The Emergency Ward

  • 16 Apr - 22 Apr, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

Sean Vacca pressed his way through another morning, following the cracked sidewalks like a programmed warehouse robot. It was another grey Tuesday in November, and it was time for the weekly junior college faculty meeting.

The meeting weighed heavy on Sean’s faded dreams. He had already burned through his allotted absences during the first semester. The darkness that haunted his soul seeped through every crack and line in the wood paneled faculty room.

Dr Caun was the president of the Jacksonville State Junior college. He began the session with his usual monotone rants about tight budgets and complaining parents. The senior faculty members made some attempt to be interested, but their heads soon began to nod like a bobblehead on the dashboard of a low-rider.

Sean’s head bowed low and his long dark bangs hung like a curtain to hide his web surfing eyes. The crack of a ruler struck the table and broke through the static noise. The loud pop startled him and Sean’s smartphone fell to the floor.

“Mr Vacca! Mr Vacca! What are your thoughts on the budget crisis? Does your job not mean anything to you?” Dr Caun demanded.

Sean composed himself, brushed the hair away from his eyes and half-heartedly replied, “Yes.”

Dr Caun shook his head and asked, “Yes, yes what?”

“Yes to all.” He said with a dramatic flair while waving his arm.

“Well then. Thank you very much young Mr Vacca.” replied Dr Caun sarcastically. He continued and said, “Thank you for volunteering to lead the local writer’s club at the library.”

“What? Wait, I never agreed to babysit any wannabe writers.”

“You said, yes to all.” mocked Dr Caun as he mimicked the previous dramatic expression.

Dr Caun felt that the Junior College could stand some positive community involvement and had intended on asking for a faculty member to volunteer. This opportunity for publicity was too good to let pass.

The tension in the room snapped like an old guitar string as the other faculty members tried to hold their snickers and smirks. It was just another loss in the game of life for Mr Vacca. He could not imagine what kind of victory was waiting just around the bend.

The following Saturday was the first meeting where he introduced himself to the group of amateur writers. The monthly meeting was held in the basement of the old downtown library. The cold room had about 20 folding chairs, set up church style.

It was already 10:45 and there was only 3 people occupying the seats. The nervous Mr Vacca acted busy and wrote his name on the whiteboard. He shuffled a stack of papers that he had brought to hand for a learning activity.

“Hey Mr, we usually start at 10:30.” said Jimmy Necot. Jimmy was a leathery, tan, farmer. His starched pressed jeans and pointy boots set him apart from his peers. People called him little Jimmy but that did not seem to bother him. He sat on the second row of seats with his green, John Deere cap in the chair right next to him.

“Is this it? Where is everyone?” asked Mr Vacca as he looked at his phone, and then to the clock on the wall.”

“There are usually a few more folks here, but some people probably stayed home because of the cold weather.” answered Susan Graham. She is an elderly woman of some means, wearing a mink shawl and a huge black handbag. The aluminum walker that she used, stood beside the last chair in the row, and partially blocked the aisle.

Mr Vacca walked to the door and then into the hallway and looked for anyone who might lost or running a few minutes late. He noticed some people had set up display tables for a woodworker’s art exhibit. There were many items already on the tables including decorative bowls, toy trains and even some musical instruments. When he turned to go back into the room, he accidentally knocked a beautiful wooden ink pen off the table.

“That’s okay, honey.” said a very large woman standing on the other side of the table. She was wearing blue jean overalls covering a bright pink t-shirt. “You can keep it. I didn’t even make it. My pappy said that he found it when he was working on the Panama Canal. It’s made from some kind of illegal rosewood. That thing has given me nothing but a headache. I can’t even sell it, and, I am tired of lugging it around. You will be doing me a favour by taking it, darling.”

Mr Vacca studied it closely for a moment, then put it in his shirt pocket and said, “Well, thank you ma’am. This is the first nice thing that has happened to me in a long while. He went back into the room and introduced himself.

“Hello, everyone my name is Sean Vacca. I will be leading this write club for a while and I hope that we can all learn a thing or two.”

“What do you do for your day job?” asked Paul Krisp as he neatly folded his business suit jacket over the back of a chair.

Mr Vacca cleared his throat and said,” I currently teach literature at Jacksonville State.”

“I thought they shut that place down.” said Jimmy

“Oh no. That school will outlast us all.” replied Susan.

“It is a drain on our economy and the kids that go there are a nuisance to this entire county.” complained Paul.

Mr Vacca handed out the papers that he brought for the planned activity.

“As you can see, I have prepared examples of famous opening sentences. What I would like for you to do, is write a similar sentence that you would use, if you were going to write a novel about your life and had the chance to live it all over again. You can begin now.”

A few minutes passed by when Jimmy Necot spoke up,” Excuse me, Mr Vacca. I seemed to have lost my pen. Do you have one that I could borrow?”

Mr Vacca reached into his shirt pocket and handed Jimmy the pen that he had picked up earlier in the hallway. When Jimmy started to write his opening sentence, something very strange happened.

The black ink that made the letters on the white paper began to spread like drops of iodine in a bucket of ammonia. It diffused to the edge of the paper, across the floor and finally to the baseboards and up the walls. The ink that trailed up the walls formed cracks that opened wider and wider.

Everyone, except Jimmy, was shocked to see the fantasy world formed right before their eyes. Jimmy wrote about his childhood dream of being a racecar driver. The walls of the library basement disappeared and the scene opened up to a huge NASCAR race.

Mr Vacca reached up and felt headphones on his ears and looked at the microphone placed in front of him. He was an announcer on a trackside tower. The racecars roared past in a thunderous symphony and someone beside him elbowed him in the side.

Jimmy’s opening sentence read like this, “The announcers could not believe their eyes, number 48, Little Jimmy Necot takes the lead on the final lap.”

As the same moment that Jimmy was writing his sentence, Mr Vacca began to speak, “I can’t believe my eyes, number 48, Little Jimmy Necot takes the lead on the final lap.”

The pen that Jimmy was writing with, had the ability to create the world into whatever he wanted. Jimmy won the race and was ushered into the winner’s circle. Paul Krisp, dressed in his business suit presented him with a trophy and a jug of milk. Susan Graham presented him with a check in the amount of $500,000 dollars.

Jimmy looked at the check, the huge crown, pretty girls and half full bottle of milk in his hand and said, “This can’t be real.” He folded the check and put it in his pocket. When he did, he noticed the magic pen was there. He took it out and noticed some tiny writing engraved on the golden band in the middle. It read, “Stay today, give it away. With this pen live again.” He then realized what happened. He could stay in this fantasy life or go back to the life he had before.

Mr Vacca, current NASCAR announcer pushed a microphone into Jimmy’s chest raised his voice over the noisy crowd and asked, “So what happens next Jimmy?” He thought for a moment about his wife and kids and even the old farm. He realized that his life was nothing without his family and then he knew exactly what to do. He took the check back out of his pocket and wrote on the back. “Going home.”

The ink began to spread again and they were all magically returned to the library basement. What seemed like hours took only the amount of time it took Jimmy to actually write his sentence.

“Did that really just happen?’ asked Paul. “What kind of a meeting place is this?” he asked. His rational, business mind could not wrap itself around what just happened.

Susan Graham’s eyebrows began to twitch and raise. She pulled her aluminum walker in front of her and struggled to stand up and said, “Dear Sir, would you be so kind as to let me borrow that pen for a moment?”

“Now hold on Miss Graham, we don’t really know what is going on here.” uttered Mr Vacca.

Before anyone could make a move, Susan began to write with the magic pen. Her hand trembled as the ink began to flow. It spread to the walls of the room and the entire transformation happened all over again. This time when the walls disappeared, the scene was set on a busy NYC street.

Susan stood there on the sidewalk in front of an old Musical Theater. There was a sign hanging over the doors that read, ‘Closed’. Her mink was draped over her shoulders and she was holding a tan suitcase and a small purse in her right hand, and was hailing a cab with the other.

A cab pulled up and the driver was Mr Sean Vacca.

He leaned over so he could see out of the passenger window and asked, “Well are you going to get in or not?”

Susan knew exactly what she wanted. She had stood at this same spot 60 year before. She had always dreamed of being an actress and a dancer. She had made her way to NYC as a young woman, but when she arrived to the Theater, it was closed because they had run out of money.

In order to follow her dreams now, she would have to spend her family’s inheritance to reopen the Theater. If she chose to leave, she could live what is left of her life with financial security, but never realise her dream to become an actress. She had always regretted the decision that she had made years earlier, and now this was her opportunity to live again.

Jimmy Necot emerged from behind the closed doors. He was the maintenance man at the theater and was the last person to leave. When he saw Susan he asked, ”What are you still doing here?”

She sat her suitcase on the ground and said, ”I think I am going to stay.”

Paul Krisp walked up, dressed in a business suit and said, “You better not leave that suitcase alone. Somebody is likely to pick it up.”

Jimmy picked up the suitcase and said, “I got it ma’am.”

“Thank you Jimmy.”

Paul looked at the sign on the door of the building and said, “It’s about time they closed this dump.”

“Oh, it’s not closed.” said Susan. She took the magic pen out of her purse, walked up to the sign and wrote the word ‘not’ in front of the word, ‘closed’. She noticed a sparkle on the golden band in the middle of the pen and read it to herself,” Stay today, give it away. With this pen live again.”

The horn on the cab sounded and Sean lifted the bill of his cap, and shrugged his shoulders. Susan took out a small piece of paper and wrote the words, ‘Stay today.” and she handed it to Sean.

As soon as Sean took hold of the pen and paper, the transformation started again.

When it was complete, they looked around the room and Susan was not there. Her walker was there but she was not.

“How are you going to explain this?” asked Paul.

“I don’t know.” replied Sean

as he handed the magic pen to Paul.

“That’s right, it is your turn now.” said Jimmy.”

Paul looked at the pen,

and walked it through his fingers like a drum major with a baton and said, ”Hand me my legal pad.”