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					ADULT FICTION – runner-up. Pamela Gallagher of Auchenflower, QLD

When the nurse pushed the wheelchair onto the balcony and left her,
Margaret understood the implied punishment. And she smiled. After a day in
the ward with nine other patients who could see each other, she was pleased
to be in the darkness. Then she felt equal to those who could see because
night swallowed their vision.

The nurse had sounded jealous because the young male doctor held
Margaret’s hand when he sat and talked. The nurse “humphed” because
Margaret was receiving so much undivided attention. Now the cool evening air
was refreshing and comforting. From the distant end of the balcony, a man

“Hello Fred. I’ll come to you.” With practised ease, she turned the wheels to
reach the man.

“Hello Margaret. It’s good to have your company again.” The next sound from
him was a half cough, half moan.

“I’m tired, Margaret. Tired of waiting and tired of the pain.”

“Never mind, Fred. My niece visited me today and I have a present for you.”
She took from her pocket two small biscuits for him to take from her hand.
Quickly he bit into the first biscuit.

She said, “That should lessen the pain. Mary-Jane called it a hash cookie.”

When he had finished chewing, Fred queried, “Why hush cookie?”

“Not hush cookie, hash cookie. She got the recipe in India and she was lucky
to find a small supply of cannabis in the city.”

Fred said, “That’s illegal – but it sure beats the pain.” He then began to eat the
second biscuit. His breathing became steadier. He put his hand on Margaret’s

“Thankyou,” he said, “but be careful. I don’t want you to get into trouble on my

“Don’t worry about me,” she said. “No one will suspect an old blind woman.”
She sat still, regulating her own breathing and letting her thoughts wander.
When Fred’s hand slipped away, she turned the chair and wheeled back to
where the nurse would expect her to be. Margaret had one more cookie which
she ate after lights out in the ward. “

The chatter of nurses distributing the morning medications disturbed her
sleep. Their voices were tinged with surprise.
“Did you hear that old Fred died last night? His heart finally gave out.”

“Well, he didn’t have much to live for with so much pain.”

“But when they found him, he looked as if he was smiling.”

Margaret smiled too. She would tell Mary-Jane how comforting her cooking
had been.

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