Writing short stories: a true story (15:01)
The writer in question was having a reasonably jaunty Friday.
She was wearing her favourite orange jumper. Her inbox and chores list were down to ‘slim’. The sliding doors were open and the June breeze was fresh and friendly on her bare legs. Note, she was wearing a dress as well as her jumper. She was not so jaunty as to be walking around in just a jumper and underpants. It was still a workday!…
But waningly so….
2pm on the schedule was to cook herself a nice lunch and then…3pm…write a short story. This was a new target that she was aiming for every week. It was going to sharpen her creative arrows (i.e., maybe, possibly, hopefully help her with how to write actual prose).
But first lunch!
Yes. She thought. This is good. A nice lunch will set me up well for being artistic. Being creative. It will set a nice vibe. Not my usual workhorse-push-on-through.
Maybe it was because she had downloaded Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’ that morning to listen to later? She had been resisting it for years as her relationship to the word ‘magic’ was a bit on the side-eye end of the scale.
And wasn’t there something Julia Cameron has said about ‘artist dates’ in some book that was also popular? Another thing said writer had balked against. Who had time for that? A date with yourself? But maybe…
She was going to make lunch. And have a lunch date with herself. Hmmm. Fascinating company, but still.
To be honest, the biggest selling point for her rational, test tubey brain was that she could probably benefit from a little more nutritional input. It was now day 5 since her husband had left for America. She’d eaten a lot of yoghurt. Crisps. Nuts. Cereal. More cereal. An actual plate of food that you could photograph, and people would label as ‘possibly lunch’ could be good. Good for her. Good for her brain.
So, with the breezy breeze blowing, and a kitchen knife in her hand she got out the chopping board and set to on a garlic clove. It smelt good. Culinary. She was really doing this. Next up was ginger. She quickly cut it at some funky angles to get the skin off. Then set to with the chop, chop, chopping.
Said writer was not usually a swearer. Her Dad had sworn enough for both of their lives, having joined the navy at 14, and literally learned to swear like a sailor.
BUT OHHH FUCCCCKKKK!
So much blood was coming out of her 2nd finger. The one next to her thumb.
And though said writer was a highly practical person, she also had this thing where her body did its very best to faint at the sight of blood. Any blood. Any amount. Any person’s blood. And this was actually quite a lot. Coming from the end of her finger.
There was no one else home, so she had to look at said finger. Half the nail was gone. In with the ginger. She literally found the nail on the board. In amongst the lumpy ginger.
OH HELLL ON EARTH.
Her ears did the buzzing thing. Her blood did the cliché drain from her head. She put the knife down. Then staggered, like a drunken ghost across the kitchen and into the bathroom.
There, based on past experience of being a very fainty, squeamish person, she found the pre-set wicker box on the floor, with the little pre-set bag of plasters, stuffed right at the front. She knew that the chances of being able to do anything upright, or anything requiring vision would dwindle by the second. But she could sit slumped with a loo roll, and this bag, and figure something out.
So she made herself a big cartoon finger bodge of loo roll, and plasters. And still it bled. Gorily red. Wow blood came out fast. She felt ridiculous, but she called the reception of her local GP surgery. (She still couldn’t see well through her blurry eyeballs, but she had the number pre-programmed into her phone. She was a planner like that.) The lovely Anne answered, immediately recognisable from her reassuringly lilty Scottish accent.
“Hello. Stillmoor surgery.”
“Ummm. I’ve cut my finger. It’s just a finger. But could I get some advice? Half the nail is off.”
“Oh, poor finger,” Anne said shockingly kindly. “And who is this?”
Said writer was very embarrassed to say her name. This was a health practice. That had been through covid. And people all over the world were literally dying every day. And mountain climbers fell off mountains, got stuck between rocks, and sawed their own arms off to get free. But she was feeling woozy as hell. And the finger was still bleeding and bleeding.
She mumbled out her name. Then…
“It’s just a finger. But half the nails is gone. Do I just stick a plaster on and not look? Or is there something else I should do? To stop the bleeding. Sorry!”
At this point said writer was holding her bleeding finger high up in the air, like she had a very important question to ask. (Which she kind of did!) Or like she was trying to tell which way the wind was blowing, in a very urgent way.
“It’s fine. I’ll get the doctor to call you back.”
“Sorry. It’s just a finger. But half the nails is off. (She was pretty fixated on this detail at this point.) It’s good I had a nail though. Or it would have been way worse.”
Kind Anne said nothing to this. There really was nothing to say.
With nothing to do now but wait, for the doctor to call her back, here’s what said writer did next. She considered googling ‘stopping the bleeding’ but knew this was a bad idea, even if she could read the screen. Instead, she crawled into the bedroom and up onto the bed, willing her ears to stop buzzing. She lay on the bare mattress and tried to distract herself by thinking about what short story she should write.
She curled into a prawn shape on this bare mattress. This really wasn’t the writer vibe she was aiming for. Forlorn writer, on a bare mattress. But as it was such a breezy day, she had stripped the bed earlier, put the sheets in the wash, and hadn’t put the new ones on yet. So on the bare mattress she lay. Forlorn. And nauseous.
She needed food. Well, glucose really. On her first stagger to the fridge she found herself 2 slices of vegan cheese. She was vegetarian, and there was a way better block of actual cheddar somewhere. These slices were for her miles away, dairy free husband. But as she was in no fit state to wield a knife, pre-sliced vegan it was. Wow. Some lunch date.
Back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling, trying not to look at her hand, she wondered what else she could snag from the fridge, and whether it would be worth the trip? She wanted a magical owl to deliver her a bar of chocolate No owl came. But the phone did ring.
“Hello?” bloodied writer said, trying to sound bright and efficient for the doctor, and not like someone reduced to lying on their back in a fainty slump.
“Sue?” She had not looked at the incoming number.
“From Southwest Hot Spas.”
“I’m just ringing to see…”
This was not the doctor. And said writer did not want to talk about hot spas. For many different reasons.
“Thank you. I’ve cut my finger. While cooking. I have to go. Thank you.”
All that remained was to await doctorly instructions, and to think about the short story, that would now need to be pecked out by even less fingers than usual.
The writer did not get her suavey lunch, unless you count fake cheese. But she did get instructions on how to stop the bleeding from Dr Hart. The answer….Vaseline. Yes, really. This is not medical advice. But it did come from a doctor. So now you know. In case you too want to put it in your kit.
And at 3:01 said writer did start her short story. Typing as best as she could with her pigeon tappy, and bloodied fingers.
There are plans. And then there’s life.
I had this week’s story in my diary for 3pm. At 2pm I was cooking lunch and had a finger incident! I am incredibly, embarrassingly squeamish about blood – to the point of fainting.
So at 3pm, I sat on the bed, with my bloodied finger, feeling ridiculous, and wrote about it.