroom just inside the door. To the left, in a bed against the wall, lay an old lady with her eyes closed, and at the end of the room, near another bed, hung her mother’s favorite painting: three camellia blossoms with dewdrops on the petals. ..."
24.
"... dewdrops on the petals. Rev. Nichols stationed his wife close to the painting and pulled up a chair while Penny sat on the bed and described her trip. Mrs. Nichols smiled occasionally, but seemed more interested in ­picking at the vine pattern on her own skirt. “We’re so glad to see ..."
25.
"... at the vine pattern on her own skirt. “We’re so glad to see you, my precious,” Penny’s father said. “Mother usually has her meals here, but tonight I have arranged to take her to the main dining room so we can all eat together.” Wondering if she should help her mother use ..."
"...Wondering if she should help her mother use the toilet, Penny patted below the waistline of Mrs. Nichols’s skirt and discovered that she was padded with diapers. They left the nursing home through the enclosed, heated walkway that connected all the buildings. At the hub of the walkway was a shopping center: a tiled area containing library, barber ..."
"...Along the way, Penny’s mother looked around, reaching out and picking up anything she could grab. When Rev. Nichols paused to catch his breath too close to a fire alarm, she managed to pull the handle, setting off insistent clanging and flashing lights. Her embarrassed husband apologized to the attendants, but ..."
28.
"... to Penny’s instructions to put them back up. They entered a restaurant-like dining room, where they were greeted by name and led to a table. Hoping for something special, Penny ordered an appetizer of shrimp cocktail for each of them. When the appetizers arrived, Rev. Nichols said, ..."
"...Listening to her father beg her mother to “take a bite of that,” or “don’t take so long, you’re keeping everybody waiting,” Penny had flashbacks to meals from her childhood. She observed a crumb on his chin, his nose dripping and unwiped, the man still trying to be in control. His impatience, short temper, and self absorption had increased, while his memory and hearing had decreased. For some reason, ..."
32.
"... his memory and hearing had decreased. For some reason, however, Mrs. Nichols managed to eat every one of her shrimp. “Did you enjoy the shrimp, Mother?”, Penny asked. “Not very much, but I can get them down as well as the next person,” she answered, wrinkling her nose. Penny sat up ..."
34.
"... asked. “Not very much, but I can get them down as well as the next person,” she answered, wrinkling her nose. Penny sat up straight. Her Mother had just said a whole sentence! Her father remained unfazed. “Those shrimp should never have been taken away from their mother.” After the ..."
37.
"... from their mother.” After the meal, and after returning Mrs. Nichols to her nurse, Penny and her father walked back to his room. He advanced the thermostat as they entered. “It’s always cold in here; I call the janitor every day but he can’t fix the heat.” Removing her jacket, ..."
38.
"... as they entered. “It’s always cold in here; I call the janitor every day but he can’t fix the heat.” Removing her jacket, Penny sat beside him on the couch and he took her hand. “While you’re here I need to buy some socks—the ones David bought don’t fit—and I want you to give ..."
41.
"... Daddy.” “I found several worthwhile books in the library; this one is Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.” He lifted the book from his bedside table and showed it to Penny, then laid it down and unbuttoned his shirt. “I want you to see this rash on my back.” “It looks like ..."
44.
"... make a doctor’s appointment and find out what’s wrong, but you can rub some of this Vaseline on it for me.” “I think it’s hot in here,” Penny said. “I’m sweating!” Instead of lowering the thermostat, Rev. Nichols clicked it off. “It just doesn’t work right!” Before ..."
47.
"... right!” Before going downstairs to meet her taxi, Penny rubbed Vaseline onto Rev. Nichols’s back and told him, “Tomorrow morning I’ll give Mother a bath, then take you out for lunch, and we’ll shop for socks tomorrow afternoon. Does that sound all right to you?” “I don’t ..."
50.
"... how much I admire you! You are SO beautiful,” her father said. The next morning Penny drove her sister-in-law’s car and, following the taxi driver’s directions, arrived at her mother’s bedside before breakfast. Mrs. Nichols resisted her daughter’s efforts at bathing and dressing, ..."
51.
"... breakfast. Mrs. Nichols resisted her daughter’s efforts at bathing and dressing, but Penny finally completed the job, placed her in a wheelchair, and rolled her to the nursing home’s eating area where an attendant directed them to a table and brought two cups of coffee. Mrs. Nichols ..."
52.
"... area where an attendant directed them to a table and brought two cups of coffee. Mrs. Nichols reached out and touched the hawk’s eye medallion resting on Penny’s chest, then turned it from side to side. “You gave this to me, Mother.” “I know,” her mother replied in a quiet ..."
"...Making conversation while her mother ate wore Penny out, and when her mother would eat no more, Penny pushed her into a TV room and joined her in front of the set. Mrs. Nichols was distracted by people coming and going, and registered alarm each time an announcement was made on the paging system. She ..."
56.
"... at which she pointed from time to time, than she was in visiting with her daughter. Leaving her mother watching TV, Penny collected Rev. Nichols from his apartment and they set out for a nearby shopping mall. “What would you like for lunch, Daddy?” “I don’t think I can eat anything ..."
60.
"... sandwiches, though. Let’s order one and share it—just eat what you want.” “Please tell me what to do about my bowels,” he asked Penny. “My stools have a smaller diameter than they used to have.” “Maybe you are not as constipated, Daddy.” Overwhelmed by so many physical ..."
62.
"... have a smaller diameter than they used to have.” “Maybe you are not as constipated, Daddy.” Overwhelmed by so many physical complaints, Penny waited while he ate his half-sandwich. Carrying the three pairs of socks David had bought, Penny and her father walked slowly into the ..."
"...Carrying the three pairs of socks David had bought, Penny and her father walked slowly into the department store and she pointed out the display of socks. He rejected nylon socks as too thick, and the cotton ones were too lumpy. Paying no attention to price, he selected a fifteen-dollar silk pair and insisted upon trying them ..."
65.
"... upon trying them on. The clerk pointed to a dressing room for the handicapped. Conscious of pressure in her chest, Penny realized she was hyperventilating. If he walked any slower they would be going backward! They made their way into a five-foot-square room with rails along the walls and ..."
"...himself onto a chair, Rev. Nichols removed one shoe and then his sock, which released an unpleasant odor. He folded the sock, placed it in the shoe, removed a paper tab holding the new pair together, and creased the tab into a small square, which he handed to Penny. He inched the new sock over his bare foot, and for an agonizing length of time he debated whether or not the ribbing was too binding. ..."
67.
"... whether or not the ribbing was too binding. Unable to stand it anymore, Penny leaned over and with one finger easily jerked the sock a few inches away from his ankle. “You mean here, Daddy? These are great! Let’s take this pair.” After supper with her father in the dining room, ..."
69.
"... here, Daddy? These are great! Let’s take this pair.” After supper with her father in the dining room, Penny selected The Russians are Coming from several videos she had brought and watched it with him in his apartment. When the closing credits began, Rev. Nichols said, “Thank you, ..."
71.
"... you go, though, I want you to put more Vaseline on my back.” Penny supplied him with Tylenol from her purse. “When I’m not here, Daddy, don’t forget that you can push your buzzer and the nurse will bring what you need.” He hung his head. “They don’t like me.” While Penny ..."
73.
"... hung his head. “They don’t like me.” While Penny rubbed Vaseline onto his back, he said, “In the morning we’ll watch a church service on TV; I don’t go to the service downstairs because the seats are too hard and they hurt my back.” Penny had washed her parents’ clothes the ..."
"...Penny had washed her parents’ clothes the night before, but it was 10:30 Sunday morning by the time she finished ironing them and returned to the nursing home. Already dressed, Mrs. Nichols sat in her wheelchair while Penny folded her clothes away into drawers. She placed her father’s ..."
76.
"... apartment where he lay, fully dressed, on his bed. “Look Daddy, I brought Mother over here so we can all eat lunch together,” Penny said, wondering if his obvious anger was because she had gone to the nursing home before coming to see him. “It would be too hard on Mother! She’s in ..."
78.
"... would be too hard on Mother! She’s in pain,” he snapped. Asking her father to find the church channel, Penny sat on the couch beside her mother’s wheelchair and turned the pages of the magazine she had brought. He stood up, changed the channel, and came to sit beside Penny while ..."
79.
"... beside her mother’s wheelchair and turned the pages of the magazine she had brought. He stood up, changed the channel, and came to sit beside Penny while the choir sang “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” Mrs. Nichols smiled, recognizing the song, then pointed to a picture in the magazine lying ..."
80.
"... sit beside Penny while the choir sang “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” Mrs. Nichols smiled, recognizing the song, then pointed to a picture in the magazine lying open on Penny’s lap. Penny raised it to give her mother a better view. “We don’t HAVE to watch this,” Rev. Nichols said in a stern ..."
81.
"... to give her mother a better view. “We don’t HAVE to watch this,” Rev. Nichols said in a stern voice. Disapproval bolted out of him like lightning on judgement day and propelled Penny back to her childhood: unable to please, too small to make a difference. Presently, observing that her ..."
83.
"... too small to make a difference. Presently, observing that her mother had fallen asleep halfway into a sermon about God’s love and forgiveness, Penny said, “I don’t believe Mother is in pain, Daddy, or she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep like this.” Rev. Nichols pushed himself up, ..."
85.
"... with a flourish. Surprised, Penny at first thought that her father had not been able to hear her because the TV volume had been so loud, but as he continued to stand before her it was obvious that he was seething. “Don’t you like the sermon, Daddy?”, she asked him. “YES!” he ..."
87.
"... him. “YES!” he yelled, “But YOU aren’t listening to it!” Penny giggled, then collected herself. “Let’s go down to lunch,” she said, realizing as she spoke that her voice sounded exactly like her mother’s. Even if Penny worked harder and made more money so that she could ..."
"...Even if Penny worked harder and made more money so that she could hire help and move her parents to Dixiana, and even if she and Johnny suddenly became wealthy and she could quit work—even then she could not take care of her mother because she would not be able to deal ..."
"...After their meal, Penny loaded a video tape entitled I Hear America Singing into the VCR. Her parents obviously enjoyed it, especially the Stephen Foster songs her father used to play on his mandolin. He asked to keep the tape, saying maybe he would get out his mandolin and practice. ..."
90.
"... any more. Promising to return to eat supper with him, Penny pushed her mother through the halls toward her building, stopping at the grocery for two ice cream sandwiches. When they reached the nursing home, she wheeled her mother up to a small dining table and produced the ice cream. “Oh!” ..."
91.
"... dining table and produced the ice cream. “Oh!” Her mother clasped her hands, “I want one of those.” Mrs. Nichols allowed Penny to peel the paper down for her, making eye contact and returning Penny’s smiles with vacant smiles of her own. Then, because her mother seemed ..."
"...Then, because her mother seemed uninterested in verbal communication, Penny wheeled her back to her room, hoping that less activity and more familiar surroundings would improve her concentration. Closing the bathroom door against the stench of ammonia, Penny arranged the wheelchair so that her mother faced the wall on which hung the camellias, painted long ago by a ..."
93.
"... friend. Penny told stories from the past, recounting times when Mrs. Nichols had come to help after the births of her grandchildren, asking if she remembered. “Those things are getting dim,” her mother replied, but encouraged Penny with “What else?” or “And then what?” Penny had ..."
94.
"... else?” or “And then what?” Penny had hoped to witness the old warmth come back to her mother’s eyes, but her gaze was barren. “Mother, remember when we sat on the porch at Westview and watched the sunset? Do you miss that beautiful river?” “There are many things I miss,” ..."
"...Penny rolled her back to the hall outside the dining room where the staff was beginning to gather the residents for supper. The nurses laughed and teased each other while most of the patients looked out of touch with the situation, their heads lolling to the side, some rocking ..."
"...Penny smiled at her mother, telling her she had enjoyed their visit. They held hands, gripping tightly with their fingers interlaced. Penny examined her mother’s small cold hand, spreading its fingers, admiring the ring she would inherit, thinking how this hand had fed her and taught her to ..."
99.
"... don’t know who we are or where we’ve been.” Hot tears Penny had been holding back spilled down her face. She looked through the flood into her mother’s eyes, hoping for some swelling of emotion or even just a slight reaction. Apathetic to Penny’s tears, her mother continued ..."
100.
"... flood into her mother’s eyes, hoping for some swelling of emotion or even just a slight reaction. Apathetic to Penny’s tears, her mother continued steadily, “But we have been fortunate.” Penny spoke with difficulty. “I miss you, Mother.” Her mother answered evenly, “I miss you, ..."
101.
"... a slight reaction. Apathetic to Penny’s tears, her mother continued steadily, “But we have been fortunate.” Penny spoke with difficulty. “I miss you, Mother.” Her mother answered evenly, “I miss you, too.” A nurse came for Mrs. Nichols and wheeled her to her place in the ..."
104.
"... her to her place in the eating area. Before walking away, Penny locked in her mind the image before her: her mother sitting at the table in a stylish dress, her silvery hair shining, the prettiest lady in the room, smiling and waving to her daughter. After supper with her father, Penny ..."
"...After supper with her father, Penny asked if he would enjoy going to the basement hymn-sing she had seen advertised on a sign posted in the elevator. He refused, saying that the metal chairs down there were uncomfortable, and he was too tired. She would not come back in the morning because her ..."
108.
"... for a moment, then stood watching her drive away. Not until the next morning when she was in her seat on the airplane, did Penny find the envelope her father must have slipped into her purse. It contained a 200-dollar check and a note: “Dearest Penny, Thank you for a wonderful ..."
109.
"... on the airplane, did Penny find the envelope her father must have slipped into her purse. It contained a 200-dollar check and a note: “Dearest Penny, Thank you for a wonderful visit. Much love, Mother and Daddy.” Although mentally and physically drained, Penny would have only one ..."
114.
"... and Daddy.” Although mentally and physically drained, Penny would have only one night to rest before she was expected back at work on Tuesday evening in Jacksonville, where the pace had accelerated and would force her into unimaginable circumstances. ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 15: Chapter Fifteen
0.
"... You’ll be back soon enough.” Penny was at home in Dixiana. She had been back from Roanoke approximately twenty-four hours, barely enough time to unpack and catch her breath, but she was ready to return to work. Jacksonville Oncology would be a pleasant change. An October wind whistling ..."
"...An October wind whistling around the house delivered a whiff of winter as Tuesday afternoon’s forty-degree temperature plummeted toward the unseasonable freeze predicted for that night. Running later than usual, Penny hurried to her Chevette and steered out of the driveway through a flurry of tiny snowflakes blowing in all directions. A plastic bag swooped along in wind gusts and caught on a naked tree, whose skeleton extremities reached out as if to grab at her car. ..."
4.
"... reached out as if to grab at her car. Except for cedars and pines, most of the trees along the interstate were bare, and up ahead a hawk perched precariously on a high swaying branch of sycamore. Penny lifted a finger to touch her hawk’s eye pendant. Circling behind the Jacksonville ..."
"...Circling behind the Jacksonville hospital, she spied a rounded brown bag at the back of the staff parking lot. On alert since the fetus incident and since reading about a newborn found in a paper bag at New York General, Penny parked near the suspicious-looking sack and walked over to peer inside, much relieved to encounter only the remains of someone’s lunch. ..."
"...Nurses had no job security; just last week the hospital had laid off twenty-four employees: newly-hired office and lab personnel and five nurses. Rumor had it that Administration planned to close the Psychiatric Unit and everyone was jumpy. Sweat prickled Penny’s skin as she sprinted up the stairs to look for the time clock, which had been moved. ..."
"...In the nurses’ lounge, Barb, already dressed in scrubs, bowed her head over the Kardex while a glow from the overhead florescent fixture highlighted blond streaks in her hair. Concentrating on her notes, she did not look up to welcome Penny. “I’m keeping the three I had last night, and I took the patient they admitted today, okay? That gives me four. If you take the other two plus the new admission we’re getting, you’ll be totally buried, believe me.” ..."
16.
"... getting, you’ll be totally buried, believe me.” “How are you tonight?” Penny paused at the table, trying to think of anything she might have done to offend her friend, while butterflies hatched at the top of her stomach. Barb glanced at Penny and smiled with one side of her ..."
18.
"... to offend her friend, while butterflies hatched at the top of her stomach. Barb glanced at Penny and smiled with one side of her mouth. “You’d better get dressed. I’ll tell you later, if we have time.” After Report and the transfer of narcotic keys, Penny planned ahead: she ..."
"...After Report and the transfer of narcotic keys, Penny planned ahead: she would assess her charges and load the information into the computer. “I’ll get vital signs on my patients, Maria,” she told the unit secretary. “I’ve got to be in their rooms anyway, so if you’ll set up for my new patient and get the ..."
"...Entering Lela Logan’s room with Tylenol and Benadryl for pre-medication, Penny was unprepared for the sullen expression of the puffy forty-year-old with ebony hair. The woman avoided eye contact and when Penny approached her right side to check her blood pressure, Lela covered her upper right arm with her left hand. ..."
29.
"... with her left hand. “Use the other arm,” she said. “Have you had breast surgery, Miss Logan?” Penny consulted her notes from Report. The previous nurse hadn’t mentioned it and there was no sign over the patient’s bed. “No.” The woman offered no explanation. “The reason ..."
"...As she moved to the left side of the bed, Penny’s mental alarm sounded: the fingers on her patient’s left hand were bluish with long, gray nails. An implanted IV port on her left chest had been accessed and normal saline infused slowly to keep the vein open. Fearing a circulation problem, Penny reached for the woman’s left ..."
35.
"... Logan. I thought your hand was discolored, but it must be the light in here.” “No, it’s hair dye,” Lela snapped, regarding Penny as one would a stool specimen. “I scratch my head with this hand.” As Penny cycled the blood pressure machine, she detected a grey area on the ..."
36.
"... a stool specimen. “I scratch my head with this hand.” As Penny cycled the blood pressure machine, she detected a grey area on the pillowcase surrounding Miss Logan’s hair. She conducted the rest of her assessment in silence. Two women awaited Penny when she returned to the hall. One ..."
"...Two women awaited Penny when she returned to the hall. One of them was tall and turned from chastising a six-year-old grandson who had been running around the nurses’ station. “Are you Mrs. Posey’s nurse? My name is Zuna, and this is my twin sister, Zunetta. Our Mama’s ..."
"...Penny had been warned about the sisters in Report: they were suing a nursing home because their mother, eighty-seven years old with advanced ovarian cancer, had fallen out of bed. They then brought her to Oncology requesting aggressive treatment. Yet, when Dr. Hutton ordered radiation and the ambulance ..."
"...“Let me get her vital signs,” Penny said. “I’ll check to see what the doctor ordered and then we’ll know what she needs.” At the med cart, Penny discovered that one of Mrs. Posey’s scheduled medications was a time-release narcotic pill not due until 11 p.m. Lortab was ordered for break-through pain and ..."
43.
"... in my notes.” “She’s Mama’s sitter,” Zuna explained. Penny turned to the sitter, who was writing on a legal pad. “I’m glad you’re here. Please help me pull her to the top of the bed so I can raise her head.” “I don’t do nursing measures,” the stout sitter said, ..."
"...“I don’t do nursing measures,” the stout sitter said, handing Penny a blue and yellow brochure entitled “Comfort Companions: The Affordable Solution for Non-medical Care.” “I keep a record of the shift, do light housekeeping, shop for groceries and prepare meals, but most importantly, I provide companionship to my patient.” She recited this as if reading it from ..."
45.
"... to my patient.” She recited this as if reading it from a tombstone. Penny dumped out the water and refilled the cup with Coke while Mrs. Posey smoothed her blanket and picked something imaginary out of the air. Zunetta helped Penny pull her mother up in bed, then pointed to the ..."
46.
"... her blanket and picked something imaginary out of the air. Zunetta helped Penny pull her mother up in bed, then pointed to the woman’s head. “Look at this lump. I want you to see what they did to Mama in that nursing home!” Penny clicked on the over-bed examination light: there was no ..."
"...Penny clicked on the over-bed examination light: there was no redness. Palpating the scalp, she felt a slight ridge which was probably part of the woman’s skull. “I think it’ll be all right,” Penny said, cranking up the bed to a sitting position. She offered the Lortab ..."
49.
"... butted from behind by the grandchild. She jerked his arm and dragged the screaming boy out into the hall. “You have to crush all of her pills,” Zunetta told Penny as she walked away. Penny wondered if the patient’s previous time-release pill had been crushed. If so, she would have been ..."
50.
"... as she walked away. Penny wondered if the patient’s previous time-release pill had been crushed. If so, she would have been over-sedated from receiving the whole twelve-hour amount of narcotic at once, and her pain would have come back before time for the next dose. When Penny returned ..."
51.
"... time for the next dose. When Penny returned with a fresh, crushed Lortab, the sitter had wiped the floor. Penny mixed the Lortab powder in jelly, spooned it into Mrs. Posey’s mouth, and she held it for a full minute before spewing it onto her gown and bed. “Spell that medicine for ..."
53.
"... for me,” the sitter said, her pen poised. “L-o-r-t-a-b,” Penny spelled, cleaning the woman’s face and hands. She changed her gown, blanket, and top sheet, then faced the sitter. “I don’t guess you turn patients either.” “No, I don’t do nursing measures; I keep a ..."
"...Penny positioned Mrs. Posey, then retreated to the desk where Maria held a unit of blood. “Nancy North is our new patient. She’s on the way up–-and I forgot to tell you somebody asked for you this afternoon before you got here. She said she’s a patient ..."
56.
"... “Maureen Meadows, 209” was written. Penny experienced a ping in her stomach: a fleeting internal blink. How could she have forgotten to check on Maureen? Her best friend was sick in this hospital, and she couldn’t go to see her until morning. Penny pocketed the note. “Thanks, ..."
57.
"... friend was sick in this hospital, and she couldn’t go to see her until morning. Penny pocketed the note. “Thanks, Maria. Please weigh Mrs. North when you get her vitals. I’m going to start this blood.” Penny called Barb to witness as she wasted the dirty Lortab, then Barb accompanied ..."
58.
"... going to start this blood.” Penny called Barb to witness as she wasted the dirty Lortab, then Barb accompanied her to Miss Logan’s bed where they compared tags on the blood bag with the patient’s identification bracelet and signed their names to the forms. Dragging the computer-on-wheels ..."
"...Dragging the computer-on-wheels to the door of Miss Logan’s room, Penny entered her patient’s vital signs and assessment and waited out the first fifteen minutes of the blood transfusion. Miss Logan had been watching a series of musicals on TV, and Mario Lanza’s operatic rendition of “Golden Days” seemed incongruous with the events of this evening. ..."
"...On her way to the newcomer’s room, Penny looked in on Mrs. Posey, who had removed her covers and was trying to climb over the side rail while her sitter watched a replay of Ole Miss football. Returning to the Medication Administration Sheet, usually referred to as MAR, Penny found IV Ativan listed as one ..."
62.
"... need to borrow your pen,” the Comfort Companion said. “Mine’s out of ink.” Penny considered replying, “I only do nursing care,” but what she actually said was, “I’ll get you one from the desk.” Penny handed over the ballpoint, and they returned to Mrs. Posey’s room, where ..."
"...Penny handed over the ballpoint, and they returned to Mrs. Posey’s room, where she administered the drug, repositioned her, and activated the bed alarm. “Left side—did you get that?” She regretted her tone when the sitter shot her a sideways glance. But—Good Night! All the woman ..."
64.
"... Making a mental note that she would need to check hourly vital signs on her blood-infusion patient, Penny entered the new patient’s room, where Maria muttered “Good luck,” and handed her a scrap of paper towel on which she had written Mrs. North’s weight, height, and vital signs. An ..."
65.
"... had written Mrs. North’s weight, height, and vital signs. An IV had been started, and Penny checked the site into which a Decadron drip was infusing. It looked clear and the dressing was intact—some ER nurse had done a good job. Nancy North, sitting on the side of her bed, frowned at ..."
66.
"... ER nurse had done a good job. Nancy North, sitting on the side of her bed, frowned at Penny. “I’m catching my death of hot, honey—having my own private summer in here. Could you turn the heat down? I need more pillows and I’m soooooo hungry.” Penny adjusted the thermostat and ..."
67.
"... I need more pillows and I’m soooooo hungry.” Penny adjusted the thermostat and introduced herself, then proceeded to the supply room for another pillow. As she passed the desk, she asked Maria what ER had told her about Mrs. North. “Her son brought her to our hospital after someone ..."
72.
"... floor so they don’t have to pay us for coming up from the basement.” Penny located the ER report in a stack of papers. Diagnosis: Breast Cancer with metastasis to the brain. The brain scan showed a 2 cm midline shift. Dr. Hutton arrived, winded from the stairs. “This is going to be an ..."
73.
"... Breast Cancer with metastasis to the brain. The brain scan showed a 2 cm midline shift. Dr. Hutton arrived, winded from the stairs. “This is going to be an interesting case, Penny. Is she yours?” To Penny’s nod he said, “I’ll give you something to chill her out; that Decadron drip ..."
"...To Penny’s nod he said, “I’ll give you something to chill her out; that Decadron drip has her hyped and hungry. Give her what she wants until we get her calmed down.” He looked up as a grim young man stepped from the elevator and approached the desk. ..."
"...Dr. Hutton addressed him. “Your mother’s blood sugar is almost 500. I’ve been controlling her with oral hypoglycemics but she’s beyond that now. Penny will do finger sticks and give her insulin every two hours tonight.” He beckoned to Penny. “With Decadron on board it’s going to be a wild ride.” ..."
76.
"... tonight.” He beckoned to Penny. “With Decadron on board it’s going to be a wild ride.” Penny, carrying a pillow and the Acu-check machine, accompanied Dr. Hutton to the patient’s room. “Mrs. North,” Penny said, “Dr. Hutton wants me to check your blood sugar by sticking your ..."
77.
"... accompanied Dr. Hutton to the patient’s room. “Mrs. North,” Penny said, “Dr. Hutton wants me to check your blood sugar by sticking your finger. If you’ll give me your finger, I’ll do it while the doctor explains everything.” Mrs. North shook her head. “I need more ice ..."
79.
"... North shook her head. “I need more ice before anything else.” Penny will supply everything you need, Nancy,” Dr. Hutton said. “Hold out your finger like a good girl and let the nurse stick it.” “It’ll hurt!” Mrs. North’s demanding voice became a whimper, and her ..."
81.
"... her smile was replaced by tears. ”I’ll numb it.” Laying down the alcohol swab and the cotton ball, Penny turned to the doctor. “We use an ethyl chloride spray to deaden the skin over implanted ports before we insert access needles. I’ll go get it.” “Bring me more pillows and ..."
83.
"... I’ll go get it.” “Bring me more pillows and more ice when you come back,” Mrs. North whined. Penny filled a pitcher with ice, and removed the spray can from the narcotic cabinet. Mrs. North didn’t seem to notice when Penny pricked her finger with the lancet. Her blood sugar was ..."
84.
"... filled a pitcher with ice, and removed the spray can from the narcotic cabinet. Mrs. North didn’t seem to notice when Penny pricked her finger with the lancet. Her blood sugar was 425. Returning to the desk, Penny found Barb on the edge of tears, but Dr. Hutton said, “Give ..."
85.
"... Her blood sugar was 425. Returning to the desk, Penny found Barb on the edge of tears, but Dr. Hutton said, “Give Nancy IV Valium, 2-4 mgs every hour until she’s asleep. We’ll have to keep her sedated until we can decrease the swelling in her brain.” Penny nodded. Then, suddenly ..."
86.
"... in her brain.” Penny nodded. Then, suddenly remembering the blood infusion, hurried to Miss Logan’s room. She was asleep to The Sound of Music and Penny observed on the transfusion sheet that Barb had recorded vital signs for her, and it was not time to check them again. After midnight, ..."
87.
"... her, and it was not time to check them again. After midnight, Penny found Barb in the lounge, her head in her hands. “Thank you for getting those blood vitals for me. I completely forgot.... Barb, what’s going on? Are you all right?” Barb hissed through clenched teeth. “Maria’s ..."
"...a patient room when she got her fifth phone call, ok? And I didn’t, like, take a call-back number, but I did ask them to call her back, you know? At least, that’s the only thing I can figure that might have upset her.” Barb gave Penny a weak smile. “Anyway, she hasn’t spoken to me tonight. On top of that it’s lousy at home.” Fresh tears spilled down Barb’s cheeks. ..."
94.
"... leaving a white spot. The cumulative total of 6 mgs of Valium had not phased Mrs. North at 2 a.m. when Penny returned to the room to stick her finger. The can of ethyl chloride spray was not at the nurses’ station, and Penny assumed she had left it at the bedside. “You took it with ..."
96.
"... you,” Mrs. North said. “I need you to help me to the john.” Penny followed her patient, rolling the IV pole to the bathroom door. There was no container on the commode to catch urine. “Where’s your speci-pan?” “You didn’t give me one,” the woman answered. Thinking that ..."
98.
"... the woman answered. Thinking that Maria must have forgotten it when she set up the room, Penny obtained a new measuring-hat from the supply room and fitted it into the toilet. When her patient was back in bed, Penny searched for the spray can, then called the supervisor. “I’ll get another ..."
"...By 5 a.m., after 12 mgs of IV Valium, Mrs. North was finally asleep, and Penny called the lab to postpone her morning lab draw because the woman had slept so little. Mrs. Posey and her sitter were sleeping, and Miss Logan was finished with the platelets and her second bag of blood was infusing to the music of Singing in the Rain. ..."
"...As Penny collected the fluid Intake and Output sheets from all the patients’ rooms in an attempt to help Barb, who had hardly sat down all night, Mrs. North’s light flashed on and her bell sounded. When Penny depressed the intercom button beside her room number, the woman sang out, ..."
103.
"... two blankets when you come.” “Bring the deadening stuff, too,” another voice spoke from the same room. “She won’t let me stick her unless I spray first.” A lab tech who didn’t know about Penny’s call to postpone the lab draw had waked the patient. Penny drew up IV Valium and ..."
104.
"... A lab tech who didn’t know about Penny’s call to postpone the lab draw had waked the patient. Penny drew up IV Valium and entered the room carrying the new ethyl chloride can with her. Finally Lela Logan’s blood bag was empty, and as Penny flushed off the implanted port with normal ..."
106.
"... new ethyl chloride can with her. Finally Lela Logan’s blood bag was empty, and as Penny flushed off the implanted port with normal saline and Heparin she tried to be cheerful. “I enjoyed watching TV with you. Those musicals never get old, do they?” Miss Logan glowered at her, then ..."
108.
"... then picked up the remote control and clicked off the TV set. Penny replenished Miss Logan’s pitcher with fresh ice water. Determined to have some civil exchange of words, she said, “Is there anything I can get for you?” “I don’t know. Can you think of anything?” “I can’t, ..."
110.
"... of words, she said, “Is there anything I can get for you?” “I don’t know. Can you think of anything?” “I can’t, that’s why I asked you.” Penny forced a smile. “Well, I can’t either, but if you think of something, bring it to me,” Miss Logan said, unsmiling. Dr. ..."
113.
"... said, unsmiling. Dr. Hutton stood in the doorway. “All finished? Ready to go home?” “She’s having some trouble with her right arm, Doctor,” Penny told him. “Maybe you should look at it.” Observing the pain caused by his manipulation of the arm, Dr. Hutton ordered an X-ray. ..."
115.
"... “Let’s check this out before you leave, Lela.” Miss Logan scratched her head with her left hand, then pointed a gray finger at Penny. “All right, but I don’t want her to be my nurse. I don’t want her in my room.” When they were back at the desk, Dr. Hutton asked, “Did ..."
118.
"... probably blames me because she can’t go home. This has been one of my worst nights, ever!” Dr. Hutton patted Penny’s shoulder. “The fact that she’s mad doesn’t mean you’re to blame.” After Report, Penny perched beside the computer where Barb still worked. “Can you tell me ..."
119.
"... Penny’s shoulder. “The fact that she’s mad doesn’t mean you’re to blame.” After Report, Penny perched beside the computer where Barb still worked. “Can you tell me what’s wrong at home?” “Money problems, fights with my husband—you name it. It’s like everybody sends ..."
121.
"... of her own words. “I’m too tired to talk about it.” “I’m sorry, Barb. I hope you’ll tell me if there’s any way I can help.” Penny changed back into street clothes, clocked out, and descended to the second floor. In 209, Maureen was watching The Today Show. “You weren’t ..."
123.
"... street clothes, clocked out, and descended to the second floor. In 209, Maureen was watching The Today Show. “You weren’t kidding about being sick, were you?” Penny said. Maureen managed a smile. “Going under the knife makes you weaker than a virgin Daiquiri.” “You’ve had ..."
"...“Oh yeah? I’ve been in here long enough for dust to collect.” Maureen sighed and kept her face at an angle to Penny, trying to hide the knowledge in her eyes. “I could feel it in there, but I didn’t tell anybody...I knew it was no good and I didn’t want to have it taken out and go through all this, but the pain in my stomach got so bad I ..."
"...The news washed over Penny like a bucket of blood. She took a deep breath and exhaled as she gazed out Maureen’s window at the lawn, sprinkled with glitter as frost reflected the morning sun. Everything had crystal edges and caught light, and the hospital room seemed filled with white sound. ..."
131.
"... start radiation treatments next week, and after that comes chemotherapy.” Staggered by the gravity of Maureen’s illness, Penny placed a hand on the over-bed table. The death-dealing disease was murdering Maureen! “Yeah, I’ve picked myself into some thin cotton.” A house wren landed ..."
133.
"... Maureen! “Yeah, I’ve picked myself into some thin cotton.” A house wren landed on the window ledge then flitted away, and Penny wished that both she and Maureen could hop on the bird’s back and fly far away from here. Maureen broke the intense silence. “When you pick in thin cotton ..."
135.
"... leaving her scapulae, like bird bones, outlined beneath the flimsy hospital gown. She’d lost weight! Struck by a wave of fear, Penny squinted her eyes. “Which oncologist?” Her voice was a hoarse murmur. “Dr. Lawrence says they’re both good.” Maureen grinned. “I chose Dr. ..."
"...Penny pressed her hand against her chest. “I love you, Maureen.” There were no other words to say. Everything seemed insignificant when compared to Maureen’s bleak prognosis. She picked up her purse and her coat and walked out the door. Outside, cold stood in the ..."
138.
"... Maureen, and for herself. Driving home, unwilling to imagine her world without Maureen, Penny tried to digest the immensity of Maureen’s illness and the suffering she would endure. Maureen deserved a miracle if anybody did! God would have to come through this time. Johnny had already left ..."
140.
"... to come through this time. Johnny had already left for school so Penny undressed and crawled into bed without eating. When she awoke and looked at the clock, it was noon and she had slept four hours. She poured herself a bowl of cereal and called the hospital. “Jacksonville Oncology, ..."
142.
"... and called the hospital. “Jacksonville Oncology, Ellen speaking.” “It’s Penny, Ellen. I forgot to make out an incident report for losing the ethyl chloride. Please tell the supervisor I’ll do it tonight.” “No, you don’t have to–-we found the can stuffed in a sock at the ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 16: Chapter Sixteen
0.
"... about Flossie Mae.” Depleted by her trip to Roanoke, the revelation of Maureen’s prognosis, and two busy twelve-hour night shifts, Penny had considered calling in sick to the Jacksonville hospital on Thursday night. Driving home Friday morning, she wished she had done it. Instead, she had ..."
"...left for Jacksonville early, contributed a pot of shamrocks to the floral display on Maureen’s windowsill, and spent thirty minutes with her before clocking in. At bedtime, she revisited Maureen’s room to bid her goodnight. After that it was hard: Delores Allison’s family arrived, Barb unloaded, and Penny encountered Mrs. Digby. ..."
"...Because Barb had left the floor for more than an hour on a trip to the lab for a unit of blood, Penny had to answer all the patients’ lights, the Allisons’ questions, and keep everyone supplied with coffee. She was refilling the pot when Barb finally returned and crumpled into a chair, looking like a doll slung against a playhouse. ..."
10.
"... a chair, looking like a doll slung against a playhouse. “Sorry it took so long. I stopped off in ER.” “There must be a good-looking male nurse down there,” Penny teased. Barb nodded. “He wants me to transfer down and work ER—they have a job opening—-but I don’t belong ..."
12.
"... down there,” Penny teased. Barb nodded. “He wants me to transfer down and work ER—they have a job opening—-but I don’t belong there, Penny...I don’t belong here! I’m a New England surgery nurse, you know? I was on the transplant team!” “You said you liked that kind ..."
18.
"... we borrowed, you know? He’s only at home when I’m gone. Penny had met Barb’s children: three-year-old twins, a boy and a girl. “Your children are too young for school. How do you sleep when your husband’s at work?” “They go to nursery school on days when I sleep; I pick ..."
22.
"... go back to the mountains where our families are!” Mrs. Allison died during Report, so the day shift took over before time to bag the body and clean up, but Mrs. Digby, the Clinical Director of Oncology, stopped Penny as she was leaving. “May I see you in my office before you go? ..."
"...“May I see you in my office before you go? We’ll just be a minute.” Exuding an exotic odor, Mrs. Digby preceded Penny into the small room that had once been a closet. Stacking up three manilla folders and centering them on her desk, she shook her arms so that her bracelets settled at her wrists, seated herself, and looked at Penny with an expression that would have been more appropriate ..."
25.
"... interlaced her arterial-red fingernails on top of the folders. “I’m sure you are familiar with the goals of our unit, Penny. The patients are our customers, and when customers tell me their problems, they become my problems.” Penny sat across the desk from her boss. Working only at ..."
26.
"... are our customers, and when customers tell me their problems, they become my problems.” Penny sat across the desk from her boss. Working only at night, she had rarely talked with the woman. Mrs. Digby cleared her throat and searched the acoustic tiles for words. “I’ve received a ..."
28.
"... “I’ve received a complaint from a patient who says you were rude to her.” The statement jolted Penny like a physical blow. She prided herself on getting along with everyone. “Who was the patient?” “Her name is Lela Logan.” She emitted a put-down laugh. “I know the quality ..."
29.
"... She prided herself on getting along with everyone. “Who was the patient?” “Her name is Lela Logan.” She emitted a put-down laugh. “I know the quality of your work, Penny, but you offended Miss Logan.” “She didn’t like me; maybe I reminded her of a mean aunt or something. I ..."
32.
"... scent, spoiling the air. Caught off-guard by her boss’s slam, the words gushed from Penny’s mouth like water from an open hydrant. “I didn’t do anything to her. I can’t please everybody, she just didn’t like me! Now I’m tired, and I need to go home.” “I’m surprised at ..."
33.
"... like me! Now I’m tired, and I need to go home.” “I’m surprised at your attitude.” Mrs. Digby smiled, exposing lipstick-smudged teeth, and her final statement followed Penny out of the office. “We’ll talk about this again.” The conversation reverberated in Penny’s head as ..."
35.
"... “We’ll talk about this again.” The conversation reverberated in Penny’s head as her car’s speed increased, fueled by adrenalin. I CAN’T PLEASE EVERYBODY. Had she actually said that? If she were not careful, she could lose her job! Penny gripped the wheel and sped down the ..."
36.
"... her job! Penny gripped the wheel and sped down the interstate, away from Jacksonville Medical Center. So intent was she upon shaking off her encounter with Mrs. Digby, that she was halfway home before remembering she had planned to stop by Maureen’s room again before she left. It was ..."
"...It was early afternoon when the ringing telephone beside her bed jarred Penny awake. She reached for the receiver but found it farther away than she had thought. She flailed about and knocked a Kleenex box to the floor. Every muscle was sore and it took her body a moment to unlock, but her mind raced. Was it ..."
48.
"... Carolina, and they have living wills.” Penny interjected, “David, please be sure Daddy has a No Code doctor’s order on his chart. Even if a patient has a living will, without the order we have to start a code until we reach the doctor.” “Okay, thanks—I didn’t know that.... I ..."
"...In a nervous state since David’s call, Penny cleaned house with a vengeance. She was stripping the sheets from Johnny’s bed when he arrived to change clothes between teaching his classes and the high school football game. Fridays were hectic for him; sometimes he didn’t make it home until late at night. ..."
"...The furious tempo in her mind slowed as Penny crumpled into Johnny, and he held her until the ice that was freezing every cell of her body melted and she pulled away. “No, go on. Thank you, but I’m really okay. There’s no reason for you to stay here...or for me not to work tomorrow. ..."
55.
"... sick, I don’t know who would work anyway.” At 9 p.m., Penny sat on her bed folding the wash when the phone rang. She followed the white, intestine-like chord as it traveled under the crumpled sheets, ending beside a pile of Johnny’s socks. Faye spoke from Roanoke. “I don’t think Dad ..."
"...In the grey dawn of Saturday morning, yards in Dixiana appeared frozen as Penny drove across town thinking of the Allisons and other families who missed work and stayed at the hospital day and night in order to be with their loved ones when they died, although as far as Penny could tell, the dying patients were too far gone to care—and yet ..."
"...Last night’s nurse poured a cup of coffee, added sugar, and joined Penny, stirring while she talked. “Jason Stephens’s nickname is Squeaky. There’s been a parade of visitors to see him all week: lots and lots of people. He’s a No Code. Liver and kidneys are shut down from septic shock after a bladder infection that became systemic.” ..."
61.
"... one of the comfort measures is to remove his artificial eyeball and irrigate his eye socket daily.” “Have you done it for today?” Penny hoped so because she had never removed an eyeball. The retreating nurse took a deep drink of coffee and shook her head. “I don’t think anybody’s ..."
64.
"... eyeballs.” Penny decided to give her patient a bath right away since there would be so many visitors. Mr. Stephens did not react to anything, and she finished quickly, then changed his sheets, thinking the man would probably die before she had to worry about his eye socket. Opening the ..."
65.
"... probably die before she had to worry about his eye socket. Opening the door for visitors a little early, Penny found a young man waiting. He wore a grey outfit with “City of Dixiana” written across the front in big red letters. “Thank you,” he said. “I’m in a hurry, but I just ..."
"...“Thank you,” he said. “I’m in a hurry, but I just gotta see him again.” Penny accompanied him to the patient’s bedside. “When I was younger some of us boys played pranks on old Squeaky—real high voice—sort’a like a woman’s voice, yeah? We burned a bag of manure on his porch, put a snake inside his screen door, things like that, and he ..."
67.
"... Excusing herself, Penny answered a telephone call from the ER. “We’ve got a patient for you. Dr. Ghent’s here now, so it’ll be thirty minutes or so before we bring him. The diagnosis is Advanced Emphysema with Pneumonia, but mainly he needs soap and water. Any questions?” ..."
70.
"... Head, eighty-eight years old, mentally retarded.” Penny replaced the receiver and called the supervisor. “I’m getting a patient from the ER and I’ll need help.” “I don’t have anybody to send you,” the weekend supervisor said. She was someone ..."
71.
"... from the ER and I’ll need help.” “I don’t have anybody to send you,” the weekend supervisor said. She was someone Penny didn’t know, probably one of the rent-a-nurses the hospital had been using to keep from hiring permanent staff. “Is it all right for me to get help if I ..."
75.
"... knows Number One.” He looked at the floor, shaking his head. “Not no more.” Penny called all the nurses on the CCU staff. Most of them didn’t answer, and the ones she reached had their excuses ready. Before long, an ER nurse pushed a stretcher through the doorway, then paused to ..."
78.
"... then paused to close the door while Mr. Head looked around with frightened eyes. “We’re going to help you,” Penny told him. “First, we’ll move you over onto your bed from this stretcher.” On the count of three, Mr. Head yelled as the two nurses slid him, sheets, pads and all, ..."
"...He wore a curious undergarment with a slit in the front and a flap in the back, but no other openings. Small grey feathers clung to the fabric and it reeked of excretions. Penny cut away the material and discovered a feather stuck in the man’s navel, and more feathers imbedded in his pubic hair. ..."
81.
"... his pubic hair. “Dr. Ghent said this man’s ninety-year-old sister devoted her life to taking care of him,” the ER nurse told Penny. “She’s driving her car to the hospital and should arrive any time now. I hate to leave you like this, but I’ve got to get back.” Penny said, ..."
"...Penny said, “He’s not bothering his oxygen cannula or his IV site, so maybe once I get the catheter in, he’ll leave it alone. Please stay just a minute or two longer and help me insert his catheter before you go.” Mr. Head spit at Penny and grabbed ..."
83.
"... Penny and grabbed the gown as she tried to snap it over his arms. The ER nurse nodded and Penny fetched a catheter kit from the supply closet, then called South Station and asked for someone to come help them for a few minutes. Penny’s helpers held Mr. Head’s arms and legs, and he yelled ..."
"...Penny’s helpers held Mr. Head’s arms and legs, and he yelled “Hey Hum!” in a raging cadence while she washed his perineum and cleaned the glans penis, lubricated the tip of the catheter, and slipped the tube into his bladder. She instilled saline into the catheter’s balloon to hold ..."
"...Buck Dalton, wearing a rumpled lab coat, slouched in as Penny assembled the new chart. Like a man who had lost his way, Buck glanced here and there with anxiety. “Richard Head,” he said, shifting his gaze to the chart in Penny’s hand. “Here’s his labs. I knew you’d want them in a push so I ..."
"...“Uh, I just now finished them.” Buck shrugged and snickered. “They’re so low, I thought maybe I made a mistake, so I ran it all again to be for sure. What’s that smell?” Blinking rapidly, he looked ­goggle-eyed at Penny. “Hey, I knew Doc would need to look at all this stuff, if you know what I mean.” ..."
90.
"... Penny. “Hey, I knew Doc would need to look at all this stuff, if you know what I mean.” Penny phoned Dr. Ghent at home and read the results to him: dangerously low hemoglobin and potassium levels. “Has Jane gotten there yet?” “If you mean Mr. Head’s sister, no, she ..."
94.
"... be sure you ask her what his nickname is.” Penny wrote the orders, filled out the lab requests and placed them next to Buck, who sat on the desk cleaning his lenses. “I haven’t seen you for a while, Buck. Everything still going well?” He combed fingers through his Brilliantine hair, ..."
98.
"... He turned and ambled toward the hall door. Penny checked vital signs on both patients and repositioned Mr. Stephens, supporting his stump with a pillow. She opened the Unit door to receive Mr. Head’s liquid lunch and left it open for visitors. Raising Mr. Head to a sitting position, she ..."
"...an over-bed table in front of him. He stopped chanting and opened his mouth, allowing her to spoon in a wobbly lump of orange Jello. He worked his tongue and lips around with his mouth closed, then turned his head back and forth, spewing orange liquid. Penny removed the tray from in front of him as he gave a series of deep gurgling coughs and vomited thick green emesis. ..."
100.
"... emesis. No visitors had appeared so Penny closed the hall door and gathered supplies. Borrowing a clean over-bed table from another cubicle, she set on it a wash pan half-full of warm water, a can of shaving cream, and a safety razor. The man’s long beard was matted with food. As Penny ..."
101.
"... razor. The man’s long beard was matted with food. As Penny turned to reach for the razor, Mr. Head grabbed the wash pan, dumping it all over himself. Water dripped off the sides of the bed onto the carpet as Flossie Mae entered the Unit. “Oh Honey! That nurse wasn’t just whistling ..."
103.
"... her nose with one hand and surveyed the mess. “Flossie Mae, meet Richard Head.” Penny spread her arms in a gesture of helplessness. “Thank you for coming; asking for help around here is like sending up a prayer when you don’t believe.” Slipping a hospital gown over her clothes, ..."
"...Slipping a hospital gown over her clothes, Flossie Mae helped Penny shave and wash the patient. They turned him from side to side and inspected a bunch of small purple circles on his trunk and thighs, then removed the soaked sheets and applied dry ones before dressing him in a gown. They were finishing as Mr. Head’s small, ..."
106.
"... real sick, a throwin’ up and all, so I called the ambulance. I don’t know what to do anymore.” “Come in,” Penny said. “It’s good you’re here because we need your signature.” “Is Brother better?” “We’re giving him fluids and potassium and as soon as you sign the ..."
108.
"... Brother better?” “We’re giving him fluids and potassium and as soon as you sign the transfusion consent, we’ll give him blood,” Penny said. “His red cells are low so his blood can’t carry as much oxygen as his body needs.” “No, don’t give him blood; I ..."
109.
"... “No, don’t give him blood; I don’t want Brother to have AIDS.” The woman stared at Penny as if she was a suspicious character, possibly a murderer. “That’s how Cousin Jack got AIDS and you’re NOT gonna give AIDS to Brother!” Jane shook her head and stomped her foot. ..."
111.
"... doctor, and he’ll explain it to you.” “I brought what he likes: peanut butter crackers and brownies.” Jane handed the bag to Penny and walked over to the bed with Flossie Mae. “He takes Coke at ten of a mornin’ and four of a evenin’.” Penny dialed Dr. Ghent. “Tell Jane ..."
112.
"... the bag to Penny and walked over to the bed with Flossie Mae. “He takes Coke at ten of a mornin’ and four of a evenin’.” Penny dialed Dr. Ghent. “Tell Jane either we give him the blood and he lives or we don’t give it to him and he dies.” Dr. Ghent sounded ..."
114.
"... we give him the blood and he lives or we don’t give it to him and he dies.” Dr. Ghent sounded impatient. “You talk to her,” Penny said. “I’ve already tried.” Penny invited Jane to sit at the desk and offered her the receiver. After a few minutes she gave it back to Penny. ..."
115.
"... talk to her,” Penny said. “I’ve already tried.” Penny invited Jane to sit at the desk and offered her the receiver. After a few minutes she gave it back to Penny. “He wants to talk to you.” “If this doesn’t beat all,” Dr. Ghent said. “She won’t let him ..."
119.
"... what made these spots?” “Moth balls. I put some in his bed to keep snakes off.” Penny approached Jane, “I’ll have to ask you to leave now so we can take care of your brother.” “I won’t leave as long as Brother needs me.” “Then Flossie Mae will show you to the ..."
"...“I’m sorry, Buck. I forgot to call you,” Penny said. “Please cancel the type and cross match–-we won’t be able to transfuse him—and discard all the requests except for the potassium.” She walked to the bed with Buck. Patting Mr. Head awake, she explained that Buck had come to draw blood and she held down ..."
127.
"... arms and he resumed his original chant. “Hey hum, hey hum, hey hum.” Flossie Mae walked to the back of the Unit and stood in front of a window, her back straight and stiff. Penny followed and stopped in front of her. “I need a favor from you.” Flossie Mae spoke in an undertone through ..."
129.
"... Center. Will you give me a job recommendation?” “We’re not strangers!” Penny insisted. “We’re new friends, getting to know each other, and I’ll be glad to. Is it because of Buck? Are you through working for Dr. Scales?” “I questioned Buck’s lab results, and we got into ..."
"...Flossie Mae fixed her prominent eyes on Penny’s face. “That’s not all,” she said, then looked away. “We’ve had some patients who aren’t from around here. One day two official-looking men came and stayed in the office with Dr. Scales a long time.... I had to handle all the disgruntled sick people and ..."
133.
"... we’re being investigated.” Penny’s pulse began to pound, and she inhaled through her teeth. “Investigated for what? You haven’t hurt anybody, have you?” Penny said this in a choked whisper. She didn’t want to know if the answer was yes. Flossie Mae stared out of the ..."
"...Saturday night over a bowl of chili, Penny listened to Johnny’s account of winning Friday’s homecoming football game, which the whole town was celebrating. Then, after a hot shower and fortifying herself with Tylenol, she fell into bed trying not to think, listening to Music From Scotland on her Bose. ..."
143.
"... with feathers. His sister said the feather mattress had come undone.” “Do you remember his name?” Johnny asked. Penny always knew which bed a patient occupied, but names were hard for her to remember. “His sister’s name is Jane...Head. Richard Head’s his name.” Johnny ..."
145.
"... were hard for her to remember. “His sister’s name is Jane...Head. Richard Head’s his name.” Johnny sat on the side of Penny’s bed, smiling. “Does he have a nickname?” Penny pulled herself back from the edge of sleep. “Dr. Ghent told me to ask about his nickname. Do you ..."
146.
"... sat on the side of Penny’s bed, smiling. “Does he have a nickname?” Penny pulled herself back from the edge of sleep. “Dr. Ghent told me to ask about his nickname. Do you know him? What is it?” “Think about it. The nickname for Richard is...” “Dick. Oh, I see: Dick ..."
148.
"... his nickname. Do you know him? What is it?” “Think about it. The nickname for Richard is...” “Dick. Oh, I see: Dick and Jane, like in first grade readers.” Penny smiled. Johnny leaned closer, kissed Penny’s lips, then placed his mouth close to her ear and whispered, “Dick ..."
149.
"... Oh, I see: Dick and Jane, like in first grade readers.” Penny smiled. Johnny leaned closer, kissed Penny’s lips, then placed his mouth close to her ear and whispered, “Dick Head.” Penny giggled, then erupted into laughter as Johnny hugged her, and somehow her emotions ..."
150.
"... Penny’s lips, then placed his mouth close to her ear and whispered, “Dick Head.” Penny giggled, then erupted into laughter as Johnny hugged her, and somehow her emotions tangled and she wept. Johnny pulled back. “What is it? Have you heard from David again?” “No,” Penny ..."
152.
"... from David again?” “No,” Penny said. All day she had been able to keep from thinking about her parents, but it was easier when she was busy. Now it hit her with full force, and she wallowed in her guilt. She shook with great sobs, soaking Johnny’s shoulder. He held her until she ..."
156.
"... and put you to bed. You can feel guilty again in the morning, if you want to.” Johnny stood and Penny, wanting to monitor the alcohol in her drink, sat on the side of the bed testing her foot against the floor. “Is something wrong with your foot?” he asked, watching Penny limp in front of ..."
157.
"... the alcohol in her drink, sat on the side of the bed testing her foot against the floor. “Is something wrong with your foot?” he asked, watching Penny limp in front of him toward the kitchen. “When we left, I picked up Flossie Mae’s purse to hand it to her and dropped it on the top ..."
"...Johnny set the bottle of vodka on the counter, then filled two glasses with ice and Diet Coke. Into one, he dumped a jigger of vodka, stirred, and handed it to Penny. He placed his hands on the counter and leaned on them, his shoulders rounded like a bag of crushed rock, his eyes fixed on the open bottle. ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 17: Chapter Seventeen
"...Penny shifted onto her back, stretched, and struggled to focus her eyes on the illuminated numbers on her Bose. It was ten minutes before the alarm would sound on a Dixiana work Sunday. She blundered to the bathroom regretting her crying jag the night before. Her lips ..."
6.
"... in her right ankle and imagined falling down hard from a bad sprain. But the Unit was warm and comfortable, like settling into a favorite chair. The night nurse looked up from a magazine as Penny unbuttoned her coat. “When did Mr. Stephens die?” Penny pointed to the amputee’s ..."
8.
"... settling into a favorite chair. The night nurse looked up from a magazine as Penny unbuttoned her coat. “When did Mr. Stephens die?” Penny pointed to the amputee’s stripped bed. The sleepy nurse yawned. “When I turned him to his left side at four, he quit breathing—today should ..."
12.
"... Later, Penny decided to omit Mr. Head’s morning bath since he was already cleaner than he’d ever been before. As she completed his assessment, there was knock on the Unit door and the dietitian said, “Do you need any breakfast trays? I didn’t find an order for CCU.” ..."
14.
"... trays? I didn’t find an order for CCU.” “Yes, please send Mr. Head a regular diet.” Since he couldn’t eat, Penny would make sure Jane had breakfast. She propped the door open and peered across the hall to the waiting room. Jane pushed herself up from the couch and tottered ..."
16.
"... door open and peered across the hall to the waiting room. Jane pushed herself up from the couch and tottered toward Penny, then swayed and stumbled and Penny dived into the hallway, reaching her in time to ease her to the floor. Jane’s face was withered and pale as she whispered, “My ..."
23.
"... Jane grabbed Rebecca’s stethoscope, pulling it from around her neck. Realizing she had left the Unit uncovered, Penny stepped back inside to check the monitors and Rebecca followed, rolling Jane to Mr. Head’s bedside. Jane placed the diaphragm against her hair just above her left ear and ..."
30.
"... it’s real loud.” Jane held the diaphragm firmly in place. Rebecca listened so long that Penny wondered if she was picking up a sound. Finally, Rebecca said, “I know it must be loud to you, but I can’t hear it.” “Then you’re not listening in the right place,” Jane ..."
32.
"... not listening in the right place,” Jane insisted. Rebecca peeled Jane’s fingers off her stethoscope. “Penny will try,” she said with a big smile on her face as she moved toward the hall door. “Penny, have you talked to Maureen?” “I think she’s at home; she was hoping to be ..."
34.
"... Friday, and then return for radiation and chemotherapy. I’ll call her this morning.” When breakfast arrived, Penny served Jane in her wheelchair and then phoned Maureen. “Hello Lady.” “Hey girl. What‘cha doing calling me when you’re supposed to be working?” “Missing ..."
36.
"... “Hello Lady.” “Hey girl. What‘cha doing calling me when you’re supposed to be working?” “Missing you.” Penny’s voice was husky and all she could say was, “How are you?” “I’ve been lying here long enough to get a bedsore, don’t have any strength, can’t do ..."
"...“This job’s no fun without you. Is there anything you need or anything I can do to help?” Penny remembered reading somewhere that trying to express feelings with words is like trying to build trees with lumber. They had spent hours—no, years—together and she didn’t know how to talk to Maureen. ..."
40.
"... wieners and kraut or hot tamales for lunch.” Penny laughed. “Oh yes, Sunday at River Park Hospital: I better get ready for acute indigestion transfers from the floor.... Everybody asks about you, Maureen. Come back as soon as you can.” Penny interpreted this morning’s lone telemetry ..."
41.
"... transfers from the floor.... Everybody asks about you, Maureen. Come back as soon as you can.” Penny interpreted this morning’s lone telemetry strip, then moved to reposition Mr. Head. “You can push me back to the TV now,” Jane said. “I’m finished breakfast.” Penny phoned ..."
43.
"... me back to the TV now,” Jane said. “I’m finished breakfast.” Penny phoned South Station. “Please have somebody come roll Miss Head out to the waiting room. I’m the only nurse in here, and I can’t leave.” In a few minutes, Rebecca Daniels popped through the door. “I’ll ..."
"...When Penny reached 327, Mrs. Baucom, a woman in her seventies, was lying on her back with oxygen at three liters. Her eyes were open and seemed to focus on Penny’s face, but she would not respond to questions. With each inhalation, she raised her head and opened her ..."
"...Returning to the Unit, Penny selected a vial of Aminophylline from the Critical Care Unit’s stock and set it on the desk in front of Rebecca. “She has an order for this to be given as necessary for shortness of breath, but if she’s not better in thirty minutes, I’d call the ..."
48.
"... again.” By the time Mr. Head’s lunch arrived, his breathing was irregular, and Penny could not hear his blood pressure. She called South Station. “Can someone take this tray to the waiting room and tell Miss Head her brother’s worse? She’d better come now.” Minutes passed ..."
49.
"... tell Miss Head her brother’s worse? She’d better come now.” Minutes passed and Jane did not come. Penny opened the Unit door and called across the hall. “Miss Head, you might want to come be with your brother now.” Jane, watching As The World Turns, continued to eat. “I’ll ..."
52.
"... Presently, Dr. Scales unlocked CCU’s back door and acknowledged Penny’s presence with a smile as meaningless as that of a jack-o-lantern. He went out to the hall and ten minutes later, with an expression dark as thunder, he strutted back through the Unit and slammed the door. Penny ..."
53.
"... door. Penny had already notified Dr. Ghent of Mr. Head’s death and was waiting for the ER physician to pronounce him when Jane, with ­business-like composure, came in from the hall. She signed the form to release Mr. Head’s body, collected left-over brownies and Cokes, and departed. After ..."
"...After discharging the body to a funeral home and closing out the chart, Penny picked up a magazine and read about a haunted country church whose ghost would not allow the pulpit Bible to be moved. People who had tried to carry it away insisted that it became heavier and heavier, until it was impossible to hold. ..."
"...Penny’s reading was interrupted when a heavily-made-up woman wearing a nurse’s cap, a crisp white uniform, and a badge that proclaimed SUPERVISOR, entered the Unit and settled down at the desk. “I’ll watch the monitor for you,” she said. “Go to room 327 and restart that IV. ..."
56.
"... Lasix, followed by 500 mls of normal saline to be given over two hours.” The supervisor was the same woman who didn’t have time to help Penny yesterday, and Penny wondered if she knew how to read monitor patterns. Mrs. Baucom didn’t flinch when Penny stuck her arm to start the infusion. ..."
"...Mrs. Baucom didn’t flinch when Penny stuck her arm to start the infusion. Her respirations were rapid and shallow, and Penny returned to the Unit sickened that Dr. Scales was not more aggressive in his treatment and that she had not done anything to improve the situation. She resumed reading about unexplained moans ..."
59.
"... changes.” Penny found the patient more congested. She now had a Foley catheter but there was no urine in the drainage bag, and bubbles escaped from her lips as she blew out each breath. Her eyes were closed, but when Penny lifted the lids her pupils were deviated to the left. Penny located ..."
60.
"... to the left. Penny located Mrs. Baucom’s chart at South Station’s desk. She straightened her back, sucked in her abdominals with determination, and moved into a space where trouble resided. Goose bumps blossomed on her arms as she reached for the phone and dialed Dr. Scales. “I ..."
62.
"... “But I don’t understand giving her more fluid when she’s so congested. She is gasping, and the only place I can hear breath sounds is right below her clavicles.” Penny’s voice sounded like a bird fluttering from branch to branch, and she was suddenly short of breath herself. ..."
64.
"... and I would appreciate it if you don’t tell me how to doctor.” He slammed down his receiver. “I’m calling Mrs. Gwen,” Penny told Rebecca. “This is one for our Director!” Agnes Gwen answered on the fifth ring, and Penny gave her a rundown. “All right, Penny. Have Rebecca ..."
65.
"... down his receiver. “I’m calling Mrs. Gwen,” Penny told Rebecca. “This is one for our Director!” Agnes Gwen answered on the fifth ring, and Penny gave her a rundown. “All right, Penny. Have Rebecca call Dr. Scales again and tell him that his patient is critical and ask him if ..."
66.
"... answered on the fifth ring, and Penny gave her a rundown. “All right, Penny. Have Rebecca call Dr. Scales again and tell him that his patient is critical and ask him if this is a No Code situation. That should get his attention.” Penny repeated Mrs. Gwen’s instructions to Rebecca and ..."
67.
"... and ask him if this is a No Code situation. That should get his attention.” Penny repeated Mrs. Gwen’s instructions to Rebecca and Rebecca grimaced, then set her lips and sank into Penny’s vacated chair. The supervisor was reading a magazine when Penny returned to CCU. Worried that ..."
69.
"... vacated chair. The supervisor was reading a magazine when Penny returned to CCU. Worried that the woman would resent being by-passed in the chain of command, Penny said, “I called our Director of Nurses. Mrs. Baucum is going to die if we don’t do something.” “All right. Thanks ..."
71.
"... to die if we don’t do something.” “All right. Thanks for handling it,” the supervisor responded. The phone rang and Penny picked up. Dr. Scales began, “Mrs. Pewitt...” Penny interrupted him. “Hold on a minute, Doctor. I can’t hear you very well.” She switched to ..."
72.
"... Penny picked up. Dr. Scales began, “Mrs. Pewitt...” Penny interrupted him. “Hold on a minute, Doctor. I can’t hear you very well.” She switched to speaker phone so that the supervisor could hear his orders and co-sign them. He continued in a normal tone. “I’m moving Mrs. ..."
74.
"... give whatever medicine she hasn’t had. Do the labs I’ve ordered and call them to me as soon as you get them.” Penny said, “Dr. Scales, are we going to code her?” “If it comes to that, yes. She’s developed pneumonia. Her white count was up this morning, and I started her on ..."
76.
"... She’s developed pneumonia. Her white count was up this morning, and I started her on Keflin.” “Do you want blood gasses?” Penny’s voice was edged with tension but held steady. After a foreboding pause, Dr. Scales snarled, “Mrs. Pewitt, you may order blood gasses. However, I ..."
"...“Thank you, Doctor.” Penny broke the connection and called Respiratory, spitting out her words in ragged bursts. “I’m getting a patient into CCU from 327: Mrs. Baucom—she needs STAT blood ­gasses—probably a ventilator—and she’s got labs ordered, so please draw extra blood and take it to the lab.” ..."
79.
"... ordered, so please draw extra blood and take it to the lab.” “Roger! I’m on my way.” Penny recognized the voice. Thank goodness Cecil Hockney, head of the Respiratory Department, was here today! Things were looking up. The supervisor left to write Scales’s orders on the chart at ..."
"...The supervisor left to write Scales’s orders on the chart at South Station. Penny turned down the bed closest to the hall door and warmed up the over-bed monitor. Unable to sit down, she straightened the desk and the nurses’ lounge, then began to scribble an account of the progression of events leading up to Mrs. Baucom’s admission to the Unit. ..."
82.
"... shoving a ventilator in front of him with the other. Penny and Rebecca counted, “One, Two, Three,” and heaved Mrs. Baucom from her bed into the Unit bed, grunting with the effort. The pale, gasping patient could barely move air. Disconnecting the oxygen tubing from the transfer tank, ..."
"...Disconnecting the oxygen tubing from the transfer tank, Penny attached it to the bedside outlet before connecting her new patient to the heart monitor and the IV pump. The monitor alarm sounded because Mrs. Baucom’s heart rate was above 150. Penny turned off the alarm, dragged the crash cart over to Mrs. Baucom’s bed, and plugged ..."
85.
"... and barked, “Get that stuff out of the way! We’re going to intubate.” The nursing tech pushed South Station’s bed out to the hall while Rebecca helped Penny pull the Unit bed away from the wall. Mr. Hockney squeezed between the wall and the head of the bed, ripped off the ..."
"...Penny jerked the footboard, rolling the bed toward her and over the end of her shoe, barely missing her toes. She grabbed a couple of towels from the linen closet and ran to the head of the bed folding one towel into a bolster, which she stuffed under the ..."
89.
"... ET tube into her airway. Penny tossed Rebecca the ambu bag and placed her stethoscope above the patient’s right breast, then above the left, listening for air as the lungs inflated when Rebecca squeezed the bag. “Faint on the left, pull back a little.” Mr. Hockney repositioned his ..."
91.
"... then listened for himself. “Bag her while I hook up the ventilator,” he said. Reaching for the ambu bag, Penny said, “Thanks, Rebecca. You did great! I’ll bag so you can go back to your patients.” Dr. Scales, holding the new lab values run on blood from Mr. Hockney’s arterial ..."
94.
"... so that the diamonds in his ring blazed and flashed. “She’s developed a clot in her lungs since I saw her.” Fixing him with a level stare, Penny pressed her lips together. Dr. Scales raised his eyebrows and returned a look that would blast paint off a battleship. “Where is her ..."
96.
"... his eyebrows and returned a look that would blast paint off a battleship. “Where is her family?” Penny’s heart skipped a beat. She had never once thought about the woman’s relatives! Dr. Scales turned away from Penny to join the night shift nurse at the desk, explaining to her what he ..."
97.
"... a beat. She had never once thought about the woman’s relatives! Dr. Scales turned away from Penny to join the night shift nurse at the desk, explaining to her what he wanted done. It was time for Penny to clock out. When she reached home, Penny found that Johnny had prepared a supper ..."
99.
"... It was time for Penny to clock out. When she reached home, Penny found that Johnny had prepared a supper of soup and sandwiches and was waiting to eat with her. “David called a while ago,” he said. “Do you want to call him back before you eat?” “No—I’m starving!” Penny sat ..."
100.
"... a while ago,” he said. “Do you want to call him back before you eat?” “No—I’m starving!” Penny sat at the table and attacked her sandwich. “What did he say?” She mumbled with her mouth full. “Your father’s worse. David’s with him but Alice went home to wait for ..."
102.
"... full. “Your father’s worse. David’s with him but Alice went home to wait for your call.” Penny took another bite, washed it down with iced tea, then dialed her brother’s number. “Pop Nichols hasn’t moved all day,” Alice told her. David says he thinks it will be ..."
104.
"... Alice told her. David says he thinks it will be soon.” “Is David all right?” Penny imagined her brother sitting beside their father’s bed in the nursing facility, and from 500 miles away a fog of emptiness descended upon her. “I’m going back over there to stay with David,” Alice ..."
107.
"... Alice said. “We’ll call you when we know anything.” At 12:30 a.m., the jangling phone woke Penny. She heard Johnny say, “Hold on just a minute.” He opened her door, picked up the bedside receiver, and extended it to her. David said, “I asked Dad to squeeze my hand if he knew I ..."
109.
"... David took a shuddering breath. “I need to call Faye. She can tell the Charleston church.” “How’s Mother?” Penny asked. The words came out coarse, hung over from sleep. “I’m here too,” Alice said. “Your mother had a couple of seizures this week and her ..."
112.
"... she’s left the building.” For most of her adult life, Penny had collected stories she thought would be of interest to her parents, writing them in letters or telling them in detail over the phone. Now there would be no one to tell. Their line was disconnected. She imagined her father ..."
115.
"... until mid-morning. Monday’s November sky was electric blue. A brilliant sun peered through leafless trees casting a giant shadow fence across the back yard as Penny poured coffee and cereal and sat down to read the note Johnny had left on the kitchen counter: “The Charleston ..."
119.
"... thought you could alter this any way you want and call it to her. I love you.” The need for an obituary had not occurred to Penny. She dialed her sister’s number and read Johnny’s typed draft to her. “Yes, that’s exactly what I need,” Faye said. “Tell Johnny thanks. And ..."
120.
"... typed draft to her. “Yes, that’s exactly what I need,” Faye said. “Tell Johnny thanks. And Penny, the minister at Dad’s church says he wants to have a memorial service for ‘celebration and closure.’ He wants to know when we can all come.” “I don’t want to come; ..."
122.
"... without having to celebrate it, and I don’t think there’s such a thing as closure.” “Let’s just think about it a little, Penny. We don’t have to tell him today. Are you doing all right?” “I think so. How about you, Faye? I love you.” “I love you too, ..."
126.
"... love you too, sister.” Later, entering the kitchen after a run with Zac, Penny picked up the ringing phone. Agnes Gwen said, “Penny, Dr. Scales has been in my office complaining about you. Can you tell me anything that might help the situation?” “There’s a situation every ..."
127.
"... help the situation?” “There’s a situation every time I have of one of his patients,” Penny said. “It’s like the Red Sox and the Yankees all over again. Maureen could deal with him when she was here, but now it’s just me, and I make him mad every time.” “Well, be careful—I ..."
132.
"... but that didn’t have anything to do with Dr. Scales. They were two separate things.” “Oh, I had no idea! I am so sorry.” Mrs. Gwen advised Penny to take care of herself and get plenty of rest. Penny accepted the sympathy, grief growing in her like a ..."
133.
"... I had no idea! I am so sorry.” Mrs. Gwen advised Penny to take care of herself and get plenty of rest. Penny accepted the sympathy, grief growing in her like a cancer. ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 18: Chapter Eighteen
"...Chocolate! Penny inhaled the aroma. Before each shift she willed herself to resist temptation, but the goodies called her name and the longer she looked at them the less willpower she owned. Whitman’s chocolates, Christie’s Cookies, and popcorn in three flavors: it was as if the patients’ families, drug ..."
2.
"... the week of Thanksgiving. Penny was responsible for three patients Thursday night and one of them was Maureen, who had been admitted that morning. As soon as Report was over, she hurried to Maureen’s room and stuck her head in the door. “How’s it going?” “It would be better if I ..."
"...Returning with coffee from the nurses’ lounge, Penny asked, “Is there anything else you want me to grab before I put on the reverse isolation garb? Would you like another blanket? And please don’t say ‘whatever you think.’ Why do patients say that? I’m no mind reader; I can’t imagine a woman who ..."
14.
"... “I know you, Maureen, you can do it. I’m going to give you two units of packed red cells tonight—and I may have come up with a solution for your Christmas shopping problem.” Penny deposited the sack of catalogs she had brought onto Maureen’s bed. “Maybe you can order presents!” ..."
16.
"... can order presents!” Penny’s second charge was an outpatient, admitted for serial treatments for a dog bite. When his antibiotic had infused she disconnected it, changed his dressing, and gave the news he had been waiting to hear, “You can go home now.” Maureen’s first unit of ..."
18.
"... news he had been waiting to hear, “You can go home now.” Maureen’s first unit of blood was almost finished when Penny suited up again and stepped into her room for the hourly transfusion vital signs. “Everything okay?” Maureen turned the lab-record sheet around so Penny could see ..."
20.
"... Maureen turned the lab-record sheet around so Penny could see where she had filled in the blanks. “I did them for you,” she said. “Look here, what do you think of these?” Maureen pointed to a picture of Tweety-Bird-yellow towels. “My daughter-in-law likes this color.” ..."
22.
"... towels. “My daughter-in-law likes this color.” “You can’t go wrong on towels,” Penny said, sitting in a chair beside Maureen’s bed. She picked up another catalog. “Some of these things are pretty strange, though.” “I looked at that one. Never saw so many things I ..."
26.
"... as a bug’s ear.” “We still receive all these catalogs from when our kids ordered things,” Penny said. “And they come with a big notice on the outside saying ‘This Is Your Last Catalog Unless You Place An Order,’ but then they send another one anyway.” Maureen placed her ..."
28.
"... Is Your Last Catalog Unless You Place An Order,’ but then they send another one anyway.” Maureen placed her hand on Penny’s leg, palm exposed. “I’m glad you’re here, Penny.” Looking into her friend’s sunken eyes, Penny could see that cancer had taken its toll. She laid ..."
30.
"... Looking into her friend’s sunken eyes, Penny could see that cancer had taken its toll. She laid her gloved hand over Maureen’s, interlocking their fingers. “I’ve had friendships with other nurses, but you and I are like sisters, and we don’t leave each other.” They ..."
34.
"... going to lick this thing; I’m going to kick it if it harelips every cow in Texas!” “Atta girl! Now you’re getting with the program.” Penny brushed away the tears rolling down her own cheeks. Seven days of chemo had left Penny’s third patient with uncontrollable diarrhea. His ..."
36.
"... away the tears rolling down her own cheeks. Seven days of chemo had left Penny’s third patient with uncontrollable diarrhea. His day-shift nurse described him in Report as, “A modest forty-two-year-old who wants his door kept closed.” He had answered Penny’s questions and accepted ..."
37.
"... him in Report as, “A modest forty-two-year-old who wants his door kept closed.” He had answered Penny’s questions and accepted his meds, but kept his focus on a book while his wife read her Bible. When Penny knocked on his door to check midnight vital signs, the bed looked like ..."
"...When Penny knocked on his door to check midnight vital signs, the bed looked like Mount Vesuvius had erupted with shit, so she helped his wife clean him up and stacked a generous supply of wash cloths and diapers on the over-bed table. “I’ll come again when the lab wakes ..."
"...Security guard Tony Roscoe had been lingering at the desk for a good half hour when Penny deposited her clipboard beside a computer. He held the leash of a big tan dog. For the past several weeks, Tony had increased both the frequency and the length of his security checks in Oncology. Now, he dug inside his ear, inspected his findings, and continued ..."
"...them. She’s got the books: my set, and the one I use for the government. She’s putting the squeeze on me to sell all my equipment and divide up everything.” He wiped his hand on his pants, then clicked his tongue and leaned over to poke Penny’s shoulder. “You’re mighty busy tonight.” ..."
"...Barb squatted to stroke the panting dog, who sat at Tony’s feet. “Look at him, Penny. Isn’t he totally awesome? He belongs to a blind patient on Fourth, and Tony takes him outside to the bathroom and all that kind of stuff. If you’re okay, I’m going out with him. My babies are asleep—I’ll be back in a few minutes.” ..."
45.
"... minutes.” When Maureen’s transfusions were completed, Penny medicated her for sleep and pain and returned to the nurses station. After catching up on charting, she tried to read her E-mails, struggling to stay awake. Most of the notices seemed unimportant until she read: Effective ..."
49.
"... until she read: Effective immediately: Dr. Samuel Scales has been placed on clinical probation until further notice. Wide awake, Penny reached for the ringing phone. “Hi Sweetie, it’s Flossie Mae. I’m working in Emergency.” Although Penny had kept her promise and given Flossie ..."
51.
"... in Emergency.” Although Penny had kept her promise and given Flossie Mae a job recommendation, this was the first time she had talked to her since they had worked together. “Have you quit Dixiana? Have you read your E-mail?” Penny was bursting with questions. “Tony came through ..."
55.
"... best thing I’ve ever done.” When Barb returned, Penny ran down to the zoo-like atmosphere of the ER. On one side of the long room, a nurse bent over a man lying on a stretcher. He was connected to a heart monitor and a crash cart stood open beside him. “Baby! Baby!” he bellowed. ..."
56.
"... cart stood open beside him. “Baby! Baby!” he bellowed. “Oh OW—Oh Baby, you’re going to have to hit me again, Baby.” Penny watched his nurse raise her fist and deliver a cardiac thump to his mid-sternum. “OOOH, thank you, Baby,” the man groaned. From another stretcher, a ..."
57.
"... Baby,” the man groaned. From another stretcher, a patient in four-point restraints called out to Penny. “Suga, come over here. Have you got some scissors? How about a knife? I’ll bet you’ve got a little knife up under there somewhere. How about it, Suga?” She found Flossie Mae ..."
60.
"... been sick for two days, but I don’t have any fever,” the patient said. “She had a C-section a week ago,” Flossie Mae told Penny. “Go on back to the break room. I’ll be there in a minute.” Grateful to be working upstairs, Penny poured a cup of coffee and sipped it while ..."
61.
"... told Penny. “Go on back to the break room. I’ll be there in a minute.” Grateful to be working upstairs, Penny poured a cup of coffee and sipped it while she scanned staff notices on the bulletin board. “It’s the full moon: brings out the crazoids.” Flossie Mae spoke from the ..."
63.
"... S.” Then she continued in her normal voice. “Didn’t you know I was here?” “No.” Penny joined her at the small table. “Days rush by faster every week; I can’t keep up. Did you move here?” “I found an apartment near the hospital. Anytime you want to come early or stay ..."
69.
"... “I hope I don’t run into Dr. S., but I’ve saved enough dirt to keep him away from me.” Penny changed the subject, afraid someone might hear them. “How’s your mother doing?” “I guess she’s a little better. They take care of her, and I check on her every day. She’ll ..."
71.
"... never get well though, darlin’.” A flustered-looking nurse searching for Flossie Mae peered into the room, and Penny stood up. “I’d better get back upstairs. Thanks for your hospitality offer, Flossie Mae. I may take you up on it.” When Penny returned to the Oncology Unit, ..."
73.
"... may take you up on it.” When Penny returned to the Oncology Unit, Barb was in the staff lounge working on her checkbook, an open box of Queen Ann chocolate cherries beside her. “I want you to tell me honestly what you think of our security guard,” she said. Penny crammed a pecan ..."
74.
"... what you think of our security guard,” she said. Penny crammed a pecan cluster into her mouth, considering while she chewed. “I think you should be careful.” She poured a cup of coffee and added a caramel to her already-full mouth. Barb removed a can of Coke from the refrigerator and ..."
77.
"... pretty vulnerable right now.” “Absolutely, but do you see what I’m saying here? He’s not educated and all that, but it’s like he wrote the book on common sense.” Barb waited for Penny’s response as though the answer would change her life. Penny set her coffee cup down ..."
"...Penny set her coffee cup down gently. “Barb, I don’t know what you’re up against. I just know I used to think I couldn’t stand it—that I couldn’t make it. I didn’t have enough income to support three children so I didn’t have a choice, but now ..."
"...“Tired. Basically, I’m tired.... But I have a new little baby girl and I’m buying a house and I won’t be mooching off my Mom much longer.” He offered Penny a hospital photograph of his newborn, then removed his glasses and wiped the lenses with the tail of his lab coat. “Yeah, livin’ in a camper while your wife and your baby live with your mother really goes against the groin. I’m gonna move them by Christmas.” ..."
83.
"... Christmas.” He replaced his glasses and stuffed his mouth with popcorn. “She’s beautiful, Buck. Congratulations!” Penny passed the picture to Barb. “Well, it’s time to finish up. I’m going back out.” “My sediments exactly,” Buck mumbled. On her way to clock out, Penny ..."
86.
"... mumbled. On her way to clock out, Penny stopped by Maureen’s room. “You’ll be discharged before I come back so I want you to call me if there’s anything I can do—I mean it, Maureen—just anything! And I’m laying an extra blanket over here in case you need it.” Maureen gave ..."
88.
"... over here in case you need it.” Maureen gave her a tired smile. “They ain’t no flies on you, sista!” Barb stuck her head in. “Are you going to spend the day here, Penny?” Penny said, “Maureen, please give this married woman some of your wisdom. She’s thinking about carrying ..."
89.
"... sista!” Barb stuck her head in. “Are you going to spend the day here, Penny?” Penny said, “Maureen, please give this married woman some of your wisdom. She’s thinking about carrying on.” “Well.” Maureen frowned. “You have to weigh what you want against the price ..."
92.
"... On the drive back to Dixiana, Penny wished Maureen would call her but knew she wouldn’t. They had a close friendship at work but their backgrounds and their lives were so different that the only time they talked to each other outside the hospital was at the grocery store. Her mind ..."
94.
"... the sharpest scalpel in the autoclave.” Penny loaded Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” into her car’s tape player and reviewed her preparations for the weekend. Because of her work schedule, the children were coming for Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. When she entered the kitchen, Johnny ..."
97.
"... on Saturday. When she entered the kitchen, Johnny was on the phone. He held up one hand. Penny poured a mug of coffee, wondering if she dared eat cereal on top of all that candy and popcorn. “I understand. Now if you don’t mind, I want you to tell all of this to Penny. She’s just ..."
98.
"... all that candy and popcorn. “I understand. Now if you don’t mind, I want you to tell all of this to Penny. She’s just come home, and I know she’d rather hear it straight from you.” Johnny held out the receiver. “It’s Alice, about your mother.” Penny’s stomach lurched as ..."
99.
"... I know she’d rather hear it straight from you.” Johnny held out the receiver. “It’s Alice, about your mother.” Penny’s stomach lurched as she said hello. “Hi Penny, I went by to check on Mom this morning because we hadn’t been over there for a couple of days. She was doing ..."
"...“Hi Penny, I went by to check on Mom this morning because we hadn’t been over there for a couple of days. She was doing better for a while, but then she started sleeping all the time, so they quit putting her in a chair and she just lies in ..."
101.
"... lies in bed, all curled up. They told me this morning that she hasn’t had anything to eat or drink for three days.” Penny cast a despairing look in Johnny’s direction. Alice continued, “I took David to the airport because he has a meeting in Washington this afternoon and I feel uneasy ..."
103.
"... with him gone. Mom’s been pale, but today she looks grayish, and I think she may not be here much longer.” “Do you want me to come?” Penny’s voice was constrained. Alice spoke slowly, softening her tone. “No, there’s nothing you could do. She wouldn’t know you were ..."
105.
"... nothing you could do. She wouldn’t know you were here.” Penny’s throat felt closed up and she had to work to make sound come out. “I meant, so I could be with you. I’m sorry you have to do this by yourself.” “Oh I’m all right: sad, but...I want to do what you all want me ..."
111.
"... I get home.” “Alice, you’re doing exactly right. Thank you for being there—I’m sorry you’re all alone.” Penny motioned to Johnny and handed him the receiver, then listened as Johnny talked with Alice, unable to concentrate on his words until he said goodbye. “Why don’t you ..."
112.
"... he said goodbye. “Why don’t you go to bed for a while,” Johnny suggested, watching Penny stare at her coffee. “I’ve got to go finish up a few things, then I’ll be home for the rest of the day. We’re supposed to go to the teachers’ party tonight, remember?” “I can’t go to ..."
113.
"... day. We’re supposed to go to the teachers’ party tonight, remember?” “I can’t go to a party,” Penny said, already moving toward her bedroom. “Not without a major tranquilizer or general anesthesia!” She struggled to fall asleep, her mind cycling through images she couldn’t ..."
116.
"... Mom,” Faye said. “She could have told me how different the countries are now from when she was there.” “I have the wooden shoes she brought back from Holland,” Penny said. “I wondered what happened to them. Remember how we used to clomp around the house?” “I wish I had ..."
132.
"... it?” In the passenger seat of Johnny’s blue Mercury, Penny leaned back and rolled down her window to gaze up at a black-velvet sky hung low with diamonds, each star surrounded by a tiny halo due to her vision. She would soon be motherless. Who would she be with no parents? The ..."
"...crepe paper and the long tables, decorated with baskets of gold balls, had been placed perpendicular to a make-shift stage. Betty, in a red velveteen pants suit, waved from across the room and hurried toward them, pulling Tod by the hand. “Hi, I’m so glad you came, Penny! How are you?” ..."
137.
"... look pretty in red! I’m fine, thanks.” “Glad to hear it,” Tod said, heavy on the skepticism. “I worked last night,” Penny said. “I’m just tired.” “Don’t pay any attention to him,” Betty said. “Come on, let’s all sit together.” Betty seated herself ..."
139.
"... said. “Come on, let’s all sit together.” Betty seated herself beside Penny. “I wish you would come help with concessions at the games. We’re always short-handed. You’d have fun with me, even if you’re not a football fan.” Penny smiled, feeling as much out of place as a ..."
"...Penny smiled, feeling as much out of place as a syringe in a jewelry box. “You and I need to catch up. Let’s do something together when the season’s over. How are your children? Do you have any special plans for the holidays?” She heard ..."
141.
"... replies did not reach her. Penny stuck a cherry tomato stuffed with tuna salad into her mouth and sipped orange punch, but her taste buds had shut down. She had a peculiar sense of removal, as if she were a spectator watching a scene that had little to do with her. The Principal recognized the ..."
143.
"... of Oklahoma.” Twenty-five students took their places. They stood at attention with their eyes on the choral director and as they sang the familiar lyrics of “Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” Penny retreated, moving into a twilight zone where nothing was as it seemed. Glassy eyed, ..."
"...Glassy eyed, staring into the middle distance, she dreamed of her mother. Mrs. Nichols’s solution to any problem was to pray about it. After some of those prayer sessions, Penny confided less, but her mother was always there and she cared. Without her there would be no more caring—no more love. ..."
146.
"... but her mother was always there and she cared. Without her there would be no more caring—no more love. When they arrived home, Penny picked up the kitchen phone and called Alice. “Your mother died thirty minutes ago. I called Angel Wings, the ambulance service that picks up bodies for ..."
148.
"... that Mom has her own angel wings.” Penny fell into a deep despondency. Somehow, her mother’s silent presence must have been a comfort, because with Alice’s report the earth cracked open, leaving a gaping cavity from which Penny’s roots were missing. The approach of Advent Season made ..."
"...The approach of Advent Season made everything worse; Christmas music exacerbated Penny’s sadness. Other years she had listened to carols, burned candles, and enjoyed a resurgence of anticipation as she simmered sugar, milk, and pecans, but this year her mother’s pralines would carry too much baggage. ..."
"...Penny couldn’t help but wonder if her children blamed her for their failures like she used to blame her own parents. Determined not to make the same mistakes she believed her parents had made, she had invested so much of herself in her children. Now she understood that ..."
"...She envisioned the scene when her family gathered around the expanded dining room table for their annual Christmas meal. In previous years, Penny had spent much time and effort preparing their holiday celebration, but this year she was only responsible for meat and drinks. Making Christmas candy had been a tradition in her parents’ home that Penny had continued with her own children. Her older son, Tom, had told her ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 19: Chapter Nineteen
"...“Complimentary Reindeer Exams” proclaimed the sign in front of the veterinarian’s office as Penny set out for Jacksonville Oncology on Christmas Eve. Given her choice of Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Christmas night, she had chosen to be off on Christmas night so that her children could come for supper after their own separate family celebrations that morning. ..."
4.
"... for the entire winning department’s staff, and the Oncology nurses aimed to win. Barb was off tonight, and Penny flipped through the Kardex while Janet, one of the other night nurses, put on a scrub uniform. “Now Penny,” Janet said, “Barb told me that you would want to take care of ..."
"...“Now Penny,” Janet said, “Barb told me that you would want to take care of your friend, but she’s really gone down hill. We’ve given her enough blood to float a mattress, and she’s on her third antibiotic, but her blood culture still grew out bacteria. I just want ..."
12.
"... morning.” Penny’s other patient, Mrs. Hattye Hall, a seventy-year-old with ice-blue hair and severe back pain, was eating supper so Penny pulled on isolation garb and entered Maureen’s room. The drastic change in her appearance was a metamorphosis: a coach into a pumpkin. After ..."
16.
"... noisy with congestion as she breathed five liters of oxygen from a nasal cannula. “I’m going to put the cuff on your arm and check your blood pressure.” Penny’s voice sounded loud in the small room. “You’re here,” Maureen whispered. Penny pushed back tears. Tomorrow she ..."
19.
"... check your blood pressure.” Penny’s voice sounded loud in the small room. “You’re here,” Maureen whispered. Penny pushed back tears. Tomorrow she could be sad. Maureen’s veins were in such bad shape that a single subclavian was her only IV access and, unless they were ..."
"...After completing her assessment, Penny turned to go and Maureen’s body stiffened. Her head drew back and her jaw clamped shut. Penny pushed the emergency call light and turned Maureen onto her side. Janet darted into the room and Maria, observing the scene from her desk, dialed Dr. Benson and motioned ..."
33.
"... aware of the situation.” Shortly thereafter, Penny passed Maureen’s room and waved to Maureen’s son, Milton, who had arrived with his family. She stepped out of the path of a preacher, dressed in clerical garb with a big gold cross, headed into the room. “I’m glad you’re ..."
34.
"... She stepped out of the path of a preacher, dressed in clerical garb with a big gold cross, headed into the room. “I’m glad you’re Mama’s nurse tonight, Penny,” Milton said. “I’m glad you’re here, too.” Penny turned to smile at the minister, and he cleared his throat. His ..."
35.
"... glad you’re Mama’s nurse tonight, Penny,” Milton said. “I’m glad you’re here, too.” Penny turned to smile at the minister, and he cleared his throat. His expression told her this was no smiling matter. The BAD drip was off for fifty minutes while the platelets infused, ..."
"...The BAD drip was off for fifty minutes while the platelets infused, and Penny had started it back at half its previous speed. When she reentered the room after charting her assessments, Maureen moved her legs restlessly and rubbed her forehead, so Penny rechecked her vital signs and increased the drip rate. ..."
40.
"... From Penny’s point of view, “Circling the Drain” was not a term to be used for Maureen! Gritting her teeth and pressing her lips together, she entered Mrs. Hall’s room as the woman forked the last bite of cake into her mouth. “May I take your vital signs and tuck you in now?” ..."
"...Penny fetched the patient’s back brace, positioned it and fastened the velcro straps and helped Mrs. Hall to sit on the side of her bed. Penny then noticed three toothbrushes: a pink one, a blue one, and a yellow one lying beside an industrial size tube of toothpaste on ..."
43.
"... it. After a “wee wee,” the woman settled in for the night. Pausing at Maureen’s door, Penny listened to the preacher-tone as the chaplain read from his Bible, drawing out each word and over-pronouncing every syllable. In the nurses’ lounge, she microwaved a Swanson chicken pot pie ..."
46.
"... he said. Penny hustled back to the room. The fingers of Maureen’s right hand quivered and her right leg jerked as Penny discontinued the BAD drip, hung normal saline, and checked Maureen’s blood pressure. It was low and her skin was hot. Her temperature was 103. Penny closed the ..."
"...Penny closed the blinds covering Maureen’s windows to the hall. “It’s been long enough that I can give her another Tylenol suppository, and I need to change her pads—all women’s work—so why don’t you men stretch your legs.” Maureen’s daughter-in-law wiped her eyes and Penny gave her ..."
"...Maureen’s extremities dangled and flopped when the two women turned her to her side. Penny lubricated a suppository and bent over Maureen to insert it, feeling heat rise from the bed. With her patient clean and presentable, Penny opened the blinds and the door and re-plugged the tree. The preacher had left and Milton and his son stood waiting. ..."
49.
"... the blinds and the door and re-plugged the tree. The preacher had left and Milton and his son stood waiting. Penny, I want to tell you something about Mama,” Milton said. Maureen appeared to be asleep. Her daughter-in-law lowered one of the side rails and sat on the foot of the bed. ..."
51.
"... wall. Penny perched on the closed lid of the bedside commode. “Listen Maureen,” she said, “Milton’s going to tell us a story about you.” Penny looked across Maureen’s bed, bathed in colored lights, through the hall windows to the Christmas tree with its glowing angels. “When I ..."
54.
"... Milton propped up the certificate on his mother’s bedside table. “I believe she heard you,” Penny said, steeling her emotions as she wiped Maureen’s perspiring forehead. Her cooling skin was already the color of dust. When Maureen’s heart beat and respirations ceased, Penny notified ..."
55.
"... her emotions as she wiped Maureen’s perspiring forehead. Her cooling skin was already the color of dust. When Maureen’s heart beat and respirations ceased, Penny notified Dr. Benson. Milton and his family had returned to Dixiana, but Maureen’s cold body remained in Oncology at 5 a.m. ..."
"...Milton and his family had returned to Dixiana, but Maureen’s cold body remained in Oncology at 5 a.m. because ER had been so busy that its doctor couldn’t come to pronounce her. Penny threw her uneaten supper into the garbage and sat down in the staff room. It was Christmas and her children were coming this afternoon. All the presents were wrapped, the house was clean, and the barbeque was ready. ..."
59.
"... presents were wrapped, the house was clean, and the barbeque was ready. Penny.” Janet shook her. “Are you all right? You scared me sitting there staring at the wall. I called you, and you didn’t answer me.” “I didn’t hear you. I wish I could go home,” Penny said, resting ..."
60.
"... You scared me sitting there staring at the wall. I called you, and you didn’t answer me.” “I didn’t hear you. I wish I could go home,” Penny said, resting her head on the table. “Penny.” Leroy Crouch stood beside her with a wheelchair. “You’re through for the night. ..."
62.
"... go home,” Penny said, resting her head on the table. Penny.” Leroy Crouch stood beside her with a wheelchair. “You’re through for the night. CCU’s not busy, and I’ve pulled a nurse to finish out your shift.” “Thank you,” Penny said, her mind functioning again. ..."
63.
"... not busy, and I’ve pulled a nurse to finish out your shift.” “Thank you,” Penny said, her mind functioning again. “I can drive.” She stood up, holding onto the table while the room circled and then settled into place. “Sit in the wheelchair,” Mr. Crouch commanded. Penny sat, ..."
64.
"... then settled into place. “Sit in the wheelchair,” Mr. Crouch commanded. Penny sat, feeling stupid as he wheeled her onto the elevator and through the first floor hallways to the ER, where Flossie Mae helped her onto a stretcher and covered her with two blankets. “You’re probably ..."
66.
"... Mae helped her onto a stretcher and covered her with two blankets. “You’re probably just overtired. You can go on home if you have somebody to drive you,” the ER doctor said when he released Penny an hour later. “I’m taking you home with me, girlfriend.” Flossie Mae insisted. ..."
68.
"... “We’ll have breakfast, and you can rest before you drive.” Penny protested. “But it’s Christmas and your family...” She struggled to control the tears pouring from her eyes and the giant sobs welling up in her chest. “It’s just me, remember?” Flossie Mae said. “I really ..."
69.
"... eyes and the giant sobs welling up in her chest. “It’s just me, remember?” Flossie Mae said. “I really want you to come, honey.” She then wrapped her arms around Penny’s shoulders and held on until the sobbing and shaking stopped. Still wearing scrub uniforms, they entered ..."
79.
"... softened his pronouncement with “I love you.” Tantalizing odors reached Penny as she dressed in Flossie Mae’s bright-yellow bathroom, and she came to the living room as Flossie Mae carried a steaming waffle iron to her small table. “I guess you’ll have to move the Christmas tree so ..."
"...Penny lifted the artificial tree and placed it on top of a bunch of magazines. The room was crowded, but a December sun beamed through the window behind Flossie Mae’s couch and light pooled on the coffee table making the silver tree shimmer and giving Flossie Mae’s dark hair ..."
83.
"... she divided the first waffle between their plates. “I want to thank you for riding the ambulance with my son,” Flossie Mae said. Penny looked up in surprise. “I didn’t think you knew he was mine,” Flossie Mae continued. “Bob was selling drugs on a small scale, and he overdosed. ..."
"...While they ate, Penny compared what she knew about Flossie Mae’s life with her own. Her own life looked better. She phrased her question carefully. “Flossie Mae, when you were working in Dr. Scales’s office did he ever mention Dr. Vera Wilhelm Wiseman? She was a woman doctor who ..."
87.
"... when she left, but they were glad she did.” Penny sorted out what she should say. Flossie Mae seemed unaware that Dr. Wiseman had died in an accident, and Penny would not tell her. “What does it mean that Dr. Scales is on probation?” Flossie Mae sighed. “It’s clinical probation: ..."
89.
"... Flossie Mae placed both fists on the table. “You cannot tell this to anyone!” “He’s mad at me,” Penny said in a small voice, “but it doesn’t even compare to your problems with him.” “I should have quit when I first thought something was wrong, but I didn’t—not until ..."
95.
"... get you back over to the hospital. Do you have my phone number?” “No, but I’d like to have it, and let me give you mine too.” Penny wrote down her number and handed it to Flossie Mae. “Merry Christmas!” It was nine Christmas evening when the children left, and Penny, who ..."
97.
"... Mae. “Merry Christmas!” It was nine Christmas evening when the children left, and Penny, who had slept for two hours before they came, said, “Let’s take Zac for a walk, Johnny. It’s fifty-five degrees outside. I can clean this up when we get back.” They took the usual route up ..."
100.
"... decorations, but the street was deserted. “Man! I had fun with our children—BIG TIME!” “That barbeque smelled like cardboard,” Penny said. “Did you think the meal was okay?” “It tasted fine to me...no kidding. Our kids looked happy; they looked successful, you ..."
"...“But the things they remember!” Penny said. “I don’t remember any of it. When did they light fires in the woods and cook hot dogs? Did you know they changed their Halloween costumes and went back to houses that gave out the best candy? And Harriet said she used to pick ..."
109.
"... you should write a book!” “I swear on my mother’s grave, Johnny, Dr. Scales...” Johnny hugged Penny, pulling her off balance. “Have you forgotten? Your mother doesn’t have a grave.” Caught off-guard, the pain of remembering ambushed Penny. She walked faster, rounding the ..."
"...Caught off-guard, the pain of remembering ambushed Penny. She walked faster, rounding the corner onto Oakwood with Zac prancing. Johnny sped up to catch them, then stopped while Penny bent to unsnap Zac’s leash from his collar. After giving her a questioning look, Zac ran in front of them, crossed the street, and jumped ..."
111.
"... Zac ran in front of them, crossed the street, and jumped into the flower bed beside the Vanlandinghams’ driveway, barking. “That was a mistake,” Penny said. The flower bed, five-feet-wide and perpendicular to the street, was filled with tall ornamental grasses and nandina bushes. Near ..."
"...the street, was filled with tall ornamental grasses and nandina bushes. Near the middle of the bed an electric pole jutted upward. It’s base was hidden by shrubbery, and it was at the bottom of the pole that Zac continued to lunge and bark in spite of Penny’s calls and Johnny’s whistles. ..."
113.
"... whistles. Johnny walked to the edge of the pavement and peered into the vegetation in the half-light. “Penny! There’s a man in here!” he yelled. “Something terrible has happened!” Johnny hit the driveway on a dead run toward their garage. “I’m going to call 911!” Penny ..."
"...Penny entered the shrubbery and squatted beside the man, who lay on his stomach with one leg turned around so that the toe of his shoe pointed skyward. Zac snapped his teeth at him and Penny held the dog back. The man raised his head, laid it down ..."
"...Johnny returned, and Penny handed him the leash. “Put this on Zac and pull him away from here! If this man bends his neck with a fractured cervical spine he could damage his spinal cord, maybe become paralyzed.” The man moaned. “Lie still!” Penny commanded, gripping his head with ..."
116.
"... “You must lie still! The ambulance is coming.” Johnny stood in the street and directed the ambulance toward them, and Penny supported Buck’s cervical spine until the paramedic positioned a C-collar and fastened its velcro straps. The police arrived next, illuminating the area with ..."
118.
"... a gash in the electric pole, and a wrecked motorcycle in the bushes. “His name is Buck Dalton,” Penny told them. “He’s a lab technician who’s been looking to buy a new house down at the end of our street.” “If you folks hadn’t found him, he’d probably have lain out here ..."
"...Maureen’s death, and the excitement of having their children at home for Christmas, topped off by Buck’s motorcycle wreck kept Penny awake far into the night. If she had not worried about waking Johnny, she would have gotten out of bed and started cleaning their wrecked house. Sometime after four, she fell into a sound sleep. ..."
122.
"... Sometime after four, she fell into a sound sleep. The sun was out, morning almost over, when Penny entered the kitchen and Johnny said, “I’m glad you could sleep late on your day off.” He had cooked a feast of eggs, barbeque, and toast. “This looks good,” she said. “Well, sit down ..."
125.
"... sit down and I’ll serve you; then I’ll tell you what the policemen told me this morning.” Penny picked up her fork even before Johnny, grinning his approval, joined her at the table. “When I went out front to get the paper, they were out there taking pictures and measuring tracks. ..."
129.
"... on the bike, and his helmet was knocked off by the impact.” “Maybe Dr. Scales trapped him. He could have arranged to meet Buck at the new house and then tried to kill him.” Penny surprised herself with what she imagined. Johnny’s voice exploded across the table, “Jesus H. Christ! ..."
131.
"... H. Christ! If you seriously think such a thing might have happened, you’ve been reading too many murder mysteries!” Penny gaped at him in stunned silence. He scrutinized his wife’s face and lowered his voice. “You’re joking, right? The police think it probably was teenagers, ..."
133.
"... heard the motorcycle coming and took off too fast.” Penny laid down her fork and slouched in her chair. She couldn’t tell him what Flossie Mae had told her. “What does the H stand for, Johnny? I’ve never heard anyone say that!” Johnny’s expression changed to a wide grin and his ..."
135.
"... to a wide grin and his eyes twinkled. “Hernandez. He was my catcher last summer.” Penny’s face was serious, but the corners of her mouth twitched. “The Jesus I know didn’t have a middle name.” “No,” Johnny agreed, “and I think you’d know about it if He ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 20: Chapter Twenty
"...The grim month of February stretched on without horizon. Like sagging skin, Penny’s bedroom drapes hung in beige wrinkles above her matted-brown carpet. The house suffocated her. Her clothes pinched her waist and pricked the middle of her back, an itch she could not reach. Seemingly routine events triggered memories and unexpected tears, and she hardened herself against emotion ..."
6.
"... and tossed sleet against her window. That afternoon, Penny dragged herself out of bed and into the kitchen where Johnny worked over a table covered with bills and receipts. “Welcome to the world,” he said. “Have you looked outside?” She plodded to the living room window. The ..."
11.
"... lost count of how many buses wrecked carrying the students home.” Penny opened a large can of chili, but the lights blinked off as she reached for a saucepan. The clock on the stove stopped at 5:30 p.m. Johnny entered the dark kitchen from the garage. “This is more lousy than ..."
"...Penny laid a bonfire in the fireplace, congratulating herself when the big logs began to blaze. In years past, she and the children had enjoyed sitting by the hearth with a roaring fire, but now their wood was only for emergencies. As she poked the kindling, adding more ..."
19.
"... Penny stabbed four frozen hot dogs with shish-kebab skewers and roasted them over the flames, holding the metal ends with a potholder. The wood crackled, and as the meat thawed, drops of water bubbled and hissed on the logs. The saucepan of chili came to lukewarm on the hearth. ..."
"...Wide awake after sleeping most of the day, Penny lay crushed beneath a stack of quilts, listening to ominous sounds from outside: cracking limbs—like gunshots, followed by sliding branches and the tinkling of ice crystals hitting the ground, and vague explosions as whole trees splintered and broke under their loads. ..."
"...The house was freezing, and it was pitch black outside when the lights blazed on and the furnace came to life at 3 a.m. Wrapping a quilt over her robe, Penny walked to the kitchen and looked out the window, thrilled by the storm’s power. Outside spotlights illuminated an Antarctic scene beyond anything in a southern girl’s imagination. Cedars and pines were bent and broken; some had fallen completely over. Outside the dining-room window a huge magnolia ..."
35.
"... even if I could get the car out, big limbs have fallen across the driveway and they’re stuck solid in ice.” Penny plugged in the coffee maker, then called the Dixiana hospital. “If you’re not sick, get ready to come,” the night supervisor told her. “It may be a while, but the fire ..."
38.
"... Eventually Penny reached CCU, where the winter sun melted the icy window panes and spilled light onto the sheets. Pink and blue flowers jumped out of the wallpaper and the steel surfaces gleamed. The whole Unit was washed in snow-blind white reflection from the scene outside. ..."
39.
"... from the scene outside. Penny’s only patient, Mr. Lee Garrett, eighty-four, with advanced Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, was recovering from a respiratory infection that had left him too weak to cough up his thick sputum, and he required suctioning when he choked. Penny spread the bird ..."
40.
"... sputum, and he required suctioning when he choked. Penny spread the bird seed she had brought from home on the ice-crusted ground outside Mr. Garrett’s window, and they watched through the blinds as hungry birds and squirrels fought over it. “I remember a storm like this years ago.” Mr. ..."
"...“I remember a storm like this years ago.” Mr. Garrett squinted at Penny as the sun printed slats of light on his face. “Everything iced over and the temperature dropped into the teens, like today. Mother told us to find birds frozen in the bushes and on the ground and bring them in the house, then she put them in ..."
42.
"... and dried off their feathers as the ice melted. There were five of them and all but two came back to life.” “That was before anybody knew birds carry histoplasmosis,” Penny said. “Yeah, I didn’t catch that. It was working around steam engines on the railroad that got me. More than ..."
46.
"... a can of asparagus every day I would have died a long time ago.” Penny called the kitchen. “Mr. Garrett, in CCU four, is on a Diet of Choice, and he would like to have asparagus with one of his meals every day, please.” “Today we’re serving weenies and kraut and we’re short on ..."
48.
"... serving weenies and kraut and we’re short on staff so I need to go help,” came the harried reply. Penny hung on. “But on a Diet of Choice can’t he choose to have asparagus?” “Hell no. He can choose a low sodium diet, a soft diet, a full- liquid diet, or a clear-liquid diet. ..."
52.
"... right!” “Thank you.” Penny replaced the receiver, thankful to be working in CCU. Feeding sick people when you’re under staffed and in the middle of an ice storm must be hard on a person’s nerves, and she could see how looking for a can of asparagus would not be a priority. Penny ..."
54.
"... nerves, and she could see how looking for a can of asparagus would not be a priority. Penny had just served Mr. Garrett’s lunch when the phone rang and she answered, “CCU, Penny speaking.” “Mrs. Pewitt, Dr. Scales here. I’m writing orders to transfer Buck Dalton from ..."
58.
"... hold a bed for him.” It was dark when Johnny picked Penny up and demonstrated his expertise at driving on ice by deliberately skidding the car as they stopped at Sack and Pack. When they slid onto Oakwood, Oakden’s lights illuminated the Vanlandingham’s lawn. “Is the electricity back ..."
59.
"... they stopped at Sack and Pack. When they slid onto Oakwood, Oakden’s lights illuminated the Vanlandingham’s lawn. “Is the electricity back on everywhere?”, Penny asked. “No, and it won’t be for a while. We’ve got it good compared to other places. People are cold and hungry and ..."
"...Penny turned on the television. With the roaring of chain saws as background noise, she and Johnny watched scene after scene of people trying to clear their driveways, pulling broken and sawed limbs to the street for collection. It looked like a war zone with brush barricades. ..."
63.
"... take you to Jacksonville where our Severe Weather Specialist is standing by to tell you about it.” Penny leaned foreword, forgetting the hamburger for which she was so ravenous a moment ago. Elijah Storm stood at the interstate exit to the hospital where cars crept around a multi-vehicle ..."
66.
"... experts,” Johnny said. “I hope it stays bad,” Penny said. “If the interstate’s clear enough tomorrow, Dr. Scales is going to transfer Buck Dalton back to our Unit. I asked for help, but they probably won’t get anybody, and I hate working with Dr. Scales.” “You can quit, you ..."
71.
"... tonight.” On Sunday morning, Penny drove on slick streets to the Dixiana hospital anticipating an easy day. She moved Mr. Garrett to a telemetry bed on the hall before lunch, then listened for the telemetry alarms while she checked CCU’s par list against their inventory. In the ..."
73.
"... Buck Dalton to your Unit, and I’ve got Report for you,” a Jacksonville CCU nurse said. “Okay.” Penny grabbed pen and paper. “I know him, but I don’t know anything about his treatment.” “Buck’s been with us for about two months. Um, he’s had neuro and ortho and abdominal ..."
79.
"... failed to breathe, the ventilator would alarm. Penny performed the admitting assessment, making sure the IV, tube feeding, and ventilator settings were right, then she assembled his chart and processed his orders, dreading Dr. Scales’s visit. Buck was asleep when Dr. Scales unlocked the ..."
81.
"... dreading Dr. Scales’s visit. Buck was asleep when Dr. Scales unlocked the outside door in the late afternoon. He shuffled the pages of his patient’s chart, then smiled at Penny. “Is there anything I forgot? Anything else you need, Mrs. Pewitt?” When Penny shook her head, he ..."
"...When Penny shook her head, he pulled out the bottom desk drawer and propped his foot on it. “Thank you for taking care of Buck, he’s a good friend of mine.” He winked at Penny as if they were chatting companionably. “I’m very sorry about Maureen’s death; you ..."
83.
"... heard, Maureen was far advanced before she started treatment.” His sincerity caught Penny off guard. She had assumed he didn’t care about his patients, but she didn’t really know how he felt. Maybe she had misjudged him. After Scales’s visit, Buck moved his legs, turned his head, and ..."
84.
"... she didn’t really know how he felt. Maybe she had misjudged him. After Scales’s visit, Buck moved his legs, turned his head, and struggled against his wrist restraints. His gaze followed Penny as she moved around the room. She reminded him that he was back in Dixiana and talked about his ..."
85.
"... followed Penny as she moved around the room. She reminded him that he was back in Dixiana and talked about his motorcycle accident. His face was as devoid of expression as a cat’s. Penny injected IV morphine in 2 mg increments until he relaxed. When the two night-shift nurses sat down ..."
87.
"... IV morphine in 2 mg increments until he relaxed. When the two night-shift nurses sat down with Penny in the break room for Report, one of them asked, “Did they leave you in here by yourself all day with a ventilator patient?” “He didn’t get here until this afternoon and ..."
"...“He didn’t get here until this afternoon and Respiratory set up the ventilator,” Penny said. “Buck’s had surgery to drain blood clots from his brain and to repair hip, arm, and leg fractures. He’s been on a ventilator because of rib fractures and pneumonia, but the Jacksonville nurse said he’s ready to be weaned. I guess they’ll start taking him ..."
"...Penny stopped talking and listened, thinking she had heard a noise. She sprinted to the back of the Unit, but no one was there, and Buck appeared asleep. She inhaled and her heart rate slowed as she returned to the lounge. CCU air smelled sweeter when fresh ..."
"...Suddenly the monitor alarm sounded. Then the ventilator alarm blared. All three nurses dashed to Buck’s bedside. His screen displayed a straight line. Penny pressed the electrodes against his chest, but they were already in contact. His face was pale grey, and she could not locate his carotid pulse. ..."
92.
"... was pale grey, and she could not locate his carotid pulse. Penny ran for the crash cart. “Call a code! He’s a full code,” she yelled. One of the nurses disconnected the ET tube from the ventilator and began to bag Buck. They had defibrillated three times without success, and were ..."
95.
"... he said, flipping through the chart. Penny gave him a fast summary, ending with, “I gave Buck 6 mgs of morphine about an hour ago because he was restless, but he’s been receiving large doses and I don’t think 6 mgs would be enough to...” The ER doctor interrupted her. “Give ..."
97.
"... saline wide open! We’ve got to reverse that morphine!” Penny searched the emergency drug drawer in the crash cart. Finding the ampule, she broke it open, drew the solution into a syringe, and injected it into the IV line. After another minute of CPR, the doctor said, “Now give ..."
99.
"... of CPR, the doctor said, “Now give Epinephrine and get ready to defibrillate again.” Penny grabbed one of the pre-filled syringes, ripped away its protective covering, and injected it into the IV line. One of the night nurses charged the defibrillator. “All clear.” She shocked at 350 ..."
"...In winter, light came at seven and left at five. That day’s sun did not melt all the ice that had formed the previous night, and what had melted had re-frozen by 8:30 when Penny turned her car, too fast, into her driveway and skidded sideways into the mailbox. Stepping out carefully, she surveyed the damage: the mailbox on the ground, and a scratch through the red paint along the side of her Chevette. She abandoned the car and struggled toward the ..."
105.
"... worried; I thought maybe you had car trouble.” “I did have car trouble, out in our driveway. But that’s not why I’m late—they transferred Buck back and he...” Penny stopped talking because Johnny was putting on his coat. “I’ll be back in a minute. I want to ..."
107.
"... talking because Johnny was putting on his coat. “I’ll be back in a minute. I want to see...” “It’s just a scratch! I hit the mailbox but you can stand it back up,” Penny said. “I’ll be right back,” Johnny said, opening the door. Penny continued through the house to the ..."
109.
"... Penny continued through the house to the bathroom, where she stripped and showered in water so hot it stung her back. She applied lotion to her itchy skin and petroleum jelly to her peeling lips, then pulled on pajamas and a robe and returned to the family room where Johnny watched TV. ..."
111.
"... need to reheat it, though, and your cheese sandwich is in the refrigerator. I got too hungry to wait.” Penny dumped the soup into a mug and carried it and her sandwich to the couch. Johnny moved over to give her room. “I worked outside most of the day trying to get up the big limbs, ..."
113.
"... He laughed, “Until you came home!” “My day was awful. They brought Buck back from Jacksonville and he was okay, but then he coded.” Something came to the edge of Penny’s memory and dropped back. “We resuscitated him, but...” “I’m wiped too,” Johnny said. “If you ..."
"...Penny awakened with a jolt at 2 a.m. Her thoughts fuzzy, she thought she was in the nurses’ lounge of CCU. She heard the familiar sound of the outside door closing and sat up. In the excitement of Buck’s code, she had forgotten that she had heard ..."
119.
"... coded again—I’m not sure how many times we shocked him: the ER doc wouldn’t give up, but Dr. Scales came and told us to quit.” Penny was speechless. “Oh, and Penny,” the nurse said, “when the Jacksonville nurse gave you Report, did she mention that Buck had a police guard on him ..."
120.
"... came and told us to quit.” Penny was speechless. “Oh, and Penny,” the nurse said, “when the Jacksonville nurse gave you Report, did she mention that Buck had a police guard on him the first two weeks he was in their CCU?” Her words hit Penny like a lightning bolt, recharging ..."
121.
"... did she mention that Buck had a police guard on him the first two weeks he was in their CCU?” Her words hit Penny like a lightning bolt, recharging every cell of her body. “Why?” “Well, see, I called Jacksonville CCU, to tell them what happened to their patient, and the nurse ..."
124.
"... families visit in CCU up there, don’t they?” Penny drank coffee as daylight seeped through the windows and the sun reddened the sky. Johnny, still half asleep, stumbled into the kitchen. “I saw your light on at three. Bad night?” Penny shoved what she had written across the table. ..."
125.
"... light on at three. Bad night?” Penny shoved what she had written across the table. “See if you think this sounds all right. I’m taking your advice and turning in my notice at Dixiana. I’ll have to work one more weekend, but maybe I’ll be sick.” Johnny filled his cup and picked ..."
126.
"... advice and turning in my notice at Dixiana. I’ll have to work one more weekend, but maybe I’ll be sick.” Johnny filled his cup and picked up Penny’s notice of resignation. “Johnny....” He looked up from reading, waiting for her to continue. “Buck died last night, and I think ..."
131.
"... his jaw muscles flexing. Penny spread her arms and gripped the edge of the table. “I think Dr. Scales kept Buck on a ventilator until he moved him back here so he could kill him and keep him from telling who ran his motorcycle off the road.” “Okay, calm down.” Johnny said. ..."
"...Johnny set a bowl in front of Penny and one at his place. He brought two spoons from the silverware drawer and placed one beside each bowl, then he set a box of Grape-nuts and a carton of milk between them. Sitting opposite Penny, he jiggled his leg, making the spoons dance on the table. ..."
135.
"... going to Columbus to see if we could find your great-grandmother’s house. Would you still like to do that?” Penny propped her elbows on the table. “Yes, are you serious?” Johnny nodded. “Baseball practice begins at the end of this month. We could go before it starts.” He pushed ..."
136.
"... table. “Yes, are you serious?” Johnny nodded. “Baseball practice begins at the end of this month. We could go before it starts.” He pushed the sheet of paper back to Penny. “This sounds fine to me. I’m glad you’ve decided to do it.” Buck’s face, grey against white ..."
"...Buck’s face, grey against white hospital sheets, flashed through Penny’s mind, and she heard again and again the alarms from the monitor and the ventilator. Anxious to talk with Flossie Mae, to ask why Buck was guarded by the police, and to tell her about last night, Penny searched for the slip of paper with Flossie Mae’s phone ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 21: Chapter Twenty-One
"...Tuesday evening on her way to Jacksonville, Penny steered around potholes and rehashed her meeting with Agnes Gwen that morning. She had submitted her two-week notice of resignation and all her boss said was, “We’ll miss you.” Penny had imagined that she would ask her to reconsider or at least thank her for all the ..."
"...Hoping to find Flossie Mae’s apartment and visit with her before time to clock in, Penny left home an hour early that afternoon, but Jacksonville’s streets were a mess. People had piled so many limbs on the curbs that in the neighborhood near the hospital two cars could not pass without scraping against branches. Abandoning her plan, she turned into the employees’ parking ..."
3.
"... she turned into the employees’ parking lot. Coming into the bright, bustling emergency room was like entering another country. Penny asked a familiar-looking nurse for Flossie Mae’s phone number, and the woman consulted the staff Rolodex. “Her number is unlisted, and she asked us not ..."
7.
"... out, but she works tonight. I’ll leave a note for her to call you.” Penny had enough time before work to eat a real meal. In the cafeteria, she tarried before the steam table, contemplating the containers of food. “I’ll tell you what’s good,” said Kerri Kenyon, one of the first ..."
"...“I’ll tell you what’s good,” said Kerri Kenyon, one of the first people Penny had met at Jackson Medical Center. “Ask them to put a slice of cheese on top of those butter beans. It melts down and...” Kerri smacked her lips, turning her head side-to-side with each smack, then brushed bangs out of her eyes. The girl’s ..."
11.
"... each smack, then brushed bangs out of her eyes. The girl’s hair was bright copper. As they took a corner booth together, Penny averted her gaze from Kerri’s hair. “So, how have you been?” “Hanging in there—but I’m tired of working in laundry.” Kerri glanced around the ..."
"...“I have no idea. This is my first night back since last week.” Penny finished eating, ascended the stairs, and still arrived early. She stepped to one side to avoid bumping into a grey-haired man in a blue suit and red tie, and then moved back against the wall to allow two more suits to pass by. She watched them enter ..."
25.
"... pleaded one of the day-shift nurses. “They’ve put her in 406,” Maria said as Penny emerged from the staff lounge dressed in scrubs. “Did you clock in?” Maria held out a copy of the patient’s orders. “I weighed her, but that’s all.” The man in the blue suit approached the ..."
28.
"... “My son’s expecting a fax. Make sure you take it in to him as soon as you get it.” “Who was that?” Penny asked, watching the elevator door close behind the three dignitaries. “It’s a VIP committee, I guess,” Maria said. “I’ll tell you one thing: no patient has any ..."
"...Picking up her clipboard and stethoscope, Penny accepted the scrap of paper towel on which Maria had written the new patient’s weight and entered the room pulling a portable computer behind her. Sunny Setser, completely naked, sat in the center of her bed beside a wadded-up hospital gown, and her brown-eyed gaze was so direct ..."
33.
"... you put this on?” The already-lengthy admission interview took longer because Sunny expounded on each question, giving Penny a detailed history. She spoke in a clear, bell-toned voice, and she appeared comfortable in positions impossible for most forty-five-year-olds. “I knew something ..."
39.
"... for nausea. She claimed an allergy to alcohol. “If it touches my skin, I can taste it.” While Penny cleaned a site with Betadine and started the IV, Sunny hummed. “To relax my veins.” Finally finished, Penny hurried into the staff room where one remaining day-shift nurse waited to ..."
"...Finally finished, Penny hurried into the staff room where one remaining day-shift nurse waited to give her Report. “In addition to the new patient, you’ve got John Brown and Watt Weeks. Mr. Brown is here incognito for a rest because his father’s on our board of trustees, but Watt is ..."
41.
"... down. I haven’t had much luck with rectal suppositories, so you might try liquid Tylenol.” “Phone’s for you,” Maria said, when Penny came to the floor. “It’s Flossie Mae Fox.” Penny cupped her hand around the mouthpiece. “Buck died in Dixiana CCU this weekend, and I need ..."
42.
"... when Penny came to the floor. “It’s Flossie Mae Fox.” Penny cupped her hand around the mouthpiece. “Buck died in Dixiana CCU this weekend, and I need to talk to you. It’s crazy up here tonight; I can’t talk now.” “Do you work Thursday?” Flossie Mae asked. “Yes, ..."
46.
"... Thursday night.” “Then meet me in the cafeteria Friday morning after work.” “Okay.” Penny replaced the receiver and answered the call light from 406. “May I help you?” “Tell the nurse my body rejects food at sundown.” Sunny had vomited a surprisingly-large ..."
48.
"... from 406. “May I help you?” “Tell the nurse my body rejects food at sundown.” Sunny had vomited a surprisingly-large amount of undigested food, and Maria assisted Penny with the clean up. “I’ll take Mr. Brown’s vitals for you.” Maria rolled her eyes, “A person with less ..."
"...Watt Weeks did not speak, but made eye contact and nodded or shook his head in answer to Penny’s questions. He denied pain, but Penny administered a small amount of morphine in case repositioning was painful for him. His temperature was 102. Penny mixed liquid Tylenol in a teaspoonful of Coke. Mr. Weeks swallowed the liquid, then accepted a sip of iced Coke from ..."
55.
"... said. “He’s my best buddy.” Penny handed him the cup and moved on to John Brown’s closed door with its NO VISITORS sign. After knocking twice without reply, she entered the room. His TV boomed out the Weather Channel’s Storm Series program. Maria sat at the bedside of a man ..."
57.
"... bedside of a man wearing blue silk pajamas with a washcloth draped across his forehead and a glass thermometer in his mouth. “Mr. Brown, my name is Penny and I’m...” The patient pulled off the washcloth and positioned the thermometer under his bedside lamp, leaning over to read it while ..."
58.
"... Brown, my name is Penny and I’m...” The patient pulled off the washcloth and positioned the thermometer under his bedside lamp, leaning over to read it while Penny stood at the foot of his bed with her mouth open. Mr. Brown was Dr. Elijah Storm! The crinkly blue eyes focused on Penny. ..."
59.
"... Mr. Brown was Dr. Elijah Storm! The crinkly blue eyes focused on Penny. “I’m chilling a little. I need a couple more blankets, and will you go downstairs and buy me some water? I only drink bottled water.” He held out a twenty dollar bill. Maria stood up. “You don’t need to ..."
62.
"... case full of jars and bottles. After Maria left the room he turned to Penny. “I need you to check my blood pressure again. That black woman took it and I don’t think she did it right. I feel like my pressure’s up, and I know I have a temperature.” Penny emptied his water pitcher ..."
63.
"... Penny emptied his water pitcher into the sink and retreated. A Weather Specialist should know the difference between temperature and fever! Of course he had a temperature; he’d be dead if he didn’t! She returned with ice, the automatic ear thermometer, and the blood-pressure machine. ..."
65.
"... from my ear. And you didn’t bring the blankets. I asked for two blankets!” “That’s right. You did.” Penny shook down the glass thermometer and placed it under his tongue, timing it for three minutes. Maria came in and set two bottles of water on the bedside table. “They had ..."
67.
"... table. “They had three brands to choose from; I hope I didn’t get the wrong kind.” Penny removed the thermometer from Mr. Brown’s mouth. “Your temperature’s a little below normal.” “It’s getting ready to go up then,” he said. “My temperature always goes down before ..."
69.
"... for now...I should drink plenty of water.” Penny and Maria made it to the staff room before they exploded: Penny in laughter and Maria fuming, “I never heard such! That man thinks if he sneezes the whole world will catch a cold!” Barb joined them for a description of the celebrity, ..."
72.
"... shoulder. “You gonna give me a wake-up call, girlie?” “I sure will, Prader,” Barb said. Penny walked with the colonel to his friend’s room, where Philpot picked up his camouflage bag. “Did Watt drink any of the Coke?” she asked. “He wouldn’t take any, but I tried, like you ..."
77.
"... mouthed the words, “No, he didn’t.” Toward morning the nurses were working at computers when Barb looked over from checking her labs. “I want to tell you before you hear this from anybody else, Penny—I’m turning in my notice.” Penny gasped. “How can you quit? I thought ..."
78.
"... “I want to tell you before you hear this from anybody else, Penny—I’m turning in my notice.” Penny gasped. “How can you quit? I thought you had serious money problems.” “We do! Absolutely! But my parents agreed to pitch in and stuff, and I finally convinced my husband to ..."
83.
"... it all right to draw Mr. Weeks’s blood now?” Penny had been so mesmerized by the story that she hadn’t noticed the lab tech come to the desk. “Yes, that’s fine.” She turned back to Barb. “And that convinced him!” A call bell rang and Penny jumped up to answer it. ..."
84.
"... lab tech come to the desk. “Yes, that’s fine.” She turned back to Barb. “And that convinced him!” A call bell rang and Penny jumped up to answer it. “May I help you?” “I’m ready for coffee and send my nurse in here to find my contact lens. I dropped it in this damn bed.” ..."
86.
"... deep, resonant voice of the weatherman. Penny loaded a fresh pot of coffee and started toward Dr. Storm’s room as a large man entered the hallway from the elevator. “Is Sunny Setser on this floor?” His voice was nasal and his words were hesitant. “Yes, are you a member of her ..."
87.
"... the elevator. “Is Sunny Setser on this floor?” His voice was nasal and his words were hesitant. “Yes, are you a member of her family?” Penny asked as she walked with him toward 406. “I...live in the next trailer and I...kinda take care of her.” The door stood ajar and as Penny ..."
89.
"... with him toward 406. “I...live in the next trailer and I...kinda take care of her.” The door stood ajar and as Penny pushed it open, the man leaned forward to avoid bumping his head on the door facing. “Buzzard!” Sunny shot up in her bed like a jack-in-the-box. Forgetting her IV line, ..."
"...shot up in her bed like a jack-in-the-box. Forgetting her IV line, she stretched the tubing tight to throw her arms around his neck. With Sunny standing on her bed they were about the same height. Her gown tail was up around her waist, but Penny decided it didn’t matter and shut the door. ..."
92.
"... comin’ cause I never lose—now I’ve got 185 million!” Barb was still working at a computer when Penny passed behind her carrying the cup of coffee for Dr. Storm. “Barb! Did you actually give Mr. Philpot a wake-up call?” Barb nodded, “Yeah, I feel sorry for him.” On Friday ..."
"...On Friday morning as Penny drove home after three crazy night shifts, she couldn’t separate the events of one night from another. Her mind had compressed everything into a whirlpool of bedlam, capped off by the newspaper clipping Flossie Mae had given her at breakfast that morning. She fumbled in her purse ..."
"...Johnny had said that they would leave for a mini-vacation in Columbus around four this afternoon, spend two nights in a motel, and have two days to explore. Penny phoned the veterinarian’s office, then invited Zac into the car. The dog could have his yearly checkup and vaccinations while they were gone. She considered purchasing mice to feed to the snake but discarded the idea. She wouldn’t be here to clean the tank. ..."
99.
"... snake but discarded the idea. She wouldn’t be here to clean the tank. She packed a bag and then attempted a nap. Lying in bed, Penny reread the newspaper account Flossie Mae had given her. It was dated December 26. A man who police suspect of fatally beating his wife, mother, and child ..."
"...In a suspended state between sleep and wakefulness, Penny heard again the closing sound of the back door to CCU and turned over. No, it was actually Johnny coming in from the garage. She reached the kitchen before he could remove his coat. “I met Flossie Mae in the cafeteria for breakfast this morning.” ..."
107.
"... cafeteria for breakfast this morning.” Johnny got that oh-no-not-again look in his eyes and Penny continued with a little less enthusiasm, holding out a sheet of paper. “She gave me this copy of an article about Buck’s motorcycle accident.” Johnny raised one eyebrow in a questioning ..."
108.
"... Johnny raised one eyebrow in a questioning slant, “Let me get my coat off.” Placing the news story on the counter, he leaned over it and Penny watched a flush rise up the back of his neck. He laid down his jacket and gripped the edge of the counter, his knuckles turning white. Penny ..."
"...Penny was unable to wait for him to finish reading. “Flossie Mae got it out of the Jacksonville paper a few days after Christmas. She said she would have missed it if someone hadn’t told her about it. She thinks Dr. Scales did it or hired it ..."
110.
"... She asked me if I would be a character witness for her in court, if she needs one.” Johnny turned to look at Penny. His cheeks were scarlet, his eyes blazed. “And you want to know what I think. Right?” Penny nodded, less sure that she really wanted to know, because Johnny looked ..."
111.
"... at Penny. His cheeks were scarlet, his eyes blazed. “And you want to know what I think. Right?” Penny nodded, less sure that she really wanted to know, because Johnny looked furious. “Stay-Away-From-Flossie-Mae.” His words were deliberately ­distinct. “This clipping is about ..."
113.
"... of, and it says right here that even the police don’t know who did it. You have no proof, just rumors and suspicion.” Penny walked to the table and sat down. “Flossie Mae wants you to be a character witness, but you only know her from work.... What would you say? You don’t know ..."
115.
"... He drew a deep breath, picked up a glass from the sink drainer, and filled it halfway with water from the faucet. He sloshed the water in the glass, staring at it. Turning to Penny, he said in a conversational tone, “If the police thought Buck was in danger, why did they stop guarding him?” ..."
116.
"... said in a conversational tone, “If the police thought Buck was in danger, why did they stop guarding him?” Penny stared into her lap, biting her bottom lip. “I don’t know.” “No, you don’t. And neither do I. And neither does Flossie Mae, or the sheriff or any policeman or ..."
118.
"... Johnny pulled Penny to her feet. He slid his right arm around her waist and elevated her chin with his left hand. “Now, we’re going to forget it. Erase hospitals from your mind.” He kissed her lips, then pulled away. “Have you forgotten our trip? We’re driving to Columbus today.” ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 22: Chapter Twenty-Two
0.
"... the rest of the house.” In the late afternoon, the Pewitts locked their house and loaded suitcases into the trunk of Johnny’s blue Mercury. He adjusted the rearview mirror and turned to Penny, sitting beside him in the passenger seat. “Did you pack your camera?” “I’ve got it; and ..."
6.
"... “We didn’t travel for fun; money was tight.” Penny pictured Buck sitting on the desk in CCU telling her of his financial problems and his pregnant wife. “Johnny, Buck was trying to buy a house so his wife and his baby could come and live with him–-he loved them!” The ..."
"...The atmosphere in the car tightened, a noxious thickening of the air. Unable to stop herself, Penny tossed incendiary words into the flammable environment. “It’s insane to think that Buck would kill anybody!” She shifted in her seat and folded her arms. The engine accelerated, and she cast a sideways glance at the advancing speedometer needle. ..."
11.
"... begins on page one-hundred.” Penny retrieved the small black-bound work, The Seven Siblings, from the seat behind her. The chapter was entitled “Elizabeth Augusta Murdock (1841-1921).” She examined the picture of a young woman, her own great-grandmother. “You’re prettier than she ..."
"...Penny placed her hand on his thigh and he covered it, holding it with a firm grip. Feeling pretty, she looked out at the scenery along the Natchez Trace, at bare crepe myrtles and vacant gardens laid out, waiting for summer. She rolled down the window as they ..."
17.
"... occurred to her for years: my husband loves me. It was nearly 10 o’clock when they checked into the Holiday Inn in Columbus. Penny, propped up with pillows, attempted to read while Johnny studied the map, but both of them were worn out. “Let’s stop at the library in the morning and ..."
18.
"... while Johnny studied the map, but both of them were worn out. “Let’s stop at the library in the morning and see if they can direct us to the house,” Penny said. “They should be open on Saturday, don’t you think?” “I’m game.” Laying the book aside, she leaned against ..."
26.
"... great-grandmother’s necklace, standing in front of her home.” To show him, Penny drew the medallion up from the neck of her sleep-shirt, then moved to her side of the huge bed. “Goodnight. I hope you rest well.” She awakened to the sound of Johnny snoring in irregular snorts and ..."
33.
"... to go touring, anyway.” He piled two pillows against the headboard and leaned on them. Penny rinsed out the room’s tiny electric pot and soon the aroma of coffee displaced the stale motel air. “Your great-grandmother was born in New England and when she was a year old her father, ..."
36.
"... Augusta was twenty-four when her first husband was killed in the Civil War.” “Which is why she was decorating graves in 1866,” Penny said as she poured brewed coffee into two Styrofoam cups. “That’s right, and her second husband, a pharmacist, had also fought in the war. ..."
38.
"... so he came here when he was thirty years old, found a beautiful war widow, and married her.” Penny sat on the side of the bed with her cup. “All that was in the chapter I read in the car.” “Just bear with me. Here comes the interesting part, I think it is, anyway. Before the Civil ..."
40.
"... most dangerous part of the trip was across states like Mississippi, where there wasn’t much organized help.” Penny selected clothes from her suitcase while Johnny continued. “Anyway, what I’m getting at is that Elizabeth Augusta’s father, Abram Murdock, was from New England, so he ..."
"...On her way to the bathroom, Penny said, “Daddy taught me how to find the North Star: it looks like it’s falling out of the Big Dipper. The ‘drinking gourd’ would have to be the Big Dipper.” She turned back to sit at the foot of the bed. “Do you think that ..."
44.
"... think that it’s entirely possible.” After breakfast, Johnny dropped Penny at the Columbus Library while he filled the car with gas. She carried The Seven Siblings to the desk and opened it to display the picture of the old house. “It’s only a few blocks from here,” the ..."
49.
"... more white hair on his face than on his scalp. “All right?”, he said. Penny introduced herself. “My great-grandfather built this house.” She pointed to the picture of Warren Cox standing in front of his house. The tall, thin man cupped an ear with one hand. “I don’t hear well; ..."
53.
"... on in and sit down.” When he smiled, his face became pleasant. Stepping through the door, Penny encountered an invisible wall of odor, stagnant and distinctive like that of an old country church kept closed except on Sunday. The entry hall was a huge room that ran the length of the house. ..."
55.
"... They followed Mr. Lilly into the room on the left. Penny seated herself on the frayed upholstery of what had once been an elegant chair. To her right, tongues of flame licked the air from a gas heater in the fireplace, and she experienced the sensation of having crossed into another world. ..."
59.
"... beauty parlor, but I’ll be glad to show you around.” His lips glistened with saliva. Penny turned her attention to Uncle Buddy. “We would like to know anything you can tell us about the house.” He hesitated. “Well, Lily’s aunt willed it to her and nobody would buy it so we moved ..."
"...They passed into a hall-like room with counters on both sides. Above the counters and up to the ceiling, rows of narrow shelves held dusty bottles of all sizes and colors. Beneath the counters were cabinets with leaded-glass doors, through which Penny observed stacks of china. She counted at least five different patterns. ..."
"...climbed above them to a second floor porch, and it was obvious that at some time a stairway had descended to the basement; the opening in the porch floor was closed off by double panels, which had been nailed shut and padlocked. Gazing down at the sealed space, Penny experienced a sensation of falling and moved back, her pulse drumming in her ears. ..."
66.
"... Penny imagined these rooms as they must have been, with beautiful carpets, heavy silk draperies, and polished furniture. She didn’t have to imagine the china. Her mother had kept a lidded casserole dish, a piece of her grandmother’s pink-rimmed china, on display in their home. A ..."
"...“Then they’ll stay with us, of course.” She turned to Penny, “We’ve got lots of bedrooms upstairs-th.” The woman shoved her upper teeth back into place with the tip of her tongue, and moved across the hall with geisha steps. In the stuffy parlor she approached an upholstered rocker and, while still two feet away, threw herself backward ..."
69.
"... rocker and, while still two feet away, threw herself backward into the seat. Penny jumped forward to try to catch her, then stopped herself when the woman landed safely. “That’s very kind, Mrs. Lilly, but...” “Please call me Lily. Actually, my name is”—she spelled out the ..."
"...Johnny placed his hand on Penny’s shoulder and compressed his fingers. “Uh, we need to go back to our motel and rest for a while.” When Penny turned to look at him, he avoided eye contact and continued. “We’ll come back this afternoon, after we rest, if that’s all right with you ..."
74.
"... “We’ll come back this afternoon, after we rest, if that’s all right with you folks.” In the privacy of the car Penny blurted out, “Are you sick? You never rest! What’s wrong?” “It’s noon. I was afraid Lily would want to fix food and invite us to eat with them, and I ..."

-------------------------------------------
2.
"... Johnny drove onto a new four-lane bridge and they crossed the Tombigbee River. “Look.” Penny pointed to a small restaurant on the bank. “If we eat here, we’ll be able to see the back of the house.” Hanky Panky Bar and Grill served good hamburgers but the Cox house, on a high ..."
"...An unseasonably warm breeze rumpled their hair and the brilliant sky reflected in the rippling river making it shimmer like blue satin. It seemed to Penny that all the radiance stored up during the winter had been released and was flooding down upon them all at once. “What a perfect day,” she said, “not too hot and not too cold.” ..."
"...Penny gave Johnny an affected smile, then let her gaze wander out over the sunlit water. “This river probably looks about the same today as it did in the 1800s, but I’ll bet runaway slaves missed seeing its beauty. They were risking their lives, hiding and waiting for ..."
14.
"... risking their lives, hiding and waiting for dark to come so they could escape along the bank.” Johnny gestured for Penny to precede him along the narrow path beside the water. “After you.” Penny turned to face him. “Wait, Johnny, I have something to say.... If the upstairs bedrooms ..."
15.
"... the water. “After you.” Penny turned to face him. “Wait, Johnny, I have something to say.... If the upstairs bedrooms look decent, let’s spend the night in the house. Please! I want...its almost a compulsion to stay in my great-grandparents’ house.” “You want to sleep there? ..."
19.
"... suggest...” Penny interrupted, her eyes wide and earnest. “This may sound crazy, but I want to experience it as much as I can. Listen, we could take them out to supper at Hanky Panky’s! Did you hear Uncle Buddy say he taught history? You might enjoy talking to him!” A vein in ..."
23.
"... cancel the motel room.” His voice was strained. “You’re sure about this?” Penny nodded. Her lips parted and she placed her hands on her hips. “Let’s go back and see if the rooms are okay!” “Yoo hoo!” Lily, wearing a yellow-print dress, waved from the front door. ..."
25.
"... and see if the rooms are okay!” “Yoo hoo!” Lily, wearing a yellow-print dress, waved from the front door. “Would you folks like to see upstairs now?” Reaching her side, Penny caught sight of fuchsia toenail polish through her gold sandals. Lily waited downstairs while Uncle ..."
"...Uncle Buddy led the way up the wooden treads using the banister like a towrope, but near the top he lost his grip and lurched. Johnny nudged him from behind until he grabbed the railing and steadied himself, and when Uncle Buddy resumed his unsteady climb, Johnny shot Penny a long-suffering look. ..."
35.
"... above his speaking voice. Penny decided that he must forget to swallow; everything he said sounded juicy. A metal chandelier, identical to the one Penny had seen in the hall below, hung from the ceiling with a similar cord winding down, converting it to electricity. “Well, let’s go down ..."
37.
"... go down and see what Lily is up to,” Uncle Buddy said. “Bring in your suitcases whenever you like.” Trailing Uncle Buddy, Penny steepled her hands and her eyes pleaded with Johnny. He sent her a scorching glance. At the bottom of the staircase, he cleared his throat. “Uh, Uncle ..."
38.
"... Johnny. He sent her a scorching glance. At the bottom of the staircase, he cleared his throat. “Uh, Uncle Buddy, Penny and I would like to take you and Lily out to dinner. We have to go back to the motel to get our bags, so we’ll do that and then we can all go out to eat.” ..."
"...“You’re awfully quiet,” Johnny later said as he watched Penny re-pack her suitcase in the motel room. His frustration more than he could hide, he turned toward the window, placed his palms on the sill, and leaned heavily on his hands. “I’d think someone so thankful to me for giving up my nice, clean, paid for, king-size ..."
"...Penny shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “I do! I am!” She raised a hand to her mouth and exhaled between her fingers. “I have all kinds of sensations in that house—I knew how many steps were in the staircase: how many to ..."
"...Penny traced the worn lines in her chair’s upholstery. She watched a salamander crawl across the crumbling window sill, decide not to climb onto Lily’s chair, then scurry back and dash down the wall. She tried, without success, to synchronize her mind’s music with the torpid tick of ..."
48.
"... And pay no attention to the night noises; Lily and I don’t even hear them anymore.” Penny reseated herself. “Johnny, would you please bring in our flashlight from the glove compartment?” Uncle Buddy heaved himself up from his chair. “Let me show you how to unstick the back ..."
50.
"... snap. Lily joined them in the hallway. “Oh my goodness, I am tired. Ha, ha, haaa, ha, ha. Oh my goodness.” She regarded Penny. “It gets cold up there at night; the only heat is what goes up from down here. If you look in some of those-th boxes, you’ll find extra covers.” At the ..."
"...At the top of the stairway, Penny turned left into the room in which Johnny had stacked their suitcases. Against the far wall stood a magnificent old bed whose half tester towered six feet above the mattress and extended three-fourths of the way down the length of the bedframe. Against the wall to the ..."
54.
"... and grinned at her. “Sherry tastes better after you drink a couple of glasses, you know it?” Sometime later, Penny heard Johnny bid Uncle Buddy goodnight and start up the creaky steps. “It’s cold up here,” he said, joining her in the bedroom. “I think I’ll sleep in my ..."
56.
"... cold up here,” he said, joining her in the bedroom. “I think I’ll sleep in my clothes.” “I found some quilts,” Penny said. “We’ll need them and our clothes if it gets any colder.” Johnny dropped his shoes and stretched out beside her. Resting on his back, his head and his ..."
58.
"... going over to the other room.” “Okay, but take some quilts with you.” Penny walked across the hall with him. The other bedroom contained no lamp and she placed the flashlight beside his bed. “Thank you for staying here with me; I owe you one.” “You owe me big time!” Johnny ..."
"...Back in her room, Penny examined the bed. Carved into the footboard was a hawk, whose extended wings reached the corner posts. The bird stood on a vine that divided and continued along the sides, then climbed the posts that supported the headboard. Branches of the vine extended around the square ..."
"...From a long-ago conversation, she remembered hearing her mother say the same thing. She had told Penny that she didn’t like sleeping in her grandmother’s bed because she was afraid the tester would fall down and cut off her legs, and that bed was the one in which both her mother and her grandmother had been born; it must have been a half-tester like this one! ..."
63.
"... have been a half-tester like this one! Leaning over to reach the lamp switch, Penny saw a plaster medallion in the center of the ceiling. It was identical to her pendant: a circle around a five point star–-a pentagram, Flossie Mae had called it. Penny switched off the lamp and turned to ..."
"...Penny switched off the lamp and turned to her side, breathing in the scent of musty linen. What did Flossie Mae say the points represent? Elements...earth, air, fire, water...spirit. The circle connects us to spirit. In her mind, Penny looked down the Tombigbee River, heard its ..."
66.
"... as if about to come into the room. Penny fumbled with the lamp cord, unable to find the switch. Hearing a rustle beside her, she looked up into the smiling face of an old lady, her white hair parted and pulled back. She motioned for Penny to follow her. “Give me just a second,” Penny ..."
"...“Give me just a second,” Penny said, pulling on her shoes. She walked across the hall and shook Johnny’s shoulder. He turned over, still sound asleep, so she picked up the flashlight and strode into the hall with a strange confidence. The figure reached out to her from the top step and ..."
"...Joining hands, they passed through the doorway and onto the porch. To their left was a gaping hole in the floor and Penny pulled back, resisting the hand dragging her down a narrow stairway. At the bottom, she stepped onto a wood floor and her flashlight’s beam revealed a metal cage with an interior large enough to accommodate eight people. Its door stood open and a huge padlock hung ..."
"...Overcome with curiosity Penny followed her guide, descending into an eight-foot-square cave-like room, whose hollowed-out earthen walls were reinforced with crumbling brick columns. On one wall, a child-size door stood open into inky blackness. The figure backed into the opening, her shoulders bent toward Penny, her hands extended, beckoning. In ..."
"...There was no way to refuse her invitation. Spider webs brushed against Penny’s face and her feet caught on roots and rocks in a tunnel cut into the earth. She concentrated on moving forward without falling. The shaft was devoid of light and its dank air gave off a moldy odor. The grade took a sharp pitch downward, and ..."
"...Frantically directing her flashlight to peel away layer after layer of blackness, Penny could not locate her companion and fear hit her in the stomach. It shot through her veins like lightning: quick and electrifying. No one knew she was down here; her body would never be found. What if her flashlight’s batteries failed? Switching off the light ..."
"...Gradually the ground leveled off, the dirt walls bowed to the left, and shifting shadows appeared in the darkness ahead. Penny clicked on her flashlight and directed the beam in front of her feet. She walked faster, then began to run toward filtered shapes ahead, her breaths keeping three quarter time with her steps. Suddenly, crystal light flooded the passageway. Blinking in the brilliance, she squinted ..."
74.
"... the passageway. Blinking in the brilliance, she squinted through kudzu vines at the river in front of her. Penny! Wake up! They’ve got breakfast ready for us,” Johnny said. Raising her hands, she shielded her eyes against beams of sunlight streaming across her bed. “I was ..."
77.
"... so come on down as soon as you can.” Johnny descended the stairs and Penny sat up debriefing her mind, returning to reality. Stepping into the bathroom, her feet numb inside her shoes, she splashed water on her face and brushed her teeth. “It’s always too cold upstairs,” Uncle ..."
79.
"... face and brushed her teeth. “It’s always too cold upstairs,” Uncle Buddy said when Penny, wearing a heavy jacket, entered the kitchen. “That’s why we gave up the idea of having a bed-and-breakfast. Folks would rather have comfort than history.” Penny smiled in his direction, ..."
80.
"... rather have comfort than history.” Penny smiled in his direction, then watched Lily pick up a pickle and bite into it with her false teeth. “The bed I slept in last night is beautiful,” she said. Do you plan to sell any of your antiques?” Lily’s smile was stiff above her ..."
84.
"... bottles gathered in a box beside her plate, while a ladybug crept along the side of the box. Uncle Buddy served himself a pickle and passed the jar to Penny. “Lily makes the best! Try some.” A caffeine surge from the bitter, triple-strength coffee hit Penny, and she set down her cup. ..."
85.
"... and passed the jar to Penny. “Lily makes the best! Try some.” A caffeine surge from the bitter, triple-strength coffee hit Penny, and she set down her cup. “I’m not very hungry this morning, but thank you.” Johnny looked up from his plate of eggs, bacon, grits, and toast. “I ..."
86.
"... Johnny looked up from his plate of eggs, bacon, grits, and toast. “I thought you were going to sleep all day.” Refilling coffee cups, he circled the table, brushing the top of Penny’s hair with his fingers as he moved behind her. “Just knocking out some spider webs,” he said. ..."
87.
"... fingers as he moved behind her. “Just knocking out some spider webs,” he said. Penny pushed back from the table. “I want to walk down to the river. Go ahead and eat. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” “If you can wait, I’ll go with you,” Johnny said. “Catch up with me if you ..."
"...The morning air was cold against her cheeks as Penny pulled on gloves and leaned over to stretch her back and shoulders. Pushing her feet against the front steps, she flexed her ankles to extend her calf muscles, then jogged to the end of the block, slowing as she turned down the road to the river. By ..."
93.
"... making her way through the undergrowth, trying to invent a path perpendicular to the river. Penny! What are you doing?” Johnny called from the riverside. “You’re standing in poison ivy!” Turning back, she retraced her steps. “I thought maybe I could find where the tunnel ..."
"...Penny reached his side. “Last night I dreamed that an old lady led me though a tunnel from the basement to a hole in this hill. Her smile was like Mother’s.... And the bed I slept in—I think it might be the one Mother and Grandmother were ..."
99.
"... whole thing clean out of the ball park. I’ve got a real sore throat! I hope I’m not getting sick.” “Okay, let’s go, then.” Penny led the way back in uncomfortable silence. As they approached the house Johnny said, “You want to see the cemetery, don’t you? Why don’t we go ..."
101.
"... lunch? I saw a Waffle House as we came into town.” “That’ll be fine.” Penny walked through the yard and around to the rear of the house. She climbed the steps onto the back porch and stood above the sealed entrance to the basement. Uncle Buddy had seen them coming and opened the ..."
103.
"... porch and stood above the sealed entrance to the basement. Uncle Buddy had seen them coming and opened the kitchen door. “What’s in the basement?” Penny asked him. “Well, there is something down there I can’t explain. There’s...” Penny interrupted, “It’s a big metal cage, ..."
105.
"... in the basement?” Penny asked him. “Well, there is something down there I can’t explain. There’s...” Penny interrupted, “It’s a big metal cage, isn’t it!” Johnny stepped onto the porch. “What’s in the basement that you can’t explain?” “I’ll show you if you ..."
108.
"... get dirty.” Uncle Buddy carried a battery torch and Johnny followed him, crawling through a window well into the space under the house. Penny squatted and peered through the opening. Across the dirt floor was a huge cage, its door dangling crooked from one hinge. Penny returned to the ..."
"...Penny returned to the kitchen, poured coffee, and carried her cup to the table. She gazed at her right hand, at her mother’s ring on her own finger, wishing her mother were here to tell them about a time when the basement floor had been wood, and there was ..."
112.
"... never been to see it, though.” Lily had changed from her robe into a red caftan and joined them. Penny said, “Please tell me what it was that kept people from buying the house.” Lily looked to Uncle Buddy, who nodded permission. “Some people think they see ghosts at the ..."
115.
"... said. “What with one thing and then what with another, it’s hard to be sure.” Remembering all the sets of china, Penny asked, “When you find dishes on the table, is it a different pattern each time?” Uncle Buddy aimed his distorted eyes at Penny. His face was a study in ..."
116.
"... dishes on the table, is it a different pattern each time?” Uncle Buddy aimed his distorted eyes at Penny. His face was a study in concentration. “I’ve thought for a while that we might have a friendly spirit hanging around.” “I’ll show you,” Lily said. From a cabinet in the ..."
118.
"... Johnny called Penny to the kitchen. “We’d better start gathering up our things if we’re going to visit the cemetery,” he said, patting Lily’s shoulder and shaking hands with Uncle Buddy. “You folks have been great to have us in your home and we’d like to pay you for it.” ..."
120.
"... we’d like to pay you for it.” “I’m glad you insisted on paying for our rooms.” Penny stood in the street in front of the house helping Johnny lift suitcases into their trunk. “The only thing I didn’t get to do was climb up into the cupola.” They turned for a last look above ..."
123.
"... the front window of the cupola, then slammed the trunk and slid behind the wheel. Penny raised her hand to wave and watched as the black-clad figure faded away and the long window stood empty, reflecting the sun. That weekend, for Penny, had been the kind of experience that would influence ..."
125.
"... away and the long window stood empty, reflecting the sun. That weekend, for Penny, had been the kind of experience that would influence everything that followed; that divided time, so that she thought in terms of before and after. Headed home in the late afternoon, she dreamed of the lady ..."
"...Headed home in the late afternoon, she dreamed of the lady who had managed a staff of Negro servants, including a yard man, coachman, cook, two maids, and an Indian meat hunter—Penny’s own great-grandmother, of whom Uncle Warren wrote, “Her skin was soft as rose petals, yet when her heart told her what needed to be done, she possessed the courage to do it.” ..."
130.
"... of them until the heavens glowed, like a promise. As they neared Dixiana, Johnny rubbed the back of his neck and yawned. “How’s your throat?” Penny asked. “It doesn’t hurt now, but I try not to get cold when I have a sore throat because, and I’ve probably told you this, my ..."
"...This was news to Penny, and she turned to face him. “That couldn’t cause leukemia, Johnny. Everybody has cancer cells. Most people control them with their immune systems, but sometimes something— a carcinogen like asbestos or tobacco—makes the bad cells multiply so fast that the immune system can’t keep up.” ..."
136.
"... the steps.” Penny leaned back in her seat. “They didn’t have chemotherapy drugs back then. Your father had acute leukemia before that camping trip; he just didn’t know why he felt so bad.... Johnny, you don’t really believe it was your fault that he died, do you?” Johnny glared ..."
139.
"... Several minutes passed in silence. Penny located station WEZY on the car radio and the familiar voice of one of Dixiana’s announcers reached them. “Riverdale County Extension Service will have a workshop on coyote control in the county library tomorrow night at seven o’clock.” ..."
140.
"... Tomorrow would be Monday and Penny would have the night off before returning to Jacksonville on Tuesday for her regular three-night stretch. She wondered who would take Barb’s place, whether the new nurse would be easy to work with, and whether they would become friends. The next ..."
141.
"... whether they would become friends. The next weekend would bring to an end Penny’s job at River Park Hospital. She wished that it was already behind her, and if she had known how heinous her last Dixiana shift would be, she would have refused to work it. ..."

-------------------------------------------
"...Sunday night as she unpacked their suitcases, Penny separated clean clothing from a pile to be washed. She hung a pair of slacks in Johnny’s closet and opened his underwear drawer to replace the unused Jockeys. From beneath a stack of t-shirts the corner of an old cigar box caught her attention, and she folded ..."
"...When their children were young, Johnny had added one of these coins to each of their Christmas stockings every year until the little spenders rebelled against saving and traded them to him for paper money. Penny examined one of the tiny white rocks among the coins: a baby’s tooth! Johnny must have kept them when he substituted tooth-fairy money! She lifted Johnny’s father’s Bulova pocket watch to see a small piece of paper under it: an orange crayon drawing she remembered from long ..."
4.
"... three-year-old Harriet. At the bottom of the box was Penny’s own teething ring, which she had discarded in a previous cleaning rampage. She read the engraving of her name, weight, time and date of birth on the tooth-marked silver bell dangling from an ivory circle. Monday morning Penny ..."
"...Monday morning Penny napped until nearly noon. On the counter she found a note from Johnny: “Look at this!” Beneath it was the “Issues” section of Jacksonville’s Sunday paper and as she scanned the headline, “DIXIANA HOSPITAL TARGETED IN LAWSUIT,” a sudden empty space opened in Penny’s chest. ..."
"...Penny poured coffee and cereal, flopped into her chair at the table, and folded the newspaper beside her bowl. She reread the article from start to finish. Why hadn’t she known about it? Why hadn’t the nurses just quit their jobs and gone to work at another ..."
12.
"... as if the answers were contained within the bowl. An image came into Penny’s mind: she was falling, crashing. “Stop,” she told herself. “I’m okay. I have a good job. Maybe those nurses couldn’t find other jobs.” Refocusing her gaze on the paper, Penny buried herself ..."
"...Refocusing her gaze on the paper, Penny buried herself in a companion article. It told of doctors all around the country who had come forward to expose unsafe conditions or incompetent colleagues, only to find that whistle-blower laws failed to protect them, that responsible agencies did little to correct problems or safeguard patients, and that ..."
"...Her hunger superceded by adrenalin, Penny stared at the newspaper while her cereal grew soggy and her coffee cooled. Dixiana physicians had always run the show. When they didn’t get their way, they had withheld admissions. They blocked discipline of their colleagues in a good-ole-boy network—like last year when Dr. Graham had ..."
"...on probation. If they didn’t shape up, they left for a family emergency and didn’t return. Staff physicians didn’t receive lavish gifts at Christmas or enjoy special privileges like the free Sunday dinners that River Park Hospital’s cafeteria provided for doctors’ families. Flossie Mae had told Penny that when Jacksonville’s ER docs complained about a small TV in their lounge and turned in a request for a large-screen set, both the small television and its stand disappeared and were not replaced. ..."
20.
"... not replaced. Having turned in her two-week notice of resignation, Penny was scheduled to work only one more weekend at River Park Hospital. She knew nurses who had quit without working out their notices; she had even filled in for some of them. She could call in sick! Putting off a ..."
23.
"... Now that the children were grown, Penny recognized that when they were small her ego had been bound up in how well they behaved. Was it possible that she had switched her self-image from mother to house-keeper? Was a clean, well-run home as important as she believed it to be? By ..."
"...By Tuesday afternoon the house was clean, the pantry restocked, and clothes from the trip ironed and put away. A cold wind chilled Penny as she sprinted from the house to her car, and as she drove to Jacksonville low storm clouds mounded and whirled above her. An extensive swarm of small, fork-tailed birds, rising and falling like the surf, sailed toward her, and Penny passed beneath them. Through the rearview ..."
"...When Penny got to Jacksonville Medical Center, so many things had happened that it seemed as though she had been away for longer than four days. A nurse who worked on Fourth had been severely injured when she wrecked her car speeding to the hospital. She told the EMTs ..."
30.
"... a staccato wheeze, followed by a croaking gasp. She laughed frequently. Barb and Carina would take care of Watt again tonight, and Penny changed in the bathroom, leaving the door ajar to hear Barb’s update on Mr. Weeks. “We’ve depleted all his insurance days and Utilization Review is ..."
32.
"... determined to keep him in our hospital.” Penny examined her upper arms in the mirror over the sink. Instead of wearing her customary long-sleeved white turtleneck, she had worn a short-sleeved t-shirt which exposed hanging flaps of dry, wrinkly skin. “Don’t worry about it, baby! You’ve ..."
33.
"... wrinkly skin. “Don’t worry about it, baby! You’ve got extraordinary eyes.” Carina addressed Penny from her seat at the table. “You and me, we’re off the calendar.” She made a tsk, tsk sound between her tongue and the top of her mouth as she shook her head. Penny was about ..."
34.
"... She made a tsk, tsk sound between her tongue and the top of her mouth as she shook her head. Penny was about to ask the meaning of “off the calendar” when she heard Prader’s voice at the desk. “I have to go home now and teach my blind music students to sight read,” he told Maria. ..."
36.
"... where I left that helicopter.” With Carina in orientation, Barb would have to explain everything to her as well as care for their patients, so neither of them had time to help Penny with her four charges. Penny had to muddle through on her own. On Wednesday morning, day-shift nurses ..."
37.
"... on her own. On Wednesday morning, day-shift nurses awaited Report while Penny, Barb, and Carina huddled at the desk, trying to calculate their patients’ IV fluid intakes. The new pumps had not been cleared at the end of day shift, and they couldn’t figure out how to clear them. “I know ..."
39.
"... gismos, and we’ll get them to teach us when we come back tonight.” “Sounds good to me,” Penny said, too tired to think of a better solution. “Carina, what did you mean you and I are off the calendar?” “Over thirty-one: I’m over forty and I assume you are too.” “Oh, I ..."
"...Wednesday and Thursday nights were equally turbulent, and when Penny woke Friday afternoon, after sleeping most of the day, she extricated herself from her warm bed to shop for such necessities as soap and toilet paper at Kmart. Other nurse friends complained about being unable to sleep in the daytime, but Penny’s problem was the opposite: too tired ..."
"...as Johnny arrived to eat an early supper before his game. He parked behind her and hopped out of the Mercury carrying an identical bag. “We must be on the same wave length,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about barbeque all afternoon!” He helped carry Penny’s purchases into the house, then withdrew to change. ..."
45.
"... Penny filled two glasses with iced tea and set the table before Johnny reappeared wearing a new baseball uniform. He sat at his place and laid his cap on the table, and Penny stopped unwrapping a new roll of paper towels to admire her husband’s body in the snug outfit. “Wow.” ..."
"...Penny joined him at the table. “Prader Philpot was Watt Weeks’s old Army buddy, and he was still hysterical when I got to work. He didn’t leave until after eleven last night, and then he came back when we were starting four o’clock vital signs this morning. ..."
"...Penny climbed into bed early, trying to decide if she should work Saturday and Sunday at Dixiana; wondering whether the guilt from calling out when she was not sick would be worse than working. She decided to plead sick and reached for the receiver, making up symptoms for a ..."
52.
"... touched it. Penny, this is Peter Puckett. I see you’re working tomorrow, and I need a weekend supervisor. The nurses tell me you don’t like to do it, but I told ‘em we’re friends and I know you’ll come through and put out the fires for me just this one weekend.” A sense of ..."
53.
"... one weekend.” A sense of something unusual swept over Penny. What in the world was going on? Why would the Hospital Administrator staff the hospital instead of the Director of Nurses? “Please ask someone else, Mr. Puckett. I haven’t done that job in a long time.” “There isn’t ..."
"...Penny hesitated, remembering the times she and Johnny enjoyed going to college football games using the hospital’s passes for box seats because of Puckett’s generosity and his friendship with her husband. “I can’t pull medicines; I don’t know where they keep the drugs anymore. I can do the ..."
56.
"... I can do the nursing part, but you’ll have to get somebody else to do Pharmacy.” “I’ll have the pharmacist stay over and give you a quick in-service before he goes home. Thanks, Penny.” Penny already regretted her decision. “Mr. Puckett, I said I would act as nursing ..."
57.
"... you a quick in-service before he goes home. Thanks, Penny.” Penny already regretted her decision. “Mr. Puckett, I said I would act as nursing supervisor but I can’t pull medicines. Somebody else will have to do that.” “I’ll work it out,” he said. After worrying most of the ..."
"...Joan Hargrove, an agency nurse acting as evening supervisor, handed Penny the keys to Pharmacy and Central Supply and gave her a list of PRN nurses who might fill in if someone called out sick. With a voice of authority, Joan read names on the hospital’s census, clicking her ballpoint pen as she called attention to the sickest and ..."
"...Penny marveled at the woman’s courage in working for an agency: driving to strange hospitals and being held accountable for the actions of nurses she didn’t even know! An earthquake, a ­hurricane, and a tornado—all hitting the hospital at the same time—probably wouldn’t bother Joan at all. ..."
63.
"... bother Joan at all. “You’ll be fine,” Joan said, patting Penny’s arm like a mother. “Just make rounds, trouble shoot, and assign rooms. The census is low this weekend; CCU is empty and no one’s on telemetry. We’re to send heart patients on to Jacksonville.” “Is Mrs. Gwen ..."
64.
"... empty and no one’s on telemetry. We’re to send heart patients on to Jacksonville.” “Is Mrs. Gwen sick?” Penny asked. “I was surprised to get a call from Mr. Puckett instead of from her.” Joan made a quick, sideways glance at Penny. “Are you serious? You must be the only one ..."
65.
"... from her.” Joan made a quick, sideways glance at Penny. “Are you serious? You must be the only one who doesn’t know! Last Monday, she and Mr. Puckett had a blow up and Mrs. Gwen quit. He locked her out of her office and wouldn’t even let her go back to get her purse!” Joan guided ..."
66.
"... and wouldn’t even let her go back to get her purse!” Joan guided Penny through Central Supply like she owned the place. She pointed out frequently-used items and showed Penny how to charge them out, then they entered the pharmacy. “Mr. Puckett said one of the ER nurses will help you, ..."
"...On her way home on Saturday night, Penny reviewed the events of her day. Only one nurse called out for night shift, and a nurse on duty suggested someone who wanted overtime who agreed to come in and work. There were a few tense hours in ER when a grey, perspiring man was brought in ..."
71.
"... items with the help of the ER nurse; it was okay after all. The next day, a beautiful Sunday morning, there was no warning of what was to come. Penny arrived at 6:30, full of hope for a good last day in the Dixiana hospital. Joan Hargrove’s calm expression did not convey the gravity of ..."
73.
"... called Dr. Scales three times but he wouldn’t come.” Time to get out of here right now! In Penny’s imagination she saw herself entering her kitchen from the garage, the half-full coffee pot still warm from Johnny’s breakfast. Redirecting her mind, she picked up the patient’s chart. ..."
"...Redirecting her mind, she picked up the patient’s chart. The ­little girl had been brought in last night with diarrhea and dehydration. The next-to-last order, written by Joan, was a phone order from Dr. Scales: “Give 1500cc IV fluid by clysis.” Penny had administered fluids into a patient’s tissues when there was no IV access, but it was long ago. She had not taken care of children for many years. ..."
75.
"... it was long ago. She had not taken care of children for many years. The last order was: “Stop infusion and give Valium, 2.5mg IM.” Penny remembered that there was one type of IV fluid that should not be given by clysis. “The order doesn’t say what kind of fluid to give.” She ..."
"...“The good doctor didn’t say what to give and he was already mad that I called him, so I didn’t want to call him again.” Joan winked at Penny. “I gave D5W, but after 700cc the kid was in respiratory distress and her arms and legs were jerking. I had to call him back then, and that’s when he ordered Valium. I didn’t give it, of course. A sedative would depress her respiration even ..."
"...The two nurses walked toward 104, and Penny heard labored breathing before they reached the room. The mother looked to the nurses for help and moved away from her daughter. Penny clicked on both the room light and the over-bed light and turned the girl from her side to her back, straightening her little body. ..."
"...From the pit of her stomach, the certainty of impending doom ignited Penny’s nerve endings. Turning up the thermostat, she placed a folded blanket on the heater vent that jutted out under the windowsill, and left Joan to comfort the child’s mother. Penny strode back to the North Station believing that she could convince Dr. Scales to come. Telling ..."
"...“Dr. Scales, this is Penny Pewitt, acting weekend supervisor, calling about your patient, Loretta Honeycutt, in room 104. This baby is rigid and jerking, cyanotic, mottled, congested, and breathing in short gasps. She will die if you don’t come to the hospital.” Penny kept her voice strong and sure. ..."
83.
"... He slammed his phone down. Penny replaced the receiver and ran fingers through her bobbed hair, leaving it tousled. Steeling herself, she returned to the child, whose life was her responsibility. Joan had her arm around Mrs. Honeycutt, who was weeping. Penny turned to Joan. “Please ..."
84.
"... arm around Mrs. Honeycutt, who was weeping. Penny turned to Joan. “Please go find an oxygen setup, a bottle of distilled water, and a Trialon heating pad. Dr. Scales said for us to observe Loretta, so I’ll stay here while you bring them.” Joan read Penny’s face and left the room ..."
"...Joan read Penny’s face and left the room without speaking. When she returned, they placed the warmed blanket beneath the child, and the electric, water-warmed pad on top of the blanket covering her while Mrs. Honeycutt sobbed and moaned. The patient would not allow an oxygen mask or nasal prongs ..."
86.
"... some oxygen with her gasps. After thirty minutes, Loretta’s skin had pinked up and she breathed more easily. Leaving Joan in the room, Penny trudged back to the desk. Hansel Hall, Director of Respiratory Therapy, had arrived to check the charts for new orders. “Mr. Hall, I set up oxygen ..."
88.
"... you can think of anything else we can do.” Penny called Dr. Scales again. “Loretta’s mother, Mrs. Honeycutt, needs a tranquilizer; she’s pretty hysterical.” Penny wrote his order, obtained the medicine he prescribed, and returned to 104. No longer calm, Joan moved about the room as ..."
"...No longer calm, Joan moved about the room as though unable to find a place on the floor to put her feet. Mr. Hall listened to Loretta’s chest while Penny gave Mrs. Honeycutt the pill Dr. Scales had ordered. From the odor, Penny knew before she looked under the covers what should to be done next. Runny diarrhea had escaped from Loretta’s diaper onto her pads. ..."
92.
"... the Valium injection,” Joan said, “but then I’m done.” Penny called floor-nurse Anna to help change the child, but the exertion of turning side to side renewed her respiratory distress and Penny sent Anna to find Mr. Hall. The respiratory therapist pulled Penny out of the room. “We ..."
94.
"... to side renewed her respiratory distress and Penny sent Anna to find Mr. Hall. The respiratory therapist pulled Penny out of the room. “We need Dr. Scales right now, and he’d better get here fast!” “I told him that two hours ago and he wouldn’t come,” Penny said, “but I ..."
95.
"... out of the room. “We need Dr. Scales right now, and he’d better get here fast!” “I told him that two hours ago and he wouldn’t come,” Penny said, “but I could call the Chief of Staff.” “Go call him, then,” Mr. Hall said. “I’ll stay here.” Penny returned to the ..."
97.
"... “I’ll stay here.” Penny returned to the phone at the desk. She described Scales’s callous disregard for the child’s condition to the new Chief of Staff, a young man who moved to Dixiana last year. She had heard that he was competent, but did not know him well. “Call Dr. Scales ..."
99.
"... Let me know in a few minutes if you don’t get anywhere, because I’m going to church shortly.” Penny made her call. “Dr. Scales, your patient is worse. This is an emerg...” “How many times are you going to call me?” Mr. Hall had arrived at the desk and reached for the ..."
"...Penny rushed back to 104 while Mr. Hall talked with Dr. Scales. Loretta was asleep on her side, jerking a little, her skin pale. Penny turned her to her back and lifted her head and torso up onto the pillows. The child did not wake as Penny ..."
105.
"... Presently, Scales arrived. He took off his suit coat and laid it over the back of one of the desk chairs. Penny handed him Loretta’s chart, opened to the new lab values which showed her blood sugar to be dangerously high. “We haven’t been able to get a urine specimen yet,” she told him. ..."
106.
"... she told him. He stood with his legs apart like a medical beast tearing into the chart. Then, ignoring Penny, he spoke to Anna. “Get an infant catheter kit and come with me.” When Anna returned with the kit, he snapped his fingers at her and led the way to 104. Dr. Scales ordered ..."
108.
"... care. Penny began her rounds on North Station in case additional drugs or supplies were needed for Loretta. After knocking on each door and asking if everything was satisfactory, she crossed over to do the same on South Station, but the overhead speaker paged her to call ER. “We have ..."
109.
"... the same on South Station, but the overhead speaker paged her to call ER. “We have incoming traffic,” the nurse who had helped Penny find drugs in Pharmacy told her. “The EMT says they’re bringing us two DFOs.” Penny searched her brain as she sauntered to Emergency. She knew UFO but ..."
110.
"... Penny find drugs in Pharmacy told her. “The EMT says they’re bringing us two DFOs.” Penny searched her brain as she sauntered to Emergency. She knew UFO but had no idea what DFO stood for. The nurse in ER laughed. “Done Fell Out is our term for emotionally worked up church victims. ..."
112.
"... need a room. I just thought you’d want to know what’s going on back here.” The on-call ER physician was reading a magazine at the desk, and Penny asked him which IV fluid should not be given by clysis. “D5W,” he said. “Dextrose makes it hypertonic so it pulls fluid out of the ..."
"...Penny snickered with him, but yes, she could definitely beat that. As she returned through the deserted hallway to North Station, Dr. Scales approached, walking like Hitler. There was no way to escape, so she meet him straight on and smiled. “Hello, Dr. Scales. Did ..."
118.
"... voice rattled like a snake’s tail. “You are incompetent, and I will have you fired!” Penny smelled coffee on his breath. Her chest felt unstable as the odor of his breath attacked her heart. Leaning forward, he raised his right hand and pointed a ­lightening-bolt finger at her nose. ..."
"...as he lowered his voice and spit the words at her: “You keep your dirty mouth shut! You will not touch a hair on my body.” He pivoted toward the outside door, beating his fury out on the tiles with his leather heels, never looking back at Penny, who stood with his words repeating in her ears until the door slammed. ..."
"...Penny smiled, then giggled. What the man thought of her had no bearing on who she was. Her pulse rate returned to normal and a rumbling in her stomach reminded her that she was hungry. Thinking back over the events of the day, looking for things she ..."
"...“Mr. Puckett, this is Penny Pewitt at the hospital. I need to tell you about an incident this morning with a one-year-old patient who belongs to Dr. Scales. Mr. Hall was here and he helped us and the little girl’s better now, but I think something should be done about it. ..."
124.
"... but I just met Dr. Scales in the hall and he threatened me.” “You’ll never convince Samuel Scales he’s mistaken, Penny. I think it would be good for you to let other nurses take his patients until he gets over being mad.” “I won’t be here, Mr. Puckett. I’m working out my ..."
127.
"... resigned, but I hope you’ll be happy wherever you’ll be working.” Unable to recover her voice, Penny replaced the receiver. Dr. Scales as Chief of Staff would be like having Dracula as chairman of the Red Cross! Bolting up from his recliner, Johnny switched off the television when ..."
129.
"... Red Cross! Bolting up from his recliner, Johnny switched off the television when Penny entered the den. He gave her a smile and hunkered down beside her on the couch, draping an arm across her shoulders. “So tell me about it. Were you sad to leave your old hospital?” “No, I am not ..."
131.
"... It started early this morning...” Johnny asked questions, making sure he understood the medical details. He listened until Penny stopped talking and disengaged herself from under his arm. She twisted around to face him, her legs curled on the couch. His lips were pinched, his eyes ..."
133.
"... rose from a growl. “That bastard! I wish I’d been there!” Penny snuggled onto her husband’s chest, her head on his shoulder. She loved him for the anger in his eyes and for the protecting strength of his tensed biceps. “This is unreal!” Johnny sputtered. “You’re right on ..."
135.
"... mean and he’s crazy! Thank God you won’t have to be around him at the other hospital!” Penny raised her head. “I’ll try to avoid him, but he practices in the Jacksonville hospital, too.” Johnny placed his hands on Penny’s shoulders and held her back from him, his eyes boring ..."
136.
"... hospital, too.” Johnny placed his hands on Penny’s shoulders and held her back from him, his eyes boring into her. “Stay away from him! Go to the bathroom, hang up the phone, don’t listen to him! I’m not around, stay the hell away from him!” Exhaustion claimed her and ..."
137.
"... I’m not around, stay the hell away from him!” Exhaustion claimed her and Penny’s head found the hollow of Johnny’s neck, its resting place for so long. “Johnny,” she whispered. “What do you think they actually did in Gomorrah?” ..."

-------------------------------------------
"...Out of the kitchen window a drooping branch of redbud cast hundreds of tiny pink flowers onto the rain-drenched patio and Penny, unable to make herself clean bathrooms, opened the back door and stepped onto the concrete in her bare feet. The morning sky was overcast, the air full of unshed rain and the earthy scent of new life. ..."
8.
"... Back at home, Penny turned her TV to the Weather Channel and listened while putting away the food. “If you don’t like the weather we’re having, just wait an hour and it will change,” the weatherman said. “This time of year you can expect anything from clear skies to a tornado.” ..."
"...In mid-afternoon, the sun appeared and Penny walked Zac around the yard on his leash, afraid to let him run free because the street in front of their house was full of out-of-towners. She then locked the unhappy dog in his pen. Johnny would be late returning from practice, so there was plenty of ..."
"...A hawk swooped down, its wingspread longer than a golf club. It glided along in front of her with only an occasional wing movement. Penny ran faster trying to keep up, but the hawk rode ahead on a current of air and dropped onto the low branch of an oak, its dappled-brown back close enough for Penny to see individual feathers ruffling in the wind. The tips of its rust-colored tail feathers formed ..."
"...Penny stopped four feet short of the hawk’s perch, and it turned around to face her, revealing mask-like markings around its eyes and a gracefully-curved beak. They established eye contact and Penny felt the impact throughout her body: a sort of explosion in her chest and stomach followed by ..."
"...Then the hawk spread its magnificent wings and flew, not much higher than Penny’s head, its speckled white breast exposed before her. It glanced back a couple of times, and about thirty feet ahead settled onto another tree and watched Penny catch up. When she was even with its branch, she looked the hawk full in the face and its blue-black ..."
"...Penny glanced around and was struck by the normalcy of her surroundings. Fingers of light streamed through tree branches making patterns on the land. A mother hurried her child to the car, and two sweaty golfers waved and continued their conversation. It seemed to Penny that anyone ..."
"...At suppertime, Penny set out a salad bar of chopped vegetables and lettuce, and when Johnny arrived he served himself from the kitchen counter. “It looked like a bad day for practice,” he said, “but when time came for baseball the sun popped out: a good omen, right? The guys ..."
24.
"... today! You know?” Penny said, “Betty wants me to help with the refreshment stand at your games—I was afraid that if I helped once, she’d expect me to be there every time, but I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to come and do it when I don’t have to work.” “If you want to ..."
28.
"... go okay?” Penny placed two glasses of iced tea on the table. “Tourists took over our street so I ran on the new walking trail, and I can hardly tell you.” She drew a deep, fortifying breath. “A hawk flew with me, and when it looked at me, it was just unbelievable.” “That is ..."
36.
"... Tuesday evening, Penny filled a shopping bag with snacks she had bought at Kroger: taco chips, cheese and salsa, and cookies, and loaded it into her car. She drove to Jacksonville through rain drops that broke against the windshield faster than her wipers could clear them off. She ..."
44.
"... miss your visits, too.” Penny entered a party-like atmosphere in Oncology. The nurses were laughing over a joke someone had downloaded from America Online, and Maria handed Penny a copy. “I hope nobody gets fired over this, but it’s too good not to share!” MEMO ON COST CUTTING TO: ..."
59.
"... to the ER. Have a nice day! Carina Algood greeted Penny in the staff lounge. “Can you believe it? We’re down to three itsy-bitsy patients. I’ll take two if you’ll do Nealy Logan. His room’s so full of flowers I can’t breathe in there.” Penny agreed, searching for scrub ..."
60.
"... I’ll take two if you’ll do Nealy Logan. His room’s so full of flowers I can’t breathe in there.” Penny agreed, searching for scrub bottoms in the uniform cabinet. “I couldn’t find extra-large or large,” Carina said. “I put on a medium because the next size in there is ..."
62.
"... Penny scrutinized Carina’s skin-tight pants and phoned the laundry room, leaving a message on their answering machine. The medium pants Penny had selected ended three inches above her ankles and when Carina took a look at Penny’s outfit, she launched into her distinctive, wheezing laughter. ..."
63.
"... outfit, she launched into her distinctive, wheezing laughter. “Maybe tonight we’ll have time to visit,” Penny said. “Ever since you came, Oncology has been too busy for us to talk; I don’t even know if you’re married!” “Sure I’m married. My man’s retired—well, actually he ..."
69.
"... out of new places, but he can’t sleep on motel linens. We buy new pillows and sheets and throw them away before we fly home.” “That’s funny,” Penny said. “It makes it easier if you laugh. Plastic bags that blow along the highway and stick in trees drive him crazy; he keeps an ..."
72.
"... from her second stroke. Penny’s patient, Nealy Logan, had a systemic infection and was to receive a four-hour antibiotic, but his IV had infiltrated. The day-shift nurse told them that she had been waiting to restart it until Pharmacy sent the medicine. Maria stuck her head into the ..."
74.
"... her? Holy shit! You two look like something the cat dragged in—are we out of scrubs?” “I left a phone message in laundry,” Penny said. “Put the patient in 408. How long before she comes?” “They only asked for the room number so they’ll call Report before they bring her. ..."
76.
"... to page them to get anybody at night. I’ll try and get you some decent bottoms.” After day-shift left, Maria told Penny, “The antibiotic has been here for two hours; that nurse is just plain lazy.” “It’s all right,” Penny said. “I’m not busy tonight.” She collected an IV ..."
"...“It’s all right,” Penny said. “I’m not busy tonight.” She collected an IV start pack, two needles, and a syringe loaded with normal saline and entered 409, where Mr. Logan sat in his recliner watching television. He was not on Neutropenic Precautions, which forbad flowers in the rooms of cancer ..."
79.
"... room was funereal. “You’ve got it made in the shade,” the forty-three-year-old man grinned. “Do you think we should throw a party? My name is Penny and I’ll be your nurse tonight.” “Then, let’s spend the night together.” He extended his right hand to shake Penny’s. She ..."
80.
"... you think we should throw a party? My name is Penny and I’ll be your nurse tonight.” “Then, let’s spend the night together.” He extended his right hand to shake Penny’s. She grasped Mr. Logan’s hot hand. “I’m going to take your temperature and blood pressure and ..."
83.
"... can finish by midnight.” Maria knocked on the door. “I’ll take his vitals. Supervisor wants you on the phone.” Penny picked up the receiver at the nurses’ desk. “Hi Penny, it’s Leroy Crouch. I need to pull Maria to Third because their unit secretary had to go home for a family ..."
84.
"... picked up the receiver at the nurses’ desk. “Hi Penny, it’s Leroy Crouch. I need to pull Maria to Third because their unit secretary had to go home for a family emergency. Do you think you’ll be all right?” “I guess so,” Penny said. “We’ll have four patients ..."
85.
"... had to go home for a family emergency. Do you think you’ll be all right?” “I guess so,” Penny said. “We’ll have four patients when we get this new one from ER. You know about her, don’t you?” “Yes,” Mr. Crouch said. “She’s a friend of yours: Flossie Mae Fox, and ..."
87.
"... and she’s all worked up over a phone call from her son.” “I do know her, but why are you putting her up here?” Penny tried to remember when she had last talked to Flossie Mae, sorry that she hadn’t kept in touch with her. “Because you’ve already got her mother: Josephine Banks is ..."
"...Penny reentered 409 and Maria handed her Mr. Logan’s vital signs. “Don’t tell me,” Maria said. “I already know Leroy’s sending me to Third. Kerri Kenyon will bring you some uniforms when she gets off break.” Maria turned to Mr. Logan. “What you need is ..."
90.
"... I’ll try and find some for you, Nealy.” Penny restarted Mr. Logan’s IV, hung the piggyback, and set it to infuse while listening to Carina cough and sneeze in the staff lounge. On the sixth sneeze, Penny excused herself from Mr. Logan’s room. In the lounge, Carina rummaged in her tote ..."
"...In the lounge, Carina rummaged in her tote bag. “Crap on a cracker! My inhaler’s got to be in here somewhere. Look!” She turned her back to show Penny that her pants had split from the seat down the inside of one leg, almost to her knee. When Penny stopped laughing, Carina was serious. “I need you to keep the door to Mr. Logan’s room closed. His flowers are killing me.” Carina carried size ..."
92.
"... in the waist with safety pins. The ER nurse who had rolled Flossie Mae into 408 was at the elevator waiting to go down when Penny reached her and asked, “Why didn’t anybody call Report up here? What labs were drawn, and what drugs have you given her?” “I’m sorry,” the nurse said. ..."
96.
"... have distributed scrubs for weeks!” she said, pushing the cart toward the staff room. Penny sat on the bed beside Flossie Mae and slipped an arm around her shoulders. “Are you in severe pain?” “No—I shouldn’t have come to the ER. I was scared and my head hurt, but now I’m ..."
98.
"... have come to the ER. I was scared and my head hurt, but now I’m afraid he’ll come here!” Penny was suddenly hyper-alert. “Did Dr. Scales threaten you? Does he know you’re up here?” “No...it’s Bob, sweetie. He’s out of jail.” Penny wrapped the blood pressure cuff around ..."
100.
"... you? Does he know you’re up here?” “No...it’s Bob, sweetie. He’s out of jail.” Penny wrapped the blood pressure cuff around Flossie Mae’s arm. “I thought you meant Dr. Scales.” “Well, yeah, that’s another reason I shouldn’t be here,” Flossie Mae said. “I have ..."
102.
"... telling what he’d do if he found out.” ”Try not to think about it,” Penny said. “Let’s get your pressure down. I’m going to see what meds you’ve got ordered and do your assessment—looks like ER found a good vein for your IV.” Carina had assembled Flossie Mae’s chart ..."
103.
"... like ER found a good vein for your IV.” Carina had assembled Flossie Mae’s chart and was entering her diet and lab tests into the computer when Penny returned to the desk. “She has an order for vital signs every two hours,” Carina whispered. Penny looked at her. “You’ve lost your ..."
104.
"... the computer when Penny returned to the desk. “She has an order for vital signs every two hours,” Carina whispered. Penny looked at her. “You’ve lost your voice!” “It’s the lilies,” Carina croaked. “I’ll be all right if you keep that door closed.” She coughed ..."
106.
"... the lilies,” Carina croaked. “I’ll be all right if you keep that door closed.” She coughed again. “Are your patients okay?” Penny asked. “Maybe you should go home.” The phone rang and Carina whispered “Hello,” then handed Penny the receiver. “It’s ER with Report on ..."
107.
"... again. “Are your patients okay?” Penny asked. “Maybe you should go home.” The phone rang and Carina whispered “Hello,” then handed Penny the receiver. “It’s ER with Report on Flossie Mae.” Penny had just hung up when the phone rang again. “Oncology, Penny ..."
108.
"... Carina whispered “Hello,” then handed Penny the receiver. “It’s ER with Report on Flossie Mae.” Penny had just hung up when the phone rang again. “Oncology, Penny speaking.” “I want to speak to Barb,” a familiar voice said. “I’m sorry, Barb doesn’t work here anymore. ..."
112.
"... a pathologist. I bought Elvis Presley’s Graceland and I’m turnin’ it into a nursin’ home.” “That’s great news, Colonel, I mean Doctor,” Penny said. “Thanks for telling us.” “I want you girls to know how much I appreciate what you did for Watt.” He sobbed a couple of ..."
114.
"... goodbye. I’m back in the Army. They made me general and I’m leavin’ in a few minutes.” “It might be a good idea to let ER check you out before you go, Doctor General,” Penny said. “They don’t know nothin’ down there! You girls are the ones that know stuff.” The ..."
"...The connection broken, Penny tried to think, but she couldn’t hear her own thoughts because the overhead speakers, which usually played soft elevator melodies, were skipping from song to song. Concentrating, she heard a minute of harp plucking, then calypso music with bongo drums, then an orchestra playing a symphony. She ..."
"...As Penny completed Flossie Mae’s admission, two security guards and Supervisor Leroy Crouch arrived on the elevator. The admission assessment had taken even longer than usual because Mrs. Banks, who could see into Flossie Mae’s room from her bed, kept motioning for her daughter to come to her room. ..."
123.
"... out for him. Your son’s name is Bob Fox, right?” Penny thought the second guard looked just as tough, if not tougher, than Tony. They carried night sticks and walkie talkies, but no guns. She walked to the desk with Mr. Crouch. “I don’t hear any music,” he said. “Is this a ..."
126.
"... of everything and then stops.” Leroy shuffled papers while Penny opened the snacks she had brought, set them on the staff table, and invited Carina, Leroy, and both guards to join her. While they ate, they listened to snatches of a large variety of music. “I see what you mean,” Leroy ..."
128.
"... He flipped a switch on the wall above the crash cart. “Just turn it off.” “I didn’t know how,” Penny said. “I thought maybe Spate was on the prowl because of the Ides of March or something like that.” Leroy chuckled. “If it had been Spate, he would have turned it right back ..."
"...He replaced the receiver and turned to Penny and Carina, who were waiting to hear their fate. “You don’t have to admit this one,” he said. “She’ll still be an ER out-patient. She complains of abdominal pain and the flat plate shows she’s chock-full of you-know-what. ER’s too busy to handle it, and ..."
132.
"... grinning as he entered the stairwell. “I’ll take her,” Carina said. “I love to give enemas.” “Your voice is back!” Penny said. “It sounds like she might need a three-H.” “What is that?” “High, hot, and a-hell-of-a-lot. A nurse friend taught me that,” Penny ..."
134.
"... voice is back!” Penny said. “It sounds like she might need a three-H.” “What is that?” “High, hot, and a-hell-of-a-lot. A nurse friend taught me that,” Penny said. Mr. Logan was asleep when Penny looked in on him at 2 a.m. She entered the room next door to check ..."
"...Mr. Logan was asleep when Penny looked in on him at 2 a.m. She entered the room next door to check Flossie Mae’s blood pressure. “It’s normal now,” she told her. “I’m setting the machine to cycle every two hours. Do you think you can sleep with the cuff on your ..."
138.
"... take one,” Flossie Mae said. “I have to be able to think tomorrow.” Penny removed the sedative from its locked cabinet and returned to Flossie Mae’s room. “I don’t know Dr. McDougal. Is he new?” “He’s an internist,” Flossie Mae said. “I used to schedule ..."
140.
"... Mae said. “I used to schedule appointments with him for Dr. Scales’s patients.” Penny stood beside the bed. “Flossie Mae, do you want me to shut the door so your mother can’t stare at you?” “No honey, she’s asleep now, and I feel better with it open.” “It sounds like ..."
144.
"... in my apartment.” Understanding the authenticity of Flossie Mae’s fear, Penny said, “You may not feel brave but you are courageous. You could have quit and run, but you got ready to fight. And now, what you’re going through with your son has got to be agonizing!” Satisfied that ..."
146.
"... got to be agonizing!” Satisfied that Flossie Mae was finally asleep, Penny checked her morning labs and caught up on her charting. Then she walked to room 403, which smelled like a sewer. “Would you like me to check your labs for you?” she asked Carina. “I already did them, but ..."
147.
"... like a sewer. “Would you like me to check your labs for you?” she asked Carina. “I already did them, but Penny, this little enema business is going nowhere. The fluid all runs back out.” “I have to smoke,” the patient said. “Please go out and shut the door. Pretend you ..."
149.
"... you don’t know, then you can do anything else to me.” “We’ll be in the hall,” Carina said, pushing Penny out of the room and pulling the door closed behind them. “I’d rather smell a little tobacco any day.” “How come flowers are more deadly to your sinuses than smoke ..."
150.
"... “I’d rather smell a little tobacco any day.” “How come flowers are more deadly to your sinuses than smoke and shit?” Penny asked. “This stink would gag a maggot!” Carina smiled. “I’ve never heard that before.” Penny grinned and held up a long, bony, index finger. ..."
151.
"... that before.” Penny grinned and held up a long, bony, index finger. “Impactions used to be my speciality; my nurse friend nicknamed me ‘fingers’. Let’s call downstairs, we need an order to check for an impaction, but maybe they can think of something better to do.” “We’re not ..."
154.
"... ER Nurse said. “I’ll send a tech up to get that patient. Do you still have Flossie Mae?” “Yes, she’s asleep, but I’ll ask her to call you in the morning if you want,” Penny said. “Dr. Scales asked about her. He said Dr. McDougal told him she was in the hospital.” “What ..."
156.
"... Penny said. “Dr. Scales asked about her. He said Dr. McDougal told him she was in the hospital.” “What did you tell him?” Penny asked, tightening her grip on the receiver. “I told him she isn’t working tonight. You can tell Flossie Mae he asked about her if you want ..."
158.
"... told him she isn’t working tonight. You can tell Flossie Mae he asked about her if you want to.” Penny dialed the operator to have her notify Housekeeping that a room needed cleaning. “Tell me what happened with your music,” the operator said. “Supervisor turned it off. Did ..."
163.
"... page Housekeeping for you.” Carina balanced her checkbook while Penny loaded a fresh pot of coffee and then joined Kerri, who was cleaning 403. “How’re you coming with it?”, Penny asked her from the hallway. “It already smells better.” “You destroyed it,” Kerri ..."
165.
"... from the hallway. “It already smells better.” “You destroyed it,” Kerri said. “They make you do everything, don’t they Kerri?” Penny entered the room. “Do you work in the laundry too?” “No. I just brought up your stuff. I used to work down there, though; sometimes I ..."
167.
"... Kerri looked tired. Sparkling studs outlined her ears: blue, pink, green, and red, and crystal beads dangled from her earlobes, enclosing her face in question marks. Penny watched Kerri work, ­contemplating an idea. “Do you remember when Dr. Wiseman had an accident on the stairs?” ..."
169.
"... Dr. Wiseman had an accident on the stairs?” “Yes, last summer.” Penny perched on an arm of the recliner. “I thought that if you were working in the laundry, you might have seen the commotion when they found her.” “Yes, I did—but before that, I saw a man wearing a lab jacket and a ..."
"...they are around here,” Kerri said. “Anyway, nobody asked me. I was new and I didn’t know his name, but later, when the Physicians Directory came out, I saw that he was Dr. Scales.... Okay, I’m finished! How does it look?” Kerri waited for Penny’s answer as though the words might validate her existence. ..."
173.
"... I’m finished! How does it look?” Kerri waited for Penny’s answer as though the words might validate her existence. “Much, much better, thank you.” Penny said. Wednesday night Penny’s only patient was Mr. Logan. Inez Jordan had been discharged, and Carina took care of Mrs. Banks ..."
"...Wednesday night Penny’s only patient was Mr. Logan. Inez Jordan had been discharged, and Carina took care of Mrs. Banks and an outpatient who left before midnight. Penny spent most of the night reading PARALYZED, a paperback thriller one of the patients had left behind. In it the villain ..."
177.
"... Mae, working in ER, called around four. “Did you read yesterday’s paper?” “No,” Penny said. “I did well to get out of bed and come back. Why? What does it say?” “Just read it when you get home, sweetie, then you’ll understand why today took a load off me. ..."

-------------------------------------------
Chapter 26: Chapter Twenty-Six
0.
"... patients. On Thursday morning her fatigue forgotten in the anticipation of reading Flossie Mae’s news, Penny hurried into the house. Scanning the kitchen for newspapers, she shed her jacket and spotted Johnny’s note on the counter. She leaned over it, the Formica cold on her elbows. ..."
2.
"... kitchen for newspapers, she shed her jacket and spotted Johnny’s note on the counter. She leaned over it, the Formica cold on her elbows. Penny, Your breakfast is in the refrigerator. Please swing by The Athlete’s Store on your way to work tonight and pick up my seven bats, charged ..."
8.
"... charged to the school. Thanks, Johnny. P.S. You’d better eat before you read the paper.” Wednesday’s Jacksonville paper rested on the table and the words exploded in Penny’s mind: “Mississippi Bureau of Investigation agents and U.S. marshals raided the office of Dixiana, ..."
18.
"... medical personnel abuse the system for their personal gain.” Oblivious to taste, Penny consumed cheese-eggs, bacon, and toast as she reread the article. Corrupt–-they got that right! Patients must be protected from him. Setting her alarm for 2 p.m., Penny sank into bed without ..."
20.
"... from him. Setting her alarm for 2 p.m., Penny sank into bed without bathing. Her body was too tired to move, but her mind wouldn’t shut off. She would get up and shower if she couldn’t sleep. Her arms and legs felt weighed-down and her shoulders ached. Her thoughts drifted. She ..."
"...Penny stood in the inner part of the bathroom, which contained the shower and the toilet. It was a windowless room near the center of the house. She leapt out into the sink area of the bathroom and locked the outer door, then ran back into the inner ..."
"...one end into its notch on the bow. Standing up, she propped the strung end against her bare instep and flexed it, bending the bow in order to fit the opposite end of the string into its notch...almost there.... Almost in place, the bow sprang back. Penny made sure the string was still in place on the other end, then repositioned the bow against her foot and pushed down with desperate strength. As the string slipped home, she heard the bathroom doors crash open and visualized the mess she had left below in her escape ..."
30.
"... Footsteps thudded through the house and the kitchen door jerked open, crashing against the refrigerator. Running her hand along the bow, Penny secured her left hand placement, then groped in the box with her right hand, ferreted out an arrow, and slid its notch onto the bow string. Heavy ..."
"...Heavy footsteps climbed the wooden garage stairs, the piece of plyboard that covered the attic opening slid back, and light from the garage flooded Penny’s target area. Holding the arrow in place with her right hand, she extended her left arm laboring with the effort, her arms shaking and unused to the strain. She drew back her right arm and released the string as soon as a head cleared the attic floor. ..."
32.
"... a gun with both hands. Penny grabbed a second arrow, loaded it, drew back and let it fly. It caught him in the side of the neck. She could see a spurt of red onto his white jacket. Was it possible that she had actually hit him? Could that be an artery spurting blood? She rummaged in the box ..."
"...of small metal balls from her son’s discarded Pachinko machine, she lobbed them, one by one, toward the opposite side of the attic, but his eyes must have adjusted to the dark. Holding pressure against his neck with one hand, his other hand pointed the gun straight at Penny. ..."
"...Reheating leftover coffee, Penny carried a cup out to the patio. Blinding sunlight charged the chemicals in her brain and she remembered reading somewhere that dreams were the brain’s attempt to process your feelings about what took place around you and to help you work out problems. Dr. Scales’s arrest had ..."
"...A warm breeze carried the grape-like scent of sprouting kudzu and a mockingbird called, “Wha-cha-need, wha-cha-need, pretty, pretty, pretty.” Recovered from her fright, Penny embraced the day like a morning glory reaching for the sun. She had shopping to do before she picked up Johnny’s bats, and today’s weather was fine for moving Dick’s snake outside. She would release it into the woods behind the Jacksonville hospital, a great home for ..."
40.
"... dashed on to The Athlete’s Store for Johnny’s bats. Entering the JMC parking lot five minutes late, Penny decided to release the snake in the morning after work. Better anyway, to give it daylight for exploring its big, new home. “You okay? I was a tiny bit worried,” Carina said ..."
42.
"... give it daylight for exploring its big, new home. “You okay? I was a tiny bit worried,” Carina said when Penny, after running up four flights of steps, huffed and puffed into the staff room. “I picked out some long scrubs for you.” “Thanks.” Penny opened the bathroom door. “I ..."
43.
"... into the staff room. “I picked out some long scrubs for you.” “Thanks.” Penny opened the bathroom door. “I really don’t care which patients you give me. Tonight’s my last night until next Tuesday.” “Then you keep Neely Logan and his lilies. They admitted two more ..."
45.
"... and I’ll take the other new one and keep my little Josephine Banks.” Penny had just poured a cup of coffee and joined Carina at the table in the staff room when she recognized Prader Philpot standing out at the desk. Prader shuffled into the room and scowled at her. “Can I buy a cup of ..."
47.
"... shuffled into the room and scowled at her. “Can I buy a cup of coffee off you?” Penny got to her feet. “I’ll give you a free one, Mr. Philpot. Do you take sugar and cream?” He dropped into Penny’s seat at the table, set his camouflage bag on the floor, and accepted ..."
48.
"... one, Mr. Philpot. Do you take sugar and cream?” He dropped into Penny’s seat at the table, set his camouflage bag on the floor, and accepted the Styrofoam cup, adding two packets of sugar and stirring the hot coffee with his index finger. Joyce, one of the day-shift nurses, entered the ..."
59.
"... their newest and most appreciative staff member. Eventually, Penny entered Mr. Logan’s room and found him engrossed in an Atlanta Braves baseball game. “My husband thinks the Braves have a load of young talent this year,” she said. “Yep.” Mr. Logan smirked. “They may have had ..."
"...“I wish I could,” Penny said. “But here’s something to get you ready to go home tomorrow. It’s the pill form of the same antibiotic we’ve been giving you IV, and you’ll continue taking it when you leave. After I check your vital signs, I’ll get out of here and let ..."
"...In room 408, a seventy-three-year-old lady wearing blue eye shadow and startling, brown lipstick was filing her ruby-red fingernails. Penny entered the room to assess her before donning the protective attire she would wear to administer chemotherapy. “Hi, Mrs. Sharp. I’m your nurse, Penny. We’re going to spend the night together.” ..."
64.
"... the night together.” “Are we lesbians?” Mrs. Sharp looked up from her nails, seriously interested. “Oh...oh no,” Penny said. “I’m a married woman—I was joking.” “I’m not married; I’m an actress,” the woman said. “I certainly hope you and Daddy were married, ..."
"...“I certainly hope you and Daddy were married, Mother.” A blond woman in designer jeans spoke from the bathroom doorway. She turned to Penny holding a tube of lipstick in one hand and a lip-liner brush in the other. “She’s not kidding about the rest, though. I’ll bring VCR tapes of her movies, if you’d like to see them. Have you started her treatment yet?” ..."
69.
"... she gave me right here.” Mrs. Sharp held them up for her daughter to see. Penny read the side effects aloud to be sure they had no questions. “These pre-meds are to control anxiety, fever, and nausea.” In the supply room, Penny tugged from its niche the rolling cart in which yellow ..."
"...In the supply room, Penny tugged from its niche the rolling cart in which yellow disposable gowns, white masks, and skin-colored, specially-treated plastic gloves were stored. Stationing it against the wall outside Mrs. Sharp’s room, she noticed a new box of green masks sitting on top. Unlike the white masks she had ..."
71.
"... against chemical splashes. Penny searched the drawers of the cart, but the green masks were the only ones provided. She knew their purpose was to safeguard nurses who didn’t wear glasses, but she would have to wear her glasses inside the shield in order to see. When half of the first chemo ..."
"...When half of the first chemo drug had infused without any untoward events, Penny rechecked Mrs. Sharp’s vital signs and came out into the hall as Flossie Mae arrived to spend the night with her mother. Flossie Mae wore a raspberry-pink jersey and matching earrings, and she had fastened back her dark hair with a pink ribbon. ..."
73.
"... earrings, and she had fastened back her dark hair with a pink ribbon. Penny caught the scent of Lily-of-the-Valley perfume as they hugged. “How can you look so pretty and smell so fresh in the middle of the night?” “Thank you, sweetie. I need all the compliments I can get.” Flossie ..."
75.
"... gums. “Is it all right if I put sheets on the roll-away in Ma’s room?” “Sure. I’ll get them for you.” Penny disappeared into the supply room, reappearing with her arms full of linens as the phone rang. “They want you, Flossie Mae.” Maria handed over the receiver, picked up ..."
76.
"... reappearing with her arms full of linens as the phone rang. “They want you, Flossie Mae.” Maria handed over the receiver, picked up her purse, and turned to Penny. “Want me to bring y’all some supper before I leave?” “That would be great!” Stashing the sheets on a chair, ..."
77.
"... and turned to Penny. “Want me to bring y’all some supper before I leave?” “That would be great!” Stashing the sheets on a chair, Penny raided her locker for money. “I didn’t eat much lunch.” Carina handed Maria a bill. “I’ll take any little thing that looks good to ..."
80.
"... phone. “Wait a minute, Maria. Let me go with you.” Mr. Logan called for his sleeping pill so Penny medicated him, recorded his midnight vital signs, then closed his door and entered Mrs. Sharp’s room. Her daughter had departed. From her pillows, the patient watched A Star Is Born on ..."
82.
"... “The reason my acting career is so little known is because so few people know about it.” Penny placed a blanket at the foot of the bed and searched the woman’s expression to see if she was joking. The patient narrowed her faded-blue eyes and continued in her ventriloquist’s voice. “Do ..."
86.
"... you like with them, for all I care.” Penny inspected the woman’s IV site and placed the call-light control beside her hand. She didn’t look mad, but her words were certainly hostile. “Please call me if there’s anything you need.” When Maria and Flossie Mae returned, Maria ..."
87.
"... “Please call me if there’s anything you need.” When Maria and Flossie Mae returned, Maria scarfed down the last bites of an ice cream drumstick and clocked out, leaving Penny, Carina, and Flossie Mae with their supper in the staff room. “So you two know each other from working in ..."
91.
"... up here, but please watch out for him, just in case.” “What does your son look like?” Carina asked. Flossie Mae directed her gaze at Penny. “Tall, dark, and handsome,” she said. While the overhead speakers serenaded them with The Tennessee Waltz, Carina settled into a chair at the ..."
92.
"... said. While the overhead speakers serenaded them with The Tennessee Waltz, Carina settled into a chair at the desk and Penny and Flossie Mae carried linens to Mrs. Banks’s room. After a day of clatter and alarms, quiet-time settled over the floor like a blanket draped over a bed. Penny ..."
93.
"... day of clatter and alarms, quiet-time settled over the floor like a blanket draped over a bed. Penny spoke softly. “I read the newspaper article. Are you all right? Is there anything I can do?” “Just don’t talk about it and I’ll be okay. I’m not supposed to say anything that ..."
95.
"... thanks, honey.” Leaving Flossie Mae in 406, Penny continued down the hall to 408. Mrs. Sharp’s first infusion was almost finished and her eyes were closed. Penny tiptoed into 409, opened Mr. Logan’s window blinds so she could see him from the hall, and shut his door. Returning to the ..."
"...Returning to the chemo cart outside 408, Penny filled a 10 ml syringe with normal saline to flush in the last drops of chemo. She covered her scrubs with a new protective gown, fitted a fresh mask over her nose and mouth, and positioned it to see as well as possible through the plastic shield. ..."
"...Through Mrs. Sharp’s partially-open blinds, Penny glimpsed a man in Mrs. Banks’s room pushing Flossie Mae up against the far wall. Throwing the syringe and the bag of chemo onto the cart, Penny dashed into the hall, her gaze riveted on the man with a knife dangling from his hand, who was running out ..."
99.
"... out of Mrs. Banks’s room. He paused for an instant as if to come toward Penny, then turned, wrenched open the door to the stairwell, and disappeared. Flossie Mae, lurching forward, collapsed in her mother’s doorway, her legs and trunk still in the room. Carina shouted into the desk ..."
101.
"... “Emergency in Oncology! Emergency! Security STAT!” Penny raced toward Flossie Mae’s sprawled, face-down body. She knelt beside her, trying to locate a carotid on either side of her rotated neck. “Code Blue!” “Code Blue 406! Code Blue 406!” echoed Corina’s voice into ..."
103.
"... Penny struggled to roll Flossie Mae onto her back and Carina scrambled to help her, diving into the room over Flossie Mae’s body to begin compressions. One of Carina’s shoulders was pressed against the door facing as she counted: “One and two and three and four and five, breathe.” ..."
104.
"... four and five, breathe.” Penny lifted Flossie Mae’s chin, pinched her nose, and sealed her own lips against those of her friend. Between breaths, Penny watched a hole in Flossie Mae’s pink jersey, from which blood gushed with each of Carina’s compressions. The stairwell door flew open ..."
"...A movement drew Penny’s attention and she looked toward the bed. She had forgotten Mrs. Banks was in the room. Flossie Mae’s mother had been a mute witness to her daughter’s murder! The woman, who had not spoken since her stroke, was sitting up staring at them from across the ..."
109.
"... bed, blocking Mrs. Banks’s view of the room. Ruth Robertson, that night’s supervisor, helped Penny slide Flossie Mae’s body out of the doorway into the hall. Mrs. Robertson closed Flossie Mae’s inflamed eyes and covered her with a blanket. Stripping off her blood-spattered chemo garb, ..."
"...Stripping off her blood-spattered chemo garb, Penny ran to the storage alcove beside the elevator and speed-rolled a wheelchair back to 406. She helped Carina lift Mrs. Banks into it and Carina pushed the patient, staring straight ahead, into an empty room, where Penny helped her transfer Mrs. Banks into the fresh bed. Outside ..."
112.
"... been doing,” the woman said, wagging a nail. Penny halted, struggling to calm herself, wondering what the patient would say. Her room was so close—with her door open she had probably seen or, at the very least, heard everything! “You’re filming out there, aren’t you? I wish I ..."
"...The second drug infused as Penny closed the door and removed her protective costume. She looked through the window at Mr. Logan, sleeping. Too jittery to sit down, she walked into the staff lounge and loaded the coffee maker. Standing in front of it, watching the first drops splash into the carafe, ..."
117.
"... shift. Carina collapsed into a chair at the table. “All our patient’s doors are shut, and I closed the doors to Fourth.” “Are you okay?’ Penny asked. Carina countered with, “Are you? I think I’m probably in shock.” “I’ll be better when the chemo finishes up. It’s ..."
"...“I’ll be better when the chemo finishes up. It’s almost done.” Penny poured herself a small amount of coffee and drank it straight. Outside 408, she re-clothed herself in protective garb, disconnected Shenelle Sharp’s empty chemo tubing and bag, and flushed the site without waking her. As she walked behind the desk to rejoin Corina in the lounge, five ..."
120.
"... the elevator. One uniformed officer entered the lounge and snapped a flash shot of Carina and Penny. “You must not talk to anyone about what happened tonight, and do not discuss it with each other. Think through what you saw so you can give your statement when we call you.” Unrolling a ..."
"...Unrolling a body bag, Carina spread it out beside Flossie Mae and unzipped it, laying the upper half back against the floor. Penny watched the guards roll Flossie Mae onto her side, then she and Carina fan-folded the bottom half of the bag, pushed it close against Flossie Mae’s back, and the guards turned Flossie Mae over onto the black polyfiber. Tony pulled the second half of the bag over the ..."
123.
"... to three and lifted the bunglesome body bag onto their stretcher. Penny watched as the stretcher disappeared into the elevator, wondering if she was dreaming. Maybe she would wake up and find that none of this had happened. It was after four when Supervisor Ruth Robertson returned, ..."
"...It was after four when Supervisor Ruth Robertson returned, bringing with her a nurse from Four Main. Ruth patted Penny’s shoulder. The police are ready for you two in the conference room on first floor, and we’ll watch your patients while you’re gone. Is there anything you need to tell us about any of them?” ..."
126.
"... “Mrs. Sharp in 406 is a little squirrely,” Penny said, “but I turned on her bed-alarm, and I don’t think she’ll get up without calling. Her chemo’s finished. Mr. Logan in 409 is going home today.” Penny waited at the elevator while Carina told them about her patients. ..."

-------------------------------------------
"...Penny and Carina rode the elevator down to First and moved through the hallway in silence, each immersed in her own thoughts. When they entered the conference room, two policemen rose from the long table of polished cherry and one of them, a short overweight man, pulled out two ..."
4.
"... must ask you to pledge that you will tell the truth and sign your pledge. Will you do that?” Penny glanced at Carina, who smiled and nodded. With less enthusiasm Penny said, “Yes, I will.” “Good. We are going to interview you individually, then talk with you together.” After ..."
"...After signing the paper, Penny walked out into the hall to await her turn. Lined up against the wall were six padded executive chairs, upholstered in red leather. She dropped into the first chair, her heart thumping and her muscles tight. Her neck hurt. She hung her head forward and ..."
"...Penny entered the conference room, where both men stood waiting behind the table that crowded the room. The short officer hurried around to pull out a chair for her. He had a sallow complexion and bruised areas on his hands, like someone in liver failure. His fleshy ..."
"...The older man, who had a long face with a humped nose, sat down before Penny was seated. He opened a manilla folder and selected one page, studied it briefly, then laid it on top of the folder and looked at Penny like a cat ready to pounce, making her conscious of her foot tapping movements under the table. She stilled her foot ..."
14.
"... in a self-assured smile. “Mrs. Pewitt, have you worked at this hospital long?” “Not very long...not a year yet.” Penny’s pounding heart shook her vocal cords, causing her voice to tremble. “And you knew Flossie Mae Fox before you came to work here. How well did you know ..."
"...told them that she already knew Flossie Mae! “I worked with her several times in Dixiana, and after she came here I went to her apartment one morning for awhile when I was sick.” Conscious that her words sounded like they belonged in a TV courtroom, Penny continued. “I met her son once, when I rode the ambulance to transfer him from Dixiana up to this hospital, and...” ..."
21.
"... front of himself, picked up a pen and clicked its point in and out. Penny slid her hips against the back of her chair and sat up straight. “I don’t know him! He was unconscious in the ambulance, but I saw him.” The taller officer waved his hands like an umpire calling safe. ..."
25.
"... happened upstairs.” Penny began with Flossie Mae’s arrival at 11 o’clock. She told them about the phone call from Bob, eating supper, walking with Flossie Mae to her mother’s room, and then going back to hang Mrs. Sharp’s chemo and hearing Flossie Mae scream. “Now, we need to ..."
27.
"... chemo and hearing Flossie Mae scream. “Now, we need to stop you for a minute, Mrs. Pewitt,” the short officer said, granting Penny a violent wink that exposed his jaundiced sclera. He moved his legal pad closer and tested his ballpoint against it. The other man lifted a small tape ..."
"...Penny drew in a deep breath. “I was in another patient’s room and I saw through the blinds...” Her mind replayed the scene in Mrs. Banks’s room in slow motion. “A man with black hair and his back to me was holding Flossie Mae against the ..."
"...Penny relived the instant in which he had looked at her. The memory gathered so closely around her that she experienced again the physical shock she felt when their eyes met, but her voice held steady. “Dr. Scales looked straight at me, and I looked straight at him. ..."
32.
"... who I was, but even with that black wig I knew him...with his yellow-ice eyes.” The temperature in the room rose as both officers stared at Penny, and the scrutiny of their four eyes penetrated her skin. “Wait a minute.” The older policeman held up his hand, his long fingers spread ..."
"...Penny rose to her feet in a rush of words that popped out before she could censor them. “Am I the only one who saw his face?” She blurted out the question and shut her mouth, but her words echoed in the room. All at once aware ..."
35.
"... saw him when he cut her fingers.” “We’re talking about what YOU saw.” The tall policeman unbuttoned his jacket and hitched his chair closer to the table, looking at Penny as if she had suddenly sprouted antennae. “You say you had on a mask?” “Yes, I told you I was hanging chemo ..."
"...Didn’t these people know that Dr. Scales killed Flossie Mae? What would happen if Penny was the only witness? She should have thought about the consequences of identifying him! She would choke up if she had to speak in front of a lot of people, and she would get confused if they asked her questions. ..."
42.
"... of you,” the younger policeman said. “We must be sure we don’t overlook anything.” Riding up to Fourth on the elevator Penny said, “Carina, are you sure you didn’t see his face at all?” “No, just like I told them, he ran by me and went down the steps. I thought Flossie ..."
45.
"... Mrs. Sharp’s daughter was in her mother’s room. “Did she do all right with her chemo?” “Your mother didn’t sleep very well,” Penny said. “But she did fine with her chemotherapy.” “They made a movie last night,” Mrs. Sharp said. “You should have been ..."
48.
"... smiled. “Her doctor calls it Sundown Syndrome.” Penny walked into an empty patient room, turned on the Weather Channel, and gazed out the window as the sun inched upward, spreading light over the roof of the hospital entrance wing below. Carina came into the room. “Joyce is here early ..."
"...Penny reported to Joyce, changed into street clothes, and clocked out. She entered the stairwell out of habit, but her legs were wobbly, and she wished she had ridden the elevator. She wished she could back up, live last night over and do a better job of protecting ..."
"...He might have recognized her in spite of her mask. As many times as they had looked at each other, no mask would keep Penny from recognizing him! She knew his walk, his mannerisms, his reptile eyes. He was probably waiting for her in the basement hallway. She had been insane to come down by herself–-he had killed three people, and maybe more. ..."
"...Penny’s panic grew like a tumor, doubling in mass with every breath. When the elevator stopped in the basement, she pulled out the red knob that held it stationary, then squatted and opened the box next to the emergency phone. Holding her breath, she located the button inside ..."
"...Penny peered across the congested room to the metal door on the opposite wall, which Kerri had said led to an underground tunnel and the maintenance building. Claustrophobia invaded her mind. If the door was locked she would be stuck in this God-forsaken room. Her mouth was ..."
"...Penny wondered what would be the worst thing that could happen? The end of the tunnel might be blocked or locked and she couldn’t get out, and when she went back, the door to the elevator room might be locked and she would finally die down here of dehydration ..."
"...Struggling to her feet, Penny climbed the steps on unsteady legs and looked out a rear window on the ground floor of the maintenance building. The morning sun sent shafts of light into a wooded area where trees were connected to each other by glistening spider webs, and the ground was littered with ..."
"...Approaching her car from the rear, Penny noticed that her back bumper was crooked. She leaned over to look under the car and understood why: one tire was flat, and not just partially flat—it was completely down. She stood, overwhelmed for a minute, and then chuckled, remembering her mother. When things were terrible ..."
"...Taking the keys out of her purse, Penny opened her trunk. There was her spare, all pumped up, but she knew from other nurses’ experiences that Security would not change tires. She would have to walk back into the hospital and call AAA to come help her. While she waited for them, she would ..."
"...The trunk lid bounced, and Penny heard a noise coming from inside her car. She stepped to one side, and looked into her back seat, where some sort of struggle was going on. The back door opened and red-faced Dr. Scales jumped out. He yelled and hopped about so strenuously that it ..."
"...Penny turned to run, but a hand grabbed her and powerful arms closed around her. She tried to think if there was anything she could do to defend herself. A film on how to fight back against rape, which she had been required to watch in college, had ..."
69.
"... fit in this circumstance. Scales threw Penny against the car, pinning her with his body. “You bitch!” He hissed the words at her. “You wouldn’t mind your own business. You and Flossie Mae! You left me no choice!” His long fingers clamped around her neck. In a death-defying move ..."
70.
"... around her neck. In a death-defying move Penny lifted her right knee with every bit of her strength and slammed it into Scales’s crotch. His face shrunk. Penny’s left leg buckled, and she caught a glint of sunlight on steel in front of a liquid explosion of crimson. Lying on a hard, ..."
"...clouds. She flexed her elbows and observed her hands, covered with blood. She felt no pain and no fear; she must be dead.... Dr. Scales was dead too. Blood was running out of his hair onto Johnny’s Louisville Slugger. Johnny would be upset. Penny closed her eyes to shield them from the blinding brightness of the sun. ..."
73.
"... Johnny would be upset. Penny closed her eyes to shield them from the blinding brightness of the sun. Penny? Penny...Penny, talk to me!” Security Guard Tony Roscoe bent over her. She opened her eyes. “What happened?” “You got him pretty good in the balls, and I clobbered him ..."

-------------------------------------------
"...Light crept around the blinds in Penny’s bedroom and pulled her out of a dark dream: she had been groping for a wall switch, her terror increasing as the search became more and more desperate. She turned her face into the pillow and waited for the fear to fade away, to let her move beyond ..."
"...on her sweats while it perked. Trying not to wake Johnny, she poured herself a cup and eased open the door to the patio. Lilacs and azaleas spread soft pinks around the perimeter of the yard and unopened wisteria blossoms hung on their vines like grapes. Penny stepped outside breathing sweet air into her lungs while an early bird made the only sounds on earth. “Chewey, chewey, chewey, tummy hurts, tummy hurts.” It was the nutty mockingbird who spent his days fluttering against the car windows, looking at his reflection in the side mirrors, ..."
"...Grabbing a jacket, she carried her Reebocks onto the front steps. Zac barked at her from his pen, but Penny, craving solitude after untold hours of talking to police officers, ignored him and pushed up the hill alone. The morning sun at her back cast on the pavement a long shadow: an extremely thin giant with a stalk-like neck, pendulum arms, and stilt legs. For once her ..."
"...“I got up early but I was too tired to stay up. You surely were quiet!” Penny picked up the remote control, advanced the volume, and the roar of car engines filled the room. She yelled over the uproar. “Don’t forget you have a date tonight.” She poured a glass of orange juice and carried it outside where sunlight freckled the lawn and ..."
23.
"... start your next year right.” Johnny crossed the sun-splashed concrete and sat beside her. Penny rocked back and forth, hugging herself. “I keep thinking something else is going to happen.” “What? What more could happen?” “I have no idea: something bad! I couldn’t make it up ..."
27.
"... we’d all fall off. You know?” Penny searched her husband’s face. He smiled but his eyes were sad, and he spoke so quietly his voice was almost drowned out by the bird chorus. “Are you happy with me?” He added something else, but Penny missed it. She answered quickly. “I ..."
"...Johnny breathed deeply, as though absorbing springtime into his body. Then he said with reasoning deliberateness, “You grew up feeling responsible for other people’s happiness, so I think it’s probably natural that you feel a lot of guilt. But Penny, Dr. Scales defrauded the government and he injured people. That bastard slashed your tire! His death is good news to me, but if you need to feel guilty, go right ahead.” ..."
"... “Neither one of us knew how to have a marriage—we had to live it and learn how. There’s no telling what will happen tomorrow or the next day, but we’re alive and we have each other today.” He stood to go inside, then turned back to Penny. “Everything disintegrated around you, and you came through it just fine. You are a heroine, like your great-grandmother.” ..."
35.
"... so she became a heroine.” In her room, Penny opened the Stein Mart bag and spread her new clothes on the bed. She washed her hair in the shower and slathered her body with perfumed lotion, preparing for a date with the man she had chosen all those years ago. Removing the chain with its ..."
38.
"... met him. After extensive effort with her make-up, she tackled her hair. She had always struggled with fine, wispy locks, but now that she was older her hair had more body. The gray strands seemed thicker and stronger, like Penny herself: thicker around the middle, and more resilient. She ..."
"...The temperature in the garage had cooled when Johnny finished checking his tires and unlocked the Mercury’s doors. “I need to check the oil; it’ll just take a minute.” He glanced at Penny’s short-sleeved dress with its sweetheart neckline. “We’re probably in for dogwood winter—you might want a sweater.” ..."
"...When Penny returned with a white sweater over her arm, Johnny was already behind the wheel. Her high heels clicked against the concrete, and she opened the door on the passenger side to lay her sweater on the seat. Standing in the garage, framed by the wide-open car door, ..."
48.
"... her dress. “I liked it better the other way.” He backed the car out of the garage and into the driveway, then turned off the engine. Twisting to face Penny, he offered his hand, palm upward, and smiled. “I’m glad you’re my wife.” Penny placed her hand in his, interlocking her slim ..."
"...Penny placed her hand in his, interlocking her slim fingers with his thick ones. He leaned toward her, pressing his lips against hers, using his tongue muscles for something beyond conversation. He released her hand and pulled back to his side of the car. “I’ve short-changed you. ..."
50.
"... in too much. I figured if you left me, I’d be better off to keep busy.” Penny sat quietly. A year ago she would have agreed with him, but now she felt only gratitude. Their time together was more precious. “You have made our yard beautiful,” Johnny said, observing yellow forsythia ..."
"...“You have made our yard beautiful,” Johnny said, observing yellow forsythia and white spirea in the center of the driveway. He laid his arm along the back of the seat and pulled Penny closer. “I’ve been thinking of putting a concrete bench in this circle and, when I die, having you sprinkle my ashes here. Would it bother you to drive past my grave if I were the first to go?” ..."
53.
"... bother you to drive past my grave if I were the first to go?” Penny took a minute to think. “No, it might be comforting to know that your body was still nearby. Would it bother you to have me out here if I die first?” “It wouldn’t bother me, but it might bother my next wife.” ..."
56.
"... bother my next wife.” Johnny laughed and released her to start the car. “Well, I can tell you that would be the very least of her problems.” Penny slid away from him and folded her arms across her chest. “What has become of my shy, sweet wife?” Johnny asked the car ..."
"...“Being married to somebody as good as you for so long, I have to be bad whenever I can, to balance things out.” Penny inserted a tape of Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring and turned the volume low. Shifting to the middle of the seat, she laid her hand on Johnny’s thigh and breathed in the scent of him: he must be wearing Robert Redford cologne! Johnny’s fingers gripped the steering wheel ..."
64.
"... more attracted to her husband. “Man, that’s beautiful!” Johnny said as they sped toward Jacksonville. Penny looked out his window, searching for some beauty to share. “Didn’t you see it? That black Lamborghini—big time beautiful! Prader Philpot has one, you know. The ..."

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"In a story of evolving relationships, Margaret McMillion breathes life into her characters, especially Penny, who must find..."

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