Jump to content
Poetry Magnum Opus
fdelano

Flotsam

Recommended Posts

fdelano

Flotsam

 

The sudden bright light above the gurney invades the prone man's introspection.

 

"It's time for our bath, mister. After we're all clean, we can have some nice hot chicken soup. It'll cure what ails you, my Mama always said."

 

Alfred obliquely considers the proffered absurdity. He desperately tries to block out the disturbance, to no avail; the woman will not be ignored.

 

"You have to get up now. If you don't, I'll just have to give you a sponge bath, 'cept I won't use no damn sponge. It'll be the scrubbing brush and lye soap for you this time. So make up your mind. I got other fish to fry."

 

Smiling placidly into the glinting eyes buried in a broad white face, Alfred creates a predictable further rise in the orderly's frustration level. He welcomes this new humiliation of the rough bathing, concentrating on feeling nothing but the hot surges of pain.

 

"Ah, yes. Now that's poetry, my dear."

 

The woman draws back to stare at the pale, gaunt man lying serenely on the plastic sheet. She drops the brush and soap into the basin and walks away, shaking her head in confusion and anger.

 

Time mercifully stops. He turns slowly to lie on his side, curling again to hug his knees, and faces the soothing blankness of the wall. Transporting himself to nestle in a warm cave, he drowsily listens to imagined cold rain outside. Nothing penetrates his mental barrier until a fly alights on his right arm near the elbow. He grants the creature his begrudged attention, striving to feel the subtle invasion, his mental faculties mildly alert.

 

In sotto voce, the man acknowledges the fly. "Why have you chosen this arm at this time and on that particular spot to plant your sticky feet? Is it that just this combination of pigment and oil and sweat and dearth of hair are irresistible to your selective passion? Have you found the perfect oasis? If that be the case, then feed away, roommate. To each his own."

 

The fly instead departs for its own world.

 

The man eases gratefully into sleep, hardly knowing a difference from being awake. Dreaming, he stands naked on a rocky ridge. He defiantly raises both arms and watches them slowly sprout green leaves that glisten as they turn in the breeze. He longs to fly but his feet are rooted in the meager soil between the cracks.

 

He wakes with limbs reaching toward the unshielded bulb hanging from the ceiling and is astonished that leaves no longer adorn his pale branches. Two faces suddenly hang like moons over his bed, concerned and curious, confused, their voices modulated as if for a recalcitrant child.

 

"What do you want, mister? Don't you want to get out of bed? We'll help you up. You need to walk. You need some exercise. You're getting bed sores and you're not eating. You're not helping us take care of you. We can't heal you. You have to heal yourself. Don't you want to get well? We brought you some nice, hot chicken soup. Isn't that your favorite? Can you sit up? If you don't eat, we'll be forced to put you on the IV. There's a ball game on TV. Don't you want to join the others? Everyone has been asking for you."

 

With studied indifference, Alfred slowly draws in his bare limbs and crosses them over his eyes to block out the intruding pair. He carefully places a twig in each ear and stretches his trunk out stiffly. Concentrating fiercely, he turns inward to listen to a steady, high-pitched tone of his own making. After a long while he allows the prolonged tension to ease enough to smugly realize he is again alone.

Edited by fdelano

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
goldenlangur

Hello fdh,

 

Your narrative held my attention and I read this right through wanting to know what would become of this recalcitrant protagonist. You use details very well and I particularly enjoyed the attention to detail in this passage:

 

Nothing penetrates his mental barrier until a fly alights on his right arm near the elbow. He grants the creature his begrudged attention, striving to feel the subtle invasion, his mental faculties mildly alert.

 

In sotto voce, the man acknowledges the fly. "Why have you chosen this arm at this time and on that particular spot to plant your sticky feet? Is it that just this combination of pigment and oil and sweat and dearth of hair are irresistible to your selective passion? Have you found the perfect oasis? If that be the case, then feed away, roommate. To each his own."

 

The only small nit is that I could not quite make out where the protagonist was placed - in a prison or a nursing home. But your protrayal of his inner world is done very effectively and this is a great closure:

 

With studied indifference, Alfred slowly draws in his bare limbs and crosses them over his eyes to block out the intruding pair. He carefully places a twig in each ear and stretches his trunk out stiffly. Concentrating fiercely, he turns inward to listen to a steady, high-pitched tone of his own making. After a long while he allows the prolonged tension to ease enough to smugly realize he is again alone.

 

 

 

Thank you.

 

 

For some inexplicable reason I am unable to use the quote tags, so I have rendered the quoted passages in bold.

Edited by goldenlangur

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
fdelano
Hello fdh,

 

Your narrative held my attention and I read this right through wanting to know what would become of this recalcitrant protagonist. You use details very well and I particularly enjoyed the attention to detail in this passage:

 

Nothing penetrates his mental barrier until a fly alights on his right arm near the elbow. He grants the creature his begrudged attention, striving to feel the subtle invasion, his mental faculties mildly alert.

 

In sotto voce, the man acknowledges the fly. "Why have you chosen this arm at this time and on that particular spot to plant your sticky feet? Is it that just this combination of pigment and oil and sweat and dearth of hair are irresistible to your selective passion? Have you found the perfect oasis? If that be the case, then feed away, roommate. To each his own."

 

The only small nit is that I could not quite make out where the protagonist was placed - in a prison or a nursing home. But your protrayal of his inner world is done very effectively and this is a great closure:

 

With studied indifference, Alfred slowly draws in his bare limbs and crosses them over his eyes to block out the intruding pair. He carefully places a twig in each ear and stretches his trunk out stiffly. Concentrating fiercely, he turns inward to listen to a steady, high-pitched tone of his own making. After a long while he allows the prolonged tension to ease enough to smugly realize he is again alone.

 

 

 

Thank you.

 

 

For some inexplicable reason I am unable to use the quote tags, so I have rendered the quoted passages in bold.

 

When I started this--with no real idea where it would go--I had in mind a VA hospital I have visited several times. For the reader I wanted the setting to be open to the imagination. Thank you for spending time with this. I appreciate your feedback.

fdh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
tonyv

Well, the setting was open to imagination. I imagined a nursing home -- I was in the basement of one once and even saw a dead body on a gurney :icon_eek: -- but a VA hospital makes perfect sense, too. What I like about this is that the man, though clearly full-grown, exhibits infantile qualities, and it's understandable: he's helpless and unhappy in his predicament.

 

This reminds me of some lyrics about a deaf and blind war veteran who has no arms and no legs. The song is called "One," and one of the lines is "I hold my breath, and I pray for death." Your prose piece is no less effective, though a bit less extreme, and, as such, is more believable. I, too, liked the part about the fly, and the "steady, high-pitched tone of his own making" is extremely inspired. I enjoyed this a lot.

 

Tony


Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
fdelano

Many thanks, Tony. Have not heard/read "One," but will do so. I once had an eight A.M appt. at a VA hospital. The staff, of course, even most of the doctors, were civilians, so there is an imposed separation between the medics/orderlies and their patients. I sat for more than two hours, when an orderly wheeled an old guy on a gurney into the hallway. (I would eventually be there for more than eight hours before seeing a doctor who spared me five minutes.) He had to be a vet of WWI, judging by his apparent age. He had no limbs and lay on his back with eyes closed. My first thought was that he wanted to die and would if he had a limb. I couldn't take my eyes off him. I didn't think he was sleeping because he would twist a little now and then as one would do in bed to be more comfortable. After about and hour and a half, it was apparent that the orderly had forgotten (I'm being kind) the old guy lying there in the hallway. When I could no longer contain myself, I went to the reception clerk who was engrossed in a soap opera on the waiting-room TV. Very loudly, because I wanted everyone waiting to hear, I asked if someone could at least give the patient a cup of water. I asked why he had been abandoned here without even the means to turn his body. Because steam emitted from my ears and sparks were flying from my eyes, the clerk picked up the phone without a word and spoke to someone quietly so I could not hear her. Withing two minutes, the orderly appeared and rushed the old man off to who the hell knows. No matter what I read about how much these so-called hospitals have improved, I will never let myself be taken to any one of them. The military-run facilities, like Walter Reed Army Medical Center are state of the art, staffed by military doctors and staff. Sorry for ranting, but now you know the seeds of Flotsam.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moonqueen

You already know my thoughts on this story, I read it long ago. However, I feel I know you better now, than when I first read it. My perspective is more 'involved' than previously.

 

I don't consider your lst comment to be a rant, at all, and if it is, more people whould be doing it. You know my feelings on all of this, as well. I won't start the next round.

 

An excellent story of truths, painful thought they may be. We need to wake up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.