Friday, June 06, 2008

Ventilation, Part 2 (fictionalized history)

(In 1952, polio reached its peak in the United States with 21,000 cases of paralytic polio. The first polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. By 1965, the total paralytic cases had fallen to 61. In this fictionalized history series, we will be experiencing the aftermath of polio, before the dramatic triumph of a vaccine. If you're just joining us, go back to Part 1.)

Julia's mother washed the dishes at the sink. Suds swirled in the rinse water. Outside the window, a blanket of blue settled over the light of day.

She pinched the phone against her shoulder. "Did you talk to her?"


"Do we know how bad it is?"

"Not really. But they left with the ambulance. As far as I know, they're still at the hospital. I think they stayed with her overnight."

"My God," she said. "I can't imagine."

"I heard that she had trouble breathing."

She stopped washing. "Oh no."

"Was she in Julia's class?"

"No. Julia knows her to say hi, but they're not friends."

"Good thing school is letting out."

"Amen. That's all I can say."

A bird thudded against the dining room window.

She saw its brown body land in the flower bed.

The wings splayed motionless. The tiny beak scissored, but no air seemed to come.


She turned.

Her little boy squinted in his mismatched pajamas.

"What are you doing up?" She muffled the receiver.

"Julia's crying."

"She is?"

"I can't sleep."

She uncovered the phone. "Sorry. I'm going to have to let you go. Something's going on upstairs. Keep me posted on what happens."

Before she headed for the stairs, she noticed the bird stopped struggling.

On to Part 3.


Scott said...

I'm not totally sure what's going on, but the bird is making me nervous. I like the contrasts you presented in part one, the opposing effects of sun and water.

Sarah Hina said...

This has a very natural feel and progression, Jason, with your usual attention to detail. The calm picture of domesticity receiving a hard knock.

I, too, am fearful for Julia...

SzélsőFa said...

What a great continuation to Part One.
It feels natural and frightening.

I'm sorry to mention, but the bird and its actions is bordering being a bit too much of a thread for me, but it is managed well. It is not overdone.

Meghan said...

The bird is a chilling image. I sense bad things about to happen...

paisley said...

ok.. so i am hooked... keep it coming......

Anonymous said...

Scott, they used to call polio, "the summer plague." The fear is spreading.

Sarah, from a technical standpoint, this is the level of intensity I use for novel writing. Sometimes switching back and forth between high intensity (blog) writing and novel writing makes me nervous. Glad this feels natural!

Szelsofa, perhaps you feel like the bird was too much of a heavy-handed metaphor. The could be. I like to play with the environment as an essential character in the story.

Meghan, something is afoot. I'm a little frightened too. ;)

Paisley, I'm looking forward to this series. Julia's experience is going to be a powerful one for me.

The Electric Orchid Hunter said...

I've always found it intriguing that polio cases only started taking on epidemic proportions in the 20th century. Which tribe of people was it hiding in before that? Why were they immune? I wonder...

SzélsőFa said...

Don't get me wrong: the idea to have something to introduce the coming tragedy or a hint to suggest that something bad comes along is great.
I think using an outer element is also superb.

I only meant that it was a bit too obvious for me.
I'm so eager to read further on - as other commenters have said, this is one of the best series you wrote so far.

Ello said...

That was so ominous. AM very intrigued! I can't wait to read the rest!

Anonymous said...

EOH, I read a little about why that happened. Polio's effects tend to worsen the older the victim. Before sanitation, many infants got polio and were never affected. Once those early infections were reduced, infections tended to be sporadic and affected older children and adults. That's when most of the bad things happened.

Szelsofa, a fair point.

Ello, this vignette will be a bit different in that it will center on one person. Julia.

iLL Man said...

These are excellent Jason. Looking forward to the next one.

beth♥ said...

Oh Jason - It should go without saying that I am sucked in ... again! :o) I wish I could master dialogue as you do.

Anonymous said...

Ill Man, thanks! These are going to be fun.

Beth, thanks so much for saying so! Writing dialog is a pleasure for me. Of all the elements, it tends to flow the easiest. I try not to think too hard about why. I'd probably end up spoiling it.

Vesper said...

The bird as an omen...
Good writing, Jason. I also felt the naturalness of it. I think it's a good idea to offer some relief through lower intensity writing, considering the frightful topic.