by Leon Geist

Wake. Rotate hand then arm. Stop. Reach for side table with stretched fingertips, touch the gold metal lamp base and turn on the light bulb that flickers, lights, flickers. Bad bulb, or maybe it’s not bad at all. It only behaves badly.

Lay flat again. Coil springs push through a much worn mattress curved low in the middle with a faint yellow-orange stain outlined in brown, scented in Clorox. Nurse had tried to clean the urine away while discussing cost effectiveness and new mattresses.

Springs push at ribs, thigh backs, shoulders, heads. Two heads are helpful on days when waking requires two minds—one to choose to get out of bed, the other to plead for staying, though the option is not up to either head. The legs and the heads do not talk properly anymore. It’s the nerves. They flicker sometimes.

Nurse comes for me and I hate her though I wish she would wash me more thoroughly down there where I can’t feel anymore. She’s an ugly nurse, old and stocky, and I hate her because she can make me hard just by washing me.

The chair sits, waiting for me today as it does every day and I hate it, too, the chair. Nurse pulls my legs to the side of the bed, lifts me, turns us like dancing so that she can sit me properly in my chair. She lets go before touching, so that I drop a few inches, rattle, shake from the jar of it. She does it on purpose. The straps are uncomfortable on my chest, the neck brace rubs at the back, below my hairline and I imagine that little men hold me there with stick pins and screws. I think a blister has started where the skin is raw.

The bulb flickers again and I think to turn, observe what I can already see reflected off walls and the white of nurse’s uniform. I think to turn because the habit has not forced itself out of me yet and in my mind, I turn, rise up from the chair and yell at that bulb to stop its fucking flickering, but the brace holds my head straight forward as nurse feeds me runny scrambled eggs on a spoon, sips of orange juice through a straw. She never gives me coffee. I hate her.

Before nurse leaves, she places me in front of the window covered in slats of horizontal gray metal and it is as if slats on my cage though they go the wrong way for a cage. The bulb flickers again. I can see it in the window glass between metal slats like glowing about my flickering body that, in the glass, appears to be dancing in strobe lights.

After nurse puts me back in bed then turns out the light, I wait for morning and the chair and my slatted window, hoping for a sponge bath.


Leon Geist lives in North Carolina with a cat. This is his first published story.