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SHORT STORIES OF INTEREST

By Terrance Bramblett

Copyright 2017 by Terrance Bramblett

Smashwords Edition

License Notes

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AUTHORS NOTE

This is a collection of my writings for contests and just for fun. Most are short stories, and I won some of the contests. Lost more. These range from humor to pathos to strange and maybe far out. I hope you enjoy them. They are all fiction unless otherwise stated.


GOT THEM OL’ HIP REPLACEMENT BLUES

Well, I woke up this mornin’ . . . had them ol’ hip replacement blues”. Robert Johnson would have probably written this song if he had lived long enough. Your hip ball-and-socket joints take a lot of strain over your life. I have had all of mine replaced, and now I am getting that old referred pain feeling in my knee that the left one, the one I like to call Old Metal, is about to go again.

I’ll tell you all about them here. It makes good party talk if you can corner somebody long enough. This one is not fiction.

THE NEW ONE

I had my right hip replaced early in 2008. It had been going bad for nearly a year and the surgeon gave me some pills to take to get by until I was ready. Hip replacement isn’t like heart surgery: it is elective. It just hurts and makes it hard to get around, but you just load up on NSAID’s until you can’t stand it anymore and do it. My criterion is sock application. When I get to where I can’t put on my socks, I figure it’s time to go in. My wife loves me, but there wasn’t anything in our vows about applying socks.

The surgeon always took x-rays of both hips, and he said when I first went in that the old one was wearing some on the socket area. He showed me on the film, but all x-rays look like blurry blobs to me. He was excited. “Goddam,” he exulted, “Kid, you got a 384G. I haven’t seen one in years.” He said, “Kid, you are going to have to have that redone sometime.” I was future business on the hoof.

They asked me if I would be in a research group, where they randomly divided the prosthesis they used between two different groups to see which would hold up better over time. I said OK. No money, but I figure they would want to keep me alive for the guinea pig aspect.

As soon as the operation was scheduled, I was impressed by the speed and efficiency that his staff showed. They had me come in at noon, and the operation was scheduled for 2 pm. If I had had the early shift and come in at 8 am, I would have gone home the same day. But by getting the desirable late operation, I stayed overnight and was dumped out the next morning, early. I was out by noon. I was plenty doped up for most of the time from before the operation until the next morning. They gave me a “give your ownself morphine” dispenser and a nurse lady told me to save the last dose for just before checkout. I didn’t know why. But they had apparently slipped an indwelling pee catheter into me while I was out and when she hauled that son of a bitch out, I about left he bed, operated on hip and all. It hurt plenty. I think there is a large ball on the end of it that she had forgotten to deflate. Whooee.

They almost literally gave me the bum’s rush. I was loaded onto a wheelchair, pushed down to the car and while my wife was still getting the seat padded up, they were hustling me out of that chair. I guess as soon as you hit your own car seat, their liability ends. I did OK that day, sleeping most of the day and night. But the next day was not as good.

Let me tell you something you may not have considered about having a hip replacement: you have to shit standing up for months. Maybe that’s a small exaggeration. You can’t get your knee joint above your hip joint for a long time. They are afraid it will pop out. That means that everything you do, whether it’s sitting down, riding in a car, or evacuating your bowels, you have to be up high. You have to use a tall toilet seat extender so you are able to keep your leg out. Hahahah. Boy, that causes some messes. See, the fecal matter falls about four feet through the air before it hits the water with a mighty splash. It goes everywhere. Of course, you can’t clean it up because that would mean bending your stupid leg funny. Hell, you can barely clean yourself because of the contortions you have to do. This is where you need a loving companion, someone you have not been mean to. This goes on for a number of months.

They sent over physical therapist on the second day I was home from the operation and he begin to torture me with getting up, walking around with a creeper, doing exercises and such. That therapist is the one that gives you the “final clearance,” saying, in effect, that you are ready to shit sitting down. But he warns as he leaves: for the next six months, be careful, He has seen some patients get too frisky after being cleared and they popped their new hip socket out causing much trauma and pain.

I had this operation right before Xmas in 2007, I was not able to use the short-term handicap parking sticker they give you for Xmas shopping. An item like that is worth its weight in gold during crowded parking times.

The New One had been in service for several years now. I found out in Year One that the prosthesis they gave me was flawed, that it wore off bits of toxic metals that got into your blood. Some people had to have them replaced and some got very ill. I didn’t, so I missed out on any lawsuit money. I had to go back for a check every six months for a while where they took a shitload of blood and X-rayed the beast.

THE OLD METAL

I had the left hip done far back, in 1986. That is a long, long time (they tell me) for an artificial joint to last. They say it is not surprising that it’s wearing out. Back they, the old model 384G was all metal. New ones are a conglomerate of plastic, toxic metal, Teflon, all kinds of exotic things. That big hunk of metal sets off the detector every time I fly or go into a courthouse.

Strangely enough, I have hanging on a peg over my workbench an even older hip prosthesis that is all metal. It was removed from an aunt of mine, when it had to be replaced by a newer one. She was bad to drink, mostly gin. She knew I was someday going to have to get a hip replacement, so she asked the doctor for the old one. For some bone-hard Southern humor, I took it with me when I went for my first one and told the doc, “Here, just use this one I already have and knock some off the price.” Mighty funny it was. Maybe you had to be there. Asking for your hip prosthesis back is sort of like asking a mechanic to give you the old fuel pump so you could look at it like you knew what you were doing and say knowledgeably, “Hmmm, yeah. I see why that had to be replaced.”

I had the first one done in Columbus, Georgia, at the Hughston Sports Medicine Clinic. They specialize in joint stuff and nothing else, so you don’t have to worry about getting TB while you are there. I have known three other people that had a hip or some hips replaced, and only one of them went there. His was good; the others had Bad Outcomes. When you are getting disjointed, you want the best there is, not some jackleg surgeon that took hip replacement as an elective in medical school.

This first operation was a completely different scale of seriousness. I had to have extracted three units of blood for myself over a short period so they could replenish me. I had to exercise for weeks before the operation. I had to stop smoking. Serious stuff. All this prep work went on for about six weeks. When I arrived for the operation, they took the whole first day setting me up, explaining what they were going to do, showing me all the people that would be handling me, and showing me a video of a typical hip replacement. It looked like a Norm Abrams project. Drills and saws and hammers and pins. Beating and flopping disjointed legs and enough blood to fill a jonboat.

They woke me up early the next morning and gave a shot of something very nice. I think was liquid Valium. Hmmm. Mighty good. They put a funny hospital hat that sort of looks like a beret on my head and wheeled my ass out to a holding pen. Through my strawberry haze, I saw a dozen or so others, all with funny hats and happy grins on their faces. A guy came over and shaved the left side of my crotch with a double-edged razor and I just watched in fascination as the hair flew away. He told me to hold my gear to the side out of the way and I did. By the time he had finished, I was zonked out.

I woke up later and I was not as happy. I hurt and a young lady across the hall was screaming in pain. It turns out that she had a knee replacement and her doctor had left without signing an order for pain medication. The staff was reluctant to give her much because they were not sure if he meant it or just forgot. Her mother finally got that straightened out and she quieted down.

I was in the hospital, in bed, for a week. Contrast that to the latest visit. On the third day, they got me up and made me walk down the hallway a short distance. But I never put my left foot down. The last two days they had me go into their giant physical rehab area. They had me on crutches. I came home and in my absence, my wonderful wife had bought a recliner. Since I could not walk without crutches, and rested most of every day, that recliner became my second home for a couple of weeks. I could sleep in our bed as long as I kept my left leg in a though of foam rubber that was like a hot channel to hold it with my foot pointed up and never allowed to cross over the midline of my self. Believe me, it was easier on both of us for me to sleep in the recliner.

That recliner was not like your ordinary shadetree recliner. It was powered by electricity. You mashed a button on the side and it hoisted your legs up as high as you wanted them. Cool. I referred to it, I thought with High Humor, as the `chair of electricity’. See, often a professor at a college is said to occupy the Chair of History, or the Chair of Philosophy, meaning they are chairman of the board of professors in that specialty. I think. I am still waiting for the laughs that were supposed to occur.

I didn’t tell about the Great Fecal Impaction and the nurse George digging it out. Somehow that story has never developed the patina of funniness that is supposed to occur after the passage of time. Let’s just say it was an unpleasant experience for both George and me.

Anyway, I am expecting within a few months to have to get another hip replacement. I believe enough time has elapsed that I can pull the old “taking my own prosthesis” gag again. I am glad you can have hips replacement. And knees and shoulders. I had a Great Uncle Bruce that never hit a lick at a snake for the forty years I knew him. He sat on easy chairs, used a cane, and was waited on by anybody that happened by. He had bad hips. I used to think he had it made, but I know better now.


UP NEXT: A ZOMBIE STORY FOR A WRITING CONTEST

This contest entry was constrained by both subject matter and length. I would never otherwise write a zombie story. I think they have been beaten to death.


LAST CHANCE

Goddam asshole zombies.” Bill was staring out to sea, towards the darkening mainland.

“You’re letting them get to you. Relax, you know they can’t get in here,” Becky said.

“The island is good. The bastards can’t row or work an engine. But one of them – maybe an old dead Olympic swimmer – might get here by flopping around enough. It’s not like he would drown. It’s only three miles of water. I hate the idea of waking up with a monster standing over me.”

“Ha! He wouldn’t be standing; he would be gnawing a hunk off you. Maybe an important hunk.”

Bill mused, “I wonder why their teeth are so good. Hell, my teeth are starting to rot from not seeing a dentist for a year. How come these toads get flesh-rending teeth that stay good? How do the teeth remain in the jawbone without a blood supply?”

Becky said mildly, “Shit-O-Dear, Bill, you can’t question the wisdom of a benevolent god that gives us a shitload of zombies to liven up our end-of-days.”

“Yeah, yeah.” He rose and descended the watchtower. “I’ll set the motion detectors and send your relief.”

Darkness was falling. Their little enclave contained thirty-two people, ranging from a six-year old girl to an old geezer sea captain of eighty. Bill was forty and Becky was thirty-two. They had sort of paired off, but that would not last. There were not enough of them for exclusivity in mating. There were seven women, twenty men, and five children.

It had been a little more than a year since the zombies rose and civilization fell. There were numerous small bands like theirs, but they were always on the run and wary.

All the people in this group had made their various ways here to relative safety. They didn’t have to put up with continual attacks, but their life was bleak. This small rocky island was a stopgap. There was not enough land to grow crops and the fresh water was limited. They planned to get a few cruising sailboats from a marina and go far, far away. At least that was their hope. Every visit to the mainland was potentially deadly.

They had picked out an island in the Caribbean that had good water, trees, and plenty of room to grow. It was seventy miles of open sea from any mainland. They would clean it up by searching out and destroying any leftover zombies, chopping them into chunks and feeding them to the sharks.

There was so much stuff they needed. They had some weapons but they needed more, and they had to locate seeds, farming implements, construction tools, everything required to establish a working society. And get all that shit onto sailboats.

They had their lists, the likely location of the materials and supplies, and a schedule. In six days, they would go as a group to implement it. They figured they had only a fifty-fifty chance of getting everything and getting away before being eaten or trapped. Six days.


THEN THE MAN WITH A PRESSING NEED

You’ve had these times, I bet.

A FORTUITOUS DOOR

Reginald had to defecate. It might be a joke to a bystander, but he was in Dire Straits. In the City of London, there were few public toilets, and he needed one. Now.

He was on a street of row houses, and in desperation, he started turning the doorknob of each one, hoping to get inside and dash to the facilities.

Locked. Every door locked. Desperation took him. He walked, clenched, and his bowels made ominous sounds. He felt as if he would burst.

On the sixth try, the knob turned. He rushed inside, passing the parlor where a startled couple sat watching TV. Down the hallway, opening doors. The second one was the bathroom. He made it and almost cried with relief. It was the work of a few seconds to empty himself.

When he again became aware of something other than his innards, he heard the floor outside creak and a shrill scream. He had not taken time to lock the door, and it swung open to reveal a man with a shotgun.

“You have chosen the wrong household to invade and defile, Sir.”

“Please allow me to explain. I was walking home from the underground and the urge to void came rolling over me. It was enter a house or soil my breeches. I am sorry.”

The man’s female companion, wife or something, screamed again.

“Do something, James, shoot him or knock him over the head.”

“Here? You want me to blow him off the loo and get blood and who knows what all else on the floor?”

They got into a discussion about perhaps forcing him to stand and go outside and then shoot him. While they were distracted, Reginald fled.

He ran down the street. Behind him he heard footsteps as they followed him, yelling.

“Stop. Housebreaker. Toilet thief. Madman.”

Reginald fled like the wind, turning and zigzagging to make the man miss if he shot. Soon he lost them and made his way home. He locked all his doors so no crazy man could come in and sat at his desk. Using the telephone directory, he found the address and name of the people whose space he had violated. He composed a letter.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. (or Other) Grant:

I am the man who entered your home and used your toilet without permission. I am truly sorry, and assure you it will never happen again. I am enclosing fifty pounds for any incidental cleaning you may incur.

I am not the sort of man who breaks the law with impunity, but if you will think about this, you may forgive me: there is no controlling ones digestive tract.

Yours Truly,

Anonymous”


THEN THE PITFALLS OF LOVE

This next story was for a contest concerning love and other emotions.

HIDDEN AGENDA

Claire was simply floating with joy. She had found her dream man. At twenty-eight years of age, and having sampled the shallow waters of the local man-pool since she was fourteen, she had begun to despair. But Gregory was the one. She walked through the days with a near-constant smile; she was more cheerful and friendly than anyone that knew her could recall. She was in Love. She wrote it in her mind as italicized and capitalized. He was handsome enough, although that was no longer her primary criterion. She had long since discovered that simply handsome men were not her type, too filled with themselves, too expecting of favors from life just because they existed.

But Gregory was not filled with himself. He worshiped her, was glad for any favors she granted. He was good-looking enough, and strong and wise and rich and funny and attentive and intelligent. She had bubbled over to her best friend, Katy, after the first night she spent in his arms.

“Oh, Katy, I cannot tell you how it felt, I have not the eloquence, the words. He is a marvelous lover. He attended to my needs before his own. I cannot remember when another man has done that. Sure, they are all about, ‘Don’t worry, babe, I will make sure you finish,’ before they start but forget that as soon as they get into the pudding. Gregory made it all come true. Oh, I am blithering like a schoolgirl, like a freshly deflowered maiden rather than an experienced woman.”

Katy was of the same age, and perhaps a more levelheaded judge of both men and her friend.

“What does he do? What do you know of him?”

“He has some kind of business doing importing and exporting, I do not know. Not do I care. I want him forever.”

“Has he any family? Any people had had taken you to meet? Have you seen his checkbook?”

“Katy, it sounds like you don’t trust him, with all these questions. Of course I have not seen his checkbook, a gentleman would never show that to a lady. I believe he said his parents are dead, and he has no brothers or sisters. Besides, I don’t care about his family, I only care about him.”

“I have seen you this way before, dear, and I only want you to be sure. Where does he live? Has he taken you home for some loud, romping sex?”

“I don’t know where he lives. He mentioned once that he has an apartment downtown. We have only had romping sex three times now, and that was always in an elegant hotel room he secured. Are you not happy for me?”

“Of course I am, it is only that I love you myself and don’t want you hurt. When will I get to meet his wonderful man?”

“He is picking me up tonight to take me to the theatre. You be here at my apartment and I will introduce you. The Theatre. I cannot recall the last time a man offered to take me there.”

“You are very happy. You are a lucky girl to have found him.”

But Katy was suspicious. She was, she thought, far more practical and levelheaded than her friend. She was always skeptical if something looked too perfect. She would do something about it.

When Gregory arrived promptly for his date, and Katy first laid eyes on him, she formed an impression. Tall, slim, clean-shaven, clear eyes, strong jaw. But when he shook her hand, she felt a dampness that was unseemly in a man. His hand was dainty, almost feminine, and was smooth along with the damp. It felt icky to Kate, like a slug. They quickly passed pleasantries and then Claire and her fellow left for their theatre date. Katy changed into working clothes, faded jeans and a sweatshirt, got a big floppy hat from her winter clothes, and slipped her revolver into her coat pocket. Then she waited until they were surely gone, got in her roadster and drove to the theatre.

It was some kind of play about a man and a woman, some flighty piece of fluff. Katy knew nothing of plays. But it was popular and Claire had bragged about how hard it was to get tickets. Gregory had done it. Katy got bored and went into the stageside deli and had a few vodka Collins. When she saw the crowd starting to empty from the theatre, she dashed back to her car and waited. She followed their taxi to a local establishment that provided adult beverages and dancing. After a delay of perhaps an hour, they emerged, Claire clinging to Gregory’s arm and dancing along beside him. They took a taxi back to Claire’s apartment. He went in and, presumably after some romping sex, came back down in two hours. He got on a cross-town bus and Katy followed it.

He debussed at the lower end of town. He looked around when he got off the bus, but he did not know Katy’s car and she had the slouch hat pulled low across her face. He was afoot now and she knew she had to get on foot to follow him. She was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable. This was not a part of town where decent young ladies went except on college pranks and in large groups. This was the waterfront, where the ships came in and the tough men and their companion women hung out.

There was wet fog and the slowly repeating sound of a distant foghorn. She stayed back a discrete distance, noting that she could sometimes see water and ships tied at moorings between buildings. The area was nearly deserted, no people walking


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