Excerpt from In A Chamber of My Heart – 1996
Lawdy, the noise in here is almost worse than anything. Someone dropped another tray on the floor, and the staff never stops yelling to each other down the hall. Well, now I’m lying to myself. Nothing’s worse than the pain or even how it itches inside the cut on my stomach. Abdominal incision the doctors call it when they come poke. Opened me up, closed me up. Seems they could have known there was nothing for it without all this. But their drugs work okay, and Demerol’s my favorite word these days. I could use some now.
“Here’s your lunch tray, ma’am.”
He’s rattling his cart on down the hall before I can tell him not to leave it. The Demerol makes me slow. Cheap deli meat, too much mustard, a hard slice of cantaloupe on a lettuce leaf—I can tell from the smells what’s under the plate cover. I wouldn’t eat that on a day I wasn’t sick in my stomach.
“Excuse me, ma’am.”
So much ma’aming. I don’t seem to have a name anymore. But she’s waiting for me to answer and hasn’t walked in my room like it’s a broom closet and I’m the broom. Whoever she is, I’m disposed in her favor.
“Come on in. And who are you?”
“Ma’am. I’m a volunteer for the County Historical Society. We want to put together a book of oral histories from long-term residents of the area. Your chart says you were born here. Is that correct?”
Everyone seems allowed to read my chart except me. But she seems nice enough.
Sandra Gail Lambert writes memoir and fiction. Her writing has been published in New Letters, Brevity,The Weekly Rumpus, Water~Stone Review, the North American Review, Arts & Letters, Hippocampus, the Alaska Quarterly Review, and a variety of anthologies. Her work has received nominations for a Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net. Excerpts from her novel,The River’s Memory (Twisted Road/2014), have won prizes from Big Fiction Magazine and the Saints and Sinners Short Fiction Contest. Sandra lives with her partner in Gainesville, Florida—a home base for trips to her beloved rivers and marshes.
Sarah Einstein is the author of Mot: A Memoir (University of Georgia Press 2015), Remnants of Passion (Shebooks 2014). Her essays and short stories have appeared in The Sun, Ninth Letter, PANK and other journals. Her work has been awarded a Pushcart Prize, a Best of the Net, and the AWP Prize in Creative Nonfiction. She is also the prose editor for Stirring: A Literary Collective and the special projects editor for Brevity Magazine. She is a professor of creative writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.