Friday, May 20, 2011

Don't Toy With My Emotions

This is short story I submitted for a contest on the writing site, Figment. The guidelines requested that we -- in no more than 1200 words -- write a modern retelling of an recognizable and renowned faerie tale. *Please forgive me as I take a moment to joyously crash my symbols in a ticker-take parade of one. This happens to be one of the first pieces of writing to receive public acclaim; the validation, from someone other than my overly-doting husband, warmed this insecure writer's heart considerably.* The story was first selected by the editorial staff as 1 of 20, whittled down from 230. After a cross-country voting by poll, the story was then chosen as 1 of 5. The final 5 have been sent to a published YA author for her consideration. I eagerly await the announcement of a final victor; however, win or lose, I wholeheartedly believe the victory was achieved in the completing of yet another story. If you are a fellow writer, you might understand this poignancy.
**Update** I WON!!

"A professional writer is an amateur who never quit." ~ Richard Bach


 Crowded is never a good thing. Never. People can get hurt; children traumatized for life. The last time it happened, and it was crowded, someone almost got run over by a car.
I purposely scheduled my appointment in the middle of the afternoon, figuring it would be the least crowded. The after-lunch rush should have passed, and most of the working-class are still at work. After stopping at the water fountain – procrastinating – I come to the Pepto-pink door. Taking a deep breath, I suppress it. Peering through the rectangular window, I see the room is crowded.
My sweaty hand slips on the door handle as I pull it toward me. Heads turn discreetly, but quickly lower. An ordinary boy of seventeen offers no competition for the latest US Weekly. I head toward the receptionist, stepping over a boy playing on the floor.
Waiting room toys are lame. What is that thing? There is not one ounce of joy in pushing large beads up and down a wire. Whoever’s in charge of ordering the toys should be fired. It’s boring… insulting. Just because it’s colorful-

I shouldn’t be taking my nerves out on some poor ugly toys.
Relax. Everything’s cool.
Behind a window, a nurse with a pink elephant on her scrubs is smiling euphorically. The irony is enough to make me cry.
            “Hi, can I help you?” she says cheerfully.
“Uh, yea,” I answer, eyes reflexively darting to my reflection in the glass. Always checking my reflection. “I have an appointment.”
“Wonderful! Is this a consultation?”
“Yes.” This is an easy question; however, I glance again at my reflection.
“Are you over eighteen?”
“Uh… No…”
Still smiling she asks, “Is there a parent here with you?”
I was hoping to avoid this question. I answer slow and careful, starting with the truth.
“No. My dad’s a carpenter…he’s working today… have a note.” My short sentences make me sound illiterate, but I don’t care. It’s better than the alternative. I pull the forged note from my jeans.
 “Okay great!” she exclaims. “Why don’t you start filling out this paper work and someone will call you shortly.”
“Thanks.” I take the clipboard and pick out a seat near a corner. Looking down, I quickly become overwhelmed. Answering this many questions requires all my attention. As the nurse calls out to me, I reply without thinking.
It’s in this split second… everything falls apart.
Shrieking, a real boy runs into the arms of his mother. The once beatific nurse has her hands clasped over her mouth. A woman in front of me has been injured. I apologize profusely. Seeing me, she stammers an unintelligible response, moving to the opposite side of the room.
I take inventory of the faces staring back at me: astonishment, fright-horror, fascination. The nurse has recovered, though only slightly. Standing before me, she holds out one jittery hand. I return the clipboard to her and consider making a break for it.
Through a wambly smile, she clears her throat. “The doctor will see you now, Pinocchio."


“So, what seems to be the problem?”
Dr. Cricket thinks he’s hilarious. Recumbent on the padded examination chair, I wait patiently for the stoic he’s hanging onto to break. His lips begin to mash together, dark mustache twitches at the corners, blue eyes start to water and then…
He’s roaring. The grisly laugh collects wetly in his chest, whining like a car that won’t start. He removes his glasses to clean them. Dabbing at his glistening eyes with a hanky, he appears to be about finished.
Wonderful. Now that he’s had a laugh at my expense, we can move on.
“Oh, I’m just kiddin’ my boy!” he says jovially, clapping me on the shoulder. This jostles me, causing my nose to thrash into the overhead light attached to the chair. I shatter the bulb, glass shards raining down over us.
“Mmpf. That is a problem now, isn’t it?” He deliberates with a finger to his chin, reining in the merriment.
A sarcastic You think? comes to mind. Instead I say, “I need a nose job.”
Running his palm along the smooth plank he says, “No splintering, very nice. Pledge or Murphy’s Oil?”
Closing my eyes, I sigh while he snickers for another two minutes.“Now,” he begins in his official voice, “explain to me again how this works? This only occurs when you lie, correct?” 
“Yes. Only when I lie.”
“Hm… Too many folks going around lying these days... I rather like the idea of knowing someone out there is always telling the truth,” he says altruistically. Although I would love to contribute to Dr. Cricket’s utopian fantasy world, fractionally more I would love not having a breadstick shoot out of my face at any given second.
“It’s not that simple,” I explain. “The lies don’t have to be serious. I wasn’t thinking when the nurse asked me if I needed a pen, and …” I waved at my face conclusively.
“The problem is, Pinocchio, a rhinoplasty isn’t an option for you. It’s too dangerous. I’m afraid your condition might worsen.”
“After reviewing your MRI, I learned you have veining throughout your entire nose    -- precisely like a tree. Severing those veins could be fatal. There’s no telling what would happen if you were to lie during recovery. I’m sorry Pinocchio, I can’t risk your life.”
            Utterly dejected, I leave Dr. Cricket’s office, pausing as I pass a closed door barely muting an irate outburst.
            “What do you mean there’s nothing you can do!?” a girl hollers. “There has to be something!” 
Deciding my plans to go home and mourn my miserable existence can wait, I press my ear to the door and listen.
            “I’m sorry, Ra-” says a calm female voice.
Another helpful doctor.
            “No! I’m tired of hearing how sorry people are!”
I liked her already. She begins to cry and for some reason this effects me. Before I know it, I’m pitching forward, face planting in a pile of … hair?
“Were you spying on me?” A pretty girl, enveloped in thick gold hair, glares down at me. I amble to my feet, bright red and nose throbbing. Even though my nose is fully extended, I answer truthfully.
Leery, she sniffs, giving me a careful onceover. “What’s with the nose?”
I shrug. “It grows.”
“I have the same problem with my hair. A foot every hour. So gross.”
“I think it’s pretty,” I whisper.
A shy smile and soft blush transforms her face. She’s exquisite. I speak quickly before losing my nerve. “Would you want to get crepes with me? There’s this place-”
“Yes!” She looks down, smile fading. “But walking with all of this hair is… is difficult.”
“Oh, I can help with that.” I go to work gathering up her hair, hanging it neatly over my nose. I step back in a “ta-dah” pose. The look of adoration on her face makes my heart kick like a bass drum. She reaches out, taking my hand.
“Who nose…” she laughs, giving the modified hair rack a light kiss, “…this could work out.”
 “Best part…”  I say lifting my arms, “… no strings attached.”


WordLuster said...

This short story is great!!! Seriously, I really did enjoy it. You did a fantastic job. I had no clue what fairytale you were taking a spin on until the VERY end. I love when an author can throw me for a loop. I'm excited to read more of your work now. *runs back to Figment* :-P

Carey said...

Very clever and cute!

Lisa said...

This is such a great short story. Bravo to you! Very well done. :)

Keren said...

Cara, I love it! I was delightfully surprised with your modern take on a fairytale. I hope that you can be a writer full-time! :)

Cara R. Olsen said...

Thank you, ladies! Your kind accolades warm my heart :)