March 8: “Appendix” by Gerry Wilson

Good morning, Story366ers! Wait, is it morning? Hard to tell, because WE MADE IT TO DAYTONA BEACH!! After Three-balls’ uncle, Uncle TB, gave us the free gator tour in Lake Okeechobee yesterday, we decided it was time to reach our destination, a sixteen-hour drive that had gone on for three days. I was able to talk Cornhole and Jimmy Z out of poaching a gator to take back to Springfield, though Cornhole did lose a little bit of a finger in an attempt to pet said gator when it approached the side of the boat. It’s just a little bit on the side of his pinky, like a hangnail went awry, and while the tour company insisted he go to the hospital, we settled on four bags of those marshmallows they feed the gators and got on the road—free brunch!

The three-hour drive back to Daytona offered me the opportunity to read and write today’s entry, which is great, because I was able to get into Gerry Wilson’s excellent collection Crosscurrents and Other Stories, out last year from Press53. I read a couple of the stories, “Appendix” and “Crosscurrents,” liking them both. I usually like to cover the title stories of books, but “Appendix” stuck with me a little more, so here goes.

“Appendix” tells the story of Cynthia, an overworked surgical nurse engaged in an affair with the hospital’s head surgeon, Dr. Dan. She’s winding down a double-shift when Dan asks her to stay on for an emergency appendectomy—she’s his best nurse, as well as his lover—so she agrees to stay. The structure of the story then pulls a back-and-forth, alternating between the surgery prep/surgery and a history of Cynthia and Dan’s relationship. Wilson reveals what she has to as she moves along, creating a nice feeling of suspense to the story. Plus, there’s the teenager on the operating table who might die, which honestly, was on my mind the whole time: Is Wilson going to kill this girl? That would certainly add stakes. It’s a minor part of the story, really, but it hung there for me all the same.

What the back-and-forth structure reveals about this affair is that Cynthia is not at all in control of it. Cynthia’s dream is a simple one, to have Dan over to her house, make him a nice dinner, have her know the real her. She’s been planning it for a while, too, just how the place would look, what she’d cook, what music would be playing. Dan, however, has refused, for a multitude of reasons, insisting on meeting at seedy hotels instead. Since Dan is married and they can’t go to his house, maybe that makes it fair, easier, but Dan is definitely calling the shots. For Cynthia, the affair is amore about what could be, and for Dan, it’s about what it already is. That a distinction that will come back to bite Cynthia one day, seemingly, for sure.

Dan further exalts his power by inviting his wife, Marianna, to observe the surgery. And this isn’t her in some grandstand, watching from above, through glass, as they do their thing. Marianna is standing next to Dan during the surgery, closer to him than Cynthia is, across the table. The two women have met before, at a party at Dan’s house, briefly, but this is the operating room, them gathered around the patient, Cynthia’s turf. Dan has brought the enemy into the den. Worse yet, he knows it, and Cynthia knows he knows it. All of this leads to a really spectacular climax, the three of them squared off, never saying a word to each other peeking through the eyeholes of a surgical mask. On top of that, Wilson piles on a huge metaphor, and by the time I got done reading, I was really shaken by it all. Wilson built to something great and then delivered.

Because I love double-meanings of words like “appendix,” I was hoping someone would actually be working on an appendix, as in that of a book, as well as an appendectomy, to really drive home the dual meaning of the one-word title. Eh? Okay, maybe it’s best that Wilson wrote this story instead of me.

I finished this post just as we pulled into Daytona, where you can drive on the beach. Jimmy D—who says he’s going to drive from now on after the Jupiter incident—drove us right onto the main strip. We cried, all of us. And then we got shitfaced. Now we don’t know where the Skylark is. Or Bizquick, either, whom we don’t remember being with us since the flat tire two days ago. Bizquick, if you’re reading this—and I know you’re not—can you give one of us a call?

Gerry Wilson

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  1. Pingback: May 11: “The Sin Eater” by Tara L. Masih – Story366

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