Family Affair

Family Affair

Aging family physician and wife long for a child and achieve that in unexpected way


Flash fiction


Sam Newsome (United States)

Family Affair
Sam Newsome

This warm spring day was made for being outdoors. The afternoon rays of light played on the swing sets as an unseasonably warm breeze rustled the early foliage overhead. Doc sat on one of the well-used park benches as he watched an energetic young girl chase butterflies across the playground.
The idyllic scene is only momentarily interrupted when a young mother approaches pushing a stroller. Doc had occasionally seen the mother pushing the pram, but had never spoken. She took a seat on the bench and continued to gently rock the stroller as its cargo, an infant of about six months, continued to sleep. Several minutes passed and the mother commented to Doc. “Your grand daughter is lovely.”
Doc responded to be polite, even though he had a twinge of resentment at the interruption the moment. “Actually, that’s my daughter.”
The lady flushed and answered, “I’m sorry for my mistake. Its just that you seem, well, you seem a bit mature to have a young child.”
Doc sensed her embarrassment and decided to be conversational. “Yes, I suppose my gray hair and a few wrinkles make me a bit old, and I have been around a while, but that’s my daughter, all the same. After a moment of awkward silence, Doc had the unexplained impulse to explain.
“Sarah and I were never blessed with children. We always expected to have a family. We both worked hard to be able to support a house full of children. As our friends were busy with little league and ballet classes, we played the roles of good neighbors and relatives and waited. Finally, it seemed that time had passed us by. Sarah and I have led full lives and were both resigned to being an aunt and uncle rather than parents, but over time there was a lingering regret and a too many thoughts of what might have been.
“Sarah and I didn’t grow apart, but perhaps we allowed our lives to grow stale and even a little bitter. As many childless parents do, we showered attention on our pets. We were both especially fond of our cat. One morning I was returning from morning rounds at the hospital. For some reason that day I was dwelling too much on the direction our lives had taken. As I passed our drive on my way to the office I saw our tabby cat at the end of the drive. I looked closer as I passed and also saw a white cat smeared with blood that had become road kill.
“I didn’t want the poor cat’s body to stay on the edge of the road and I didn’t want our tabby cat to be around it or to also get run over, so I stopped to dispose of the body and shoo our pet back to the house before I went to the office.
“But I know I’m boring you on such a splendid day, and I seem to be prattling on.”
The young lady was now paying close attention and realized a story was coming, “No, Please continue, Ralphie’s sleeping and I’m enjoying the day as well.”
Doc continued his musing, “I parked the car in the drive and got out to retrieve the body and received the shock of my life. The bloody white body was not a cat at all. It was a newborn human infant. She was as pale as snow, smeared with blood, and abraded as though she had been thrown from a car with the umbilical cord was still attached.
“I was trembling as I picked up the lifeless body. She was totally limp, cold as ice and limp without a pulse. The rest of that morning is a blur. I carried the body wrapped inside my coat as raced my car to the office. My nurse Angie was as shocked as I to see the tiny body. As she called 911, I applied oxygen over the small mouth and nose as well as possible, hopelessly felt for a pulse and began cardiac compressions while Angie puffed small breaths of the oxygen into the newborn.
“We attached our oversized electrodes to the tiny limbs in a vain effort to find a heart beat. Nothing. Then an occasional blip occurred. Angie and I just looked at each other. We knew it was just a sign of a dying heart, but all the same it spurred us into activity.
We warmed the infant and I realized that the dehydrated infant needed desperately needed hydration. I pulled the smallest plastic tube I had from its metal stylus and cut a small segment from the end of the frayed umbilical cord to “freshen” the vessel’s end. Then, by some miracle I was able to thread the umbilical artery and start some fluid for the dead child.
“I could hear the whine of a siren in the distance and knew that help would be there in a few minutes, but seconds counted. IV fluids were started for badly needed hydration as we counted the compressions and breaths and watched the EKG monitor. We didn’t keep drugs on the premises, so we had done our best. As the seconds dragged past we saw a few more beats. They were erratic at first but gradually occurred with some regularity. The monitor climbed for twenty to forty and finally seemed to settle at sixty as the EMTs burst through the door. As they assumed the duties of cardiac compressions and breathing, Angie thought she noticed an eyelid flicker. The EMT announced by feeling the child’s groin, that he now felt a pulse!
“The hospital was called, and in another minute the EMTs were out the and on their way with the sirens wailing.
“Over the next few days we all followed the course of events. The mother could not be found and no one had a clue as to the origins of the infant discarded as easily as an empty beer bottle.
“In the Intensive Care Nursery, the neonate was expected to have severe post resuscitation problems, but surprised the pediatricians. Eventually the time arrived for hospital discharge. Adoptions were considered, but with the uncertain past history, and questions regarding the mother’s drug or alcohol use, few applications were received. Sarah and I watched and prayed that in spite of being told that our age made adoption impossible, God may yet have a plan for us.”
Doc stood to stretch and mobilize his arthritic joints that had rested a bit too long. After a moment he looked over at the playful child. “Tabatha, come over here, it’s time to go.” The youngster bounced over to Doc and grabbed his hand. “I’d like you to meet my new friend.” Doc turned to the young mother and her infant. “This is Tabby!”

Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1


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Review 1:

Compelling hook?


Strong characters?


Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • The protagonist didn’t always respond believably against the backdrop of the story. Ask yourself if people would really answer to a situation in that way. Think about whether the characters’ voices could be more convincing for their age, background, gender, time period, genre, gender and ethnicity. Dialogue should be natural and consistent throughout the story.
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The build-up was intriguing and I felt the tension mounting with each word.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Your strong opening was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
Hi! Your story was very interesting and moved along at a great pace. I enjoyed it very much. I'd like to point out that when describing the condition of the baby you used the word limp twice. Also, the ending felt a little anticlimactic. I was expecting a twist or surprise which I didn't get. Overall the quality of writing was great and tell story kept me interested. Thank you for the opportunity to read your work.