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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Flat (01/03/13)

TITLE: Multifaceted Flatness.
By Danielle King


The kitchen helper wiped clean the breakfast table, carefully skirting around Sarah’s clasped hands and her little pile of toast crumbs. Behind her, others were sitting in a neat semicircle watching anything, everything that came on TV.

Someone punched the air and shouted “Hallelujah. Praise God, for He is mighty to deliver.” Another replied “Shut it dude. You’re dead.” Everyone continued to stare at the screen. Sarah thought this was a very queer place indeed.

Three men entered the room. The tall one wore a dapper suit and peered over round spectacles: “What about Jean Smith?” He asked the guy wearing open toe sandals. No socks.

“Remains flat.” He replied, twiddling a gold stud in his left nostril. Sarah hadn’t noticed a flat person at breakfast. It crossed her mind that Jean Smith may have taken a tumble as she vacated the table.

The professor eyed up no socks and ponytail bloke and turned to the short twitchy guy. Eager to impress, he declared Jean to be the flattest person he’d seen. Sarah wondered why they chewed over the minutiae instead of hauling Jean to her feet.

The domestic was round with her mop and red bucket. For three days she’d swished around Sarah’s bare feet. Today she politely asked her to move. Sarah shuffled begrudgingly to the vacant chair in the semicircle and was surprised to find no one prostrate on the carpet. She rationalised that Jean Smith must have a deficiency in the mammary gland department and didn’t fall over after all. Either way, she hadn’t the wherewithal to check it out.

Returning from his routine post-breakfast visit to the bathroom, Ben Jones launched a barrage of verbal abuse in Sarah’s direction. She had bagged his special chair. He threw up his hands and implored God to throw this licentious creature off his throne.

Sarah couldn’t summon up enough oomph to move twice in five minutes, so chose to ignore Ben Jones and his connections in high places. “The man’s a buffoon.” She muttered.

All day long Sarah stared at the wall. Her thoughts were jumbled and sluggish and her greatest effort was to sigh. Over and over again she sighed. In fact so often did she unwittingly sigh that big Marjory at the opposite end of the semicircle began to hyperventilate. Sarah wished she had enough wind in her sails to do that too. The nurse was called to reassure Marjory with positive words and a sharp needle in the gluteal area.

Sarah was astonished when big Marj returned with a pillow and stretched out on the floor. She regarded this a distinctively bizarre way to behave and wondered if there could be varying aspects to flatness. Maybe Jean Smith was not anatomically challenged after all.

This idea took root in Sarah’s disenchanted soul and before long those latent thought processes were grinding and squealing back to life.

Mary Jenkins was startled when Sarah looked her square in the eye and asked about her spider. She’d thought she was a foreigner from Spain. It had been therapeutic for Mary to offload her neuroticism’s to the blank canvas that was Sarah’s face; that didn’t speak so never judged.

“My spider? Not good.” She’d replied. “A hind leg keeps tickling the back of my throat, but nobody believes me.”

“Neither do I,” said Sarah. “I think you’re mad!” The nurse observed that Sarah was on her way up. “Up where?” She’d asked, and then remembered the infiltration of flat people.

Her assailant, Ben Jones donned his dog collar and morphed into Reverend B Jones. He was being discharged and wanted to shake everyone’s hand. He dutifully confessed to lying regarding current issues around explosive flatulence. Mary struck up a chord:

‘When the trump of God shall sound, and the nations gather round…’ She was gutted when Sarah questioned her ability to sing with a spider leg tickling her tonsils. Mary told the truth. It had crept into her ear while she slept. Its rapid growth occasioned a sizable black leg poking from her nose one Tuesday morning.

Sensing an irritating itch under the skin, Sarah fathomed that the company she was currently keeping was gnawing at her fragile nerves. Against medical advice she took her discharge.

Absurdly intoxicated with an unstoppable rush of careless passion for the Reverend B Jones, she grabbed him up close. Together they danced--out through the door, around the corner and down the road to Cloud Cuckoo Land… where flat people are noticeably absent.

*In terms of Mental Health ‘flat affect’ refers to a severe reduction in emotional expression, particularly in people with clinical depression and some psychotic disorders.

*Please note - No patients were harmed during the compilation of these recollections from my rapidly diminishing memory bank.

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This article has been read 582 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Noel Mitaxa 01/10/13
Your title sounded something like an oxymoron at first, and I found it hard to get a handle on where you were leading us at first. Maybe a brief character profile, or a patient's previous history may have helped more than having to wait for your author's note. Despite this, the clinical feel is there throughout, with good descriptive input.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/11/13
This is an interesting story about the patients in a mental hospital. I caught on to the flat affect right away (I had thought of doing a similar story) You had a nice subtle sense of humor and this was definitely an interesting and different story.
Ellen Carr 01/12/13
This is a very creative take on the topic and treated a group of 'interesting' people with humor. Even this reader was left questioning her sanity. Well done.
Joe Moreland01/12/13
You put us there completely. I felt their confusion, perplexity and Sarah's emotionless "flatness". My only suggestion is that the references to Jean Smith being flat seemed to be a part of the story to meet the topic, and I think you already accomplished that, with wonderful subtlety, through Sarah. Very nice entry. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Sarah Elisabeth 01/12/13
This was very interesting and well done. You did good in putting me in the mind of Sarah. The ending was spot on. Great writing!
lynn gipson 01/12/13
This is awesome. Being bipolar all my life I know a little about "flat affect" and I loved the way you described each patient so convincingly. Great story!
Amy Michelle Wiley 01/12/13
I liked the main character's slow progression to being a bit more alert. I felt like the ending was a bit rushed and fuzzy, but otherwise much enjoyed this.
Lillian Rhoades 01/13/13
Your knowledge of mentally compromised patients shines through. I'm impressed with your ability to turn great descriptions of multi-faceted:-)behaviors into a well-coordinated story; even though at first, I searched for a theme.

Also wondering if the title aptly represents what the story is about. Overall, a difficult write with good results.:-)
Bea Edwards 01/13/13
Very interesting story. Somewhat spooky though as I identified with some of the characters... Are you sure about your disclaimer ;-} ?
Seriously you did a fantastic job at bringing us into the psyche ward!
C D Swanson 01/15/13
Having worked as a counselor/director for so many years in the mental health field,(particularly for the elderly) I knew instinctually to which you were refering from the very first paragraph. You did a phenomenal job presenting the behavior and patterns of speech (flat-affect) and describing the overall environment.

Good writing and unique approach for the topic at hand.

God bless~
Judith Gayle Smith02/11/13
Most enjoyable, and very thought provoking . . .