For today’s assignment, I’m given a series of facts about a character — traveling salesman, 6′ 4″ (no weight given), with a bad back, a divorce and two young children — and am tasked with revealing this character using narration and dialog.
At the sound of the nurse’s question, the waiting room’s sole occupant — stretched across a three-person sofa, head covered with a beige jacket at one end, legs dangling at the calf over the other — stirred, groaning.
The nurse took a cautious step towards the covered head. “Are you Mr. Wilkes?”
The jacket pulled down from the head, revealing a face gruff from three days without shaving, eyes clenched tightly against the overhead lights. A hand raised to the man’s face, rubbed twice. Then the man cleared his throat, snapped open his eyes, caught the nurse’s gaze. “She awake yet?”
The nurse hesistated, unsure whether she had heard the man’s question. In a bay outside the waiting room, a call button was pressed. “Oh — no, Mr. Wilkes. Your daughter, she’s still heavily sedated. I . . . just wanted you to know, your wife and son — ”
With a groan that sounded like a wounded animal, the man swung his legs away from the couch, feet planting on the pale white tiled floor, and a second later the man, eyes fully open, was standing, looking down at the startled nurse.
“She is not — ” the man twisted, his back cracking, face contorting in discomfort — “my wife.”