Sunday October 5th, 2014

The exercise:

Write about: congestion.

About two weeks ago I had an idea of where I wanted to go with my installment in October's edition of Vancouver Irrealis. At the moment, I couldn't possibly tell you what it was. I'm blaming it on this cold, if that's okay with you guys.

Anyway. I'm delaying this month's visit to our yearlong prompt until later in the week. At which point, hopefully, I'll be thinking a little more clearly.


"Jeez," I muttered to my best/only friend in high school, "the hallways keep getting more and more congested."

"No doubt," Fitzgerald replied. "Say, you know what it reminds me of?"

Now, Fitzgerald was not a particularly nice guy. I'd overheard one of the teachers saying that he thought he was "a bit of a prick" and... well, I'd say that was pretty generous. I guess you have to be at least a little mean if you want to survive being named Fitzgerald.

But he was a good friend to me. Always there when I needed him, or just about. More than anyone else in our stupid little town anyway.

Either way, all I'm trying to say is this: whatever he was about to say was not going to be very complimentary to the denizens of Saint Jacob's High School.

"What?" I asked, keeping my voice low in a vain attempt to get him to do the same.

"My nose when I had that cold last week. A never ending supply of slimy gunk that I wish would be vaporized by a robot before I ever had to look at it."

Well. You can't say I didn't warn you.


Greg said...

So your cold is... your excuse, your inspiration and your punchline? I think you ought to be sounding a lot more grateful towards it! (Though I still remember how uncouth you were to poor Mr. Wriggles, so I'm not actually hoping for a result here :-D) I think you've got about two more days of cold to expect, since they last 7 plus-or-minus 2 days for most people; sorry. Have you tried drinking hot things with ginger and honey in?
Heh, I think I like Fitzgerald. He's got a mean streak, sure, but it's creative and amusing with it!

The soft beeping of the machine was interrupted every minute or so by a wet cough like mortar being dropped onto a house brick and then a snuffling sound that turned into a snort and just stopped short of being a roar. Then the machine would beep again, and the room would go quiet.
The room was painted a pastel shade of yellow, perhaps how an anaemic Mother's Day daffodil might look after a week in a bowl of dishwater, and the furnishings were essentially the bed: huge, metallic and adjustable in a thousand different ways, and the machinery that was monitoring the man in the bed. In some cases, it was probably keeping him alive. Four monitors lined the wall above the bed, each tracking a different indicator of his health, and so many thin, clear plastic tubes were plugged into his arms that they were lifted above the bed into a kind of loom that then carried them off to other machines, or to plastic bags filled with clear fluids, or even through a plastic conduit set in the wall with a sign reading No Bleach above it. They'd had to find a hard plastic chair out in the waiting room and bring it so that Janine would have somewhere to sit, and even now, sat at his bedside and holding a finger (too many tubes came out of his hand), she was surrounded by wires and tubes and machinery.
He coughed; the doctors had told her that he was overproducing phlegm and his body was struggling to clear it from his airways. She lowered her head to the bed, so tired now that his struggle to breathe after coughing was barely noticeable, let alone the irritant it had been in the beginning. She wanted to cry, but instead she let sleep take her away from a dying man and his terminal congestion.
She woke with a start, wondering what had disturbed her. She tried to lift her head from the bed, but something held her face firmly in place. Struggling a little, she tried harder, and her face pulled slowly away from the bed, but then stopped again. Long tendrils of mucus stretched from her to the bed, gluing her too firmly to straighten up. She tried to speak, to attract attention, but her lips were glued together too.
Panic increased as she realised that her hands were also stuck to the bed, and then, somehow inappropriately, she realised that she could hear the machines beeping, but not the wet cough or the snorting or the snuffling.
"We've been waiting for you," said a voice right next to her ear.

morganna said...

Come one, come all
Over the hill, right this way to the
Gates of the most
Exciting circus in the world
Stay calm, folks,
Try to avoid extra excitement
I really think we could avoid a stampede if
Only everyone would just stay calm ...
No, don't riot!

Anonymous said...

It was the crumpled tissues overflowing from the trashcan that gave it away.
“Honey?” I called, setting my keys and messenger bag on the island.
“In ‘ere.”
She was sitting on the couch in her sick pants—the pink fluffy fleece with the rotund derby cows—watching Safe Haven on Netflix. An empty tissue box was on the coffee table while another, near empty box was nestled into her lap. She was holding a steaming cup, most likely of Lipton lemon tea with a spoonful of honey. She looked up at me with red-rimmed eyes and an angry looking nose.
“You okay?” I asked, placing the back of my hand against her forehead.
“I thing I got the flu.” She sniffled loud.
“Scoot over,” is said. “The movie’s just getting good.”

Marc said...

Greg - might as well make use of it while it's around, right? And we have a pretty steady diet of hot water, lemon juice, and honey whenever we get sick. Seems to help.

I quite like my pair here, actually. Might have to bring them back for another visit.

Great scene setting at the start, and a... horrifying and disgusting ending as well. Ugh.

Morganna - hah, that's another well done acrostic from you. Ah, patience... or a lack thereof.

Ivybennet - I think you've really managed to capture the essence of the situation with some great little details. I quite like the ending as well :)