THE MIRACLE OF ST. JOHN • by Deborah Winter-Blood

The sculpture in the atrium of St. John’s Hospital was a nine-foot visual train wreck. It was tortured, and distorted and vague, and its nearly naked body was indecently muscular. Deirdre’s personal opinion was that dead saints shouldn’t sport six-pack abs and she assumed the clear acrylic sculpture represented St. John the Baptist, but she was by no means positive, not being Catholic or a fan of modern sculpture. It was meant to be comforting, she supposed.

Deirdre was not comforted.

The statue of St. John was the subject of local legend. Deirdre heard stories of unexplainable cures, of patients who prayed to or touched the statue and were healed. She wondered how anyone could stand the sight of it long enough to deliver a prayer at its transparent feet.

She sat alone in a lobby overlooking the atrium as unwanted thoughts raced through her head. Mastitis and fibroadenoma, ductal carcinoma and ulcerating axillary masses were words that Deirdre didn’t believe any woman with a mere Liberal Arts degree should ever have to learn, but here she was with a lump in her left breast and she had learned all those words in the three weeks it had taken to get an insurance referral. She had grown to hate Google during that interminable twenty-one days.

The young receptionist had given her an odd look when Deidre checked in. “Are you here alone, Mrs. Patton?”

“Yes,” Deirdre had answered, “I was told I wouldn’t need a ride. I hope that’s correct, because — ” Because why, Deirdre?

“You won’t need a ride,” the receptionist said. “You should be able to drive just fine.” She looked unconvinced.

Deirdre knew what the girl was thinking. Women who came into the center alone with mysterious breast lumps were probably rare. There was usually a mother, or a sister, or a friend, or a husband to provide moral support.

“My husband had to work,” Deirdre explained. “We own a trucking company and he couldn’t get away.” You’re babbling. Shut up.

“I see,” the receptionist responded. Of course she didn’t see at all, and, frankly, neither did Deirdre, but it was too late to fight that particular battle and it was one she was tired of fighting anyway.

Her son could have driven her if she had told him about the lump; it was probably nothing and she didn’t want him to worry. Besides, telling Justin would have led to the question of why his stepfather didn’t come with her. She knew how her son would answer that question: “Because he’s a dick.”

She was thankful when a nurse called her into the back for the procedure. It took her mind off events that were even more unpleasant than the biopsy itself.

It was almost four p.m. when Deirdre returned home. The two tiny sutures in her left breast were beginning to sting, but the procedure had been anti-climatic compared to the three weeks of waiting. She put a roast in the oven, checked the business voice messages and went to lie down while dinner cooked.

Her husband poked his head into the bedroom sometime later and woke Deirdre from a light doze. “How’d it go?”

She nodded against her pillow. “Okay. I’ll know in three days.”

“Friday?” he asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe not until Monday. You know how slow test results can be.”

There was a pause at the doorway, then: “Did you get the payroll tax report done for this month?”

It’s a trick question; be careful. She opened her eyes and struggled into a sitting position. A pain that thumped in time with her pulse had begun to beat in her left breast. “It’s not due until Friday.”

“So, you didn’t do it yet?”

Deirdre was already climbing off the bed.  She knew how this conversation was going to end.

“What if you don’t feel well enough to do it tomorrow?” he persisted.

Deirdre forced a smile as she walked past her husband. “I’ll do it now.” She ducked into the bathroom to wash her face.

When Friday evening came without a call from the surgeon, Deirdre steeled herself for a long weekend wait. I can do this, she told herself. What were three more days when the question of her life had been hanging over her head like a carcinogenic axe for almost four weeks? Justin made a rare appearance to have dinner with his parents and that was a comfort. Even though she hadn’t told her son about the lump, or the biopsy, or the sickening fear that had taken up residence in her stomach, just knowing he was looking through X-Men comics in the other room soothed her.

“Justin,” Deirdre called out from the kitchen, “do you want a salad?”

The landline chose that moment to ring and Deirdre was shocked to see St. John’s Hospital on the caller ID. If Justin answered her question about the salad, she didn’t hear him. She glanced quickly at the clock. Seven-eighteen. My god, seven-eighteen.

It was the surgeon who had performed the biopsy. “I didn’t want you to worry over the weekend,” he explained, “so I pushed the lab and waited for your results.”

After placing the phone back in the charger, Deirdre walked to the entrance of the living room. She stood there for a moment, staring at her son. “That was the doctor,” she told him.

Justin looked up from Wolverine. “What doctor?”

Her husband looked up from his laptop. “What did he say?”

Justin and his mother stared at each other across the room. We have identical eyes, she thought, and was glad. Without looking at her husband, Deirdre said calmly, “I’m getting a divorce.”

She didn’t hear what her husband said, or attempted to say. She only heard her son. “It’s about time, Mom.”

Deirdre smiled at him.


Deborah Winter-Blood is a writer, dog mom and displaced California Valley Girl. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications over the past 30 years. She’s recently completed her second novel.


Rate this story:
 average 5 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Skilfully written; loved the subtle ending.

  • Margie

    Deborah,

    I loved the title,the subtle hint of physical/emotional abuse, and I especially loved the ending. 5 HUGE well-deserved stars!

    Margie 🙂

    The 6-PK Saint wasn’t a bad image either. I’ll have pleasant dreams tonight. ;D

  • An exceptional read. From the very first sentence I was emotionally connected to the character and to the writing.

    The doctor givin Diedre an example of a compassionate man is a wonderful stroke. She should marry that doctor.

  • And obviously I can’t spell the character’s name. Sorry, Deirdre (you well-vowelled character)!

  • Is the fact that the doctor declared her well her cue to runaway from her husband and the shared business? Was she leeching off her husband the whole time because she wasn’t well enough to work? Since her son is grown shouldn’t she go now go back to school and find a full time job of her own, maybe in medical dictionaries which change and grow so often? Does she now intend to leech off her son who is an ingrate?

  • Pyx

    I wasn’t sure where the story was taking me but I enjoyed the destination.
    As I saw it, having realized how precious life is, she now refuses to waste any more of it with her lout of a husband.
    My only issue was, that having had a biopsy, I was given the result soon as I woke up. It is usually done that way so that if cancer is found the surgery is done instantly. But I can set that aside or accept that some hospitals might be different.
    Nicely done

  • J.C. Towler

    Really good story. Well written and and a great example of how you can have drama and tension without bullets and blood. The part with the payroll non-argument was excellent. I was gritting my teeth at the husband’s callousness. Just so many things to like here.

    –John

  • Cindy Lu

    I get it. Obviously, she didn’t have cancer. Her cure was to wake up and look at the boob she called a husband. I do think she should have touched the statue or asked for divine help.
    The sentence…of patients who prayed to or touched… was a little RUFF. And there were a few more sentences ending in prepositions that made my old-school training cringe. Three stars for content and meaning.

  • Wonderful story! You gave us much to read between the lines. A great job of “showing” not telling.

  • I made a commitment to myself recently along the lines of…. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

    I can’t find enough nice things to say about this piece.

    It’s well written, the emotion and voice of the main character are perfect for this story, and the self-realization she went through at the end is a brilliant punctuation to the whole piece.

    I like the way the writer pulled us into the statue and I expected the “miracle” to be there, but as it turns out, the miracle was something completely different.

    If I could give it 6 stars, I would.

    Mick

  • I have to add…

    The advertising for St John’s Wort that follows is a bit comical. The cyber age of content-based, target marketing.

    It makes me want to rewrite the Trojan Horse story.

  • Marilyn C

    Fantastic job of developing characters and telling a complete, emotionally-driven story in just a few words. Five stars!

    – Marilyn

  • 5 stars, easy.

  • Arthur

    I shadowed Deidre’s worry every step of the way; the end was a blessed release as she prepared to ditch that bastard’s indifference. Five stars.

  • A high five for Deidre – oh, and Deborah!

  • Val Phillips

    This story was wonderful! Exceptionally tight, well-written, beautiful language, fantastic and totally believable, uplifting ending. I agree that the presence of emotional abuse in the relationship was extremely well-done–very tight.

    I am in awe, and would also give 6 stars if I could! Way to go!

  • Jen

    That was really good. At first I was a little lost, trying to figure out why the results of the woman’s biopsy would cause her to leave her husband but through reading the comments I was easily avle to understand. I’m glad she left him and will be able to start a new life, hopefully with her son.
    The imagie of the St. John statue was beautiful by the way!

  • Douglas Campbell

    My only little quibble would be that I wasn’t entirely convinced of the husband’s callousness. Self-employment can be relentlessly demanding, so perhaps he really did need to be right on top of things. And he did ask her how it went.

    But this is otherwise absolutely first-rate storytelling!

  • Tyrean

    “It took her mind off events that were even more unpleasant than the biopsy itself.” is a pretty good indicator that her husband was very abusive.

    After knowing a few women who have gone through breast cancer with wonderful husbands by their sides, I thought the husband had to be pretty bad based on the sentence above, the fact that she had to get the roast in the oven for dinner, and that he wouldn’t let her rest even for an afternoon. Most women, married to decent guys, at least get take out or pizza for dinner on the night after an biopsy . . . or at least have someone give them a break for a few hours.
    Thank you for a well written story! You had so much packed into such a short space!

  • Ev

    What was said, observed and noted and what _wasn’t_ said, but left to be inferred gave this story incredible power–and the writing itself was wonderful too. I agree with all the rave reviews and would love to read more of your stories.

  • I’m absolutely overwhelmed. For a story of mine to receive such high praise from a group I know to be comprised of brilliant writers and discriminating readers is beyond rewarding. Thank you all very much for your kind words!

    – Debi

  • Melissa

    I love it!
    It wasn’t the ending I was expecting, but most certainly was a good ending! ;D

  • If you’ve been there,
    You know.
    Nice hook at the finish!!
    5 *****

  • This is a powerful story. I love that you wrote it with such precision you didn’t have to spell everything out. Thank you, Debi, sharing it.

  • If you don’t spell it out, it’s not in the story. I think everyone in the story was saying to her, “Keep active and don’t let everything go.” It turned out to be nothing, but she seemed inclined to let everything go anyway.

  • I take back part of what I said (25) above. She was not inclined to let everything go. She had a stoic attitude. It was the unwritten gremlins on her shoulder who would rather feel sorry for her than help to give her the strength to carry on. The son was a lout though.

  • J.M.

    I just want to echo the rave reviews for this story. It had me from the first line. Dierdre was a well-drawn and
    powerful character. I would love to read more of your
    work!

  • Rick

    I love to be surprised. Thank you.

  • Anne Marie

    Great story. From the very beginning when she didn’t even know which St. John was represented in the statue to the calm and surprising ending.

    Very good job.

  • Absolutely fantastic! Really expertly written. The first two paragraphs were a little strained, but after that it was fantastic throughout.
    I adored the repetition of unwanted medical phrases and the comment about coming to hate google. The way she projected her own concerns to create judgements from the receptionist was very delicate, but that ending…
    God, that ending!
    Anyone mind if I over-analyse?
    There are three people in the room. Her son looks up from Wolverine, husband looks up from laptop. The same “looked up” phrase, creating equality; almost as though it is a choice, which of course it is.
    “What doctor” and “What did he say?” perfectly encapsulates the different strands of interaction within the same family. Two very different responses to the same comment.
    And then the eyes connect.
    Dierdre answers neither question, nor does she respond to the words of the doctor, she responds instead to her son’s eyes.
    When she says “We have identical eyes,” I felt a really strong association with her, and a very physical sense of what was going on. And then she answers neither question, although “I’m getting a divorce” is answer to everything.
    Masterful story-telling.

  • laura

    hey, i liked this story. good themes intertwined (jerk husband, breast cancer, a saint). i would have liked to see the link to the saint? you introduced the saint/statue then dropped it; i think it would be a good one to pursue. the husband was loud and clear as a jerk; good work on his character being portrayed by action. and the kid was just in the place he needed to be to act in the future with her news at the end. grammatically, i would suggest limiting the use of the verb “to be”. there were a lot of past tense “was” and “were”. you are skilled enough in writing to limit those. thanks for the fun read.

  • Pingback: Another Bloody story on Every Day Fiction « Deborah Winter-Blood()

  • Melanie

    awesome job! Having been in her shoes as far as waiting for results I could really connect with her.

  • This made me want to cheer.

  • Andy Fletcher

    This is a story of strength. Thank you, Deborah for compelling me to read and get into Deirdre’s survival. Great story.

  • Jo-anne Fideles

    wow, this is really great!

  • Diane

    Debi, I loved the contrast of the jerk husband asking her if the payroll had been done as opposed to the doctor, who stayed late waiting for test results in hopes that he could spare her a whole weekend of worry. Very well written. The emotion was subtle, but very present. It was like at the end she “called in well.” I look forward to reading more stories.