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.

I hope you enjoy what I've posted here. Remember that if you have any thoughts, concerns, or suggestions regarding the blog, I'd love the feedback! More writing will be coming soon as I sift through my documents folder! In the meantime, please keep reading!

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall / Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
And all the King’s horses / And all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again

Once upon a time in a land far away there lived a great King with three beautiful daughters. The eldest daughter was lovely to behold. She had dark hair and eyes and excelled in spinning the finest silk. The King had given her hand to a wealthy prince who promised the alliance of their kingdoms for her hand. The middle sister was fair and radiant with long, blonde hair. She danced more beautifully than anyone in the kingdom. The King had given her hand to the wealthiest lord in the land who promised to throw great balls in the King’s honor if the princess should marry him. The youngest daughter, Drusilla, was the most beautiful of them all. She had hair that blazed red like fire and eyes as blue as the sea. Her skill was in her wit and cleverness. She loved to test her suitors with riddles and games, and she had outsmarted every one of them.
One day her father came to her and very sternly said, “Drusilla, I am tired of your games. You are unhappy with every suitor who comes to win your hand. I cannot have you growing old and childless in my castle. You must choose a suitor, or I will choose one for you.”
“Oh, father,” she cried. “I cannot marry any of these men! They are all so stupid and boring. What kind of wife would I be to a man who cannot match my wit?”
The King paused to consider this. Because he loved his daughter very much and because he was a kind King, he decided to compromise with his daughter.
“Very well,” he said. “We shall have a contest to see who the best husband for you is. A horrible dragon has been terrorizing the southern third of the country. None of my bravest soldiers have been able to beat him. We shall decree that the man who kills this dragon and brings his head before my throne shall win your hand. Only a very cunning man could kill a dragon. You will be satisfied with the outcome of this contest, or I will marry you to whomever I please.”
“Yes, father,” she replied sullenly.
So the decree was announced throughout the land, and all the bravest men arranged hunting parties. Princess Drusilla’s beauty was famed everywhere, and many men would be proud to have such a lovely princess for a wife.
Far away, in the eastern realm of the kingdom, word of this contest reached Lord Humphrey M. Dumpty. Now Lord Dumpty’s grandfather had done some great deed in his day and had amassed a great trove of jewels, gold, weapons, and armor. He had also been given a castle and land, which he passed on to Humphrey’s father. Humphrey’s father was a very forgetful man, who liked to do nothing all day but drink his ale, smoke his pipe, and tell long-winded stories with no point at all. He never told Humphrey what his famous grandfather had done to become so wealthy, nor had he bothered to explain what any of the treasures in the castle were. As far as Humphrey knew, they were just lucky. Humphrey had always dreamed of doing brave things, fighting dragons and marrying princesses, but he had inherited his father’s love of ale and pipes and doing nothing. So Humphrey had never ventured into other parts of the kingdom.
When word reached him of the contest, he became so excited that he smashed his flagon of ale and declared that he would be the one to win the princess. His servants snickered right in front of him, and mocked his dramatic declaration. Nevertheless, Humphrey had made up his mind. Having no battleworn soldiers or hunters to take with him, Humphrey selected his herdsman, Ned, to go face the dragon with him as his squire. Ned had chased wolves away from his sheep, and Humphrey figured that Ned was the bravest person he knew. They went into the Dumpty castle’s armory together, and Humphrey selected the sturdiest looking breastplates, helms, and all the protective gear he could find. Then he looked at the swords, and he found a huge curiously carved sword hanging in a place of honor higher than all the rest. Humphrey immediately took that sword. What Humphrey didn’t know was that this sword was magical, and his grandfather had used it to strike fear into the hearts of not only dragons but ogres and trolls back in his day. This sword was the main reason the Dumpty family had become wealthy.
The next day, Humphrey and Ned set out with all the provisions they needed, and they traveled southward toward the realm where the dragon was rumored to be. As they went, they met many weary, wounded, and frightened noblemen escaping from their own battles with the dragon. They tried to warn Humphrey and Ned against going, but Ned would not hear of it.
“My master is braver than you know,” he would boast. “He will not return empty handed or run away like a coward.”
Having spent so much time with the sheep, Ned did not know Humphrey very well, and he naturally assumed that a wealthy lord was also brave and cunning. Ned’s boasting gave Humphrey the courage to continue, and they finally reached the dragon. It was a great red and black beast whose size dwarfed any man who approached it.
Humphrey had no clue what to do, so he put on all his protective armor, drew his sword, and walked slowly toward the dragon. The dragon saw him, exhaled a fiery breath, and glared at him. But as soon as he saw Humphrey’s sword he jumped back.
“Please do not kill me, Lord Dumpty, I promise to give you whatever you want. Only do not take my life.”
“You know who I am?” Humphrey asked incredulously.
“I would know that sword anywhere. Your grandfather killed my cousins with it and swore he would send his mighty sons after me if I ever caused trouble. I see from your armor that you are indeed a mighty warrior. Please show me mercy and I will do whatever you ask.”
“It’s no good, dragon! I need a dragon’s head to win the princess I desire. So I must kill you.”
“Wait, stay your blade. I can get you a dragon’s head if that’s all you desire. My brother died only days ago. I will give you his head in return for my life.”
“And you must leave this region and never return here again.”
“Whatever you command I shall do.”
So the Humphrey climbed the dragon’s back, and they flew to the dragon cemetery where Humphrey used his blade to sever the head of the dragon’s dead brother. Then he traveled to the King’s court and presented the dragon’s head, telling a long tale of a great battle in which he defeated the dragon through wit and swordplay. The King was so delighted with Humphrey that he immediately promised Drusilla’s hand in marriage. He gave a great feast in Humphrey’s honor, and the princess was married to him the next week.
Some time after returning to Lord Dumpty’s castle, Drusilla began to suspect that her husband was not as brave or cunning as he claimed to be. He was very easy to trick, and he never solved any of her riddles. She also noticed that he did nothing to check the slothfulness or disrespect of his servants. Humphrey had returned to his old ways of drinking ale, smoking his pipe, and telling long stories that had no point. He was starting to expand into a rotund, egg-shaped man from his laziness and hearty appetite. Drusilla grew bored with her husband and frustrated with the servants, and she took to calling her husband Humpty Dumpty, which became popular with the servants as well.
One day, on exploring the castle, she came upon the armory with all its treasures and mysteries. As she was gazing over the weaponry, a new thought dawned on her. If she wasn’t married to such a useless husband, she could go on adventures and win fame with the great sword that hung high above the others. She guessed that this great sword was magical, and she had suspected all along that the magical sword did all of the work for Humphrey. Why shouldn’t she have a chance to try it too? She groaned at the thought that she never would. She didn’t have the heart to kill her oafish husband, but from then on all of her tricks somehow put him in harm’s way. Perhaps fate would see fit to give her freedom, she thought.
One night, during a great storm the King’s standard was ripped from the highest wall of the castle by a strong wind. The King and a great company of his soldiers were to arrive at the castle to visit Princess Drusilla the next day. The morning after the storm the winds were still high, and Princess Drusilla was in a mischievous mood.
“My father is coming today, and there is no standard flying over our castle to greet him. What kind of loyal subject does not unfurl a banner or fly the King’s colors to herald his arrival?” she demanded severely.
“I shall have one of my trusty servants take care of it,” he responded, but Drusilla would hear none of it.
“We both know that only the lord of the land is fit touch the King’s flag. How dare you put a duty of such importance in a servant’s hands? My father will be very displeased when he finds out about this.”
So Humphrey grumbled, rolled his eyes, and emerged from his favorite chair, pipe still in hand. He took the King’s flag up the stairs of the highest tower, and opened the door to the wall. The wind was thrashing against the castle wildly, and from that height, Humphrey could see the King and his men approaching in the distance. Humphrey carefully stepped out onto the wall to mount the flag in its rightful place, and after securing it, he turned to go back inside the tower. But a great burst of wind threw Humphrey from the wall, and he fell into the courtyard, shattering all his bones. When the King and his men arrived, they gave what help they could. But it was too late; Lord Humphrey Dumpty was beyond repair, and he died shortly after his fall. Princess Drusilla was widowed and free to find her fame.

The main purpose of this blog is to share stories, poetry, and ruminations with anyone interested. Although, it is still in the process of construction (and probably always will be to some extent), I heartily welcome any constructive comments on the appearance or suggestions as to how to make it better.

I feel that sharing stories is not only important but part of what we were made to do.

If you can imagine the world of art as an enormous forest, and if you can imagine the community of writers today as one tree in that forest, then please consider my writing as one tiny leaf contributing to a much greater whole.

--Sarah Hogg

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.