No Room At The Infirmary
This month I've decided to take part in (my own version of) Namicrowrimo (National Micro Writing Month). Although definitions vary micro fiction is usually defined as a story in 300 words or fewer. I’ve given myself a 750 word maximum so maybe Flashwrimo is more appropriate here. One of the suggestions given to me was to write a story about the Secretary of State for Health. Hence what follows:
I come to, slowly. I’m groggy and I hurt all over. The harsh lighting hurts my eyes. The combined smells of antiseptic, industrial strength cleaning fluid and piss convince me that the setting is a medical one. The bed’s a giveaway also. The mattress is harder than my own, the sheets a little coarser and the pillow, if you can call it that, is thin and lumpy. Then there’s the noise; perhaps after all it was the noise, and not the blaze from the strip-lights (my bedroom at home is kept as dark as possible) that woke me. It’s not really that loud but it’s constant. There are footsteps; what sounds like a trolley, or possibly a wheelchair, with a squeaky wheel; some low-level conversation; a little snoring and others crying softly or calling out, their voices as croaky as mine is when, I too, attempt to get some attention. My mouth is dry, and I realise now, a little bloody. Some water would help. But before anyone hears my demand I’m gone again. Dragged back to unconsciousness rather than lulled to sleep by the low level institutional cacophony. The next time I wake I feel pain. My whole body aches, my right leg is on fire, and the pressure on my chest reminds me of when, as kids, my brother, three years my senior, would sit on me in order to ‘persuade’ me of his way of thinking. I still can’t open my eyes. My head, like my body, is full of unwanted sensation. Reminiscent for the discomfort I felt earlier, I shout for help, or rather try to, but nobody hears, nobody comes. I welcome the darkness this time; the agony easing as I tumble into the void. My next flirt with consciousness is sweet. Cool, kind hands tend to my body and gently lift my head to administer nectar; just a few sips of water but the best drink I’ve ever tasted. Before I can ask what happened to me she’s gone. Others need her more. Darkness comes again. The cycle of partial wakefulness and comatose-type sleep, accompanied by - what seems each time I wake - increased noise and greater bustle, continues. I’m stuck in my own personal ‘groundhog day’. In the conscious moments, through snippets of memory and, on a couple of occasions, discussion between medical personnel and those who visit me - the chest crushing brother and my mate Ted – I begin to piece together what happened. A fight apparently, outside Kilkenny’s Fried Chicken Shop. An altercation from which I came off worst. Eventually the pain subsides a little. I stay awake for longer periods and I’m able, at last, to open my sticky eyelids. I am, as I already knew, in the casualty department of the local hospital. This feels like a result given that last month when I tried to get to see a doctor here I was sent home to ring NHS111 instead. Although I’ve been on a trolley in the corridor next to A&E since the paramedics brought me in I am assured that things will get better soon. Tomorrow, following necessary surgery on my shattered leg (the ribs will heal themselves eventually), with luck there’ll be space for me on the ward. They’ll likely need the bed by the end of the week though an official looking guy with a clipboard told me. He’s coming back later with the AirBnB papers for me to sign.
I have also published this story on ABCtales - an online writing group I belong to. Yesterday's story is there too and although it's a different type of tale it includes reference to poor working conditions, job insecurity, low wages and austerity more generally. Here's the link if you'd like to read it.
For more by this author, visit Gayle Letherby's blog