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Brain on Stress

By Barbara Steinhauser Published about a month ago Updated 27 days ago 1 min read
Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

Desperation in his voice. Gaps between painful inhales as he pleads with static in my ear. “Pick me up. Pick me up.” His is a platinum record with a scratch. “Hospital. Hospital. Can’t breathe. Pick me up.”

I snap. “Get back in the car. Grampa needs us.”

She dives into the backseat, this child of ten. I speed from Sprout’s parking lot, rigid behind the wheel.

Blazing tail lights at sunset: a cacophony of glare. Heart fluttering, pounding, racing, skipping. Fight or flight? Fight or flight? Fight! My forever mantra.

“Grampa.” How is she articulate? “Wait for us by the mailbox. Wear a jacket.”

Wait for us. Wait for us.

He collapses into the passenger seat, clutching, grasping. Will he die here? Now? Cold air from his window rolls over us.

Drowning. Driving. Tailgating. Too paralyzed to pass. “Hospital,” he moans.

Neon Urgent Care sign: oxygen; paddles! Empty handicapped spot. I fling open the door, leap onto frozen legs, bowed as a cowgirl.

“Move,’” I command. And they carry me through the door to collapse on the service counter. “Husband. Possible heart attack!”

He stumbles through the door. Alive.

A debriefing medic admonishes me. “Next time call 9-11. Save you lots of anxiety and road stress. We carry oxygen. And paddles.”

Short StoryPsychologicalMicrofictionfamily

About the Creator

Barbara Steinhauser

MFA Writing for Children and Young Adults

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