A Case for Wrongful Death

By on Oct 30, 2020 in Fiction

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1940s woman walking down street

Walton Reynolds still didn’t like it. George was a good man, he’d give him that. But he was a man. Full grown. And Connie was his baby girl. Innocent as dawn. At least he prayed it was so.

In the beginning, when George first started sniffing around, there was no way Walton was permitting him to take that child out of the house, to Lord knows where, to do no telling what. His Connie was a good Christian girl; she’d be slow to temptation. But she was nuts about that man, and Walton was taking no chances. He’d prayed over the matter with Reverend Farris at the Tabernacle and the Lord had directed him to keep that child close by. He figured George couldn’t get into much mischief on the porch, with the old man coming by every half hour, making sure all four feet were on the ground.

It was hard being a father without a woman on hand. She’d have known what to do, how to talk to Connie about men. He didn’t. As much as he loved her, he didn’t know how to say things a girl needed to hear. Of course, she had sisters, but he didn’t trust them to protect her. Sooner or later they’d have given in to George. He was that persuasive.

But then, he had given in, too. It was after Charlie Watson at the hardware store had told him that he didn’t know how he’d manage without George. And Mr. Petty at the bank had told him George put $10 in his account every week, and it stayed right there. Meanwhile, George kept coming by, moving into the parlor when the weather turned cold, behaving himself, and Connie kept saying she wanted to marry him. So he prayed some more and the Lord had given His blessing.

Even then he didn’t let her go out with him at night. The Lord was pretty strong on that. Lead us not into temptation. But Sunday afternoons after church? George had started attending Tabernacle, had come forward after the service one Sunday and dedicated his life to Christian service. But even after that, the first time George offered to take Connie for a ride after church, he’d said no. Connie had begged, said they would just ride around, maybe take a picnic. In broad daylight. He’s spent some time on his knees on that, waiting for the Word. Because what would happen if . . . He didn’t want to think about it. Because it was a deadly sin. And, as much as he loved her, more than any of the others, he might not be able to forgive her. And that would break his heart.

Finally, he gave in. No riding around after dark. Just Sunday afternoons.

But he still didn’t like it.


Dr. Boyer’s waiting room was full when they got there. Lois had found the office on the main street of Stanton in a big white brick house. It looked like somebody’s living room, with Queen Anne chairs and linen tufted loveseats. Lois settled her sister next to the front window and sat down beside her. The other women in the room glanced up, then returned to the back copies of Ladies Home Journal they held in their laps. Connie kept her head down.

Dr. Boyer was a large man, at least six feet and burly, but when he finally ushered her into his office and shook her hand, Connie was surprised at how soft it was.

“What seems to be the problem?”

Connie started to cry, so Lois answered for her. “My sister has missed her monthly and thinks something might be wrong,” she said.

Dr. Boyer nodded and began asking questions. Connie answered in monotone.

“I need to have a look at you,” he said and showed her into a room just large enough for a long table, a wooden cabinet with a sink, and a stern-faced woman, bulky in her nursing uniform.

“Take off your underpants and lie down,” the nurse said, pointing to the table.

Connie shivered as Dr. Boyer, eased her legs apart and began to shove his fingers into her. She wanted to get up, run out of the office. He was hurting her.


She jumped up, startled.

“No wonder your periods have disappeared,” he said. “You’re going to have a baby.”

“I want to see my sister,” Connie burst out.

Back in his office, Dr. Boyer seated himself behind a highly-polished walnut desk and faced the two women. He was not smiling.

“I take it you’re not married,” he said.

Connie shook her head, too choked up to speak.

“Not yet,” Lois said. “The wedding’s in September.”

“Couldn’t wait, huh?” the doctor said. “Well, you won’t be the first,” he chuckled. “Or the last.”

“It’s not funny,” Lois said.

He looked at Connie, who was digging at her eyes with a crumpled Kleenex. “You’re right. Let’s see. For now, get a lot of sleep and eat a healthy diet. I’ll see you in two months. You can make an appointment with my nurse.”

Dr. Boyer waited. They both looked at Connie.

“I can’t,” Connie finally mumbled.

“What do you mean?”

“I want to . . . you know,” she said.

Dr. Boyer stood up. “I see. Did somebody tell you I do abortions? Because they’re wrong.”

The doctor stood by the door, twisting the knob.

“Is your intended the father?”

Connie nodded.

“Well then, my best advice is marry him, have the baby. You’ll never regret it.”

“That’s what I told her,” Lois said.

“I can’t.”

“Well, then, I can’t help you.”

“Just the name of somebody.” Connie was begging.

Dr. Boyer hesitated. “There’s a man in town named Wheeler. He might be somebody to talk to.”

“Where’s his office?” Lois asked.

“There’s an office building on South Main. You might check there.”

“Thank you,” Connie said.

“You’re making a mistake,” the doctor said and ushered them out of his office.


The overhead light in Dr. Wheeler’s office was dim, the upholstery on the chairs was faded, and the carpet stained. There were no other patients.

“Who sent you?” he asked.

A rotund little man in a crumpled brown suit. Connie wanted to run.

“Excuse me, sir,“ Lois said, “but are you a doctor?”

“Of course,” he said.

“Dr. Boyer sent us,” she said.

Wheeler smiled. “I see. What can I do for you?”

“She’s expecting, and she doesn’t want to be.”

“You want me to terminate your pregnancy?” he asked Connie.

Connie nodded.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes sir.” Her voice was so low he had to lean forward to hear her.

“How far along are you?”

“Two months,” Lois said.

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Nancy Bourne has been making up stories all her life. Eight years ago, she started writing them down and began to publish. Since then, her work has appeared in more than thirty publications nationwide. Her stories have been published in Upstreet, The South Carolina Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Blue Lake Review, and many others. Her short story collection, Spotswood, Virginia, based on Civil Rights in the 1960s and '70s, is scheduled for publication in Summer 2021. For a full list of Ms. Bourne’s publications, please see nancybourne.us. Ms. Bourne writes about her childhood in the South, her life in California, and her many adventures such as rafting the Grand Canyon and traveling to countries such as Iran. “A Case for Wrongful Death” is based upon stories she heard as a child. Ms. Bourne has been an attorney for public schools, a potter with a home studio, and a teacher, most recently teaching writing to prisoners and incarcerated minors.