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Pen Your Pride

Author's Foreword: The Intern is a work of fiction. All the people and places are figments of my imagination. Having said that, everything you will read--down to the smallest detail--was inspired by the events which transpired during my own internship, as well as the stories I have collected from all the other interns to whom I have spoken, shared in the dusty call rooms of a dozen faceless hospitals.

The Intern is dedicated to all the 'kings and queens of scut,' past, present, and future, without whom the wheels of medicine would not run.

When she was later asked about it-at the Disciplinary Review Board meeting that would convene at the end of the year-the intern answered that she wasn't sure what had brought her to Room 12, other than a 'vague uneasiness' about the welfare of her patient.

'Uneasy?' the attending physician would inquire. 'About a dying patient? What did you expect to go wrong?'

'He was twelve,' would be her response, 'Twelve year old boys shouldn't die.'

But she was not privy to this future conversation as she descended the back stairway to the pediatrics floor and pushed open the creaky metal door that let out onto the dimly lit ward. Room 12 was at the end of the hall and to the right, at the far side of an alcove which few patients ever entered-and none left. She padded down the hall as quietly as she could in her plastic clogs, hoping not to wake the pyelo in Room 2 or the appy in 4. Passing Room 6 she was pleased to hear nothing other than the soft hiss of oxygen, indicating that the wheezer she had admitted yesterday was responding to the treatments she had ordered.

The main ward stopped abruptly at this point-as if the builders had suddenly realized they had neither the space nor the funding to continue-and the alcove began, jutting out from the hallway like the afterthought it was. She paused at the corner, reaching into the recess where the nurses stowed the food cart, and tucked away a couple packages of graham crackers into the pocket of her long white coat. She had never cared for graham crackers, but Bobby loved them and there were few things-none actually-she wouldn't do to see a smile on his pale, drawn face.

The door to Room 12 was ajar, and she squeezed through, ignoring the signs that Disease Control had plastered all over the door. The room was dark save for the reading light she had fixed to the headboard of Bobby's bed so he could read the latest edition of the X-men for the 100th time. To her lack of surprise Bobby was curled up in a ball underneath the light, clutching the beaten magazine in the only hand that cancer hadn't stolen from him.

"You shouldn't be in here," Bobby said without looking up. "Didn't you see the signs?"

"How did you know it was me?" she asked.

"Nobody else ever comes in."

She didn't doubt it: there was no family listed on his chart and the chief resident and attending physician seemed happy to let her run the case on her own. Several clever replies-No one else deserves you or Try being less sarcastic-flitted through her head but she just nodded and sat down in the hard plastic chair next to the bed.

"Why don't you try reading something else?"

He rolled up the comic book and swatted the pocket of her lab coat, stuffed with medical manuals and small notebooks overflowing with her neat script. "I could say the same about you."

"I have my boards tomorrow morning," she replied, rubbing the knot in her neck where the collar of the coat dug into her trapezius.

"Why aren't you studying then?"

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