It began the way most things do – with a stab to the heart. Dying that day wasn’t on my agenda. Not to say I wasn’t depressed. Of course I was… Yet, I’d somehow accepted that living small was safe. It was comfortable, familiar. It kept my disappointments to a minimum. If I cried sometimes, randomly, well, that was part of it. It was my life and I had no serious intentions of leaving it.
They said the attacker was lucky – a stab to the heart is hard to do. I knew that because I heard the conversation of the crowd that had gathered around my cooling body. Apparently, the ribs are a pretty good defense against things seeking to pierce the heart. Evolution or God… Our bodies seem to have a bit of wisdom when it comes to survival.
Floating above the circus of co-workers and rescue personnel, I noticed one individual who seemed calmer than the rest. Joyful. There was something soothing and grounded about him. I guess I glided over, because suddenly there he was, staring at me with piercing green eyes. Gray wisps of hair seemed to dance from his eyebrows and a crooked smile highlighted his somewhat crooked nose.
“Fergal O’Hara,” he said as he tipped a flat tweed hat. “Nice to meet you.”
Feeling a little off guard because in no way did my random after-death musings ever lead me to consider anything Irish, I gaped. “Are you here for me?”
“That’s right, my dear. Are you ready? We’ve got a nice warm body waiting. I wanted to give you a chance to get used to your new state, but…” He tilted his head. “You seem like a fast learner. Shall we go?”
Me a quick learner? The most I’d done since finishing community college was tread water in a job way below my abilities but that paid the rent. Barely. I was the 40-something living in McLoser Villas and sliding into Prozac and YouTube videos of rescued puppies.
As a medical receptionist at a podiatry office, I aspired to showing up. I had a quote from The Office TV show taped on the bottom of my stapler that pretty much summed up my feelings to a T. “I’ve always subscribed to the idea that if you really want to impress your boss, you go in there and you do mediocre work, halfheartedly.” Thanks, Jim. You get it.
In fact, the most exciting thing to happen at work was dying in front of it. Apparently, my employer’s wife thought I was “the tart” who was banging her husband, Dr. Donald Dong (his real name, I kid you not). My auburn hair was the one thing I had in common with Dr. Dong’s mistress according to a sobbing Mrs. Dong as they dragged her away from me. Her rage refused to see the other details that didn’t match and, well, there I lie on the cracked sidewalk in front of our office’s smudged glass doors.
“What do you mean you have a nice warm body waiting? I just left a perfectly functioning warm body… Don’t I attend some kind of after-death review? Or get bathed in healing crystal energy or something?” I’d watched enough B movies to figure that one out.
Fergal rubbed his jaw. “That’s not the way it works. At least for you. You’ve got a different assignment that needs your immediate attention. Now my dear, shall we see what it’s all about?”
Suddenly I felt cold. “Is there no going back?” I turned towards my body. Sure it wasn’t perfect. There was a bit of a squishy middle, my roots were growing out (why couldn’t I have died with fresh highlights?!), and yeah, my love life was a work in progress (I had just signed up on Match.com. Kill me now. Oh wait…), but it was my life. I wasn’t done, not by a long shot.
Just the thought of starting over again was overwhelming. “I’m not ready for a new life! I’m just getting it together in this one!”
“Darlin,” he said as he leaned close to me, “You want the antidote to your life? A way to fill the hole gaping in your chest? Do you even see the metaphor of your death?”
He had me there. Even I had to admit that I’d lost my way and was going nowhere fast. Hence the depression and a freezer full of Chunky Monkey ice cream. When I was young, I had dreams. I wanted to study medicine. Or be an elementary school teacher. Or even a philosopher. Everything seemed so exciting. Instead, I somehow found myself working in a run-down office with posters of bunions, hammertoes, and ingrown toenails.
Yeah, I wasn’t setting the world on fire this go ‘round. “Okay, Fergal. I’m willing…”
“That’s all that’s required.” He gave me that crooked smile again and something in me relaxed. Death isn’t so bad I thought.
And then I felt a thousand volts coursing through my new body and the smell of ozone.
(This is part of a new novel idea, using the writing prompt from Sunday Scribblings, “antidote.”)
“Pinch your cheeks, try not to smile too wide, and for God’s sake, don’t frown!”
“I don’t frown… do I?”
“And remember to arrive fashionably late, don’t just walk, sashay across the floor as if you own the place.”
“Now, this is important–try to look blasé. Nothing shouts, ‘Woman over 40 desperate to meet a man’ than a blatant scan of the room.”
“Now… let’s see… breath mints?”
“Yes siree. Altoids… they’ll put out a forest fire.”
“Extra pair of underpants?”
“Well, then, go get them! And not the grandma ones!”
“I’m sure that won’t be necessary… ”
“Toothpaste and travel brush?”
“Remember, this isn’t just another holiday, woman! It’s December, the single most depressing month of year for single men and women. This is YOUR month. YOUR time to shine. Let’s bring your sexy back, ok?”
“But what about, you know, the ‘reason for the season’ and all that? Jesus? Love? Sugar cookies sprinkled with hope?”
Blank look. “Right, right. That too. Now go out there and have some fun. Oh, and take this along…”
“A miniature bottle of brandy?!”
“What, you expect to drink plain eggnog? Hell, woman, live dangerously.”
“You know, Grandpa, this is a church Christmas party I’m going to, right?”
“Semper Paratus, my dear girl, Semper Paratus.” He winked. “Always be prepared.”
(This was fun to write and was another minimalist experimentation with dialogue. I love playing with brevity! Thanks to Sunday Scribbling for the prompt of “December”)
I’ve been drumming my nails about something for a long time now… I have a ton of writing books that back me up on this. The question is: Can I write a book?
I’ve been very curious about NaNoWriMo for a quite a while. Until now, I’ve always missed the deadline. Well, I can’t use that excuse anymore! For those who don’t know:
NaNo in a Nutshell
What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.
Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.
Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.
When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.
Where: You write wherever you’d like. On your computer, on your iPad, on a typewriter—anywhere is fine, just as long as you’re writing!
Has anyone tried this? I have some wild ideas racing around regarding plot – Granted I have no idea how to pull it off. Maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the point is to go balls to the wall and just put it out there.
It’s a little exciting. It’s a little scary. Damn. This sounds fun. 🙂
I have explored the shadow, the inner realm of doubt and loss. I have traversed into the Light, that sphere of loving free fall. And in the end, I STILL need to write. 🙂
So, I’m back. With lots of ideas and the desire to express them. I’m going with simple writing prompts for now… A see bigger projects in the future, yet for now, I need to flex those typing fingers and just let it out.