Cyrus is Stuck

The face of the world famous mathematician on the jacket cover loomed over the picture of Abe Lincoln framed in burgundy matting that rested on the floor by the bookcase.  Cyrus had stacked his used brown paper bags that he planned to shred next to his reading chair.  His compost pile was far too wet.  He rubbed his forehead and tried to think of the next line of his story, but his brain was on hold.  Maybe he should don his earphones and pull over the drum pad to play along with a few of his favorite upbeat tunes.  That often jarred things loose.

But he couldn’t summon the ambition to figure out what was going to happen to his character.  Delores Grimwald was contemplating sticking pins into the recumbent figure of her cruel, though dying, father as he lay unconscious in the hospital.  She’d been a good girl for so many years, and he’d taken all she had to give.  Was she going to indulge in some payback or continue to be the caring daughter?  Was forty-five too late to turn over a new leaf?

Heck, Cyrus wished he was still forty-five.  He’d show her how to live.  Maybe he’d write her out of her father’s will.  Why not ratchet up the tension a bit?  Problem was, Cyrus didn’t like Delores much.  She had willingly taken the victim role.  Could she change now?

He bent over the keyboard….

39 responses to “Cyrus is Stuck

  1. So much is going on in such a short space. I can just see you, bent over your own keyboard, watching Cyrus bend over his. Blew my mind! Great job, Ann!

  2. Pingback: Cyrus is Stuck by Ann Linquist | Jessica P. West

  3. http://jessicapwest.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/cyrus-is-stuck-by-ann-linquist/
    Cyrus is Stuck, by Ann Linquist, continued by Jessica P. West.
    Thanks so much, Ann, for the invitation to continue the story!

  4. Guts galore! Nice job.

  5. Welcome Jessica, loved your take on it, Jeff

  6. The sound of the respirator gives a Darth Vader atmosphere to the otherwise silent hospital room as Delores stares at the near-lifeless form of her unconscious father, her dying father, the father she loved to hate until today.

    Spiteful words spoken in haste echo in her mind. “Why don’t you just freaking die.” Words spoken not to him, but at him, when she was alone. Now they are together for the last time. His two hundred pound frame dwindles nearly to half. It’s six months since she last saw him. She’s getting her wish.

    Broken promises dot and dash across her memory like some Morse code, twisting coiled like a DNA chain of regret which defines who she is. She remembers her first bicycle as she rode it on the sidewalk; remembers his laughing at her as she lost her balance and fell ripping the skin off her knee. She mourns wanting him to hold her, to comfort her, to wipe her tears. Delores looks at the scar and rubs the pain carried in her heart.

    She takes the shrunken hand that once wielded heavy tools and holds it to her lips. Her fingertips feel for a pulse so faint that only one machine in the room can measure it, until it screams its fatal cry.

    She lifts his hand with gnarled fingers curled like claws, grasps a finger, and wipes a tear from her eye.

    Copyright 2013, Jeff Switt

  7. “…coiled like a DNA chain of regret…” Oh, man, do I love that writing. You have many of these gems in our work, Jeff, and I look forward to them. Have you read “The Book Thief”?

  8. Typing on an iPad in the bright sun. That was supposed to be “your work.”

  9. Everybody’s got a limit to what they can take, a line you just don’t cross. For Delores Grimwald, she had taken all that she could. She had heard the nurses, whispering when they thought she was out of ear shot. They all thought her cruel and heartless, but her reticence was no less than he deserved. Standing at his bedside in Our Lady of Peace Hospital, she looked down on the man she had given her life to, her father.

    On her twenty-first birthday, her boyfriend had dumped her. Her father gave her a bottle of Jack Daniels and ten lottery tickets, what he considered a generous gift, and told her, “Gal, you gotta tighten up. You didn’t really think that boy would stick around forever, did you?”

    Although florescent lights cast a pallor on his features, she still wanted to tell him to “tighten up” like he had told her so many times. What would the snotty nurses say to that? Why should she care? Who said she always had to be the good guy, take the high road, be the better person?

    Dawn broke across her face as Delores straightened her spine. She looked to the wasted man lying on the bed and said to his sleeping form, “I don’t need you, and you won’t be around much longer to need me. The nurses and doctors will take care of you now. Goodbye, Father.”

    Cyrus felt a little bit better about Delores, now that he could see she did indeed have some guts after all.

  10. Delores eyed the plug wire extending from the respirator to the wall socket. It was the snake that was delaying the inevitable. She tried to imagine herself lying in her own sweat on a hospital bed like this, pain striking every time the meds leveled off. What would she want her daughter to do?
    But her daughter would never be there. She was serving a life sentence for killing her only son by leaving him in the back seat of her car in one hundred degree heat while she sought to score one more dose of Meth.
    Her mind returned to the moment. There was a magazine on the shelf behind her father’s bedstead. Abe Lincoln’s face was on the cover. She decided to read it. Anything to take her mind off the situation at hand. She reached through the maze of tubes and wires, and as she picked up the magazine, her foot caught the respirator power cord and pulled it from the wall. Delores, tripping now, fell towards the bed, and as the beeping began in earnest, she felt the fatal blow to her skull for a microsecond. And then it was over. For both of them.

  11. Dang those pesky wires! Poor Abe. He has two more lives to feel guilty about. Good piece.

  12. Cyrus bent over the keyboard. Just as his fingers touched the plastic buttons, he heard a noise.

    “Kimn ner.”

    “What? Who’s there?”

    “Neh.”

    “Who is it? Speak up now.”

    “That would be the gentleman on the floor, I believe,” said the book jacket.

    “Wha… Come on, who’s there? Someone playing a prank on me?”

    “No, no prank. Too much energy required to play a prank. Have I ever told you about E? Well, now this is really something. You see, I theorized that energy and mass are equivalent and transmutable. And further, if one posits….”

    “What? What on earth are you talking about? Transmutable? No—not you. That other voice. Who is that? Wait. I’m talking to a book jacket?”

    “Well, of course you are. Now, as I was saying, the speed of light in a vacuum….”

    “Stop, please. You’re giving me a headache. There was another voice I heard. Where is that person?” said Cyrus.

    “Meer,” came a muffled voice from the bookcase.

    “Oh, no. Not another talking book. Who are you?”

    “That would be the fuzz-faced gentleman behind the stack of brown paper bags, I believe,” said the book jacket.

    Cyrus moved the bags, but saw only the painting of Abraham Lincoln. “There’s no one here.”

    “Ah, thank you for moving those bags. Hard to get a breath of fresh air,” said the painting.

    “I…. I…. Mr. President? You’re speaking? How can that be? You’re an oil painting,” said Cyrus.

    “Oh, please. Just call me Abe.”

    “I couldn’t,” said Cyrus. “I simply couldn’t. It seems so disrespectful.”

    “Ah, but it’s a damn sight more respectful that what some of those Southern boys called me. Even some Northerners, I should think. So, Abe it is. Now, Cyrus, you seem to be stuck on your story. Don’t know what to do with your lady Delores?”

    “No. I mean, yes. Yes, I’m stuck. No, I don’t know what to do with her. Don’t even know if I like her. Don’t know if she’s a protagonist or an antagonist, or just a minor bit player.”

    “Well, let’s see. How about something like this: ‘Four score and seven years ago, our…’”

    “Um, excuse me, Mr. President. I mean, Abe. But everyone in the world knows that beginning. It’s famous. I’ll be accused of plagiarizing it. No, not only accused. Convicted. Tarred and feathered.”

    “Famous? Well, how do? Famous, you say? Huh. Wasn’t received well at all the first time I used it. Famous. Mmm-mmm. Tarnation! Do you people still tar and feather scalawags?”

    “No, sir. No tar and feathers,” said the book jacket. “The birds are protected by the animals rights groups and the tar is considered toxic. But, yes, Mr. President. Your Gettysburg Address is quite well-known, but I think I gave you a run for your money with E=mc². What I discovered is that energy equals…”

    “Oh, do you two know each other? Ah, Mr. President, may I present Mr. Albert Einstein. Mr. Einstein, President Abraham Lincoln,” said Cyrus. He waited as the two men exchanged greetings and salutations. No handshakes were given, considering that the former president was a painting held in its frame by burgundy matting and the mathematician was one-dimensional on the jacket of a book.

    Late into the night the two respected gentlemen conversed while Cyrus sat spellbound in his reading chair. Albert explained his Theory of Relativity until even the eternally polite Abraham called “Uncle,” and not in reference to the book by Harriet Beecher Stowe, a book he knew well.

    On and on they talked. Cyrus grew drowsy, but all thoughts of what’s her name had disappeared from his mind. The last thing he heard before he fell asleep was Abraham telling Albert the plot of this wonderful play he and Mary had gone to see at the Ford Theater, but he was darned if he could recall how it ended.

  13. Love your lighthearted take on this. I am reminded of a favorite opening line, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”

  14. He bent over the keybord and remembered when his own father died…

    Delores took her father’s hand and held it close to her lips and gently kissed him. “I love you, daddy.” Delores remembered the stories of her father’s childhood. His father, her grandfather, had worked for Al Capone in Chicago during the days when food was a privilege, a privilege her father earned by driving Al Capone’s cab to places her father didn’t really want to be. Delores remembered the stories of Al Capone’s “men” carrying her father on their shoulders through the alleys where they gambled. Worse yet, she remembered the stories of her grandmother leaving her father with a distant cousin in Kansas so he would be safe from the streets of Chicago. She remembered the stories of how he packed one of his mother’s dresses in his suitcase so he could carry the scent of her with him and snuggled with the dress at night dreaming of her as he slept. Delores was her father’s daughter, tough….

  15. Thanks for commenting, Gale.

    Cyrus stopped typing and marveled at his own words. He projected so much of himself into the story. He was writing about his own father’s life. Through the story of Delores, he found deeper understanding of why his father acted the way he had, sometimes cruel. Cyrus finally found a reason to forgive.

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