By Christopher Cudworth
As I lay on the hospital operating table with my body held down with two straps and my arms extended to either side as if being readied for crucifixion, the thought occurred to me that the events leading up to the operation were surreal. A sliver. An infection in the finger. Now this.
So I did the thing I do best when faced with a piece of personal non-fiction. I made small talk. Asked what I did for a living I told the nurses working on me that I was a Writer. Then feeling the drugs kick in I was inspired to recite a poem. I remember saying two lines and then it was lights out.
I moved into a strange dream. All the runners at a race I was attending were dressed in strange costumes. Then I realized it was the Sycamore Pumpkinfest 10K. “Wait,” I told anyone that would listen. “I got 2nd in this race once. I ran 32:00. The guy in front of me cut the course.”
It was much the same feeling as the character Harry Crick felt in the movie Stranger Than Fiction. Only in my dream the voice in my head was a form of deja vu and not predictive or present.
It is a tantalizing thing to dream about a place or situation you know so well. Your motivations transcend even your memories at times. People are strange when you’re a stranger. The Doors were most definitely right about that.
Then I saw a scarecrow runner. His name was Jim Steimel. He grinned so hard it was hard to tell if he was the pre-or-post brain Scarecrow. There were other characters as well. Whole groups of people. They were all there to run and I was not. My strange operating room dream had landed me in limbo. So I kept on dreaming.
It’s like that when you’re dreaming or living in a fiction of your own creation. you begin to realize that Halloween is a valid commentary on reality.
And then I ran to the finish line to watch the first runners come in. The winner crosses the line and hardly anyone applauds.
The I awoke in the hospital bed. The doctors are gone and the room feels odd. A voice asks “How are you feeling?
“Like a winner,” I say. “I feel like a winner.’
“Well that’s good the nurse says. I heard you were reciting poetry in the operating room!’
“Yes,” I told her. “It goes like this. It’s a poem I wrote about a true story. About a waitress.”
“Although the saucer fit the dish
she turned too quickly, threw the cup
and watched in vain as coffee stained
her shoes and left her morning drained,
“You’d never know,” she said to me
“I’ve been a waitress since thirteen.”
The nurse turned and looked at me.
“That’s a sad story, she told me. “I don’t like sad stories.”
And she left. My hand really hurt. But I didn’t dare hit the nurse button. She didn’t like sad stories. And what was mine if not that?