Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sam the Social Worker

I posted a new story on Fiction Press today. Actually, it's a series of short stories I started writing my sophomore year of college for a class. I needed a character that I could whip out 1,000 word shorts on, and it was easier to create someone new than distract myself by doing sketches with an existing character--not to mention, I didn't have to give my classmates any backstory, or explain the basics of fantasy to them.

Sam is a university student, majoring in social work. He has a work study with the local office. The problem with Sam is that he doesn't really understand people all too well, and isn't that interesting in learning. I like to refer to him as the surliest social worker on the planet.

For a little preview, here is part deux, The Waiting Room:

Sam’s shoulders scrunched almost up to his ears as he entered the waiting room. He kept it had down and his hand jammed in the pockets of his brown windbreaker. He hated this. He hated doctors. He hated crowded places full of sick people, or even people in general. They were so noisy and stupid.

Grudgingly, he sighed his name on the waiting list, and looked around for a place to sit. At least it was a therapist, and not an actual doctor, he thought. No screaming kids or old men hacking up lungs into the nearest lap. No, this was a head doctor. Most of the patients were pretty quiet, though there was a man with a visible defect over in the corner. A woman who must have been his nurse was patting his hand and trying to reason with him.

“The chickens…they’re on the ceiling…”

“No Archie, there are no chickens on the ceiling.”

“They’re there! They’re everywhere!” He suddenly jerked his feet off the floor. “Get away! Away I said! Back!” He kicked out with such force that his chair flipped, and he landed on his back on the prickly, greenish carpet.

Archie began to shout; apparently his chickens were climbing all over him, pecking away, trying to eat his brain. His nurse calmly pulled him to his feet, righted his chair, and sat him back down. After a few minutes, she quieted him down.

Sam tried to pretend he hadn’t seen or heard anything. He took the only other empty seat, next to an old woman who was knitting…something, and pulled a magazine off the coffee table. It was a six year old copy of “Dog Fancy,” but at the moment heart worm and doggie booties were more appealing than watching the nut job across the room.

“Oh, do you like dogs?” said a high-pitched voice to his right. Irritated, Sam glanced up. The old woman was ginning hugely and staring at him out of inch thick glasses that magnified her eyes to four times their natural size.

Without waiting for him to reply she continued. “I love dogs. My Bitsy is just the cutest thing. She’s a lovely little terrier, friendliest dog you ever wanted to meet. She’s…” Sam looked back at his magazine, trying to ignore the old woman. She was knitting something lumpy and lime green; every once in a while, she would hold it up so that the light from the picture window shone through all the little gaps, then she’s put it back in her lap, smooth it out, rip out a few rows, then go back to her knitting. The metal needles chattered as endlessly as her voice.

“So why are you here?” she asked, then continued with her monologue, “They think I’m loosing my mind, but I’m not. It’s right here in my head where it’s supposed to be.” The old woman gave a high laugh that was like nails on a chalkboard. The man across the room twitched several times at the sound, and his nurse had to hold him in place.

“They told me I have Alzheimer’s,” the old woman continued. “They said I’m going to forget everything, and I need to make regular appointments to make sure I remember things. Well, I remembered to come today, so I must be fine, but they still said I needed to see the doctor…”

Sam slid a little lower in his chair, wishing that if she couldn’t see him, she would stop talking to him. He realize it was pointless however, when she reached into her bag, pulled out a day planner, and offered it to the empty space to her right, asking if the non-existent person would care for a cookie.

Across the room, the nurse got up. “I’ll be back in just a minute, Archie,” she said, her voice as frayed sounding as Sam’s nerves felt. “I’ve just got to run to bathroom a second. You be good while I’m gone, you hear?”

No sooner had she walked out of the waiting room than Archie turned to Sam, his eyes unnaturally wide and slightly bloodshot.

“You’ll not be wanting to turn around,” he said.

Sam glared at him, hoping he would shut up and go away.

“There’s a big one behind you. They’ll take it from you, just like they did from me. They think it’s because of the drugs, oh no. I know better,” he said, nodding. “It was the chickens that took it. The chickens stole my sanity, one peck at a time.” Archie waggled a finger, his voice rising. “They took it. They stole it.” He rubbed his hands together. “But they’re not as bad as the penguins. The penguins have teeth, and when they bite, you become like them. They were once human, you know, but they were bitten, and the ice and snow turned them into what they are: the werepenguines of DOOM!”

His last word was shouted so forcefully that Sam jumped.

Screw this, he thought, rising from his chair. I’m so out of here—

“Sam Pheniox?” called the nurse at the door.

Sam stared at her stupidly.

“The doctor will see you now.”

“Oh.” He followed her into the hall, and she led him into the formal, leather-scented office, motioning him to sit on the leather couch.

“Good afternoon,” said the doctor, rifling through Sam’s slim file. Sam seldom went to the doctor, let alone a psychiatrist. “I’m sorry, that page—what was this visit concerning?”

“My boss told me I needed something for anxiety.”

You can find Sam's adventures here.

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