Many Rivers for Mike Casper still to cross

(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.

Thanks guys.




11 thoughts on “Many Rivers for Mike Casper still to cross

  1. FJDagg says:

    Well done, Mike! I hope it’s pure fancy and not autobiography. If the latter, please be well and take care of yourself. If the former, you did a masterful job of bringing a reader entirely into the story and inducing him to give more than a damn about the character. Bravo!

  2. Parisianne Modert says:

    Beautiful descriptions of artery/vein narrowing and collapsing along with the lead up. The contrast with how life had been and the resolve to go for the help with the three voices did confuse me, but may be it was meant to. My friend who had such attacks couldn’t have gotten himself to the hospital. I guess there are degrees. I did really like the human interest and the daughter being included with the sense that he still needed to care for her. Your story held my intention very well.

  3. Glclark says:

    Good job, Casper, as always. Your ability to capture the denial and rationalizing that so many of us go through when facing an impending emergency was done in such a calm, convincing voice. Every time us guys, especially us older guys, have a pain, we refuse to face the fact that we are not immortal. Reading your story, I thought about Ebenezer Scrooge and the ‘morsel of undigested beef” he blamed his symptoms on. Good story – WELL written!

  4. Michael Stang says:

    There is no denial when I read your stories, Mike. The voice you write with is such an even keel in and out of emergency, family love, humor, and the general condition of humanity. Thank you for a peek inside the you I have often wondered about. Laughed with glee about the Sox shirt. It’s funny what we want to take with us.

  5. Salvatore Buttaci says:

    I like the natural tell of this story. Without forcing itself on the reader, it hooks him in and you feel as if the protagonist is an old friend who’s stopped by to chat.

  6. KYLE Katz says:

    Hey Casper. It’s been a long time since I’ve read your work. Too long. The first time I actually participated in a breathing excersize. But thats your style of telling a story. You change into your comfy clothes after work and step inside, without feeling invasive. Right before your character, conversed with the voices in his head, even I was trying to shake you. Get to the hospital. Sometimes guys “almost”I’ll do it when circumstances turns quickly into saying goodbye. Those voices are so crystal clear.Hallucinations…I think not!

  7. Mike Casper says:

    I can tell you that I respect each and every one of you writers. I hope someday to be just half as talented a wordsmith as you. Just half. Maybe even a quarter. I mean that with every shred of my be-stented heart. Thank you thank you thank you for your kindness. I just have fun in a homey, folksy way, you guys transform and transport me to your worlds. I lose myself in your storied stories. Thank you.

  8. Stars Fall On My Heart says:

    If I were turning this into a movie, I would seriously consider three out of the four Blue Collar Comedy guys to do those voices (not Ron White; his advice would be “Get up! That whiskey won’t pour itself!”). Three redneck angels? Or have I been watching too much TV? Again?

  9. Tiffany Monique says:

    I don’t know why, but I keep thinking “Magi” when I relive the three voices coming to the rescue. This was such a gentle ride, considering the subject matter. The arc was so easy. Start to finish. The daughter came in right when she was supposed to, with sleepy eyes and bedroom slippers. I also like the line, “No, I didn’t have a heart attack but I could see it coming from my house.” I cheered at both the character’s near-miss, and the line itself. Great stuff!

  10. Cheri says:

    Mikey, amazing story as always. I walked along with you every step of the way, in your telling of this tale. I relate to it, in many different ways, as you give the ability to personalize it to onesself. Thanks!

  11. Diane Cresswell says:

    Oh Mike you are such an insightful and incredible writer. I do love your stories and this one goes right to that place where Higher Self (and the other two) takes a stand with the ego. I know those voices. Outstanding story line.

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