This is a short story I composed for a creative writing class that I attended a few years ago. 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. 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’d been so concerned about Alf’s health over the last couple of hours that she hadn’t even begun to imagine whether there may be possible side-effects to his condition.
‘W…what do you mean?’ Mary asked, tentatively.
‘Well,’ the nurse carried on very routinely, 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?’ Mary replied. At first she was shocked, but now she was finding it hard to keep a straight face.
‘Also,’ the nurse continued, trying to ignore Mary’s stifled grin, ‘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?’ asked Mary, taken aback and unsure whether 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 waddle down the sanitised corridor, lit from above by gently flickering bright neon tubing, but then paused and turned her head to add, ‘Oh, by the way…’
‘Yes.’ Mary squeaked, now barely able to contain herself.
‘Don’t go sitting him near any metal objects for a while.’
After she added that final, damning remark, the nurse spun on her heels and carried on walking. Mary put her hand to her face and tried to straighten her mouth away from its seemingly uncontrollable smirking. She wondered if it wouldn’t be a better idea at this point to visit the local pub and have a stiff drink before going in to see Alf, but she thought better of it when she saw the 3 litre bottle of fruit juice and sour grapes popping their colourful heads out of the top of the supermarket carrier bag. She looked up, took a deep breath, then opened the swinging door of the shared ward using her elbow before walking over to Alf, whose body was mostly clad in bandages.
‘Hello love, how are you holding up?’ she inquired with as much sympathy as she could inject into her trembling voice.
Mary scanned her eyes across the terrain of Alf’s head before finally realising 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, especially after all those bleedin’ doctors ‘ave been prodding me and sticking their stethoscopes in and around me private parts.’
Mary gave a little embarrassed glance around the room at all the other patients. Across on the opposite side of the ward was an old man with a broken leg. He was dipping bits of tissue into his shiny bedpan and then scrunching them into tiny little 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,’ he answered. ‘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, becoming suddenly very serious. ‘You know you’ve caused a right stink in the papers Alf Smickersgill,’ she said, accusingly
‘Hey, what do you mean?’ he replied, defensively.
‘Well, when you were drilling that hole outside the T.V. studios, trying to earn some dodgy 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,’ said Mary, ‘it happened when they were broadcasting the live national finals of that new prime time game show.’
Alf gave Mary a funny look; he didn’t have a clue what she was waffling on about.
‘What game show?’ he asked impatiently.
‘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 20 million other people,’ Mary said flatly. ‘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 £50,000 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 fluffy soft pillows, almost remorseful. For years he’d dreamt of being on that game show and winning all the prizes. He would love to feel what it was like to stand in front of all those people, trying for the money, knowing he’d 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 which 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.
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 in unison…
‘Promise of an explosive finish.’