Saturday, November 15, 2008

Work Break

I'm currently editing one of my work samples for my MFA applications, and the first page is giving me some trouble. I'm really happy with the story from the second page (the paragraph that starts, "Mike hated emergency rooms") on, but the page that gets us to that point in the story isn't pulling its weight. I don't think I can cut it and try to introduce the information through the rest of the story, because it sets up the events to follow and tells us a bit about the characters' lives and structure. It would be like cutting "A man walks into a bar," wouldn't it?

"Things that Grow Back and Things that Don't"

Every time Mike climbed to a great height to paint, he forgot to leave his phone on the ground, and the vibration in his pocket never failed to give him the sensation that he would soon fall. So when the call came, Mike’s entire body tensed, rocking the scaffolding under his feet so much that he could hear its locked wheels shift an inch on the floor. His voice shook when he answered, and he was surprised to hear that his mother Ida’s voice was wavering just as much.
“Mike, you need to leave work.”
“Right now? What’s going on?”
“You have your insurance card?” She asked. “Meet us at the hospital. Come to the emergency room.”
Mike was already climbing down the side of the scaffold, his concern about falling evaporating, transforming into concern about his sons. He held the phone to his ear with his shoulder so that he could use both hands, a maneuver that on another day would have terrified him, but today seemed the only logical way to descend.
“What’s going on?” He asked.
“It’s Will,” his mother said. “He’s hurt. Just come quick.”
Mike felt a special kind of panic starting in his head and stretching down to his limbs that he hadn’t felt in many years. He supposed it was reserved just for this kind of call, the kind that led to frantic, distressed drives toward crisis. He closed his phone and stashed it in his back pocket, started his truck, and sped along back roads toward the hospital.
Mike hated emergency rooms, couldn’t stand the smell or the daytime television on the small screens. He hated the long stretches of silence between the wailing of the injured. He hovered outside of the sliding glass doors for a moment before entering, looking through until he found his mother and two sons sitting near the reception desk and identified his fastest path toward them. When he walked in, he crossed without looking at any other patients, afraid that they would assault him with their suffering; they would judge him for being whole.

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