Why didn't I live-blog the Oscars along with my fellow Localites? I had to submit a story for my creative writing workshop by midnight. I had a fiction-y evening! Anyway, my story isn't too long so I thought I'd post it here, for the hell of it.
KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT
One morning, he woke up only to realize he'd lost his voice. He tried to speak, then speak again, then scream, but no sound came out--only a low buzzing.
He took the day off work (via e-mail, since he couldn't use the phone) and rushed to the walk-in clinic. The physician thought he was pulling a prank and threw him out of his office.
He went to the hospital. Nobody could see him if it wasn't an emergency, but a passing nurse recommended tea with lemon. He cursed her out in his head.
Something snapped and he went all crazy for a while. He ran down the streets, clearing his throat every few steps until it burned. He shook the arms of strangers, hysterical, crying without making a sound, wiping his runny mucus on his shirtsleeve. He ran up to a mother who yelled at him for frightening her children. He entered a convenience store and downed a cup of hot coffee, but when that didn't do anything but burn his throat some more, he ran out without paying. He visited a fortune teller, a seller of herbal remedies, and the crazy man who sometimes prophesied the end of times by the bus station. He thought of a thousand things to say but all that he could produce was that same buzzing noise. The crazy man was the most patient.
"Cat got your tongue?"
"Speak up, I can't hear ya."
"Look man, I don't know what you're saying, but you got any change?"
Someone who'd been following him for a couple blocks called the police. The policeman showed up and took him to the hospital, where they finally admitted him. The doctor gave him a pill that made him throw up lots of times, but couldn't get him talking again.
He slept for a while. He woke up to the sound of a heart monitor and the scuffling of feet. A nurse was refilling his IV.
"I hear you can't speak," she said with a warm smile.
He didn't even try to say anything back. He sat up, half-smiled, and shrugged.
"Are you scared?" She looked more concerned now.
He began to shake his head no, but he meant to say more than that, so he looked around for a pen and paper.
"What do you need?"
He pantomimed scribbling.
"Ah, just a second." She smiled and left the room.
He was thinking of what he wanted to write--guess it depended on the amount of paper he received--but then he realized how odd it was that nobody had sent him a get-well card. The sun was just above the horizon now, almost sunset. They'd had all day to hear the news.
And then he thought about who would send him a card in the first place. The sadness he felt at the answer to this question was greater than the sadness he felt about losing his voice. Nobody would send him a card. His parents were dead and he wasn't close to the rest of his family. He had no friends. He lived on the sixth floor of a walk-up apartment in a miserable neighborhood in Queens; he didn't know his neighbors' names. He'd had a fiancee once, but she left him for her rabbi's son. His heart felt a little heavier, and he laid back down.
The nurse came back in with a thick legal pad and a basket of pencils. "Take all you need," she said.
He looked at her for a moment, noticing the way some of her bangs curled up at the tips, and the tiny two freckles beneath her right eye.
"We'll figure out what's wrong with you soon enough," she said. "And sorry about that stupid pill before. The doctor thought you had something caught in your larynx."
She turned to leave, but he held up his finger. He jotted something down in big letters. He held up his sign: STAY.
She paused, looked out into the hallway, looked back at him, looked at the empty dresser where cards and flowers usually go, smiled, and said okay, she could stay for a few minutes.
She sat. He wrote something down.
WHAT'S YOUR NAME
"My name's Shirley."
MY NAME'S MIKE.
SORRY I DIDN'T BRING ID. I MUST HAVE LEFT MY WALLET AT HOME.
Shirley laughed. "It's alright, we would have figured that out sooner or later."
DO YOU LIKE BEING A NURSE
"I do." She was still smiling. "It's the one thing I'm good at."
He was too tired to smile back with much effort. I DOUBT THAT.
She laughed again. "Thanks for that."
He looked at her for a moment, then wrote something down. I LIKE THE WAY YOU LAUGH. He wrote it in script.
Shirley blushed and glanced at the floor. "Like I've never heard that one before."
WHAT CAN I SAY IT'S BEEN A LONG DAY
Shirley laughed again. He had never been so charming; nor had he ever felt so confident. He'd also never paid such close attention to someone's laugh before.
I DON'T HAVE A FEVER OR ANYTHING DO I
"Nope. Other than your voice, everything checks out okay."
DO I SOUND LIKE A DOORBELL
"You sound like TV static."
They talked all night, and it was the best conversation he ever had.