Beginning at the End
The chill spring wind raced through the morning, grabbing a hold of Nicole‟s dark, curly
hair, making it stand on end as it were desperately trying to escape the confines of her scalp. Had
the thought occurred to her and she‟d been in the mood, she would have laughed out loud. As it
was she was in no mood to laugh and the idea didn‟t cross her mind. Instead she was standing
on the metal guard of the foot bridge that spanned the river, desperately racking her brain for a
reason why she shouldn‟t do what she had gotten up there to do.
Nicole had bad days before but this was now the undisputed champ. Less then twenty-
four hours ago she had been at work, minding her own business when her phone rang.
“Nicole Duffeck.” She answered distractedly.
“Hello, is this Nicole Duffeck?” A polite, professional voice inquired from the other end.
Nicole tried to suppress a sigh but was only partially successful. “Yes.” She answered.
“Hello Nicole, my name is Dr. Amelia Lanhor; I‟m one of the attending physicians at the
Milwaukee Veteran‟s Hospital.” The voice had gotten a little gentler since it realized it had
reached it‟s intended recipient, however the warmth in her voice did nothing to stave off the chill
that suddenly found it‟s way into the pit of Nicole‟s stomach. “Mmhmm.” Nicole managed to
supply, the shuffling of the files on her desk entirely forgotten.
“As you know you‟re father has been receiving treatments at the hospital for his
“How is he?” Nicole cut in, oblivious to the fact that in most conventional situations that
would be considered rude.
Following Nicole‟s lead, the voice stopped being overly polite and warm and decided to
cut to the chase. “In the best of circumstances the radiation and chemo treatments are trying.
Unfortunately your father was not in the greatest physical shape…” a strange buzzing noise filled
Nicole‟s ears, which would account for her thinking she misheard the voice. “I‟m sorry.” The voice
“My Dad can‟t be dead. He‟s in the hospital, there are doctors and nurses and
“The heart attack was very sudden and very strong. He passed away almost instantly.”
Nicole tried to say something that would change the facts; that would make the doctor admit that
there may have been some mistake and that her father may yet be alive. “He can‟t be dead.”
Nicole said softly. “I saw him two days ago; he didn‟t look like he was going to die…” She let her
voice trail off. He didn‟t look healthy. He looked tired, gray and stick-thin.
The good doctor‟s voice continued on; sensing that Nicole had started to grasp the futility
of arguing with a doctor about weather someone was alive or not.
“Thank you, but I have to go now.” Nicole said rather lamely. Not waiting for the voice to
respond Nicole returned the phone back to its cradle and marched numbly over to her
supervisor‟s desk. Without waiting for her to look up Nicole blurted “Kris, my Dad just died; I think
I should go home.”
By the time the words had registered in Kris‟s brain Nicole was already heading back to
her desk. She couldn‟t bear to have to explain, not when she still desperately needed to hear that
it wasn‟t true.
Normally, walking out of the building and through the parking ramp without remembering
having done so would have scared the life out of Nicole. Today however she not only didn‟t
remember leaving the building, she didn‟t remember much more of the thirty-minute drive home
then about five minutes worth. One resounding thought kept crashing into reality, clouding
everything else around her so she could focus on nothing else. Dad‟s dead. I just saw him last
week and he looked fine. Skinny and tired but fine; He had been eating Jell-O. Oh God, Dad‟s
dead. After this thought ran through her mind her brain seemed to disengage again. Perhaps too
over stimulated to function it collapsed in on itself.
After the abyss of the drive home Nicole pulled into the parking lot of her apartment
complex. A momentary flicker of something sprung up in her mind when she noticed that her
husband‟s car was in its parking space--he should have been at work. But the thought was
drowned by a sudden and terrifyingly powerful need to see him. She needed to put her head on
his shoulder, to bury her face in his smell and hear him tell her over and over that it was going to
be ok, that he‟d make it ok.