I thought it would be fun this week to post some old stories I had written so I could give them a fresh look and accept any new feedback that came from people who have never read them.
The story for today is from the not-so-distant past, the summer of 2011 when I was brand new to New York and living with two Turkish guys in a one-bedroom in Sunnyside, Queens. It was the first time I tried my hand at writing a flash fiction piece in a surrealist style, which followers of The Midnight Diner will know I’ve continued doing (see: “Playdough for Lunch“).
This story was published last fall in the online lit journal Thirteen Myna Birds.
“Put Down The Scalpel”
The doctor’s sleepy eyes peered at Angela from under heavy wrinkled hoods. He was huffing and puffing. Sweat trickled down the grid on his forehead and the bridge of his nose and around his eyes. Angela watched his hands move to a tray of surgical instruments as she lay on the operating table, just below the doctor’s breath. She raised an eyebrow in concern. She could hear a faint buzzing.
Doctor, why are you sweating? It is cold in this room.
Patient, I am nervous.
Doctor, why would you be nervous? Why are you not calling me by my name?
Patient, I have forgotten the procedure and your name.
Doctor, that is troubling.
The doctor caught a bead of sweat dropping from his nose on his tongue. She looked more closely at his face. Ants carrying wax and tiny hairs in their maws crawled out of his ears. The buzzing became louder. She realized his prickly eyebrows were millipedes. Angela stayed very still. She hoped that way the insects would not notice her.
Doctor, I would like to go home.
Patient, why is that?
Doctor, I do not feel comfortable here.
Patient, I am sorry to hear that.
The beads of sweat now revealed themselves to be flies stuck to his face, flapping their wings against the stickiness of drippy skin sap. Angela gagged at the sight of the doctor’s eyes growing in size and dividing and subdividing into thousands of tiny lenses, antennas sprouting out of his head.
Doctor, I wish you would put down the scalpel.
Patient, but I need it for the operation.
Doctor, you yourself admitted to forgetting the nature of the operation.
Patient, that is not true. Please forget I said that.
The doctor scowled at her, his millipedes wriggling. The crescendoing buzz stung Angela’s eardrums. She saw a sliver of her reflection in the doctor’s quivering blade.
Patient, the procedure must be completed as scheduled.
The doctor leaned in. His face contorted in concentration, worm tongue jutting off to the side. Fuzzy antennas prickled Angela’s cheek. The vibrations filled her ears all the way full until they bubbled and spilled out like boiling water.