I write short fiction

Month: August 2021

Mannequin Monday – Help me. Please!

Distance runner Maggie Murano spends her first night in rehab after knee surgery.

And quotes from a book I finished reading this week. Welcome back to Mannequin Monday. Draping the blank form with the beauty of words.

What I’m Writing

Another story bite, this one a first night in a rehab facility. Enjoy a moment with Maggie.

Help Me

Bob Gillen

“Help me, please….someone help me.” A man’s voice.  Loud. Wailing. 

Maggie Murano startled awake. Lying on her back in the lumpy bed, only a dim lamp lighting the room, she could barely twist to see the door. Her first night in a skilled nursing facility, rehabbing after knee surgery. Maggie was a distance runner. Mobile. Agile. Flexible. The surgeon told her she needed rehab for a week before she could go home. “I want you to get physical therapy. More than you can get from a home health agency.” She had fought him. Hard. Finally gave up and picked a facility near home. 

“Someone help me. Please.” 

The voice seemed to come from a room across the hall. 

Maggie felt pain from the surgery kicking in. She pressed the call button. Waited. And waited. 

Credit: Forbes

“Help me. Help me, please. I need to get up. Please help.”

No one responded to the voice. The staff must be busy with other patients, she thought.

Twenty minutes later no one had responded to her call button. And the man was still calling out, “Help me. Please, someone help me.”

“Shit, I’ll never get any sleep here. How is this therapy?” Maggie muttered aloud.

“He never stops.” A voice from the doorway.

Maggie turned as best she could. A woman in a wheelchair rolled into the room. She pointed a gnarled finger toward the hall.

“Every night. He does this every night. When his son is here wheeling him around in the daytime, he never says a word. As soon as it’s bedtime, he starts shouting.”

“Can’t they quiet him?” Maggie wondered why the woman was still up and roaming the halls.

“Nothing works. If they fuss over him, they’re neglecting other patients who need their attention.”

The woman wheeled closer to Maggie’s bed.

“Sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. Everyone here calls me grandma. Mostly because I know everybody’s business.”

“Hi. I’m Maggie.”

“Yes. I saw you come in this afternoon. I was too busy to say hello till now.”

Again the voice, “Someone help me. Please.”

Maggie nodded toward the hall. “What about meds? A sedative?”

“They say they can only give it for pain.”

“He’s a pain!” Maggie said.

The woman huffed. “At least you’re only here for rehab. Most of us are never going home.” 

Maggie tried to shift in the bed. Ended up wincing from pain. 

“I saw your call light on. You need meds. Let me find a nurse for you.”

“Can you close the door on your way out?”

“Sorry, honey. Rules are, door stays open if you’re alone in the room.” Grandma wheeled out into the hall.

“Help me. Please help me.”

Maggie let her head fall back on the thin pillow. I go home in a week. Grandma’s here till she dies.

***

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Mannequin Monday – Find Your Light

In this week’s story bite, Milo sits waiting for his voice to return. Knowing it will not.

And I offer comments on Daniel Silva’s new book The Cellist.

What I’m Writing

Here’s a story-bite sequel to a story titled Sawdust that I first posted on this blog in February 2020. Maurice and Milo are back to entertain you. Enjoy.

Find Your Light

Bob Gillen

“I’m bored.”

The words slipped out of Milo’s mouth in a whisper. He had not spoken for weeks. Not since the night Maurice died.

Again, “I’m bored.”

Milo sat upright on his stool, back against the wall. Sat next to the urn that held Maurice’s ashes. The ashes of his partner. The man he had worked so many clubs and venues with. Milo felt himself smile. Remembering the clubs, the gigs, the audiences. 

And again, Milo heard himself say, “I’m bored.”

What the hell? Maurice is dead. Cremated. Reduced to a jar full of ashes. Milo had no more words. Not without Maurice.

“Heaven ain’t what it’s cracked up to be, buddy.” Milo shuddered. Hard to do for a ventriloquist’s dummy. But shudder he did.

Without moving his eyes, Milo took in the room. Light from a tiny window high on a north wall fell on the urn. Find your light. Maurice’s stage mantra.

Maurice’s ex-wife Darla had dismissed Milo and the urn to a corner of Maurice’s office. The office so small Maurice’s feet hit the wall if he stretched in his chair. The place where they had run all their routines. The room where Maurice’s imagination ran wild. 

Milo’s eyes rolled back and forth. Nothing. No one there. 

“I’m talking to you, Milo.” 

Milo’s jaw clattered against his upper lip. Maurice? Is that you? You’re back?

“It’s me. Maurice. Your voice. I’m still here.”

This is not real.

“Yeah, it’s real. Weird, but real.”

Can we do another gig? 

“Not gonna happen. I don’t know how long I can talk to you. Through you.”

Milo felt his head nod.

“Nothing here but white light. No one around. No one to talk to. Not even harp music. Just light.”

Milo blinked. Did Maurice do that?

“It’s peaceful. I like that. No worries. No drunks in the audience to heckle us. No hassles traveling from one club to the next.”

How can I be talking?

“Milo, buddy, listen to me…I am so bored. You know me, I like to move, to talk. I love being on stage. Love performing. You and me, we did great together, didn’t we?”

It wasn’t my call.

You left me.

 “That night I died on stage…heart attack. I hated to leave you, but it wasn’t my call.”

I’m alone.

“And that bastard club manager, I know he pocketed the cash he owed us. It was a full house. We always packed them in.” He laughed. “I guess we cleared the room pretty quick that night, huh?”

My jaw feels stiff. Haven’t moved it in weeks.

“Like I said, where I’m at is okay, but it’s dull. All those words? Joy, peace, glory, eternal life…they’re not cutting it. I’m missing something.

Milo thought, I’m missing something…you.

“Wait a minute, buddy. Something happening here. The light is brighter. Still quiet, though…Wait! I see someone. A shape…I think it’s time. Milo, take care. Thanks for the good times. Catch you.”

Milo stared straight ahead, mouth closed, jaw rigid. How do I find my light now?

***

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