Sian Evan’s New Short Story – Stuck in Traffic

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STUCK IN TRAFFIC 

When there was silence it meant those dying were still breathing.  Although, it was never really silent. Not even when death came.

It took a certain kind of someone to guide death along: the lists of characteristics were numerous; the list of skills was immeasurable; and the total number of dead never decreased.

Here, in this place, death is welcomed.  All had been waiting, some more glad of the arrival than others.  For the (un)lucky few, they’d checked out before they’d even heard the rat-a-tat-tat of the bare knuckles on wood.  That’s a lie, really.  Death just pressed the large metal square button at the front door for disabled assistance.  Who doesn’t?

Allie never really thought about death.  She was healthy.  The fear of a freak accident didn’t overly concern her, most likely because she never saw freak accidents day in day out.  What she did see was the slow slippage of life to death where the human body gave in to the infiltration of disease or simply said Time gentleman please!.  Yet, she was healthy so…

Overhead the alarms sprang into life, blasting the corridor with a siren wail.

Allie smiled as three of her colleagues unhurriedly walked around them and into the room.  Within seconds the shrill sound of the alarm ceased.

“Sorry Frank, you’re going to have to wait,” she said to the middle-aged, portly bellied man who was hunched over a trolley as he put his back into moving the bulk up the corridor.

“Seriously, can’t they get a move on?  This is wrong this is.”

“Busy night.”

“When isn’t it?” He harrumphed, putting the brake on his trolley and leaning his right hip against the metal frame, arms crossing over his chest.

“Nature of the job.”

“Some shifts it’s like bloody musical chairs.  What’s the deal in there?”  Allie’s eyes followed his nod towards the door of Elm despite watching her colleagues enter not moments before.

“Time.”

“Another story we never unearthed, so to speak.”

“I shouldn’t laugh…oh dear, Frank really, you must stop it.”

“Can’t help it.  Phrases just keeping popping out of my mouth and by then it’s too late.”

“Surprised I still feel like this after all these years.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.  I still take my hat off and hold it against my chest as I approach the front door.  Daft really.  May as well take a seat,” he continued dropping his sizeable bulk into the small purple chair that was one of many that lined the corridor.  Crossing one leg over the other he drummed out a tune with his fingers on the metal side bar of his trolley.etal side bar of his troleltne leg over the other he drumped poucoid

“What’s his story?” Allie asked pointing towards the corpse in front of Frank.

“Car accident some months back.  Never regained consciousness. Yours?  I saw Willow room was empty.”

“Yeah.  That’s my one.  Poor love, she passed away on her own.  Family had only just gone out for some dinner.  They’re in the waiting room now, they’re going to see her in the Chapel of Rest once I get her there.”

“Poor buggers.  Never gets any easier watching them walk these corridors full of grief.”

The doctor and nurse strode out of Elm, the former writing in his blue folder as he strode down the corridor.  A siren above Oak wailed, piercing the tranquil silence of the corridor.  Shaking her head and lifting her shoulders, the nurse followed a younger version into Oak.

“Jesus Christ, what the hell is going on tonight?”

“Really Frank,” Allie scolded lightly swallowing a laugh.

“What?” He answered, bemused until his face cleared and he began chuckling.  “Oops sorry, like I said, you forget sometimes.  Think He’s got an answer to my question anyhow?”

“Even the bosses don’t answer our questions, do you really think Jesus will deign to answer?

“Not unless he’s clocked in for his shift in the Prayer Room.”

“Frank!”

“Yeah, yeah, so….hey, wait up!  You can’t do that!”  Out of Elm the deceased’s body was being pushed on yet another trolley.

“We’re already backed up here.  Hey come on!  There are people waiting for our guys.”

“We’re closer,” John said smirking.  “Slip road entry to the carriage way.”

“Bloody hell.  What exactly is the hold then John?”

“Family lost their mother, end of corridor…”

“Edith in Birch?”  Allie asked.

“Yeah.  Sara and Ann are giving the family some time.  They’ll be shepherded into the Prayer Room soon.  Then we can move on down.”

Nodding Frank continued to drum out his tune.  “We can wait can’t we old boy?” he mumbled patting the covered hand of his patient.

“Hey Frank how are the retirement plans going?” asked John as he put the brake on his trolley.

“Don’t bloody ask.  I could kill that wife of mine.  Meddling.  Mithering.  Muttering on about this that and the other.  Complaining about some ailment that’s all in her head.  I swear, some days you’d think she was dying with all the moaning she does.  You’re lucky, I tell her.  Damn lucky to have a fine fella like me looking after you.  Keeps calling me on this bloody mobile thing – worst invention ever these bloody things – in fact I’ve just got off the phone to her.  I said, now I’m telling you Maureen, unless you’re bloody dying…”

It’s never really quiet when death comes.  The living are always signalled to its arrival.  Loved ones are sent on their way with words not silence.

Other people’s lives continue as they were not moments before, but sometimes, when all comes to a standstill and you’re stuck in a queue, silence fills your head and you remember.

Of course you do, they’re never really gone.  They’re merely waiting, stuck in traffic, passing the time until you enter the slip road and join them on the carriageway.

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