The Bead Loom, Part 1

The attending opened her mouth to speak and Margaret sighed on the inside. The worst question in man’s spoken history of inquiry was about to get asked of Margaret. She faced this line of questioning every 6.5 days. The internal content, the individual components shifted, but de conversation totale was always the same. Margaret must have been an evil interrogator in a previous life to earn such a special flavor of torment in this one.

“So, Maggie, how do you think this week went?”

Margaret had no idea how the week was going. Going, going, gone? Awesomely over? Margaret hated feedback time. It was always bad, no matter how meticulously Margaret tried to address every duty assigned to her during the week. The attending always found something Margaret managed to miss, and that, in this final half-hour of the week, became the most important thing any resident was ever told to do… ever. Every job in the hospital was evaluation based, but it was only time for “feedback” if you effed up.

“OK, I guess, like every week, it had its up and downs,” Margaret answered, paraphrasing the “Not in Nottingham” song from Disney’s Robin Hood. It was her attempt to bring some lightheartedness to an otherwise grim conversation. This was “remediation month” for Margaret. An extra month interning after all the other residents graduated to year two because her numbers weren’t as good as everybody else. She was told she had one month to show she could function like a senior on this cushion team, but that wasn’t the situation she found herself in when she arrived the first week.

“Well, Maggie, let’s talk about your pager. You’ve had significant problems with it.”

Margaret left her pager in the Emergency Department the day before while admitting patients and was unlucky enough to have her attending find it. Double whammy.

Let’s talk about how I hate being called Maggie. It’s a word for prostitutes in England. It was like “Maggie May” or “Maggie’s Farm” or that zombie movie with Schwarzenegger. Oy vey, Maggie Mae.

“I have a little pocket right here I keep it in, see?” Dr. Adams the Attending pulled at her coat to demonstrate the problem-solving pocket. Adams’ tone conveyed the opinion that Margaret was too dumb to stumble across the pocket by chance or understand its potential if she did. Truth was, Margaret ripped that particular bit of her coat loose during second month of internship with her poetry notebook, but Margaret didn’t have the chutzpah to explain why Dr. Adam’s Always Awesome Advice would only work on 50% of Margaret’s coats.

“Sure, I’ll put it there from now on, thanks for the advice.”

Maybe that’ll be it. Maybe that was my nitpick for the week. Maybe I can get out of here and get home by six thirty tonight. It would be so awesome to cook dinner.

“Let me ask you this, what do you think you do well?”

“Well, I work well with the intern and med student. We review the plans for the patients, check medicines together, I feel like I do a good job supporting them and making sure they’re prepared for rounds and sign out.” Like a senior resident, Margaret wanted to add.

Dr. Adams sighed, “Well, they’re both pretty much on top of their game anyhow and they don’t need you. You’re pretty much wasting time and energy. I tell you what, you need to carry at least eight patients from day to day, and you have to write all the notes. Not Lewis, the med student’s notes don’t matter, anyway.”

Margaret’s heart sank. What was that supposed to accomplish aside from ensuring she never cooked a meal at home again?

“Whattaya think about that?”

“Umm. I just worry Zach and Lewis will get to see good cases if I have eight patients.”

“I’ll assign them good cases, but you have to learn to get your notes and your orders done, and you should try to finish by six. I think that’ll be good for you. Now let’s talk about liver failure, because it didn’t seem like you were prepared to answer any questions on rounds today.”

Margaret sighed on the inside. If sadness were a hurricane, the National Weather Service would name it after her.

Yup, Hurricane Maggie.


Margaret plugged the sink and flipped up the faucet lever, tepid water spewing into the stainless steel bowl. She sighed, tugged the plug and waited for the water to heat up. She dumped in the soap. “I can’t believe it,” she muttered to Nip.

Nip was No one In Particular; the bodiless, voiceless, countenance-less countenance Margaret spoke to when she was alone. And she was alone most of the time now that she worked at the hospital. Nip wasn’t imaginary, because she didn’t imagine anyone. Who would a fake person look like, anyway? He couldn’t be cute, that’d be weird. Margaret would probably just wind up dropping things on him. Continuing the fine tradition she’d started in seventh grade with the just-used clarinet rag she dropped on the cute second clarinet boy’s foot. And he was wearing sandals.

Margaret committed her china, edged in red and gold leaves, into the soapy oblivion. The plates would emerge cleansed of their sumac stained sins. “People only get baptized once, or, if they’re unlucky or confused, twice. Or if they’re repeat offenders, three times a convert,” she told Nip as she dumped her flatware in. “But dishes get washed clean of everything every time they’re used. Could you imagine being daily baptized? Yick.” She dipped her sponge into the hot soapy water. “If they were going to baptize residents every time we get used in the hospital a priest would have to follow us around with a barrel of holy water.”

There was no reply from Nip. He didn’t speak. Or at least, he didn’t seem to.

Margaret scrubbed her tea mug. It had a divot in the bottom that stayed a scungy brown. “This lady follows on the tails of Dr. Bossy McGee who actually physically pulled me aside to tell me she wouldn’t tolerate my oversights anymore. In front of the intern, the student, and pretty much the entire nursing staff.” Margaret stopped, leaned against the sink, her throat tightening. “I just don’t like being yelled at in public. And I see other residents make bigger eff ups than not getting the levo-thyroxine ordered fast enough all the time. I wonder if they get in trouble.” Margaret had to say these things to someone, and she sure wasn’t saying them to the Boss Men. But Nip would listen. Nip always did. His silence was neither admonishment or endorsement of her incredulity. It was just good, healthy silence after an awkward day of white noise.

Margaret sighed. She wished she could hit the rewind button on her life but, not knowing the future, Margaret reckoned she’d only make the same mistakes.

“You know what you need?” Nip suddenly broke his perpetual silence.

“What?” Margaret asked, scrubbing her tea cup.

“A hobby, something creative, something to build yourself up.”

“Well, there’s Auntie Rock’s bead loom. That’s about the only artsy thing I have.”

Nip fell back into his silence.

Margaret inherited the bead loom from her ever-busy Aunt who recently passed away, of liver failure. The bead loom was a plastic affair- not even vintage— and it took up the entire corner of Margaret’s living room. When her mother first unloaded the thing from their pick-up truck, Margaret thought they were dumping an unfinished baby car seat on her. An indictment and an assignment. Have a baby, finish making this car seat. A post-mortem, pre-natal gift from Auntie Rocky. Margaret didn’t know what she’d do when Christmas came. The bead loom was sitting right where the tree ought to go.

Why did Aunt Rocky even own a huge honking bead loom? What the hell was she making? Clearly nothing, judging by the bags of beads and the total lack of anything so much as a half finished project included with them. Auntie Rocks was a weird one, though. Maybe she gave everything she made away. Then, where was Margaret’s tacky bracelet?

Margaret pulled the bead loom out of the corner and set it on the round faux-cherry table in her kitchen/eating area. There was a hole in the bottom of one of the bags from which a zipper baggie of turquoise beads hung. Margaret wondered how many had been lost already. She opened the bags, looking for instructions or something.

“Huh,” she told Nip. “Looks like we’re going to Google university.”

Several articles, youtube videos and a healthy scroll through Google images later, Margaret decided the toughest part of the bead loom process was loading the string onto the loom.

I’ll start small, she decided. “I think I’m going to make that tacky bracelet Aunt Rocky cheated me of,” she told Nip.



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