This week's Press is a day late ... all right, a little more than a day. There's a reason for that, and I don't think you'll be too upset about a missed deadline this time: my sister died last week, and we were on the other side of the country this week arranging and attending her funeral.
I spent most of the summer worrying about my sister, Jan, as she had lost about 20 pounds since I last saw her, and was very withdrawn. Each morning I'd wake wondering what bad news was waiting for me in my email or on my phone. "She fell, and couldn't get herself up," or the ominous, "She just wants to sleep all day long."
Halfway through July I couldn't stand thinking of her lying in the hospital, alone and failing. By then she'd had two heart attacks, and I knew the nurses in ICU better than I would have liked from my calling several times a day. I went back, and spent more than two weeks sitting by her side, watching her sleep away her life, a bit at a time. I read to her, just so that the sounds she might hear wouldn't just be the sounds of a hospital's distress. After every paragraph I listened and watched her breathe; every night in my hotel I prayed that she would at least make it to the next morning.
The first week of August I had to return to California. Yet I was back in my own bed not four days before the morning messages carried a sad bit of information. "Jan is not going to recover. It's only a matter of time." She'd had a third heart attack, and her doctors insisted that when the next one came, they would not revive her again. Enough is enough.
There does get to be a point where enough is enough. I knew that Jan had had enough back in early July, but I didn't want to let her go. She was my sister, and helped me learn to read, and whacked me when I was a pest, and laughed at my capers when we were kids. Sitting in the hospital I couldn't take my eyes from her face; she was so beautiful to me, and time was so short. But I began to convince myself that I had to allow her the dignity of an ending ... and again, or still, I dreaded turning my phone on in the mornings or seeing an email pop up on the computer screen.
On September 18, 2007, I woke to find two messages on my phone that said, "Call me as soon as possible" and an email that said the same thing, adding the word "Urgent." I knew what I was going to hear.
Now the morning worries are over; the bad news I dreaded will never come again. My life is far less stressful; I'm not constantly listening for the "Ding!" of the computer or the ringtone of my phone.
But it just goes to show you -- the stress and worry are far more agreeable than knowing you no longer have to fret over someone you love ... forever.
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This week we debut Lydia Manx's new serial vampire story, "Heading Towards the End of the Trail." This serial was inspired by her short story "Heading West." The vampire, Molly, has decided that she would like to have her very own human toy as a minion. What Molly doesn't want to admit is that there might be someone else in the world who disagrees with that plan of action. Get ready for some fang action!
"Dampier and the Demon" continues, a novella by Emrys Koenigsman. Even heroes get hangovers, but that affliction won't stop Morgan Dampier from accepting an adventure or annoying a supercilious snot -- especially if there is money involved.
Next week: Another episode from "The Immortal Guns of Talon Constantine" by Mel Trent.
Sand Pilarski, West Coast Assistant Editor