03 August 2010

An excerpt of a story I will never write - not about babies

Here’s the last assignment I did for my writing class, which ended in July. I’m posting it here because originally we were supposed to turn it into a story, or even a novel. We were meant to do this on our own time, but as you know, I can’t accomplish anything unless there is a toddler standing directly over me with an empty bowl of fruit and screaming BUBBIES; and then I might refill that bowl with berries, if there’s any in the fridge to be had.

And since this excerpt will most likely only gather space dust in my virtual documents folder on our PC, I thought I’d give it a slightly less dusty home on this here disused blog. Enjoy, time-travelers and future occupants of planet Earth!

Assignment #8 - Untitled

Doug kisses Bonnie on his way out the door, and she slaps his backside and makes her usual quip about his pajamas. They are rather like pajamas, these hospital-issued garbs all staff are required to wear, and Doug often wonders why, as one who occupies a role in the perpetual staunching of physiological turmoil, they are not kitted out in costumes better suited to the gory drama of life-in-crisis - like maybe chain mail, or grease paint and camouflage.

His daydream about being stationed on the roof of Ward B and peering through the scope of a sniper rifle as he picks off the degenerative diseases and gangrenous limbs of patients who stumble towards the double doors of A&E is quickly suffused by the sight of Jenny, who is actually standing outside the double doors of A&E and delicately puffing on a Pall Mall menthol, extra-light. He swings his Volvo into a reserved spot in the emptying staff lot and checks his mirror to see if she’s noticed him pull in, but she’s already blowing her last, minted stream of smoke skyward and disappearing into the refrigerated jaws of the hospital.

Doug is by no means a one-trick custodian. He has polished, buffed and waxed every square inch of available floor space in this sterile house of horrors, and knows that there is no more glory in a vicious slash of arterial matter than in the bleak trickle of urine that escapes an abandoned catheter. His is not to question this erratic release of human detritus, but to simply pass over it with his humming, undulating brushes, leaving in their wake a smooth, uniform gloss. In the six years he has spent polishing floors, Doug has learned that the great equalizer is nothing more or less than the ground you walk on. Heaven or hell, as long as you keep your eyes planted squarely on your feet, you could be anywhere at all.

This evening, Doug’s anywhere happens to be back in Ward B with the schizos and depressives, the suicidally watched and, more sadly, the lifeless dummies they rotate in and out of the electroconvulsive therapy unit on level zero. These are the messes Doug prefers least, as the stains are not of human making, but the sweet, sticky remnants of melted Popsicle, juice spilled by a shaking hand on level zero or sometimes the sputtered tail-end of an antidepressant in liquid form. Bodies are by nature permeable, inwardly sodden and therefore subject to leaks; it’s when the fluids cease to make the return journey home that you know you’re in for a spot of bother, and that is a reminder Doug does not especially cherish.

Besides, he would much prefer to glance up every now and again to see Jenny striding purposefully through A&E inside her floating pajamas, the tail-end of her stethoscope switching against the place where her navel would be, were he to look beneath the pale pink shirt she wore tucked into her drawstring scrub bottoms. He likes the way she runs her fingers through her white-blonde hair, twisting it with surgical precision into a no-nonsense knot at the nape of her neck, her elbows askew and palely freckled. Her skin gives the impression of having been freshly scrubbed and expertly dried, though he supposes she does this often enough anyway, given her line of work. Doug finds it heartening to know that however harried the glistening, patchy floors of Saint Mary’s hospital might become, Jenny will always remain uniquely, wholesomely untainted.



Amy said...

You are such a good writer Jackie. This reminds me a bit of Miranda July. x

Ariel said...

More, please!

Friday Films said...

Thanks, friends. There isn't any more, I'm afraid. Maybe when Hartley leaves the nest, or at least stops drawing all over it with crayon.

Lacking said...

Finish it someday--we'll be waiting! I'm in a writing class right now and have several started stories. I can also write annoying (not bad, not good, just annoying) poetry it seems.

pk said...

Hi Jackie: you've still got it. Strangely enough, I shall be in London next week, as my brother has died and I have sad stuff to do and staying hard by Muswell Hill. I'll tip my hat to you three as I wander there.


Friday Films said...

Oh Peter, I'm so sorry. I wish you were coming for happy circumstances. We don't live in Muswell Hill anymore (we're just outside of London now, in a town called Hitchin). Let me know if you have time to meet up for a coffee or drink in the old neighbourhood, though I completely understand if you'll be too enmeshed in family. Take care of you.


pk said...

I would love that so much: Thursday or Friday? Be in touch when I arrive.

pk said...

Hello; I don't have yr email, but I'll be around the Hill thurs/fri/sat
with nothing too pressing.It's been fairly awful, but I've just walked down in the lovely soft rain and got breakfast things from the organic shop that very thoughtfully opens at 7.30 for thejetlagged and wrung out visitor, so retoring some sense of normality.
The phone here is 020 8883 3665
or you can email me : peterdkenneally@gmail.com


Lass said...

This is really good, Miss. If you do get a spare moment or two to advance it, I hope you'll post it here for we, the people who live in your computer. xxoo