One Tiny Leaf

Short stories and poems

Here is a very short story that I wrote this past fall.


Tick. Throb Tick. Throb Tick. Throb.

Why can’t the throbbing and the ticking be in unison? Then perhaps I wouldn’t think about it. Every pore of my skin has a needle in it, and every needle is twisting and thrusting deeper into my skin. I’m starting to sweat.
It’s 8:42. AM or PM? I can’t remember. It must be morning; I can hear the annoying buzz of morning talk shows on the neighboring TV. It’s raining, and colliding with the monotony of the early spring shower is the sound of Rachel’s voice. She’s laughing with a carefree giggle. Why is she so cheery? Why is she laughing right outside the door? Doesn’t she know how much pain I’m in? I think she’s secretly laughing at me. Eighteen minutes till relief.
It’s 8:43, and Mr. Lovett is coughing. He’s the darling patient, waited on hand and foot. Through the thin veneer of the taupe canvas dividing our room, I can just make out his hand reaching for the red button. His cough is staccatoed by phlegm, and as it rises, it gurgles in his throat. He’s wheezing now, and Rachel enters our room.
My scalp is burning and feels as though it’s separating from my skull. A serrated knife is scraping my stomach, hollowing me before it pokes through my navel. I want to scream or cry, but my throat is parched. Rachel is fluffing Lovett’s pillows, and I can’t even have a glass of water.
“Would you like some pain killer now, Tom? Your breakfast should be here soon,” she asserts loudly to him, her voice exploding through the canvas divider as if taunting me.
I’m sure he’s ordered a gourmet feast, and I’m sure the smell will simultaneously intoxicate and nauseate me. How long has it been since I ate solid food? The whole room smells sterile, like formaldehyde. Lovett occupies the side close to the door, where he receives ample attention. I am forgotten behind the curtain by the window. The needles are pushing deeper. It’s 8:50.
“Rachel?” I whisper. Nothing. Silence. “Rachel?” a slightly louder croak.
Her blue eyes peep around the canvas, gazing with a patient indifference.
“Yes, Bill?” she asks, her honeyed voice resonating off the window.
“Please, the medicine. I need it now,” I manage as the words rake across my throat, colliding with my dry tongue.
She glances at the clock, and considers it for a moment. Perhaps she will be merciful; perhaps she does understand. Her blonde head starts to wag, and she smiles sadly, exposing whitened teeth.
“Not yet. Not until 9:00, ok? You can make it until then. It’s only a few minutes.”
It’s nine minutes. She doesn’t understand how long that is. If someone placed iron weights on her legs and glued her back to a thin mattress, maybe then she’d understand. Her back turns to sneer at me as she leaves, the green scrubs disappearing behind the canvas and then out the door.
It’s 8:52, and Lovett’s breakfast arrives. It is intoxicating. Eggs and bacon permeate the room with a delicious odor that makes my aching stomach churn. I strain my eyes, trying to see it through the taupe divider. He lifts his glass and tilts his head back as he swallows his pills, gulping the orange juice with satisfaction. I am salivating a little now as he lets a sigh of relief escape his quenched lips.
It’s 8:53, and I can’t stand to watch Lovett any more, so I turn my gaze back to the off-white ceiling. My eyes hurt. I am surrounded by neutral walls, white linens, a taupe divider, and nothing to make me remember the comfort of color. My IV bag is full of clear, unsatisfying liquid that is supposed to hydrate me, but I have never been so thirsty.
The pain is intensifying, and I am being stabbed in places I didn’t know could hurt. I feel splinters under my toe nails, and screws drilling into my jaw. My heart is beating my raw chest with heroic strength, as though it is trying to escape its cavity. I moan, still smelling Lovett’s breakfast, and it’s 8:54.
“Good morning, neighbor,” he rasps with seemingly good intention.
I say nothing. What is there to say? He has everything that I cannot. The nurses dote over him because he is so polite and good looking. His dark hair and green eyes, his muscular build and Southern accent make him a favorite among the nurses. Why should I speak to him?
“Oh, I guess you’re having a bad time of it today, eh?” he says knowingly. What does he know?
“Alright, I get it. I’ll be quiet until 9,” he winks with large enough head bob that the movement is unmistakable through the divider.
Either he is a fool or he is mocking me. I wish I had the strength to punch his lights out. He coughs, and my stomach splits on the inside. It’s 8:56. Only four minutes. It will be over soon, soon enough.
I’m gripping the paper thin sheet, staring at my toes. They have turned a grayish yellow. My skin feels dry and cool, but fire courses through my veins. Footsteps echo in the hallway. Is it her? They stop outside the door. Laughter, muffled talking, and no, it is not her. The intern is checking on Lovett, and he’s still eating, taking his time with the delectable feast they’ve spread before him. My eyes start to water hot tears, and a burning itch overwhelms my fingers.
“Please,” I hoarsely whisper. “Please let me have it now.”
The intern approaches my bed, and peers at my chart. He glances at the clock, shrugs, and stares at me with cold, uncaring eyes.
“I’ll get your nurse,” he says as he turns to leave.
It’s 8:59, and I can hear Rachel in the hallway, talking to the intern. She’s telling him not to worry about me, that she’s got it under control. I can barely hear her over the roaring in my ears. My body is burning, and she’s laughing at his joke. She partially opens the door, and a spear pins me to the bed. She takes a look at Lovett, and it’s 9:00.
It’s time for me; it’s my turn. Rachel makes casual small talk with Lovett. Yes, it’s still raining, and it should continue all day. It’s terrible news about the tax increase. She continues talking to him with a cheerful nonchalance. Is his cough still bothering him? She inquires with more detail about his health. My medicine is in her left hand. The syringe is poised between her fingers. He is joking with her coyly, and it’s 9:01.
The pain has consumed my entire body. I can’t feel anything but it anymore. The sheets are gone, the thin mattress has vanished, and the lumpy pillow has disappeared. My only smell, sight, sound, taste, and touch is a burning, intense pain. The scream I long to expel is stifled in my throat, and it’s 9:02.
It’s 9:03, and she’s looking me over. I can feel her gaze as she adjusts the IV. Her cold fingers wrap around my wrist and feel for the pulse of my thrashing heart. She lifts the syringe and injects it into the IV.
It’s 9:04. I’m numb, and I’m waiting for oblivion.


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About One Tiny Leaf

I see my writing as one tiny leaf on a great big tree of budding authors. While I hope to one day publish professionally and find a community of writers and readers, for the present this blog allows me the space to put my work to the test. I welcome any constructive comments and feedback.