Yesterday, I entered my first adult novel into a contest. I’ve posted a lot on this blog about The L Squad and Norman Normalson & The Normals. Those two are the reason I started this blog. I veered off into flash fiction and poetry. I’ve even made a few posts related to A Pillar Of Salt, which is still just notes and an outline. This is the first post about this book. I’ve recently finished the third draft of So It Goes and have commenced with the fourth, and, I hope, final. If you’re really bored you can go to the contest and give me some stars. You have to sign up and log in, first. I don’t have patience for that shit, either. I don’t even know if it helps. It couldn’t hurt.
The contest is judged on the first ten pages, which just so happens to be the length of my Prelude. There are a few prizes, but the real draw is the judges. The panel is predominately comprised of agents. Even if I don’t win any prizes, I could potentially impress an agent. Publication is a possibility here. I decided, since I was posting it there I might as well post it here. Maybe someone will be bored enough to brave the epic journey that is the sign up and log in to give me some stars.
Based on the real-life experiences of a woman who has worked for years in the medical field, So It Goes follows Lucy Chapman. Tragedy, comedy, politics, religion, love, and bonds with friends, help form the woman Lucy grows to be while highlighting the import of family planning establishments.
“Mom, I’m bleeding. I’m scared.”
“Have you called the doctor?”
“No. I… I…”
“Call the doctor. I’ll be right there. Mama’s on her way, baby.”
“What about the emergency room?”
“We’ll sit there forever. Dr. Wilson will see us. He’s a small-town doctor who still acts like it.”
Norma Sellers rushed out of her little yellow house with the white trim. She ran through her yard to her driveway. After a slight tug on the door handle of her 1976 white Cadillac Eldorado, she ran back into her little yellow house with the white trim and grabbed her purse and car keys. She rushed back out of her house, and this time left the door wide open. Her trembling hands made the mundane task a challenge, but she got the key in on her third try. Norma got in and dropped the keys on the floor. She picked them up and tried to force the door key into the ignition. She finally got the right key in the right hole. The car buzzed as she turned the key, and the engine purred to life.
Norma raced through the little coastal town of Willow Cove, CA. Today, at least for Norma Sellers, Stop signs were pause signs. Once she got her car started, she made it to her daughter’s apartment in the record time of four minutes, 17 seconds. She raced up the stairs and, with a still-shaky hand, unlocked the door. She rushed in, calling for Lucy, and found her lying on the bathroom floor crying.
The bleeding had stopped, and Lucy cleaned herself up as well as she could. Being in the bathroom made it easy, despite her fear and cramps. She felt awful about her roommate’s white towel that would most likely never be white again, but cleaning the blood off her made her feel less like she was dying.
Norma emitted a scream upon seeing the towel. She knelt by Lucy and wrapped herself around her daughter. Lucy assured her it looked worse than it was. In an effort to break them both out of their shocked and horrified state, Lucy said, “Dr. Wilson’s on vacation. What do we do?”
Norma regained some semblance of her composure and said, “Dang it! Emergency room it is.”
Eight minutes, 38 seconds later, they were in the parking lot of the Willow Cove Hospital. Lucy tried to get out of the car, but at Norma’s insistence, she waited for her mother to go into the building and get a wheelchair. Norma raced back to the Cadillac, knocking over the wheelchair twice. She opened the door and helped Lucy into the chair.
“You’re not going to drive like that while I’m in there, are you?” Lucy asked.
“This is no time for jokes.”
“I’m not joking.”
Norma rolled Lucy into the emergency room without knocking her over once. Among the cacophony of chatter, babies crying, and people coughing, the place was full of individuals suffering from a variety of ailments.
Laura Hanson, who wasn’t far removed from her 13th birthday, sat with her mom fighting her tears. Following a misstep on her skateboard that left her left foot pointing at an unnatural angle, Laura’s mother rushed her to the emergency room.
A few seats over was Mike Hansen. Mike got a little overzealous with his new nail gun. The renovation of his office hit a snag when he nailed a board to his hand. He stopped the tears before having his wife to take him in, but the board was still attached.
A couple of rows back sat Kay Reynolds. Members of her knitting group brought her to the E.R. following a knitting accident that took place during their weekly meeting at Zelda’s Coffee Shop. In a feat that defies explanation, she got herself so entangled in her yarn that Krissy McGuire had to cut it off of her. During the removal, her rescuer sliced Kay’s hand. The wound refused to stop bleeding.
Norma left Lucy and approached the check-in desk. She showed extreme restraint in waiting a full four seconds before clearing her throat to acquire the nurse’s attention. When that failed, she abandoned the not-so-subtle approach in favor of the full-force technique.
“Excuse me,” Norma said.
“I’ll be with you in a moment, ma’am,” said the nurse, who was busy typing on her computer.
“What do you mean ‘in a moment’?” Norma asked.
“I’m in the middle of something, and I’ll be right with you,” said the nurse.
“Are you serious? What are you doing? Playing Solitaire?”
“I’m processing patient information to assure things run as smoothly as possible in here.”
“Well, you’re not doing a very good job.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” The nurse finished what she was doing with a few taps on a few keys. In one fluid motion, she twisted her chair, grabbed a clipboard, twisted back to Norma, and handed it to her. “Fill this out, please.”
Norma grabbed the clipboard and ravenously filled out the form. She dispensed with the typical X or check in favor of slashes, ticks, and the occasional dot. Her initials could more accurately be described as squiggles. Her signature, which was supposed to be Lucy’s, looked like an extended version of her initials. She thrust the clipboard back onto the counter with a touch too much enthusiasm. Her thrust earned her a disapproving look from the nurse.
“Now, where do we go?”
“Now, you go take a seat and wait for an available doctor.”
“This is the emergency room, and I have an emergency.”
“Ma’am, this is the emergency room. Everyone here has an emergency.”
“My daughter’s bleeding.”
“She’s not the only one. These people also have emergencies, and they were here before you,” the nurse said, trying to feign as much patience and politeness as possible.
“She’s bleeding from her vagina,” Norma said, in a voice that was far too boisterous for Lucy’s comfort. “She’s pregnant.”
Lucy turned redder than one might believe to be possible, looked around, and buried her face in her hands. A moment of clarity pierced the fog of her embarrassment that muddled any potential rational thought. She realized her mom was not only causing a scene in the emergency room, but she was lambasting the poor nurse who was only doing her job.
Lucy unburied her head and fought through the pain to out of the wheelchair. Walking in a fashion that can most entertainingly be described as zombie-esque, she made her way over to her mother.
“Lucy? What are you doing standing?”
“You’re embarrassing me, and I had to get you before you get us kicked out of here,” Lucy thought. She said, “I’m scared. I need you to sit with me.”
“I’m trying to get you in with a doctor,” said Norma.
“You will be seen in the order in which you arrived,” the nurse reiterated.
Norma acquiesced and accompanied Lucy back to her seat.
For roughly the next 34 minutes and 19 seconds, Norma fidgeted in her seat. She alternated between deep breathing, patting Lucy’s hand, and giving spiteful looks at the nurse at the desk. She was rocking in her chair the entire time.
Lucy simultaneously tried to calm her mother and herself. She tried to hide her shaky hands and trembling voice. She was sure she was failing. At least, she was holding back the tears that were trying to force themselves from her eyes. Norma was too nervous to notice, anyway.
“Lucy? Lucy, what’s wrong?”
Lucy looked around to see a nurse hustling through the E.R. toward her.
“Charlie, I didn’t know you worked in the E.R.,” Lucy said.
“I don’t usually, but we’re short-handed today,” said Charlie.
“That’s an understatement,” Norma grumbled.
“Mom!” Lucy said.
“What? We’ve been here for hours,” Norma exaggerated. “This is the emergency room.”
“I’m sorry,” Lucy said to Charlie.
“It’s O.K.,” Charlie said. “People are usually stressed out in here. The real question is, why are you here?”
Lucy dropped her voice. “I’m bleeding.”
“What do you mean, you’re bleeding?” Charlie asked. She didn’t speak the last two words as much as they tumbled out as Charlie realized the potential implication. “Oh.”
“Yeah,” said Norma. “That’s why I’ve been so pushy.”
“It’s gonna be a while. We had two people call in sick with what I’m sure is Sunny Day Syndrome,” Charlie said. “Have you talked to your O.B.?”
“He’s on vacation,” Lucy said.
“Have you tried Hope Health & Wellness?” Charlie asked.
“The abortion place?” Norma asked, appalled.
“They don’t only do abortions,” said Charlie. “It’s a health clinic. They do a lot of good for a lot of people. It’s not just women either. They help families and with family planning.”
“Would they help me?” Lucy asked. “It’s an emergency, and I’ve never been there.”
“Dr. Konigsberg is a great guy. His partner, Dr. Hoover, is a lot nicer than he pretends to be. They’ll get you in and probably bring you back here.”
“Why should we go over there just to come back here?” Norma asked.
“If they need to do a surgery or procedure, they do them here,” said Charlie.
“Why would she need surgery?” Norma asked with building anxiety and panic.
Charlie searched for an answer, something to calm Norma. “I… Uh… If… They…”
“Don’t worry, mom,” Lucy said. “Let’s just go over there.”
“I don’t know,” said Norma. “An abortion clinic is the worst place to go when we’re worried about a… Uh…” She dropped to a whisper, “a potential miscarriage.”
“Abortions are a small part of what they do,” said Charlie. “First and foremost, they’re a health clinic. They help people.”
“I don’t see how abortions can help anybody,” said Norma.
“Abortions can be good for everybody,” said Charlie. “What if Hitler were aborted? Charles Manson? Ted Bundy?”
“That’s a small sampling of all the babies born,” said Norma.
“Yeah, nobody thinks about what those babies grow into,” said Charlie.
“You can’t know they’ll be like that before they’re born,” said Norma. “An aborted baby could have been the one to cure cancer.”
“That’s true,” said Charlie.
“Can we just go?” asked Lucy. “I’m not having an abortion. This discussion isn’t helping.”
“All right. Let’s go,” Norma said.
“Thank you, Charlie,” said Lucy as they started toward the door.
“Yes, thank you, dear,” said Norma.
“Sorry about your towel,” said Lucy, before disappearing through the door.
“That’s O.K.,” said Charlie. She paused and murmured to herself, “What towel?”
Three minutes and 29 seconds later, Lucy and Norma were greeted by Teresa at the counter of Hope Health & Wellness.
“Name?” Teresa asked.
“I’m Norma, Norma Sellers. This is my daughter, Lucy.”
“I called a few minutes ago,” said Lucy.
“Oh, right, the miscarriage,” said Teresa. “You got here quick.”
“Miscarriage?” asked Norma.
Lucy started shaking, and tears fell from her eyes.
“What you described on the phone sounds like a miscarriage,” said Teresa. “Please, have a seat, and one of our nurses will be right out to take you to a room.”
Three minutes, 17 seconds later, Jazmine led them back to exam room C. Four minutes, 12 seconds after that, a stoic-looking Dr. Konigsberg entered. The jovial smile to which his staff had become accustomed was replaced by a grim concern.
“Hello, I’m Dr. Konigsberg,” said Dr. Konigsberg.
“She doesn’t want an abortion,” said Norma.
“Noted,” said Dr. Konigsberg. “What happened?”
“I’ve had cramps over the last few days. I looked it up online. WebMD said it was normal. Today, I went to the bathroom, and there was blood everywhere,” Lucy said through her tears.
“Were there any accidents? A fall? A car accident?” asked Dr. Konigsberg.
“No, nothing like that,” said Lucy.
“Let’s have a look and see what’s happening,” said Dr. Konigsberg.
“Thank you, Doctor,” said Norma.
Two minutes, 17 seconds later, Lucy was lying on an exam table covered in crunchy white paper wearing a hospital gown. Her legs were up in the air, spread wide, with a white sheet draped over them.
“Comfy?” asked Dr. Konigsberg.
“Not especially,” said Lucy.
“Unfortunately, this is as comfortable as you’re going to be for the next 15 minutes or so,” said Dr. Konigsberg.
“O.K. Let’s do it,” said Lucy.
“This will be cold. You’ll feel some pressure, and discomfort, for which I apologize,” said Dr. Konigsberg.
“Hold my hand, sweetie,” said Norma, as she grabbed Lucy’s hand.
“Thank you, Mom,” said Lucy.
Dr. Konigsberg inserted the electric array transvaginal transducer, or wand, or probe, or fuck stick, as the medical assistants and office personnel called it when not in the presence of patients or doctors. It resembled an electric toothbrush with a condom on it. Dr. Konigsberg adjusted the wand, inspecting Lucy’s entire reproductive system from as many angles as possible.
Norma tried to get a read on the doctor’s thoughts, but his eyes didn’t veer from the screen. He emitted an occasional grunt, but nothing coherent came out of him for what seemed like half an eternity. Norma felt as if she could no longer suppress the urge to scream. Dr. Konigsberg lifted his head just in time. His face was grim.
“How far along are you?” asked Dr. Konigsberg. “22 weeks?”
“22 and a half,” said Lucy.
“Your cervix is dilated,” said Dr. Konigsberg.
“But, it’s too soon,” Lucy said.
“What does that mean?” asked Norma. “Is that bad?”
“It means the baby’s coming,” said Dr. Konigsberg.
“She can’t be. It’s too soon,” said Lucy.
“I’m sorry,” said Dr. Konigsberg.
“What is happening? What do you mean you’re sorry?” asked Norma.
“A pregnancy isn’t viable until 24 weeks,” Dr. Konigsberg said.
“What do you mean viable?” asked Norma.
“The fetus isn’t developed enough to live outside the womb,” said Dr. Konigsberg.
“How do we stop it?” asked Lucy. “Can we keep her in until she’s ready?”
“We can’t. You’re too far dilated to keep her in,” said Dr. Konigsberg. “Unfortunately, the only thing we can do is take you over to the hospital and deliver.”
“Deliver the baby?” asked Lucy. “But if she can’t live outside…”
“We can only hope that she’s already gone,” said Dr. Konigsberg.
Lucy gasped. She inhaled and couldn’t exhale. She wanted to cry or scream or, at least, breathe, but she was stuck. Norma flopped into the closest chair and hyperventilated between her sobs.
“I’ll leave you to get composed,” said Dr. Konigsberg. “Jazmine will help you get settled in at the hospital. I’ll meet you there.”
“I’ll do anything, doctor,” pleaded Norma. “My ex-husband has money. We’ll get you whatever you want, just save my granddaughter.”
“If I could save your granddaughter, I would gladly do it for nothing,” said Dr. Konigsberg. “The sad fact is, there’s nothing that I, or anybody else, can do. I’m sorry.”
“Can’t we put her on a machine or something?” asked Norma.
“She doesn’t have developed lungs,” said Dr. Konigsberg.
Several hours later, in the hospital, Lucy gave birth to a 13-ounce, translucent baby girl named Elyse Miranda Chaplin. Elyse emerged, gasped twice, desperately trying to breathe, and died.
“Do you want to hold her?” asked Dr. Konigsberg.
“Yes, please,” said Lucy. “Is that weird?”
“Not at all,” said Dr. Konigsberg. “It’s a perfectly natural part of the grieving process. If you didn’t want to hold her, that would be normal, too.”
Dr. Konigsberg placed the fragile remains of Elyse Miranda Chaplin in her mother’s arms. Dr. Konigsberg’s partner, Dr. Hoover, peeked in his head, looked at Lucy, and said, “So it goes.” He drooped his head and walked away.
“What does that mean?” asked Norma.
“It’s a refrain from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five,” said Dr. Konigsberg. “The narrator’s seen so much death he can’t react to it anymore. He just shrugs it off, ‘So it goes.’ He’s had way too much. Sometimes, I wonder why he hasn’t retired yet.”
Thirty-two minutes, 49 seconds later, Lucy’s father, David Chaplin, arrived. “How’s my baby?”
Lucy burst into tears again.
“It’s over,” said Norma. “They took Elyse away.”
“Oh, god. I got here as fast as I could,” said David. “The roads in and out of this town are so treacherous. I wish you would move. What if there’s an emergency, and you get stranded here?”
“Not that again, David,” said Norma. “Not now.”
“I hate having my baby so far away,” said David. “I should have been here.”
“It’s O.K., Daddy,” said Lucy. “There’s nothing you could have done.”
“You didn’t have to leave,” said Norma.
“You didn’t have to leave me,” said David.
“You didn’t have to open a business in Smeshfield,” said Norma.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My business is thriving in Smeshfield,” said David. “My business is doing so much better there than it was here.”
“You don’t have to have this discussion in the room where your daughter has just gone through a traumatic experience,” said Dr. Konigsberg, who was checking on Lucy before going home for the night. “Has anyone notified the father?” he added, in an attempt to bring the focus back to his patient.
“I’m her father,” said David, in an indignant tone.
“I know, Mr. Chaplin,” said Dr. Konigsberg. “I was referring to the baby’s father.”
“Bradley lives in New York,” Lucy said, wiping her tears. “I was going to NYU when I got pregnant.”
“He didn’t come back with you?” Dr. Konigsberg asked.
“No, he’s a deadbeat bum who used my baby…” Norma started, refocusing her pain and fury.
“Mom, not now, please,” Lucy whimpered, trying not to start crying again.
“He should know,” said David. Dr. Konigsberg’s admonition brought him back to reality. He realized, even if only subconsciously, that he and Norma were channeling their emotions into their old animosities.
“Do you want me to call him?” Norma asked. After a few deep breaths, she was calmer, too. “I’ll be nice.”
“No. I’ll do it,” said Lucy. “May I use your phone?”
“Of course,” said Norma, as she handed Lucy her phone.
Lucy tapped the number into the phone. It was a number she knew well despite the fact that she had it programmed into her phone and still hadn’t used it in three months, two weeks, three days, six hours, 17 minutes, and 12 seconds.
“Hello?” came a groggy voice through the phone.
“Hi, Bradley, it’s me, Lucy.”
“Oh, hey,” said Bradley. “What’s up? I have class early in the morning.”
“I, uh… I lost the baby,” said Lucy, through a rough, crackling voice.
“Oh, thank God,” said Bradley.
Lucy hung up and started to cry again.