Catharsis, November 5, 2021

This Show Case features five pieces submitted in response to our third Writing Prompt: Catharsis. We hope they stimulate your mind, spirit, and urge to write. Maybe they will motivate you to submit a piece for our next prompt:

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Submissions are due by the end of Monday, November 29, 2021, and will be published here the following Friday. Please attach yours as a .docx, .doc, or .pdf to an email to stranscht@sbcglobal.net. (Guidelines: any genre, approximately 6 – 1,000 words.)

And please share this Show Case with your family, friends, and other writers.

Catharsis: A Chess Game, Interrupted

by Carl E. Reed

We sat hunched over a cardboard chessboard and plastic pieces setting atop an overturned box in the living room—me straddling a metal folding chair backwards; Tim’s lean flanks (as befits an honored guest) nestled into the stained cushions of the battered armchair I’d dragged up to my second-floor apartment from the alley. 

“I thought you might have experienced some kind of catharsis at news of her death.” Tim nudged a white pawn forward; took my black pawn en passant. “You planning to attend her funeral?” 

“No, and no.”  

“Didn’t think so.” He set the pawn down alongside the chessboard where a half-dozen other cleared black pieces stood. “When’s the last time you spoke with your foster-mother?” 

“Thirty years ago. The night I confronted her about . . .” I gestured. “You know. All that stuff.” I took his knight, set it down beside the chessboard alongside four other captured white pieces. 

“How’d she react?” 

“Said it never happened. Leastwise, none of it happened the way I was ‘misremembering it’. Her exact words: ‘You only remember the bad stuff.’ ” 

“Evasion and denial.” 

“Yep.” I cracked my knuckles. “I’m a liar. Or delusional.” I cracked my wrists. “Possibly on drugs.” 

“Jesus Christ! You gonna do your feet?” 

“Why; you wanna watch?” 

He laughed. “You know,” he said ruminatively, “my mother still talks about the day the front door of your house flew open and Gloria started screaming at her and Sandra, our next-door neighbor. They were clustered together on the curb—mother with my brother Mike; Sandra with her two daughters—waiting for a slowing ice cream truck to pull over. ‘Barb, I think that woman’s screaming at us,’ Sandra said.”  

Tim took my bishop with his queen, set it down. 

“Sounds like her,” I said. “A jittery bundle of nerves and rage. Goddamn chain-smoker.” 

“I’m a chain-smoker,” Tim noted. 

“Yeah—not in this house,” I said as non sequitur, gesturing at the walls lined with plywood shelves bowed under the weight of books.  

“This ain’t a house,” Tim noted. “This is a fucking hovel. Twisted coat hanger acting as a toilet flush-lever, black mold and bed bugs, fist-sized holes in the walls—” 

“I didn’t put them there.”

“I didn’t say you did, jarhead. Your move.” 

“I know; gimme a second.” I studied the board. 

Tim mimicked load snoring. 

“I said gimme a second.” I moved my rook five spaces, pinning his king. 

“I remember you telling me how you used to flinch when she entered a room—and got hit for flinching. That’s messed up. I told my mom. What were we, ten?” 

“Eight,” I said. “Your move.” 

Tim took my rook with his queen, set it down. “Your mind isn’t on the game.” 

“So you say.” I advanced a knight. “What did your mom say when you told her?” 

He shrugged. “Same thing you just said—‘sounds like her’. ” 

“Uh-huh.” 

Tim reached out and moved a pawn forward one square but kept a finger on it, considering. Did you ever get counseling for . . .” He took his finger off the pawn. 

“I joined the Marine Corps.” 

Tim laughed again—a longer, higher-pitched peal of amusement. “Yeah you did.” 

I took his pawn with one of my own, set it down. “You know the worst thing about her death?” 

Tim looked at me. 

“She denied me the satisfaction of killing her.” 

Tim turned his attention back to the board. “You can always dig her up later.” He took my attacking pawn with his queen, set it down. “Fuck with her corpse a little.” 

“Hope springs eternal.” I advanced my own queen. 

“I’m hungry,” Tim said. “Let’s stop for a second. Wanna order a pizza?” 

“Sure,” I said. “I could eat. Sausage, onion and green pepper?” 

“Forget the green pepper. Add garlic.” 

Through the closed windows and duct-taped shades came an extended car horn blare, followed by the sounds of people shouting and someone banging on sheet metal. 

Neither of us had any kids.  

Too fuckin poor. Unlucky in love.

The cycle was broken. 

Ain’t any more to tell, sports fans.

The Kid from Zanesville

by GD Deckard

The young can be forgiven for seeing the world differently from how they were brought up when working in a war hospital eleven thousand miles from home. Perception overwhelms upbringing. The daily smells of blood and iodine disinfectant around open gunshot wounds can repel them into the fog of sex. Sex, as intense as the shock of pain and dismemberment they witness in men who suffer and die, becomes the cathartic that keeps them sane. It isn’t personal. It is a distraction.

“Let me die.”

The kid wanted to die. He wasn’t asking for anything that wouldn’t happen soon. The young soldier was going to die because too much inside of him had been violently disconnected. And he had waited long enough.

“I can’t do that.” Alan Smith  took his finger off the opening of the tracheostomy tube and plugged the Bird respirator back in. The corpsman’s patient lay paralyzed from the neck down. The Bird noisily forced air into his lungs and silently held it there until a valve clicked open and the air sighed out and his chest fell. He had breathed again. A bottle of intravenous solution hung from an IV pole beside the bed dripping drugs and nourishment into his body. His bladder drained through a catheter into a bag tied to the bed rail. On the floor sat a Gomco aspirator sucking fluids from his swollen abdomen. He was in the best hospital in South East Asia, on the intensive care unit, in a private room across from the nurse’s station. Dedicated doctors, nurses and corpsmen attended him. But he was going to die and he knew it.

His eyes screamed that he wanted to say something. Al unplugged the Bird respirator from the metal tube in his throat. He placed his finger on the open hole so air from the kid’s lungs could reach his vocal cords. “I want to die,” came a throaty whisper. Al plugged him back in.

Two nurses bustled into the room. In a flurry of efficiency, they checked the patient and his tubes and his bandages. Lieutenant Kean applied a blood pressure cuff. “His parents just landed. They flew all the way from the States to see him.”

The kid became agitated. His eyes pleaded with Al, “No!” He did not want mom and dad to see him like this.

“How’s he doing?” Dr. Boyd rushed in. “His parents are on the way from the flight line right now.”

Lieutenant Kean glanced up. “His BP is erratic.”

“Let’s start another IV. Ringers lactate. How’s his veins?”

“Not good.”

  “Ankle, then.” The doctor lifted the sheet from the kid’s feet and patted both ankles, looking for his best vein. “Keep your finger on that Bird,” he directed Al. “Make sure it cycles.” To the patient he said softly, “We are going to make you look your best for your parents.”

The kid jerked his head. “Watch his tracheostomy!” Captain Evans ordered Al. “Don’t let that tube come out.” The doctor was having trouble starting another IV. Evans stood by him at the foot of the bed, ready to assist. She also watched the younger nurse monitor the patient’s blood pressure.

The head jerks continued. Terror, Al thought. The kid is terrified of his parents seeing him before he’s dead and peaceful. He held the trach tube in place and began triggering the Bird manually. “That’s it,” the doctor nodded at him.

Lieutenant Kean worked the blood pressure cuff repeatedly. “We’re losing him.”

They ignored the chaplain who stuck his head in the door. “His parents are downstairs. They flew in all the way from Zanesville, Ohio to see him.”

Al knew Zanesville. He had grown up in Newark, close enough for his parents to drive to Zanesville for Jack Hemmer’s Homemade Ice Cream on Linden Avenue. They parked in the back yard of Jack’s house and he waited in the car with his brother while they went inside. The kid must have eaten that ice cream too. Fresh cherry halves in vanilla was Al’s favorite. The trach tube began pushing against his hand, pushing outward. He pushed it back in, but it pushed outward again.

“Make sure he’s getting air,” Evans said.

Al was horrified to see the skin puffing up on the kid’s neck around his tracheotomy. His trachea had ruptured! “Air is pumping under his skin!”

“Turn it off.” The doctor removed his gloves. A resigned look reflected what his tone had said. “They’re too late,” he told the chaplain. Al turned off the Bird. The nurses looked at one another. They removed the tubes and covered the body. He dimly heard one of them say, “I’ll call the morgue,” and the doctor say to the chaplain, “I’ll go tell them.”

That memorable evening shift made memories he needed to burn out of his memory and sent Al wide awake into the night. Angeles City at midnight soothed him like a favorite movie watched again for comfort. It was festive. Music played through the open doors of bars whose bright signs spilled colors into the streets. Bar girls stood outside, considering the men walking by, chatting, laughing, adding their essential energy to the city’s husky siren’s call.

At its core, Angeles City understood these men of war who followed their own current through the spaces of the night. They moved in a fog of sex. Angeles City specialized in impersonal sex. The bar girls sold sex for more money in two weeks than their families in the barrios earned in a year and most sent money home. Many expected that after a while they would marry and raise a family. Some did. A few saved enough to buy a kiosk or a market stall and let their past fade into the city’s background. But none missed the poverty of the barrios. The girls and the men met each other’s needs without apology, often with respect, and sometimes love. They shared, in a mutual desperation that transcended poverty and war, this act of rebellion.

That night, in a room above a bar he could probably never find again, a girl whose name he forgot gave him six orgasms. None were personal.

Catharsis

by Mimi Speike 

I’ve milked Decamps for all the laughs I could lay hands on. It’s past time to move on.  

I am hounded, day in, day out. I feel like my loony ex-housemate, who is convinced someone is stalking her. She’s flipped her wig, as Maynard G. Krebs used to say. NOBODY IS STALKING HER. I guarantee it. But a bunch of zanies are sure stalking me

To the passel of critters who have been on my back 24/7:

I’ve lived with you people for the better part of thirty years. Maisie’s the new kid on the block. She sprang to life (in her current form) only two-three years ago.

I have my sweethearts, and I have my villains, and I have folks who are still up in the air. They could go either way. I love ‘em all, but I especially love my trouble-makers.

Every story needs a villain, right? I start out writing me a good, nasty bad guy, then I begin to sympathize with him. He’s had a tough life. He’s been hurt. He’s been done dirt. I end up liking my creeps so much, I can’t chuck them out of the story when they’re done doing what I invented them to do. (My plots are overpopulated, but that’s part of the fun.) 

The animal above, that’s Feo. Feo means ugly. And he is. I’ve built him up into the most adorably nasty critter you’ve ever met. 

Feo made Sly’s life hell onboard a coastal trader, the Santa Clara. He’ll soon be off to England with Gato. (Gato, cat in Spanish, is, conversely, no cat. He’s a man.) Feo’s got to have a critical role to play up north. I wrote him a bit part, and he did a magnificent job with it. I expect him to do as well for me in book four: A Dainty Dish

I can’t bear to ditch him, I adore him. (I’m woefully deficient in the ruthlessness an author, so I read, needs. Kill my darlings? Impossible!) 

My problem, going forward: Sly is about to get himself gone, head north, leaving behind Jakome, Bittor, ZaZa, Zagi, Bix/Buttercup, d’Ollot, Igon and Eder Zendegi, and their father Belasco, the captain of the palace guard. OK, you crazies, I’m talking to you.

I expect you people to retire to a quiet corner of my brain and work out your destinies between yourselves, whilst I hustle Sly up to La Rochelle, on to London to save the Queen from an assassination attempt, then east, to Hameln, bickering with John Dee all the way; from there, to the multitudinous kingdoms of south-east Europe, in the company of a mentally-ill frog. 

Eventually he’ll land back in Haute-Navarre. When he does, I want to see your Virgin-Mary-Visitation scam resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, loose ends knotted, the mess wrapped up and tied with purple ribbon like the expensive baked goods in ZaZa’s bakery on the Plaza de Catalunya. 

Don’t give me your usual – well, I could do this, or I could do that. Settle your conflicts, and neatly, please. Don’t force me to add a book nine to my series because, like the Zen/Zams (Zendegi/Zambrano, two branches of the same pig-headed family) in my story, you can’t bring yourselves to compromise in a reasonable manner.

I don’t want to think about you people until Sly and I depart London. In London, I’ll have my hands full with John Dee. The research I’ve yet to do on him, it overwhelms me.

Book one is done. Next up: The Rogue at Sea. It’s complete, but it has problems with clarity. Too much double-dealing. I’ve been told the backstabbing is hard to follow. I haven’t looked at it in maybe three years. I’m hoping a read-through after all this time will reveal the truth to me. I can’t fix what I can’t see for myself. 

While I try to whip my privateers into shape, you bozos in Haute-Navarre work out your squabbles without bugging me. I hereby cut you fools adrift, until I join you back in Haute-Navarre in The Prodigal Returns. I thank you in advance for your kind cooperation.

Thank you, you idiots, for letting me get this off my chest. No, you’re not idiots. I’ve given you free rein and, naturally, you’ve taken it. How can I complain? Many of my best ideas were your suggestions. Keep it up!

It’s time for me to move on. Allow me to give my full attention to my new set of goofballs, my pirates. Hasta la vista, my friends. Take care of yourselves. Don’t take no wooden reales. 

Ha! I just kicked that can down the road. I don’t have to deal with that crew down in Spain for a good long while. A burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I feel better already. 

_____________________________

My fellow scribblers: your word for the day is catarsis. (Spanish for catharsis.) A catharsis is grand, but a cat-arsis is even better.

Philosophy Afoot

by Curtis Bausse

A few weeks ago I started an affair with Jim Tottle’s wife. He found out of course, but he was philosophical about it, especially as we weren’t actually having sex. Every so often she’ll call me and ask if I fancy a game of Toe. She’s a foot fetishist, you see, so after a little chat over tea and biscuits, what we do, slowly and erotically, is take off our shoes and socks, lie on the carpet sole to sole, and play with our toes. I was sceptical when she said it would be cathartic, but it is. (She knows a lot about that Greek stuff – pathos, hubris, tzatziki and so on.) Lately Jim has taken to joining in – there’s nothing like a threesome for a good wriggle of the phalanges. And afterwards… wow! So cleansed, so purified! Really, you know, there’s only one way to release that pent-up tension: chat with Alice Tottle and play Toe.

Pivot

by S.T. Ranscht

The second child wasn’t like the other four. Or like any of the other kids any of them knew. Sure, she had two of everything she was supposed to have two of, and one of everything else like most of the other kids, but her mind didn’t work the same way the minds of everyone who knew her worked. Except for her dad’s. More analytical. More precise. More inquisitive.

But even the two of them perceived life, its puzzles and problems, its values and goals, as propositions so different from one another that their perceptions might have been those of species as alien to each other as if one were carbon based and the other were based on silicon. Or antimatter. His admitted only empirical, rational, fact-based evidence as valid foundations for any answer, argument, or choice. Hers appreciated those aspects of reality, but also embraced the intuitive, feeling, and sense of justice and interconnectedness of all things that painted the biggest Big Picture possible in the vastness of the Universes.

But because he was older and more experienced, he made sure she knew there was something fundamentally wrong with her perception. Her understanding. Her questions. Her conclusions. Her choices. Her self.

And because she was younger and knew so little, she believed him even when a tiny, muffled voice in her head, incapable of screaming, muttered, “He’s wrong. Isn’t he?”

She stopped sharing her thoughts with him.

It was her shamefully, never-to-be realized potential, he said, that convinced the educational testing system she should skip a grade and spend the rest of her school career competing with students older than she was. 

Was it any wonder, then, that in a house full of family, in a world full of people, she always felt alone? Unseen. Unheard. Unappreciated. Just like her dad.

Till one budding Spring day, sitting in Trig, as Mrs. Jordan — with a run in her nylons that one of the other girls referred to as “the run in her leg” — worked at the chalkboard to explain logarithms to her classroom of 11th grade advanced mathematicians, something inexplicable happened and everything changed.

She was fifteen and as pure as they say driven snow is. She was healthy and had eaten a nutritious breakfast. Sunshine poured in the windows. But the walls fell away and she was instantaneously surrounded by black sky and stars — with an electric blue e-curve floating in space like an out-of-body umbilical cord, and the unshakable certainty that humans did not invent math, but merely discovered it, and a sense of presence that imbued her with the knowledge that she knew what it was most people think of as God.

~~~

When the classroom fogged back into being, she couldn’t tell how long she’d been gone. Leaving the room at the end of class, she felt as though she were gliding six inches above the floor. She told only her best friend about what had happened, and she gasped, “You just experienced cosmic consciousness!”

Whatever it was, it purged her of self doubt. She kept asking questions and seeking answers for the rest of her life. Self-contained. Confident. Fearless.

She never told her dad.

35 thoughts on “Catharsis, November 5, 2021

  1. Thank you Carl, GD, Mimi, and Curtis for your contributions to the Catharsis Show Case.

    Carl, your piece left me thinking time may not heal all wounds, but it may keep us from wounding anybody else. Check.

    GD, I can’t help wondering how difficult Al would find it to disconnect from those deeply cathartic associations — or disassociations — in peacetime.

    Mimi, it’s good to know you’ve been able to escape from the oppression of some of your mind’s own creations. There is hope for us all.

    Curtis, who’d have guessed catharsis could have a light touch? Alice Tottle and play Toe, indeed!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. FIRST THOUGHTS

    Catharsis: A Chess Game, Interrupted by Carl E. Reed
    A resigned sadness. I’d accept this for publication as is, but would secretly wish for an ending that resolved the main character’s angst. Probably have to up the permissible number of words though because you couldn’t take anything out of the original. It’s as tightly drawn as poetry.

    Catharsis by Mimi Speike
    The writer, writing and dealing with her characters? I love it! What a novel take on a story.
    🙂 More Mimi whimsey-madness 🙂

    Philosophy Afoot by Curtis Bausse
    HA! Philosophy Afoot is delightful, Curtis. Refreshing. Might you be a fan of Vonnegut’s “Cats Cradle” with its ritual of boko-maru, the mingling of soles?

    Pivot by S.T. Ranscht
    You nailed that feeling, “her mind didn’t work the same way the minds of everyone who knew her worked.” Your excellent story brought to mind IMBd TV’s “Scorpion.”
    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3514324/
    If you’ve not seen it, I suspect you will enjoy watching it. The first episode is a “grabber.”

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, GD, for both the complimentary feedback and the “Scorpion” recommendation. Your opinion matters to me. Now, having watched Scorpion’s pilot, you’re right — I enjoyed it and plan to watch the 4 seasons IMDb offers. I’m skeptical about the genius/socially inept connection unless the genius is also termed “neural non-normal” (on the autism spectrum), but it seems to apply to only two of the characters here (plus little Ralph), so I’m not so irked I’d discount the writing. (Yes, Carl, we do judge as readers AND viewers.)

      I agree with Carl that you don’t need the first paragraph. It tells us what we’re going to see, but seems to indicate the author isn’t sure we’ll get it. Besides, “Let me die” is a powerful opening line.

      However, I think “That night, in a room above a bar he could probably never find again, a girl whose name he forgot gave him six orgasms. None were personal.” is a perfect ending. It needs to say, “None were personal.”

      Liked by 5 people

      • I agree, Sue. That note of impersonality/sex-as-mechanical-pistoning needs to be there. I thought that the mere fact that the narrator is picking up a bar girl conveys that. It doesn’t. (Which is why I need to do a hundred drafts of something to get it right. Rereading always reveals the weakness in a line–sometimes weeks or months later.)

        Good luck, GD! We only want your writing to snap, crackle and pop! (Err . . . Need to pay Kellogg’s a royalty now.) No pressure.

        Liked by 4 people

        • As in the comments from Carl and Sue, I favor deleting the first paragraph and keeping the last one (tweaked, perhaps).  What about the 2 paragraphs before the last one?  There’s a case for deleting them, but I was moved by the characterization of the bar girls.  Clear-eyed and humane.  If that stays and the rest of those 2 paragraphs is whittled down a little, I doubt that the SDT zealots will have a fit.

          Liked by 4 people

          • Thanks for the input, Mellow. I tend to agree with your advice to trim it. But I wouldn’t want to deny the zealots. Nobody deserves to have fits more than zealots.

            Seriously, thank you. I’ve added your agreement to my “Critiques” file, to be held until the final draft on the grounds that a novel needs be judged in its entirety, not on a story within. Who knows where lines cut now might end up.

            Liked by 3 people

  3. GD: This is a remarkable piece of work. The technical details employed in describing exactly what is going on, medically speaking, with the unfortunate young man ground the writing and amplify its power. It is, we realize at once, the voice of life-lived experience speaking. You have intimate, insider knowledge of the procedures and equipment involved here. Then you heighten the drama by telling us the parents are rushing to the trauma center to see their son before he passes, even as the young man begs to die. (“Don’t let them see me like this”.) I held my breath as I read; the writing is that compelling. Best writing I’ve ever seen from you. (Now, if this strikes you as all gush here’s some criticism you didn’t ask for: I would eliminate the lead-in line involving sex that got you started writing the piece. Not necessary. Open with that tense medical crisis scene and then scene shift after a white-space break thusly: “That night he went into Angeles City and picked up a bar girl. She gave him six orgasms.” Boom! The end. Everything you stated explicitly can be conveyed—more powerfully, in my view—as subtext. You are now two cents richer—heh!)

    Reiterating: A remarkable piece of work. (Sue was wise to post this second in series order. I wouldn’t want to follow that.)
    …………………..

    Mimi: Not sure if this is meant to read as fiction, confession, or . . . It sounds like you. That’s enough.
    …………………..

    Curtis: Thank god someone brought the light, deft touch of whimsy to this showcase! An elegant, expertly crafted piece. (The specificity of the Greek words employed here takes the charm of your writing to another level and enhances the overall comic effect. Well done!)
    …………………..

    Sue: Best writing I’ve seen from you, as well! (Hate to sound so judgmental re: you and GD but that’s what readers do when they read, don’t they? Judge. Shall I stop? Go on? Continuing to read is the highest compliment a reader can pay a writer.)

    Here’s a wolf-whistle-beautiful-stand-out paragraph: “She was fifteen and as pure as they say driven snow is. She was healthy and had eaten a nutritious breakfast. Sunshine poured in the windows. But the walls fell away and she was instantaneously surrounded by black sky and stars — with an electric blue e-curve floating in space like an out-of-body umbilical cord, and the unshakable certainty that humans did not invent math, but merely discovered it, and a sense of presence that imbued her with the knowledge that she knew what it was most people think of as God.

    And that final line: “She didn’t tell her father.” What a wealth of information re: their relationship is conveyed in those five words! :::applause-applause::::

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Carl. Really. Your critical suggestion adds clarity and impact. (And is the kind of useful comment that Sue had in mind when she started Show Case.)
      Woot! This is like Book Country days! I will hold your critique for the final draft.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Wow, Carl. Thanks! I appreciate your observations. They’ve made me examine the differences between this and other things I’ve written, and I think the most important difference is how I approached actually writing this piece. I will keep that in mind for anything I write from here on. Thank you for that.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Sorry I missed this prompt–was visiting my declining 92-yr old mom. It was something like the opposite of carthasis, whatever that may be. Loved reading your varied submissions. Not sure six male orgasims in an evening would be cathartic, exhausting of course, but the relief sounds like too much of a good thing. Then again, as Twain quipped, “too much whiskey is just enough” and perhaps the same would apply here. For the next prompt I’ll attempt something in the whimsy arena, as that seems well received among you wordsmitters. Off to the mines to unearth something devolutioonary…

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Curtis’ piece reminds me of something HD Thoreau almost said:
            «In Silliness is the preservation of the world.»
    The phrase “chat with … play Toe” occupies a sunny spot in the Puntheon.  The list of Greek stuff is almost as funny.  (For different reasons, Sophie Cleese and Al Fabbet would both put hubris ahead of pathos.)

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Love the contrasts in Sue’s piece.  The nameless protagonist is both like and unlike her father.  She eats a down-to-earth nutritious breakfast, then has a mystical experience later in the day.

    Bet there is a lot of autobiography here.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. victoracquista says:

    I just spent the last thirty minutes reading the Show Case selections for Catharsis. I have the sense that there is a lot of real life experience behind much of what has been shared. Perhaps the prompt invited that. I found each and every submission enjoyable as both a reader and fellow writer. Thank you all, and special thanks to Sue for assembling and organizing the whole show case!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Carl
    Two stories intertwined here, chess and family. Talk rambling randomly while precise chess unfolds. I kept waiting for “checkmate.”
    You captured the feel of these two guys perfectly. I was there in the room with them.
    So many tantalizing glimpses of characters; I wanted to learn more.
    It didn’t end like a short story; it just stopped. I wanted resolution. Catharsis maybe.

    GD
    A nailbiter of a story! Two stories in one—the kid and the sex.
    You must have a side I know nothing about, to write the medical treatment detail, and how it came to an end. I won’t hazard a guess on the therapeutic sex side.
    I agree with what others have said: you could dump the first paragraph. I didn’t get the connection between gunshot wound and the fog of sex.
    I loved the paragraphs about the bar girls. “The girls and the men met each other’s needs without apology, often with respect, and sometimes love.”
    If one of my buddies bragged about six orgasms in a night, I’d take it with a grain of salt.

    Mimi
    Your voice is the most distinctive. You, channeling your furry finagling friends. You’ve perfectly captured the style and tone of a self-regarding celeb speaking to adoring fans.

    Curtis
    What a kick! I think playing Toe like this would be more than cathartic; it would be intensely erotic! It’s a good thing that Jim joined in. Hopefully no hangnails.

    Sue
    Oh, do I ever identify with this girl. Seeing math alive in the world is a lonely avocation. I recall a long-ago LSD trip, where I experienced “the everythingness of everything.” Equations and shapes merging into each other with no end. Some people hear colors; I see calculus.
    I’ve often wondered about the cosmic consciousness part.

    Me??
    Where was my piece? I started it, but didn’t get it done. Sometimes it takes a bit longer for me to unfold a story. I’d never succeed as a journalist with deadlines.

    Liked by 4 people

    • How marvelous — “the everythingness of everything.” Is it unexpected that I know exactly what you mean? It’s right there with “the roadiness of the road.” I think the cosmic consciousness part is akin to the Total Perspective Vortex with all the awareness, but inseparable from ego.

      I hope we’ll see more from you when your thoughts align with time.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for your insights, Mike. I have made the changes you and others suggested.
      I know the medical details because I am the main character. The stories are true.
      And about that fog of sex 🙂 it’s a refuge people seek in war. Here’s another true story.

      Like every room in the hospital, the cafeteria’s atmosphere was created by its function and the people in it. A large, green-walled room with checker-tiled floor, littered with plain tables and chairs, it was brought to life by the stainless-steel serving line that operated around the clock. Al took a seat and smelled the food and listened to the vents humming and the dishes clanking and the people talking until Captain Kelly looked up from her coffee.

      “I was taking a guy to x-ray in a wheelchair. Shot up, just off medivac. He was in pain, but upbeat. We go by the gift shop and he says, ‘Stop! See that nurse? I want to eyeball-fuck her.’” He shrugged. “I stopped.”

      “Who was she?” Captain Kelly asked with a smile and bright humor in her eyes.

      “Jenkins, from O.B.”

      “Oh. That didn’t take him long then.” She turned serious. “You see death, you want life.” She pushed her chair from the table and looked between her extended arms at the floor. Sucking in a breath, she stood. “Back to it.”

      Al took in the blonde walking away. Kelly was on the dialysis team and regularly watched young men die because their kidneys had been left on the battlefield. When she was on call at night, Captain Kelly was notified by waking the doctor on call that night. He wondered if he would ever meet another woman he could tell this story to. She would have to be the woman that Captain Kelly was.

      ——

      I’m currently working these stories into a novel. A close running mate at the time is alive and helping me to remember details. The stories are true, even the dialogue, but of course I changed the names. For liability reasons. There were no innocents.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It does seem easier to tell a story with authority and authenticity when it’s true, doesn’t it?

        The story’s a good one, but I was confused as to who was telling the story about the guy in the wheelchair. “…until Captain Kelly looked up from her coffee” seems to be followed by Captain Kelly speaking because there’s no other attribution. “He shrugged” seems to refer to Al, like “So? Doesn’t everybody?” — or maybe the guy in the wheelchair, like “Can you blame me?” (with wacko quotation marks). But then Kelly asks who the nurse was, which she most likely would have known if it were her story.

        By the time I got there, I had completely left the story to examine the story structure.

        Liked by 3 people

  9. Sue 🙂
    re “A trait at which some authors excel.” I think that’s because some editors are so spot on in their criticisms that an author feels a bit peeved.

    Take your criticism, “…you don’t need the first paragraph. It tells us what we’re going to see, but seems to indicate the author isn’t sure we’ll get it.”
    That is exactly why I put that paragraph there, but, I didn’t realize it until you told me. Now 🙂 that’s annoying!

    Liked by 2 people

      • Sue, suffering from a vague suspicion that you might be right, I took another look at your criticism:

        “I was confused as to who was telling the story about the guy in the wheelchair. ‘…until Captain Kelly looked up from her coffee’ seems to be followed by Captain Kelly speaking because there’s no other attribution.”

        And I discovered a simple fix. Oddly enough, I did not actually see the problem until after it was fixed. But the added clarity clearly spotlighted my blind spot. (OK, that last sentence is purple prose, but it does provide emphasis.)

        I mention this to a) thank you and b) wonder if you might be willing to read the opening of Code Blue and Little Deaths? It’s a few stories, 20-30 pages double spaced, to introduce the intensive care unit, the patients, the hospital, the town, the main characters, and the plot. Yup, there was a plot, hatched and carried out by two friends and myself.

        Liked by 2 people

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