Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Secret Agent #32

TITLE: Surgical Wounds
GENRE: Memoir

The hour of my dinner is dependent on the timing of someone’s death. This thought, nebulous at first, explodes with abrupt clarity, right there in the foyer of the House of Hunan. It’s like when you stare at one of those pictures, and a bunch of blurred dots suddenly become a shape that you can’t believe you didn’t see right away. And once you see it, it can’t be unseen. When she dies, we can eat. I start to fidget, clutching the warm take-out bag close as the machine spits out my credit card receipt.

I’m certain the other patrons are eyeing me suspiciously. It seems the young cashier, her mouth pinched in a frown, knows my secret: if the woman on the 5th floor at the county hospital dies in the next five minutes, I can eat as soon as I get there. If she hangs on, clinging to her shredded and painful life a little longer, then I will have to wait. I try to pretend I am okay either way, but my stomach growls it’s own urgent opinion. I’m hungry, and I’m a horrible person, because essentially, I want to rush her inevitable demise.

The proper etiquette for this situation eludes me. Maybe we shouldn’t be eating at all? The woman is about to die. That part is certain. Her family will be called, and their lives altered forever. It seems so twisted that the only thing that will change for me is food: hot or cold.


  1. Beautiful first line! (I was going to say "killer" first line, but ... yeah.

    I would definitely keep reading.

    Good job!

  2. I like this a lot! The only thing I questioned was that if she needs to be at the hospital for the death, how was she able to leave and go to a restaurant for food? If she was able to leave the hospital, then taking a moment to eat shouldn't be a big deal? Perhaps some clarity on that would be good.

    Otherwise I like the flow and writing style . I would definitely read more.

  3. Great first line. This really makes me think about the other side of a hospital that most people wouldn't consider.
    I agree with PR on the timing of this person going to purchase food, otherwise, great job!

  4. I. Love. This. If I could vote for this, I would. I don't even know if I would change anything. I just hope you say what the relation is between the narrator and the dying woman soon, as in the next line after this excerpt. If I picked this up at a store, I'd go into a corner and keep reading.

    Good luck with it.

  5. Would absolutely read on. The combination of unlikable protagonist and relatable voices really makes this work.

  6. Intriguing! Chinese food and death are a great mix. Would definitely read further. Well written!

  7. I agree that this is an interesting dilemma, and I enjoyed the voice, but at the end I felt more frustrated than intrigued. Not knowing what the narrator is supposed to do for the dying woman, I couldn't grasp why dinner was contingent on the woman's death. The narrator says at least 5 times, "I can't eat until she dies," but why?

    I also shared the confusion about why the narrator had time to buy dinner but not eat it.

    If those things had been clear, I would have been hooked.

  8. I agree with the comments of Rebecca M. But I would read on because it is well written and different for a memoir. Is the MC a nurse?

  9. I'm hooked. It's well written and intriguing. Who, and what, is this person? I'd definitely read on. Good luck!

  10. Great opening. I thought "When she dies, we can eat," was the stronger line and maybe would make for a better first sentence.

    I did want to mention that the first time through I was confused and thought she was going to eat the woman who is dying. Then I saw it was a memoir and realized I must have misunderstood. While it's great to be subtle about backstory, you might want to be a little clearer on what she is going to eat. LOL.

  11. In case any were intrigued enough to return to these comments: in the next few paragraphs you find out that I (a young newlywed) am taking food to my husband, a surgical resident. We had many dinner dates at various hospitals while he was in training. No people were eaten. ; )

  12. Dear Author of 32. You make me laugh. I myself thought you were a nurse. Possibly purchased your dinner before coming on shift. I could relate to when you'd be allowed to eat.

    Great stuff and congrats on being picked by the secret agent.