It Could Always Be Worse

She lay on the bed, pregnant and bored. She wasn’t to move, the doctor had said. “Let’s see how things go with complete bedrest,” he’d told her.

“Easy for him to say,” she grumbled, shifting. He was walking around. He had a job, his health, and the fact that he’d never be pregnant in his life. It’s not like she’d asked for this time around to be high-risk.

“It could always be worse,” her husband said, kissing her before going to work. He tousled the hair of their first child on the way out, oblivious to their son’s fully wet diaper and hunger whines. “Try making a list of what you’re grateful for,” he added, then popped out the door to work.

Her mother came in. “Oh, Sammy, you need a change,” she told her grandson. Scooping him up; she, too, headed out the door. “I’ll bring you breakfast in half an hour, dear,” she called back to her pregnantly-prone daughter.

Thinking hard, the bedrested woman pulled out her notebook. Maybe she did need a better attitude. It wasn’t like having a poor one helped her situation at all. “I’ll list all the reasons why it’s good I’m home, and not in a hospital,” she decided.

She began with, “1. Able to see my son every day.” By the time toast and eggs arrived, she’d gotten to, “15. No nurses waking me up all night long for tests.”

That night, her placenta previa worsened. She was checked into the hospital, to stay until her due date: five weeks hence, at the earliest.


“I can’t get to work,” he coughed into the phone. He sounded like Darth Vader with asthma.

“We-e-e-ell, I’m sorry you’re sick, but I need you there,” was the reply. His boss sounded cheerful, well-rested. “You see, I’m off tonight, and we’re short-staffed if you don’t make it.” He heard swallowing; a satisfied exhale.

Shifting the cell phone to his less-congested ear, he eyed the bottle of cold medicine he’d been able to pick up a half hour ago. It recommended against operating heavy machinery. It suggested he might be dizzy while taking it. He wished it had a warning about trying to function at all.

“Look,” he croaked out, “I have a fever and can’t breathe. I just started this medication and it recommends against driving.” He coughed to the side, then thought to cough closer to the receiver. “I don’t know what you want me to do.”

He closed his eyes, silently praying. Today would not be a good one to trek around the canyons, citing law-breaking hikers. The temperature was dropping by the minute.

“It could always be worse,” his sergeant said cheerfully. He heard a fireplace crackling in the background; saw his boss rest two slippered feet near the flames.

His boss terminated the call. Rising slowly, groaning, he pulled on his uniform.

It could always be worse, he thought the next morning, in the doctor’s office. “Looks like pneumonia,” the Physician’s Assistant told him, wearing his commiserating smile.


The morning had gone badly, even for her. Her boyfriend didn’t believe in bad luck; told her she was too superstitious. She’d noticed that those who scoffed, like him, didn’t have the sorts of days she usually did.

That day, the alarm had not gone off. Rolling out of bed too late to shower, she had grabbed at it. She’d intended to give it a scolding, to restrict its late-night beeping privileges. The casing came apart in her hands. It beeped a dying beep, leaving behind a broken body, and leaking battery acid.

She quickly dropped it into the garbage and ran to wash in the bathroom sink. “At least I have water,” she told herself. It ran, trickled, stopped. Frozen pipes, again.

“Good thing I didn’t try to shower,” she mumbled, running to dress. She spritzed a few extra squirts of body spray, to be safe, and left her apartment in a rush.

“I’d better text the landlord,” she said. Walking to the front door; she checked her purse, her pockets, her hand.

No phone. She sighed.

“Well, I’ve got my house keys, at least,” she told the closing door. It locked as she descended the front stairs.

“I think I have my keys,” she added, searching her purse as she walked. She dug in this corner and that, pushing empty lotion bottles and old receipts round and round.

She was so preoccupied, she didn’t see the barriers. She did see the open manhole, just before falling in.

“Whoa, lady! Are you all right?” A man asked her, down the hole. She looked up to his dark outline, from the filthy tunnel floor. She thought he was one of the construction workers, but she couldn’t be sure. She’d left her glasses home, as well.

“I think I’ve broken my leg,” she called painfully in reply, not moving it. Fortunately, she’d had enough life experience to diagnose most of her medical issues.

“Well, it could always be worse,” he called.

She looked around the dim sewer. “How?!” She yelled back, incredulously.

A pause. “Well,” he said, less confidently. “If you’d fallen in tomorrow, none of us would have been here to help you.”

The faint echoes of an approaching ambulance came down to her. She had to admit, he was right.

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