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By Mavis Moog

Put blinders on to those things that conspire to hold you back, especially the ones in your own head.” – Meryl Streep

Simon Spark sneered into his chest, the way he does. I could see he was about to annihilate me, and I chanted my mantra internally,
“I am talented. I am talented.”

Carol Chase regarded me through thick, black lashes. Her lips looked like they were made from crystallised rose petals and they were moving. I felt her soft breathy voice thick with pouts, as if she were blowing me kisses but you could water-board me and I wouldn’t be able to tell you what she said.

I was too busy preparing for Bully Spark to listen to anything anyone else had to say.

Someone I didn’t know was talking now. He smiled and looked pityingly at me, but his words were lost in the sound of blood rushing through my ears. I was deafened by the flub-flub of my own pulse. My wet hands hung like dumb-bells by my side. I tried to dry them on my thighs, while blinking the perspiration away from my eyes. My fringe gripped my forehead so I blew upwards, by sticking my bottom lip out and directing my breath up, towards my brow. The smiley man turned his attention to Spark, in a way that made it clear he was next to speak. My heart seemed to stop.

“Wair-ell,” said Spark, drawling the word into two syllables, all the better to taunt me. “I don’t know who told you you could sing but they must have been tone deaf.”

I felt a drip of sweat between my buttocks but forced myself not to rub at it.

“You are not only tuneless; you can’t move, you have no charisma and frankly…”

Oh yes, Bully Spark, be frank. There’s no audience here to bay and hoot, but why let that stop you? I thought.

“…you are unattractive.”

Before I could stop myself I did what I had promised myself I would never do. So often I’d seen the poor sods on the audition specials answering back and they never came out of it well. It was a stupid thing to do, but I couldn’t help it. The moment took over.

“Oh and you, you, you are attractive, I suppose?” I bellowed.

Then I turned right to storm out. I was blind with tears and rage and so I didn’t notice I had marched almost full steam into a blank wall until It was right in front of me. I heard the guffaws of laughter as I turned about as sharply as I could, and ran in the correct direction, banging the door open with such a power I fell through it.

That was three years ago, and some say I never recovered from the experience. It’s absolutely true that I never sang in public again, and for the first week I spent my days curled-up in an excruciating cringe that I thought would never subside. In my sleep I re-lived the full horror, but I’d replace my undignified exit with spectacular revenge.

In the earliest dreams I marched up to Spark and slapped him across his greasy, orange face, but as time went on my dreams became more imaginative.

“How dare you tell me I cannot sing!” I’d shout. “Meryl Streep said, ‘Put blinders on to those things that conspire to hold you back’ which means, make your critics blind so that is what I’m going to do to you!” and in my dream, I marched to the desk and punched out both his eyes. Just like that, right in front of everyone, while they sat there mouths open, like stupid fish.

Why is it that some people can do something so well, and others are hopeless at it? It’s not fair that someone like me, who wanted to be a star more than anything in the world, just couldn’t stand there and sing. As time went by I realised Bully Spark was right. Not only could I not sing, I couldn’t do much else either and he was absolutely right about me being unattractive. I am short and fat and no one ever looks at me twice, which is why Spark didn’t even remember me.

After a moment’s hesitation, I walked briskly into the room. The patient grunted and shifted in the bed. He was bound to be uncomfortable. Someone had slit open his rectum and taken a large part of his prostate gland away. Fortunately for him that someone was a doctor. If they had left it to me, he’d have been more than uncomfortable.

“Nurse!” he snapped.

“Yes?” I replied.

“I need some more pillows. And where’s my morphine?”

“Oh let me help you there,” I said, and adjusted the rake on the bed so he could sit up more easily. Then I took the notes from the foot of his bed and read them carefully.

“I’m sorry Mr. Spark, but it says here that you’ve had your pain-killer and you are not due any more for two hours.” Taking a pen from my pocket I ticked a little box and smiled to myself. I was going to enjoy looking after this patient. Oh yes, that I was. All that held me back was what was in my own head; my compassion, or lack of it.

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