Lori; my favorite four-letter word

Other submissions by Dacia Weist:
If you want to read their other submissions, please click the links.
Trial of Reality (Sci-Fi, Writing Award 2023)
The Dragon from Guangzhou (Historical Fiction, Book Award 2023)
Trials & Tribulations of Modesty Greene (Historical Fiction, Book Award 2023)
Glue (Women's Fiction, Book Award 2023)
The Sinners' Club (Contemporary Fiction, Book Award 2023)
The Dragon from Guangzhou (Historical Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
Trials & Tribulations of Modesty Greene (Historical Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
Glue (Women's Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
The Sinners' Club (Contemporary Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
Trial of Reality (Sci-Fi, Screenplay Award 2023)
Bek (True Stories, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
The Original Zodiac or Philo and Pater (Historical Fiction, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
Letters to the Bottom of Elephant Butte (Women's Fiction, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
In the Interim (Drama, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
Manuscript Type
Logline or Premise
Lori has been a hospice nurse for the last half of her career. Diagnosed with stage four cancer the tables have turned. The irony doesn't get past her as she reminisces about her life growing up in northern Utah as an outcast & misfit. After many divorces she explores the possibility she likes women
First 10 Pages


An email arrived from an old friend who had been diagnosed with cancer. ‘You’re a writer and a reader, read this and let me know what you think. Do you Zoom?’ The attachment was her obituary she had penned herself.

“Lori Downey Maddox kicked off on <insert my death date here>. She shuffled off her mortal coil because she couldn't think of another way to annoy friends and family. This might do it. (Are you annoyed?)

She was big into drama when she was in high school working behind the scenes on the sets, lights, and costumes, but that was so long ago, who cares, right?

While at Snow College, Lori lied about her age and got her EMT a year before she should have.

She’s always been very grateful there were no computers in 1985. After getting her nursing license she decided nursing sucked, so she joined the Forest Service to fight fires. After a near death experience in a massive forest fire, that resulted in an ankle injury that required surgery, Lori decided nursing was ok after all. She worked everywhere from psych to dialysis. She finally found what she liked in hospice. The irony of being a hospice nurse and dying of cancer was kind of funny to her.

Lori was proficient in obscenities and could speak three or four swear words in a variety of languages.

She liked German for naughty words, but later in life she switched to Welsh since she could conveniently spit while speaking. We can’t print her favorites or even say them here, today. You get the point though. She had the only iPhone that switched the spelling of duck to something else automatically. (Not that I had a reason to text about the ducks. Except that one time… JK, JK!)

Lori will be remembered for her rude comments, bad language and a completely inappropriate sense of humor. She did her best to offend everyone equally. At one point, she wanted to be fed to alligators after she croaked, but it’s illegal (I checked ;) Lori will be mourned by cannabis farmers everywhere, liquor store owners and a few detectives who may still be trying to gather evidence.”

I felt the emotion well in my heart as her six month to a year diagnosis really settled in my head.

After several emails back and forth, we came up with a plan and scheduled a Zoom call.

“You’re reducing my life to 4,000 words? Seriously?”

“It’s a word count rule of the contest, I didn’t make it up.”

She sighs. Tears well in my eyes, and I hard blink them away. She looks decades older than me, not mere months. She adjusts the selfie stick so she doesn’t have to hold it while we talk. “Well fuck,” one bony shoulder moves in a slight shrug, “cut out the swear words and make it quick, like my ex-husband always did.”

Lori; My Favorite Four-Letter Word

Chapter One

They say when you die your life flashes before your eyes, but not when you’re dying of cancer. When it’s a slow and painful like this, your life doesn’t flash, it flows at you, slow like a lazy river, faster and harder below the surface. I was able to get my affairs in order as they say, I planned my own funeral down to the Eric Idle sing along which may be inappropriate, but dammit, it’s what I want.

I’m often confused as to what “generation” I fit into. I wanted to be a hippie flower child, but not a boomer. Either way, I missed that mark. Instead, I’m at the tail end of Gen X, the lost generation.

We were latch key kids who are supposedly a bit aloof and feel ignored. I like being ignored.

When I was born, my bio dad had already split.

“You’re one ugly son of a bitch,” I teased my older brother, “One look at you and our sperm donor high-tailed it outta here.”

“Shut up, pipsqueak” he countered, taking a swing at me. I was good at dodging Scott’s antagonism.

It was so unfair that everyone had a Dad but me. Once at Primary ( Latter-day Saints Sunday School) the children were to make a father’s day card. My poor teacher noticed I was upset. When she asked, I told her I didn’t have a Dad and began to cry.

“It’s okay,” she soothed, “Just make one for your grandpa instead.”

“He died when I was nine days old,” I wailed, alligator tears pouring down my face. Being a bit dramatic as a kid, I would have given Drew Barrymore a run for her money at that age.

Not too long after that, this young man gets home from serving in Vietnam and rents the house across the street from us. He worked on cars and his yard. He had a way cool dog, which was enough for me to go over and bother him way too often. The dog was named Boots. I loved that dog.

“What’s your name?” the new soldier neighbor asks me one of the first days I invaded his life.


“How do you spell it?” I stared at him dumbfoundedly. “L.O.R.R.Y? L.O.R.R.I.E?”

I was so peeved by that question. “L.O.R.I. Duh.”

“I knew it,” he winked at me, “You’re a four-lettered Lori.”

“Whatever,” I rolled my eyes not getting it till years later. Anyway, I needed a father, he needed a family, simple right? Not so much. I invited him over to the house for coffee before he went to work one day. He said he got up pretty early so he could get to the steel mill where he was a heavy equipment operator.

“No problem, I said, “we get up early.”

I ran home and told my Mom she needed to take me to the store right now to buy a coffee pot, Ray would be over for breakfast. Perturbed and bitching the whole time she got the coffee pot and some coffee. She scolded me and I may have even got a paddle across my behind but secretly, she was thrilled. Morning coffee became a regular thing, mom even started drinking it with milk and sugar. On weekends, I’d go over and hand Ray tools and pet Boots. He started to get interested in my Mom.

One day, Ray was sick at work. His folks weren’t home so he called my Mom to come get him. I remember wrapping my arms around his neck and saying, “why don’t you come live with us and be my Dad.” He did.

Once, shortly after we were a whole family, I remember riding my bike with my brother and cousins. They all had just their cut-off jeans on, so I took my shirt off too. Next thing I know, my mom I hollering at me to put my shirt back on. Instead, I took a couple maple leaves and licked the back of them and smashed them onto my chest to cover the offending nipples; which by the way, looked just like my brother and cousins. That did not appease my mother. Like I had hoped it would, she yelled at me to come in and banished me into my room for the rest of the night. I was furious and confused. Life was not fair. My Dad taught me to never start a fight but if one is started, you finish it. My grandma taught me there is no such thing as a fair fight. Someone is always bigger, stronger, or more skilled. If you need to balance the odds with a stick or rock, you should. Turns out, I liked to fight. I liked to fix cars with my new dad. I liked to skateboard, climb trees and build forts. What I didn’t like was dolls, stuffed animals, or make-up. I didn’t like soap operas, shopping or heels.

When I married my first husband, I was fully aware he had five children and a vasectomy. When you are 22, your brain is not yet cooked. You are incomplete. I didn’t think I wanted kids. That changed pretty quick. I went to the U of U to get artificial insemination. They put me on fertility drugs that swelled my ovaries to the size of oranges and I felt like a walking uterus for two and a half years. It was a mess.

At the time, I was working for a wonderful doctor. I was helping out with phone triage when a guy called to get two little girls in for earaches. He told me they had just been adopted from Romania. When he came in I pumped him for information.

In 1990, there was a news program that showed the plight of Romanian orphans. There were thousands of kids housed in orphanages that the general public had been unaware of. The leader of the country until 1989, was Nicolae Ceausescu. He was a communist dictator. Romania had been communist since about 1940. There was a revolution and Ceausescu and his family were dragged from their palace on Christmas Day, 1989 and shot on public television. Romanians had their fill and don’t fuck around. Ceausescu’ s plan was to make tiny Romania into a world power by increasing population. Birth control and abortions were outlawed. Every woman between 20 and 60 needed at least 5 children. If you didn’t have them, you were taxed. Monthly pregnancy tests were mandated and if you were pregnant, the state made damn sure you had that baby. Many people couldn’t find enough food for themselves, let alone a child. The solution? Give your baby to the state, which will house, feed, educate….etc. In reality, the kids were warehoused. They had little human contact, were never even given baths, and if they had a clubbed foot or cross eyes, they were deemed handicapped and sent to a more terrible warehouse. The kids were sorted at age three.

I had the name and number of the interpreter in Bucharest. He advised me to get there as soon as possible because Romania was getting bad press in the US and was going to shut the adoptions down. The paperwork was never ending, I started working on home studies, paperwork for passports, visa’s, you name it. The Romanian adoption commission’s earliest appointment was three years away. That wasn’t going to work. My interpreter said to hurry over and we would do a private adoption. I borrowed $5k, broke it into small bills, put it in a couple money belts and my Mom and I were off.

It took six weeks to find Danny and another two to get the paperwork done to bring him home. He was six years old. He weighed 30 pounds and was 30 inches tall. He looked like a toddler. He was living in a field in the Transylvania Provence. A tiny place called Cornatelu.

The kids in the field had a sort of house that was more like a chicken coop on the edge of a swamp. Boards were missing from the sides and roof, no windows that I saw and a big yellow lab looking dog tied out front. There was one room with a fire pit and straw in it. Some rags in a corner but that was all I could see.

The next task was to find his mother. She lived about 3km away in a fairly nice home. She immediately agreed to the adoption. We needed his birth certificate and a sworn statement from her relinquishing custody. She said she had no money and wanted to buy bread for the kids. I gave her 5 one dollar bills, which is about a month’s wages. A week or so later, we went back to get some paperwork done. We stopped at the swampy field and to our surprise, Maria was there. She spoke with my interpreter for a bit, Danny began to cry. I had no idea what was going on so I just started handing him candy. Maria had told him that unless I paid her $1300, he could not go with me. My interpreter was wise. He didn’t tell me what was said until we were too far away for me to exit the car and rip her lungs through her nose. There were a few incidents like that. Romania is an entire book itself.

I successfully adopted Danny and we got out of the country. He picked up English fast. Within three months, I enrolled him in Kindergarten. He was the smallest kid, but a year older than the others. School was a trial. Danny is dyslexic. I had no idea how to deal with that. I learned and Danny and I sort of grew up together.

I got divorced. Married again. Divorced. Married, again. There was never a feeling of wholeness with my husbands but still I tried. When I got pregnant with my third husband, I was in denial. First of all, because I was told I wasn’t able to have kids. We didn’t ever use birth control for that same reason.

I was hoping for a boy. To be fair, I was terrified of babies in general, but girls in particular. We had Danny and my most recent husband came with a son, Travis. Boys, I understood.

When it was clear she was a girl and not likely to grow a penis, it was time to think of names. One afternoon, I was having lunch with Grandma.

“What are your favorite Irish names for the baby?” I asked her. The wheels started spinning, I could see it in her face. Before she answered I added, “I like Sean for a boy, but haven’t even considered if it’s a girl.”

“Stand up and turn for me,” she said. What? Keeping my eyes on grandma, I rose from my seat and turned three hundred and sixty degrees twice like I was dancing to a nursery rhyme.

“What are you doing?” she asked exasperated, “turn and let me see that bump.”

“Oh, of course.” I obliged.

Grandma’s stare bore into my belly. “You do know there is no K in the Irish alphabet, don’t you?” I nodded and took a bite of my lunch. Did I know that? “Caitlin,” she said with authority and then spelled it for me. “It’s a girl by the way.” I shook my head and resumed my meal. “Now Lori, you do know what to do if she’s born a redhead, right?”

“No, what?” I asked with a bit of trepidation, you never know where grandma was going with things.

“You put it in a sack and throw it in the river.”

My jaw went slack, “Wait, what? How can you say that? I have redheaded cousins, your redheaded grandchildren.”

“Yes, and look how they turned out,” she answered deadpan, “Proves my point exactly.” I studied her face for some sign she was joking. I’m not sure she was.

A few weeks later I stopped in to bring some groceries to grandma. My stomach was getting so big by that time I was having a hard time reaching the higher cupboard shelves to put them away. Grandma buzzed around me stepping up on a small stepstool to put her food in its proper place.

“Now Lori,” she started, “you know you have to make Caitlin tough, right?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Every day for the first five years you’ve got to tease her until she cries, don’t skip not even one day.”

“Wait, what are you even talking about, Gran? I can’t tease a baby let alone deliberately make her cry.”

Grandma stopped what she was doing and gave me a bit of a death stare. She put her hands on her hips as her eyes narrowed. Her mouth hardened into a wrinkled line across her face. “Fine, I’ll do it for you,” she hissed incensed.

After twenty-six hours of labor, Caitlin came out floppy. After my experience being an EMT, I’d been there for several spontaneous deliveries and knew this kind of thing happens from time to time, but those few minutes of jiggling her just about caused me a massive heart attack. Finally she took her first breath.

“Get Gran,” I shouted to my husband. He had his arms reached out to hold his new daughter. “Go get my grandma, please,” I said a little kinder, “I promised her she could be the first to hold her.”

A promise was a promise.

Lucky for Caitlyn, she had fine black hair.

Katie (she prefers this spelling) weighed six pounds. She was a very precocious child. She was used as a visual aid for my EMT classes. It’s hard to get kids to play victim while students do patient assessments on them. I also taught her the medical terms for body parts. It’s as easy to teach femur as it is thigh. At first, Katie loved the classes and would get annoyed when I wouldn’t let her teach emergency childbirth. She was three.

“I know what a bajina is."

Ugh… I lether teach pediatric trauma instead. It worked out. My students learned that when you are corrected by a small child, you don’t forget the lesson.

I got over my fear of this little whirlwind when she was about 9. I realized, I don’t like kids. Babies are great, but when they get into school, they aren’t interesting until they are nine or ten. They get fun when they are teens. I’m weird. Katie and I have some personality traits in common. We are both stubborn and have dry, sort of warped senses of humor. She was furious in Kindergarten because five-year old don’t understand sarcasm. I told her neither do most kindergarten teachers.We gradually became best friends. She is overprotective of me. She has more common sense than I do. She has great people instincts. I like all of her friends, and that is a real comfort to me. I don’t know what I