Couch to 80k Week 4 Day 2 – turning facts to fiction

Couch to 80k podcast is a writer’s bootcamp with daily exercises by Tim Clare and is part of his Death by 1000 paper cuts blog.

Yesterday Tim commanded we scour memories for something that sticks, something with a sensory component. We wrote out a list, then picked one and wrote it up as a paragraph of notes. (I sort of wrote it as a story, which was a mistake) you can read it from yesterday’s blog post.

Today was about taking that paragraph of notes and trying to give it a sense of being a story, by giving fictionalising it as first person narrative. I actually wrote yesterday’s notes almost as a first person narrative (maybe I ballsed up the brief yesterday? Maybe it’s just how I feel comfortable writing anything, really – so used to the blog and how it needs to be written)

So I tried to pump it up a bit, give it something more specific – people say and do things that, honestly, I don’t remember them saying or doing. But nobody wants to read a story full of hedged language (“I think they said something like” is much weaker than “they said”)

Anyway, that’s today’s task. We’ve to keep this til tomorrow, so I’m guessing we’re gonna play around with it. I’m fairly pleased there’s a narrative arc going on even in this small thing (Me “This will be easy!” *thing happens* Me “that was awful and I’m an idiot for thinking it would be easy” – this, btw, is largely the story of my life)

Here’s the snippet:


There was nothing about the letter that made me nervous. There was nothing about the day that made me nervous. Even, eventually arriving in the waiting area, sitting down in the pure white room, with the orderlies moving people in and out, still nothing to worry about.

“Mr Holden, Mr Holden, to room 3”

Ah, ok. Maybe some apprehension then. I knew what was supposed to happen. But the words, the words didn’t really have a meaning. Not then.

“Gastroscopy”

Obviously I’d googled it, I’m not a fool. It recommended you bring someone with you and you can’t drive if you’re knocked out with a general anaesthetic. Well, firstly I’m the family driver so I had no standbys and secondly, who wants to wipe out two days for recovery for a quick procedure? Not me. No sir. No thank YOU. Nope.

What a idiot.

There were brief introductions, I changed, behind closed curtains, into a robe that covered about 80% of my circumference, not quite the whole of the moon, as it were.

I lay down on my sides, the recovery position, says the nurse. Not that I’m recovering, no need to. Not at this point.

From my prone position, I see the doctor walk in passes pleasantries with the staff, mask up and says nothing to me. I don’t suppose he’s used to too many people wanting to be awake for this bit.

The tube goes in.

It doesn’t sound like much “the tube goes in”, but it goes in and it keeps going and going. It feels like this will never end, like somehow I’m swallowing a python longer than my body, one end sitting in my stomach the other out of my open mouth and across the table.

I felt the corrugated ribbing of the sides of it as it goes further and further down, and then I start gagging. And don’t stop.

At some point the doctor tells me what’s going on, points to the small tv that was showing BBC Intestines, beamed directly from my stomach to your living room.

I blink tears out of my eyes, try to nod between gags and hoped he doesn’t ask me anything.

Please just let this be over.

Finally, “We’re withdrawing”. I can feel the camera leave me, like running your hands along railings as a child, I can feel it gliding and bumping along the side of my throat as it goes.

“And there we are, if you’d just like to go through next door”

Gladly. I fake-smile, mumble a thank you. Moving slowly in to the next room and wondering exactly what I just thanked them for.

Within minutes I was ready to leave. My throat feels a little horse, but I’m no worse the wear.

I’m glad I didn’t get the anaesthetic, I’d’ve been here for several more hours.

“if there’s ever a next time,” I tell the nurse as I leave “knock me the fuck out”

(Hey, if you got this far, well done, I honestly am surprised if any one is reading this. Sorry about the swears. Tried to do it without, I actually went in an edited the story as best I could, but that ending just felt like the right sort of punch)

Author: PJ

Belfast based Comic Artist who won’t shut up on twitter.