American Contemporary Fiction

Making decorations out of construction paper is something that we all have done at some point in our childhood – either during playschool or at church or Vacation Bible School or at school. I can’t even count how many paper turkeys, paper Christmas trees or paper Easter eggs that my parents’ refrigerator held over the years.

I flunked cutting in kindergarten … so my lines weren’t always straight.

So, why in the world, am I, Shay Dawson, trauma fellow at Atlanta Memorial Hospital, sitting in the doctor’s lounge cutting out shapes with construction paper?

“Honey Bubby!” Nicholas Morrell, my five-year-old nephew, barreled into the lounge-like a bull in a china shop.

He’s why.

I turned around in my chair, “Nicky!” He jumped in my lap with no fear and squeezed my neck so hard.

“Honey Bubby, what are you doing?” Nicholas started calling me Honey Bubby when he was two after hearing my grandfather – his great-grandfather, call me ‘Honey Bunny.’

Nicholas sat in my lap and gazed at the construction paper and scissors on the table. I picked up the scissors to move them away from eager hands. My nephew was quite creative.

“We are making some Fall decorations for the children’s ward,” I said.

Nicholas said, “Who’s we? You’re the only one in here.”

“Well, there were some other people around … some other doctors and nurses,” I said. “So, where’s your dad?”

Nicholas slid off of my lap and stretched. “He’s filling out paperwork to get me admitted.”

“You ready for this?” Nicholas was born with a heart defect. He is in the hospital pretty regular for testing, medicine changes and surgeries.

He walked around the room, looking at different things. “Honey Bubby, I am OK. This ain’t nothing but a chicken wang!”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “You are something else.”

About that time, my brothers, Casey and Kelly, walked in the room. Kelly is the chief of surgery for the hospital. Casey is Nicholas’ dad. He is raising Nicholas by himself, as Nicholas’ mom abandoned them both.

“I told you he’d be up here with her,” Kelly said, pretending to box with Nicholas. Casey shook his head, “You two … like Frick and Frack. Dude, we gotta go get you checked into your room … Holly and Mariah are waiting for you.” Holly and Mariah are two nurses in the children’s wing.

“I had to come to find Honey Bubby. Look what she’s doing … she’s making Fall decorations out of construction paper just like we did in Sunday School, Daddy.” Nicholas swatted Kelly’s bottom and pointed at the table.

Casey walked over and picked up a couple of my cut-outs. We were almost done with them. There were leaves, pumpkins, squirrels, a scarecrow or two. He held one of the squirrels up and laughed. “I can tell who cut this one … Look, Kel.”

Kelly was in a tickle war with Nicholas. He looked up Casey. “Crooked lines … You haven’t learned how to cut a straight line yet, Shay?”

“Hardee Har Har … You know what, you could be helping me, Chief of Surgery … You are the one who told them we’d do this.” I looked over at my brother.

Nicholas broke free from Kelly and ran over. He put his hand on my arm. “You’re doing this for my floor? For our party room, aren’t you?”

His blue eyes shined brightly, and his dimples were out in full force. I don’t know who could resist that face. “Yes, Bubba. It’s in the party room.”

“YAY! We’re going to have a Fall party!!” And off he went, out the door again. Kelly and I looked at Casey who just shook his head. “That’s your son,” I said.

“That’s your nephew – acts just like you.” Kelly nudged me as he sat down next to me. He picked up another pair of scissors and grabbed up some construction paper.

Casey was already out the door, calling, “Nicholas. Buddy, hold on.”

After they left, Kelly and I sat cutting out different patterns that one of the nurses had traced all over the construction paper sheets.

We finished. There were no more sheets and no more patterns. I stacked them into the box that we were given. “Where do the scissors go?”

“The nurses’ station. You know what? We’ve been in here for 10 minutes and it has been quiet … No trauma and no calls.” I said.

Kelly put a hand over my mouth. “Hush. You know better than to speak it.”

I licked his hand. He took his hand off my mouth. “Gross.”

We walked out to the nurses’ station. He handed them the scissors, and I gave the box to one of the orderlies and asked him to run it up to the children’s ward.

“It has been way too quiet around here.” Sarah, the charge nurse, in the emergency center sat at her desk. She spoke the same words I did.

Three or four people, my brother included, all jumped back and did crosses with their hands. “Take it back,” Kelly said. “You and Shay know better than to speak of such things … it’s like saying nothing bad happens on a full moon.”

Sarah just shook her head. “That’s an old wives’ tale.”

Just then, the radio buzzed. Kelly looked at Sarah and pointed. I leaned against the counter and listened. There had been a train wreck, and they were bringing in multiple causalities.

Kelly shook his head, “Call it, Shay.”

I stood up, and said, “Alright, people, we’ve got multiple causalities coming from a train wreck right now is 12. Calling in the Pluto Emergency Plan, let’s go, battle stations people.”

And soon our little time with the construction paper decorations was forgotten.

Hours later, fatigued as if we really had gone to battle, Kelly and I rode the elevator up to the children’s ward to check in with our family.

It had been a hard time with all the injuries, and we lost three patients who succumbed to their injuries. Kelly leaned against the back wall. “You know, that was rough, but I am impressed with your team. They handled themselves today.”

I nodded. “They did. Thanks for sticking in with us.” I yawned.

The doors of the elevator opened, and we both were stunned. There were construction paper decorations hanging from the ceilings around the nurses’ station, in the visitor’s waiting room, and taped all over the patient room windows.

“Are those our construction paper decorations?” I asked.

Kelly laughed, “It looks like the construction paper fairy threw up in here.”

We walked over to the nurses’ station and greeted some of the nurses. “How’s my nephew?” I asked Holly, his favorite nurse.

“He is a live wire for sure. All the stats look good. Dr. Headly ordered normal blood work and other labs. His counts are a little off, but not so much.” She handed me his file. Kelly looked over my shoulder.

“Not bad. Where is the rug rate?” Kelly asked. I gave her the file back.

Holly pointed to the party room across the hall. “He was helping to finish the decorating last time I looked.”

Casey came out of a patient room nearby. “I thought I heard you two. Mom’s in there. Dad’s in the party room with Nicholas.”

“Where are you going?” Kelly asked.

“Going down to the Dairy Queen to get some supper, you guys want anything? Dr. Headly suggested we try to get Nicholas to eat a cheeseburger or some fries,” Casey started walking to the elevator.

I raised my hand, “Fries and a strawberry milkshake?” I started toward the party room. Kelly said, “I will go down with you.”

Casey reached up and flicked a construction paper pumpkin. “The construction paper fairies have been out in full force.”

“Your brother helped me finish,” I pointed at Kelly.

Kelly laughed, “She begged me too!”

They got on the elevator and left. I opened the door to the children’s party room. Some of the nurses and orderlies were in there, with a few kids and their family members. My dad was standing next to Nicholas – who was in his footed pajamas and a robe, and his favorite Texas Aggies’ baseball cap. They were watching the fish in the aquarium.

“Dr. Shay, tell your crew thanks for the construction paper decorations,” Mariah, a nurse, said from across the room.

I nodded. “Didn’t realize we had cut that many. I knew there’d been a lot.”

“Yup. The construction paper goodies are all from you guys. Your team is amazing,” Mariah said as she walked out of the room.

Nicholas turned around, “Honny Bubby.” He waved. My dad turned around, “Lookie, lookie. Hey Doc Honey Bubby.”

I smiled and walked over. “That’s me. What are you guys up to?”

Nicholas was hooked up to an IV that was attached to a movable pole that her dad had his hands on. “Well, we helped put up some decorations.”

“Your nephew said you guys cut out all of these great Fall construction paper artwork down in the trauma center.” My dad, by the way, is the hospital’s chief of staff.

I hugged Nicholas from behind. “Yeah … We volunteered to help out.”

“Did you see your brother?” My dad asked me.

I answered him, “Him and Kelly went down to Dairy Queen.”

Nicholas took my hand, “I am getting a cheeseburger.”

“Sounds good, hoss.” I took his hat and put it on my head. “Looks better on me.”

Nicholas reached up and grabbed it. “Honey Bubby, it doesn’t work for you … too small.” Dad and I convinced Nicholas to walk back to his room, and settle in.

After we got him back in bed and chatted with my mom, Dad motioned me outside. We walked back out in the hall. “I heard you guys had a bad one.” My dad knew everything.

“It was a train wreck … literally. We had 22 come in, and lost three.” I leaned against the wall.

Dad stood next to me. “How’d the team do?”

“I was really impressed. Everyone rolled out and handled themselves … it had been really quiet, which is why we got all of these things done.” I pointed at the construction paper art.

Dad nodded. “You might think these construction paper decorations are just simple things, but you should have seen these kids when everything finally got put up … Nicholas was so proud. You’d think they were Picassos or gold bricks.”

“It’s the little things … in medicine and in life … don’t forget that.” My dad nudged shoulder.

He walked back in the room. I looked at Nicholas’ door and had to giggle. My crooked squirrel was taped to his door.

It’s the little things!

October 14, 2020 05:14

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(Just a disclaimer, this post is going to be VERY long, so hold on tight!! Also, I am NOT one of those Wednesday critique people, it's just that I LOVE commenting on other people's posts. Now that we got that out of the way, I can actually start writing.) 😁 Hello there!! I just want to say that your story's flow, and the emotion and scene building you did was just absolutely amazing!! I loved how you built Kelly's and Nicholas's characters! Trust me, that takes real talent to do that, so kudos on that!! 😊 Another thing which I really w...


Rebecca Lee
02:18 Oct 23, 2020

Aren't you precious? I love your edits, your style and just am so thankful you came along to edit my story. What a positive person you are. Thank you and I will keep those in mind. I really mean it!!! Wish everyone would edit like you do!!


Awww!! Thank you so much! :)


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Princemark Okibe
12:54 Oct 20, 2020

I particularly liked this phrase "“It was a train wreck … literally."


Rebecca Lee
18:03 Oct 20, 2020

I was wondering if anyone would catch that. Thanks!


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Yolanda Wu
01:38 Oct 17, 2020

Awww, this was such a cute story. I love how you characterised Shay, and her endearing relationship with her nephew, Nicholas. It was so lovely and well-written. I also love the interactions between Shay and her brothers, you can tell they're a happy family. I also like how you mingle a little bit of sadness when you talk about Nicholas's heart condition, but because he's so positive, I can't help but admire him. Things get a little crazy towards the end, but I love the linking back to the crooked squirrel on Nicholas's door. Everything abou...


Rebecca Lee
16:32 Oct 17, 2020

Thank you, Yolanda. It was just one of those stories that I just let the prompt lead me and really had no plan, so it got a little crazy.


Yolanda Wu
23:05 Oct 17, 2020

That's the best kind of writing in my opinion, you don't know what you're going to get!


Princemark Okibe
12:06 Oct 20, 2020

And the purest form of creative writing too because you feel more satisfied afterwards.


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20:48 Oct 19, 2020

I really enjoyed this story. Well done!


Rebecca Lee
01:12 Oct 20, 2020

Thank you.


01:34 Oct 20, 2020

Of course. Thanks for your patience. I know it took me a while to get to it. :/


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Bonnie Clarkson
03:03 Jan 21, 2021

I loved that your story was aimed at a younger crowd without the push for scientific and math stuff like PBS does with their children's shows. 2 thumbs up.


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Arwen Dove
23:02 Apr 25, 2021

Love it!


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