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Drama Fiction Fantasy

  Bzzzzzzzzzz.

  The constant droning hum made Gabby's neck and shoulders ache. It was this constant, incessant sound that just seemed to drill into her skull and set her teeth on edge. And, for whatever reason, it was absolutely atrocious today.

   "Guhhh!" she cried out in annoyance to no one in particular.

   "Problem?" Mike called from the other room.

   "No. It's nothing." she said with a deep sigh.

   She reached out to the small radio on her desk and fiddled with a few of the knobs but to little success. While she was able to lower the volume slightly, it also made the constant noise less of a hum and more of a soft crackle as more of the sound came through clearly. Gabby briefly considered turning the whole contraption off but knew she'd get in far more trouble then she cared to think about if her boss came in and her dispatch was turned off.

  But bless it all she needed a break.

  "Hey Mike?" Gabby called as she stood, stretching her arms in a feeble attempt to loosen the knot between her shoulder blades.

  "Yea?" came the answering call.

  "Can you keep an ear on dispatch? I wanna go grab a refill."

  "Yep." he replied unethusiastically.

  Picking up her mug, Gabby stepped out of the crowded little office into the main bullpen to find Mike exiting his own office. He looked very much like she felt. Tired, bleary eyed, and completely bored out of his skull.

   "Don't look too excited now." she said with a weak smile.

   "Haha." he exhaled dryly, running one hand through his blonde curls. "Wanna grab me a snack while you're over there?"

   "Sure." Gabby replied. "Any preferences."

   "Surprise me." he said as he walked past her into her office, sipping at his own coffee.

   Gabby let out an uncontrolled yawn as she walked by rows and rows of cubicles, making her way to the breakroom and the expensive coffee maker that her boss had felt was a 'necessary expenditure' for the workplace.

   She certainly wasn't going to argue.

   The whole thing was a fancy pile of machinery that she had no hope of ever understanding. It was shiny and chrome and seemed to gleam in the light of the breakroom. One of their clients had recommended it some years back and bless the man who did because it made dealing with the stress of the job just so much easier. 

   Taking her time, she looked through the selection of different beans and settled on a dark roast she had tried a few times but hadn't sampled in a couple of weeks. Gabby rinsed out the used mug in her hand, tossed it under the drip, and let the machine do its thing while she raided the nearby shelves for snacks.

   Onion chips. Potato chips. Granola bars. Popcorn. And...what is this? Salmon jerky?

   She shuddered at the thought, having tried it once and only once. The smell had been way too much and the taste was somehow even worse.

  Settling, instead, on some of the sweet Hawaiian onion chips, Gabby snatched up one of the bags and returned to the coffee machine as it finished dispensing the life-giving bean juice.

   "Hey, hey." Ralph said with a bit more pep then she felt the day deserved as he entered the little breakroom. "There she is. You workin' hard or hardly workin'?"

   "Hey Ralphie." Gabby replied, offering a genuine, albeit tired smile.

   "Hey Gabs." he returned. "You hear about that...?"

   "Yea. Yea I did." she said with a sigh. "Been non-stop all morning because of it."

   "Well, least first response is all done, right? Just the client's responsibility now?"

   "Mostly." she confirmed, glancing back to the near full coffee mug and snagging it from under the drip. "I think there's a few stragglers that are still getting sorted out."

   "Fair enough." Ralph replied with a shrug before taking up residence in front of the coffee machine. "You have to go out for it?"

   "No." Gabby replied as she fished out some almond milk from the nearby fridge. "But I wouldn't complain if they did, honestly. Ever since the big guy wanted to do the 'less hands-on' thing, I feel like I never get to see any clients. I didn't exactly sign up for a desk job."

   "Yea. But I get it. We can't hold their hands forever." her coworker replied with a shrug. "And hey, if we're the only ones doing any work, whats gonna be left for them to do? Am I right?"

   "Yea, yea. I guess so." she replied while stirring a spoonful of sugar into her coffee. "Still. I just wish I had a bit more to do."

   "Careful with that kind of wishful thinking." Ralph said with a smirk. "You just might get it."

   "Pff. Later, Ralphie." she said, walking out of the breakroom and back into the main hall.

   "Later!" he called after.

   Coffee and onion chips in hand, Gabby trudged her way back across the bullpen and by a seemingly endless number of cubicles. Each one had a different person in them, all doing their assigned work. Some looked happy. Some looked tired. Some looked like they could look into oblivion and win a staring contest.

   Same shit different day.

   "Oy. Big guy." She called as she reached her office door before unceremoniously tossing the chips at Mike's head. He was sitting at her desk, his attention focused on the radio on top of it, and staring at it rather intently.

   The chips bounced off his skull with a satisfying crinkle and cracking of the chips inside.

   "Rude." he said as he reached down and grabbed the now fallen chips off the ground. 

   Mike popped open the bag as Gabby walked back into her office, but he made no move to get up from her desk. Instead, he leaned back over and began fiddling with one of the knobs on the radio. It was only then that Gabby realized-

   "It's weirdly quiet." she observed, realizing that the constant hum was gone.

   "That's what happens when you don't try to listen to every station at once." 

   "I'm more efficient that way."

   "Yea, I bet you are." Mike said with a shake of his head. "I bet you can't even understand half of what's being said."

   "I mean, I can. I just have to really try to listen, ya know."

   "Well, I tuned you to Kids radio."

   Gabby frowned, thinking that maybe she should have gotten Mike that Salmon jerky instead.

   "Come on, man. Kids radio? That's always the wors-"

   As if on cue, the radio chirped in its own opinion on the matter.

   "H-hello? I... I don't really know how to do this... I've never really done this before..." came the uncertain sound of a young child through the contraption on her desk.

   "Come onnnnn." Gabby groaned loudly.

   "Hey, you've been saying you wanted some field work and you know the big guy has a soft spot for the kids."

   "But..." she began.

   "No good deed goes unpunished. You ever heard the story of the good samaritan?"

   Gabby glared as him as he walked past.

   "You suck." she declared.

  Mike just laughed.

   With a sigh, Gabby settled down to her desk and turned the radio up. Despite feeling riled up by having to do actual work, Mike was completely right. A kid could be justified and would let her get out of the office. At least, provided it wasn't over an X-Box or something.

   "...don't even know if you can hear me or not. But Daddy always says I should try to talk to you. He says..."

   The radio starts to go to static but Gabby quickly adjusts it until its crystal clear. Though whether the clarity is due to the equipment or the client is anyone's guess.

   "...every night. So, if you're listening. I guess I'm asking about my dad. He... My mom says he got hurt. There's a lot of people here. Lots of doctors. And they told me I should say goodbye. But I don't know why. Why can't we just go home?"

   Gabby felt a tightness in her chest as she listened that seemed to wash away her previous annoyances. She set down the coffee cup, having not even taken a sip.

   "If you can... Can you help him? I don't know what's wrong, but I don't want to say goodbye. I think he's hurt, but I don't know how. He won't get up. And there's these machines and..."

   She could hear the child's voice beginning to crack as the emotions began to overwhelm him. Pulling her attention away from the radio, she grabbed her workstation and pulled up the file on the client. Skimming it briefly, she noted a few key details both about him and his family.

   "Ahh, kid." she whispered to no one, an exhalation of exasperation at the notes on the child's father. "That's awful."

   "I don't want to say goodbye. I just want him to get up. I don't want to say goodbye." the kid began to actively cry through the radio.

  There was nothing more to listen to. It wasn't like she was going to get anymore from a traumatized nine year old.

  A warmth flushed through her cheeks and around the edges of her eyes as she listened to the quiet little sobs and her throat closed ever so slightly. There was something about kids that always just got under her skin. Maybe it was too much of her boss's comments or something.

  "Alright!" she shouted to Mike. "You win!"

  "Ha!" came the answer from the door next to her's.

  She pulled up the messenger on her workstation and quickly jotted out a message to her boss, letting him know where she was going and that it was for a client. She then shot him over the ticket information and marked herself as absent before standing up and leaving behind the forgotten coffee.

   "See you when you get back." Mike called after her.

   "Yea, yea." she responded. "I blame you for this." though she knew he wasn't at fault for anything more that tuning the channel to be more focused.

   Crossing the bullpen and winding her way through the desks, Gabby reached the elevator and hit the button. She thought about how things used to be and how it seemed like only her, Mike, and Ralph were ever given leeway to do field work anymore. It used to be half the desks did on-sites but now the big guy only trusted the three of them and even those had to be justified.

   Still, she wouldn't complain about not having to wait on the elevator.

   The gleaming, chrome doors opened and she stepped inside, slapping the 'G' button before leaning against the far wall. The doors closed a few moments later with a gentle 'whoosh' and she felt the elevator begin to move. Her stomach lurched ever so slightly as the elevator descended quickly towards the ground.

   "Bluh." she groaned at the sensation of her lunch trying to crawl up her throat from the speed of the thing.

   The elevator hit ground floor a minute later and, stepping out, Gabby found herself in a crowded city. She took a moment to get her bearings, glancing around at the people walking by and the cars zooming through the streets, before settling on the large white hospital building at the far end of the block. A few seconds after, the sounds of the street died away, only to be replaced by a soft, incessant beeping of machines and the light murmur of voices, broken only by the occasional cough.

   Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out her phone and pulled up the details.

   "JEREMY GREEN. ROOM 722."

   Crossing the lobby, she took another, much slower elevator up to the seventh floor of the hospital, only to be greeted by a Caduceus symbol. Gabby couldn't help but chuckle, thinking that she really needed to see Hermie as it'd been a while since they last spoke, and then checked the directory. Following the guide to the right, she soon found what she was looking for.

   A young boy sat on a small bench, tears streaming down his face and his hands clenched tightly together in a ball. A woman, his mother presumably, sat over top of him, her arms draped around the child's shaking body. Tears streaked her cheeks as well and Gabby could clearly make out the racking sobs in her ribcage.

   "Ahh... Kid..." Gabby whispered sadly as she walked up and gently ran a hand through his hair.

   He didn't notice.

   Glancing past the bench into the room beyond, there was a cacophony of sound and light.

   Machines of all make and model stood around an unconscious middle-aged man in a hospital bed. Each one, some filled with fluid, some pumping, and most of them beeping and booping and flashing, created a chorus of noise that made Gabby wish for the simple hum of her untuned radio. Every device was hooked up to the man in some way or another with fluids coming and going in a truly disgusting display. At the far end of the bed, a nurse and a doctor stood looking over a chart, quietly whispering to each other. And, next to them, a gentleman in a black suit looked over his own chart while glancing occasionally at the man in the bed.

   "Hey." Gabby said with a wave, walking into the room.

   The medical professionals paid her no mind but the man in black glanced up and then locked eyes on Gabby.

   "Oh, come onnnnnn." he groaned, tossing the chart on a nearby chair.

   "Nice to see you too." she chuckled.

   "No. No it's not. Are we really going to do this?"

   Gabby glanced at the man in the bed and grimaced. He was in rough shape. It was truly a marvel that he was alive at all for the moment.  

   Bless modern medicine, she thought to herself.

   "Yes, we're really doing this, Az."

  "I just finished the paperwork!" he near-shouted in exasperation. "You can't just waltz in here and-"

  "I can."

  "But you can't-"

  "Yes, I can."

  "Can't."

  "Can."

  "Can't!"

  "Look, Az, I can and I will. I know we don't do this much anymore, but your department is just gonna have to deal with it. I'm doing my job and you know darn well that I am above you on these kinds of things."

   "But this is different!" Az complained. "He had a date! It was scheduled. You can't!"

   "Oh get off it before I call the big guy." Gabby said, turning away from him towards the man in bed. "Besides, what's worse? Filling out a report or having to complete the escort?"

   "Hmm. Well..." Az seemed to think, his annoyance turning thoughtful as he considered.

   "That's what I thought." she replied before settling next to the hospital bed, lifting her hand, and slapping the patient hard across the face.

  The man woke with a coughing gasp, vomit spitting up just a little around the edges of the ventilator.

   "Holy-!" the doctor jumped.

   "Jesus!" the nurse chimed in, rushing to patient's side.

   "Can we get some help in here!" the doctor called before joining the nurse, working to get the ventilator out of the struggling man's throat. "It's gonna be alright, son. Calm down."

   From outside the room, the young boy peeked in and then tried to rush in before being caught up by his mother.

   "No, honey. Let them work."

   And work they did. With the patient machinations of the medical professionals, the man was quickly unhooked from a good majority of the machines that had been being used to keep him alive over the course of the next half hour. All the while, the boy and his mother continued to cry and watch, though it was clearly for a new reason.

   Relief.

   By the end of an hour, the three of them, the man, woman, and child, were crying together, embracing each other tightly in the father's bed.

   "I think we need to work on your subtlety." Az commented after finishing gathering up his things.

   "I can be subtle." Gabby retorted.

   "Clearly." Az shot back.

   "Easy, easy." the man complained from his bed as his wife squeezed him tighter. "You're choking me."

   The woman loosened her grip, but did little else to release her husband.

   "It's a miracle." she sobbed into his now tear-soaked hospital gown. "I don't know how but it's a miracle!"

   "I just choose not to be." Gabby continued. "They're not always supposed to be subtle."

   "Yea, yea." Az grumbled. "Wanna get some lunch?"

   "Sounds good."

   As the two began to make their way out of the hospital room, Gabby stopped to look back and realized that the little boy was no longer death-gripping his father but rather looked a bit more stoic. His eyes were closed tightly.

   "Thank you. Thank you so much." he whispered to Gabby, though he likely didn't know she could hear him.

   Gabby couldn't help but smile.

   "You got it, buster." she said, gently stroking the child's hair once more before turning and walking out with Az.

   "So, what're we thinking?" Az asked.

   "Anything but Ambrosia." Gabby answered with a grimace.

   "You still hate that stuff?"

   "When it's all you eat for a century or two, it gets old."

June 28, 2022 20:46

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3 comments

Carolyn Brown
04:23 Jul 08, 2022

I enjoyed your story. I've noticed many of these stories about miracle-working involve tired workers. At first, I wondered why you put so much detail in about what she was eating, but then when she sets out to perform, ho hum, a miracle, it was almost like subtle satire to get into her mind as she thought about snacks to break the mundane routine. Humans are exhausting creatures!

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Robert Bennett
18:33 Jul 08, 2022

I'm glad you liked it. I was absolutely going for the subtle satire of the boredom of the day to day versus the actual enjoyment we strive for personally and professionally. And yes, I've noticed that too. I think it says alot about alot of people that we recognize there are a lot of miracle workers in real life that only actually get to work those miracles sparingly. The rest of their lives are just, well, living. :)

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Betty Gilgoff
05:01 Jul 03, 2022

I enjoyed your story a lot. Your very creative perspective on the characters adds a bit of lightness and humour. That drew me in. Thanks for sharing it.

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