(recently polled writers who forgot to leave comments on the work of their fellow authors missed the boat) Literati! As you are oft told by the editor-in-chief (moi) your entries into The First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage Contest can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a plagiarized phone book, as long as the word count is …
(recently polled writers who forgot to leave comments on the work of their fellow authors missed the boat)
As you are oft told by the editor-in-chief (moi) your entries into The First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage Contest can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a plagiarized phone book, as long as the word count is between 750 and a 1,000 words and you include the prompt: “I swear, it’s not too late.” (This makes two stories down and twenty two to go in the countdown of remaining contest entries.)
Friend of the website and my personal friend Mike Casper whose own novel “The Sing-song Child” is soon to be released really DOES swear it’s not too late. But for what?
Read on. Another reason to be grateful on Thanksgiving Day.
Crossing the River
by Mike Casper
I woke with a start. Scared. On my nightstand, my iPhone’s white noise generator was still playing–which meant I’d been asleep for less than an hour. I turned it off and assessed my condition.
I’d been feeling under the weather for several weeks, what, with my blood pressure somewhat elevated, pains in my chest and shortness of breath. Shortness of breath. We take breathing so much for granted, don’t we? Hey, just for grins, try this: Exhale as far OUT as you can. Now, inhale slowly, as far IN as you can. Feels great, doesn’t it? Refreshing. Invigorating.
Not to me.
Lately, when I exhaled, just at the bottom of my effort I’d get a bit of a cold, ‘catchy’ feeling right at the bottom. And, when I inhaled it felt like I had a weight on my chest preventing me from taking a full lungful of air. There was always another ‘catchy’ feeling right at the top.
I like to run, to work out in the sunshine. Near my house is an undeveloped city park of about twenty acres. It’s just a big dirt field smack dab in the middle of our subdivision and over the years we locals have worn a quarter mile oblong ‘track’ in the acreage. I like going there with Jet, my dog, and just running laps. He gets to run and sniff and poop and pee and socialize with other dogs whose owners have brought them up there for the same reason. I get some exercise in and enjoy him just being a dog. I used to go there often.
Not anymore. I couldn’t quite catch my breath.
I stopped working out. Well, not altogether. I’d take my bike instead and we’d ride around the dirt loop that I’d run so many times.
But Jet can only do so many laps and I’d have to leave the park vaguely unfulfilled and frustrated. And out of breath.
Clearly I had some kind of problem, but like the old saying goes, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. In other words, it’s not too late till it’s too late but today it’s not too late yet. I swear.
Sure, I’d been under pressure to get my manuscript ready for publication and maybe my stress was manifesting itself in this way. But, hey, the pains in my chest weren’t really IN my chest. Actually, yes they were but no they weren’t. They’d radiate from my sternum or start in the left part of my chest and flash, hotly, towards my right elbow. They ‘grinded’ deep inside and work their way up my throat. Yeah, ‘grinded’ is a medical term. They’re everywhere. If I ignore em they’d go away. Almost always anyway.
Then my blood pressure started to rise and stay elevated. For weeks. Why? Heck if I know. I wasn’t stressed. Life was manageable but making my website WAS a bit of a bother. I’d forget about it until it rose again. Then it started to go higher and stay there longer. I’d feel my very lifeblood raging through my veins. My lower back felt like it had two bricks straddling my spine. But it almost always went away. Almost.
Until tonight, when I crossed the river.
I lay there and assessed my condition. There was a new symptom to add to my list: nausea. I thought uh oh, I’m sweating, my blood pressure’s through the roof, my chest is burning and my neck’s throbbing. Now I’m gonna barf. Heads up, the myocardial infarction express is stopping in my station and I have a ticket.
That’s when I heard them: three voices. Men’s voices, to be exact. The first, sorta squeaky and a bit higher than the average Joe’s, said “Get up; you need to go to the ER.”
The next, a bit lower with more bass, sorta like mine, said “You need to get up and get your shorts on; make sure you have your insurance card.” I thought, naw, I’ll just lay back down and it’ll be okay in the morning.
A third voice -with a pitch and timbre between the others- said “No, if you lay back down your daughters will wake up and find your body and you don’t want that.” I agreed. The voice said “You have about thirty minutes and you still have things to do yet in this life, so let’s go.”
The first voice said “And you need to see the rest of the World Series.”
Now, that may sound to you like comic relief but none of this was funny whatsoever. I swung my legs out of bed and stood woodenly, swaying with the effort. I was a golem. The second voice said,” That’s great. One step at a time. Put your shorts on now.”
I said “I’m gonna wear my green RedSox t-shirt.”
The voice said, “Um, okay. Good. Now make sure you have your wallet and insurance card.”
I somehow found my flip flops and made my way down the hall to my youngest daughter’s room. She’d fallen asleep with her laptop bright in her face. I woke her gently, saying we had to go for a ride. She said to where, daddy, and I said we need to go to the hospital, I’m not feeling too well.
She dressed quickly. It was after eleven thirty. Traffic was non-existent but we caught every single stinkin red light. I wanted to say, no just put your flashers on and beep the horn and run the lights but then I thought geez, what happens if we get T-boned or kill somebody else –or her- and so I just sat there quietly.
I was admitted without hesitation. Two days later I walked back in my front door with two drug exuding stents in my heart keeping blocked vessels open and me alive. No, I didn’t have a heart attack but I could see it coming from my house.
And those three voices? Were they the voices of angels or just hallucinations?
You decide for yourself.
I already know.