The book: Writing Fiction Step by Step
The exercise: Have a woman think about a seemingly unrelated incident in her life while something else is going on now.
Oh lord. That nurse is looking at me funny. The jig is up. I should’ve known changing one digit of my SS wasn’t enough to throw them off my scent! I’m gon’ get Sulaiman after I get outta jail! They gon’ throw me in jail for malpractice fraud or somethin’!
“Mrs. Ab-duel-hagg? Mrs. Aaab-duel-hagg!”
“Thats me! I’m here! Those are ‘Q’s’. Abdul-Haqq…like ham hock.” Nervous giggle and dry gulp from me but not even the faintest quiver of a smile from her.
“My apologies Mrs. Haqq, You forgot to put down who your insurance provider is”.
“Yes. Um, as it happens, I actually don’t have any. How does that work? You can bill me right?” I laughed. She glowered. I oughta give ’em Sulaiman’s address…
“We can discuss it when you come out. The doctor’s ready for you now.” Nurse Smiley pointed me to the right and down a short hall to room 413.
I was overjoyed that it was a short corridor. I was convinced that these crutches they gave me we’re made for an Amazon. They cut into my under arm pits and even my good foot barely touched the floor. I was swinging more than I was walking or crutching as it were. The swinging was great fun for a little while but ask the fly who fell into the honey about too much of a good thing. Anyway, I guess crutches that fit are for people who don’t have to go to the emergency room and be duplicitous. Knock-knock.
“Mrs. Abdul-Haqq?” He was kind. I could hear it even before I swung into the room and laid eyes on him.
“Yes, it’s me. ” He was a young doctor of presumably middle eastern descent and he was looking—frowning— at some papers and x-rays inside of a manila folder. He pulled the x-rays out and slammed them up into that light thingy that illuminates whatever the little thing is that’s gonna change your life forever.
“I’m Dr. Hamid. Tell me again how you sustained the injury. Your handwriting got a bit jumbled.”
“Yeah, I kinda started to ramble so I ran out of space but I know you guys want ‘just the facts'”. I laughed. He smiled but I did see him glance at the clock behind me. I was always extra chatty and corny when I was nervous.
“Yes, I was in my dance class, its African dance, very high impact. I jumped up but when you come down there’s a quick lateral move and a pivot with your weight on your heel. I came down hard and prepared to turn when I felt a blinding electric blue shock of pain. I now know why folks use the term ‘blew my knee out’. Doc it actually felt like my knee momentarily flew out from between the thigh bone and shin bone and then went back in place. Like something out of a Wile E. Coyote or Tom and Jerry cartoon!” I was rambling live and in color now. “So now it kinda hurts to walk. Oh and I hear a clicking noise too.”
He had been writing notes and then rose to go over to the light board of fate. “Mrs. Abdul-Haqq it does look like you sustain a PCL injury.”
Oh Lord…PCL…pituitary cranial lobotomy?…no that would have something to do with my head…phalanges cracked for life?… oh Lord…my phalanges!
He pointed to the x-ray, “The posterior cruciate ligament is located right about here in your knee. If you look closely you can see th— ”
Nurse Laugh-a-Minute stuck her head in the door just as he was about to tell me I’d have to get my legs amputated stat. “Dr. Hamid, chest pains in 411 just went into cardiac arrest”.
To me, “Stay put please” and then he was gone.
Ok. Even if I was a bit hypochondriacal about the amputation, what if I couldn’t walk like me anymore? What if I can’t run after my kids? What if I have to give up dance class? Those ancient rhythms, those movements, sometimes they were the only sense of connection to a past I felt. And then I was thinking of my mother…
“Zuri! Come eat! We at the table!” I was in Florida for a few weeks with my mother. I loved the visits but they were just too few and far between. It was like another world. I know now what 10 year old Zuri did not realize and that was this: the ‘non-stop awesomeness’ was due to the fact that our days weren’t punctuated with practicalities like school and homework because it was Summer time. Since my dad left 8 years ago and took me with him I’d been to see my mother only 2 times. And maybe twice more after this visit. But when I did come there was wall to wall Kraft cheese and macaroni, peach ice cream, Nintendo and movies. My brother’s and I watched Mannequin and Texas Chain Saw Massacre until we knew every word.
“I’m coming!” I wasn’t. I was in the bathroom in the middle of what had unfortunately become my ritual, a stare down with the giant ceramic frog that perched ominously beside the toilet. This face-off usually ended in one of two ways, me closing my eyes, whispering a prayer, quickly pee-ing, wiping and hand washing, or me losing my nerve and fleeing from the beast. Pee or flee was my internal joke but even humor wan’t quelling the panic this go ’round. It was forest green with mint green spots and a red smile. When I first got there I asked my Mom if it was real—I knew it couldn’t be. It was tall. A tall frog? And the ceramic was chipped, obviosly not flesh and blood. But I asked her because this was Awesomeland. Here anything could’ve been possible. I asked and she said “Yep and if it pee’s on you you’ll get a wart.” I was furious at her for that. Furious because she didn’t know me—child of her womb—well enough to know that I was a bona fide fraidy cat who would assuredly be tormented by this thing.
Franken-frog won. I held it, washed my hands and went to join them for dinner. I’d sneak and pee in her bathroom later before everyone got up from the table…
The door swung open and in breezed Dr. Hamid, his hair just a little mussed. “Mrs. Abdul-Haqq, thank you for waiting. As I was saying yours is not a terribly serious injury. I’m betting it will heal using what we call RICE, rest, ice, gentle compression and elevation. As for the clicking, you may have torn a small bit of cartilage in which case we’ll probably need to operate and restrict your activities but let’s try the RICE and I’ll have another look in 2 weeks “. He wrote me a prescription for the pain and sent me back to the front.
I thanked him and went out to settle up with Nurse Chuckles. Whew! So I’d walk again, and maybe dance again. My mom… If I did lose that bit of cartilage it may in fact effect the way I move through life. What do you do when you lose something that is meant to support you. I guess you close your eyes and say a prayer…but you keep moving.