Thursday, June 16, 2011


It was 11:57 pm.

As usual, none of her boys were answering their phones.

If that wasn’t her greatest pet peeve in all existence, she couldn’t readily think of another. Having grown boys, all proud owners of the latest technological gadgets, willing and eager to show them off - their alarms, whistles, tweeters, and bells - yet none were ever reachable when she needed them. And right now, confounded, she truly needed them! Any one of her mulish offspring would do.

It was a last resort to dial up an ambulance, but numerous calls and texts to all three adult children had proven entirely futile. The pain, beginning as a muted ache between the shoulder blades, had intensified by degrees until it was agonizing, sitting, lying or standing. Yet she’d endured it for nearly an hour already. A handful of aspirin, acetaminophen, and some leftover prescription painkillers from five years back had done nothing. The pain had steadily increased without a hitch to it’s present insufferable level.

She recalled her first experience with these excruciating attacks; three months pregnant with her first child, Lenny. The doctors had scratched their heads in bewilderment for four months as one bout after another came, persisting for hours or days unpredictably. Then the pain would subside like vanishing dew in the sunlight, erased completely as though it had never existed. Never happened.

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” one doctor had finally declared in frustration, after a slew of ordered tests, “Go home, take a pill, and quit being a whiner!”

Sound medical advice, to be sure. Yet she’d believed him. That was until a week later when another acute attack gripped her chest, radiating throughout her system like some alien’s tentacles in a bodily invasion of the most torturous kind. The thought that death would be preferable to this misdiagnosed agony had struck her more than once.

Chimes hit the air, an echo of three consecutive notes announcing someone at the front door. She glanced down at the phone clutched in her hands.

The time was 12:02 am.

It had taken merely five minutes for the ambulance to arrive. Five minutes. Short by most standards, unless the hilt of a dagger were protruding from one’s back, the sharp tip poking through the chest. To her, it was as if some invisible demon were twisting the blade mercilessly, bent on exacting some hellish torture without hindrance. She understood that eventually there’d come an end to the pain. It always ceased at some point. The only truly haunting problem was not knowing the duration of this agony, nor when it would strike again.

Bent over the bed as if in the act of beseeching her maker in prayer - a position that seemed to afford the most relief - she gripped her phone in hand and dialed each child one last time. When three-of-three calls rang without answer, she left the same voicemail for each boy, spoken in hushed, labored exhales.

“I’m at the hospital. The ambulance……..had to come. I haven’t reached……. either of your brothers. Please, let them know. Perhaps they’ll pick up…….for you.”

The chimes echoed again from the front room, pressed more than once to play the same tune over itself.

She slid from the bed onto her hands and knees, and crawled to the front door, every move an effort. Her fingers trembled when they reached to pinch and twist at the lock, allowing three able-bodied rescue workers to enter and see to her well-being. Though the pain persisted, those caring hands falling upon her was an emotional consolation of immense proportions.

“Thank you, son……..thank you,” she repeated in a continual whisper.

To her it was wicked irony that she was helped by three men near the ages of her own boys. One even shared the same name; Lenny. Another was painted with a similar sprinkling of freckles, while the third had milky-blue eyes like her youngest.

Sure and strong arms had her up in a light, transportable bed. They lifted her in one quick move with as little added discomfort as possible. Sympathetic utterances reassured every pained gasp, while tender squeezes on her shoulders, arms, and legs eased the uncontrollable shedding of tears. An avalanche of questions came at her, many purposefully meant to be witty; an attempt to alleviate her suffering with humor. It hurt to jostle her lungs, yet the shared laughter felt good at the same time.

“Are you allergic to anything?” Two blue eyes stared, waiting for an answer.

“No, no,” she uttered shaking her head.

One brow rose questioningly. “Not even bullets?”

“What?” A delayed chuckle crossed her lips as she grasped his odd sense of humor. Her fist pressed against the pain in her chest. “No, I mean, um. Well, probably. I’ve never taken any.”

“Good thing. They don’t taste so great.”

She pressed harder on her chest with an unavoidable chuckle.

“Has the severity of your pain let up any?”

Her head shook in denial, her lips wilting.

“On a scale from one to infinity, infinity being a pleasant stay in Hades, how’s the pain?”

“Infinity, I think.”

“I coulda guessed.”

“One to ten?”

“Definitely ten.”

The man with freckles leaned in and took her by the wrist, turning her slender arm upward. “I need you to hold still, ma’am. I’m going to get an IV started. It’ll hurt for a second, but not anywhere near as bad as you’re hurting now.”

“It’ll probably feel like a massage in comparison,” the comedian winked.

She laughed, then groaned.

“Any family close by?” The needle slipped through her skin at the same time he asked the question.

“My three sons.” She noted how his gaze automatically flickered to both associates.

“Care to adopt three more wayward scoundrels?”

She smiled and nodded. “Sure.”

“We might take you up on that. Especially if you can bake a mean tray of homemade chocolate chip cookies.”

“Or brownies,” the one named Lenny remarked, “I could go for some gooey brownies.”

“Stuffed with walnuts,” Freckle-face added.

“And iced in a thick layer of fudge frosting with those crunchy rainbow sprinkles strewn on top,” Lenny said. He patted his tummy just imagining the treat.

Her smile stretched, though the agony written on her forehead seemed to tighten and intensify. “I can bake brownies,” she managed to utter.

“Alright.” A big hand patted her leg kindly, “We need to cart you over to the ambulance, so you’ll have to lie down for awhile.” Four strong hands were immediately supporting her, lowering her gently on the stretcher.

“Oh my gosh, it hurts,” she whimpered.

“I know, I know. It’ll just be for a bit,” Lenny said, positioning himself over her head. The freckled man moved to her toes, preparing to lift with his partner.

“Here, squeeze my hand, beautiful. I’ll walk with you.”

She looked at the offered hand and instantly removed her fist from her chest to take hold of it. A warm smile beamed down on her while thick fingers squeezed in response to her desperate grip. They hefted her bed into the back of the ambulance. Blue-eyes crawled in with her.

“Is it okay for us to share medical information with your sons?”

She turned her head to him and nodded, but her entire expression twisted into a scowl clearly more annoyed than pained. “Sure. If you……..can get hold of them…….be my guest.”

The ambulance ride was quick, though every bump and turn exacted it’s own torture. Her heroes wheeled her into the emergency room and left her there in good hands. They parted with compassionate gestures.

Lenny squeezed her shoulder. “You’ll be feeling right as rain here soon.”

Freckle-face patted her ankle. “Don’t make it a habit of callin’ on us. You can always swing by the fire station if you wanna say hello.”

Lastly, the blue-eyed jester winked at her. “I’ll be looking for those adoption papers in the mail with a plate of homemade treats. Make ’em chocolate.”

She nodded and forced a smile. “Thank you. All of you,” she whispered through her tears.

“No problem. You take care, ma’am.”

Two nurses took over from there. “What’s the time,” one asked.

It was 12:27 am.
Copyright 2011 Richelle E. Goodrich

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