Five Paragraph Short Story: Marry Me

by Libby Sternberg

In summer’s long farewell, on a warm day that smelled like tea, she made her getaway. October’s beach still scorched from the sun’s baking it all day, but the bubble-thin edge of tide on her toes felt tepid, dampening the chiffon hem of her dress. A deep sigh of relief oozed out of her. Then she turned from the horizon. She wiped her face with a tissue, kept her sunglasses on, strode into the rental office and picked up her key with quick nods of agreement when asked if she had been at the resort before. Yes, she had. She knew the drill.

A few moments later, she unlocked a second-floor condo door, threw her bags on the master bedroom bed, all except one which she stashed on the kitchen counter. After a trip to the bathroom, she rummaged through the kitchen tote, poured herself a whiskey, strode to the deck, slid open the door, and plopped onto a wicker chair staring at the sun-glinted manmade pond.

After she’d guzzled the two fingers she’d poured, she took her glass back into the kitchen to get another. But first, she detoured to the bedroom where she removed at last her backless white wedding dress, a sporty look for a garden ceremony. She pawed through her duffel and found shorts and a tee and squirmed into both in a few seconds’ time.

Then it was to the deck again with her drink, this time drawing her knees up against her chin as she stared at the pond and then at her phone. Why didn’t he call?  Surely he’d fly off his damned perch of indecision now. She’d stood outside the window of Gus’s hamburger joint and looked at him as she had a hundred times throughout grade school, high school, and her college years, each look a question: Do you want me?

Someone knocked at her door.

These five-paragraph short stories are part of a series, usually inspired by songs. This one was inspired by Thomas Rhett’s “Marry Me.” 

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SHORT EXCERPT: My Own Personal Soap Opera

My Own Personal Soap Opera (by Libby Malin) is up on Kindle and the serial fiction app Radish now, revised and updated! Below is a very short excerpt. Let me set the scene:

Frankie McNally, head writer for the New-York-based (and failing) soap opera Lust for Life, is about to head into a press conference to explain why the show isn’t pulling a jewel thief story line even though a real thief is imitating it in the city. She’s interrupted by Luke Blades, an actor on the show who recently broke his leg, triggering a rewrite of his character’s (Donovan Reilly) story arc, which will have to be further rewritten as he takes a sabbatical to do an off-Broadway production of Hamlet. Meanwhile, Frankie’s often-absent administrative assistant Kayla tries to help Luke, while Victor Pendergrast, nephew to the soap heiress whose company sponsors the show, tries to help Frankie. Phew! Got that?

EXCERPT FROM MY OWN PERSONAL SOAP OPERA BY LIBBY MALIN (copyright Libby Malin Sternberg 2018):

The press conference would have started okay, thought Frankie as perspiration beaded on her upper lip, if it hadn’t been for Luke crashing it. As in literally crashing. Just as Mary had finished the introductions and Frankie had started repeating to herself, “You’ll be okay, you’ll be okay, just ten minutes, that’s what Victor said, try not to pop the buttons on your blouse, don’t breathe too fast, but don’t forget to breathe,” Luke had entered the back of the room and stumbled over a microphone wire.

Ka-boom. All control vanished as reporters scrambled to help him.

“Luke!” An anguished cry from the doorway stopped them all in their tracks, as a redheaded angel of mercy swooped into the room to tend to the fallen actor.

That’s no angel of mercy, Frankie realized, squinting at the gal. It was Kayla!

Kayla?

She’d changed her hair color and was dressed in a white skirt and blouse with a white scarf around her neck.

What the…?

“We should help,” Frankie mumbled to Victor, before rushing through the gaggle of news reporters to see if Luke was okay.

Not only was he okay, he was holding court.

“Can’t comment for sure on the Hamlet thing,” he said, dusting off his leg as Kayla helped him with his crutches. “But should have an announcement soon. The show’s been great about it so far. Don’t anticipate any scheduling problems.” Then he looked up at Frankie and smiled. “Right?’

Frankie blushed with rage. Dammit. He’d deliberately sabotaged the press conference so he could get his Hamlet job on the record along with her promises to accommodate his time off. She’d look like Scrooge the distaff version if she said anything other than “How proud we are of our top actor, Luke Blades.”

Someone was sticking a microphone in her face, waiting for an answer.

“Uh…”

Victor stepped in. “The character of Donovan Reilly is currently a key component on the show,” he said. “We’re sorry we can’t have Mr. Blades stick around, but he needs to get checked out after this latest fall.” There was no missing his emphasis on Luke’s show name, and the meaning was clear. Donovan Reilly would stay. Luke? Hmm…

With a strength that looked both heroic and yet effortless, Victor grabbed Luke’s good side and glided him from the room. Frankie scurried after, unwilling to stay by the lectern without him.

In the hallway, Victor didn’t hold back.

“I don’t know what you thought you were pulling in there,” he whispered harshly, “but I’ll deal with it later.” Then he more clearly articulated his earlier statement: “Donovan Reilly will be in many stories to come. Whoever plays him.” He let go of Luke’s arm. Kayla rushed to stand by him, her face a mask of worry.

“And what are you doing here?” Frankie asked. “In that getup?” She pointed to Kayla’s outfit and hair.

“She was auditioning for a part,” Luke said, not hiding his anger. “She’s only a temp, after all.”

“Wha—” Frankie tried to compute this. “Only a temp?”

Kayla nodded.

“For two years?” Frankie asked, thinking back to when Kayla came onboard. Why didn’t she know this? The boss should know this. And she was the boss. Why did she have to keep reminding people about that? And what about the—

“Auditioning?” Frankie asked. “For what?” At least this explained the woman’s constant absences, her lack of dedication to her job, her “studying” at her desk.

“For the role of Florence Nightingale,” Kayla said defensively, stroking Luke’s arm. “In a play directed by Mishka Palonovitch. Luke told me about it.”

Frankie looked at Luke, who shrugged and said, “My agent passed it on.”  My_Own_Personal_Soap_Opera_1600x2400

“We don’t have time for this, Frankie.” Victor looked at the door to the room where the press conference was set up.

But Frankie was undeterred. She’d get to the bottom of this. Kayla was an aspiring actress…

“Is this the guy directing Hamlet, this Mishka Palomino—”

“Palonovitch,” Kayla repeated slowly as if Frankie herself were slow. “He won a Tony last year for War Songs.”

When Frankie registered a blank, Luke said, “The musical set at Walter Reed Hospital. All the soldiers are in wheelchairs. Big dance number at the end of act one.”

“So you both want to run off and do stage work with this comedic genius,” Frankie said, disgusted.

“Comic?” Kayla matched Frankie’s disgust and raised her one. “War Songs is a very moving tragedy about the perils of modern life as seen through the eyes of the wounded warrior. I find new levels of irony and insight every time I see it. I cry each time, too. Reviewers say—”

Frankie held up her hand. “Save it.” She glared at Luke. “If you’re so interested in stage work, buster, maybe Donovan Reilly isn’t such an integral part of the show.”

“Frankie, we’ll deal with him later.” Victor grabbed her by the arm, but she shrugged away.

“And as for you,” she said to Kayla, “if you’re interested in acting, why didn’t you tell me? I could have arranged an audition for Lust.” Well, maybe, maybe not. But hell if Frankie would look less than magnanimous.

Kayla’s reaction was anything but grateful. “Thank you, but I’m not ready to settle yet.”

“She’s done some small parts off Broadway,” Luke explained.

Settle? Kayla wasn’t ready to settle for Lust? Red-hot rage lit up her body and her voice as she turned to face Kayla. “You’re not willing to settle for acting on a daytime serial?”

“You see, this is exactly why I didn’t say anything,” Kayla said, her tone sweetly condescending. “I knew you’d offer to help, and, as I said, I’m not really interested in your kind of work yet.”

Inside, Frankie was an erupting volcano of hurt, anger, and outrage. Kayla, the secretary—the very bad temporary secretary, at that—thought her art was too good for Frankie, that her art was better than Frankie’s art. What was the world coming to?

“I… I…” Frankie sputtered, unable to give voice to the cauldron of indignation choking her throat.

“Come along,” Victor said through clenched teeth. He grasped her arm and wouldn’t let go. “We have more important things to do.” He steered her toward the press conference door. She called out over her shoulder, “Lust for Life is moving and touching! Just as moving as any dancing wheelchair farce that that Mucho Parmigiano can come up with! Just as good! Just as touching! Lust for Life is art, too! Damn good art!”

This last bit carried into the room as they entered, triggering the first question from a reporter.

“Ms. McNally, is that the reason why you’re not pulling the thief story, because you’re unwilling to sacrifice your artistic vision for public safety concerns?”

Frankie bumped Victor out of the way, rushed to the lectern, grabbed the mike, and leaned forward, causing the top two buttons on her blouse to pop open.

“Let’s get this straight, bub,” she seethed at him. “Art doesn’t rob people. People rob people!”

Check out My Own Personal Soap Opera at the Amazon Kindle store or on the serial fiction app Radish!

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Funny Ain’t Easy

My Own Personal Soap Opera, a romantic comedy about a head writer for a failing soap opera based in New York, will hit the e-shelves soon. I’m re-releasing this romp of mine (written under the name Libby Malin) after having had the rights reverted to me from its original publisher, Sourcebooks. I enjoyed going through this novel again, after some initial reluctance. Believe it or not, many writers have a hard time revisiting their works. You’re afraid you’ll discover that what you penned…is crap. It’s always a relief when you find otherwise. A low bar, I know. But that’s part of the glamorous author life.

As I went through the book again, though, I found myself reflecting on how writing comedy is hard. Visual gags, for example, are a bear to describe because if you use too much language, too many words, you kill the joke before you get there. And clever dialogue can sound like just that and nothing more, something that might win you an A on a Clever Dialogue Writing Test but won’t earn you a laugh, chuckle or even smile from your readers.

To me, comedy tests a storyteller’s skills more than writing drama. Moving people to smile or laugh takes the perfect combination of talent and knowledge, intuition, command of language and more. When I hear a reader say they laughed out loud at my romantic comedies, I’m thrilled. I’d be happy if they smiled a lot.

“…a world of wit and chaos that is so smart and insightfully written…you get happily lost in the fun.”

Booklist on My Own Personal Soap Opera by Libby Malin

My Own Personal Soap Opera is a smile kind of book, but like most comedies, it has an underlying story that’s more serious than fun. The protagonist Frankie McNally, a head writer on the failing soap opera Lust for Life, comes from a working class family. Raised by a single mom because her father ran off to join the “revolution” (become a hippie), she managed to get into an elite college through scholarships and landed in New York City where writing jobs led her to the soap opera she and her mother used to follow when she was growing up.

My_Own_Personal_Soap_Opera_1600x2400Even though she’s an accomplished woman, Frankie can’t seem to shake the chip on her shoulder about not fitting in to the more literary and sophisticated circles she now moves in. Her story is one of haves vs. have-nots, how the history of a have-not can impact her approach to life even when she moves into the “haves” category.

It’s a story arc that actually colored a famous soap opera back in the day: Another World. That soap followed a have-not, Rachel, as she tried to cunningly make her way up into the world of the haves, eventually landing a wealthy husband, Mac. I remember reading an article about that soap’s head writer/creator who talked about that story arc and how it never failed to generate more plots. How true.

Some of the most talented storytellers, of course, manage to weave wry comedy into even heartbreaking dramas. That’s one of my writing goals that I believe I’ve yet to achieve. Maybe some day I will. In the meantime, my writing life is divided between the lighthearted fun of books by Libby Malin (My Own Personal Soap Opera, Fire Me, and my earlier Harlequin release, Loves Me, Loves Me Not) and the serious offerings, written by Libby Sternberg (things like Sloane Hall, Death Is the Cool Night, and Lost to the World).

If I could figure out how to marry those two writing personas, I’d be a happy camper.

Watch for the release of My Own Personal Soap Opera within the coming month, but meanwhile, for a funny summer read, try Fire Me!

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Paul Revere and the Raiders, Fire Me, and Me

To demonstrate what a crazy dreamer I am, this story:

When I was a preteen/teen, I had the usual crushes on bands. Music wasn’t my main attraction. It was their look. So what’s not to like about a band whose members dress up in 18th century costumes? Yes, I was a Paul Revere and the Raiders fan. Don’t hate me.

During that time, I cherished this daydream: The Raiders would be on tour. They’d stop in Baltimore for a performance. They’d decide to take in the sights while there. They’d drive out to my suburb and get lost. On my street. And their car would break down. In front of my house.

That never happened — God loves me — but it does show what a cockeyed optimist I could be, how outlandish my hopes could be, how far my overactive imagination would take me.

As I grew older, I could see quite clearly that no band would likely land on my street while touring the Baltimore area. I lived in a suburb where the most interesting sight might be the new drugstore (open on Sundays!) at the top of a hill.

If I became more practical, I still couldn’t shake some of that wild optimism, which often manifested itself in a simple question, whispering in my mind: Why not?

Why not give that idea of mine a try? Why not become a writer? Why not try to get my novels published? Why not try to grab attention for one of them that I thought would be great movie material?

Even crazy optimists have to overcome inner fears, so it took a while before I did end up becoming a writer, getting novels published, and…landing a film deal for my humorous women’s fiction book Fire Me. And the road to that deal is probably as circuitous as the one that would have deposited band members on my doorstep oh so many years ago.

Fire Me was the “options clause” book in a contract I had with Harlequin. Their Red Dress Ink imprint published my first adult novel, Loves Me, Loves Me Not, and, like most book contracts, my deal with them specified they had the exclusive option to buy the next similar novel I would pen.

That novel was the story of Anne Wyatt, who goes into work one day intending to hand in her resignation but changes course when she learns her boss will lay off someone by the end of the day. So she tries instead to earn a Worst Employee of the Year award in order to snag the generous severance package that goes with a layoff.

My terrific Harlequin editor looked over my proposal and suggested changes, which I made. I submitted it again. And it was rejected. Unbeknownst to me, the Red Dress Ink imprint was shutting down. (I’m grateful for her suggestions, though, which enhanced the story.)

By now, I was moving on to other writing projects, but I couldn’t give up on the idea of this book, which I believed held great appeal. Between agents, I posted its rights were available on an industry subscription website, Publishers Marketplace.

Within a short time, I had a call. From a Hollywood agent. She asked if the property was still available. Why, yes, it was.

Fire_Me!And the rest is history. Well, ten years of history. That woman believed in this  project as fiercely as I did, so when she left the agency, she kept in touch with me. She shopped Fire Me around, and found a home for it at a respected production company. After that company’s option ran out, interest sprang up from another, and the book ultimately ended up at Twentieth Century Fox.

Options give companies the exclusive right to consider a project for film. They don’t guarantee a film. Last year, however, Fox bought the film rights outright, one step closer to actual production (not there yet!).

As to the book itself, Sourcebooks bought its rights and published it in 2009. Book rights reverted to me, though, this year. So I’m releasing it again, after an update and revision, this spring, excited to have it on the book market once more.

Paul Revere and the Raiders never came to my door, but I feel blessed, nonetheless, for preserving the crazy dreaminess of that preteen girl who could envision such a wild idea happening. Now I’m using that same sense of optimism to guide me through this new release of Fire Me, hoping it finds new readers who are amused and moved by Anne’s tale, which is ultimately a story of a woman finding her own dream and asking: Why not?

 Fire Me by Libby Malin will be released on Kindle this spring, in paperback this summer.

 

 

 

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Easter Music

For the church music director, the two big holidays of the liturgical year — Christmas and Easter — are fraught with peril. Expectations are high, and there’s often a dizzying array of pieces to choose from. Finding just the right selections for a choir’s capabilities, though, can be a challenge.

During the few years I served as a church music director a long time ago in a galaxy far away, I well remember how happy I was to have found a sweet set of Renaissance pieces with little percussion instrument parts that I knew my volunteer choir could handle for Christmas. And I also remember my disappointment when they thought the pieces odd and not at all what they associated Christmas sounds with! Today when I look back at that Christmas, I smile broadly. I sing in a volunteer church choir now, and I know our own director puts up with similar grumblings from us about this or that piece.

unnamed-2Although the Easter preparation includes all the Holy Week music, I always found Christmas music preparation the most anxious and the heaviest work load. Choir would prepare about twenty minutes of music to be sung before the service, then have an anthem ready for the service itself. It all had to happen on that one  night.

Holy Week, at least, is broken up into more, oh, digestible pieces. There’s Maundy Thursday (with a rehearsal ahead of the service), Good Friday (with a rehearsal ahead of the service), and Easter (with a rehearsal ahead of the service). So, while you’re preparing a full slate of musical selections, you don’t have to do them all at once on one night. You have the chance to refresh your musical memory, to go over problem spots, before each service.

When I sang in a professional choir at a church in Baltimore, Holy Week services varied little from year to year, but the music was transcendent. We sang Maurice Durufle’s sublime rendition of “Ubi Caritas” each Maundy Thursday, and Antonio Lotti’s eight-part “Crucifixus” each Good Friday. Several years in a row we sang William Byrd’s lovely and difficult (rhythmically) “Haec dies” on Easter itself. (Links are below.)

On Maundy Thursday, the organist would switch off the organ at a certain point, and it wouldn’t be heard again until a powerful,  improvised introduction to the Gloria at the Saturday Easter vigil. Until then, we sang everything a capella — hymns, chants, anthems. One of the basses was tasked with giving us pitches softly, using a pitch pipe.

All of that unaccompanied singing created a solemn and somber mood, making the exuberant sounds of the majestic organ all the more wonderful at the Easter vigil — it was as if you were hearing the organ for the first time, bringing you, in a small way, into communion with those who, on that first Easter, found brightness after silence and darkness.

That same kind of exuberant joy shines through the reintroduction of “alleluias” after the forty days of Lent, during which they go missing. At my current church, the rector occasionally, during his Easter sermons, would proclaim the Easter “Alleluia! The Lord is risen,” look at the choir and know, without doubt, we’d enthusiastically reply, “The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!” with no  prompting.

This year, our choir’s Easter anthem was “You Are the New Day,” a piece with a pleasant undulating melody and warm harmony, and words that sometimes…seem as odd to me as those Renaissance pieces I chose years ago must have sounded to that choir. The composer of “New Day” apparently wrote the piece after experiencing personal difficulties and acutely fearing nuclear war. So some of its lines have a whiff of apocalyptic warning.

Was there grumbling in the choir stalls? I won’t tell. 🙂 But I will say that we sang with all the joy in our hearts and discovered this piece has special warm meaning for our rector and his wife. Since this is his last Easter with us before retirement, it was a musical gift I’m sure everyone in the choir was happy to offer them and the rest of the church.

Ubi caritas by Maurice Durufle

Crucifixus by Antonio Lotti

Haec dies by William Byrd

Libby Sternberg is a novelist. Her latest novel, Fall from Grace, has been called a “novel for our times” by Midwest Book Review.

 

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Book review: “Lilies of the Field” by William E. Barrett

Chances are, many of you have seen the movie version of this book, the 1963 film for which Sidney Poitier won the best actor award — the first African-American to win that Oscar. It’s a magnificent movie, one that you can’t stop watching if you happen upon it on TCM or another channel.

If you can’t stop watching it, part of that credit goes to William E. Barrett, who penned the novel upon which it is based. Recently I read the novel, and the movie is very true to Mr. Barrett’s subtly moving story of an itinerant worker coming upon a group of nuns in the American wilderness (Colorado in the novel, Arizona in the movie) who want to build a chapel. The nuns are German, having escaped communism at the end of World War II and learning of an inheritance for them in this wild land.

51IXowMk9hL._SX298_BO1,204,203,200_Homer Smith — “Schmidt” to the German Mother Superior — eventually helps them build this “shapel” and it all comes to pass through a combination of grit, faith, and the belief that even the lilies of the field are tended to by a benevolent God.

The book is as straightforward as the movie — Homer Smith comes upon the nuns in need, their Mother Superior sees him as sent by God, and he eventually does respond to their need for reasons of his own.

In the book, those reasons are crystal clear — when he applies for a job with a construction company, the owner learns the nuns have asked him to build the chapel. When the owner discovers Homer is an African-American man, he scoffs at Homer’s ability to get the job done, something that sticks in Homer’s craw:

I expected a different type.” Then, another sentence, “I wanted to see you before I told her.” He’d let old Mother down merely by being black.

Of course, he didn’t let her down, and it had nothing to do with him being black, except in his desire to prove that construction company owner wrong. As he does so, he develops a bond with the stern Mother Superior and she with him.

The bell rang and he straightened. Old Mother never rang the bell for the nuns because they knew when to come for meals. That bell was for him.

If Homer has a bond with the Mother Superior, it isn’t one without irritation. He knows that the Mother Superior believes he was sent to her to use for her goals. This chafes.

She had never got it out of her head that God had given Homer Smith to her. If that was a fact, she’d be certain that he couldn’t wander off. He belonged to her. That was something Homer had never liked. The idea of belonging to someone stirred a racial antagonism in him. No Negro was ever going to belong to anybody again. Not ever! He was free.

You feel for Homer in this circumstance–even though he’s proud to be accomplishing something the white construction owner thought him incapable of, he still struggles against the notion the Mother Superior might hold, that he was sent to be her servant in this grand task of building a chapel. As an African-American man, he wanted to be no man’s servant.

While this theme is apparent in the movie, and particularly in Sidney Poitier’s brilliant portrayal of Homer, it is clearer in this simple novel.

Also clearer is the role of faith, and here is another, broader deviation from the film — the Catholic priest in the movie is a cynical soul; in the book, he is a true believer who counsels Homer on what that means  “If a man believes in an unreasonable thing, that is faith,” the padre tells Homer.

I ordered this book to see if it was as moving as the movie. I enjoyed it, and I think it would be a particularly good read for teens and young adults, those on the cusp of understanding greater truths, of learning about worlds and beliefs beyond their own.

And once you read it, of course you must watch the movie, a film that stays with you beyond the last note of the “Amen” that Homer cheerfully sings.

Libby Sternberg is a novelist. Her latest book, Fall from Grace, has been hailed as a “novel for our times” by Midwest Book review.

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ER Ruined the ’90s

Through the miracle of cable television, the old TV series ER now shows up every day. I started watching it again after not having seen it since its original airing. And I have come to the conclusion that ER ruined the 1990s for me. I was a young mother, with three kids in grade school or starting grade school, prone to fret about them, and week after week, ER treated me and other viewers to a cavalcade of …gloom. No wonder I was a Nervous Nellie during that decade.

As I view the show now, I think of the fates of the major characters. Every single one faced some sort of catastrophe, with few or no rays of sunshine. Think about it:

Dr. Mark Greene: is mugged, faces malpractice suit, eventually dies of brain tumor

Dr. Peter Benton: talented surgeon whose son is diagnosed as deaf

Dr. Doug Ross: notorious womanizer, he finally settles into a relationship with the love of his life, nurse Carol Hathaway, and then he gets booted from his job just as he and Carol are on the right trajectory.

Nurse Hathaway: see above (oh, and in the pilot episode, she was a suicide attempt)

Dr. John Carter: Cousin suffers a massive drug overdose, and John himself is a stabbing victim when deranged patient kills…

Dr. Lucy Knight: Medical student Lucy Knight has a contentious relationship with Dr. Carter that seems to be improving until…deranged patient kills her and stabs him.

There’s more…most of these core characters left the series eventually to be replaced by others who had similar bad fates. Someone should post a warning in that hospital’s HR for job applicants: Only work here if you can accept personal heartache on a dizzying schedule.

ERTitleCardThese leads’ stories, of course, were interwoven with the many tales of characters on each episode, the ones who end up maimed, dead, infected, whatever. Yeah, there were bunches who were patched up just fine, but this ER was surely a circle in Dante’s Hell.

I know that ERs see a lot of bad stuff, and this was, after all, a drama. It was just relentless in its bad stuff. And, since it was also a top-notch drama — with consistent and well-acted characterizations, good plotting, riveting story lines — it stuck with you, as all good drama does, well beyond the last flicker of pixels on the screen.

That’s the problem — ER was so darned good at what it did that the shadows would stay with me long after I watched an episode. It ruined the 1990s for me, people!

Seriously, though, ER probably accurately portrayed the many awful challenges we face as humans. I can think of people in my circle of friends and acquaintances who’ve suffered horrible illnesses, terminal diagnoses, disability, tragedy. It’s part of life.

But also part of life is hope. Faith. Especially of the religious kind. Many of those I know who’ve suffered awful circumstances, some too heavy to contemplate bearing, have a grounding in religious faith. So their gloom is lightened by the brightness of promise, promise that the Lord is with them, that…the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the Lord.

That was never a part of ER. I don’t remember many, if any, visits by chaplains or rabbis to those in distress…even though most hospitals do ask patients to list such affiliations if they have them.

There was never much sense of true happiness either. Even when tormented characters found some measure of peace, they still …suffered.

ER was fantastic television drama and deserved all the awards and praise and viewership it received. But re-viewing it now makes me realize that sometimes I need to step away from good dramas like this if they’re unrelentingly dark.

I’ll do that…after I catch up on the next episode.

UPDATE: After watching more episodes I must amend this post. There is a storyline involving Dr. Luka Kovac and a bishop, his patient. The bishop is a saintly man, yet very human. He senses Luka is troubled, and for good reason. It turns out Luka lost his wife and children in a mortar attack in Croatia, and Luka feels immense guilt over this, over not being able to save them. As the bishop is dying, he tells Luka there’s not much time and he needs to hear Luka’s confession. That’s when we hear Luka’s story, his immense guilt and remorse for allowing his family to stay in unsafe circumstances, for not being able to save them, for making poor choices. The bishop is able to “absolve” him of this guilt. It was a lovely moment. Wish it had lasted longer, been explored more.

Libby Sternberg is a novelist. Her latest novel, Fall from Grace, has been called “a novel for our times” by Midwest Book Review.

 

 

 

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