Frozen By C.J. Harrington

March 20, 2014 Comments Off on Frozen By C.J. Harrington

The nurses have upswept hairdos and big, sparkly rings, probably from doctor husbands. Your father was a doctor, but he’s dead. Your brother is a doctor, but far too busy and in Nevada anyway.

Tell them about how the gauze that surgeon left inside after the knee replacement spawned infection.

Tell them that’s the reason you can’t lose weight. That’s the reason parts of you keep breaking.

You don’t know. You just woke up this way, lower half-frozen.  Can you wiggle your toes? No. Feel this? They prick your foot with a sharp-tipped instrument. Yes. That you feel.

Canned laughter spills through the curtain. They drugged your roommate but haven’t shut off the TV. It’s better than her moaning.

Your dad would pay for a private room, but your dead husband left you with horrid insurance. Too many days co-pay and you could go under.


Maybe they drugged you too because you’re envisioning ice, treacherous to crutches as you’re climbing slick steps to that orthopedist. A bulky glove catches you under the elbow.

Got you now, honey.


During the emergency blur of forms, maybe you signed one saying they could talk to your daughter. She and that social worker whisper when you wake. A mom to two curly-haired babies, your daughter lives two states over.

Her anxious fingers twist as she talks with you about options.

Rehabilitation is a fancy word for assisted living. Yes it is. They forget your now-dead husband went there after the fall that broke his collarbone. No you won’t.


More tests. No answers. The best they can say is mild stroke, maybe.


The nighttime anxiety drugs knock you unconscious, so the glove holds you as you wobble on slim blades. Your adept-at-everything brother whizzes backwards past both of you.

Steady, honey, steady.


She can’t sign papers. They can’t force you to sign papers. You have a twice-a-week visiting nurse already and can up it to four. The church has a program. You’ll get through.


Discharges want to be definitive, but there is nothing to say when they have no idea. Tweaked prescriptions, neuro-specialist, occupational therapy.

Your daughter stays a few days. She makes calls and lists. The minister stops by for a cheerful evening and speaks with her quietly in the portico.  Their hushed voices articulate concerns.


Ready, honey, ready?

The glove flings a svelte never-before-like you into a spin to dizzy oblivion. Exit with a graceful plié. Watching from the stands, curly-haired, lap-cradled babies and their mother, your daughter, applaud your elegance.


She brushes your hair back when she tells you she’s leaving. She says she’ll come back soon. She will and won’t. You know better.


Pull his old afghan up around your chin and watch the sunset behind the hills one last time. You know how it goes: breath-seizing head-to-toe sizzle, quick flush of paralyzing ice, dizzying spinning.

Take the anxiety medication.

A gloved hand touches your shoulder.

Ready, daddy, ready.

© 2013 C.J. Harrington

C.J. Harrington lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. She earned an English degree, with honors, from the College of William and Mary and completed advanced writing workshops at Georgetown University and The Writer’s Center. She has work published or forthcoming in Gone Lawn and The Voices Project.

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