Contest #156 shortlist ⭐️

The Liar

Submitted into Contest #156 in response to: Write a story about a pathological liar.... view prompt

79 comments

Drama Fiction Sad

This story contains sensitive content

(Trigger: Death)


“How you feelin’?” you ask as you adjust the pillows behind Astrid’s tiny five-year-old head. You try to reposition her frail body upright to help drain the excess secretions from her nose and throat. She grimaces. You force a smile.


“I heard Santa is visiting today,” you say as you turn the almost-empty IV pump to hold, hang the new bag on the pole taking the stopper off, remove the tubing from the old bag and insert the tubing into the new bag.


You see Astrid’s eyes light up. “He is?” she asks, her eyes lighting up with a hint of hope.


“He sure is,” you smile, “What will you ask for?”


It’s December 3rd. You don’t think Astrid will live until Christmas. She most definitely won’t.


“A paint set and My Little Pony,” she exclaims. You see her imagining all the presents that will be under her tree in a few weeks. See her imagining herself going home.


“You’ll have to tell Santa that’s what you want, and he’ll bring it to you on Christmas morning,” you lie. You turn the pump back on and make sure to change the volume amount in the pump settings.


Astrid smiles. “How’s your puppy?” she asks. You’d told her two weeks ago you got a puppy. Something to talk about. You don’t tell her you live alone in a shitty studio apartment since it’s located only two bus stops from the hospital. You don’t tell her you don’t have any pets. No husband. No kids. Just you and your Lean Cuisines and nightly Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.


“He’s a little devil. He chewed up my new shoes last night!” you say. Astrid giggles.


“What color shoes?” she asks.


“My fancy red high heels,” you say. You don’t tell her you haven’t worn heels in years. You don’t tell her they hurt your plantar fasciitis. You don’t tell her you wouldn’t have anywhere to wear them anyways even if you did own them. You hand her ice chips held in a purple Frozen plastic cup.


“That silly Oscar,” Astrid says, placing an ice chip on her tongue. You’d let her pick the puppy’s name when you told her you were getting a dog. You’d found photos of lab puppies on Google and showed them to her. Told her she could meet him when she got out. You glance out of the window and see Astrid’s parent’s approaching the building from the parking lot, carrying a Sammy’s Subs bag. You smooth the pretend hair on Astrid’s head and stand up.


“Looks like mommy and daddy are back. I’m going to check on our friends,” you say. Astrid raises her brows towards the window, and you walk into the hallway and enter Vernon’s room. His mother is asleep on the pull-out chair and he’s playing some sort of a gaming device. You wave your hands in his peripheral vision as to not wake up his mother. He looks up and smiles, placing the device on his lap.


“Minecraft?” you ask, gesturing towards the device. You don’t tell him you hate video games. You don’t tell him you think they are rotting the brain cells of every child in the world.

Vernon nods.


“So cool,” you whisper as you change out his IV, “How’re you feeling today?”


“Not good,” he whispers, “Feel pukey.”


You raise your brow. “Did you throw up?” you ask, checking his temperature.


“No, but feel like I’m going to,” he says, his brown face turning a dark green hue. You add some Zofran into his IV to stop the nausea.


“Any pain?” you ask, checking on how much pain medicine he’s receiving.


“The same,” he says, clenching his jaw. You make a note to check with the doctor about upping his dose. No point in him being in pain during his last days.


“Are you excited to see Santa this afternoon?” you ask as you change out his catheter.


“I’m too old for that crap,” Vernon says frowning.


“Too old? Aren’t you only twelve?” you ask. You fluff the blanket on his bed and put his device on its charger.


“Almost thirteen,” he says. You don't tell him he's not almost thirteen. You don't tell him he'll never be thirteen.


“You’re never too old for Santa,” you say. “I love seeing Santa even now that I’m an old lady.” You don’t tell him you grew up Jewish and are now an atheist. You don’t tell him you’ve never sat on Santa’s lap in your whole life.


“Can I ask you something?” he asks, scratching at the tape around the IV on his hand.


“Of course,” you say as you look over as his mother shifts positions in her chair.


“Am I gonna die?” he whispers so quietly; you almost don’t hear him.


You pause what you are doing for a second. Only a second. You don’t think he notices. “We’re going to get you as good as new,” you say.


“Mom says I’m going to get better. But I’m not stupid. I know I’m in here to die,” he says. “I know I’m dying.”


You fluff his pillow and prop him up. You walk over and change the water in the vase of flowers. It’s getting brown and smelly. You wipe a smudge from the window with the sleeve of your undershirt.


“I said I know I’m dying,” Vernon repeats himself. You turn your eyes from the window and look at him. You’re startled at his accusation.


“We’re all dying, aren’t we?” you say. “What do you want for Christmas?” You change the subject. It’s always good to change the subject.


You watch as Vernon shifts in the bed.


“Fortnite for my Xbox,” he says, pointing towards his device.


You smile and make a mental note. You think he’ll make it to Christmas. Maybe even make it to Valentine’s Day.


“Is that one of those shooting games?” you ask, crossing your arms, a grin on your face. You don’t tell him that he shouldn’t be spending the last days of his life killing pretend people on a gaming device.


Vernon smiles, “Battle game. It’s awesome.”


“Just make sure to tell Santa when you see him this afternoon,” you whisper as you walk towards the door. You give Vernon a wink.

Vernon rolls his eyes and waves goodbye.


You head towards Wynne’s room and peek inside. Her parents are gripping both of her hands and her eyes are still closed. She’s been unconscious since Sunday and it’s only a matter of days.


“Do you need anything?” you ask gently as you approach the mother and father. Their faces are puffy and wet from crying. Eyes, bloodshot from lack of sleep.


Wynne’s mom, Megan, turns her head and looks at you in despair. You place your hand on her shoulder.


“Do you think she can hear us?” she asks, “We’ve been talking to her.”


“I think so,” you lie as you check Wynne’s vitals. You don’t tell her that Wynne is on so much morphine, she most probably cannot hear them.


“Do you think she could make it til Christmas?” her dad asks, his eyes filled with hope.


You look down at Wynne. You look at the tubes in her nose. At her skeletal body. “You never know,” you say. You don’t say you doubt Wynne will make it through the week. You don’t say Wynne might not even make it until tomorrow. So instead, you say, “There’s always hope.”


You leave the grieving parents alone. Give them privacy. There’s nothing you can do for her now except let her be with her parents and make sure she’s not in pain.


You step into the hallway and check the time. 4:05 pm. Your shift ended five minutes ago, and Shelly should be taking over soon. Shelly loves the shift when Santa comes. He’ll be coming right before supper. You go to your locker, gather your things, and pass by Shelly. You fill her in on the patients before exiting the building.


As you wait for the bus stop, you go to your Amazon account. You add a paint set, a My Little Pony, and a Fortnite game to your cart. You click to have them overnighted. You’ll wrap them in the morning and place them in Vernon and Astrid’s rooms while they’re asleep tomorrow. You’ll write, “Love Santa” on the card. They don’t have time to wait until Christmas.


You step onto the bus and find an empty window seat across from an elderly man who looks at your uniform and then up at you. You smile and stare out of the dirty window. You wonder how often they wash the windows on the bus. Not often.


“You work in the hospital?” the elderly man asks, pointing towards your teddy bear scrubs.


You smile. “Yes, I do,” you say. You do not want to have small talk. You want to go home and eat your Lean Cuisine and watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.


“What do you do there?” he asks.


You tell the truth.


“I lie,” you say. The man furrows his brow, and you turn your head and look back out the window as the buildings pass by. You wonder if you have enough wrapping paper at home or if you should stop at the store and buy some. You hope you have enough. 

July 27, 2022 01:15

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79 comments

Michał Przywara
21:00 Jul 27, 2022

Great take on the prompt :) When we hear "pathological liar" we tend to think negatively of the person. Someone who's untrustworthy at best, or worse, someone who means us ill. This shows another version. We believe the protagonist means well. They lie to give the kids some peace of mind, and then they buy gifts for them out of pocket. There's no ulterior motives here, it's all to make their last moments more bearable. It raises some interesting, uncomfortable questions, too. These are kids, they're young, and their fate seems unfair t...

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Mike Panasitti
00:32 Jul 28, 2022

Michal cuts to the chase as usual, causing us to question troubling human predicaments. Are there moral absolutes? Can a lie be good? Should we treat children as fundamentally different than adults? Kathleen touches upon these ethical issues effectively without spelling them out. That is the hallmark of much moving fiction.

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Michał Przywara
20:58 Jul 28, 2022

Yup, definitely :) Heavy questions you could easily fill a dry textbook with, but here they're couched so seemlessly in an everyday human story, you might even miss them.

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Kathleen Fine
14:11 Aug 09, 2022

Thank you Michal and Mike! You always give such great feedback!

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Laura Eliz
16:38 Jul 27, 2022

This is such a touching story, and so well written(as always) I love that at the end your character tells people that they lie. So simple and so poignant.

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Kathleen Fine
17:29 Jul 27, 2022

Thank you so much for the kind words Laura! I was hoping it wouldn’t be too depressing of a story:)

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Andrea Shaw
14:18 Jul 27, 2022

This is so beautiful! You are an amazing storyteller. I only hope I can ever be this good!

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Kathleen Fine
17:28 Jul 27, 2022

Wow thank you so much for the kind words Andrea! This is a great forum to practice your skills!

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Marie White
01:19 Aug 26, 2022

This was such a touching story, and, as many have said, I really like how you interpreted the prompt in such an unexpected way. It really makes the reader think, which is always great. Great writing!

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Kathleen Fine
21:18 Sep 11, 2022

Thank you Marie!

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Graham Kinross
00:23 Aug 14, 2022

This is an incredible interpretation of the prompt, completely the opposite of what most people, including myself, would have thought of. The heartbreaking compassion in this is poignant. The details feel very real, did you research it? I hope this isn’t an experience you’ve had. I admire people like this but I don’t have the mental or emotional strength for work like that.

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Kathleen Fine
21:19 Sep 11, 2022

Thank you Graham! I researched it via google:) No personal experience:)

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Graham Kinross
21:22 Sep 11, 2022

It’s so well written I thought this was something you had been through yourself.

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Kathleen Fine
23:06 Sep 11, 2022

No but my husband works in a hospital as an ecmo specialist and was stationed in the picu for a long time and would tell me sad stories- not exactly hospice but still had many life threatening cases and deaths of children.

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Graham Kinross
23:10 Sep 11, 2022

I don’t know what ecmo or picu stand for but it sounds depressing to hear those stories.

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Kathleen Fine
23:19 Sep 11, 2022

Pediatric intensive care unit (so like the icu for kids and babies) Ecmo is the machine that makes your heart pump and lungs breath

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16:53 Aug 10, 2022

Beautiful story. Very moving without being sappy or overly sentimental. Love the twist at the end where she tells the truth that she lies at work. Love that this story illustrates that lying can also be a good thing--a kindness. Love the realistic details of the nurse's life--the Lean Cuisines and Jeopardy--again, without pity or sentimental sadness. Well done.

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Kathleen Fine
15:16 Aug 12, 2022

Thank you Mary Ann!

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Mike Panasitti
00:24 Jul 28, 2022

Your MC does so much more than lie. She struggles to stay compassionate amidst constant tragedy - a superhuman quality if ever there was one.

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Kathleen Fine
15:16 Aug 12, 2022

Thanks Mike!

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Mary Lehnert
23:21 Sep 23, 2022

Kathleen. Strong stuff but so well writtenI totally believable. Wanted her to have her own Santa Claus

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Cynthia Prokarym
16:53 Sep 05, 2022

Great job with the prompt. I loved the story. Sad, but very true, for it shows the situations people are in sometimes and how try to protect those they care about and themselves by hiding the truth.

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Kathleen Fine
21:19 Sep 11, 2022

Thank you Cynthia!

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19:25 Sep 02, 2022

I loved this story and I love your style. It was so touching!

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Kathleen Fine
21:19 Sep 11, 2022

Thanks so much Valentina!

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L. E. Scott
14:08 Aug 12, 2022

I am weeping right now. This is so good.

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Kathleen Fine
15:16 Aug 12, 2022

Thank you LE!

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Aesha Amin
11:21 Aug 11, 2022

Kathleen! This was amazing, especially the last part. I'm catching up on my readings and absolutely loved this one.

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Kathleen Fine
15:16 Aug 12, 2022

Thank you Aesha!

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Kevin Broccoli
16:35 Aug 10, 2022

I really appreciate any story that looks at complexity and attempts to make sense of the senseless. There was such a deftness to this that I find brilliant.

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Kathleen Fine
15:16 Aug 12, 2022

Thank you Kevin!

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Endi Dan
19:11 Aug 09, 2022

Very nice story Kathleen. The second-person POV is such a rarity these days that it takes a little getting used to when you start the story. Fine work.

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Kathleen Fine
15:17 Aug 12, 2022

Thank you Endi-this was my first time writing in 2nd person POV--I like this forum of stories because it allows me to try out different styles, etc!

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Cindy Strube
01:14 Aug 09, 2022

Kathleen, What a great use of the prompt- compassionate lying. The descriptiveness is well done. It’s a real mix of emotion. Belated congratulations on the shortlist!

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Kathleen Fine
14:12 Aug 09, 2022

Thanks Cindy!

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Kate Winchester
17:37 Aug 08, 2022

Wow! This is so heartbreaking, but very well done. I loved your take on the prompt. It’s a very thought provoking piece. Congrats on the shortlist. It’s well deserved!

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Kathleen Fine
14:12 Aug 09, 2022

Thank you Kate!

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Kate Winchester
14:57 Aug 09, 2022

You’re welcome ☺️

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Yves. ♙
21:23 Aug 07, 2022

What an interpretation of the prompt-- I'm so happy to see something so completely new. I agree with all the other commenters who've already pointed out how clever it was to turn our immediate assumptions about lies on their head.

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Kathleen Fine
14:12 Aug 09, 2022

Thanks Yves!

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Philip Ebuluofor
11:23 Aug 07, 2022

When they talk of death like that most of the time, it comes. Our in-law, it was so. Fine work Kathleen.

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Kathleen Fine
14:12 Aug 09, 2022

Thank you Philip

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Philip Ebuluofor
08:49 Aug 11, 2022

Yeah. Welcome.

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10:06 Aug 06, 2022

A very intriguing story. I lived the story and I've learnt and realised so much. Fantastic masterpiece.

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Kathleen Fine
14:12 Aug 09, 2022

Thanks Girasiya

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14:41 Aug 09, 2022

My pleasure

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18:04 Aug 05, 2022

Congratulations on being shortlisted for this story. It was a wonderful story and on point for people who have seen behind that curtain.

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Kathleen Fine
14:12 Aug 09, 2022

Thank you Clara!

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