Funeral March

At the exact moment Nan Paul died in her hospital bed, her thirty-five-year-old daughter Lois stood in the concessions room at St.Mary’s Health buying a Diet Coke. She had been hit with the déjà vu of being in this concessions room numerous times— with her Grandpa Hughes and her great-aunt— never with Nan. The walls, covered in seafoam green textured wallpaper and trimmed in white plaster, made Lois sick.

Nan had been deep in a coma after a massive heart attack. She had been fine for the first three hours of her shift at the Rite-Aid, her manager said. But on her break outside, with a Sprite Zero and cigarette in-hand, she began having chest pains. One of the pharmacy technicians was nearby, on the phone with his girlfriend. “Oh my god, I’ll call you back,” he said, hanging up to call 911. He didn’t leave Nan until the ambulance arrived, and half the store was crowded around her.

Lois had taken a short nursing class when she started working as an aide down at Deer Lick Nursing Home, and she knew the science behind what had happened, all of it. While Nan smoked her Marlboro menthol in the shade behind the Rite-Aid, a piece of plaque broke loose and nested in one of her arteries, likely already clogged with more plaque. As she drank her Sprite Zero, her platelets pillowed onto the clot and blocked the flow of oxygen to her heart. When Nan clutched her chest, when she dropped to her knees on the cool concrete next to the pharmacy drive-thru, her heart tissue had already smothered, scarred, and could never be revived.

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Shaun Turner is the author of The Lawless River and serves as fiction editor for Stirring: A Literary Collection and co-editor at Fire Poetry Journal. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry has been published in journals such as New South Journal, New Madrid: Journal of Contemporary Literature, Hobart, and Hippocampus Magazine, among others. Turner earned his MFA at West Virginia University.

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