For this assignment I really did think I’d do a nice piece of poetry, or a fun description of a trip to the park. Either way, I wanted to challenge myself to use all of the hospital words on the list. But on Tuesday night we were sitting in the den watching the Bourne Ultimatum and an idea sparked. Whether it was a good idea is debatable, but at any rate the results are below. I’ve often wondered how I would react in an emergency situation — say, if someone broke into our home while my parents and siblings were out. This is how I imagine it might feel. And I ended up fitting in every word on the list.
I wrote this as a sort of imaginary extension of the autobiography assignment, intentionally leaving the main character nameless in order to help the reader connect more closely with “her”. “Jim” is to represent my own brother and “she” is meant, in a roundabout way, to be me…the point being that if “her” thoughts sound weird, it’s because mine are! Case in point: I always eat my grapefruit with whipped cream. Weird, yes. Amazingly delicious, also yes. You should try it sometime.
Case in point 2: I pretty much always have a stream of ideas going through my head, whether it be for photography, poetry, fashion, music, cooking. I tried to convey that here, where “she” is jumping around from photo props to poetry to grapefruit. That’s how my brain works, so that’s how I wrote “her”.
Case in point 3: While it might seem a little unrealistic that there would be a gun handy in the story, our family does keep firearms in the house. We firmly believe in the right and duty of self-defense. And…*whispers*…guns are quite fun to shoot under the proper circumstances, namely, under my dad’s supervision at the range.
Case in point 4: I’ve never been in a situation like the one this story portrays, and Lord willing I never will. But when we were in a car accident, I remember noticing weird trivial details…like my mind was working so fast that it actually took in more information than it needed to — information that it typically filters out. I tried to convey that sensation here with the “pills” on the sweater sleeve, etc. Plus it was a sneaky way to use a hospital term. =)
This is my first time attempting an action-type scenario, and come to think of it, I’ve never really read any action books — just seen a few action movies. So it’s a new style in a lot of ways for me, and quite definitely a deviation from my usual overly-symbolized allegory or cutesy, Milne-sy children’s story. So maybe it’s dorky…but it was fun to try, and if it is dorky, I’ll just know for next time that I can’t write action.
And now, for those of you who hung in there till the end of the intro, congratulations. You made it.
She picked up the paper towels and rummaged in the medicine cabinet for the spray bottle of disinfectant. Where is it…there…oh, wait, that’s the rubbing alcohol…cotton swabs … Her fingers closed on the Lysol and she misted it over the bathroom counter, mentally returning to the photo shoot she was planning. If Jim would let me use his motorcycle as a prop, I bet the Nelson kids would look so cute on it…I’ll have them wear blue just in case…What was that sound?
She stopped to listen, spray bottle poised over the sink, heart wondering whether it should skip a beat.
Nothing. Sigh. Why do I always do that? I can’t stand how jumpy I am when Mom and Dad are gone…even if Jim were here I wouldn’t have noticed that noise. Huh. Funny how the mind plays tricks on itself.
The spray bottle resumed its work with a protesting honk.
I wonder if I could make that into a poem? “Cancerous fear, I feel it and pray…” Pray, pray, what rhymes with pray? Say, away, X-ray — definitely not! — day, may…
It was late before she finished straightening up the house and sat down to perform surgery on a large grapefruit. Her parents would be home in just an hour, and she decided to wait up for them. Doctoring up the grapefruit with a dash of sugar and a huge dollop of whipped cream, she went upstairs to enjoy Sherlock Holmes.
She couldn’t remember afterwards if it was during A Scandal in Bohemia or A Case of Identity when a sharp crash sounded in the back yard. I could not have imagined that…
She waited a moment, ears tuned and eyes fixed on the stairs. Maybe…maybe a cat knocked over a pot… But this time unknown fear within her began to tick like a time bomb. Something was very wrong. There was the gleam of a flashlight in the living room. And the door handle began to rattle.
A moment later came the sound of breaking glass.
Oh, God…her terror voiced itself in an incomplete prayer. The answer came swift and sure, slicing through the anesthetic effect of fear. He’s by the front door now…too late to get out of the house…Jim’s room, gun in Jim’s room…
Never before had the hallway seemed so long. She took it in three steps and bounded into Jim’s bedroom. Snatching the shotgun from the closet, she ran through the steps practiced at the trapshooting range in her mind. Fingers grasping, a series of clicks from the metal object in her hands that suddenly seemed so foreign…done. Now what…the pounding in her chest began again, so hard that her whole body shook with each beat of the heart and her face stung as though pricked by needles.
The cry of an ambulance outside reminded her of the phone lying on the bed where she had cast it. It took an eternity of two seconds to dial with trembling white fingers.
“Please state your emergency…”
“I need the police.” Her mouth felt dry. “Someone is in my house. I’m here alone, but I have a gun…tell the police I’ve got a gun! I’m upstairs, left bedroom…”
“Ma’am, please remain on the phone. I need you to tell me where you live.”
“1024 Condi Lane…”
Injected with the surreal calm of the dispatcher, she felt herself taking control of the situation. The deathly panic of a moment before was swept away by a surge of adrenaline-induced assurance. “He’s in the house now. I am going to put the phone down, but I will not hang up. Stay with me.”
Ignoring the dispatcher’s repeated instructions to remain on the phone, she switched off the bedroom light, suddenly conscious that she was backlit. More crashing…footsteps on the stairs…a light in the hallway…the moment had come. Oh, God…help me.
He was little more than a boy, nineteen at most, but the fierce snarl and curse word that escaped him did not make her relax her grip on the shotgun.
With that single word, the ground stopped spinning. Every detail of the room came into focus and became chiseled in sharp relief. Her wired, hyperactive senses noted and dismissed the fact that the sleeve of her sweater was starting to pill. A swift, indefinable motion from the man riveted her attention.
“I wouldn’t. It’s loaded.” Her voice cracked as she said it, and she knew she sounded scared. Gratefully she observed that the finger curled around the trigger did not shake. “Sit down.”
He didn’t say a thing. The sterile, ferrety eyes darted back and forth, sizing up the slight figure and hefty gun.
“Sit down!” This time it came out as a clipped, controlled bark, emphasized with a motion of the barrel.
He sat down. Thank You, God.
“On your stomach, hands behind your back.”
Never once taking her eyes from the prone figure or her finger from the warm steel, she picked up the phone once more. The dispatcher was still droning on in that detached, inhuman voice.
“Ma’am, are you there? Ma’am, I need — “
“He’s on the ground now. I’m holding a gun on him. I need you to get in touch with my dad, his phone number is –”
“Ma’am, I’ve got an officer at the door right now. If you have a weapon, you need to put it down.”
“I can’t do that yet…”
“Ma’am, you need to put your weapon down right now…”
Downstairs a heavy booted footstep sounded on the tile and she called down, “Up here! We’re up here!”
She dropped the phone and set down the gun gingerly, feeling the flow of energy slow in her veins. The last five minutes and the swift impulses that had guided her through them ebbed away as those heavenly footsteps came pounding up the stairs. And as the first of two black uniforms came into view over the stair rail she crumpled on the ground — still conscious, but shaking uncontrollably.
For the first time she noticed blood on her finger. Must’ve happened while I was loading the gun. The sight of blood never bothered her. But this time she buried her face in her hands and sobbed like a child. One officer returned in a few moments and she tried to answer his questions, but it all seemed so vague. It wasn’t really happening. She heard her own voice repeating her father’s phone number to the officer and asking to speak to him. The man’s face softened a little, and he nodded.
It seemed like forever before the officer finished explaining the circumstances to her father and she was allowed to talk with him.
“You ok, sweetie?”
“Um…I…cut my finger, but I think I’m ok…” Her voice cracked again.
“You want me to pick up a wheel chair on my way home?” He’s trying to make me laugh. She tried to oblige him, but she was getting dangerously near to tears again.
“I’ll be ok…I’m just really shaky…and I’m scared…and I want you to come home.”
“We’re on our way right now. Think you can hang in until we get there? They said one of the officers will stay with you.”
She steadied herself against the wall and breathed deeply. “Yeah, Daddy. I’ll be fine. I love you.”