By Wanda Nolan
1st place winner of the Cuffer Prize 2012
Nancy Drew lived in the densely packed gift shop at St. Clare’s hospital. The yellow books sat on the bottom row of the bookcase in the back, surrounded by fluorescent lights, neon “Get Better Soon” balloons and white bears strangled with red ribbons.
A miniature picture of a blond girl holding a spyglass adorned the side of each spine. I got to choose a book each visit, a thank you for accompanying my mother on her monthly psychiatric appointments.
At first the books were used to avoid the heavy eyes of the other patients that sat along the narrow waiting area to see Dr. Spencer. Depression a halo over each person’s head.
The nurse would open the door and announce down the long aisle the next person to enter the smaller waiting area inside. When it was time, my mother would sidle her way down the hallway until she slipped through the door at the end.
I imagined her moving from smaller room to smaller room until she was squeezed into a tiny confessional chamber where the doctor, hunched like a king crab, whispered advice. I decided to call it, The Mystery of the Secret Room.
There was one patient named Randall who was on the same schedule as my mother. He had a long neck and his head drooped around it like a crane. He wore a navy jacket with Esso written across the front where his heart would be.
After my mother would go into the doctor’s office, he would move across the room and sit next to me.
You see, he hated to see anyone alone. I pushed further into the world on the page, entering my own chamber — one much happier than what I imagined for my mother — the town of River Heights.
There, Nancy leaned in, looked close: two clips to hold a heavy bang, eyeglasses with the wrong prescription, a broken shell. All clues pieced together like a torn up letter from the past.
The telegraphed message an inevitable danger that Nancy figured out just in time to save her boyfriend Ned, her best friend Bess, her Mom and Dad.
Wanda Nolan writes fiction and screenplays. Her work has appeared in various anthologies and journals across Canada. Recently her short story, “The Bay,” was featured in Issue No. 9 of Riddle Fence. In 2009, she won the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts & Letters Award for her short film script ”Four Sisters.” The short has run a successful film festival circuit and is in development with Odd Sock Productions. In September, she won the Atlantic Film Festival Script Development Award for her feature screenplay, “The Magic of Boxer Connors.”
She’s also working on a novel called Rabbittown.