Happy November

How is it November already? I think every post, I start with a comment on how the time is flying…but seriously…where did this year go?!  I apologize for not posting a short story these past two months (September and October).  Both had me busy, professionally and personally.  Before I knew it, two months had gone by. But, now I’m back with a brand new story that I think you will enjoy.


I’m unsure about the title of this one. I thought Piece by Piece meant that little by little we learn things about ourselves through our experiences. But, a pre-reader of mine thought it pertained to the main character’s career choice and was a bit turned off. If you think another title fits for this one, give me a shout out in the comments.


This one has more of a romantic side to it than the others I’ve written.  Although, if you are a fan of my dark humor, there is still plenty of that in there as well.  I actually love the romance genre.  The more we move into a technology-focused world, the less connection we have with human beings. Love and romance are pretty specific to our species. If we don’t reconnect with each other at a loving level, I fear for our future.  Embrace love. Embrace finding love and rooting for it.  It’s what ties us all together.

PS: Vote on Tuesday, if you live in the States!

Now…On to the story.

Piece by Piece

As I watched the retreating figure of another failed date leave the restaurant, I spared a glance at the mirror on the wall and saw the reflection of a soon-to-be spinster cat lady staring back at me. I also caught the faces of the many spectators, sitting at their tables, silently judging me for my many faults, instead of eating their food. At least that was the story I told myself. A constant reel of negative self-talk playing in my head.

It’s inevitable that I will die alone, my dead carcass having been eaten by my 100’s of cats I’ve collected to keep me company. My mother says it’s due to the obsession with my profession. I think I’m just misunderstood.

You see, I have a Ph.D. in Biotechnology and own an organ and tissue bank. I know you think that doesn’t sound horrible. Maybe even noble. Donating one’s organs and tissues is an important thing. However, my company harvests these things for research. We are a supplier to for-profit companies who develop biomedical products for consumers. And that’s where people get creeped out.

We aren’t necessarily saving livings in the immediate sense, with transplants or grafts. Science is our business. Research that may or may not advance life in the future. One date called me a bone collector like I was some creepy serial killer. It’s not like I do the physical harvesting. I leave that to my retrievers, typically med students moonlighting to pay for school. As the owner, I could sit back and collect revenues while overseeing the business, but my passion is for interacting with people. I visit hospitals, long-term care facilities, and the like, talking to family members about the possibility of donating pieces of their loved ones in the name of science. I have a nurturing soul and am full of compassion. Everyone else thinks I’m Dr. Frankenstein. There are actual reviews on Glassdoor, a website dedicated to reviewing employers, saying as much.

“The owner, who everyone refers to as Dr. Frankenstein, is overly committed to the role of Chief Harvester. It makes me wonder what her personal life is like. I’m betting there’s more than one skin-suit hanging in her closet!”

That’s a direct quote from a former employee. I fired him after I learned he was bribing anyone and everyone at our local sources, to get first dibs on fresh bodies. This business can be as cutthroat as any because there is much money to be made off harvesting human bits. But, to pay people off to get a prime choice of donors is unethical and I won’t stand for it. When he went to a competitor, I warned his superior of his methods. Instead of following my example, he promoted the man to Director of Donor Services. Director!

Anyway, his words in that review, which will exist on the Internet for eternity, were so hurtful, I couldn’t help but memorize them. He’s not the only who thinks of me that way either. My brother-in-law, Dougie, calls me Frank for short.

“My name is Crystal, Dougie.”

“Sure, Frank, whatever lets you sleep at night. Wait, do you sleep, or do you stay up all night in your laboratory? Bwahahaha!”

That was him a few months ago at a family gathering. He laughed himself silly, until he sloshed beer on his giant belly, then stormed off complaining that I was responsible for the waste of a good beer.

“Why can’t you use your smarts and run one of those nice companies that fit orphaned children with prosthetics?” My mother asked after I started my business.

Then I pointed out that her wrinkle filler wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for companies like mine.

“Well, I suppose it is important work. Surely, that stuff helps with burn victims and people with other skin disorders as well as my fine life lines.”

I rolled my eyes as I watched her smooth her fingertips over her crow’s feet, saying a silent prayer that my business would continue to succeed in the name of wrinkle filler.

“Maybe you could tell your next date that you work in the health and wellness industry or even cosmetics? Otherwise, I fear I’ll never have grandbabies.”

“You do have grandchildren, mom. Four of them.”

“Those are no children. They are monkeys from a zoo. Did you see little Dougie reach into his diaper earlier?”

I had. It was true my nieces and nephews shared more behavioral traits with wildlife than humans, they were still my sister’s children, and therefore we loved them. It was her choice in husbandry we doubted.

Back at the restaurant, as I played these scenes over in my head, my sweet and very young waiter brought me a whiskey neat.

“Take your time. I won’t charge you for your date’s meal,” he said with an understanding nod.

Taking the drink, I tossed it back in one gulp, then handed him some bills and told him to keep the change. I gave him a watery smile to let him know I was appreciative, yet still had enough self-worth to not only pay for both meals but leave there with my head held high. Unlike my clients, I would live to fight another day.

After a horrible night’s sleep, I walked through the next day like a zombie. Funny considering my profession. I was scheduled to visit three medical clinics and a hospice for those with terminal illnesses.

When I reached my final prospect at 7 pm, I was dead on my feet. See what I did there? I’m full of these great puns. Why am I not datable? Anyway, I digress. With a soft knock, I came into a room lit only with the waning light from outside. Sounds of whirring machines lent an eerie romanticism to the atmosphere.

A dialysis system, standard vital monitoring equipment, a c-pap setup for breathing, and IV stand all blipped and sighed in a choreographed rhythm. Under a layer of colorful blankets laid a small form, no bigger than a child. Against the wall-sized window a man, around my age, tried in vain to fit onto the makeshift visitor’s bed. His soft snores worked in time with the machines. I didn’t want to disturb him, so I fished through my tote sized purse to leave a brochure and my business card behind on the bedside table. As I retreated towards the door, a groggy voice called out, “Hello?”

I turned and was struck in the heart by the most handsome man. He had raised to a sitting position, elbows on his knees and his mop of brown hair flopped across his forehead. Rubbing his eyes to focus, he murmured, “Can I help you?”

When our eyes met, a physical pain shot through my heart. You hear about corny stories of Cupid and his stupid arrows, but at that moment, it felt like I indeed had been shot. His eyes were the palest blue of a blustery Spring day, framed with long blond lashes, and accented with a dimple along each cheekbone. I froze, having lost my capacity to speak. Of course, this unnerved him, and he stood protectively, glancing over at the motionless person, aside from the up and down movement of the circulation cuffs at the ankles and the oxygen mechanically filling the body.

Rediscovering my voice, I introduced myself and pointed to the brochure left on the table. I gave my carefully crafted spiel about the importance of organ and tissue donation. But before I could launch into the heart of my pitch, he told me to get out. Startled, I stammered, trying to continue, but he stepped forward threateningly and pointed towards the door before raising his voice so loud, I was sure he’d wake the nearly deceased.


With a quivering chin, and a voice full of remorse, I apologized and dashed from the room. Distraught over his reaction, I blazed past the administrator’s office, who I routinely check in with before leaving the facility, and headed straight for my car. With no particular destination, I drove around for an hour before heading home to my large, empty house.

“Maybe I am a monster!” I lamented hours later, to my best friend Jan.

“You are not a monster. Monsters are people who do terrible things to others and lack any compassion. Your heart is in the right place, and you are the most empathetic person I know. You have to understand that some people can’t deal with loss and change well. I mean, put yourself in that guy’s shoes. First, you were ogling him while he slept, and his dying wife or daughter…”

“Or sister! Half-sister. Oooh! Maybe even step-sister…” A girl had to hope!

“Whatever. Some female who is incredibly important to him is dying, and you woke him up to make him face a certainty he hasn’t begun to deal with.”

“I have been doing this for five years! I’ve never had anyone yell at me like that before.”

Jan sighed. “Poor baby. You got yelled at. Why don’t you quit? Go into cosmetics like your mom wants. Get married, have babies, sit in the drop-off lane swearing at your neighbor to put their phone down, and make sure little Johnny has his homework before you get in the car!”

“I sense you are projecting on me.”

“It’s because this is the kind of bullshit you have to look forward to if you quit what you were born to do!”

“I thought you loved motherhood?” Sipping some wine, I picked at a spot of invisible fuzz on my yoga pants, trying to imagine myself in the scene Jan had just described.

“I do! Oh, how I can’t imagine life without the little feckers. But there are times where I’m just thinking. I’m a highly educated woman. What am I doing wasting my youth on PTA’s and Youth Sports programs?”

“Avoiding getting yelled at by the man of your dreams, while his significant someone lives out their final days?”

“Way to make this all about you!”

“It is about me! I called you, remember?”

“Well, now I have to go. Tyler just hit his sister in the rear with his homework folder, and she is threatening to do murder, death, kill on him.”

Feeling somewhat uplifted by our conversation, I finish the bottle of wine and pretend to meditate on the virtues of stick-to-itiveness. I fall into a deep alcohol-induced sleep, where I dream of sleeping with Dr. Frankenstein and having little Frankenbabies.

A few days later, my attention deprived brain forgets all about Mr. Beautiful Eyes and life as I know it resumes. While out on another date courtesy of one of the several dating apps I belong to, I receive a phone call. Sometimes I get emergency calls from the hospitals or clinics to let me know someone on the list of donors has passed on and I need to arrange for transport to our collection facility. Other times, its someone like Jan or my sister, testing the waters to see how the date is going. When the number came up on my screen as ‘Unknown,’ I let it go to voicemail. But when Fred, the part-time balloon shaping artist or balloon sculptor as he corrected me more than once, went on a bathroom break, I decided to check messages.

My hand shook, causing me to drop the phone in my pesto alfredo. It was Beautiful Blue! And he was still angry. He was threatening to sue the company, and he wanted my superior to call him ASAP. Ha! The joke was on him because I am the boss! What a jerk for assuming because I was a female that I must have someone above me! Well, I couldn’t wait to make that call.
Throwing a wad of bills at another failed dinner, I made my escape. The whole way home, I practiced my approach. By the time I reached my house, my hands were tingling from the lack of circulation and my too tight grip on the steering wheel. I was so preoccupied with what I was going to say and not say, that I couldn’t even recall the actual drive back. After taking a couple of drops of a cannabis-laced wellness oil to calm my nerves, I decided to get it over with and placed the call.

“May I speak with Christopher Gladnik please?”


His voice was a strong baritone, the kind that made butterflies wriggle in the pit of my stomach. Or maybe that was the oil kicking in.

“This is Crystal Cleveland with C.O.R.T. Bank returning your call.”

“I asked to have your superior call me.”

“Actually, I am the owner of the business. How can I help?”

Silence. I knew the call was still connected because I could hear his breath hitch.

“You can help by never entering my wife’s room again. Or better yet, the hospice.”

He said ‘wife.’ Now I feel bad and need to change tactics. “I apologize if I startled you the other day. The company has an agreement with many medical facilities in the area which allows us to educate those in the position of end of life decisions on their options.”

“My wife is NOT DYING! Why won’t you people get that through your heads! She is going to wake up and then you’ll all have hell to pay!”

“With all due respect, Mr. Gladnik, the facility your wife is at, is for those who’ve reached the end of possible recovery. If her doctors believed…”

“Her doctors are WORTHLESS! You’re all WORTHLESS!” He sucked in breaths like he was running a marathon.

“Sir. I understand you are upset. This is a trying time for you. Do you have any family that can help you through this transition? Can I reach out to someone for you?”

“Don’t you think if I had someone to reach, I would’ve done so already?! She was my everything! EVERYTHING!” A sound I had never heard come from a human echoed across our connection and into my very soul.

This man was in terrible pain, and I triggered it somehow. I needed to make it right. I just wasn’t sure how.

“My chest. I can’t breathe…I can’t…” Christopher’s voice trailed off, and I heard a loud thud.
Somehow, I stayed calm, placing the connection on hold and calling 911. It took some tracking down, for I didn’t know where he lived, only his cell number. But, I kept the connection open while the emergency management people worked their magic. Minutes felt like hours, as they checked in with me and tried to rouse Christopher through our now merged connection. The blessings of modern technology.

Long story short, the paramedics found him, he had fallen unconscious from lack of oxygen brought on by a severe panic attack. They rushed him to a local hospital near my home. So, I made the impulsive decision to check on him.

By the time I arrived, he was already fighting with the emergency room physician about his discharge.

“What are you doing here? You’re like a shark. You smell blood and swoop in to collect my skin and bones?!”

The doctor gave me a sideways glance. Out of habit, I reached into my coat pocket and handed him a business card. He looked down and read it briefly before returning his gaze to Christopher and nodding briefly before leaving the room. At least he pocketed my card!

“See? Even the doc thinks your whack!”

“Um, no. He sees extra income to pay off the mounting pile of student loan debt if he hooks me up with some fresh meat!” I don’t know why I said it. Maybe I was just exhausted from the last few weeks, from life since starting this company. Or perhaps I was sick of people picking on me about my career choice. Can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Am I right?

To my surprise, Christopher started laughing. Like hysterical laughter. The kind that after a few moments, I was looking for that doctor, wondering if they gave him the wrong meds, or not enough. The guy was cracking.

“Umm, hello? A little help? My friend is, uhhh…”

Christopher grabbed my hand. His fingers were warm, rough, and large, compared to my small ones, used to doing no more than typing on a computer and the occasional swipe of the dust cloth. What? Don’t judge me! I’m a badass workaholic woman, who runs a complicated company! I don’t have time to play housemaid too!

“Thank you.”

Checking our hands and noticing how they fit quite well considering their differences, I looked into his depthless blue eyes, catching what I think is a spark of hope. Hope that if the doctors are right and his wife doesn’t survive, that there’s a chance that he can move on. He merely has to be open to the possibility.

“Seriously, thank you for everything. You called 911, waited on the phone until they found me, and now you’re here. I’m not sure why considering how I’ve done nothing but yell and threaten you. Maybe it’s another one of your fetishes?”

“You’ve got me pegged! I adore abuse in its emotional and verbal forms. It keeps me feeling alive after dealing with dead people all day.” Again, with the snark.

He let go of my hand, and I instantly regretted everything. While trying to think of a reason for me to touch him again, he started to cry. Not ugly cry, but a soft sort of sob. His macho façade crumbled.

“I’m sorry. I have misbehaved. My wife, Tasha, she would be so angry with me for treating you the way I have. For the way, I’ve treated everyone. But, you have no idea what it’s like to watch someone so vibrant, energetic, and passionate wither away to a husk over a senseless accident.”

I grabbed his hand and squeezed. Not because I wanted to feel his touch, but because I felt his pain.

“I understand, Mr. Gladnik. In my line of work, your story is often too familiar.”

“Really? You meet guys who’ve shot their wife in the head regularly?”

I gasped and released my hold, backing away as if I too had been shot. What was he talking about? How does that even happen? As if reading my mind he continued.

“You weren’t expecting that I see. No one does when they ask. I spent the better part of last year getting my name cleared, although I know the cops are just waiting for me to fuck up and get me on something. I’ve thought about shooting myself in the head so many times, but I’ll fuck that up too and become a vegetable like her, instead of ending this misery. Maybe it’s what I desire. To be in her spot.”

“How…” I cleared my throat. “How did it happen, if you don’t mind me asking?” I had to know, to understand how this person, who I thought was so perfect, could do something so heinous.

“The old cleaning my gun story. I love… well…loved guns. Always have, even when I was a kid. To relax, I often take…took…my guns out and cleaned them at the kitchen table. Our bedroom was on the other side of the wall. I thought I’d cleared the chamber. The gun went off. A bullet went through the wall and hit Tasha in the head. I immediately called 911 and began life-saving measures. The doctors were able to remove the bullet, and she seemed responsive for a couple of days after, but due to brain swelling they placed her in a medically induced coma, and she never came out. Slowly, her body has been failing, and they’ve tried to get me to pull the plug on her, but I just can’t. I can’t let her go! Not like that.”

“That’s terrible. I cannot imagine what you are feeling. But…” I hesitated and took a deep breath. “Are you keeping her alive as a reminder of what you did? Or do you believe in miracles?”

Christopher sat there for a long moment, his expression remaining neutral. I wasn’t sure if he was going to yell at me again or cry.

“Maybe a little bit of both.”

I stayed with him a little while longer, talking about lighter topics, like the weather, music, and sports teams. When the doctor was ready to release him, I offered to take him home, but he insisted on taking an Uber. Probably for the best, for I couldn’t get the image out of my head of what it must have been like at that moment…the panic, the outright fear of knowing you may have taken another’s life. And not just anyone, but your soulmate.

If I was destined to be a spinster, so be it, especially, if it saved me the trouble of ever experiencing that kind of pain. Every potential donor family I met with afterward, I held that thought in the back of my mind. Each of them is experiencing such heartbreak due to their loss. If I never find it, then I’ll never have to know it, right?

Two weeks ago, after a particularly trying day at the office, I was destressing by flipping through TV channels, when I landed on the local news. My stomach dropped when I saw the picture of Christopher on the screen. He had finally decided to disconnect Tasha from all life support services. Days after her burial, he was found dead in his car, at the cemetery due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I screamed and cried and carried on. Why didn’t I check in with him! I should’ve never said the things I said. Perhaps if I had said more, made a difference somehow! Then it occurred to me that even if I hadn’t found a soulmate, I wasn’t immune to heartbreaking loss.

I went to his funeral. I don’t know why. It’s not like I knew him. We had spent one night together, talking in an ER room, that hardly counted as BFF material. Except for me and my relationships with men, I could’ve counted him as a boyfriend. At the funeral, I met his older brother, Bryan. Christopher made it sound like he didn’t have any family, but in fact, he had four brothers, two younger, two older. He had decided to cut himself out of their lives after the accident, too afraid to face their judgment. Little did he realize how much they wanted to be on his side.

I talked with Bryan for about an hour during the service and yesterday we met for coffee, in between my tour of potential donor appointments. He has the same blue eyes as Christopher and the same steely handshake. He doesn’t think my career choice is weird, and he works in chemistry and likes to geek out on science stuff too. I’m trying not to get too ahead of myself with this one, but I wonder, if by some tiny miracle if all of this was meant to be. If I hadn’t been in this profession, I would’ve never met Christopher. If I wasn’t so familiar with loss and grief, I might not have gone to his funeral. And if I hadn’t gone to that, I might not be sitting here right now, staring into the most beautiful blue eyes, thinking how I’d like to get a dog.


What did you think about my take on a romance? Should I stick to thrillers? As always, leave a comment and be in the running for an Amazon GC, emailed to your best email address. Thank you for reading and Happy early Thanksgiving!

© K.T. George 2018 | This post was first seen on ktgeorge.com


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Short Story Series: Story 12 – Piece by Piece
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4 thoughts on “Short Story Series: Story 12 – Piece by Piece

  • November 3, 2018 at 11:09 pm

    This was a great little story! I liked it!!!!! I don’t think there is anything wrong with your title. It makes sense to me!!!! Great work, keep it up! Can’t wait for the next one, romance or thriller… I’ll take either!!!!

  • November 9, 2018 at 11:29 am

    I liked the dark romance. And it wasn’t terribly dark. It’s like “Dirty Jobs” by Mike Rowe…someone has to do certain jobs…doesn’t mean they can’t find love or be loved. Would love to know where you get your inspiration and information from when it comes to your characters. They are all so different and have different life experiences.

  • November 10, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    KT – You need to develop this into a novel! This is ripe with conflict and character arcs and it gave me all the feels! Wonderful. IDK that she has a weird job…where did you find her career choice?! Love you! xoxox

  • November 14, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    I like the title. I’d like it even better if you turned it into a Stephen King-esque novel. You can keep the romance in there…it adds conflict…but Piece by Piece is ripe for a murderous cadaver or something! Ha! Great little ditty. – Jer


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