Group 1: Greta

Posted by on Jun 21, 2012 in Other Writings | 3 comments

NOTE: Dashes on the left side of the screen indicate a new section of the story unrelated to the previous section.

And I was in a fishbowl, and the water was sloshing around me and I was spinning at one million miles a minute, and I was the goldfish. I couldn’t see out of the warping glass because from here, everything looked like the inside of a black hole and–

YOU MAKE ME WEEP

–a spider’s web bloomed across the windshield. There aren’t spiders in fishbowls, I thought, for a moment, and then–

I WANT TO DIE

I was floating, and my hand curled around the worn leather of the steering wheel in front of — steering wheel? That doesn’t– I’m not–

JUST WHEN

–and something collided with the edge of my bowl, my entire world, and reality smacked into me like a baseball bat to the brains and all of a sudden I was in a car- my car- and my hand was still on the radio dial–

YOU SAID WE’D TRY

There was this sticky, ruddy fluid everywhere and it was warm and smelled like jewelry. It felt like my pants were too tight around my right thigh so I tried to fix the seam but I couldn’t find my leg under the heaping pile of hot metal currently spilling from my passenger seat. One hand was still on the wheel, but I couldn’t move it, and I saw a canyon in the flesh about a hand’s length above my wrist, and if I squinted, I could see the white river flowing between the rocks.

LOVIN’

And an American flag waved in the distance, only it was screaming, just like the ice-cream truck that pulled up next to it. But there was no ice cream, only a stretcher, and suddenly 108.75 FM glared at me, dial halfway between somewhere and nowhere, just like I was, and they shouted stay awake stay awake stay awake

TOUCHIN’

but i

SQUEEZIN’

didn’t

EACH OTHER

the darkness tasted too good to let go.

 

I woke up in polyester heaven, with rubber bracelets binding my wrists to the ice steel bars on each side. I felt the scratchy blanket beneath my elbows and the stench of sticky-sweet medicine and formaldehyde and scrubbed sterility. And lastly, I felt a breathing tube in my throat, and I could feel it all the way down to my lungs. Choke. Choke. Caterwaul.

If this was the world I had come back to, send me right back into the quiet. Everything was loud. My gags, the heart monitor, footsteps, labored breaths that I realized were coming from my own windpipe. Deafening.

SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP I screamed, but I couldn’t even make out a single syllable. It was all just frightful wet noises, ugly, sick, until a woman in a white coat pushed back the curtain and ran into the room.

“You need to calm down so we can take the breathing tube out,” the doctor said, all too calmly. Calm? There was a plastic hose shoved into my lungs. There is no calm here.

“Calm. Calm, okay?”

STOP SAYING CALM, I gurgled, uncalmly. STOP IT.

“Shhh. Calm, remember? I need to take out the tube.”

STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP-

I quit wriggling enough for her to grab hold of the breathing artifice, and she ditched her CALM exterior and bared her teeth, pulling hard and I felt every inch of it leave my body, and I coughed, and it burned, and I couldn’t fight the tears that poured from the corners of my eyes. She kept pulling.

“Almost there, honey.” I watched the end leave my lips, dripping with spit and whatever other fluids it scraped from the sides of my throat.

“Where–”

“Don’t talk, you need to rest.”

“I–”

“Don’t say anything-”

“But-”

Each word was hoarse and hurt to say, but she saw that I was obviously not going to sit there in silence, so she handed me a prescription pad to write on.

WHAT HAPPENED

“You were in a car accident.”

WHERE ARE MY PARENTS

“They are coming.”

I looked down, feeling an awkward absence, and realized that my whole leg was gone holy shit what the fuck is this for real where is my leg

WHERE IS MY LEG

“We– we couldn’t salvage it.”

WHERE DID YOU PUT MY LEG

“It’s–”

WHY IS IT NOT ON ME

“It was too damaged–”

Seriously freaking out here.

WHERE IS MY LEG

“You got to keep half of it after some extensive surgery. That’s lucky.”

OH JOY. HALF MY LEG. FORTUNE’S ON MY SIDE.

She pursed her lips. Apparently amputee jokes aren’t that funny, even when you’re an amputee.

“Do you remember anything?”

I REMEMBER DRIVING.

“Do you remember your name?”

JANET ANDERSON. I DON’T REMEMBER MY MIDDLE NAME. IT’S A DISEASE.

“A disease?”

PORPHYRIA.

“Your middle name is porphyria?”

YES MY MOTHER IS AN IDIOT.

“At least we know you haven’t suffered any head trauma.”

I HAVE SUFFERED PLENTY OF TRAUMA, I wrote with an eyeroll.

“I mean from the accident.”

ARE YOU SURE, BECAUSE MY HEAD HURTS LIKE HELL.

“That will go away.”

WHERE’S MY MORPHINE DRIP?

“You don’t have one yet.”

I WANT ONE.

“But-”

GIVE ME A GODDAMN MORPHINE DRIP.

“But we’re not sure if your–”

LOOK DOWN.

“Okay.”

HOW MANY LEGS DO YOU HAVE?

“I have two.”

HOW MANY LEGS DO I HAVE?

“You have one.”

A+. SO GET ME A MORPHINE DRIP.

 

Barnet came to visit me the day after I got home from the hospital.

 

“They’re calling you Calamity Janet at school,” he said, as he sat on the edge of my bed. I looked nearly normal with my weird, withered hand tucked away in a splint and my newly-acquired robot leg shrouded by a blanket.

“Calamity Janet,” I said, tasting my lip. “I actually like that. It makes me sound like a Wild West outlaw.”

“Except we live in west Tennessee,” Barnet said, a smile threatening to breach his lips.

“And I am nowhere near badass.”

“You are totally badass. You survived a car wreck.”

“It wasn’t like I was tailing a pedophile drug rapist to perform a vigilante citizen’s arrest. I hit black ice, that’s all.”

“At least you didn’t hit Vanilla Ice.”

I tipped my head back as far as it could go and laughed. It sounded foreign to my ears, like it was not quite my own, but it was the first time I had laughed since the moment those wheels began to spin.

“Actually, I think I would have preferred to hit Vanilla Ice.”

“Maybe he’d sign your prosthetic cyborg leg.”

“Alas. The lack of seriously injured 90’s rappers here is tragic as hell.”

Barnet chuckled. It was nice to talk to him. It had been a while.

“Where’s Pav?” Barnet asked, out of the blue. I pointed to the shelf at the foot of my bed, where the fat goldfish turned existential circles in this bowl. “I bought him a friend.”

“You did what?” Barnet pulled a nearly identical fish bowl with a nearly identical fish swimming nearly identical circles from a reusable grocery bag.

“I named her Fermat.”

“Copycat.”

“You’re just trendy. Everyone’s getting in car accidents nowadays.”

I rolled my eyes.

“I figured I could come over to visit while you recover and our fish could talk while we talk.” We talk, sure, but we never really say anything. That’s the trouble with Barnet. He placed the bowl next to Pavlov’s. All three, all turning circles.

“Feed him, will ya?” I asked, flopping back onto my pillow. Barnet obliged. Too many flakes. He’d get fat.

Lowering himself onto the corner of my mattress, Barnet took my hand within his and stared at me.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked, dead serious in his tone, dead real in his request.

“Not having a leg,” I deadpanned. I did not want to engage in this game with him. Sure, something was wrong but Barnet was literally the very last person I wanted to talk to about it.

“For real.”

I took a deep breath. No escape here.

“I’m thinking– I’m thinking about Pavlov and Fermat. I’m thinking about how they’re both swimming in the same circles day after day, over and over, and they only pass by so often, and when they see each other it’s so completely distorted through the glass that they don’t even know who the other is, truly, inside.”

 

“I think maybe I ought to go.”

 

Me: You know what sucks?

Barnet: What?

Me: Texting with only one hand.

Barnet: You only have four more unprovoked complaints before I actually punch you. Choose wisely.

Me: Only four?

Barnet: You need to get out more.

Me: Sorry, it’s kind of hard to go outside with ONLY ONE LEG.

Barnet: Three.

 

When I woke up, my family had vanished, and its place was Coral. Her hair had faded considerably, I noticed, and was no longer the brilliant shade of her namesake. I peered at it, eyes half-open, trying to put words to the dusty pink that told miles of truths- Coral never neglected her hair, not if she could help it.

“What’s up, Salmon.”

Her cheeks were wet but they pinched up in a smile.

“Janet…” Her eyes went directly to the absence of a leg to which I would probably never grow accustomed. “Your- your- l-l-”

“My leg is gone. Yes, trust me, I would know.” All of a sudden, she took a sharp intake of breath that sounded too painful and her body began to rock with sobs, and I tried not to let a few tears that had welled up behind my eyelids escape. It was futile.

“Do you know– do you–” Her legs apparently gave out, because her arms caught her falling body and  she leaned over the bed. She blubbered. “It’s going to be so much easier to shave now!”

“What?” I said, and laughed. “I’m an amputee, and the only thing you can come up with to make me  feel better is how I won’t have to shave my nonexistent appendage.”

“You know I’m not very good at things under pressure,” she said, grinning through my tears and sitting where my leg should have been but wasn’t.

“You know I know.” Our eyes locked. The heart monitor kept beeping. She pursed her lips. It felt like I should have been thinking of an explicit time that we were under pressure and she fucked up but nothing was coming to mind. I tried to think of whatever she was thinking about.

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

She scooted closer, pressing her lips to my cheek, which make me wince as her nose brushed a bandaged wound.

“How are you doing?”

“I think I’m doing alright.”

The monitor beeped. Of course not.

“That’s good. That’s– that’s real good.”

“Yeah. The doctor says I’ll be out of here in a few days, once my leg heals up.”

Wiping at the last stragglers of tears that were lollygagging on her cheek, she nodded. The hair stood on the back of my neck, and I don’t know why.

“How’s the food?”

“The what?”

“The hospital food.”

“What hospital food?” I prodded a quivering lump of jelly on the corner of my tray. “I don’t think this counts as food. Guess again?”

She laughed.

“You’re great.”

“I try.”

“But you need to stop.”

Lips pressed together in sassed, aggressive curiosity, I quirked an eyebrow.

“Stop what?”

“Stop everything.”

“Yeah, that almost happened, but then the ambulance came.”

“Janet.” Her tone was dangerous, in a way Coral rarely got. “You need to feel things. You are a one-legged, effectively one-armed sarcastic bitch and I want you to know– I want you to feel it, I want you to stop it with these stupid brick walls you build, because you are not invincible, Janet, and you are not impervious, Janet, and you are not better than anyone in this cow town. Not a single one. Not me, not Barnet, not the boy who works at the candy store, not the school janitor Mister Shale. Not anyone.”

“I never said I was. I am not.”

 

3 Comments

  1. I really liked how ur character is battling with reality. I dont think quivering lumps of jelly is a proper description. I dont understand the structure though.

  2. I reallly like this story!! It all flows together so nicely, and once you start reading you just want to continue and continue! There was only one part when your wording was a bit funky. It was : ‘And lastly, I felt a breathing tube in my throat, and I could feel it all the way down to my lungs.’ Maybe if you got rid of one of the ands or both? But overall, I quite liked it :)

  3. Very fast paced/entertaining dialogue and liked the confusioning style of narrative for the car crash which is a good way of getting in the mindset of someone passing out. Just change the capitalizations to dialogue with parenthesis, hipster

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *