What The Nurse Said – An Illustrated Short Story



What She Did – Chapter One

Yes, she had to stay at her brother’s apartment Ruth told their mom.  Yes, she knew that meant mom would have to find someone else to let the dog out to go pee during the day, but she still needed to stay over there.

Ruth made a list of things she needed to do before she got there and another list of things to do after she arrived. The final thing on the first list was to pick her brother up at the rehab place. The first thing on the second list was to recheck his apartment one more time for any alcohol.  She found none.

She cooked dinner for her brother, who was uncommunicative and surly.  They watched TV until late then he went to bed.  She wasn’t comfortable going to sleep until she was pretty sure he was out for the night.  She finally faded off around 4am, sleeping on a fold-out couch in her underwear.

What the Fire Did – Chapter Two

She was aroused from a dead sleep by the smell of smoke.  She immediately started coughing and her eyes started burning. She couldn’t see. She yelled for her brother but got no response.  She crawled to his door with her t-shirt over her mouth, trying to breathe.  She touched the doorknob and it burnt the palm of her hand.  She called for him again but got no response.  She crawled back towards the front door and opened it. She got up and ran down the stairs out onto the lawn.

Ruth was in pain, her legs felt hot and she smelled burning flesh.  She saw a TV news truck,  an ambulance, a cop car and a bunch of people hanging around, many pointing at her. She collapsed in front of the ambulance just as a paramedic was coming towards her.  They were able to get her on one of those rolling beds they use and started to investigate what her injuries were.  She was able to look back at the apartment for a brief moment and saw 3 buildings burning, including the middle one she had run out of.

She was whisked off to the hospital where she found out her legs had been pretty badly burned.  She was exhausted and pretty much passed out once she got out of the ER and into the ICU. She was awakened again and again for various reasons but it was all a blur.

What The Nurse and Doctor Did – Chapter Three

When she awoke the next morning she was jolted by seeing the massive bandages on her legs. She felt like the world started spinning as she realized where she was and what had happened to her.  She dropped her head back on the pillow and let the world spin.

When she raised her head back up a nurse was walking in.  He introduced herself as Samha, asked how she was doing and explained what was happening.  She had her burn wounds cleaned out a bit last night, they were covered in a cream to help loosen the remaining dead skin, then they were wrapped with gauze to protect them.  This dressing was going to be taken off this morning and her wounds examined by the doctor. Then they would be cleaned again and dressed again. This would be repeated twice a day until she was ready for a skin graft, if it was needed.  She told her the rest of the medical treatments would be explained by the doctor when she came in.

Ruth was about to ask about her brother when the doctor came in. She was perhaps 50 years old, had wiry salt and pepper hair pulled back in a pony tail and wore black rimmed glasses.  Her full lips were covered in a deep but bright red lipstick.  As much pain as she was in, she wanted that lipstick.  She thought it very weird that she thought that.  The Dr. smiled and started talking as she looked down at the chart.  She introduced herself as Dr. Fernandez.  Ruth asked her straight out, “What happened to my brother?”

Dr. Fernandez looked at her with kind eyes and said, “Your brother wasn’t able to make it out. I am very sorry.”  The world started spinning and she dropped her head back once again.

What Her Dad Did – Chapter Four

She pretty much slept through the first 2 days.  When she awoke her father was there. He had brought Ruth her phone, her tablet, her latest Vogue magazine and a book that had been on her nightstand.  He had also brought a small rolling suitcase with her makeup and other toiletries as well as a underwear, various tops and a sweatshirt for if it got cold.

Her mother would be at the hospital later, her father said. She had an appointment at the funeral home and had to take the dog for a walk.  Ruth didn’t mind. She would rather see her father anyway, less stress, less guilt, less feeling inadequate.  She knew her mother loved her, but she also knew she loved her brother more. She would figure out a passive aggressive way to indirectly blame Ruth for his death, she had no doubt.

There was a food tray on the rolling thing, she didn’t know what those things were called.  Her father asked her if she wanted to eat and she realized she was very hungry.  She wolfed down the salisbury steak and mashed potatoes, not caring in the least that it tasted institutional.  She actually smiled when she got to the Jello cup. It was her favorite flavor, grape.

What the Fire Did, Part 2 – Chapter Five

Ruth and her father talked for a long time about what happened and he filled her in on some details.  The fire had started in the apartment next door.  A burner had been left on under a frying pan and the leftover grease in the pan had caught on fire. They think it had caught a dishrag that was next to the stove on fire and that it had fallen to the kitchen floor and caught the a little kitchen rug and part of the cabinet door on fire. That led to the entire kitchen going up.

When the people in the apartment realized what was happening it was way too late. They ran out the door and the air coming in fed the fire even more.  The kitchen wall was the shared wall with her brother’s bedroom and the fire took out that wall almost immediately.  It’s very likely he was dead from smoke inhalation before she had even woken up her father said.

What the Nurse Said – Chapter Six

When her father left she had her dressings changed. She was completely grossed out to see her legs so violently stripped of skin, glistening with bubbly disgusting wet…she didn’t know what it was. What is under your skin but before the muscle called anyway?  It didn’t matter, it was terrible and that’s all she knew.

If that wasn’t enough, it hurt like hell to take of the bandages, clean the wound and put new bandages on.  She decided this recovery process would be a good ‘enhanced interrogation’ technique for spy masters. She knows she would tell anyone anything they wanted to know to stop this pain, that much was for damn sure. She was glad Samha the nurse wasn’t asking questions though because he would have blushed at her confession.  As bizarre as it sounded, even to her, having this incredibly handsome but gentle man tend to her wounds was just about the most loving thing that had ever happened to her in her life.  She thought it extremely unlikely these two things would ever be combined, but right then they certainly were.

She thanked him, telling him she could never do what he did, it was just so hard and so gross. He then said something that changed Ruth’s life forever.  He said, “But it’s actually very easy to do because I love you.”

“You love me?  What do you mean, you don’t even know me.” She responded.

He said, “Is what I am doing a loving thing to do for someone?”

“Yes, of course.” she said.

“And that means I love you.” he said with a light smile.

He was just about to the door when he turned and said, “I know you are the same you know. Your mother told me of how you cared for your brother. I think you are a lover, not a fighter.”

Ruth sat stunned. Love, loving, lover.  All of a sudden she understood the connection.

What Ruth Did – Chapter Seven

When Ruth got out of the hospital 5 weeks later her father picked her up and drove her to her apartment.  As soon as he left she went down to her car under the car port.  She tried to start it, fully expecting the battery to be dead but it wasn’t.  She was nervous about driving, her legs were so weak and she had a stick shift that demanded a pretty strong left leg for the clutch.  She gingerly drove around the apartment complex parking lot, realized it wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be and drove straight to her brother’s grave.

She sat on the wet ground and talked to him for a long time.  She told him she had tried to get to him and apologized for not being able to save him. She asked him to say hi to Grandma and Grandpa, told him she would take care of his record collection.  She told him about Samha and what he said about love.  She said that that one comment had clarified exactly what it was she was to do with her life.  She hated that it took such a tragedy she told her brother, but she wanted to let him know that his death had at least one good thing come out of it, his sister now knew her purpose in life.

After she left the cemetery she drove back to her apartment. She sat down at her computer and wrote an email to her friend Mandy from college. She knew Mandy was off in Thailand helping at a orphanage, having seen a few Social Media posts of hers over the past 6 months.  Ruth wrote asking if she needed any help.


Ruth joined Mandy at the orphanage a month later.  Mandy actually ended up coming back home to the US 3 months after that. Ruth however stayed at the orphanage. She met the love of her life, a co-worker at the orphanage who was raised in the local village.  They were married 3 years after she arrived.  They adopted one child from the orphanage and named him Samha.  

Ruth lived with no regrets, loving deeply and completely the rest of her life.

The End


Drawing and story © 2015 Marty Coleman









Can One Be Busy Doing Nothing?

doing nothing

I, Sloth

I do this too much. One of my biggest struggles is distracting myself from the task at hand with busy work, or pseudo work.  In March I had a breakthrough in what I focused on and pay attention to and where my mind and heart are at as I go about my daily workday.  And I have kept with that breakthrough so far. But I have found I still get busy wasting time and I believe it hinders a number of efforts I am making in my life and career.  So, I am making progress, but wish I was making it faster.

Stephen Covey, in his book ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ has what he calls the ‘Time Management Matrix’. Here it is. It’s helped me in the past. I still have a card with it on it, that sits on my workdesk.

If you haven’t ever read Covey’s book, I highly recommend it.  You can find it at any bookstore, library and probably most of your friends’ houses. Ask, I bet they will let you borrow it. Quadrant II is where I need to spend more time.  I am relatively good at the relationship building and learning/developing but I tend to get excited about new things and forget about the things already in the pipeline. I also tend to procrastinate when it comes to planning.

What I am committing myself to is be more diligent and focused on that quadrant. What quadrant causes you issues and what are you doing about it?

In the meanwhile, you should go to Sid Savara’s blog posting that discusses this same thing. It’s funny with cartoon illustrations but still gets the seriousness of the ideas across.



Drawing and commentary by Marty Cole…oh look, a sloth!





The Audience – Social Media Secret #3

It’s no secret that today is day #3 of Social Media Secrets week!
The Audience - Social Media Secret #3

Not For Yourself

If you are writing, photographing, drawing, singing, acting, or just ranting, there is one truth underneath it all. You want an audience.  Pretending that you are ONLY doing it for yourself is your way of protecting yourself from the failure of gaining an audience.  Perhaps you are or were the high school writer or poet who said, ‘Oh, I don’t create for other people, only for myself.’ That’s a lie.  

Admitting Equals Wanting

How do I know it’s a lie? Because if it were true we would NEVER hear you admit you are poet or writer in the first place. The very fact that you are telling the world you are creating it is proof you want an audience.  You might want a small audience; maybe mom, dad, and your little sister, but you still want an audience. But if you put it out for the world to see or read, then it is an audience you seek.

Be Worthy

Admit this truth and get it out of the way.  Admit you have an ego, you want attention, you want validation, you want recognition.  Work toward it and don’t be ashamed of it.  But here is the caveat; MAKE SURE what you are creating is WORTHY of attention.  If you are just being a copy cat, a plagiarizer, a derivative hack, then you don’t deserve an audience. The person you are stealing from deserves the audience, not you.


Drawing by Marty Coleman, who really truly did see a coyote standing still in the middle of the street last night while listening to a woman named Grasshopper talk on the radio and watching a giant beautiful thunderhead build in the setting sun sky.



Stop Sopa

SOPA is a US House bill 3261 (PIPA is the senate version) calling for stronger anti-piracy accountability on the internet.  The original idea has some merits of course, many countries are rampant with piracy of movies and music that hurts American and other entertainment companies. I have no problem with them wanting to protect their intellectual and creative property, just as I want to protect mine.

The problem is that the bill is overkill. It allows corporations to shut down alleged violator’s websites without any due process or review from a neutral authority.  That can, and you can bet will, lead to the capricious and damaging use of that power.  A big multi-national corporation that just happens to not like the information and creativity on a website could easily put pressure on the host/provider, with legal backing, to close down the supposedly offensive site. Their ‘sin’ could be parody, or whistleblowing or creative sampling. Who knows. The point is that we want to protect intellectual rights. But we also want to protect creative and intellectual freedom and we can’t do that unless our laws follow guidelines that do not allow for abuse by those in power.


Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman

>My Favorite Thing About The Internet


I now have a Slide Show page.  This month’s drawings can be seen all at one time here:

Day #5 of Internet Week at The Napkin Dad Daily

Perhaps your first thought after reading this is imagining a sexual creep. And no doubt, there are plenty of those.  But what I think about more are the ones that are the most perverse, the creepiest, the ones that put a shiver down my spine. they aren’t the sexual ones, they are the violent ones. 

The ones who promote violence against women, children, immigrants, african-americans, government representatives, corporate officers, police, spiritual systems not their own and more.  There might be a sexual sadism to some of these creeps, but in it’s essence the perversity is about violence.

They have rage that is disconnected from reality, reason, civility, morality.  They aren’t interested in understanding anything.  They just want to attack, and attack they do.  I have come across pages where the level of vehemence is so high I can only imagine the toxic ‘smell’ in the place those words are being typed.

There is only one simple antidote to this, and it is your own goodness.  Fighting against violence is good and important, but not all of us can do that first hand. What we can do is make sure we never contribute to it with time, money, encouragement or tacit agreement.  Don’t let that happen.


Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman of The Napkin Dad Daily

Quote by Penn Jillette, 1955- not dead yet, American entertainer

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