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  • Writer's pictureDavid James Parr

The Thing with Annie / Episode 1: Mercy

Everything in this hospital room is right. No. Not right. White. The sheets, the walls, the ceiling. Even the light coming in through the window across poor Maureen in the next bed is a pale white. It catches no dust, this light. Someone has scrubbed these floors and walls so hard that this place smells like nothing at all.

A stray thread hangs from the bandage around my forehead. It was there when I first opened my eyes two days ago, when the dopey drugs had worn off enough for me to find my way back to the real world, or what is passing for it. This thread dips into view and then is gone again, like a hovering mosquito whose buzz matches the sound coming from the fluorescent lights. At first I saw a person hanging onto that thread. Dangling, then swinging, like an acrobat doing tricks. It was Annie. I couldn't make out the face clearly, but somehow I knew it was her.

My bandages and cast are also white. My right arm is elevated as if I have a perpetual question. The question I would like to ask one of the nurses is if they could please cut this stray thread, so I would stop seeing Annie twisting in front of me. But I can't ask. My jaw is wired shut, a metal bonnet to reset the fracture. It will take weeks to heal; maybe months. This was explained to me yesterday, with too much detail and an encouraging tone. It could have been much worse, that is the implication. Brain damage, vision loss, irreversible coma. "You're very lucky," the doctor said. I can't remember her name; there was yellow crust in the corners of both of her eyes and her breath smelled like stale coffee. Her smile seemed sincere, but how am I supposed to feel lucky in any way?

Plus I saw Mom standing behind her, smiling also, and so I just shut my eyes until they all disappeared.

My wired jaw feels like someone is holding it tightly, squeezing. Stanley used to do that if he thought I wasn't listening. When I was doing nothing but. "Look me in the eye," he would say, forcing my head back, my chin up. If you didn't look Stanley in the eye, he thought you were lying. Most of the time, he thought you were lying anyway. And which eye were you supposed to look at? I was never sure.

"Oh, you're awake," Maureen says with enthusiasm. She has elevated her position in her bed using the electronic controls, and has a magazine open in her lap. Most of her body is hidden under her sheet. Maureen has reddish hair like mine, but hers is a lighter shade, almost blond, and much longer, as mine was before Annie got to it. It fans across her pillow like something spilled. "So what happened to you anyway?" she asks, setting her magazine face down on her lap. She has asked this a few times before; it hasn't quite sunk in that I physically can't answer her. I don't think she's stupid, only bored. Poor Maureen.

She is probably thinking: Poor Veronica.

The Thing with Annie / Episode 1: Mercy

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