The Viewing Room
Publication Year: 2013
Jacquelin Gorman lays bare nine parallel worlds of suffering in stories of unflinching detail, vividly told with heart, guts, and compassion. In these pages, the children are both murderers and victims, and the adults fare no better: a teenage father shakes his screaming baby to death; high school surfers kill the homeless for sport as a way of cleaning up their beaches; a Muslim basketball player readies her best friend for burial with a sacred ritual that reveals forbidden love; a scorned ex-wife leaves a message in permanent ink on the body of her betrayer; and a pet therapy dog’s unconditional love for a decaying body memorializes the spirit within.
This moving and unsettling collection of stories shines a piercing light on the dark corners of our modern world, illuminating necessary truths that convey a clearer and, undoubtedly, greater vision of humanity.
Published by: University of Georgia Press
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First, I owe a great debt of gratitude to the magnifi cent Flannery O’Connor for being absolutely fearless in every aspect of her life. The editorial staff at University of Georgia Press are worthy preserv-ers of her legacy. Thank you, Nancy Zafris, Jane Kobres, and Sydney DuPre for your invaluable assistance in getting these stories into the ...
The Viewing Room: APRIL
In every large urban hospital, there is a viewing room, designated for family and friends to look upon the dead one more time. The viewing room is the same size and shape as the other patient rooms, with one notable excep-tion. There is no window to the outside world. This is a room with an inte-rior view toward its center, where the body lies on a hospital bed, at a raised ...
THE LAW OF LOOKING OUT FOR ONE ANOTHER
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Henrietta was fi fteen minutes late for her fi rst all- night shift alone as the hospital chaplain. In another fi fteen minutes, the Spiritual Care Department chair would be notifi ed and she could lose her privilege to be on the on- call list. She had been training for this job for three months, shadowing the staff , learning to handle all sorts of emer-...
The Viewing Room: MAY
The entrance doors to the hospital’s viewing room do not carry warning signs for those about to bear witness to the unbearable. There is no prepa-ration for the sight of the freshly dead body of a loved one last seen alive. All other senses fade into the background of the present moment, may even disappear from memory altogether. They might forget the salty taste ...
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It was late on Sunday night, Mother’s Day, a day that had already seemed endless, when Henrietta, the chaplain on call for the hos-pital, received an urgent page to come to the patient in Room 204, who had requested spiritual support. Birdie, an elderly Pima Indian woman in the end stages of diabetic kidney failure, took up both of ...
The Viewing Room: JUNE
There is no privacy in the viewing room. A video camera records everything. The fi lm would make an unappealing reality show, given its steadfast re-fusal to change the scenery. And most of the moments in here are predict-able and grimly mundane. But there are shocks—remarkable moments—not always tragic but nevertheless unforgettable. It is impossible to imagine ...
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...“I’ll take the ex-wife, and you take the girlfriend,” Maurice whis-pered. “I have seniority and I get fi rst pick. Whatever we do, we can’t let them meet anywhere in this hospital and have words. Is that Henrietta didn’t answer. She was staring at Maurice’s salad bowl as he ladled out beets on top of his cottage cheese, instantly turn-...
The Viewing Room: JULY
People rarely close their eyes or even blink when they are in the viewing room, as if the intensity of their stares will make the body move. Their se-cret fantasy is that the body will rise up and start to walk and talk and get back to ordinary business, like Lazarus. The trouble with all those Bible sto-ries is not necessarily that people take them seriously and literally, but that ...
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...stranger’s voice. Still, she wasn’t prepared for the news- anchor qual-ity of this woman’s tone, trained to deliver messages of personal “Ms. Green, I’m a social worker at ucla Medical Center. I’m so sorry to tell you this. Your mother was found unconscious at the Rescue Mission and brought here by ambulance. She is . . . well, ...
The Viewing Room: AUGUST
Age has no bearing in the viewing room. No matter how old and grown up, every person pays the price of a child’s admission ticket. They come here with hearts and minds and souls as unformed and pliable as play dough. Their emotions, thoughts, and spirits are wide open to changing shape for the rest of their lives. Everyone’s faith is at high risk of devastation in the ...
THE PROBLEM OUTSIDE
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It was a hot, muggy day with the stifl ing kind of heat one would expect in Manhattan, New York, but not in Manhattan Beach, Cali-fornia. The heat started the morning slowly like a transient, loiter-ing outside the etched- glass seashell- motif double doors of the ex-clusive boutique hotel Sea Star. The blast of scorched air shocked ...
The Viewing Room: SEPTEMBER
There are as many views of death as the people who come here to view it. When death is pronounced inside a hospital, the number of viewers mul-tiplies. When that hospital is located in Los Angeles, where thousands of cultures and races and religions intersect, the viewing room is a cauldron of multifaith ritual and ceremony. Time is elastic in this room. Five minutes ...
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The sound of his hospital pager shaking his nightstand stirred him from sleep. He waited a few minutes before looking at the message. He had this uneasy feeling in his chest, as if the air was going in one direction, out of his lungs but not back in, no matter how many calm breaths he tried to take. He knew it was the anniversary re-...
The Viewing Room: OCTOBER
The chaplain must keep careful watch over visitors to ensure that the corpse remains intact and unaffected by its brief stay here. But this requires con-stant vigilance, open- eyed prayers, and quick defl ective actions, because mourners have uncontrollable impulses in the viewing room. Remarkable acts may occur the moment a head is bowed. Many are determined to take ...
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Ellie could see the Grim Reaper from the parking lot, but she was not going to give him the time of day. She lowered her head and shoving the ghastly image, both hands pressing against his black torso, so she could get inside. Someone with considerable talent for three- dimensional art had painted the glass door with the clas-...
The Viewing Room: NOVEMBER
Almost all major faith traditions have easily accommodated the secular holiday of Thanksgiving. Yet the everyday practice of giving thanks for one’s blessings requires concerted effort. Gratitude, like compassion, is a diffi -cult exercise in spiritual discipline, growing in power only when practiced steadily and deliberately over the years. Children must be reminded over ...
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Some people view life as a gift, and some people view life as an en-titlement. But Ellie knew she was diff erent. She viewed life as a short- term bridge loan, and she was always behind on the payments. She was aware that at any moment the collateral could be repossessed. When anything bad happened to her, she asked not why me but why ...
The Viewing Room: DECEMBER
What is the right way to face the end of life? Some ways appear more cou-rageous, more effi cient, or simply not as gruesome as some others. But could there possibly be a perfect way to die? And if so, why does it matter?In most cases, the circumstances of our death will not be within our control, no matter how carefully we write the end- of-life instructions, re-...
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...“We’ve got to stop meeting like this, you know,” Maurice said, as “No,” he said. “Got an urgent text on my cell to meet someone “Me, too,” she said. “I stopped signing up for the night shift a few weeks ago. My year rotation is almost up. Can you believe that? But was not decorated for Christmas. She gasped when she saw that the ...
Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction