One Blink for Yes

By on Apr 13, 2010 in Fiction

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Eye blinking with doctors

Later, back in my room, Myron comes in with another nurse, not Rosa, and says, “Big-time antibiotics for you, my friend.  Somehow you’ve caught a bug, flu shot or not.”   He sounds upset.

The nurse attaches a bag to the IV pole, and Myron gives me an injection.  He pats my leg and leaves, followed by the nurse.

I have mixed feelings.   An understatement.  Why do they try to save me?   More years of lying here staring into space? Do any of them ever move beyond the tired conventions of society and religion to ponder what would actually be the compassionate thing to do?

I feel a depression coming on, something I usually try to fight off, but now it rushes in like a dark, gray ocean. Rosa comes in with Mike, the PT, and though it is early afternoon at this point, they decide I need sleep more than therapy.
“Charlie, you gotta pull your forces together and fight this thing,” Rosa says.
Mike gives me a macho, we’re-in-this-trench-together stare and says, “Hey, Buddy, I wanna see you back and at ’em tomorrow, okay?  I’ll check on you then.  Hang in.”

I give them the hard blink they want and, mercifully, they leave.

Since they all expect me to sleep now, I wonder if I can get away with going out and about.  I shut my eyes, and the vibrations begin.  Nothing happens with the equipment, and soon I am floating into the hall.  I pass Rosa standing against a wall, her face upturned.  She is listening to Mike.  It hits me that the look on her face is a bit like the one she has for Myron.  Has something happened here?  I don’t stay to find out what he’s telling her.  My target is Chloe Vespers.

Thank God for hospital directories.  I locate the social services section on the first floor of the general hospital and find her office.  Her diploma and photographs of Myron, herself, and their daughter decorate one wall.  But no one is there.  Suddenly, she enters with Pompous Ass in tow.  He’s angry, and she is clearly upset.  I hang in the corner like a cobweb and watch.

“You’re making a mistake staying with him,” says Clayburn.  “He’s not on your level.  He’s weak, a wimp, not… how shall I put it? — an alpha male.  He’s like your adoring, slavering pet, Chloe.  I’d think that would disgust you sexually.”
I want to smash in his face with a sledge hammer, but that’s an unlikely ability of wisps lurking in corners.

Myron’s wife sobs.
“Leave him, Chloe,” Clayburn orders.

I immediately picture what her life with him would entail.  Commands on all levels down to what she eats for breakfast, what clothes she wears.  I impotently scream at her, DUMP THIS IDIOT, ARE YOU NUTS?
She doesn’t say anything.
“Leave him,” the psychologist repeats.

Suddenly, I witness something hovering behind Chloe.  What is it?  I float over to take a look.
“Stand back!” something shouts at me.   Not in spoken words, but inside my mind.  I retreat and watch.

The something separates into two shadowy beings.  They bend close to Chloe as if to whisper into her ears.   She straightens up and speaks with uncharacteristic force.  “That’s it,” she says. “I’ve had enough, Greg, enough.  I’m not leaving him.  He loves me, something you don’t understand.  All of a sudden, I see this for what it is.  Sex, Greg, it’s just sex.  There’s no love involved, now is there?”
We all — Chloe, the shadows and I — turn toward the man, waiting for his answer.  He hesitates.  Finally, he spits out, “Obviously, Chloe, you’re not capable of a mature relationship.  What you want is mommy-like comfort, and that’s all Loser Vespers can offer.  I’m bored with you anyway.  You’re tiresome and predictable.  It’s time for me to move on.”  And, head held aloft, he sails from the room.

Chloe collapses into her chair and cries, face down on the desk.  “Oh, God, what have I done? To think I risked losing Myron for this!  What was I thinking?”

I leave her there with the shadowy beings.  Are they spirit guides?  Angels?  I don’t know.  I can’t make out their features, if they have any.

I think of my physical body and am instantly back.  Before I lower myself into it, I see its pallor.  Are the antibiotics not working?  Once inside, I feel the fever and fall in and out of what might be delirium.  Awful dreams about ships docking in dark, mangy ports.

The sun streams in next morning, and Myron is by my bed when I open my eyes.  “Thank God you’re still with us, Charlie,” he says.  “It was touch and go last night, but your fever has dropped.”

Why does it matter to him if I — old speechless, paralyzed Charlie — live or croak?

Myron sits down on the chair.  He shoots a look to the nurse’s station, then back at me.  “She confessed, Charlie.  Last evening, before I got called back in.  Told me the whole thing.  She says she loves me and wants our marriage to continue, but I don’t know, I just don’t know.  Is she really done with him?  Could I ever trust her again?”

He pauses, then looks me right in the eyes and says, “Tell me what to do, Charlie.  I don’t know myself.  Just blink once for yes if I should let her stay and twice for no if you think I should give up on her.”  He scoots closer; I can see he’s on pins and needles.

What’s this?  I’m supposed to decide his entire life.  One or two hard blinks of my eyes, and that determines the fate of a man and a woman?  Of love?

I’m still sick, half in a dream; what business is it of mine?  I can’t judge if Chloe will back down from the resolve I saw her display yesterday.  Will those shadowy figures keep her in line?  No way to know.   But then I figure that being on the side of love is better than being against it.  And so, I press my eyelids together in a hard yes and hear the doctor sigh in relief.

He grabs one of my hands.  I almost feel something, but of course, that’s just in my mind.  “Thank you, Charlie, I can’t thank you enough.  You don’t know how much you mean to me.  If there’s anything I can ever do to get you walking again, believe me, I will do it.”   His voice trembles with emotion.

He puts my hand down and gets up to leave.  “See you later, Charlie.”  And then he goes.

In spite of what Myron said, I don’t feel better.  My head feels weird, sort of detached.  I keep dozing off, then waking in a startled manner.  People I don’t know come into the room and circle the bed.  Who are they?  Not nurses, not doctors, surely not, dressed as they are.  One heavy-set woman is wearing an outfit like my grandmother used to…

It hits me.  It is my grandmother.  How can that be?  I try to see the others better and recognize my uncle Charles, for whom I was named, who died in the Korean War.  What’s going on?

Suddenly, I am out of my body without any preparation on my part, and they’re surrounding me.  And then I understand what is going on.


“One Blink for Yes” appeared in Allegory – Volume 7/34 – Fall, 2008 and will appear in While the Morning Stars Sing: An Anthology of Spiritually Infused Speculative Fiction by ResAliens Press. The free online zine is updated monthly at, while the bi-monthly print version can be purchased at the ResAliens Storefront,

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Margaret Karmazin’s credits include 140 stories published in literary and national magazines, including Rosebud, Chrysalis Reader, North Atlantic Review, Mobius, Confrontation, Pennsylvania Review and Another Realm. Her stories in The MacGuffin, Eureka Literary Magazine, Licking River Review and Words of Wisdom were nominated for Pushcart awards. Her story, "The Manly Thing," was nominated for the 2010 Million Writers Award. She has had stories included in Still Going Strong, Ten Twisted Tales, Pieces of Eight (Autism Acceptance), Zero Gravity, Cover of Darkness and M-Brane Sci-Fi Quarterlies #2 and #4, and a novel, Replacing Fiona, published by