Posted on: September 27th, 2009 Nurse on Terror Island

Nurse on Terror Island
By Miles Klee
“Step Six,” went the turtle.  ”Care for the patient.”
“Can you be more specific?” Avril Andrews wondered.
“Skreeeeee,” went the turtle.  Its way of saying no.
“Shot in the dark,” said Avril.  ”But oh well.”
She rolled her handsome dead man back into the tide pool.  His body twisted against rocks.  A broken arm exhaling dull red clouds.  The turtle looked askance at Avril, but of course it couldn’t really.
“What now?” Avril asked, wiping hands on a salty white skirt.  Out of the turtle came not so reassuring static.
“This won’t do at all,” Avril sighed, pulling a curl of the sailor’s gritty hair straight.  ”Not for Dr. Hovstad.  He’s tired of just me.”  The sailor’s head bobbed sharply, which looked close enough to a nod.  ”I want to help, only how?”  His foot, the one without a shoe, kicked at foam.  ”Dr. Hovstad isn’t even sure what he wants my duties to be, so I think it was premature, bringing me here.”  A small wave crested, turning him over.
“Or lonely,” Avril concluded, noticing again how handsome he was.
The emotions bubbling in her throat were too much, so Avril’s mind strayed towards the usual questions.  If the house with white pillars where she grew up was still there.  If experiments were ongoing, or science all used up.  She wished there were real animals instead of Dr. Hovstad’s mock-ups.  Wherever I’m stationed next, she thought, the turtles won’t be helping me but maybe laying their eggs in the sand, or basking, lazy things.  A more alarming hypothetical bloomed: What if the new island had no turtles at all?  Sky went chill and tangled at the thought.  Surely that was a Terror that out-terrorized Terror Island, there being zero turtles.
It was enough to put her off a transfer entirely, so Avril went straight to Dr. Hovstad’s bamboo office/lean-to and demanded not to be reassigned to that barren and likely turtleless rock shaping up to be her tragic destiny.  Dr. Hovstad, attempting to mend a linen shirt with his own hair for thread, reminded her that no such transfer was forthcoming, that she was supposed to be on lookout duty at the moment, that there were plenty of turtles about who would tell her what to do when a shipwrecked (un)fortunate rolled ashore in need of medical assistance, clinging to some flotsam or other.  He pricked a palm with the needle and rolled his eyes.
“About that,” started Avril, recalling why she’d distracted herself with the non-issue of turtles.
Some things Dr. Hovstad was at a loss to explain, for example his words, or why he had polio and lived in a wheelchair, or exactly how Avril graduated nursing school.  Over the hot smear of months another mysterious knot had caught in his ravaged bones as a paranoid thrill.  He’d experimented, and thought Avril was ready to know, as she seemed an unwitting victim of his terrible power.
“Avril,” he said, “I can make things melodramatic at will.”
“I’m in love,” Avril wailed.
Ancient thunder cracked the calm.  A swarm of birds started up through sunset, drawn into a dense black mass before exploding apart.
“See?” said Dr. Hovstad.
“You did that?” Avril asked.
“I did,” Dr. Hovstad said.
He didn’t.  He was just one of those people who are magnets for melodrama.  Dr. Hovstad remembered, then, that there were only two people on Terror Island.
“As for your lovesickness,” he began, loosening his tie, “I can cure that.”
Avril had already skipped off, declaring repeatedly her being in love.
“You better not mean with a turtle!” Dr. Hovstad shouted.
*
Avril discovered that the tide pool lacked her sailor.
“Over here,” he said, standing shin-deep in surf farther down the beach.  Avril ran to him.  They kissed, and it made more sense than it should have.
“Thought you died,” Avril said breathlessly. “That I hadn’t cared for the patient.”
“I am,” said the sailor, “but you did.”
She watched the whirl of metallic fish nibbling at his decomposing ankles, both feet shoeless now.
“I wanted a few extra minutes,” he explained.  ”Do you dance?”
So they waltzed in the shallows, his shattered arm swinging like a rubber metronome at her side, and jeweled fish flung a million suns up through the green as they spun along in time.

By Miles Klee

“Step Six,” went the turtle.  “Care for the patient.”

“Can you be more specific?” Avril Andrews wondered.

“Skreeeeee,” went the turtle.  Its way of saying no.

“Shot in the dark,” said Avril.  “But oh well.”

She rolled her handsome dead man back into the tide pool.  His body twisted against rocks.  A broken arm exhaling dull red clouds.  The turtle looked askance at Avril, but of course it couldn’t really.

“What now?” Avril asked, wiping hands on a salty white skirt.  Out of the turtle came not so reassuring static.

“This won’t do at all,” Avril sighed, pulling a curl of the sailor’s gritty hair straight.  “Not for Dr. Hovstad.  He’s tired of just me.”  The sailor’s head bobbed sharply, which looked close enough to a nod.  “I want to help, only how?”  His foot, the one without a shoe, kicked at foam.  “Dr. Hovstad isn’t even sure what he wants my duties to be, so I think it was premature, bringing me here.”  A small wave crested, turning him over.

“Or lonely,” Avril concluded, noticing again how handsome he was.

The emotions bubbling in her throat were too much, so Avril’s mind strayed towards the usual questions.  If the house with white pillars where she grew up was still there.  If experiments were ongoing, or science all used up.  She wished there were real animals instead of Dr. Hovstad’s mock-ups.  Wherever I’m stationed next, she thought, the turtles won’t be helping me but maybe laying their eggs in the sand, or basking, lazy things.  A more alarming hypothetical bloomed: What if the new island had no turtles at all?  Sky went chill and tangled at the thought.  Surely that was a Terror that out-terrorized Terror Island, there being zero turtles.

It was enough to put her off a transfer entirely, so Avril went straight to Dr. Hovstad’s bamboo office/lean-to and demanded not to be reassigned to that barren and likely turtleless rock shaping up to be her tragic destiny.  Dr. Hovstad, attempting to mend a linen shirt with his own hair for thread, reminded her that no such transfer was forthcoming, that she was supposed to be on lookout duty at the moment, that there were plenty of turtles about who would tell her what to do when a shipwrecked (un)fortunate rolled ashore in need of medical assistance, clinging to some flotsam or other.  He pricked a palm with the needle and rolled his eyes.

“About that,” started Avril, recalling why she’d distracted herself with the non-issue of turtles.

Some things Dr. Hovstad was at a loss to explain, for example his words, or why he had polio and lived in a wheelchair, or exactly how Avril graduated nursing school.  Over the hot smear of months another mysterious knot had caught in his ravaged bones as a paranoid thrill.  He’d experimented, and thought Avril was ready to know, as she seemed an unwitting victim of his terrible power.

“Avril,” he said, “I can make things melodramatic at will.”

“I’m in love,” Avril wailed.

Ancient thunder cracked the calm.  A swarm of birds started up through sunset, drawn into a dense black mass before exploding apart.

“See?” said Dr. Hovstad.

“You did that?” Avril asked.

“I did,” Dr. Hovstad said.

He didn’t.  He was just one of those people who are magnets for melodrama.  Dr. Hovstad remembered, then, that there were only two people on Terror Island.

“As for your lovesickness,” he began, loosening his tie, “I can cure that.”

Avril had already skipped off, declaring repeatedly her being in love.

“You better not mean with a turtle!” Dr. Hovstad shouted.

*

Avril discovered that the tide pool lacked her sailor.

“Over here,” he said, standing shin-deep in surf farther down the beach.  Avril ran to him.  They kissed, and it made more sense than it should have.

“Thought you died,” Avril said breathlessly. “That I hadn’t cared for the patient.”

“I am,” said the sailor, “but you did.”

She watched the whirl of metallic fish nibbling at his decomposing ankles, both feet shoeless now.

“I wanted a few extra minutes,” he explained.  “Do you dance?”

So they waltzed in the shallows, his shattered arm swinging like a rubber metronome at her side, and jeweled fish flung a million suns up through the green as they spun along in time.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories

5 Responses to “Nurse on Terror Island”

  1. Rachel Green Says:
    September 27th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    What an utterly bizarre, but delightful tale!

  2. Rachel Green Says:
    September 27th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    What an utterly bizarre, but delightful tale!

  3. Z. Michael Norton Says:
    September 28th, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I love the closing image of the metronome. A danse macabre.

  4. Z. Michael Norton Says:
    September 28th, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I love the closing image of the metronome. A danse macabre.

  5. G. Arthur Brown Says:
    October 2nd, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Amazing! I think I’m in love with Miles Klee.

  6. G. Arthur Brown Says:
    October 2nd, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Amazing! I think I’m in love with Miles Klee.

  7. Knifefightingjesus.com » Blog Archive » Great Story: “Nurse on Terror Island” by Miles Klee Says:
    October 2nd, 2009 at 11:38 am

    [...] Check out the full story here. [...]

  8. Knifefightingjesus.com » Blog Archive » Great Story: “Nurse on Terror Island” by Miles Klee Says:
    October 2nd, 2009 at 11:38 am

    [...] Check out the full story here. [...]

  9. Brenda Says:
    October 2nd, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    This is bizarre but completely wonderful. Amazing images.

  10. Brenda Says:
    October 2nd, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    This is bizarre but completely wonderful. Amazing images.