This piece isn’t really a Tiny Tale at all, but is (as the title explains) an excerpt from a larger piece of work. In practicing my writing, I began to develop the premise for a novel which centred around a man who is struggling with an unidentifiable illness. In this excerpt from the novel (which still remains in the earliest stages of production and will more than probably remain that way!), Cara and Ben – the siblings from a previous Tiny Tale – reprise their earlier roles, but this time it is Ben’s story that drives the narrative forward. As always, your feedback and advice is greatly appreciated – particularly if you’re mid-novel and can give me some handy tips in getting off the ground!!
‘Is that all, Mr Malone?’
‘All?’ He lifts a shaking hand, wipes the sweat from his forehead. ‘What do you mean?’
Almost inaudibly, she sighs; then: ‘There is nothing more I can do for you.’
Silence falls like a bomb; her words splintering an already-wounded Ben with fresh cuts, new bruises. He pushes his spine back into the plastic chair.
‘It’s not…I’m not…’ His voice is a whisper, a ball of raw pain. He watches her wince.
‘Look, perhaps I can put you in touch with a psychiatrist. There’s a referral scheme that I’m sure you’d be suitable for.’ She is tapping her keyboard, her eyes fixed on the computer screen. ‘I know you’ve been reluctant in the past, but I really think you should consider it this time.’
Ben tries to shake his head, tries to protest, but here it is again – the waver, the doubt, stifling his breath until all he can manage is a rasping gasp. She turns.
‘Mr Malone, are you all right?’
Colours are merging, lights are twinkling. In the distant haziness, a figure moves towards him.
He can’t breathe. This new pain sears through his head as well as his limbs and suddenly he is falling, clutching at the walls as the ground gives way beneath him.
A hand is on his shoulder. ‘Deep breaths,’ she is saying. ‘Try and focus.’
But it is too late for her help now. He is out of the room and running. Doors bang, voices yell. In the cacophony that follows, he focuses on a window of light shining from a square in the external door. It takes forever to reach it.
Outside, he sits on a swing.
‘Well, that was silly,’ says Cara.
‘What was? Running away or going to see her in the first place?’
He breathes deeply, his lungs filling with cold, clean air. ‘I thought she could help.’
‘She was trying to.’
‘No, she wasn’t. She was trying to get rid of me. She thinks I’m-’ His hands drop to his legs, to the dull ache that resonates in his muscles. He swallows. ‘Perhaps I should see a different doctor.’
‘Because she clearly doesn’t get it, does she? She barely gave me five minutes today and last week my appointment lasted less than ten.’
Cara is silent. She swings.
‘There are two other doctors at that surgery.’
‘I thought you’d already seen them both?’
‘That was a couple of years ago. They might understand now. They might be better.’
‘But your symptoms haven’t changed, have they?’
His fingers start to bend, clawing into the flesh beneath his jeans. He tries to keep his voice level. ‘Yes they have, Cara. The pain is worse, much worse. I can’t eat or sleep, I can’t concentrate on anything. I get almost nothing done at work – I’ll be fired any day now, I’m sure of it.’
‘All right, calm down-’
‘I am calm!’ He stands. He paces. Children in the park are watching him. ‘I thought you were supposed to be on my side?’
‘I am,’ she says softly.
There is quiet for a moment. Ben watches the clouds as they move slowly across a tepid blue sky above him. The ache in his legs spreads to his lower abdomen. He bends. ‘It is real, Cara. If it isn’t real, then how can I feel it?’
Tears are sliding down his face now. He waits for her reply. ‘Cara?’ The word is silent.
He looks up; she is gone.