written for: the NFA Impossible Choices challenge. The challenge goal was to write a story in which a choice has to be made, and all choices have problems.
rating: K plus
characters: Donald 'Ducky' Mallard, Victoria Mallard
words: approx. 920
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Disclaimer: I own, still, nothing at all of NCIS.
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I may be able to do something about this, starting tomorrow, thought Ducky as he opened the door to his house.
"Oh, there you are, Donald. I can't imagine where you get to during the day. You're never around when my friends come to call." Victoria Mallard plucked a Japanese fan off the table and fanned herself, despite the fact that she wore two sweaters (by choice) and the weather was tolerably mild on this mid-April day.
"Mother, I went to work, the same as I do every day," her son 'Ducky' corrected her mildly. He didn't bother to add that she had not had friends over in years; all her friends in her age range (the 90s) were either too frail to get out, or were dead. Victoria was relatively hale, needing only a cane to get around, but her mind went every which way.
"Work? You have a job now? I'm so proud of you, my dear boy! Is it in the railway office? I always thought the people there were so nice!"
Ducky strolled through the living room, putting away the various objects she'd taken out and forgotten. "No, Mother; I work for the Department of the Navy, remember? I'm a medical examiner."
She smiled. "I remember how handsome you looked in your sailor suit as a lad. Do you suppose it still fits? Go try it on; do."
He took her arm. "Dinner is ready, Mother; let's go eat. Red snapper tonight; you'll like it."
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Throughout dinner he studied the old woman, whether she was chatting or just sitting in comfortable silence, enjoying her thoughts, while waiting for the housekeeper to bring her more tea. The news could wait no longer.
"Mother, do you remember that nice Dr. Plaxton? The one who we saw last year?"
"Plaxton, Plaxton…is he the one who set your broken arm, Donald? I told you not to climb that tree; the branches weren't big enough and you're still a growing boy!"
"That was 60 years ago, Mother. No, Dr. Plaxton has been trying experimental therapies, and we tried one last year. That one didn't help, but she has a new treatment that has been quite effective in early studies. What do you say?"
Victoria crossed her hands in her lap daintily, and gave him a pretty smile, befitting a well-brought-up young woman of 70-some years ago. "Whatever you think is best, dear Donald."
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It was her stock answer. Surely at one time she must have understood the principles of medications, but now she either didn't understand or cared not at all. The pills she took were looked upon by her as rather tasteless little candies. Some days she called them beads. Oh, the ravages of dementia.
Presently she was taking a combination of anxiolytics and cholinesterase inhibitors. Dr. Plaxton's proposed new treatment plan involved new drugs that had had impressive, really impressive, results in reversing the effects of dementia—so impressive that they seemed like science fiction. It would be delightful, a miracle, to bring back—or go most of the way to bringing back—the mother he'd known and loved.
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"Oh, no," said Dr. Plaxton the next day, when Ducky brought his mother in. "I must have mixed up my notes. This can't be right."
"Problem?" Ducky asked, while his mother sat happily reading a children's book across the room.
"I don't know what I was thinking, Dr. Mallard. The studies have only been done on women aged 50 to 74. Your mother's a good 20 years older than that. I can't sanction testing the drugs on her. Who knows what effects they'd have?"
Ducky was stunned, and could feel his hopes being dashed. "But all you know is that 80 of the trial subjects in the upper years responded vigorously to a medication regimen. Surely, with careful monitoring, an older woman…?"
"The risks are enormous. I think. Maybe they aren't. But no one really knows. They might help her marvelously. She might regain the mind she had when she was in her 40s. Or the shock could prove too great for her system."
Victoria looked up from where she was. "I'm not sure why I picked this book up," she said, looking at the children's book skeptically. "Haven't you any good mysteries, Dr. Plaxton? I do enjoy a well-written police procedural." She addressed Ducky knowingly. "I know you're trying to help me regain some of my lost memory, Donald. I'm afraid I can't think of what to do…but I know you know best. Choose for me."
That was the scariest thing about her dementia—her rare moments of lucidity. They were proof that the mother he knew was still in there, somewhere.
She was not in shape to give informed consent to this or any other procedure. He'd been her legal guardian for nearly 10 years.
He asked himself the same questions he'd been asking himself for days; Would I be doing this to benefit her, or me? If treatment is available, how can I not let her have her chance? How do I know what she'd want to do? If she doesn't get the treatment, she'll just go on, gradually getting worse…but at least she's moderately happy…
It's so hard to decide. What if the medication kills her?
What if she had a second chance at…being mentally, middle-aged?
"Do you have a decision, Doctor?" Plaxton asked.
Ducky took a deep breath. "Yes. Start treatment as soon as possible."
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