I’m not normally a chartreuse type of guy, but I found Chuck Wendig’s challenge too good to resist. Hope you enjoy!
The new curtains made Jedreth uneasy.
“What do you think of them?” He asked, as he picked up his forceps and turned back to his client. “Chartreuse. Weird color for a room like this, right?” His client moaned. Jedreth sighed. That was the problem with his job: if he did it well, then his clients weren’t much for conversation.
“I swear I’ve seen them before somewhere.” He paused, contemplating for a moment. “Oh well!” he said, as he put the forceps into his client’s mouth and pulled, eliciting a shriek, “If you think these are bad, you should have the last ones!”
When the Ministry of Enlightenment had finally jangled the change in their collective pockets and decided that the Chambers of Truth could finally receive a much-delayed facelift, Jedreth had been hoping for something more commensurate with the work done within them. Rather than carefully arranged blood stains, spots of mildew, and perhaps a row of pictures where he could display his best work to his clients, he got a new coat of aggressively green paint, an obnoxiously shiny table on which to put the tools of his trade, and a set of aged chartreuse curtains, clearly dragged from the bottom of a warehouse.
He checked his chart.
“We’re almost done for the day! Now, all I have to do is grab your tongue; don’t worry, this will hurt you a lot more than it will hurt me!”
About an hour later, tools packed, clothes scrubbed, Jedreth walked home and opened the door of his flat.
“Hello dearie, how was your day?” Grandma Jessanine called from upstairs.
Grandma Jessanine had taken Jedreth in when his parents had died. She had baked him birthday cakes, knit him sweaters, and cried into her pink hankie when he graduated from school. Now, he lived with her, taking care of her in her old age as she had taken care of him when he was young.
“It was fine,” Jedreth replied. “We did some redecorating at work.”
“That sounds lovely.”
Jedreth pulled off his boots and climbed the stairs to his grandmother’s room.
Suddenly, he realized where he had seen the curtains before.
An identical set waved gently in the window right above his grandmother’s head, where she sat in her recliner, idly picking at her teeth with one of her knitting needles.
He ran to the bathroom and threw up.
“Are you alright dear? Do you need some dinner?” Grandma Jessanine called. She was the type of woman who was convinced that most problems in the world could be solved with either more food or more knitting.
Jedreth lay panting on the bathroom floor, his offerings to the porcelain god still swimming merrily in the bowl.
“No Grandma!” He replied, trying to sound cheerful. “I think I’ll just go to bed early.”
He spent the night dreaming about Grandma losing her teeth one by one, chartreuse curtains flapping above her head in an invisible breeze.
Jedreth, unlike many of his colleagues, was not emotionally invested in his work, either with the pangs of conscience that afflicted his less efficient colleagues or the pangs of pleasure that afflicted his more creative ones.
Jedreth was a professional. He flayed flesh with all the emotion and proficiency of a sous-chef slicing steak. He gouged eyes out like he scooped his grapefruit in the morning. He mopped up blood the same way cafeteria janitors mopped up salad dressing.
However, when he went to work the next morning, he discovered that his professional detachment was becoming detached. The sound of the chartreuse curtains rippling in the background sounded like his grandma’s screams. The rest of the week was only worse. Something, he decided, must be done.
He spoke to his supervisor with careful circumspection. The curtains were distracting his clients, could they be changed? No, there was no money in the budget..Could they be removed? No, every room needed curtains to assure the privacy of each client. Could he change his location? No, every other space was full.
He lost weight. His performance reviews slipped to less than satisfactory. Grandma Jessanine began greeting him at the door each day with a large meal, a hand knit dollie, and a worried look on her face.
Finally, one day, in the middle of a particularly tricky operation involving his client’s intestines and a spaghetti spoon, he saw, for a brief flash, his Grandma Jessanine on the chair instead, screaming for him to stop.
That was it. He dropped the spoon, packed his bag, and left work, telling his supervisor that he felt sick.
He staggered into his flat.
“Jedreth, is that you?” Grandma Jessanine called.
“You’re home early today.”
“I felt a little sick.”
“Jedreth? Come here and talk to me.”
Jedreth sighed, pulled off his boots, and mounted the stairs.
His grandma was sitting in her reclining chair, knitting a pink and purple scarf.
She looked up.
“Jedreth, what’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing Grandma. I mean, I’m thinking about a career change.”
She fixed him with a stare.
“Jedreth: tell me what’s wrong this very instant.”
He found himself spilling out the story of the last month: the curtains, the nightmares, the unshakeable image of her in the chair at his work.
Grandma Jessanine sat, knitting calmly. When Jedreth finished, she shook her head.
“And you were going to give up your work, all for me?”
“All because of those those silly chartreuse curtains?”
“I have a much better idea dearie.”
Three weeks later, Jedreth returned to work. The room was almost as it had been before, aggressively painted green walls, obnoxiously shiny table, and, in the corner, a new set of baby blue curtains, hand knit by his grandma, with a pattern of pink iron maidens purled across them.
He smiled and grabbed his scalpel, turning to his client. “And how are you today? Do you see those curtains over there? My grandma…”