Make sure you vote for last week\’s stories.
This story idea comes from Karen Schravemade. Karen is from Australia (yup, I have 2 Aussie friends). I met her through the Novel Matters blog. She is beyond sweet, intelligent, genuine and an up and coming novelist. She’s just recently made her first trip to the good ol’ US of A to attend a writer’s conference. And she is inches from a book deal. I’m looking forward to reading her novel one of these days!
Here’s Karen’s idea (that she meant to be a joke, but I thought could make a great story)…
“Frazzled mother of small children has a brain implosion while attempting to be creative. She is admitted to the hospital. As she’s wheeled into the operating room for an emergency surgery she is overheard muttering about a hair lipped barmaid and a one legged war veteran and a small child who will not stop screaming. Surgeons determine that she has lost all grip with reality and warn her friends that nothing she says should be expected to make the slightest sense.”
“Hey, seriously, could you please just watch TV for another few minutes?” Kelly scooted her three kids back to the living room. “Just one more show. Please.”
She got them sitting comfortably on the couch with a bag of chips and loud, colorful, stimulating children’s programming on the screen. Trying to convince herself that she wasn’t a terrible mom, that she wasn’t neglecting them, that they would be fine, she hopped over the baby gate and into the kitchen.
Her laptop was waiting. Novel pulled up on the screen. In the middle of an intense scene. The protagonist was nearly destroyed by the dragon antagonist. There was blood. Flames. Swords.
And a terrible pain in her head. Sharp pain. Behind her eye.
She shook her head. No time for a headache. She needed to finish this.
“Mommy, we want juice,” the smallest said.
“Huh?” she asked. “No, sorry, buddy. I need to get this done. Mommy has a deadline.”
“What’s a deadline?”
“It’s a due date. When I have to turn this book in. And if I don’t, then it won’t get published. And if I don’t get this book published we won’t get money. And then I’ll have to get a real job and you’ll have to go to daycare.”
Her stomach contracted with anxiety. That burning again. She didn’t need another ulcer. But she was nauseous. And that stabbing in her brain. Her eyesight went dull, then sharp again. Dizzy, disoriented, sick.
“Mommy? What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. I don’t feel very well.”
The kids managed to call for help. Ran and got a neighbor. An ambulance came. The neighbor stayed with the kids. Her husband rushed from work to the hospital.
Doctors and nurses moved her quickly through the hospital corridors. The CT scan showed a rupture, an aneurysm. They feared the damage done to her brain. They would need to operate right away.
Kelly’s husband sat, head in hands, in the waiting room. Her mother stood, straight as a pole, in the corner. This was serious. She’d come close to death. They might have lost her. Might still. And yet, they were unable to talk. Incapable of comforting one another.
When a doctor entered, removed his green cap, they knew that something hadn’t gone well.
Nurses wheeled Kelly into the ICU. They watched her. Checked her oxygen intake. Heart monitors, catheters, IVs with water and food and pain killers.
They kept her asleep, hoping that the rest would heal her brain. But she would mutter in her slumber. Words the doctors and nurses had overheard as she drifted off before surgery.
“Her lip. It’s split. Like a cat’s. But without the whiskers. And how it would feel as she kissed me goodnight. The split lip on my forehead. The smell of beer on her clothes. But never on her breath.”
Her husband wondered at her musings. Kelly’s ramblings were nearly constant and hardly sensible.
“He’d fought so hard. Never gave up. But then he started to hop. Hop, hop, hop. One leg. That was all he had. His one leg. Her split lip. And the small child screaming, screaming, screaming. Just so happy, scared, sad. Screaming as they hopped and kissed and screamed.”
He wrote many of her words. A puzzle to contemplate. Pieces shifted in his head. Was this a novel she was constructing? A movie she’d seen? A memory she’d stuffed so deeply that a bleed in her brain was what it took to bring it out?
“How is Kelly today?” her mother asked, standing over her daughter. “Any better?”
“I don’t know,” her husband said. “She’s just talking so much. It’s all nonsense. The doctor worries that there is some damage. They want to keep her under longer to see if she can heal a little more.”
“Well, I can’t understand a word she’s saying. It sounds more like mumbling to me. How can they think it means anything?”
“Maybe you should read some of what she says. You might be able to make something of it.”
Kelly’s mother sat in a chair by her daughter’s head. “I suppose it can’t hurt.”
As she read about the split lip, her hand went to her own mouth, touching her upper lip with fingertips.
“This is about us,” she said. “This is her childhood. It’s me and him. And her. It’s so strange.”
“What do you mean?”
“The split lip. It’s me. I had a hair-lip. It was repaired when she was 10 years old. She always asked me if I was a cat.”
“She never said anything…”
“Kelly always knew how embarrassed I was. And the beer smell, I was a bar tender when she was little. But I never drank. I can’t believe she would remember that.” She read a little more. “Her father, he was in the war. Viet Nam. They had to amputate his leg. The only way she knew him was without. He would hop along side her when he’d take his leg off. You know, the fake leg.”
“What ever happened to him?”
She was quiet.
“The little girl screamed and screamed and screamed,” Kelly said in her sleep. “She was happy and sad. And she was so very scared. He hopped and hopped. And then one day he stopped. And it was all over forever then.”
“What happened to Kelly’s father? Why hasn’t she ever talked about him?”
“It was bad. Terrible.”
Kelly’s mind flashed memories around. Disconnected, strange, swirling memories. Her mother’s deformed face. Her father’s leg, missing below the knee. They hopped. Him on one foot. Her on two. They were racing. To what? How far were they going to hop? The mind cut off that detail.
She screamed, the little girl Kelly did. Screamed because she was thrilled, happy, excited to play with her daddy.
“Be careful,” her mother called, hand over her mouth to mask her lips. “Watch out for cars.”
But they were too busy. They were enjoying life. Kelly hadn’t seen the truck. It was speeding, going far too fast toward her.
“Kelly!” her mother screamed.
This was the point where her brain always slowed down. The memory passed one click at a time. And her little body seemed stuck, helpless, in front of the truck. It came. She stayed. Motionless.
Until her father pushed her. One hard, effective shove. She fell on the grass. Looked back. Her father on the ground. The truck stopped feet beyond his body. He hadn’t been able to move out of the way. He’d given himself up for her.
She screamed and screamed and screamed.
A month after the aneurysm, Kelly was taken home. The children clung to her. Looked into her pale face. Asked her questions about bandages and identification bracelets.
She touched the children. Their soft hair. Smooth hands. Inspected boo-boos obtained in her absence. Listened to stories of zoo trips with aunts and uncles. Looked at the pictures they’d drawn for her.
The world had caved in on her. Imploded for the second time in her life. This time she still had everyone near. All were whole.
Her laptop still sat waiting. Her novel pulled up. A dragon still to be defeated.