A/N: Although I have gone through and edited, there is still plenty of work to be done! Any and all reviews will be appreciated more than you know :)
The sun peeked through the grimy windows, dulled by the layers of dust and dirt. Michael stretched in his king-sized bed and threw the covers off, looking across the bed to see his wife. To his surprise, she was not there. He shrugged and slid his feet out of bed, rubbing his eyes as he crossed the floor to the door.
He could now smell the bacon sizzling on the stove and hear the toaster pop. He smiled as he descended the stairs, leaning on the railing for support. Elizabeth was standing in the kitchen, her faded pink apron tied loosely around her waist. A plate was waiting for him, adorned with toast, eggs, and bacon.
Michael trudged into the kitchen and gently kissed her on the forehead. "I love you," he whispered. Elizabeth squeezed his hand and continued cooking, turning the bacon over and expertly transferring an egg to a separate plate. Michael took his plate and sat down at the table, ready to dig in.
He cut into the egg, biting into the yolky goodness and biting into a piece of toast, relishing in the buttery taste of the toast combined with the gooey egg. He moved it around in his mouth while he chewed, trying to spread the taste to every taste bud. He bit into the bacon, savoring the crispy texture and oily taste. The meal was gone too soon, and he sighed with remorse at how fast he ate and took his plate to the sink, where he rinsed it off and then put it on the drying rack.
Michael headed over to his armchair and coffee table. He opened up his laptop and logged into Evernote, opening up his long novel A Love, A Lisp, and a Librarian. He scrolled down to the bottom of the last page and started to type, but noticed that his hands weren't moving.
No big deal, he thought to himself. I'll just shake them out, take a little walk, and then we should be ready to go. It is a little early for me, he noted, checking his watch. He walked back into his bedroom as calmly as he could and then changed into some jogging pants and an Adidas exercise shirt. He tied up his shoes and waved good-bye to Elizabeth, who was enjoying her own breakfast. She waved back and blew a kiss to him. He pretended to catch it and hold it close to his heart, and she laughed.
Michael opened the door and started to walk down his driveway and onto the road. He broke into a gentle jog, following the curves of the bumpy asphalt and then turning down Maple Road, waving hello to his neighbors. He kept running in circles for about thirty minutes, mentally planning out what he wanted to do for his next story. He knew exactly how the chapter should end and started mouthing the descriptions, changing several words. He decided he was ready and walked back inside, unlacing his shoes and returning to his chair.
Now I'm ready to write, he decided. He opened up his laptop and logged in again, determined to write several pages before noon. It was only 7:45, so he had plenty of time. He set his hands on the keyboard again, but the same thing happened. His walk had been ineffective.
I need some coffee, Michael decided. He closed his laptop and held it next to his side. "I'm going to Starbucks," he called to Elizabeth.
"All right, dear. Be back soon," she responded. Again, she blew him a kiss and he pretended to catch it. This time, though, he wasn't sure if he would be able to write again. Would this be the last time he carried his laptop to Starbucks and sat at the bar for hours on end, sipping on a latte? The thought choked him up, and he brushed it out of his mind. He climbed into his red Toyota and put it in reverse, pulling out expertly into the road.
As he drove, he flipped through the several radio stations to see if there were any that would give him inspiration. There was an interesting program on MPR, but he didn't want his romance novel to become a monologue. All the other channels were playing awful heavy metal music, and he refused to honor it with his attention. With a sigh, Michael turned the wheel off and instead entertained himself by making up biographies of the other drivers.
"Gold minivan, beaten and battered. Driven by a soccer mom. It looks a little. . . beaten up, probably from so many kids. Those kids really made sure to bang it up. They probably play some type of violent sport, or maybe soccer. They probably play soccer." Michael groaned in frustration. He tried again, but to no avail. He finally arrived at Starbucks and pulled into the nearest parking spot. He tried to think of words to describe the taste of his favorite sugar-free caramel latte. It was delicious. It was warm, and the drizzle was heavenly. The caramel was sweet and thick and. . . delicious. He gave up in exasperation, resolving to wait until he had actually sampled the latte before trying to describe it.
He sauntered into Starbucks, and as usual the line wrapped around several tables and almost out the door. He waited patiently for almost 30 minutes before placing his order. As soon as his coffee was delivered, he settled down at a nearby table and sipped on his latte, opening his laptop and cracking his knuckles. He opened up a word document and typed, "The Librarian: Part 1" as a header.
Hope flowed back into his veins. Perhaps all was not lost. If he could rewrite it, it would be so much better than his previous one. He breathed a sigh of relief and moved on to the next sentence, but then the all-too familiar feeling of his joints stiffening and his brain freezing.
In a rage, he threw his barely-touched latte into the trash can and slammed his laptop shut. He stormed out of the Starbucks, ignoring all of the surprised looks and walked as quickly as he could without falling over in a fury. He yanked the door open and threw himself into the driver's seat, throwing his laptop towards the passenger side and slamming the door. He revved up the engine and pulled out into the parking lot, carelessly maneuvering onto the adjacent road.
It then occurred to Michael that he had nowhere to go. This was a desperate matter; in fact, a matter of life and death. If all else failed, he may have to seek medical attention. But no. There had to be other restaurants, some other alternative-
He snapped his fingers. Panera. That was it. He would go to Panera. He accelerated, feeling his car vibrate under him and relishing in the moment, letting his mind take him back to his high-school days, rolling the windows down and cruising on an open highway. Hope surged through him again, but his shoulders sagged in disappointment when he was unable to form that idea into a more thorough paragraph.
He arrived at Panera and pulled into a spot closest to the front, honking at another arrogant car trying to butt in on his perfect spot. The nerve some drivers had these days was just unbelievable. What disgusting and revolting person would horn in on such a lucrative business? It was like stealing diamonds from elderly people at a retirement home.
Michael climbed out of his car carefully this time, delicately plucking his laptop off the leather seat and pulling a crumpled five dollar bill from his pocket. He marched into the Panera, strutting like a king. He held his head high as he waltzed towards the front, placing an order for a cherry pastry and one small fountain drink. He paid the cashier and tipped the rest of his change, much to the gratitude of the exhausted teenager manning the register.
Exhaling deeply, Micheal opened his laptop. He went to enter his password and his fingers froze again. He tried to force them to move and realized with a gasp of horror that they were completely and fully frozen in place. Attempting to move them, he physically grabbed the fingers of his left hand with the fingers of his right hand and tried to move them. They moved easily, but no fluent thoughts came out. His mind and hands froze, unable to process anything.
In a panic, Michael closed his laptop and dialed his wife's number. Over the phone, he frantically explained what was going on. Elizabeth listened sympathetically and agreed that medical attention was needed. Butterflies fluttered in Michael's stomach as he sprinted out of Panera, leaving his laptop and all his food behind. People stared in amazement as he dove into his car and slammed the keys into the ignition, cranking up the cold air and the radio as he threw the gearshift into drive and accelerated at maximum speed out of the parking lot and onto the road to the hospital.
The other cars honked as Michael blew by, flying at over ten miles the speed limit. No policemen spotted him as Michael pressed the gas pedal to the floor of his car and forced his car as fast as possible, steering around the turns like a madman and running red lights in his frenzy. At last, he saw the blue sign and flashing lights of the hospital.
There were almost no parking spaces available, so Michael parked his car crookedly in the well-groomed grass and sprinted in the automatic doors. A nurse at the reception desk looked up at him curiously and waved him over.
"Yes, hello nurse, my name is Michael Padmore. I'm suffering from the most severe case of writer's block I've ever heard of, and it requires immediate attention."
The nurse jumped out of her seat and dialed a number on the phone. A voice boomed over the loudspeaker, "Dr. Smith, to the operating room please. Dr. Smith, the operating room."
Michael wiped away several beads of sweat from his forehead and rubbed his stomach. He felt as if he may vomit his Starbucks, and willed his esophagus shut. The nurse led him down a series of hallways and into a small operating room. Machines and other gizmos were hooked up to the wall, and assorted tools lay on trays. The room felt somehow calming, as if there would be an experienced doctor to fix all his problems. Magazines rested on a stand in front of him.
"The doctor will be in to see you shortly. Do you want me to contact a loved one for you?" The nurse's voice startled Michael, and he cleared his throat.
"I already did, thanks," Michael answered. "When she comes, her name is Elizabeth Padmore. Can you send her in here, please?"
"Certainly," the nurse answered. She hustled out of the room, gently closing the door behind her.
Michael waited for five long minutes, his knees knocking together in fear. Elizabeth burst through the door, running over to him. She was crying, her eyes puffy and red. Michael reached out, his hand trembling with even the slightest motion. Elizabeth gently took his hand, sitting in the straight-backed chair right next to him. She reassuringly stroked his hand, and Michael closed his eyes in a futile attempt to drown out the fear screaming in his mind.
There was a knock on the door, and both Michael and Elizabeth jumped. "Come in," Elizabeth called tentatively. The door creaked open, and in stepped a doctor carrying a clipboard. Close behind him followed several female nurses, carrying many separate books and their own clipboards. A male nurse wheeled in a cart filled with different distractions to try and restore the flow of creative juices.
The doctor, whose name was Dr. John Smith, stepped forward. "Hello there Michael, I have a few questions for you. It's important that you answer all of them truthfully, and to the best of your ability. First, do you have any allergies?"
"Weakness," Michael whispered in a hoarse voice. The doctor nodded and scribbled something on his clipboard.
"And are you on any medications?" The doctor asked.
"A daily dose of Fifty Shades of Grey," Michael answered.
The doctor looked startled, but made note of that on his clipboard.
"And do you have any preexisting medical conditions?" the doctor continued.
"No," Michael whispered. He looked at the floor and squeezed his wife's hand tighter.
"Thank you for your cooperation. We're going to try several different operations, and some of them may be a little dangerous. Mrs. Padmore, we're going to have to ask you to leave the room for just a few minutes. You can find some orange juice and pretzels out in the waiting room, and a nurse will be by with some famous Robert Frost poems."
Elizabeth nodded. "I love you, baby," she whispered. They squeezed hands one last time before Michael reluctantly let go. As soon as she was out of the room, the nurses adjusted Michael onto the bed and pulled the sheets over him. Once they were convinced he was comfortable, they released their grip.
One of the nurses, a blonde-haired one, walked over with a copy of People's magazine. Michael looked up, confused. "You can't possibly hope that the good writing in here will restore my circulation," he pointed out.
"The People's magazine pumps you so full of false ideas and hopes that it might just restart your creative heart. It's a simple measure, but will save us a lot of time and effort. We'll be back in a few minutes. Please be sure to read it and comprehend, but don't read it too fast or too slow," the nurse instructed.
Michael lay back in bed, and began reading. He flipped the magazine open and scanned the table of contents. He only saw boring interviews with supposedly scandalous actors and actresses with alleged crimes custom-designed to spark outrage among gossipers of all ages. It had never really interested him in the way he imagined that it would affect others. He didn't really care if Brad Pitt's wife had cheated on him with Johnny Depp, or that Ryan Gosling's wife was pregnant but furious at her husband, or the many secrets wealthy actresses revealed on their deathbed. But nonetheless, he read it and made sure to pay attention during his reading. Whenever he caught his mind wandering, he tuned right back in so he could get the painful reading done with as soon as possible.
After an excruciating hour, Michael was done. He set the magazine aside and smiled, relieved to be done with that torture. In a matter of moments, a nurse knocked on his door and entered. She smiled at him and took the magazine away, then came back with some needles and numbing gel.
"Lie back now please," she instructed. Michael obeyed, and she picked up the can. "I'm going to spray your arm with some cold gel, and then you'll feel a little prick. It's probably better if you don't look," she informed Michael.
Michael felt a little flutter in his chest. At first he grew excited, thinking maybe his creativity was stirring again, but then he realized it was nerves. He had always hated needles and anything that the doctors used that went inside him. He always worried that the needle would get stuck in his arm or the doctor wouldn't be able to get them out. Sure enough, he felt a cold mixture, about the consistency of shaving cream, on his arm and a few seconds later, there was a slight prick. He sighed with relief as the nurse began hooking up bags. She turned a monitor on and pressed some buttons, and then he heard the rate of his creative heart. It was a very faint beeping and only happened occasionally. The nurse frowned and hastily walked out of the room, clearly concerned.
The doctor was in almost immediately, running other tests. He checked Michael's blood pressure, his tonsils, his ears, his nose, and even his tongue. After finding nothing out of the ordinary, the doctor urgently called for the nurse to wheel in the cart. The nurse checked through all of the supplies, shaking her head at every option. "It won't work, Doc," she whispered. The doctor sat down and rested his head in his hands, clearly distressed.
Michael was worried, to say the least. Any doctor's worry was incredibly unprofessional and would only be displayed in front of a patient under the most extreme circumstances. This doctor was incredible, the best in the state. If he was worried, Michael's case was certainly concerning. He suddenly wished he had his wife next to him, to whisper comforting words in his ear and stroke his hand.
After a few minutes, the doctor turned around. He crossed the room and sat down in the chair next to Michael's bed, his shoulders slumping and his head in his hands. Michael waited patiently, nervously drumming his fingers on his bed. The doctor waited for just a moment, then collected himself and stood up, hands clasped behind his back.
"Mr. Padmore, I regret to inform you that your case is extremely severe, and as such calls for desperate measures. Normally, we would try several different ideas before resorting to this. But I know, judging by the dire results of previous examinations, that this is a much more severe case and therefore we jump straight to the worst-case scenario."
Michael wrinkled his brow in concern. The doctor continued hastily, "It won't involve any amputation or any serious surgery, but it is sometimes a little embarrassing for a patient to have to endure. The spot where we perform the treatment can be. . sensitive. We respect that, and we are willing to offer you an amputation if you cannot bring yourself to follow through with this treatment."
Now Michael was really concerned. More than ever, he wished his wife was next to him. He wished that he could just think straight. He wished that things could go back to normal, the way they were just hours ago. Why did it have to be him? Why not some other seasoned writer, who had reached the end of his time? He was in the blossom of his career, and he had to do anything he could to preserve it.
"Well, what's the treatment, Doc?" Michael asked.
The doctor sighed. "The treatment, Mr. Padmore, is an Internet prompt.