Tuesday, October 10, 2006


At the urging of Poetmom, I am posting some fiction. Here is a very very short story. It's a very, very early draft. And I would very, very much appreciate any comments!

TITLE NEEDED (no that isn't the title. Suggestions welcome)

I’m dying. I guess you could say everyone is. The mortality rate of this disease called living is 100%. It’s just that I’m dying sooner than most. And the worst part is that no one will believe me.

This whole thing started this morning. I woke up and knew I was going to die.

“You're so melodramatic,” I can hear my brother say. In fact, he said just that when I passed him this morning, sitting in front of the television with a napkin tucked into the collar of his button down shirt, eating his egg sandwich.

“Where you going? You’re not supposed to leave for work for another 12 minutes,” he said.

When I told him about my appointment, he uttered his favorite line about me.

“I’m not sure I understand,” Dr. K said when I told him. I was sitting on the doctor’s table, naked save for the see-through cotton gown tied across my front. My white, hairy legs dangled down. “What are your symptoms?”

“I woke up feeling weird.”

“Weird, how?” he interrupted.

I thought for a moment. I looked at the doctor standing before me. His white coat, his dark hair and mustache, and knew he wouldn’t understand. I tried anyway, considering that I was there and naked already. “My mind was foggier than usual. I lay in bed a long time, which is unusual for me. My head hurt a little bit, and when I concentrated on the faint pain, I knew, without a doubt, that I would die soon. That feeling hasn’t gone away since.”

“The headache?”

“Well, yes, but more than that the feeling…”

“That you’re going to die.”

“Yes!” Maybe I was wrong about this Dr. K.

“Have you been under much stress lately?” he asked.

I waved the question away. This problem wasn’t in my head, or maybe it was in my physical head, but not my psychological head.

“We can run some tests, Seymour, but I think you just need some rest.”

“I’ll get plenty of rest when I’m dead,” I said.

Dr. K sighed and gave me a referral for blood work.

I left the doctor’s office with more holes in my arm than a shower head. They never can find my veins. I wonder if that’s a sign I should’ve paid attention to long ago.

Walking home, I passed my office. For the first time ever I didn’t want to go in. I didn’t want to pass my coworkers and say hello, tell them where I had been. I usually get in by 7, mostly to avoid those awkward conversations about weather and weekend plans. Why people who are joined by nothing more than providence and pay stubs should be friends, I just don’t understand.

I wonder if Howard has come looking for me. I skipped a mandatory all staff meeting yesterday. I knew what he was going to say, and I didn’t want to have to argue with him in front of everyone. I’m much better at articulating my points one on one than I am in front of a crowd, where I feel their eyes on my reddening skin, my moist palms. Maybe he thinks I’ve quit. How pleased that would make him! Then he could hire someone half my age who likes those wretched computer machines.

I don’t care what the numbers show, people like books. They, like me, get pleasure from the smoothness of the pages, the smell of the dust from hundreds of borrowers’ houses that gets imbedded in the pages, the sight of the black marks on the yellowing pages that, extraordinarily, create meaning.

I mend the books that fall into a careless reader’s hands, or fall from them, or get into the mouths of a dog or child. People don’t know I exist in the bowels of the library, working in the basement to tape and glue and restring those most precious possessions. And it’s true, I have had fewer books to process than in the past. But that doesn’t mean we should hoard them in the depository and make people wait days to get to them. And that certainly doesn’t mean I should take a class on the new computer system where students can get to old journal articles and book chapters without holding the piece of history in their hands.

I can feel my heart beating fast at the thought of that stupid man making decisions about me, about my books. “They’re arcane,” he had said before. I don’t know if it’s the books or people like me he was talking about. I sit down on the bench in front of my office. I can feel the building lurking in the background. I picture Howard’s round, bald head peaking out a window. My breathing gets shallow.

Like I said, I am dying. Best Blogger Tips


Anonymous said...

Love love love it! Love the idea that we are dying all the time (maybe "love" is not the right word, but you know what I mean!).
The dialogue is witty and sharp, and it has a nice pace. I hope you submit this piece somewhere.

(And you give me way too much credit! Will catch up on your recent posts later today.)

Bug said...

Thanks Jan! I appreciate the comments. :) and your taking the time to read it! It's funny--what appears short in a Word doc sure looks long on a blog!

jim said...

Enjoyed your story...I don't have any contructive crits to give you. I'm mostly use to critting poetry.

I had a mathematician friend who once showed me statistics to prove that there is a good chance we would never die...(something about the number of people alive today versus the number that have ever died -- I'm a poet, I don't really pay much attention to numbers) --

Bug said...

Thanks Jim--and welcome! I'll pop over to your blog soon.

bostonerin said...

I really enjoyed it. I love the idea and the character. My only comment is that I thought the narrator was a child because of the description of when he passed his brother eating breakfast. I wasn't sure how old the narrator was until half way through the story. Any way to make that more clear from the beginning?

Bug said...

Great point Erin. Thanks. I'll think about that!

GoGo said...

hmm. Nice, you take the reader through a journey, first the hypochondriac. Unbelievable and humrous, will he die from a bus accident? Then, we hear his story, his fate connected to the books and the books fate connected to his...then the last line. I suddenly understood and believed him. I like the journey into this character.

good job.

TI said...

I enjoyed it a lot but had the same age issue as bostonerin. I thought he was a kid and then realized, when his brother mentioned going to work, that he was a grown-up. I was kind of intrigued, actually, by the idea of a kid having such a preoccupation with death...but the grown-ups pre-oc. is also interesting. it's like the death of Ivan Illych: http://www.geocities.com/short_stories_page/tolstoydeath.html in which we're reminded tha twe're all dying.

Bug said...

Thanks again everyone. I'm so Wowed that people took the time to read this semi-long entry.

FatCharlatan said...

I tried leaving a comment this morning, and blogger booted me off and ate my comment. ARGH.

Let's try this again. I liked this, Bug. The age issue didn't occur to me, but I was surprised that your main character was a "he" (Seymour) instead of a "she." I think the scene in the doctor's office where the character is sitting on the table and is wearing a see-through gown with "white hairy legs" dangling below is what had me thinking woman. This seemed like a female observation rather than a male, so it suprised me when Doc said "Seymour."

However, as I read further, I realized that this was part of the quirkiness of an odd-ball male character, so I got past it pretty fast. And I LOVE the quirks you give this guy. The story works as a short, but I think there's potential to make this into something longer.

Good work!


Bug said...

Thanks FC. i'll take the female thing into account (along with the age) when I edit this.

TI said...

Titles are not my forte, but "Death Sentence" or "Death Row" came to mind.

Repeater said...

I also had the impression that it was a young woman at first, but it really doesn't bother me, as it happens often . I enjoyed it alot too, but felt it was the beginning to a longer story rather than a short short. I want to know more, which is always a good sign. Nice details, by the way (brother's cereal,etc)