It's been a while since I've posted a story. This is a flash fiction piece from a Writer's Digest prompt. The prompt was to start a story with "You are not going to believe this" and end it with "and that's why I ..."
I hope you enjoy this short story, and I'm open to any comments as well as any posts on this prompt.
You Are Not Going To Believe This
“You’re not going to believe this, but…”
“Sir.” A rusty croak of a sound emitted from the nurse, who was old enough that she must have been working when nurses used to wear those white hats that resembled sailors’ caps. Her wrinkled and not so pale as much as ashen face slowly lifted to see me looking desperately at her.
My desperation, I wanted to ensure her, was nothing less than me needing to impress upon her how down-right honest I was being. “Just last year I was supposed to go out of the country…”
“Sir.” The sound again. It was raking to my ears and I had to stop her from saying another word. She had to hear, actually listen, to what I was saying anyway.
“Not to just any country, but one where you had to take all the shots imaginable in order to purchase a ticket. You know, third world? Really, closer to fourth world.”
She cut me off and I geared myself, not wanting to be so rude as to cover my ears from her grating vocal sounds. “You’ve got to get this done.”
I almost wanted to give in just to not hear her again. But, I couldn’t. Barely taking a deep enough of a breath to get it all out, I quickly blurted, “Just last year, they had to send me to the emergency room. My reaction was almost fatal. My body swelled; I looked like a sumo wrestler. My skin, already dark, as you can see – I’ve tracked my lineage to Africa, a northern region you probably never heard of – went charred. You’d think my uncle left me on the grill for as long as he’d left the hot dogs on Memorial Day. You couldn’t even eat them. I bit one without looking at it and threw up black chunks of ash and burnt flesh.”
She’d cut me off again. I could not accept that and looked at her with such consternation that she reeled backward a little. Being as old as she was, I felt the need to steady her to make sure she didn’t stumble and break most of her bones, but I was making a point. Stressing each word with harsh chastisement, I said, “You’ve got to understand, if you put that thing in me, I will die.”
She took another step back. Thrilled that I put her on the defensive, I continued in a quickened prattle, “Like I said, last year, you could look it up in my records, just call my doctor. But last year, the ambulance came rushing with lights flashing and sirens blaring. My mom flew in from New Jersey. You know how long that took? It was my mom who first said, ‘Under no circumstances must you ever get a shot. Not even a flu shot.’ Then my doctor said the same thing – the emergency room doctor. And even my general practitioner gave me that undisputable command.”
I ran out of breath and the nurse took up her offense so quickly I could do nothing, not even guard myself against her onslaught of vocal blitzing. “What your records do say, Mr. Titan Talè, is that you have a very serious illness that you may have been prone to since birth.”
“You are so right!” I had her now. She was talking sense, while at the same time nearly shattering me with the screeching coming from her mouth. “But you probably don’t know my other condition. Certain sounds can send me to the emergency room too, because they can cause me to have seizures. That’s not as uncommon as it seems. It’s even been on the news and joked about on sit-coms. So, please don’t talk anymore. You seem to understand why that thing in your hand can’t come near my body. And if you say anything more, I’ll go into convulsions.”
Incredibly, she didn’t get it. In an even louder and shriller voice which scraped against my soul as well as my eardrums, she said, “Hypochondria is a very serious condition. You should really go see your psychiatrist. Our notes show that you haven’t seen him in a year. If you don’t control your disorder, it can make you believe you’re so sick that you can cause your injuries to actually happen. This flu shot is necessary for you to continue in your job.”
Before she even finished talking, she shot me in one of my arms, both of which were taut from the grip of my hands on the examination table. As she continued talking, I felt myself begin to judder like the engine in my first Oldsmobile. Then the effect of the shot took hold and I felt my body expanding.
The nurse shrieked, rushed forward and tripped over my feet because I was falling off the table as she was coming. The convulsions were getting more acute and my body was swelling to twice its size. Amongst it all, right before passing out with the nurse collapsed between my enlarging and quivering arms, I was able to eke out, “And that’s why I can no longer get flu shots.”