Author Topic: Pseudopod 419: Nurse  (Read 4826 times)


  • Pseudopod Tiger
  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 5891
  • Mmm. Tiger.
on: January 05, 2015, 06:28:25 AM
Pseudopod 419: Nurse

by Thomas Kearnes

“Nurse” first appeared in the now-defunct print magazine Wicked Hollow and was featured in the horror anthology TRUE DARK.

Thomas Kearnes is a 37-year-old author living in Houston, where he’s studying to become a licensed chemical dependency counselor. He has been published mainly in literary magazines, but writes horror on occasion. He has two collections of literary fiction available – PRETEND I’M NOT HERE from Musa Publishing and PROMISCUOUS from JMS Books.

Your reader – Christiana Ellis – appeared on Pseudopod recently reading Prince Of Flowers.

“Helen has been in the bathroom for fifteen minutes. Her limit is ten. She knows this. I have the contract in my purse, next to her caddy of anti-depressants and stabilizers. I will show it to her once she returns and say, ‘What did we agree upon last month? I know you like this restaurant, but if I can’t trust you here, we can’t come anymore. Do you understand?’

I watch for other women to leave the restroom, to catch the clues not even an accomplished talent like Helen can hide. Older women, their faces pinched sour with disgust and the younger ones, especially in the summer, who bolt from the room with whispers and backward glances. Poor Helen. Like most unfortunates in her position, her hard, impenetrable blindness prevents her from knowing the effect she has on others. In some ways, I prefer our afternoons or mornings in public to the interminable days in which her paranoia keeps us trapped in her home. Aided by the indulgence of others, I can trace her movements and perform my duties more easily.

I check my watch. Twenty minutes. No doubt Helen would implore me in her singsong voice, pale blue eyes darting like goldfish, that time had escaped her. This is nonsense. Those afflicted with her condition, in addition to her myriad other difficulties, have few skills, but they do possess an inborn awareness of where they are in time. This knowledge they rarely apply to their own betterment, but it is a unique gift, a grain of sand’s awareness of where the tide will next fall.

Helen’s salad sits rearranged, uneaten. One of my coworkers once joked she couldn’t understand these women who regurgitated their meals yet never ate them. What were they vomiting? You can tell from this ignorance my coworker is a poor nurse. For unfortunates like Helen, eating, like most intimate activities, was something she only could do alone. Perhaps that is what was taking so long. I believe she was at the point in her illness where she took a perverse pride in the fact she could continue her behavior without anyone trying to stop her. After all, if one makes it her mission to destroy another, someone usually will step in, but if one decides to destroy herself, most will just step aside.”

Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #1 on: January 07, 2015, 08:00:56 PM
Ooh. This one was great. I love how this story explored that sometimes beautiful, sometimes caustic space in between the caretaker and the cared-for. As someone who is a teacher and has spent some time helping friends through physical and emotional illnesses, I totally get how it's possible to give into that kind of awful spite. This story didn't pull any punches.

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.

Chairman Goodchild

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 159
Reply #2 on: January 08, 2015, 12:55:24 PM
My mother worked as a nurse's aide in a nursing home for over 15 years.  That job requires one to build armor and defenses against the kind of horrors that often take place routinely in that kind of a situation. 

I visited her often enough at her work to see the kinds of things people go thru at the end of their lives.  And she'd tell stories, too.  Not supposed to do that, but she really needed to vent from time to time, and believe me, the kind of people that caused her the most problems were past caring.  Or knowing.  And tended to speak entirely in vowels. 

Seeing that was very sobering as a teenager, and believe me, had an unsettling affect on me.  That's not a bad thing, either. 


  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 166
Reply #3 on: January 08, 2015, 09:03:42 PM
This is the kind of horror that stays under the skin, since it's so close to real life as to not be that different.  I've had a relative who was a nurse that broke her back in her job, which happens often in nursing.  I also know parents of special needs kids, and the difficulty of doing so.  It is one of the hardest jobs to care take for others, and can one of the most depressing, but also one of the most rewarding.  I somewhat feel for the nurse in this story, but I also know caretakers who don't let the regular hard work and pain get to them this far, without taking a breather or asking for help.

I prefer my horror to be fantastical, as real life offers more mundane but far more painful horrors beyond the shocking monsters or weird deaths and tortures that some horror stories offer.  I like horror I know can't happen or most likely won't happen.  But, I liked this story and it was pretty disturbing.  There are so many silent horrors that go on without our knowing on a daily basis, behind closed doors and away from regular lives, and this one rang truer than others.


  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #4 on: January 12, 2015, 06:24:46 PM
I hated it.

It was well written, for certain, and certainly felt real.  By a few minutes into the story I wanted to give myself a brain-bath to get the feel of this noxious POV out of my brain.  So, uh, I guess it was successful at what it was trying to do?

For me more troubling than her plan to murder her patient or that the patient beat her to it in suicide, but in all the little details. 

She is certain from the parent's briefing that they're not so concerned about suicide as they are about suicide IN PUBLIC.  They do not state this, it is something she knows from long experience... but is that experience correct?  Are they actually so uncaring about their daughter that their only concern is being embarrassed by her death?  Or is that just the nurse projecting her own feelings? 

Probably the most troubling to me, despite its relative unimportance, is her insistence on wearing her coat open so that everyone in public can see her scrubs and will never mistake even for a moment that she is a mother to the girl (never mind that my own mother was a nurse, and if we had to go somewhere after she got off work she would naturally still be wearing scrubs, so it doesn't really send the message she thinks it does IMO).  If the girl's parents really are so uncaring, I'm sure she realizes this and I'm sure this hasn't helped her state of mind.  And her caretaker takes this small step to be sure that no one could mistake the girl for being just a "normal" person out to the store with her family. 


  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 52
Reply #5 on: January 22, 2015, 01:05:34 AM
This one really hit me. I have many friends who are nurses, and they're genuinely caring people, even though they do become frustrated or angry (with patients, patients' families, doctors, bureaucracy, etc.). They have a near-superhuman ability to hold it all together, so the title character's barely contained disdain and contempt for Helen is a scary counterpoint to the real people I know.

I also think of a family member, who relies on nurses and health aides to manage from day to day. These people have taken excellent care of him, but I know he's a difficult, needy patient. I have to wonder how many caretakers have fantasized about dispatching him, or considered simply walking away.


  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 30
  • Author "The Flesh Sutra", 2015 Stoker Prelim Nom
    • To Smother In Orderr To Sell The Body To Science
Reply #6 on: January 23, 2015, 01:16:42 AM
Thanks for this, Pseudopod!
There have been a lot of fantastical stories lately. They're okay, but for me they don't chill or disturb.
This is a nice change of pace.
The reader was excellent, too.


  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 100
Reply #7 on: January 27, 2015, 09:20:49 PM
This built a little slower than I like and I was having problems staying interested about halfway through.  Nevertheless, the writing was solid and the premise was plenty interesting, maybe I needed more caffeine.

The man is clear in his mind, but his soul is mad.