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Killing Time August 9, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Fiction, Health & Wellness, People, Word Play.

God, how she hated waiting.  

Killing time. 

Sophia reached for the travel brochure on the coffee table, glanced at the date on its cover, and realized it must have been sitting there, killing time, for most of the past decade.

She tossed it back on the tabletop and reached into the candy bowl for a Werther’s caramel . . . wondering how long the confection had been biding time with the ancient travel brochure.

On second thought . . . she tossed it back into the bowl with a plunk.

Restless, she glanced at the stuffed moose head staring down at her from over the fireplace.

Frozen in time.  Eyes unblinking.

What in the hell inspires someone to become a taxidermist, anyway?

Maybe they like the idea of stopping time in its tracks?


From a distance, she heard the tinny plunk plunk plunk of a toy keyboard wrestling with a melody that tickled the corners of her mind.

Before Sophia could put a name to the notes, she flew back in time to her Great Aunt’s house, where fragrant bars of lavender soap greeted visitors as they stepped into the sparse but tidy Powder Room.

Across time, she heard Aunt Ethel singing softly to herself in the living room as she inserted the key to wind the grandfather clock that marked time in the corner:

. . . grandfather’s clock was too tall for the shelf so it stood 90 years on the floor . . . it was taller by half than the old man himself though it weighed not a penny weight more . . .

Emerging back into the empty waiting room, the scent of lavender faded, as did Aunt Ethel’s voice, but the melody remained.

Sophia listened to the staccato rhythm as a young but determined musican tapped out the tinny tune in an adjacent apartment:

Plunk.  Plunk.  Plunk.

Each strike of the keyboard ticked off another second.  And another.  And another.

Sophia drummed her fingers, mindlessly keeping time with the beat as the second hand on her watch swept round.  And round.  And round.

The melody shifted, replaced by another familiar refrain:

. . . and another one gone . . . and another one gone . . . another one bites the dust . . .

A woman in purple scrubs with spiked hair opened the door to the waiting room and smiled apologetically.

“Sophia . . . sorry for the wait.  We’ll get you started on your chemotherapy in just a few more minutes.”

Great.  More time to kill . . .

As if it wasn’t already in short enough supply.

* * * * *

Poets & Writers Prompt:  Write a story in which one of the following objects triggers a flashback: a child’s keyboard, a bag of Werther’s Original Caramels, a taxidermied animal, a bar of lavender soap, or an old travel brochure.



1. kateshrewsday - August 9, 2012

Very evocative, Nancy. Melodies and timbres can do that to us. It reminded me of all the times I have sat in a National Health Service waiting room, knowing I just had to wait because that was the system.

Hope all’s well: thoughts with you as always 🙂

nrhatch - August 9, 2012

Thanks, Kate. All is well . . . although I’m spending far more time in “waiting rooms” than before mom arrived.

2. 2e0mca - August 9, 2012

The world of waiting for the medical profession is strewn with the magazines of previous people who waited paitiently…

A fascinating post Nancy and I think I may wish to write something of my experience in this area (if I can walk the fine line of embarrassment v understanding 😉

nrhatch - August 9, 2012

Oh, do! I’m sure you’ll manage to maintain your balance between the two.

And if you fall to the wrong side of the line, we’ll catch you! 😉

3. Embarrassment is Temporary – A Family is Permanent – Thoughts from Finchley - August 9, 2012

[…] I read Nancy’s excellent Killing Time Post it reminded me of a period in our lives where we moved to the rythms of the medical profession […]

4. Crowing Crone Joss - August 9, 2012

a beautiful introspective piece.

nrhatch - August 9, 2012

Thanks, Joss. Lots of life involves playing a “waiting game,” eh?

Crowing Crone Joss - August 10, 2012

it often seems that way. I tell people I’m a good “waiter”.

nrhatch - August 10, 2012

Writers have it good . . . as we wait, we watch. As we watch, we wonder.

5. sufilight - August 9, 2012

The ending caught me by surprise! Time seems to be her good friend and also her challenge.

nrhatch - August 9, 2012

None of us know how long we have before we reach the end of the path.

6. jannatwrites - August 10, 2012

Nice twist at the end. The old travel brochure made me a little sad. How often we put things off because of other obligations and then end up facing a missed opportunity.

nrhatch - August 10, 2012

Sometimes we’re content to imagine that we’ll do IT someday. And that’s OK . . . often 1/2 the fun is in the planning, hoping, wishing, dreaming, and scheming for our to~be (or not to be) adventures. But if there is something we desperately WANT TO DO, BE, or SEE . . . we need to find the TIME to JUST DO IT!

Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until her 80’s . . . Olympic gymnasts need to get off the ground a bit sooner than that.

7. bluebee - August 10, 2012

Well done on weaving all the elements of the prompt into an interesting and clever narrative.

nrhatch - August 10, 2012

Thanks, BB. I’ve been spending lots of time in waiting rooms lately . . . the perfect place to wander back in time.

8. cuhome - August 11, 2012

Love the way you used so many different senses to evoke mood… really fun to read, Nancy!

nrhatch - August 11, 2012

Thanks, Janet. I rarely write from prompts but loved the idea of a flashback triggered by a child’s keyboard ~ plink, plank, plunk. 😀

9. Tokeloshe - August 21, 2012

Very well done!

nrhatch - August 21, 2012

Thanks, Tok. I enjoyed this prompt from Poets and Writers.

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