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16 October 2014
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Tammy Moore

Tammy Moore has been a documentary researcher, a clerk, a waitress and a shop assistant. Currently she is a writer and expects this career to stick. She writes in a variety of styles and her work has been published in an anthology of work by Northern Irish women.

Bunch of Smiles by Tammy Moore

The man with the bunch of smiles nodded at Fran. She smiled back weakly and looked down at her trousers. They were grass. She wasn't sure she liked them. She picked a piece of thread from them and dropped it to the floor. It lay there, curled up like a worm.

“Fran?” the receptionist said her name. Fran looked up and the receptionist joyed at her. She was wearing a jumper the colour of happiness today. It seemed to have rubbed off on her mood. “The doctor will see you now.”

Fran got up from the small plastic chair and walked down the narrow, dull corridor. There were pictures on the wall but they were soulless. Nothing to see. There was a plaque on her doctor's door. Dr Graham, it said. She knocked, rapping her knuckles twice.

“Come in.”

She opened the door and walked in. The room was small and envious. There was only one window. It drank the light.

“Hello, Dr. Cracker,” she said. His mouth twitched, annoyed, and he pointed at the chair. She sat down. The leather moused under her jeans.

“You haven't been taking your medicine,” he said.

Fran looked away.

“I don't like it,” she said. “I don't see why I have to take it if I don't want to.”

Dr Graham leant forwards, bracing his hands on his knees.

“It helps you, Fran. You know that.”

She shook her head.

“I don't need help. I'm fine. I just see things differently.”

He slumped back into his chair with a sigh. His fear coloured hair framed his bony face.

“Doesn't it cause problems at work?” he asked. “Your mother said you'd gotten a job in a kitchen.”

Fran nodded and smiled. “Yes. I love it and my…problem…doesn't bother anyone. The chef says it's interesting, to see his food in a different way. He didn't even know steak was purple. He thought it would be red.”

The doctor looked frustrated. He opened his mouth to say something but changed his mind. He picked up a pen and made a note on his pad. Then he pointed it at her forehead.

“How's your head.”

Fran reached up and touched her forehead. The thick scar ran along her temple from hairline to eyebrow.

“It cabbages sometimes,” she said. “Not as much as it used to.”

The doctor made another note. He pretended to be absorbed in them and threw the next question at her when she wasn't prepared.

“Do you feel guilty still, about your son?” he asked.

Fran's throat closed up. Tears welled in her eyes and dripped down her face. They tasted like spring.

The doctor handed her a tissue.

“You have to face it, Fran,” he said. “That is where your problem comes from. You don't have synthesia in its medical form. You're just trying to avoid facing your grief, your guilt over being the driver that day.” He stopped.

Fran wiped her eyes and sniffed. He reached out and touched her fingers. “Tell me how you feel, right now?”

She blew her nose, balled it up and wiped her eyes.

“Like salted glass.”

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More from this writer:

Short Stories
Bunch of Smiles

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