Now that I found a lot of old stories and organized them, I thought I’d post one. Since I get to indulge myself, why don’t you post something you wrote that you like?
Squeezing More Out of Life
by Ann Linquist
My head has ached for days, seven now I think. I try to do too much; I admit it. With my 50-hour work week, the constant running to pick up and drop off kids, the impromptu dinner parties that I pretend are so easy, I end up with a headache I just can’t shake off.
It’s as if an angry old troll perches on my shoulder, his eyes popping, and his mouth in a wild leer while he squeezes the big muscle coming off my neck. He always goes for the right side, my working side, the side that scribbles the notes, grabs the phone, hefts the bag, and stirs the sauce.
I picture a wizened little man, dwarf gray. His long bony fingers are brown with age, but strong and tipped with sharp talons. When he finds a good chunk of shoulder muscle, he squats, burrowing deep into the tissue with wiry fingers. He uses his feet for maximum leverage, digging in with his toes. He works his way up the muscle, hand over hand, until he reaches the base of my skull. Then he bites me to make sure he gets my attention.
The little man doesn’t relax even when I sleep. He loves it when he can make me open my eyes by giving me a vicious pinch so I’m trapped in a purgatory of wakefulness. He tiptoes, grinning, up my face to deliver a head butt. On the way down, he elbows my temple.
“I’m all yours,” he whispers in my ear. “You made me.”
I always grit my teeth when he says that because he’s right, I did. For some reason I made him crabby, frustrated, and stubborn. I don’t know why I did that since he treats me as if I’m a doll he’s tired of playing with and now just likes to torture.
He’s not evil, but he is obsessively preoccupied with his mission. He’s a specialist, an acupuncturist gone wrong. He rocks back on his heels, his clutches sunk deep into my aching shoulder, and gives it all a twist. “How’s that?”
I resent the way he relishes his task, how he fine-tunes his talent at tormenting me. I’m often tempted to beat on him with a stick, or better yet, a club, as if hitting the sore spot will make him loosen his furious grip.
“Stop!” I scream at him. Then I slow down and try to regain control. “That’s enough,” I purr. I know it’s better to approach the problem in a calm, measured way. After all, it’s just a tension headache. There is no little man.
To cope, I indulge in my favorite fantasy. I’m lying in bed, resting my sore head and tired body. I can stay there as long as I want, reading books, watching movies, taking naps.
But come on! I‘ve got a desk full of work, a Saturday meeting, two conference calls coming in at 1:00 PM, and I said I’d bring cookies to the twelve-year-old’s soccer game. If I skip lunch….
I squint my eyes, grit my teeth, and command my body to rise. Grim determination is my best ally. The problem is that my temper often rises too. It’s that imp up there, tying my shoulder in knots.
I’ve got to relax and face this problem rationally. There must be meaning here; I prefer to believe things work that way. One has headaches for a reason. I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and meditate on my pain. I see myself leafing through the pages of my life, sifting thoughts and impressions, probing my feelings. I find….
I find that I don’t really have time for this right now. So. I’ve got a headache. Big deal. I’ll do what I always do: square my shoulders, put my head down, and go. It’s just that there’s this little demon on my shoulder, riding me like a bronco. I try to concentrate on the next task and forget the little devil digging his spurs into my vulnerable flesh, waving his hat with a great big grin, and hollering, “Yeehaa!” Maybe one day he’ll finally make me sick enough that I have to slow down.
On the other hand, maybe I’ll start working out with weights. I could fit in a half hour of power lifting before I collapse into bed at night. In no time at all I’ll be so lean and mean that I can beat that little man at his own game. When he squints his eyes and grits his teeth at me, I’ll be a match for him. Then we’ll see who squeezes whom.