I don’t know about you, but I certainly have that sluggish Monday-mind-syndrome. So to start the writing week off, I’m inviting you (yes, again!) to enter one of my two short story competitions (with prizes!). One of them is for a short story of up to 1000 words on the theme of TREASURE. How you choose to interpret that theme is up to you. You could write about jewels and gold or the treasure in question might not be worth anything, but is cherished nonetheless. The treasure may not even be physical, but the love of life or the treasure of a joyous moment.
Open your mind and see where it takes you.
Here’s one of my stories – the treasure here is love:
It wasn’t the clatter of carts or the low hum of chatter that woke him. Bert knew just when the hospital was waking up, not that hospitals dared to even doze, because Bert’s day always began with Nurse Jenner.
At first he had wished he could hear her; hear the stern strides shorten, warning him of her presence by his bedside. But he hadn’t been able to hear properly for years. Though, God rest her soul, it was bliss to no longer hear Alice’s nasally nagging.
But his near deafness didn’t make any difference in Nurse Jenner’s case. He’d soon become accustomed to her piercing stare, pushing through into his dreams, intruding into his world and jolting him awake.
His eyes hadn’t gone the way of his ears, but if he clasped them shut, for a while at least, he could pretend Nurse Jenner wasn’t there. He could stay in his dream world, where he and Alice were young and when nothing else had mattered apart from their adoration for one another. Alice had been beautiful, with rich, red hair running down her back and skin so soft. He’d had no option but to fall in love. She hadn’t nagged then. No, she’d been full of fun and forever laughing. He’d not been so bad, he supposed. Never exactly good-looking. ‘Handsomely unusual,’ was how his Alice described him. He’d rather liked that.
But he definitely couldn’t be called ‘handsomely unusual’ now. The mirror told him so, in no uncertain terms. There was no subtly about it, no soothing or sympathy. No, the mirror said it like it was. He’d been proud of his head of hair staying put, regardless of the advancing years. Though he’d felt a little sorrow when it crept from shiny brown to dull grey and now to wisps of white. The wrinkles deepened with it, furrowing further with each passing year. His clear blue eyes had lost their sheen, fading to the filthy hue of canal water.
The stroke hadn’t helped. He couldn’t control his lips anymore, but he could feel the spittle sliding down his chin. His body had been breaking down with age, arthritis setting in and his joints protesting if he pushed them too much. Now it didn’t want to work at all, but the physiotherapist was kind, praising and encouraging.
At least it wasn’t Nurse Jenner. It was almost as if she unleashed a command and he could close his eyes no longer. And there she was, once again. He sighed, staring at the perfectly made-up face, the hair pulled back in a ponytail, with not even a stray hair striking free and the slender frame, the envy of every model. Bert watched her top lip rise, revealing a sneer and the nose wrinkle as if a revolting aroma was snaking its way up her nostrils.
Bert knew it wasn’t just him. His eyes had followed her, taking in the hand, which could hardly bear contact with the patients, the shrug of the shoulders when told of one of their fates and relief spreading across her face when home time arrived.
Did she not think that one day, she too would grow old? That smooth, soft skin would change. Crows feet would make their mark, lines would etch themselves across that face and the taut body begin to sag slowly down.
He’d seen it with Alice, seen that beautiful woman gradually grow old. And he’d loved it. How they’d enjoyed the passing years, celebrating the exuberance and carefree times of youth, then on into the joys and marvels that came with age, nagging and all. He’d seen plenty falter and feel the fear that came with the aging years. Not them.
He knew Nurse Jenner would be afraid. Perhaps she’d try to deny it, place her trust in plastic surgery. But her years would belie her face and body and what would she do then? One day, she would be there in a hospital bed, with a young nurse staring smugly down upon her, passing judgement.
Bert wondered if the smile he felt inside had spread to the outside. Maybe, just maybe, by the picture of puzzlement upon Nurse Jenner’s face. No matter. He wouldn’t have to stare up into her face for much longer. He knew it. And he couldn’t wait. He’d be with Alice soon and he knew just whose face he’d rather be staring at.