This past weekend I spoke at the Space Coast Writer’s Guild Conference.
One of my awesome tasks was to hold critique sessions with other writers and help them to polish their manuscripts. One of the writers I worked with was Peggy Insula.
Her story was fabulous, and we worked on tweaking some of the descriptions and language together for about an hour. But after the conference, her characters and the story keep returning to my mind. I really liked what she was doing.
I ran into Peggy the other day at Barnes & Noble-which is where every good writer should be at least once a week-and she let me read this humorous short story that anyone who is a writer will understand. I asked if I could post it on my blog to share it with all of my friends and she kindly complied.
And so, Faithful Reader, Without further ado, here is TIME KEEPS ON TICKING, by Peggy Insula:
“Stop the clock! Stop the clock!” Clare screamed in her sleep. Crisp, white hospital sheets crumpled as she thrashed. Her arms and legs flailed and twisted her covering into sailors’ knots as her head rocked side to side. .
She woke. Heavy footsteps in the hall approached her room. Nurse Drago stomped up to Clare’s bedside. With her hands on her wide hips, Nurse Drago broadened her stance, furrowed her brow, and glared down at her.
Holy cow. Clare stopped her contortions, pulled her sheet up to her eyes, and stared like a deer in the headlights at the nurse. “She’s ugly as a troll and twice as mean-tempered,” she muttered.
“What did you say? And why do you want the clock stopped?”
Clare’s body went limp. She sighed. “Time is running out, running out. Can’t you see?”
The burly nurse leaned over until her rank breath blew in Clare’s face. “Time for a little reality therapy,” she hissed. “Listen, Clare. No amount of crying and fit-throwing will stop time. Why do you think you need more time?”
“I’m sixty-seven years old. I have to finish my novel and get it published. That will take me at least ten years. I’ll be seventy-seven before I’m done.”
“And how old will you be in ten years if you never write another word? When you were brought in here delirious on a stretcher, you were yelling, ‘too many –ly words; show, don’t tell, for God’s sake; less is more; and flesh out that skeleton.’ For two whole nights you woke up the entire ward demanding to know what was wrong with your query letter and screaming that your agent was torturing you. The third night all you would say is ‘suddenly’ and ‘literally’. Was all of that because you are too bone idle to edit?”
Clare glared back at her. “Are you my nurse or my damned demented Muse?”
“Does it matter? Answer the question! Either you get your sorry ass off the pity pot and plop it back down in front of your computer, or I will knock you out with enough valium to give this ward some peace for a couple of days. I think I can find a big old rusty needle, too.”
Their eyes locked. Their heavy breathing synchronized. With her peripheral vision and heightened anxiety, Clare saw a housekeeper stop pushing his mop bucket in the hallway. She guessed he wanted to see whose will would break first.
She looked down at her hands. “Okay, you win. Will you please get me a notebook and pencil?”
Shaking her head, Nurse Drago stalked off toward the hall. She stopped by the housekeeper, who still leaned on his mop. “God save me from crazy writers,” she said.”I’d rather treat a busload of homicidal psychopaths.”
Peggy Insula is a retired elementary teacher and psychotherapist. She was the Writing Contact for her school and has a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She has published short stories for the last three years in Driftwood, a literary anthology published by Brevard Scribblers’. On Kindle she has published Sudsy, a humorous satire about a large talking cockroach who goes to the White House, Just Murder, a short, unusual mystery, and Vain Imaginings, a collection of short stories.