Flash Fiction Friday 057: Know that You are Loved by Dr Margaret Aranda

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the fifty-seventh piece in this series. This week’s is a 621-worder by multi-genre author Dr Margaret Aranda.

Know that You are Loved

The sound stayed with me day and night and night and day.  Nothing could take it away, nor did I want it to cease.  It was like the sound of breathing, like the beating of the heart or the ticking of a clock.  In its serenity, it calmed me to know that it was still alive.  But after a while, the sound echoed inside my room and my head, too.  It beat at me as if the wind twisted into a storm, beating its rain upon a windy and loud window pane like Dorothy was befuddled with in The Wizard of Oz.

Drip drop.  Hum drum.  How many ml are left?  Let me climb up my intravenous line and check to see.   Hmmm.  Only 11:30 pm and yet I know morning will be here soon.  500 ml left at 7 ml/hr = about 7 hr of fluid.  Calculating.  Yes.  Then I need to wake up at 6:30 am to change the iv fluid to a new 1000 ml bag.  So, do I want to wake up at 6:30 am? Well, actually, no.  I do not.

So I look around my perimeter.  I see the dark wooden wardrobe next to my bed, just like the one Aunt Nancy used to have.  Except mine was full of iv tubing, and alcohol pads that could smell if I scrunched my nose just so.  Hers was full of Beswick Bone China from England, hardly a comparison.  I check the iv fluid and but of course all the new bags are downstairs, cold in the refrigerator.  No one took out a bag at 11 at night, because no one has to live on an iv and wonder how long the thing will last into the night.  If it runs out while I am sleeping, the iv line could clot.  Then I could lose my PICC line completely, and that would be sad.

I decide to change it now, because I do not wish to awaken early.  Drip drop.  Hum drum.   I change the bag.  I do my duty.  I have to, needless to say, no one else will do it for me.

I look in the mirror and ask myself if I am loved.  It is a hand-held mirror, blackened silver that needs shining.  Of course it is next to me to ensure that I don’t have pepper in my teeth after a meal.  This is a little thing that gives me grace and stature.  I have to be able to smile, knowing that I do not have black pepper between my teeth.   I know it is not important, but then again, I know that it is important to me.  So I have to live my life forward, not backward.

I have to keep my eyes not on the race, but on the distance.  If I pace myself, I know I can do this.  I can take one day at a time.  I can know that I am loved.  This gives me meaning, purpose, and drive.  I look at the iv and hear the hum drum and the drip drop once again.  I look at the tear-shaped drop of fluid…the same drops I gave to my patients when I was their anesthesiologist.  And I know without a doubt that the drop brings life.  Before, the drops brought life to my patients.  Now, they bring life to me.  Tear-shaped drops, falling one by one, onto the meniscus housing a well of life to come.

But instead of being bitter about it, I just rise up on the inside.  I tell myself that I can do it.  I tell myself that not only can I do it, but I will do it.  I will do it.  I will.

***

I asked Margaret what prompted this piece and she said…

My daughter and I were in a car accident in 2006.  I was a patient for several years, and required an iv at home. I’ve since recovered from the iv, but will never forget what it was like.

Which makes the piece all the more powerful. Thank you, Margaret.

Dr. Margaret Aranda is American Board Certified Anesthesiology, Critical Care, and Forensic Medicine.  A  graduate of the Keck USC School of Medicine, she completed her studies at Stanford University School of Medicine, both as an Anesthesiology Resident and a Critical Care Fellow.  She spends her time writing, seeing patients, and caring for her daughter.  She loves to enter forums with her 7,700 FaceBook and You Tube friends, and can be caught riding a stationary bike every so often.   Her first book, ‘No More Tears: A Physician Turned Patient Inspires Recovery’, is scheduled for production by Tate Publishing in December 2012.  Additional works include ‘Stepping from the Edge’ and her Children’s Book, ‘Little Missy Two-Shoes Likes a Ladybug’; both of these are scheduled for 2013 production.  Tucked away on horse property in Los Angeles, California, Dr. Aranda’s lifetime motto is:  “Live to Serve”.

You can find out more about Margaret and her writing via…

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If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with debut literary novelist J.R. Crook – the five hundred and twenty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 

Guest post: A Writer’s Heart by Sandra Humphrey

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of writing as therapy, is brought to you by middle-grade and YA author Sandra Humphrey. You can read Sandra’s previous guest post, about characters, here.

A Writer’s Heart

When you hear a writer say, “I can’t not write,” it’s more than a truism–it’s the truth!

When my friend Tess is angry, she scrubs the kitchen floor or shops the mall till she drops. What do I do? I write.

When my friend Jeanette is depressed, she raids the fridge and binges big-time. What do I do? I write.

Writing is more than a way of life for us–it IS our life.  We write when we’re high on the mountaintops, and we write when we’re making our tortuous way through the valleys.

When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, what did I do?  I wrote a book for her–I Want to LIVE until I Die!. It was a book about life and about hope. In my heart of hearts, I knew she’d never read it, but it was something I had do–because I’m a writer.

When I developed breast cancer, my immediate reaction was not to find out more about cancer treatments (that came much later) but rather a need to journal. So the first thing I did was to go out and buy a notebook.

As it turned out, I did not have to journal alone. Our granddaughter who was ten at the time, journaled right along with me, and we ended up writing a children’s book together: A Family Affair.

The book is written from her viewpoint and in her words, and it is filled with humor because we want the children who read our book to laugh a little. Maybe even a lot.

As a clinical psychologist for over thirty-one years, the patients who probably touched me the most (and most painfully) were those who cut and burned themselves in order to “feel better.”

They’d never learned how to deal with psychological pain and felt more comfortable dealing with physical pain. For them, the physical pain was a temporary respite from their psychological pain.

After I retired, the memories of those young patients’ suffering were still painfully and permanently etched in my heart, so I wrote Making Bad Stuff Good! in an effort to help children learn some coping skills and hopefully how to deal with psychological pain early on before they ended up needing the services of a psychotherapist.

My young adult novel Letters from Camp is brimming over with characters reminiscent of my young patients. There’s Jennifer the anorexic, Rachel the cutter, Andrea the budding hypochondriac, and Kim with all her self-image problems.

These characters became so real to me and so much a part of my life that I would find the camp director, Mrs. A, at my breakfast table shoveling sugar into her tea or rummaging through my fridge, looking for avocados for her guacamole dip.

And I even ran into Cynthia Winston, the villain of the piece, right in my own bathroom–usurping the bathroom mirror while she  applied her eye make-up. It seemed for a while that I saw Cynthia whenever I passed any mirror. She was always there, preening and giving me her little Mona Lisa half-smile.

I wrote my middle-grade chapter book Rules of the Game when I began receiving weekly letters from a young girl in Chicago, whose school I had visited. As she told me how the other girls in her class taunted and tormented her, I knew I had to write about her pain.

The dedication page reads:

To Annie and young people everywhere who every day meet their challenges with personal integrity and courage.

Annie wrote back from Chicago telling me it “was the best book ever,” and that she keeps it under her pillow. Who could ask for a better review than that!

Then there was the confirmation class I led for so many years. The questions they asked during our group discussions were good questions, and those same questions ended up in my book Keepin’ It Real: A Young Teen Talks With God.

I wrote Dare to Dream!: 25  Extraordinary Lives and They Stood Alone!: 25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference to encourage kids to not only have a dream but to also have the necessary perseverance to attain their dream.

To me strong character is more important than ever as society’s values change and role models are transient and questionable at best. That’s why I wrote the three books in my What Would You Do? series–to get kids thinking and talking about moral choices long before they actually encounter these difficult moral situations in real life.

Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs is a collection of 26 stories depicting various forms of bullying with thought questions following each story and all the stories are based on true experiences students shared with me during my school visits. The book is dedicated to a 12-year-old boy who took his own life as a result of being bullied and these were all stories that needed to be told!

Some of my books may never find actual publishing homes, but as long as they find a home in someone’s heart, what more can I ask?

After all, isn’t that why we write? To touch someone and give them something they need at the time–hope or encouragement or maybe just a good laugh.

We are all in our own way encouragers. And what could be more noble a mission than that!

HAPPY WRITING!

Hear, hear. Thank you, Sandy!

Sandra McLeod Humphrey is a retired clinical psychologist, a character education consultant, and an award-winning author of eight middle-grade and young adult books.  She’s also the recipient of the National Character Education Center’s Award for Exemplary Leadership in Ethics Education (2000) and the 2005 Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children’s Literature.

You can learn more about her books by visiting her website at www.kidscandoit.com. Connect with Sandy at:

FB Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/KidsCanDoIt2
Google+ = https://plus.google.com
Klout: http://klout.com/#/Sandra305
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sandra-humphrey-sandra305/a/b4/441
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/sandra305
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Sandra305
Website: http://www.kidscandoit.com
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/SandraMHum/videos

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with travel writer Thirza Vallois – the four hundred and seventy-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Flash Fiction Friday 032: ‘Bowing Out’ by Marc Nash

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the thirty-second piece of flash fiction in this series. This week’s is a 742-worder entitled ‘Bowing Out’ by novelist and short story author Marc Nash.

Bowing Out

She sat where she had sat countless times before. In the harsh glare of the lights fringing her mirror. Fourteen naked bulbs to show her up in all her rawness. Stark like a Noh mask.

Fourteen interrogatory lamps burning into her face. Garlanding the looking glass, festooned like wedding arch colonnades. Though she’d only ever experienced those as scenery on the theatre stage. The lights so tightly focused, they barely penetrated the darkness beyond her.

Every evening and prior to matinees and premiers, her ghostly, disembodied head floated in the mirror as she caked it in thickly layered cosmetics. The bulbs’ other function, foreshadowing the dazzle out on the stage itself. If they couldn’t efface her features here at close range, then it augured well for her characterful expressions to prevail under the spotlights, tractor beamed in the footlights.

This particular mirror seemed as venerable as she. The glass had flowed, rucked and bubbled, like her own skin corrugated with wrinkles. Tarnished where the silvered paint had chipped or turned green with verdigris. Aping her liver spots and burst blood vessels. She loved the bulbs for blasting such imperfections away under their unforgiving blare. The mirror on her dresser at home was not nearly so forgiving.

It occurred to her that in all the years sat in place, she couldn’t ever remember a single bulb having popped. The divine power of the theatre, palace of illusion.

There was a time when other bulbs popped. Those of the Press cameras. Preview nights, gala performance evenings and end-of-run parties. Fluid, promiscuous alignments of leading men and first ladies, arm in arm with supporting cast members all beaming in the lens. Dissolved at the moment of the striking of the set, as each heads on to their next role. Another theatre, different dressing rooms. The same fourteen bulb guard of honour.

Sadly she had witnessed her own mind’s bulbs pop one by one. It was getting progressively harder to recall her lines. There were no unseen stagehands inside her head to replace the burned out filaments.

Now there was a dearth of good luck telegrams wedged into the mirror frame. While the best wishes cards accompanying bouquets of flowers had also dried up.

Neither wigs, nor curlers sat on her dresser. Simply not required any more. She could not get away with counterfeiting ages other than her true one, unlike in the past. Her skin so dried and cracked. Even the greasepaint could no longer suggest any glossy suppleness. It just seemed to disappear down the fissures in her brow and cheeks as it required ever greater volumes to recongeal her face whole. Far greater preparation time was demanded, when all she wanted to do was lie down on the ottoman and rest her weary eyes.

The cubicle was smaller than she was used to. No other background hubbub of fellow actors full of life and lusts. Exercising their voices along the full range. Practising the entire gamut of human emotion and intrigue beyond the world of the play, centred instead within these tiny rooms.

For she was of such an age now, whereby she only appeared in monologues. Wistful treatises of old women looking back on unfulfilled lives. Playwrights didn’t seem to credit the venerable woman with any ability to pursue relationships still. Seemingly audiences could only feel pity, not desire, at this juncture of her life.

Her hair pulled back by the band, face blanched or greyed out in hue, these were the only effects directors were after for her nowadays. Like a ghost. The bereft Trojan women. Her appearance was as if she had ceased the make-up process at the foundation stage. Her dressing robe and protective serviette towel barely having to be removed for the performance, as she played women confined to dressing gowns, asylum smocks or wrapped in a bed sheet.

She knew it wouldn’t be too much longer that she would be able to stare into that mirror and recognise the face staring back at her. Be it disguised or unadorned by emulsion. Her ministrations complete, she flicked the light switch off. The bulbs did not die immediately. She watched the reflected light in her satellite eyes fade gradually in the mirror. Until only the spectral outline of her death mask remained square in the flat plane of glass.

She was sat where she had sat countless times before, with only the green “Exit” light to illuminate her way.

I asked Marc what prompted this piece and he said…

I have always been fascinated by the multi-bulbed mirrors in theatre dressing rooms. Something about the bulbs being naked and so many, as well as how they frame the mirror like ivy. The many bulbs contrast with the single spotlight out on stage. And then there’s the transformation of the actor in the mirror under makeup and wigs.

Thank you, Marc.

Marc Nash is London born, bred and resident. He says he’s always resorted to the written word, thinking himself an observer by temperament. After a brief adolescent delusion that he could write lyrics, he passed over into writing stage plays for 10 years from University onwards and then when his twin boys arrived in the world meaning he couldn’t really hang around theatre bars at night, he tried my hand at prose fiction. His blog is www.sulcicollective.blogspot.com, he’s @21stCscribe on Twitter and is very active there. He has a couple of websites on the novels, http://marcnash.weebly.com and http://marcnashNIMN.weebly.com as well as a YouTube channel with 17 literature related videos (just type in sulci collective into the search function).

If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with writer and publisher Will Sutton – the two hundred and fifty-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Cheryl Tardif’s recipe for success (well, a bestselling novel)

The Write Type blog is compiled by Debra Purdy Kong, Cheryl Tardif, Pat Bertram and Marian Allen, and the recipe for a bestselling novel (http://writetype.blogspot.com/2011/04/recipe-for-bestselling-novel.html) is courtesy of Cheryl. Although it’s a short post, it is… well, sweet (and even mentions cheese soufflé, albeit flat; yum). It does however make it clear that it’s not all plain sailing and you need a lifejacket, paddles and a lot of muscle power to get to your goal (although I would hope for more than a ‘dash of excitement’ when I get there). But then if you’re anything like me, you know it’s not easy to get what you want and that’s what makes it all the more rewarding.