Dead on Time – Sharif Gemie

Sharif Gemie is is a happily retired history lecturer who lives in south Wales, United Kingdom. Fourteen of his short stories and two of his flash fictions have been published, and this is his 3rd story published in The Quiet Reader. His first novel, The Displaced, will be published later in 2022. It’s about a middle-class British couple who volunteer to work with refugees in Germany at the end of the Second World War.

Frank Hanley had a heart attack while driving to his office. He had no previous heart problems, but the usual lifestyle issues: smoking, drinking, lack of exercise. In the hospital, the consultants diagnosed him. A coronary artery spasm, they thought, but his heart was so weak they suspected an underlying condition. While in hospital Frank had two further heart attacks and only survived the second with resuscitation. The prognosis was clear: his heartbeat was weak, irregular and slowing; he wasn’t strong enough for surgery. 

‘Nothing we can do,’ said a consultant. ‘Find him a hospice.’


Mary Cove finished reading Mr Hanley’s notes and looked across the corridor at the man sitting up in bed, reading the Financial Times. He didn’t look like a man about to die. The hospice consultant, Dr Patterson, was surprised by his progress but, after a couple of days, gave an optimistic diagnosis. Mr Hanley was getting stronger. They’d discharge him soon, someone else could use the bed. For the moment, they kept Mr Hanley in, just in case. 

Mary walked over to him. 

‘Good morning, Mr Hanley.’

He glanced at her, then went back to his paper. 

‘How are you feeling today?’

He put his paper down. ‘Do you know, I’ve got two cracked ribs from that bloody resuscitation? Hurts every time I breathe.’

Mary nodded. ‘That’s normal, I’m afraid. It’s a very rough procedure.’

‘And bloody useless.’

‘What do you mean? It saved your life. You were lucky: only three in ten survive what you’ve been through.’

‘Saved my life!’ The scorn in Mr Hanley’s voice surprised Mary. ‘Saved my life! I wasn’t going to die.’

Mary had seen this before. Denial. A lot of people didn’t want to accept how serious their condition was. 

‘You’ve a serious heart condition—and you’re too weak for surgery.’

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