Wednesday Write-in #24: Emergency Care or Along for the Ride

Wednesday Write-in #24 @ CAKE.shortandsweet

Prompts: cookie dough  ::  greeting  ::  slippery slope  ::  tin can  ::  bloom

EMERGENCY CARE OR ALONG FOR THE RIDE

The volunteer greeter at the hospital wasn’t very engaging, the old bag, so I focused my eyes on the Hyacinth bloom on the table while I listened to her direct me toward the Emergency Room.

“Through those doors and to the right, then a left, then another right. You can’t miss it. This whole first floor is like one big square, you know. So if you miss it the first time, you’ll get there eventually if you just keep walking.”

She smiled.

A slippery first step onto one of the more treacherous slopes I’m aware of.

That was at 9:00am.

By noon, the intravenous line was in and pops was supine, saline dripping, his mind vacationing on Demerol’s dime. I was hungry so I walked outside the ER doors and into the sunlight, that odd juxtaposition of antiseptic spaces and springtime weather.

I’m free. Dad’s not.

I finally settled on the 7-Eleven on the corner of Prospect and Lindale, the last oasis on my walk before the entrance to emergency care and the facade that is the hospital cafeteria. Don’t be so harsh, I thought as I reached into the refrigerator for a tube of cookie dough. They feed the surgeons and the nurses and the specialists there, after all.

“Will that be it?” asked the cashier. He was only slightly better than the volunteer.

“Parliament Ultra Lights,” I said, nodding to the shelves behind him.

That was at 2:00 pm.

At 3:00pm, the cookie dough was halfway eaten and the pack of cigarettes halfway smoked. I sat on the curb near the “SMOKE FREE CAMPUS” sign, the cracked tube of dough next to me, its sides torn and flared out like shredded newspaper. The smokes tasted good like that, one after another. Apart from a few portly nurses that looked at me weird, the other patrons going in and out of the ER were too concerned to give me notice.

They seemed to understand.

By 5:00pm, pops was conscious again and the nurse was in to pull the IV and begin discharge proceedings. Pops was still drowsy from the pain-killer so his answers to the nurse’s practiced instructions were comical.

He liked to flirt when he was fucked up.

“This is to acknowledge that you received care in the ER today, including instructions on how to continue care once you go home.” She drew on the paper in three quick motions. “Please sign here, here and here,” she said as she handed the clipboard to dad.

“And where else now, honeybee?” he asked with lascivious intent. The nurse grimaced.

At the house, pops went to the fridge before taking his place in front of the television. He was quiet.

“How you holding up, pops? You good?”

He cracked a beer, took a gulp and nodded without turning to face me.

“Pops, don’t you think–”

“Leave me alone, will you? That trollop at the ER yapped enough for the both of us,” he said impatiently. So I left.

That was at 6:00pm.

The Tin Can was crowded for a Tuesday night. Some shitty garage band was giving the open mic a go and people seemed into it. A girl with half of her head shaved sat down next to me and made small talk. I bought us both three fingers and then turned to the music to finish my share.

That was at 1:00am.

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12 Comments

Filed under Flash Fiction, Wednesday Write-In, Writing

12 responses to “Wednesday Write-in #24: Emergency Care or Along for the Ride

  1. Perhaps I’m fated to always misread the gender of your narrators, because I read this character as a woman. Maybe I just really empathise with the sensation of being at your wit’s end with a loved one, of putting up with their crap time and again. The relationship here is very vivid.

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    • Thank you, Sarah.

      The gender of the character wasn’t a driving force during my composition, though I’d be lying if I said that I intended for the narrator to be female.

      That being said, your reading of him as a her gets me thinking again about the need to consider gender more closely when writing my stories.

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      • I think it’s more likely a product of me being obsessed with female characters lately, that I tend to read a non-specified-gender narrator as female automatically, rather than you writing them in a certain way. But who knows, eh? 😀

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        • Interesting. It does make me think though: are gender-neutral characters a cop-out? Are they frowned upon by the esoteric literary community? Or, for shorter media like flash, are they perfectly appropriate given the limited space that the write has?

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          • I certainly wouldn’t call it a cop out, I think it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. There’s also no reason a character must be male or female, as there are more genders out there in existence. I think, in my case, I often assume a first person narrator is as much like me as possible until I see evidence to the contrary, I think it’s quite a natural thing to do. It’s up to the author whether they want their reader to be able to self-insert like this, or to show them a really distinct character,

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            • Great points, especially about the common misconception that male and female are the only genders. Is there writing that is written from, or explores this perspective? I certainly haven’t seen it well-represented in any of the literary magazines that I read.

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  2. Patrick

    I guess being difficult/fractious is a right for someone that ill. But what a long and exhausting day for the narrator.

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  3. Elaine McKay

    I agree with Rebecca about the easiness of the tone (something that is, ironically, difficult to achieve). It makes the piece fluid and highly readable.

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  4. Elaine Peters

    I like the ‘timeline’ and the short sentences punctuating the story. Feels like a long day and the son is there or nearby the whole time, then when they get out of hospital neither wants to be together.

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  5. This story is great! I love the casualness and the ‘day in the life’ style. I want to know what his Dad got done, but I’m happy to contemplate it rather than being told 🙂

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