about the author

Troy Manning is a graduate of Westminster Seminary California. He has recently been taking literature classes at San Diego State University & Cal State University, San Marcos. His stories have appeared in Monster Gallery, Fierce Notes 1 & 2, & in the webzines Weirdyear & Bewildering Stories.

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There Was an Elderly Woman

Troy Manning

Desmond could bear Andra’s kicking no longer, so he went to sleep on the couch. He couldn’t understand why, despite the older they got, her kicking seemed to increase both in frequency and force. He wondered how all this would play out as their bones continued to grow more brittle.

One Wednesday afternoon, Andra was admitted to the emergency room for what was thought to be appendicitis. When they opened her up, they discovered an old shoe. No amount of questioning Andra or scouring of medical journals could provide the gastrointestinal specialists with an explanation. And Desmond’s hopes that the discovery would bring an end to the kicking were quickly dashed, as they informed him that several vital organs had fused with the shoe and its removal could prove fatal.

The next few nights passed without incident as Desmond placed a couple of pillows between he and Andra. But in the early hours of the Monday following, he awoke to the sound of loud snoring. Though unexceptional in itself, the sudden introduction of this sound after forty-four years of marriage was rather disconcerting. Earplugs worked adequately for a couple of nights, but both Desmond and Andra became quite concerned when the snoring also began occurring while Andra was awake.

Further exploratory surgery revealed a tiny purple man tangled in the strings of the shoe that Andra’s body housed. Though anaesthetized, Andra snored whenever the man attempted to scream out through a throat encircled by lace. After freeing him, the doctors saw that the man was attached to one of the strings as to an umbilical cord. They prepared to sever the string but, being wiser than they, the man was able to talk them out of it, promising it would never happen again.

After many months of harassment from the press, Desmond and Andra relocated to a humble dwelling on Tonga, a boon to their anonymity and a balm to their arthritis. Their stay was short-lived, however, as Andra began manifesting new symptoms. The first was an evident loss of hair. What was most peculiar about this was that the detached hairs were nowhere to be found.

Next to be affected was her vision, with Andra voicing her consternation about an intermittent fogginess. Desmond noticed that on most mornings Andra’s eyes were a bit cloudy, but tended to clear by afternoon. Though he repeatedly encouraged Andra to see a doctor, she always declined.

It wasn’t until Desmond acquired an unusual symptom of his own that Andra was willing to try the island’s medical services. Desmond complained to the Tongan doctor of a whistling sound that at times reached deafening decibels. When Andra first heard it she asked Desmond to check his hearing aide. After receiving no response, she saw it wasn’t in and could tell the sound was causing him great discomfort.

On close inspection of Desmond’s ear, the doctor discovered several small birds’ nests near the drum. They were strangely white and composed of strands of human hair. “Okay, one puzzle solved,” acknowledged Andra, “but that still doesn’t explain my blurred vision.”

When neither optometrist nor brain surgeon were able to diagnose the cause of Andra’s occasional clouding, Desmond and Andra returned to the States and the same specialists they had seen previously. Upon opening her back up, the doctors saw the little man sitting at a tiny table. His coloration appeared normal and he was enjoying a morning smoke.

The surgeon general was summoned. He spoke with the little man about the potential hazards of his actions, and threatened to have him extracted. After a lengthy exchange, the surgeon general ordered the team to sew Andra back up. When Andra awoke, the general sat down with and Desmond and her. He calmly explained that, as the body ages, one can expect to experience mysterious things.

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