Death of a Stranger by Joni Caggiano

The abstract painting of a skeletal face
Image Source: Canva

Hearing the rush of nurses heading toward the ICU, I followed the herd.  My youthful intuition was kicking in as an eerie sense of suffocation and dread encircled me.  I suddenly felt like a child waking from a nightmare. 

I was already on edge since yesterday having been informed that three nurses were raped in the hospital parking lot after their varied shifts. Holding a knife to their throats, the perpetrator had threatened to kill them if even a whisper escaped their trembling lips.  They were viciously raped and beaten.  It took the hospital a month to share this horrifying news. The hospital’s splendid plan, already a month too late, was hiring a security officer to accompany all nurses to their cars at the end of their shifts.  Truthfully, the administration simply didn’t want the damaging news publicized. 

Opening the white ICU door, I was struck by the nauseating industrial-strength cleaner singeing the cilia in my nose. I saw three nurses, shoulder to shoulder, talking amongst themselves, hiding a gurney.  All I could see were a pair of large black boots hanging off the end of the gurney.  I acknowledged the ICU head nurse.  Quietly I asked, “Why all the commotion?”

My brain was still striving to absorb her answer as my mouth started to fill with my partially digested lunch, a taco.  I swallowed my vomit as this unqualified human admitted she was adopting the role of executioner. 

Lying within my view, entirely clothed, was a beautiful young man.  His Harley shirt slightly opened at the top revealing a jungle of black chest hair.  No IV, no hospital gown, and not even a blanket was present.  I stared into his sparkling cobalt eyes as his dazzling smile engulfed me.  “You sure are pretty, Katy,” he said, clearly reading my name tag.  The stench of alcohol was more pungent than the smell of that overpowering cleaner.

He was drunk and enjoying being the center of attention.  Then I noticed a squirt of red blood smaller than the width of a drinking straw, life-sustaining fluid, rising and falling with each heartbeat. It reminded me of a low-pressure birdbath.  His color was normal, he was cognizant, neuro-signs perfect, yet no pressure dressing was present.  He continued flirting like a horny college student.

“Why aren’t you trying to put pressure on the bleed until the on-call team arrives?” I whispered to the head nurse while trying to find some sterile 4” x  4” s.

“I’m not about to piss off a doctor for a kid that obviously has an arterial bleed and can’t possibly make it,” the head nurse quipped.  “Furthermore, you are not the charge nurse here, it is my call, and I want you out of my ICU.  It is too late for this twenty-year-old.”

Walking out to report for my Med-Surgical shift, I knew I would not win this fight.  My mind was wandering.  I had witnessed one too many unnecessary deaths.  Now working in complete silence, the ticking of the large white clock was like drops of screaming blood.

I knew the real issue—an indecisive nurse who was more concerned about upsetting a doctor than saving a man’s life.

Strolling to my car that evening, I knew I would spend the rest of the night looking for another job.   “How does one sleep while dragging the weight of yet another unwarranted death?” I was uttering the words out loud.

Distracted while looking for my keys, I had forgotten to get the security officer to walk me to my car.  The slice was swift, and I barely felt it upon my thin neck.  The next thing I knew, I was falling, hitting the ground, looking up at the same ICU charge nurse. Her malicious grin and vicious words cut me even deeper.

“I’ll just pin this on the guy they’re looking for. How about…He missed the Carotid artery, but there is still no time to call the doctors. A shame really, she was a busy body, but a fairly competent nurse.”

-JONI CAGGIANO

Joni’s blog is Rum and Robots, where she has published poetry, photography, and short stories. Take a look at Joni’s work in Spillwords Press NYC, Vita Brevis Press, The Finest Example, The Tiny Seed Literary Journal, I Write Her – The Short of it, and MasticadoresUSA. Joni’s work was included in the following anthologies: The Sound of Brilliance (The Short of It Publishing, Volume 1 2020), Inner Eye (Poets Choice, 2021), and It’s Not Easy (Poets Choice 2021). Her blog is an effort to give back – she is a surviving Adult Child of Alcoholics. Joni is a retired nurse and paralegal.

You can also read her writing on Instagram @jonicaggiano and Twitter @theinnerchild1.

We would love to read your work. Interested? Please READ our SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.

-MASTICADORESINDIA

26 Comments Add yours

  1. kenhume31 says:

    Brilliant story Joni with an excellent & surprising twist! 😁😁👌👌👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jonicaggiano says:

      Thank you Ken I appreciate your reading my stories, I know how precious everyone’s time is, so thanks again. Hope you have a great week. Hugs, Joni

      Like

      1. kenhume31 says:

        You’re welcome Joni, I always enjoy reading your material! 📖😁👍❤️

        Like

        1. jonicaggiano says:

          Thank you Ken, that is very kind of you.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. michnavs says:

    Oh, i didnt expect the twist Joni..you are a brilliant story teller

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jonicaggiano says:

      Thank you so much Mich, it is very kind of you to read my work. What a wonderful compliment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well crafted and horrifying. Sadly, there is a real life lesson there. Your short stories always pull me in and never disappoint! Much love, Karima

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jonicaggiano says:

      Hello dear Karima, thank you so much for your very kind words. You are right there was a lesson in this story. The young man in this story did indeed die. Doctors are not gods, they are humans and understand the value of a hard working nurse. Nurses are usually the front line workers if not the paramedics. I worked a lot as a contract nurse and saw all kinds of things I still wish I could unsee. Much love to you too, my friend. Joni

      Liked by 1 person

  4. bobro87 says:

    As always, I couldn’t wait to see what happened next! The ending made me gasp! Great story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jonicaggiano says:

      Hi Jill, hope you are doing well. We have been back three weeks now. I will call you soon, thank you so much for reading my friend. Hope all the family is well. Big hugs and love to the family. Love Joni

      Like

  5. Oh yes, you could write the book from your experiences inside. Sorry for short comment, still battling Covid, but am better….. just tired. Much love ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jonicaggiano says:

      I wanted to ask some people are funny about it though. I am sorry to hear that but there are many people I follow who have been sick with this new variant BA.5. All the pokes don’t help. Both of us are still trying to get our strength back. You take care sweetie. Sending love ❤️

      Like

      1. Thank you big hugs Joni

        Liked by 1 person

        1. jonicaggiano says:

          🦋❤️🥰🙏🤗

          Like

  6. Brilliant Joni! A great suspense and a fabulous ending! Loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jonicaggiano says:

    Thank you Francis for reading and your kind comment. I am so glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks again and sending love to you both. Big hugs, Joni

    Like

  8. Cassa Bassa says:

    Oh you got me in the end, suspenseful indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jonicaggiano says:

      Thank you Cassa so much for reading and I am glad you liked the surprise ending. Sending you hugs and love my friend.

      Like

    1. jonicaggiano says:

      Thank you so much Don. Big hugs, Joni

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Terveen Gill says:

    Joni is a storyteller who catches the reader’s pulse from the very first line. This story makes one shudder at the thought of how much life is a gamble. And those who are supposed to save can be the worst enemy. A well written and brave depiction of the horrors hidden behind supposedly safe doors. Horrifying!
    Congratulations Joni!

    Like

    1. jonicaggiano says:

      Thank you Terveen for the very gracious comment. I am so grateful to be part of the team at MasticadoresIndia and blessed to have you as my mentor. Blessings, Joni

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh wow…..I was not expecting that. I kept thinking something different was happening all around. Argh. Well told, beautiful Joni. I’m never ever going to the hospital again!!! You just never know….do You? 🤣❤️😊 Huge hugs and Congratulations!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jonicaggiano says:

      Hello beautiful Katydid. I think Doctors are a lot more respectful of nurses and nurses are not as afraid of doctors as they use to be. I thank the world of nurses and doctors for all they do, but people have to be willing to make a statement and stand up when something looks off. Let’s both try and stay out of the hospital my dear friend! Sending you a ton of hugs and lots of love, Thank you so much for your sweet comment, love ya Joni

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s