This is a short story I wrote for a creative writing class I did in college during my twenties. The idea was we had to pick a phrase out of a hat which had been put there by one of the other students and write a short story based around it.
I greatly enjoyed writing this piece, as it gave me an opportunity to write something funny for a change, rather than the very serious stuff I had been writing up to that point. I remember reading it out aloud in class the following week and finding it very difficult to stop myself giggling, as the rest of the class was laughing at it around me.
It was my first real taste of how a well crafted humorous story can really grab an audience's attention. The story made the end of term anthology and is still one of my favourite pieces...
“Hello, excuse me.”
The shout echoed down the hospital corridor and landed splat in the face of a busy, scurrying nurse.
“I wonder if you could help me, I was wondering how my husband was doing, Alf Smickersgill.”
The nurse gave a comforting smile “Er, yes, it’s Mary isn’t it?”
Mary nodded her head.
“Well Mary, I’m pleased to say he’s going to be fine once the superficial wounds have healed and we think he should make a pretty speedy and full recovery, but there are a few peculiar side-effects I think you should know about.”
Side-effects? Mary was momentarily puzzled. She had been so concerned about Alf’s health over the last couple of hours that she hadn’t begun to imagine that if he was okay then there may be side-effects to his condition.
“W…what do you mean?” Mary asked, tentatively.
“Well”, the nurse carried on very matter of fact, as though this was an everyday occurrence, “put it this way; he won’t need to shave for the next couple of months.”
Mary looked even more puzzled than before. The nurse, fortunately, picked up on Mary’s bewildered expression.
She continued; “It seems, due to the effects of the explosion, that all the hair follicles on his body have been vaporised. It appears to be the case that your husband doesn’t have a single hair left on his entire body.”
“His entire body?” At first Mary was shocked, but then she found it hard to keep a straight face.
“Also,” the nurse continued, “when Alf goes to the toilet in the next couple of weeks, it would be a good idea to leave the window open in the bathroom.”
“Er, why’s that?” Mary wasn’t sure she wanted to hear the answer.
“Well otherwise the house may get a bit steamed up.”
Mary’s jaw dropped. The nurse, receiving a signal from further down the hallway, grabbed a pile of untidy charts from a nearby desk.
“I think it’ll be alright if you go in and see him now.” The nurse began to walk down the corridor, but then paused and turned her head to add, “Oh, by the way…”
“Yes?” Mary squeaked.
“Don’t go sitting him near any metal objects for a while.”
After she had added that final, damning remark, the nurse spun on her heels and carried on walking. Mary now felt rather isolated and wondered if it would not be a better idea to visit the local pub and have a stiff drink, but she thought better of it when she saw the 3 litre bottle of fruit juice and the sour grapes popping their colourful heads out of the top of the supermarket carrier bag. She looked up, opened the swinging door using her elbow and walked over to Alf, half clad in bandages.
“Hello love, how are you holding up?”
Mary searched across the terrain of Alf’s head with her eyes before finally realising that she was wasting her time trying to find a spot to plant a kiss that wouldn’t sent him flying through the ceiling in agony.
“Oh, it’s good to see you Mary…it’s always nice to see a friendly face, especially after all those bleedin’ doctors ‘ave been prodding me and sticking their stethoscopes in and around me private parts.”
Mary gave a little embarrassing glance around at the other patients. Across the ward and to the right was an old man with a broken leg. He was dipping little bits of tissue into his bedpan and rolling them into tiny balls before placing them in a line on his mobile food table. Mary was puzzled as to why he was doing this so he asked Alf if he knew.
“Oh, that’s just a little game some of the fella’s play to stop the boredom. You ‘ave to flick the balls of pee every time a nurse walks past your bed. If you hit a torso then it’s ten points. A limb is twenty-five, the bum thirty and you get a bonus fifity for hittin’ ‘em in the face.”
Mary sighed, and then suddenly became serious. “You’ve caused a right stink in the papers you know.”
“Hey, what do you mean?”
“Well, when you were drilling that hole outside the T.V. studios, trying to earn some overtime, you went and hit the electricity supply cable.”
“You don’t say, so that’s why I’m in ‘ere?” Alf remarked, sarcastically.
“No, you don’t understand. At that time they were broadcasting, live, the national finals of that game show.”
Alf gave Mary a funny look. He didn’t have a clue what she was waffling on about.
“What game show?”
“You know, ‘win all, lose all’.”
Alf thought for a minute, and then it dawned on him.
“Oh that’s right, yes…..crikey, I wanted to watch that an’ all.”
“Yes, and so did 24 million other people. I don’t suppose there would have been as much fuss if the main contestant hadn’t just decided he was going for the star prize.”
“What – the £30,000 a year for life?”
“So he’d already won the car then?”
“And the luxury world cruise?”
“That’s right Alf.” Mary sighed again.
Alf sunk back into his pillows, almost remorseful. For years he had dreamed of being on that game show and winning all the prizes. He would have loved to know what it was like to stand in front of all those people, about to try for the money – never having to worry about overtime again.
“Oh well,” he said “I suppose they’ll be able to repeat the programme, won’t they?”
“I don’t think so. The explosion caused a fire that eventually burned down the T.V. studios. It was lucky nobody but you got hurt in the end.”
“Oh dear.” Alf sank further down into the safe confines of his bedcovers.
Then all of a sudden Mary looked into his eyes and giggled.
“Well,” she said, “at least the T.V. show lived up to its catchphrase.”
Alf thought for a moment, and then they both burst out laughing as they repeated together…
“Promise of an explosive finish.”