Ophelia Persisted

“Pull off it. Like a sweater!”

“I’m sorry. What?”

“Like a sweater. Pull! Off! It!”

“Are you having a stroke or something?”

She glared at him, vibrating with rage, and pushed the sleeves of her washed-out taupe cardigan up over her elbows and planted her feet.

He sighed, slid his glasses up his nose. “I have no frikkin’ clue,” he grunted.

It was then that he noticed the linoleum and cinder-black dayroom was empty. Where had everybody else gone? Buying time, he took another pull on his hospital-issued coffee and nodded his head.

This riptide was about to get real.

Kicking her chair aside, she leapt to her feet and ran circles around the room and around his chair. He followed her with his eyes only.

Around and around she ran, passing the coffee cart and chanting “Pull off it! Pull off it!”  She grunted and grabbed a handful of Nutrasweet and sugar packets and threw them in the air. She eyed the coffee urn as she passed once more, and decided that might be going too far.

“I am troubled,” he intoned in his most nonchalant and clinical of voices. “Tell me more about how you’re feeling.”

She answered with a rain of sugar packets and bounced the wicker basket that had held them off his head. She noted with satisfaction the sweat beading up on his upper lip.

“Pull off it!” she growled.

“Could you maybe, like, point at what you’d like me to pull off it?”

Nobody was going to come help him. He wasn’t well liked by his fellow staffers, either.

She answered him with a cold glare, then turned her back to him and bent over.

He blanched, shrugged his shoulders, and slowly got to his feet.

And BAM! Just like that, she slipped past as he approached, tumbling his chair between them.

“Pleeb! Condescending! Wagon fix his!” she dashed down the hallway, muttering, losing her slippers, the back of the cardigan flipping up and revealing her bare buttocks under her hospital gown. She flipped her long, blonde locks over her shoulders as she reached the nurse’s station.

As usual, the staff members were Crushing Candy on their smartphones, or tipped back in their chairs, ignoring their patients’ call lights. She crouched, and duckwalked underneath the station windows. Beyond the visitor’s lounge, the front doors, always left unlocked during visiting hours, beckoned with bright sun and a gentle summer breeze. She rose to her feet and strolled past bewildered family members, grinning broadly and winking. If anyone noticed her bare feet, they didn’t mention it.

She pushed through the front doors and across the small drive-up, and crossed the emerald lawn.  Flaring her nostrils, she detected the sweet scent of running water beyond the stone benches and the line of trees that that bordered the river. Her mind began to clear and her words untangle as blades of grass tickled her arches.

The bell-like ring of water running over the shallows, flowers and herbs in shadow and sunlight; she feasted on color and scent.  Rosemary and pansies, fennel and columbine, rue at the edge of the shadows…she tasted all in her mind’s eye.

She smiled, “There’s a daisy! I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.

“No matter.” She stepped into the river, gloried in its silvery caress on her calves, then dove, her tresses streaming behind her, drinking in the current and soothing her hot scalp. She rolled and floated to the surface, then playfully waved farewell with one foot to her hospital gown and sweater, crumpled on the pebbled shore. Her nipples hardened at the contrast of cold water and bright sun.

“Screw Hamlet,” she giggled, recalling when she had done just that. “Guy’s got major Mommy issues, and I’m the one who wound up there.” She rolled, ass over teakettle, and dove into deeper water, white bum flashing in the sun.

She opened her cobalt-blue eyes, stroking tiny minnows as they passed, running her slim fingers through waving sea grasses. Her belly brushed the softer sands of deeper water, and she rolled again and broke the surface, her skin prickling in the rising wind.

“So good to be naked,” she sighed. “I would have drowned in the heavy skirts and underclothes required in my previous life.”

A water viper, venomous fangs bared, flashed and rose above her. Irritated, she shook the vision off and drifted in freedom and clarity. The viper dissolved and shredded in the steady breeze.

She rolled once more and stretched her arms in powerful strokes, felt gravel under her feet as she reached the opposite side of the river.

Ophelia persisted.


© Liz Husebye Hartmann (2017) 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Prompt (09/14/2017): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a riptide. How can it be used to move a story? It could be a stretch of turbulent water or a pull of another kind. Go where the prompt leads even if you find it unexpected. 

Midtown Writers’Prompts, with varying times (1-5 mins) to write: Pull off it, like a sweater; I am troubled; Entering the water; noble little warrior; a viper

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