Frankly Speaking

by Marie Alafaci

What the hell was that? Oh my God! I can’t see! Oh sweet Mother of God, why can’t I see?

Okay . . . okay – close your eyes and think.

Hell, oh hell, oh Jesus Bloody Hell! I can’t shut my eyes!

Why can’t I shut my eyes? What’s going on?

Okay . . . I see spots and wriggles and white and purple swirls. Not blind then. Have I fainted? Dunno. Just breathe.

Where am I? . . . Oh God! I can’t move at all! Okay. Okay.  Don’t panic. Try again.

Damn!

I can’t move . . . And I can’t blink. So far, not so good. But I can breathe. That’s one to me. Why – can’t – I – see – properly?

Relax. It’ll pass . . . Unless I’ve had a stroke. Shit! Have I had a stroke? How are you supposed to tell? Um, usually, you can’t move and you can’t speak. Okay, so speak.

H-E-L-P!
Oh God! Did I make that hideous sound? I must have had a stroke.

Okay, don’t panic. What do they say you should do in these circumstances? Ummm? God, I hate not being able to blink!

Think, will you?

Ah. Got it! Do a sit-rep.

Right, here goes: my eyeballs ache, my mouth tastes like I’ve been licking battery terminals and I can’t move . . .  Could be worse. I could be strapped to a railway track in the path of an on-coming train – Am I strapped to a railway track? No, I’m definitely inside – those are basalt walls. I hurt all over, so that’s got to be good. Can I move my fingers or toes? . . . No. Hmm.

Ahh! Bloody lightning!

And thunder.

Boy, that was loud! And close. I must be near the centre of the storm, if that’s actually true, of course. Could just be another urban myth – like ‘You shouldn’t use your mobile phone at a petrol station’. Rubbish, of course, but the fuel companies – Oh, shut up and concentrate, will you?

What is happening?

I think I’ve had a stroke. I don’t know where I am. And I can’t move. Can I still breathe?

Good. Breathe.

And now that’s rain. Falling on me from up there beyond the turrets. Great!

What am I doing here? Think, man, think – am I a man? – don’t know – can’t tell, but I feel kind of blokey . . . What’s the last thing you remember before this?

Agh!

Okay! Okay! It’s just a thunderstorm . . .

Somebody help me! PLEASE!

Oh no! I’m making that noise again. It’s actually quite loud for someone who’s had a stroke. A bit like someone murdering a cat. With a chainsaw. On a steam train . . . Hope to God I’m not on the international speaker’s circuit, ha, ha!

Think.

Yes, oh yes! That’s right – I was looking over the bridge railing – no through it – yes, through the wooden railing after my phone had fallen in the river. It was nearly dark. There was hay everywhere. I was on the road.

What the hell was I doing on the road? Covered in hay?

And why does my head hurt so much? If only I could close my eyes and think – the lightning hurts. I don’t know if I can stand this much longer. Maybe I can move just my eyes for the next flash. Okay, keep looking down.

Ughhh! I HATE YOU, THUNDERSTORM!  STOP rumbling and SHUT UP for one minute!

Deep breaths. . . deeeep breaths . . .

Fantastic! The spots are fading a bit.

So, what is this place? Hmm. Electric humming, so there’s electronic do-dads around. In a tower? Weird. And how the heck did I get in a tower, anyway?

That’s right. I was on the bridge. My arm was really sore, there was some blood . . . do you usually bleed when you have a stroke? Don’t think so. Odd.

Anyway, bridge, phone, blood, arm . . . and then I woke up here – which is –

Hang on a minute! ‘Here’ is strapped to a table in a tower.

In a bloody TOWER! . . . In a THUNDERSTORM?

Is this a joke? ‘Cos if it is, I’m not laughing, guys. Get me out of here now! Let me out and I won’t kill you with these massive paws of mine. Let me OUT!

These are huge hands, aren’t they? And they seem to have started working again. Ha, ‘again’ – that’s not right. I don’t have hands this big. They can’t be mine. Such fat, hairy fingers. My hands are delicate, fine and strong – surgeon’s hands. That’s what Mum always used to say.

Mum always used to say? Did I make that up? Am I really a surgeon? God, I can’t remember! The bloody brain’s like wet newspaper.
Focus. . . So, I’m strapped to a table – that’s not protocol for treating stroke victims. But it does explain why I can’t move. . .

Actually, I’m not so much strapped as held down with over-cooked linguine. With these gigantic mitts, it should be easy to rip . . . these . . . puny . . . straps . . . off . . . Ah! That’s better, now to see if I can close these eyes with my hands.

Um, that was ’eyes’, not ’ears’. Okay fingers, let’s try that again.

Ew! Eye clamps? Okay, slowly does it . . .

Ah, the warm, moist darkness of eyelids – nothing like it! Now to sit up and –

#

Erh! What happened? Oh no! Not the table again! Oh, I see – chains this time.

I suppose you think you’re pretty clever, do you? Do you, whoever you are? Hmm?

Well, at least the eye clamps are off, that’s something . . . These chains don’t look that strong, though. Reckon I can snap these as easily as . . . as easily as . . . T-H-A-T.

Ahh! Much better. Don’t try that at home, kids.

Now, where the bloody hell am I? Oh yeah – table, tower, thunderstorm. Well at least the thunderstorm’s passed. And I can move again. But why was I secured to a table? Twice. Maybe I haven’t had a stroke.

Man, my head hurts! Just hang onto the table big boy and you’ll be alright. . . I really AM a big boy, aren’t I? Wow! Check out those boots! If my feet are that big, imagine how big my –

Whoa! What weird kind of place is this? . . . A heart monitor with valves? A Faraday cage? A lightening rod?

Hey! You! . . . Over there in the corner! Come out from behind that keyboard and tell me what’s going on.

Move it, buster!

What’s wrong with you? Don’t you speak the Queen’s English?

Oh, I take your point.  The noise coming out of my throat isn’t exactly BBC. Okay . . .

What am I doing here?

That was pretty bad. Maybe I’ll just clear my throat and try again. What is that putrid taste? I know it, but can’t remember. Blood? No. Never mind. Clear the throat.

Ahem! That’s better.

Why am I here?

Me you nigh-nighs?  What sort of rubbish is that? Here I am, a world class surgeon, and I’m being spoken to like an imbecile – wait a minute! I am a world class surgeon! I remember. I was on my way home from a symposium in . . . in . . . Dresden.

Is this Dresden?  . . . Why am I asking you – apparently neither of us can speak English.

No, it can’t be Dresden. I’d finished my week’s lectures and had two days out in the . . . oh, what the hell are they called?  The um . . . the um . . . the Erzgebirge mountains. That’s right! I was heading back to the airport. . . there was a hay cart on the bridge . . . and . . . and . . . Bugger it! Nothing!

Well, at least that explains the defibrillator built from World War Two salvage. Rural Saxony’s not known for its world-class medical practices . . . But why am I in an operating theatre?

You, lab-boy, come here!

Yes, that’s it, come here. I’d leave the syringe behind if I were you. I’d hate to see it stuck into you by mista –

#

Oh, God! Not again! Not the bloody table and chains!

Don’t you know that excessive use of sedatives can lead to irreparable brain damage, you lousy shonk?

Look, can you tell me who’s in charge?

No, I don’t want a nice 1930s oxygen mask. I want to see your boss.

Oh, never mind. I’ll just lie here until I can summon the energy to break through these chains – re-enforced with wire rope, eh? They shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Ha! Too easy.

Sorry about the broken femur, lad, but I couldn’t really let you inject me again. I’ve got to get out of this place and back to the airport. I’ll miss my plane and Molly worries, you see, if I’m late home from a conference. Doesn’t matter that I’m saving lives in hospitals, day after day; she wants her darling hubby –

Whoa! That’s what this is! A psych-ward operating theatre. I knew I’d recognised that taste – ECT mouth! What the hell is an antique psych theatre doing in a tower? I know I’m in the Saxon boon docks, but this sounds like the plot of a B-movie.  Ha, ha, pretty funny stuff, eh?

World class brain surgeon operated on against his will, in a tower, in a thunderstorm. Hilarious!

Get a grip, Gerard. Gerard? Yep. I’m Gerard. Well, Gerard, you’re a trick, that’s for sure! You even amuse yourself . . .

I don’t suppose you know how I got here, do you, son?

No, don’t bother – I realise they’re not actual words coming out of my mouth.

Now, let me take a look at the leg, son.

No, I’m not going to hurt you. Relax!

Wow! You can pack a punch!

Now listen, I’m gonna immobilise that leg and – that’s assuming they keep bandages in this damned place . . .

Crepe bandages and a bit of wadding. That’ll have to do. Sorry, no plaster – you’ll have to ask your buddies to do that – anyway, these hands are too swollen to manage it. I must have hurt them somehow. Don’t know where the hairs came from, though. Ugh! I hate hairy knuckles on a doctor – they look like Nanna’s mohair stockings when they’re in surgical gloves.

So, why are they swollen? . . . I remember looking for the phone after I hit the hay cart. Hell! I was in a car accident! That hay cart came out of nowhere. If they think my travel insurance is going to pay for their blasted incompetence, they’ve got another thing coming!

What? Oh, sorry, mate. Forgot what I was doing for a minute then – I’ll just slip that leg back on the chair. Yeah, that’s gonna hurt for a while. Sorry.

Hmm. I was in a car accident. I knew I hadn’t had a stroke. I’m too fit and young and handsome. Ha, ha. It’s true – all the ladies say so.

There was blood all over my clothes; my face and arm got smashed against the steering wheel; I was scrabbling for the phone – and then nothing . . . Well, I can tell you now, Mercedes-Benz is going to cop a mother of a law suit from me when I get out of here. Safest car in the world? My eye! . . . So, I had a car accident and hit my head. The face feels okay, though, even through these giant mitts.

Did your boss fix my face?

What’s wrong lab-tech? What did he do to my face?

#

Oh, crud! Not the bloody table again!

Look. I fixed his leg, alright?

That didn’t come out so well.

I – fixed – his – leg.

Miming is so degrading.

I – FIXED – HIS – LEG.

Yes, that’s it! I fixed his leg. Now can I get up? Ah, c’mon. Let me up! I won’t break anything this time. Please!

No pleasing some people.

Listen, mate. You look sort of important. You the head doctor? You’ve got a nice, new clipboard – you must be the Prof. Or at least his assistant.

Never mind. Just come over here, will you, Professor? Yes, that’s right. Don’t get too close or I might chew your nose off!

Ouch! What did you do that for? I was only joking about the nose. Look, can I please get up? All I want to do is go home. This is so bloody irritating . . . and I’m gonna need a leak in a minute.

Hey, thanks a million, Prof. Now do you think I could have my own clothes back? You know, pants with a real belt rather than this itchy rope? No? Okay, but I want my moleskins back. . . And my suitcase – it was in the back of the car. Vintage Vuitton, you know. Can’t buy that quality any more. You idiots better not have lost them. I’m not slumming it with aluminium Samsonite, you hear?

No, I can‘t speak Thuringian or any of the other dialects – can hardly speak English at the moment. All I can do is that angle-grinder imitation. . . But you must be able to speak English because I can understand you! Hey Professor, let me out of here, will you?

No, I don’t want to test my strength!

No, I don’t want an antique oxygen mask! What is it with you lot and sedation?

Huh? A mirror? Why would I want a mirror?

Oh, I get it – you did fix my face. But won’t it be too swollen for me to tell what you’ve done? Come to think of it, why doesn’t it hurt? If you’ve done facial reconstruction surgery on it, how come it doesn’t hurt?

I said, if you’ve done facial reconstruction surgery on it, how come it doesn’t hurt? Ah, forget it!

I WANT TO GO HOME!

Oh dear! Who would have thought that a little yell would make people’s ears bleed?

Still, now there’s no-one to stop me, I think I’ll stretch my legs. . .

Man, my back hurts – my posture’s terrible! I so need to get back to Pilates. You know, I swear that my knuckles could almost scrape the ground. Molly will hate that! She’s always trying to get me to get closer to my feminine side . . . Ugh! No good. The back’s really bad. I think I’m going to have to take slow, big steps for a bit –

Whoa! I can’t seem to get my balance either. Good thing these hands are so massive. Why are they so huge? Oh, yes, the car accident. . . . but they don’t hurt. Weird.

Actually, I feel rather butch. Have I bulked up recently? I don’t think I’m usually this buff. And these clothes have got to go – probably haute couture for the Saxon on the land, but definitely not me. I wonder if my own clothes are going to fit when I get home – I don’t reckon these impressive arms are gonna fit into much at all . . . And I have a very strong urge to throw the furniture around. Bizarre!

First things first, though – I’ve got to get out of here. Just hang onto the walls, big boy, and find the door. Can’t be too far away.

Hey! Talk about luck – there’s the door, and a welcoming committee for me at the foot of the stairs!

Hello there. Anyone know how to get to Dresden airport from here? Or where I can get some decent strides?

Hey! Careful with that flaming torch, mister. You almost scorched my eyelashes!

I’m serious mate. I think I’ll take that torch, if you’re going to brandish it about like fairy floss.

Whoa! Sorry about that. Pop an ice pack on it and the swelling will go down. Don’t know why I keep losing my balance – these bloody big boots, probably.

Listen, guys. Don’t be scared. I just can’t speak properly – some after-effect of the accident, no doubt. I don’t want any trouble. I just want to get home and . . .

Alright. Who threw the pitchfork?

. . . I’m waiting!

Was it you? . . .

Well, was it you then?

. . . I can wait here all night if I have to.

Actually guys, why have you all brought along your lovely, big spades and sharp hoes and pointy rakes? Has there been an accident on a farm? Do you need a doctor? . . . Or should I be a bit wor – Oh hi, Prof. Can’t stop. Just arranging a lift to the airport with some of the locals.

Kill the monster? That’s not a very nice thing to say, Professor. They’re a bit rough around the edges, but none of them’s that bad.

. . . Holy Hell, you mean me! I’m deeply offended, Prof. After all we’ve been through. Frankly I don’t understand why you would call me a monst –

Shit! The hands, the feet, the co – none of them are mine!  I am a monster!

Oh Man! How am I gonna explain that to Molly –

Oi! I warned you! No farm tools in the face. Give me the bloody sickle or I’ll –

The End