May 1, 2012 Fiction




Mental Rest


Nancy E. Boyd


Holly could feel the Mercury rising and off in the distance the relentless sound of traffic swooshing by on the interstate made her head pound, each agonizing throb increasing in duration. Her eye was twitching with each pounding pulse, making it difficult to focus out of her left eye. She’d taken the pills the doctor gave her but they were useless. The doctor was useless. He was the kind man who decided that a pair of breasts in a push up bra was an excellent reason to write a prescription. He probably had a Stepford wife at home waiting for him in a clinically clean kitchen with a plate of chops and his slippers. The thought of him chomping down on some chops made Holly’s skin crawl, hastening her decision to toss the pills.

After she flushed them she stood looking at the water filling up the toilet bowl, mesmerized by how the level crept up the sides so gradually. She felt like she used to when she was a kid in the middle of play when she would suddenly space out for a few glorious minutes of mental rest. In fact, if she didn’t know any better she might think it was taking her headache away. Was it? She stood there for a few seconds longer, then flushed again. Unbelievably the throbbing was now intermittant jumping and her left eye had stopped twitching entirely. She flushed again and and again for a total of five flushes, each one taking her pain down the bog hole with the water. This went on for some time until finally she couldn’t feel so much as a wincing reminder of her prior agony. Holly got herself ready for bed, grateful to have found such an odd cure for migraines.
Sometime during the night Holly felt the tell tale sensation of a pulsing behind her left eye. She rolled over hoping it would go away. It didn’t. She got up and went to the bathroom, flushed the toilet to test her earlier theory, more out of desperation than scientific fascination. Just as before the pain gradually disappeared with each flush. This time it took ten flushes to get rid of it completely. Once again Holly made her way to the bed and flopped down in exhaustion, quickly falling asleep. Within two hours her twitching eye woke her and once again she headed for the bathroom, the number of flushes increasing to fourteen before the pain subsided. Not trusting her toilet cure this time, she grabbed her pillow and a blanket, making a bed on the floor next to the toilet. This time I won’t have to walk so far she thought to herself. One way or another I’m getting rid of this damn migraine!
Sometime near daybreak Holly’s head began to explode, her eyes blinded by geometric light shapes like those you see in a kaleidoscope. Immediately she knelt in front of the toilet, reaching up in agony and barely finding the handle to flush. She passed thirty flushes before the pain crept back down her neck and her vision returned to normal. But just as she was moving away from the bowl the pain came back with a vengeance. Holly flushed and flushed and each time she stopped the pain attacked like a hungry lion. She sat on the side of the tub and when she reached 105 flushes she stopped counting, she didn’t have the energy anymore. Her arm was numb from the continous motion of pushing the handle down and her muscles ached for leaning over the toilet bowl. Still, it was nothing compared to the piercing torture behind her eyes when she stopped flushing. If she even waited a second beyond the end of the cycle of the bowl filling with water it was back and monstrous in its intensity.
Soon Holly lost track of the time, nothing matter but the movement of water in the toilet and being pain free. On and on it went until Holly noticed the water in her pipes making a rocking and creaking sound. With each flush now the creaking grew louder soon to be replaced by a rumbling. Just as she was about to push the handle down again she heard a loud bang inside the wall and then another but this time the wall broke apart behind the toilet, a torrent of water gushing in and surrounding her, filling the hallway outside. She ran to the door but by now couldn’t open it because of the pressure of a wall of water coming from the kitchen. “The pipes in the kitchen must have burst as well!” She thought. She was trapped and the water level was rising so fast around her legs she would be submerged in minutes. Panicking she started to scream hoping her upstairs neighbour would be home to hear here. She screamed until her voice was too hoarse to even whisper, the water now up to her neck as she floated close to the ceiling. Holly bravely held her own for a long time until she finally went under, her lungs filling with water.
A week later the upstairs neighbour returned from a visit with her grandparents. When she went down to ask Holly if she’d seen the doctor about her headaches, she found her lying on the floor next to the toilet, dead, soaking wet but with the most peaceful expression on her face, the type you get when you’re a kid in the middle of play and you space out for a few glorious minutes of mental rest.







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  1. michael j. solender May 13, at 21:30

    mr. marcus always captures the moment and here he's done that and then some including before and after. it is the fine and toothsome piece that takes you right there with its immediacy and marcus is the unmitigated master of this high artform. bravo sir.

    • Marcus Speh July 27, at 15:50

      michael, what a great comment and mini-review, thank you so much, mate! i hope summer is treating you well!

  2. Stella Pierides May 03, at 13:56

    Marcus, as an unclassified European, I sympathize with the writer in Blunderbuss. Lovely stuff in all three here – including the swearing Paradise!

  3. Marcus Speh May 01, at 19:26

    Beautiful, Stella—coincidentally, I've just begun to read Tolstoy's "Resurrection", so the mindset that allows for silence and longs for a spiritual journey is all mine, too.

    • Stella Pierides May 02, at 20:15

      Marcus, thanks! I'd love to read this too! Now that you mention it, I will... I've read Kazantzakis' Fratricides... a different kind of monastic life alltogether!

  4. Chris May 01, at 17:06

    Nancy, wow, I was thinking I might have to try this next time a migraine strikes, but what a price to pay for a bit of mental rest! Love how this piece keeps building. The narrative kept pulling me along, but I had no idea of where it was taking me.

  5. Chris May 01, at 17:00

    Stella, this monk's 'sin' is a blessing. Were the other monks to know, they would envy him his escape,his ability to immerse himself in such a magnificent meditation. Your description of his imaginings is so vivid. I can just feel that seaweed, and those nibbling fishes. Great piece!

    • Stella Pierides May 02, at 20:09

      Chris, thanks so much! Yes, it is an escape. Though, the other monks may have their own ways of escaping too... Imagine how many stories this would make...

  6. Chris May 01, at 16:54

    Marcus, you had me from the first line, with the billboard incitement. Love how the tourist begins with a sort of unsure brazenness,the middle section moves into the natural world of Texas, and then comes the bit of cultural discomfort in the final section. The last line is a gem. This piece reads like a road trip.


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