Plenty of Fish in the Digital Sea

Plenty of Fish in the Digital Sea

Part II

(You can read Part I here.)

It was there in that ending of the second month and the beginning of her real and true fear that perhaps she should listen to her friends rather than herself, that she was scrolling through the app, her heart not really in it, sipping her coffee and sitting on the toilet, a thing she’d list under “Worst Habit” on the app if she didn’t have a plethora of other less private habits to list, that she saw him.

Her coffee mug slipped from her left hand, she’d entirely forgotten she was holding it, her left hand now at her lips, coffee and ceramic painted across her bathroom floor, a slight stinging across the tops of her feet where drops of coffee and a shrapnel of ceramic landed. It was him, there was no question. He’d lost a good thirty pounds, maybe more, and he’d gone blonde, a look she didn’t quite dislike on him as much as she’d have thought.

She instantly regretted everything about her profile, from the very practical and real photo she’d chosen rather than the Glamour Shots style of photo her girlfriends encouraged her to use, to that stupid tagline that made her sound like the world’s most uptight bitch ever, even if it wasn’t intended that way at all…she was spiraling through memories of him refusing to go with her to the gym because he was too embarrassed, even though she insisted everyone started somewhere and how he looked to anyone else didn’t matter because she loved him and he was there for his health not his looks, memories of him saying he would go blonde when he no longer loathed himself and her insisting that his brown hair was a perfect complement to his brown eyes that blonde would look all wrong and besides didn’t he love her brown hair, and the memory that she’d been avoiding for years as she picked herself up and her put herself back together and created the creature that was now happily single rather than lonely and broken and desperate for anyone with a pulse to show her some spark of attraction.

It had been five years ago, she was in her prime, or at least that’s what she’d thought at the time. She had everything she’d always said she’d have by that point in her life: an excellent career, a long-term relationship with the man she was going to marry even if he hadn’t proposed yet, and she’d just gone into escrow on a home she’d driven by every day for ten years and always wanted. At the time she didn’t notice that her excellent career caused her migraines, that the man who hadn’t proposed yet was never going to and was in fact suffering from a massive depression, and the home she’d gone into escrow on she’d purchased alone. She had an excuse, or several, for not seeing these things, for not allowing the truth to ruin her perfect vision.

It was the day her escrow closed, no less. She came home to “their” apartment and noticed everything dramatically amiss. Her first thought was that they’d been robbed, and it was only upon closer inspection that she realized her things were all still there. Not only still there, as in right where she’d left them upon her hasty exit this morning, running late to work, her morning cup of coffee on the toilet having gone overlong as she scrolled through her social media discovering another of her friends’ engagement pictures and forcing herself back into the vision she had of her reality rather than facing the glaring truth. It was so odd to see her things so perfectly untouched, as though she’d been living alone this morning, while all of his things had simply vanished.

Obviously his things hadn’t vanished, they’d been removed. He’d removed them. But how? He spent days on the couch now, there were even nights where he didn’t come to bed, “I just can’t sleep, I don’t want to keep you up.” So fine, they’d weather this storm, she’d thought. Incorrectly, it turns out.

Her first move was to scour the apartment for a note. Finding none, she picked up her phone and was moments from pressing his name in her contacts when a text came through: “Thank you for loving me, for believing in me, but this isn’t working.”

She read it twice.

She looked to see the familiar ellipses that would indicate he was typing, but there were none.

She realized she was standing in her living room with her mouth open, her phone in front of her face, a comic character from a television program.

And then there they were, the ellipses. Followed by a text the thoughts of which still brought fury to her every cell: “congratulations on the house.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?!?!” she screamed.

This #writethirtyminutes session was prompted very loosely from “A Year of Writing Prompts” by Writer’s Digest, available here
Your (Writing) Tagline

Your (Writing) Tagline

Part I

Her friends insisted she try it. They were all married, engaged, or in committed relationships and naturally had to see her in same. Join, join, join. Of course they weren’t that obnoxious about it, no one ever is; if peer pressure were so obvious it would be so much easier to avoid. The lemmings never announce themselves.

“You’re amazing,” they’d say, “you really deserve someone who’s as wonderful as you.” “We just want to see you happy,” they’d say, “I really think you’ll feel more fulfilled with someone to give your love to who will love you in return.”

They meant well, really, but she almost felt like telling them she’d rather have a dog. But that would never go over.

So she joined. She joined this dating app, website, whatever. She wasn’t even entirely sure what it was, but it sounded like a joke and she thought they’d laugh along with her when she told them, “I joined ‘I’m Hooked!‘” Instead the conversation went askew, “I love that site,” “do you remember Tom? I met him there. That almost worked out,” “oh my gosh my co-worker is on there! Let’s make sure it didn’t match you up with him.” There were other comments, but everything turned to silence when her bestie asked, “so what’d you put for your tagline?”

Ah, yes, the tagline: each member, upon joining, was required to describe themselves in ten words or less. As though they were an M&M or a beer. And some of the taglines read very much like something the thinktank at Nestle would come up with: “Loaded for love and looking for you,” “I’ll bring the six pack, you bring the taco,” “It’s always ladies night at casa Miguel.” They were all ambiguous or disgusting, and none of them said a damn thing about the author.

She’d thought of doing the same: “Tired and quiet, seeks same for nights of reading and wine,” “Would rather have dog, friends insist on man,” “Might as well be you, bring take out,” but resisted. She decided if she was going to do this, she might as well do it right. It’s how she did everything, really, why pretend otherwise now.

It took her a surprisingly long time to come up with something that fulfilled the legitimate requirements of ten words or less and an actual description of her: “30ish and autonomous, seeks no one. Astound me.”

This wasn’t quite what her friends had in mind. “No one is going to respond to you sounding all conceited like that,” “would you be curious about some dude if that was his tagline,” “why didn’t you talk about your eyes? You have such lovely eyes,” “well, at least your sense of humor comes through.”

But she thought it was perfect. It did show her sense of humor. It also showed that she wasn’t really interested, which was true. She wouldn’t say no to the right person, or a good sounding date, but anyone interested in her was going to have to put forth some effort. Nothing in it was a lie and it was certainly memorable. And after promising her friends that if she didn’t meet at least one worthy man after three months that she’d change it, they agreed to let it go.

At first she didn’t concern herself with the three month deadline. She felt she’d made her point of view rather clear to her friends and that they’d let it go. But as the first month slipped by with nothing she’d call a real match, only men clearly looking to hook up and completely ignoring everything about her profile except that she was within driving distance, she began to worry that perhaps her friends had been right. That and they weren’t letting it go.

The monthly girls lunch began as it always did with hugs all around and the “how is your mom,” and “hey, is that ankle doing better,” etc. sorts of comments, but once orders were placed and the talking got around to serious matters it was all about her and the damn dating app. She explained calmly and quickly about the hook-up matches that were clearly not matches, and then sat quietly through the deluge of responses, “you have to change your tagline,” “what if you changed that part about your favorite book being The Handmaid’s Tale, I mean now that Netfilx has that series, someone could get the wrong idea,” “did you check the ‘no’ box for ‘casual relationships’?”

The rest of the lunch was a disaster but she tried not to let it rankle her. As the second month disappeared, all the lousy men having already contacted her and been ignored or blocked, and now not one single attempted match she began to wonder if maybe she really did want this whole app thing to pan out. She found herself disappointed that no one had contacted her, found herself checking the app to make sure her profile was still active, and searching her area to see if new men had joined.

Part II is here.

This #writethirtyminutes session was prompted very loosely from “A Year of Writing Prompts” by Writer’s Digest, available here

Do Over IV

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

When she finally (finally!) arrived in Los Angeles, despite the creepy guy with a neck tattoo that kept winking at her the last few hundred miles and the old lady who sat down next to her even though there were tons of open two seat spaces throughout the bus, she exited the bus with her bag in hand, walked a handful of steps and then stopped. It was chaos. There were people and buses everywhere. There were homeless people on the sidewalk out front, someone talking to themselves and rubbing their head with their thumb and forefinger sitting on a bench just outside the depot doors, and there was a urine smell pervading the entire area.

Her first thought was, what have I done. This was followed quickly with, never judge a book by it’s cover. She shook her head, hiked her bag up firmly into her hand, and walked through the depot and out the big glass doors and into the city. She walked around for a good half hour before she was in a neighborhood that felt safe enough to stop and sit for a minute, which she did as soon as she came to a little park with some benches. She needed food, a job, and a place to stay, and she needed them in that order. She also knew she didn’t want to head back the way she’d come. She sat and listened to the birds in the bushes, watching as they’d peek out at her, see if she had any food, then retreat back to the safety of the leaves.

Hunger got the best of her and she decided she’d rested long enough. She heaved her bag and continued walking west. As she’d hoped the neighborhood continued to improve and soon became rather swanky. She stopped at the first coffee shop she saw, it would do for food and liquid fuel. She noticed a help wanted sign on her way in and considered it would work out for more than she’d expected.

The cashier looked at her and then at her bag as she walked in, gave her a half-smile and said “we don’t allow camping, company policy; you have to purchase something to sit down and I have to kick you out after an hour unless you make another purchase.”

“Uh, oh, I just, um, I just arrived here and wanted coffee and something to eat and maybe,” she gestured back over her shoulder towards the sign, “ask about what kind of help you need?”

“Here’s the application,” the cashier replied after digging around under the counter for a second, “what’ll you have?”

“Coffee, biggest you have, and,” she looked over at the pastry display which was mostly empty, “which is better, the muffin or the scone?”

“They’re both too sweet. The scone is more filling though.”

“Scone it is, thanks,” she said.

She paid and took the application and her bag over to a nearby table. She began rustling around in her bag for a pen but the only one she could find was the one from the car salesman who’d insisted she take it. She didn’t want to use it but she also didn’t want to have to ask to borrow a pen. She finally decided to use it, who would notice? and she sat down to start filling out the application.

“Sorry about the camping remark,” the cashier said as she brought the scone on a plate and her coffee in a large cup, “I wasn’t trying to be rude, it’s been a long day. I’m Christy,” she said, sticking out her hand for a shake.

“Sarah,” she said, accepting the extended hand, “Um, so, when I said I just arrived, I mean I just walked off the bus. The application here wants all kinds of stuff like bank accounts and I,” she took a deep breath, “I don’t have any of that yet.”

“Do you have a place to stay?” Christy asked.

“Not exactly, I kind of figured it was more important to get a job than to get a place,” she replied, blushing at how naive she sounded.

“Oh boy,” Christy said taking a breath and sitting down across from her, “let’s not fill out an application just yet. We have a really high turnover rate here, really high. My boss has started paying new hires cash every Wednesday until they’ve been here two weeks and knows he’s going to keep them on, so let’s just see how you do. If you work out, you’ll have all the stuff you need for a formal application by then, right?”

“Right, definitely!” Sarah said, biting her lip.

“Normally I’d have you start on a midday shift, like right now, but it’s too late to start that shift so you’ll have to start on an evening shift later today, if you can?”

“Absolutely, yes, I can,” Sarah said, eyes lighting up.

“You’ve got a few hours if you want to go look for a place? There’s always stuff available this time of year because school is out. There’s probably a bunch of places listed in today’s paper,” she got up and went over to a table by the front door holding a stack of hastily patted together newspaper sections. She came back holding the real estate section and set it down on the table. “Look near the back, the stuff in front is all for sale.”

“Thank you,” Sarah said, “thank you so much. I really didn’t expect…”

Christy cut her off, “just show up for your shift tonight and be ready to be on your feet the entire time.”

“I will,” Sarah said smiling.

Christy got up and went back behind the counter. Sarah tried not to pay attention to what she was doing, there’d be time to learn the job later, right now she needed to focus on a place to live. She followed Christy’s advice and turned the entire section over, starting at the back. She realized she had no idea where the different neighborhoods were and that they were all more expensive than she’d expected. She looked over toward Christy who was busy cleaning out the pastry display.

She finished eating her scone and realized she’d only circled four possible places, all the ones that were cheapest. She stood up, picked up the now empty plate, and walked back up to the counter. “Thank you for this, and for the paper.”

“No problem,” Christy replied, “you find anything?”

“Well, I’m not exactly sure,” Sarah replied, “I’ve circled a few but I don’t really know the area, so I’ll go check em out and see I guess. You have any advice?”

“Yeah. Don’t go south of the Ten or east of Western Avenue.”

“Right,” Sarah said, not knowing what any of the meant, “thanks again! I’ll be back on time and ready to work. Jeans okay?”

“Of course, and we’ll give you a shirt to wear. You a small or a medium?”

“Medium,” she replied, as she turned and walked back to get her bag and what was left of her coffee. “See ya!”

She headed out to the street and turned to keep walking west. The paper wasn’t going to be helpful without knowing the area. So she just walked and kept her eyes open. Surely there’d be apartments or houses or something. But after twenty minutes it was all still businesses. She decided to turn south and in less than a couple blocks was in a neighborhood. She started walking back west looking for signs.

All the houses were cute and small with perfect little green lawns in front and great big trees out by the sidewalk. This would be the perfect area to live, she thought, but there weren’t any apartments. She’d seen lots of people jogging over the last hour and she finally decided she’d stop the next one she saw. Sure enough a woman with an incredibly long ponytail, unbelievably short shorts, and a tiny bra came running her way. Sarah waved and said “excuse me.” The jogger didn’t slow and Sarah realized she had ear buds in. She turned as the jogger started running by and began to run with her.

“Excuse me!” she tried again.

This time the jogger saw her out of her peripheral vision, did a double take, and then stopped to run in place and pull out an ear bud. “Yeah?” she asked.

“Sorry, I was just wondering if you know of any apartments around here?”

The jogger looked up and down the street and said, “not here, you’d have to go west or south, this is all houses for a few blocks. You looking to rent?”

“Yeah, I just got to town and I have a job and everything, but I haven’t figured out where I’m gonna live yet.”

“Where ya from?”

“Oh, pfft, a long way away,” Sarah looked down at the ground and waved her hand in an over the rainbow gesture, “it doesn’t matter,” she said smiling, hoping that would be answer enough.

The jogger shrugged, “we’re all from somewhere. There’s a house a couple doors down, I know it’s always got different people living in it every few months so I think they rent it to students. You might want to check there.”

“A house? That would be amazing,” Sarah said, “which one?”

“That one there,” the jogger said, pointing across the street to a cute little craftsman style cottage, “the green one with the white trim.”

“Thank you,” Sarah said, “thank you so much!”

“You’re welcome. I’m Holly, by the way,” the jogger said, “if you move in you’ll be seeing me every day. This is my regular route.”

“I’m Sarah. Thank you again, Holly.”

Holly put her earbud back in and waved as she ran off. Sarah hoisted her bag, looked both ways across the street with cars parked up and down both sides but none driving, and headed to the little green and white house. With any luck this would be home, she thought.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Do Over III

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

By the time she finally finished with the car lot and sat in the loaner Chuey was supposed to drive her to the airport in, she only had about forty-five minutes to execute the next part of her plan. She took a deep breath and turned to her driver.

“Chuey? I know you’re supposed to take me to the airport but there’s a bus station a few blocks away and it would save me so much money if I went home that way. Do you mind?” she asked.

“Nah, that’s cool. I drop you there,” he replied, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel.

True to his word he took her to the bus station, helped her get her bag out of the back and then gave her a mock salute-wave. She smiled and saluted back then walked into the station towards the departures board. From this angle she could see in the departure screen the reflection of Chuey as he got back in the car, pulled out of the space he’d been in, and drove across the street, parked in the lot, and walked into the coffee shop. That’d been about what she expected. The boss had given him time to take her to the airport, and he was going to use that time.

She laughed under her breath, and turned to look at the line of people waiting to buy tickets. Third from the front was a woman who looked pretty New York: black and purple hair, sensible walking shoes, and a fabulous little skirt and shirt outfit with the jewelry to match. But she was too close to the cashier, it’d be risky. She continued scanning the line. There, near the end, a young guy with a backpack and a duffel bag. He looked like a student and he looked kind of New York, but also not, kind of country. She wasn’t too sure, but he was her best bet so she approached him.

“Excuse me, um, is there any way you’re going to New York?” she asked.

He pulled the earbud out of his left ear and said, “New York? Yeah.”

“Great! See, I bought this ticket earlier for New York but now that it’s almost time to go I just…I can’t. I don’t belong there, I don’t belong here! I need to go home, only they don’t do refunds and I’m out of money, and,” here she let out a little whimper and hoped she could get a tear or two to roll down her cheeks. Gulping she continued, “I just need to get home. If you’ll take my ticket and buy me a ticket going as far west as you can for the same price as New York? I’d really appreciate it.”

He looked at her hard. Then he looked behind her and around the depot. “No refund, huh?” he asked, clearly not expecting a response. “How do I know this is a real ticket?”

“Oh you can take it. I’ll sit right over there,” she turned and pointed to a chair, “and you can ask the cashier, they’ll tell you it’s real. I promise!”

“I’m not saying yes,” he replied, “but I’ll check this out and let you know.”

“Thank you,” she said, “I’ll be right there,” she pointed again and then walked over to the seat. She waited and watched as the line advanced and soon he was talking to the cashier. She could see him, and he could see her, but if the cashier tried to see her, they wouldn’t be able to; the angle and the cashier’s little building were all wrong. She saw him hand over the ticket and then take the ticket back. She saw him get out his wallet, pull out some cash, and then put his wallet back. She tried not to act too excited as he walked towards her.

“Okay. So, here’s the thing,” he said, “I don’t know how far west you need to go, but I figure you can’t get much more west than Los Angeles,” and he handed her a ticket.

Her jaw dropped open and she read Los Angeles on the ticket. “You bought me a ticket to LA?” she breathed.

“Well, whatever kind of trouble you’re in, if New York can’t fix it, LA’s the only other city that’s got a shot,” he replied.

“But that’s…it’s so much more than a ticket to New York,” she said.

“Yeah, well…yeah.”

“I want to pay you back,” she said firmly, looking into his eyes.

“That’d be great,” he said, “I don’t exactly have a lot of extra money to spend, but I don’t exactly expect to hear from you again,” he laughed.

“No, I’m going to pay you back, as soon as I can,” she said, “how do I reach you?”

He slid his backpack off his back and rustled around for a paper and pen. “Use your back?” he asked.

She giggled and turned around, automatically reaching up to swipe her long hair out of the way, remembering too late that it wasn’t there. She could feel him writing on the paper, a line here, a curve there. It suddenly felt intimate and she considered exchanging her ticket for one to New York after all, but shook her head quickly. Stick to the plan.

“Alright,” he said, and she turned around to see him folding the paper in half, and in half again. “I hope to hear from you, miss?”

“Sarah,” she said, “I”m Sarah. And I will pay you back, mister?”

“John,” he said, “I hope you find what you’re looking for in LA.” He handed her the paper, put the backpack up on his shoulders, grabbed his duffel, and began walking out to the buses.

She grabbed her bag and went to the bathroom, finding an open stall, walking in, bolting it closed behind her, and leaning against the door. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding and fumbled while holding the duffel to open the note:

“They do exchanges, so whatever you’re up to, be safe. If you really do want to pay me back, or look me up: John Stihl, SUNY Oneonta, Psychology Department, 161 Fitzelle Hall, Oneonta, NY 13820.”

She folded the note back up and put it in her pocket. She didn’t know when or how but she would pay him back. In the meantime she had work to do, her bus would be leaving in twenty minutes and she still had to get rid of her phone. She didn’t know much about how those things worked, but she’d seen in a movie that people could use them to find you. She pulled it out of her pocket and bent the two pieces away from one another until they snapped. She put the two pieces back in her right pocket and searched her left pocket for a coin.

Leaving the bathroom and heading for the buses, she stopped by one and dropped down. She shoved the two pieces of phone under the tire with her right hand.

“Can I help you, ma’am?”

She turned and stood up to see a security guard. She smiled and held up the quarter in her left hand, “yes, sir! I just found this quarter. Do you hang on to that stuff or is there a lost and found I can take it to?”

He smiled and pushed his cap back a bit, scratching the hair that’d been stuck under the brim. “Well, now, I don’t expect anyone’s going to come looking for a quarter. You just go on ahead and take it.”

“Thanks!” she said, putting it in her pocket and continuing on her way, looking for her bus. With any luck he’d be thinking about telling his girlfriend or roommate or someone about the sweet young lady that found a quarter and wanted to turn it in, and not thinking about what she looked like or what she might have been doing.

She found her bus and walked on, looking for a seat just a couple seats in on the driver’s side. She wanted to be close to the driver in case any weirdos bothered her but not so close that she could be seen from the doorway. She sat down, pulled a sweatshirt from her bag and folded it into a pillow. She put the sweatshirt against the window and her head against the sweatshirt. Now if that guard came around her bus looking for a second glance to add detail to his story he wouldn’t see her.

She settled in for what she knew would be a very long ride. Grateful for all the good luck she’d had. Grateful for all the helpful people she’d met. Missing that chocolate croissant from that morning and wishing she’d thought to bring some food with her.

“Never mind that,” she told herself, “your name is Sarah Jones and this is the beginning of the rest of your life.”

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Do Over II

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

She drove east until she came to the next big city, passing a few small towns in between. When she saw signs for an airport and hospital she knew she was finally where she needed to be for the next part of her plan. She watched the businesses along the side of the highway and paid attention to billboards with information about what could be found at each exit. Finally she saw it, a coffee shop.

She took the exit, turned right, and turned right again into the parking lot. She exited the vehicle and nearly fell over, grabbing the car door for support. Her left leg had fallen asleep and she hadn’t even noticed. The pins and needles and shooting pains made her want to dance around tapping her foot on the ground to speed things along, but that would draw too much attention. As it was she was equal parts laughing and moaning at the pain and absurdity of it all.

When she could finally put some weight on the leg she began to gingerly walk into the shop. Thankfully there wasn’t a line and only one other person at a table enjoying what appeared to be a chocolate covered croissant. She realized she was incredibly hungry.

“What can I get you?” the young man behind the register asked with a smile.

“Just a plain coffee, largest one you got, and whatever that is they’re eating,” she said.

“Chocolate croissant? You want that heated?”

“Oh, yeah, I hadn’t even thought about that, but that sounds great!” she said, smiling and starting to relax into the idea of food and caffeine coming her way.

“Okey dokey, that’ll be eight dollars and thirty-three cents.”

“Here, and…” she dug around in her pockets for change, “I even have exact change. Hey, do you happen to know if there are any good thrift store around here?” she asked, not really expecting a guy to know too much about the shopping scene but hoping to save herself a trip to a gas station or a long drive around the city searching.

“Oh sure! We call it ‘thrift store row’ cause there’s about four of ’em on one block. You just go up here to the next light, turn left, then make a right at the stop sign and you’ll see them. I’ll bring your order out to you if you want to go sit down?” he offered.

“Thanks,” she said, smiling again, and walking over to a table that would give her a view out the window but that wasn’t too close to the other person in the shop. It always bothered her when people walked into a place that was nearly empty and sat right next to her, like when you went camping and had the entire park to yourself only to come back from a hike and find someone’d set up camp in the spot next door.

The coffee shop worker, Lee, his name tag said, brought her the croissant and coffee and asked if she needed anything else. She politely declined and he seemed a bit chagrined. She wanted to pick up the croissant and bite into it but also wanted to savor it. She decided to pull a layer off and eat it. She stopped herself from groaning as the first bit melted in her mouth. This was amazing, definitely home baked by somebody. She licked the chocolate off her finger and thumb and decided there was no need to continue at that pace. She picked the whole thing up and began shoving it into her mouth, chewing and swallowing and biting as fast as she could. She knew her eyes were rolled back in her head, she knew she probably looked ridiculous, but she couldn’t stop.

When the entire croissant was gone, ravaged, she took her finger and drug it across the plate, getting every last bit of chocolate she could, licking her finger and sighing. She then proceeded to take sips of her coffee, cooled enough to drink in swallows, but there was no rush. Each sip washed a little more of the chocolate away so she took her time. Enjoying the new flavor as much as the old. It was going to busy here over the next few hours, she would relish this down time as long as she could.

She turned her attention out the window and her eyes widened. How had she failed to notice when she pulled in? There across the street was the bus station, exactly another thing she’d be needing. She watched for awhile, sipping her coffee, as people came and went, as buses came and went. It was perfect, busy enough that she’d be just another person coming and going, but not so busy that she wouldn’t be able to find someone to help her.

She finished her coffee, waved to Lee, and walked out of the shop. Leaving her car for a moment she walked across the street to the bus station and up to the departures table. She needed somewhere big and she needed it in about five hours or maybe a bit more. And then she saw it: New York that evening. Plenty of time and plenty big. She went up to the cashier line and waited her turn. Purchasing her ticket, she smiled at the big sign saying “No Refunds,” and walked back across the street to her car.

Remembering Lee’s instructions she made her way to thrift store row and looked through two stores before she found the bag she needed. Big enough to hold what little clothing she’d brought with her, but not so big that she couldn’t tuck it under her feet, lift it up on her own, or carry it for a few miles if need be. As she was making her purchase she asked the cashier if they knew a place that bought cars nearby.

“My uncle has a place two streets over,” the cashier answered, “but I gotta tell you, he’s cheap. Will haggle with you over every little thing to give you as little as possible.”

“I just can’t keep it any more and don’t have time to try and sell it on my own,” she said.

“Well, here’s the thing, my uncle will haggle, but he’s also a big softy. You give him some kind of story and he’ll crumble a bit,” the cashier winked and gave her the name of the car lot and the directions. “Good luck!”

Thanking her again, she walked out to her car with her new bag and transferred her clothes into it. She then threw the trashbag in the garbage in front of the thrift store, got back in her car, and made her way to the car sales lot. As she pulled in she knew this would be just as hard and just as easy as she’d anticipated, all the cars had outrageous price tags on them and none were quite as beat up as hers. She parked and double checked that the only thing in the glovebox was the title and the manual, she also checked the center console and the pocket in the door, just in case, but everything was empty.

Sighing she exited the car and started walking to the office only to be met outside by a man with a mustache and a huge smile, “What brings you in today, little lady?” he asked.

“I’m looking to sell my car,” she said, giving him a small smile and then looking down as though she were sad about the situation.

“That’s just fine! I love buying cars! What are you looking to replace it with?” he asked.

“Oh, I can’t replace it with anything right now. I need to sell it cause I’m moving.”

“Those are out of state plates,” he said, squinting his eyes at her, “you in trouble?”

“No, sir,” she said firmly looking him right in the eyes, “not at all, it’s just that I realized I don’t belong here and I want to get back home. The only way I can afford to is if I sell this car to pay for my ticket back.”

“I see,” he said, softening a little. “Anything wrong with her?” he asked as he started walking towards the car, looking for dents and scrapes and damage.

“No, sir. She runs like a top.”

“Well, let’s take her for a little drive and then I’ll have my mechanic take a look at her while we discuss price,” he said.

“You go right ahead, mister,” she said, handing him the key, “I’ll wait right here if it’s all the same to you.”

Taking the key from her outstretched hand he looked her in the eyes again before nodding and getting in the car. She watched as he fiddled around with things and ran his hand over the inner liner making sure everything was as it should be before driving off the lot. She waited in a patch of sun, enjoying being outside for longer than five minutes for the first time in two days. She felt like she could sleep right there in the parking lot, but told herself to hang on just a few hours more.

She watched as her car returned to her, the man parking it and getting out, walking around the front and the passenger side, then popping the trunk and closing it again after a brief glance inside. He walked towards her, still smiling and said, “go on inside and take a seat, I’m going to give your key to my guy.”

She went in and was met with the smell of stale coffee and some kind of perfumed cleanser that made her crinkle her nose and tuck her face to the side for a moment. She sat down at the only desk inside choosing the chair on the left, closest to the window and furthest from the door. This chair put her head at the same level as the old computer monitor sitting on the desk, and she hoped made her appear smaller and younger, an angle she’d have to work with this man to get the money she needed.

“Okay,” the man said as he came back in, “while Chuey there goes over your car, I’m gonna run a quick report on it, make sure everything is legit, no accidents or anything. Can I get you some coffee?” he asked. She shook her head and he continued, “alright, well, assuming everything is on the up-and-up, I’m thinking we could offer you for about thirty-fivehundred for that old car. I’d like to give you more, but it’s pretty old and not exactly the kind of car that’ll be easy for me to re-sell,” he said, giving her a smile and a wink of apology.

“Well sir, I’m afraid that won’t get me where I need to go so I’m gonna thank you for your time but ask for my key back,” she replied.

His smile grew larger, it was obvious he loved to haggle and was glad she hadn’t turned out as meek as she’d looked, “I hear what you’re saying missy. Let’s just see what ole Chu finds and I’ll run that accident history and then we’ll talk. Maybe we can still work something out.” He turned to the computer and typed some stuff, clicking the mouse a couple times. “Okay, it says here there’s no history of accidents, which is good. And now let’s see,” he typed a bit more, a few more mouse clicks, “yep, it looks like the title is clean, that’s excellent.”

“Hey, boss?” a man asked, coming in from a backdoor she hadn’t noticed.

“Yes, Chuey?” he smiled and beckoned with his hand.

“Everything looks good, maybe needs some oil, but nothing big,” Chuey said.

“Great, buddy, thank you. You have everything you need to get back to that Lexus?”

“Yeah, man, we’re good,” Chuey replied before ducking back out.

“Okay. So, we’re good all around. Now it’s just a matter of what I can sell the car for. You see, I can’t pay you what I can get for it, cause then I don’t make any money. How would I pay Chuey or my rent? You see? So, here’s what I’ll do, I’ll give you fourthousand and you can head on home. Sound good?”

“Well sir, I hear you, and I understand you run a business. I can see that. But I gotta have enough to get back home and get back on my feet. I made a big mistake coming to the city, and I know that, but I gotta make it better, and going home without a car and nothing else to my name won’t cut it,” she said.

“You sure know how to get to a man’s sensitive side, don’t cha,” he said, wagging his forefinger at her as though she were an errant toddler. “Alright, here’s the deal, I’ll give you a check for forty-twohundred and that’s really the best I can do.”

“Mister, you and I both know you’re gonna put a sticker on that car that’s ten grand. Now you’ll probably end up taking eight for it, and that’s fine. I don’t expect to get eight. But I gotta have more than forty-two and I gotta have cash,” she replied.

He looked hard at her for a minute, the smile gone from his face, his mustache twitching a bit at the right corner. “You leaving today?” he asked. She nodded. “Okay, you look here, you leave today and don’t tell nobody the deal you got from me, you hear? I’ll give you fortyfive, cash, and a lift to the airport,” and there came that smile, only this smile was gentle and sincere.

“Sir, you gotta deal,” she said, sticking out her hand so they could shake on it. He laughed and shook her hand.

Still pumping her arm up and down he said, “give me thirty minutes to get all the paperwork in order, get your cash, and have Chuey clean up to drive you.”

“Thank you, truly,” she replied.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

True Grit II

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

A Few Months Later…

The buying of materials and building of the fort had all gone swimmingly. He couldn’t have asked for a more incredible pair of kids. They took to everything like they’d been doing it all their lives, which they had. At six and nine years old they’d already built their fair share of bird houses, bat boxes, owl boxes, jewelry boxes for their mother…who was never coming back. Like the dog.

He shook himself. He had to stop doing that.

At any rate, he didn’t get it. They’d built the fort together with no problems, even painted the damn thing. They’d gotten along so well for months, and they were finally sleeping better too. No longer all crowded into the king bed, the boys had slowly made their way back to their own beds. Claiming, “dad, you just snore so loud.”

What had gone wrong? Why were the boys causing trouble now? Hadn’t they had their fair share of rough? Hadn’t they finally settled it all out? He heaved his shoulders a few times, and took some deep breaths. He had good kids, he just had to keep that in mind. Don’t automatically assume they were in the wrong. He went inside where the boys had been told to wait for him, it had seemed best considering the circumstances to keep them on the linoleum. He crossed over to where they sat, muddy, possibly bloody, it looked like bright blood, maybe paint? Jesus, these kids.

“Can you tell me, without all talking all at once, exactly what happened?” he asked as he took a seat at the kitchen table.

The boys looked at each other, and in that way they had, that way that made him grateful they weren’t twins cause surely then it’d be much worse, way creepier, they conversed with one another using their eyes. When they’d made a decision they both turned back to him and the younger one dropped his eyes while the older one began:

They’d been at the fort, like every day since they’d started working on it and every day since they’d finished it. Today they’d brought a bottle of ketchup (“sorry, dad,” interrupted the youngest, earning him a glare from the eldest who continued), so it they could have “real blood” and they’d been playing cowboy movie. They were taking turn being John Wayne cause he was their favorite, and they were taking turns being the bad guy cause they also each wanted to get bloody. But then they ran out of ketchup so they decided to use mud, only they didn’t have any mud, so they had to get water so they could make mud. It was such a long way back to the house but it was just a short jaunt down to the creek…

“What’s the rule about the creek?” he interrupted, glaring at both boys, his face stony.

“Never go to the creek without telling mom or dad,” both boys said without thinking, shoulders up to their ears and eyes downcast.

As soon as it came out of their mouths they froze. He froze.

She’d just been mentioned again.

He silently cursed. It was the first time the creek rule had been broken or even come up since she’d passed. Of course the boys would repeat the rule with “mom” in it. He sighed.

“Boys, she’s always gonna be with us. Even though she’ll never be here the way we want. It’s okay if she keeps coming up. It’s just gonna be hard for awhile, til we really get used to it…” he trailed off.

“When will we get used to it?” the eldest asked.

“Ah hell, boys,” he rubbed his face in his hands and looked back up at them, “I don’t know. I really don’t know. They say it happens though. Alright, alright, so you decided the creek was closer. Then what?”

“We had that bucket from when we were bringing supplies back and forth,” the youngest started but stopped when the eldest gave him a sideways kick to the foot. “Ouch!”

“I’ll tell it,” the eldest reminded before continuing:

They decided they’d take the bucket to the creek and the eldest would keep his feet out of the water while dipping the bucket in just enough to get a little water, as long as the eldest didn’t actually touch the water, they wouldn’t really be breaking the rules.

They’d both turned a deep red at this and looked up quickly to see if he bought their justification. When it was clear he didn’t they immediately looked back down and after a swallow of shame the eldest continued:

Everything was going perfectly according to plan, eldest out of the water, bucket filling with water, when the neighbor kids came running down their hill and saw the boys at the creek. After thinking the boys were bloody and then finding out they were just covered in ketchup the neighbor kids wanted to join in the game, too. All four boys agreed there was no need to get parents involved, the creek was low, the neighbors would just cross and they’d all go play…

“I oughta beat both your buts just for that,” he started before seeing their eyes go wide.

They’d agreed not to use corporal punishment before they’d even had kids. They’d agreed because they both knew it didn’t work. They’d agreed because neither one of them wanted their kids to live in fear of them. They’d agreed because they’d both grown up with that and hated it. But the boys still knew what a but beatin’ was, they’d read about it in some book or heard some other kid talk about it, and they’d definitely seen it in some movies. This was the first they’d ever been threatened with it though.

Grumbling to himself in an effort not to roar, why couldn’t he roar? He needed to let off steam here too. He took a deep breath and then motioned with his hand to the eldest to go on.

They neighbors crossed with just a small slip but it was no big deal, only the one boy got really wet and he swore he was fine, and they all ran back up to the fort and they were having a great time. They weren’t playing anything specific, they were just all cowboys and that was their fort and they’d take turns going out to check on the cattle or poke the fire for the beans…

“What?” he roared. There. He’d roared. And he did feel better. “You started a fire?”

A chorus of “no’s” ensued and from the furiously quick babble he came to understand it was a pretend fire, they’d just stacked up a bunch of branches in a ring of stones but no one actually had any matches so…

“So you couldn’t start a fire?” he asked.

“Right!” both boys said and looked at him with big smiles on their faces.

“But you would have if someone had matches?” he asked.

What followed was a whole lot of what sounded like spluttering and coughing and no-no-no-no followed by wide eyes that quickly looked back down again.

“What am I gonna,” he started then stopped. “Just try to tell me the rest guys.”

Everything was going great until the neighbor kids said they couldn’t be cowboys anymore. They had to be bad guys cause everyone knows bad guys don’t have moms and they didn’t have a mom anymore. That’s when…

“That’s when I hit em with a stick from the fire,” interrupted the youngest, tears running down his face.

“And I shoved em,” said the eldest, using his fist to wipe the tears off his own face.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Silence VIII

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

I’m not used to being put on hold. I don’t think it’s ever happened in my professional life ever. In fact, I’m usually the one having to put people on hold or quickly tell them I’ll have to call them back because another emergency has come in. When Paul tossed me on hold quick as a whip my first instinct was to hang up, but I wasn’t going to spend more of my day trying to get him back on the phone, re-verifying who he was, etc. I needed to get the man to commit to coming in and I had no idea how. Without him, however, I couldn’t very well help the other Easton who could very well die in my care. So I waited. On hold.

I’d been on hold for roughly two seconds when there was a rap on my door and it opened. Curdish poked his head in and looked at me with a question, could I talk? I nodded.

“Easton,” he said.

“Yes, I’m hold,” I said.

“No, doctor Voss. There are Easton’s coming in. Just got a call from the medic.”

“They can’t be the same,” I began.

He nodded.


“I’ll be right there,” I waved at him with the back of my hand. If these were the same Easton’s I really needed to talk to Paul. He’d be wanting to talk to me. What the hell was taking him so long? I couldn’t wait any longer. I hung up the phone. And then everything outside my office got loud, the sneakers squeaking on the floors as people turned sharply, the wheels on the gurneys, the not quite shouted information from the medics to my team and from my team to one another.

I took a moment to catch my breath and get my bearings. Then I stopped at the station to ask Curdish what exactly we had on our hands.

“Two boys under ten and their mother. Appears to have been a car accident, one fatality. Body at our morgue awaiting autopsy.”

“Thank you. Which rooms?”

“Ditmire wanted to keep them close, doctor, so they’re in across the station there.”

I nodded and turned to head into the first room across the hall. Walking in I saw both boys in the first room. I was a bit startled, but pleased. The boys would need to be together to keep their fear under control and to make life easier on their father when he arrived. After saying a few words of introduction and greeting, I told the boys I’d be back in a little while and went next door to check on the mother.

Ditmire followed me in, so after looking at her charts I asked the usual question about stability. When Ditmire mentioned the medic had called an emergency contact I knew instantly why I’d been put on hold. Shit shit shit. That poor man. I dropped the charts on the bed and took off for my office. I needed to find Easton’s number right away.

“Doc? I have Easton on two?” I heard Curdish call.

“Got it!” I called back as I turned through my door towards my desk and swiped up the phone. “Mr. Easton?”

“Talk to me, Voss! No one will tell me a damn thing. How’s my wife? How are my kids? What the hell is going on?” I could hear a horn honking and assumed he was driving.

“I’m so glad you called back. I was just getting ready to call you. Your boys appear to be fine. We’ll most likely check for concussion, but nothing broken, no bleeding. Amazing considering I’m told it was a fatality accident…”

“Fatality? My wife?” Paul interrupted.

“No, sir, no I’m sorry I didn’t mean,” I took a deep breath, “I wasn’t there but I’ve been told the driver of the other car didn’t survive. Your wife is here, too, and she’s a bit trickier. I’ve not had a chance to finish reviewing everything but it appears she is stable now but that it’s difficult keeping her so.”

“I should be there in a couple minutes,” Paul said.

“Excellent,” I began to say before realizing he’d hung up.

Paul Easton would be arriving shortly. That was both excellent and terrible. I needed the man to give me permission to take his father off the drugs. I needed the man to sit with his wife and talk to her, keep her here, as they say. I needed the man to hug his children and reassure them that everything would be okay. And in the meantime, I needed to verify that he could say that. I needed to be sure it would be okay.

Heading back into the mother’s room and reexamining the charts I searched for a reason that this perfectly healthy woman wasn’t remaining stable. Everything about her vitals cried healthy, so why wouldn’t she stay with us, why wouldn’t she wake up? I went round to the boys’ room. Better start checking for concussion and perhaps I could make them laugh loud enough that their mother would hear.

But the boys were asleep. Sound asleep. A part of me wanted to wake them, if there was risk of concussion they should really be made to stay awake for as long as possible or until concussion had been ruled out. But I couldn’t wake them. I didn’t have it in me. They’d been through so much and there was hell to go. Why not let them enjoy their slumber a bit longer.

It was so quiet in their room. The boys didn’t snore and weren’t hooked up to anything but saline drips to keep them hydrated. There was no beeping, just the occasional whir of the saline machine. It was so peaceful. I wondered how often their mom and dad had stood looking in on them like this at home. Two wild boys finally quiet and calm and relaxed after another day of chaos.

My favorite part of each day is standing in Janey’s doorway when she’s sleeping. Listening to her breathe, sometimes sneaking in to pull covers up or replace a stuffed animal that’s fallen to the ground. No matter what happened during the day her breath in sleep is the same, soothing.

I enjoyed the silence while I could. Paul would be here any minute.

~~~This is one hour~~~

Silence VII

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

Well now, after the doc took that call and I was free to heave a breath and move on with my work the darndest thing happened. The medics called that they were on their way with a family of three, car wreck. But get this, the family’s name is Easton! What are the odds? There’s no way it’s the same Easton as the old man we got in a drug fog coma in room 102, can’t be, God would never be so cruel. I mean, my God is a vengeful God to be sure, but He’d never lay all that on one man.

I tell you what, those two boys came through here quick as you like looking just like their mama who came through here just as quick. I didn’t hardly have a chance to consider whether those boys looked like old man Easton in 102, we were just so busy. The mama had a pulse that went all across the board, strong when she came in then all but disappeared a few minutes later. Medic said they almost lost her three or four times on the way over. And while those boys would be just fine once the trauma wore off, you never really knew what could be going on internally.

I wasn’t about to tell doc we needed him, not when I knew who he was talking to on the phone, but I also couldn’t not tell him. So I sent Curdish. He’s our weakest link on the unit and I wouldn’t feel a bit bad if he was reassigned. YOu wouldn’t know we were waiting for the doc with all the activity: lines being put in or swabbed and swapped from the medics, machines being turned on and adjusted and readjusted, and the whole time of course you’re trying to keep the kids calm. They’re in shock but not so shocked that they don’t have a thousand and one questions, most of them about where their mama is.

I don’t have any kids of my own. Never felt the need. Their okay, the future and all that, but they also need constant attention. Like a puppy. Only worse. Kids talk back. I’ve never had a puppy, never wanted a kid, and came this close to having a cat before deciding even that would just be too much. Still, I’m pretty good with kids in a nontraditional sort of way. They like my no-bones attitude, I guess. Most people talk down to kids, why? Talk to em like you’d talk to anyone else, only maybe explain a word here and there that they may not know. Easy.

By the time doctor Voss returned to the floor we had the kids settled and sharing a room (usually against the rules on our floor, but I knew the doc would bend em for this), and the mama…well, I just couldn’t tell. It doesn’t happen often this kind of thing where you can’t tell if the patient realizes their still alive or not. Some patients get the whiff of escape from the corporeal and that’s all it takes. They’re flatlined within twenty-four hours. Other patients are taking all your skill and energy and time and smarts to keep alive but you just can’t get em through and their gone, too, only not willingly.

This woman…I dunno. It’s like she she was already regretting all the things she was leaving behind not realizing she didn’t have to. Like she truly doesn’t understand that she’s still alive if she wants to be.

I could tell the call with Easton had shook the doctor a bit more than he’d expected and I wondered how it went. I could also tell the doc was impressed with how I’d handled the incoming Easton’s. He seemed a little surprised that I’d let the boys stay together, but surprised in a “that’s what I would have done” kinda way. Yeah, well, don’t I know it. I’m good at my job, that little dalliance in the break room not withstanding. Seems the doc remembered my worth.

I followed the doc into the mama’s room to await instruction and see where things were going to go. He grabbed her charts and walked up to the head of her bed. Reading and occasionally looking down at her, he finally asked, “is she stable now?”

“Seems to be for now, but medics almost lost her a few times. It’s not their machinery either. We’ve been having a hard time keeping her here. I haven’t notified her emergency contact yet as I wanted to hear from you first but the medic said he found one on her cell …”

“Did he call it?” the doc interrupted.

“He said he did and…”

The doc had dropped the paperwork on the bed and taken off at what we call a “hospital run” for his office. It just means he was going faster than a walk but slower than a jog; fast enough to get there but slow enough not to draw unwanted attention. It was all the answer I needed. This poor family.

In the silence of her room, as silent as it can be with all the beeping and whooshing and droning of iridescent lights, I stopped for a moment to pray for her and her family. In the silence of my prayer I could have sworn I heard her ask me to turn the television off. But when I looked up she hadn’t moved.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Silence VI

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

This was not happening again. I’d already dealt with my father’s death once. I remember being a little kid, my aunt trying to make me understand that my dad was dead. I just didn’t get it. I kept asking if he’d be back in time for the fair that summer, or for dinner that night, or for my first day of school. She had to keep telling me over and over that dead meant gone forever, not an hour or a day or a year but for always. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I remember when I was older though and I finally did get it. I remember realizing he’d never be there for my ball games or my graduations or my wedding. I remember grieving the loss of a man I never knew. It felt kind of phony. How can you be sad about the death of someone you never knew?

I remember really grieving after my first son was born. Here I was a brand new father and I had no idea what I was doing. How was I going to be a dad when I had no idea what a dad was? I spent those first two years watching every parent-child interaction I saw with a stealthy intensity I wasn’t aware I had. I saw relationships I was envious of: had my dad been like that with me before he died? I saw relationships I was afraid of: had my daddy yelled at me like that before he died? I tried to forget all the bad stuff I heard and saw and focus only on the good stuff.

Then somewhere along the line my good buddy, Ted told me the best damn advice I have ever heard about parenting: “Be the parent you wish you had.” Well, hell, I could do that. And I did. Until that marriage went to hell and then I had to move in order to keep a job I needed and saw less and less of my kid. Bout tore me up. I never thought I’d be the type to give up my kid, but by the time I was able to fight for him he didn’t much want to be fought for and that was that.

The point is, my damn daddy had never been around that I could remember, and certainly not ever when I wanted or needed him, but now here he was fresh out the grave and at my local hospital? He had some kinda nerve asking for me.

“I’m here,” I finally said.

“Oh. Good. Thought I’d lost you. As I said, you’ll need to come in so we can discuss how to proceed.”

“I’m sorry doctor Voss but I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to proceed with the man you have in your hospital. You might just as well,” and here I was interrupted by my call waiting. Damn these phones and their features! I would have ignored it, too, except I saw it was my wife. Since I could count on one hand the number of times she had actually picked up a phone and called me and every one of them had been an emergency, I knew I needed to answer it. “You’ll have to hold on there a minute, Voss. I got an emergency call on the other line,” and I switched over.

“Glory, what’s wrong?” I asked.

“Hello, sir, you’re the emergency contact in a cell phone we’ve just found at the scene of an accident. We just want you to know we’re taking the victims to Clark County Hospital and should arrive in the next ten minutes.”

“Accident? Is everyone okay? My wife? My boys?”

“I can’t tell you anything more, sir. I’m only authorized to look for and call an emergency contact. You’ll need to speak with the hospital to learn more. You’ll want to ask for Doctor Voss’ unit.”

The line went dead and I heard the phone beep at me about switching back to the other line. The other line! Voss!

“Listen here, Voss, that was someone sayin’ they’re bringing my family to your hospital and I need to speak to you about it. What’s going on? Is my wife okay? My boys? What happened?”

There was no answer.

“Voss!” I shouted.

Silence. And then my phone did that boop boop boop noise it does meaning I’d lost the call.

~~~That’s an hour~~~

Silence V

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

“Ma’am, can you hear me? What’s your name, ma’am?”

The voice was so far away. Why was everything dark? She must have fallen asleep under the weighted blanket cause she couldn’t feel her body. Why couldn’t she open her eyes?

“Unresponsive. I’ve got a pulse.”

It was that same voice. Ugh, did she fall asleep in front of the television again? Must have. Geez, it’s been ages since she’s done that.

“I’m gonna notify Voss we’re heading his way. Find a cell phone yet?”

“Got it! Under the driver’s side seat. Musta flown off the dash. Aaaaaand, yes, an emergency contact.”

What the heck was she watching? Maybe it was something Paul was watching? Whatever it was she was glad she couldn’t see it. Probably one of those medical dramas with blood everywhere and people being cut up in an operating room. How was that entertaining?

She felt a breeze on her face and heard metal and the sounds of something rolling.

“We’re all loaded up. Make the call from the road.”

There was the sound of doors being slammed, a siren coming from somewhere close, and then that voice again.

“Hello, sir, you’re the emergency contact in a cell phone we’ve just found at the scene of an accident. We just want you to know we’re taking the victims to Clark County Hospital and should arrive in the next ten minutes.”

There was road noise and that siren still wailing away.

“I can’t tell you anything more, sir. I’m only authorized to look for and call an emergency contact. You’ll need to speak with the hospital to learn more. You’ll want to ask for Doctor Voss’ unit.”

More road noise. More siren. Seriously, why couldn’t she open her eyes?

There was an exhalation of breath followed by some mumbling. She could just make out what sounded like “gonna be okay,” before everything went quiet again. Completely quiet. A unique kind of silence she’d never quite experienced before…no, wait, it was familiar. Newly familiar. Luxurious and terrifying.

She woke to prayer. What the hell? She still couldn’t open her eyes or move her body. She’d never felt so tired in her life. What in the world was Paul watching? He must have fallen asleep too, she realized, because he wouldn’t be watching any evangelical stuff on purpose. She tried to say something like, “turn the TV off,” but wasn’t sure if it actually came out or not.

Ah, silence. He must have heard her and turned it off. Maybe he’d carry her to bed or come snuggle up with her. Something was running. The fridge? The dishwasher? She couldn’t quite place it. A rhythmic mechanical noise. Familiar. Otherwise, it was quiet. Not that thick syrupy kind of silence she’d been experiencing lately, that dangerous kind of silence. This was more of a sounds-of-the-night-as-you-fall-asleep-quiet. Lovely. Heavenly. The perfect kind of silence.

~~~This is not an hour, but the end of this piece.~~~