by Charles Lennox
The doctor recommended I drink more water. And more sunlight on your face, he said. He wrote instructions on his prescription pad and handed me the torn paper. How can I trust a doctor that stands on the ceiling? I said. I’m not on the ceiling, he said. Your posture is drooping, like this wilting flower. The flower in his shirt pocket looked fine to me but I kept quiet.
When I got home my wife read the doctor’s note and had me stand in a fresh bath. She mixed in crushed Tylenol and within minutes the ceramic under my heels felt like marshmallow. Then she decorated the bathroom in floral scented plug-ins, tea candles, and hand towels meant just for show. I love our house, she said. Don’t you love our house? You’re not walking on the ceiling, I said. She put the toilet seat lid down and sat. I taped the broom handle to your spine to help straighten you out, she said. Don’t you remember? No, I said.
She rose and drained the remaining bath water and led me outside by the hand to a square of loose dirt and buried my feet. My toes explored the ground beneath. I could tell they liked being down there, in the moist darkness. I looked up into the sun and a red hibiscus bloomed from my left palm.
My wife was decorating the patio, sling chairs with a small glass table between. When I’m better, I said, we’ll start trying again. She came forward and placed her hands on my chest. I feel good about the next time, she said. I plucked the hibiscus from my palm and put it on her ear. The sun pulsed like a camera flash, then returned to normal.
Someone, an editor, not this one, called the situation of this story and its characters “absurd”. Certainly it’s absurd to think that someone would need to see their doctor because their posture was like that of a wilting flower. But the wife? And the underlying story between her and her husband and what they may or may not want? For me, this is what grounds the piece. The unreal elements are extensions of the characters, their thoughts and feelings, their fears and hopes, these are the plants and flowers growing out of the earth but not the root. Their story is the root. And, like with most people you come across, you have to do a little digging to find it.
Charles Lennox lives and loves in Orange, CA. He has stories published or forthcoming in Corduroy Mountain, FRiGG, Wigleaf, and other fine places. Visit him at www.otherbeasts.blogspot.com and you will save a polar bear.