Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for August: (8/3) Dianne Freeman (8/10) Daryl Wood Gerber (8/17) E. B. Davis's Review of Granite Oath, James M. Jackson's new novel (8/24) Rose Kerr (8/31) V. M. Burns.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Gifts (Part 1 of 3)

I am of mixed minds sharing this story. I am still haunted by the protagonist and wish to share more of her life with readers. Yet some years have passed since I wrote it and the editor in me would make changes. That seems unfair to the writer who wrote the piece--the me of a few years ago. I have refrained using the red pen, and this is the story as I wrote it:

By J. M. Jackson
(Part 1 of 3)

The metronome clicks of marching heels announce my sister-in-law’s approach. My face broadens into a smile as I hear my niece burst into song--melismas on the Gloria, with no attention to her mother’s beat.
    The aide appears at my door. “Miss Anderson, you have visitors. Would you like to see them?”
    I overheard the staff talking a few nights ago after I was supposed to be asleep. Asking permission is now added to their “dignity in dying” initiative. Imagine trying to bring decorum to the indecency of bone cancer.
    I nod assent and squeeze my morphine pump. A tear works at the corner of my eye as I remember the last time they visited. My clairvoyant sight informed me I had many months before I would die. I feel no dignity in the wait.
    Jessica careens around the corner, pouring into the room with all the enthusiasm of the Niagara thundering over the falls, her mother’s words of caution lost in the tumult. She circles the room like a whirlpool, arms twirling in ever faster circles until she bumps into the bed and falls down in a pile of giggles.
    “Jessica! Stop fooling around. You know how to behave in the nursing home. You could hurt one of these old people if you knock into them. Merry Christmas, Jody. How are we feeling today?”
    “But Aunt Jody’s not old.”
    “Jessica, what do you say to your Aunt Jody?”
    “Merry Christmas, Aunt Jody. Why are those tubes sticking into you?”
    Her mother bends into the child’s face. “Jessica, you know what we talked about. Now behave yourself.”
    I find my voice. “I can’t eat solid food any more, so they feed me through the tubes. Merry Christmas to both of you. I’m glad you came.”
    “Why not, Aunt Jody?”
    “It’s fine. She can ask anything she wants; it’s fine. Jessica honey, have you ever been sick to your stomach?”
    “Uh huh.”
    “When they feed me through the arm like this, I don’t get sick to my stomach.”
    “What’s it taste like?”
    I turn my head toward my sister-in-law in her tailored suit, starched white blouse, freshly coiffed hair and precisely plucked eyebrows. “Doris, maybe you could leave Jessica with me for awhile. We have lots to talk about, don’t we, Jessica?”
    Jessica vigorously nods. “Yeah, Mommy. We want our special time alone. Just like always.”
    Doris checks her watch. “You have to give Aunt Jody her Christmas present.”
    Jessica breaks into a gapped grin. Her two top teeth, half emerged from pink gums, are upside down tablets large enough to contain five commandments each. Her bottom teeth have not yet risen.
    “Jessica, let me see your teeth.”
    She sashays over to the bed. “I got a gold dollar for each one, Aunt Jody. The tooth fairy took away my teeth in the middle of the night and left gold know, the one with the Indian on them...left them under my pillow. And this one...” She opens her mouth wide enough for me to inspect her tonsils, and points.
    “I got a dollar even though I swallowed the tooth when I ate an apple. It wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t put it under the pillow.”
    “No, not your fault at all.”
    She leans in close, peering back under her arm at her mother and whispers, “You know, I don’t believe in the tooth fairy, but I keep pretending I do.”

Part 2 continues next week
(The story originally appeared in the anthology, Not From Around Here, Are You?)


E. B. Davis said...

It was said that Anton Chekhov was editing his stories on his deathbed, Jim. No need for you to do the same.

Why do we hide the truth from children? I avoided masking truth from my kids because sooner or later I knew they'd know. I didn't want them to accuse me of lying. Nor did I want them to be kicked in the pants by strangers when the truth was revealed. The truth is kinder when told by those who love you.

Warren Bull said...

Sometimes I read my earlier work and cringe. Early in my career, I heard Susan McBride speak. She explained that there's no point in editing something that's already been published. The only exception I make is if something is accepted for reprint.

Pauline Alldred said...

The urge to edit what was published years ago is strong but futile in most cases. I'm just grateful I've learned and grown. Also, I think your earlier story probably seems worse to you than to anyone else.

Your story brings home to me situations I saw so often as an RN. I think it's sad that people so often die in institutions with people who've only known them when they were sick and not as young and healthy persons, full of life and not reminding anyone of death.

Kaye George said...

Jim, I'll admit that I wanted to red pencil the first few sentences, especially after your introduction, but after I got going, I wouldn't have changed a thing. The story grabbed me in the best way. Love the characters and the situation so far.

Jim Jackson said...

Thanks for everyone's comments. Warren, I think Susan McBride has it right with respect to where an author needs to spend his or her time.

My son had an English teacher who proclaimed that no piece was ever finished; the author finally decided to abandon it for something else.

So not to worry EB, I'll not be going back to old works to tweak them yet again once they've seen the light of day in publication -- unless there is some reprint opportunity.

Then I'll get Kaye to pull out her red pen and help me out.

Cheers all,

~ Jim