‘Four Minutes Dead’ – an excerpt from my first short story

I’ve decided to take the plunge and put an excerpt from a short story I’ve written on my blog. Yep. It’s scary. It’s the first one I’ve written and I wrote it a year ago. It’s still not finished, as in some of it’s in a shitty first (more like 16th) draft state. I figured if I shared it in sections it would motivate me to get the rest of it edited. Plus, I can pretend I’m an author in the Dickensian era. Did you know that Dickens published his stories in segments originally?

All of Dickens major novels were published serially, in monthly (or weekly) installments. A full length novel was out of the price range of most of his readers ( a novel cost 31 shillings in 1836, average worker earned 6 to 20 shillings per week) but a monthly installment, 32 pages with 2 illustrations and advertisements, could be sold for a shilling.

David Perdue, taken from his Charles Dickens website found here.

If you feel like commenting, perhaps you might like to guess what will happen…

So here it is (be kind):


They are frantic. Hurrying about like bees in a hive. Seemingly chaotic, undirected, helpless. In fact; they know what they’re doing and have been trained to do it. I move back as one of them, a stout nurse, rushes past and calls loudly.

“Crash trolley!”

I go unnoticed in all the commotion. My feet are rooted to the spot and I am staring. I don’t feel able to assist. This isn’t my ward and each has a team that functions well together. We all have uniforms. We play our parts and know our place. The reason for my presence here… Well, I forget. It doesn’t matter. Several others enter hurriedly, including a registrar and a senior nurse.

“No pulse.”

“Start chest compressions!”

I move to pull back the covers but the nurse next to me throws them towards his feet and begins to pump his heart. I step back to give her room and prepare to take over when she tires. She is young and slender with dark brown hair tied back into a loose ponytail. I glance beyond her and observe the recipient of all this commotion. It was a young man who, from the look of things, was hit by a moving vehicle. His dark hair is flat against his scalp, stained red and askew. He looks about my age.

“One minute!” the senior nurse calls out, a memorable voice that accuses her of smoking forty a day. It has been one minute since his heart abdicated responsibility for preserving his life. The distinct stench of sweat that comes from a body in distress blends with the fresh yet odorous scent of the nurse’s exertion. This usually accentuates the stress and adrenaline surge but now, it forms a distant cloud that hovers over me and I am suddenly aware of my steady heart rate, my sense of calm. I guess I’ve been here before, many times. But I’m never this… impenetrable.

“Excuse me madam, I’m sorry, but it’s probably best if you wait just outside.” The senior nurse has just swept past me and is ushering a woman from the room. The woman allows herself to be led out, like the blind, but takes one last glance back.

The action blurs and all I can see is her. Faye. The memory of her faintly flushed cheeks, the wisps of blonde across her forehead, her guarded yet lively green eyes. All at once I instruct my feet to follow, then stay put. My indecision keeps me rooted to the spot. I turn to look at the patient as they prepare to shock his heart. She must be a family member, or a friend perhaps. Was this her brother?

I should be frantic too. I am standing here doing nothing. Nothing for Faye, nothing for the patient. A peace has swamped my mind leaving no room for concern. I guess that makes me quietly confident in my colleagues. Or naive. Or something else entirely.



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