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Reaching Out

for Vocal's Just a Minute Challenge

By Christy MunsonPublished 29 days ago Updated 28 days ago 4 min read
Top Story - April 2024
Reaching Out
Photo by Kyle Broad on Unsplash

I promise her. I'd do anything for her. She's my mom.

Even as Lanie and Deanna are flying home, Mom is scrappy fighting dying. She lays too still in that too-big bed with all the toasty white hospital blankets, in the south tower, at the broad end of a long slow-turning corner that delivers me again to her private room with the view she can't see through, with the beeping that tells us nothing new, and all these ice chips she can't swallow, and a flood of well-intentioned nurses who cannot do a damned thing all the same.

Mom whispers in my ear, the last of her strength wasted on you. "Take the risk. One call, Honey Bear. A minute could change your life.” She smiles, struggling through the slow breathing now. “She is your mother, too. You need answers. And I need you to be okay." Without me hangs in mid-air.

A breath later she's gone. And nurses are giving me their sad smiles, telling me to take all the time I need. There isn’t enough time in all the world.

But I won’t be staying here any longer than I have to. I hate hospitals, now even more than ever.

I only need a minute.

I'm standing on her balcony, my mom's balcony, where Spring flicks my neck, a cool breeze thumbing its way through my wavy black locks. And I hear her telling me, "There's good sniffs on the air." I wince. Too soon.

But she's right. She's always right. Honeysuckle's dawning near the train tracks. And I'm right back there. Simpler days. Easier days. Childhood. Grade school. Playing hopscotch with Lanie and Deanna. Pickup sticks and riding bikes and jumping rope. Taking the long way home with the fireflies and the leggy crickets and two scoops melting, all of us happily counting on our amazing rockstar mom being there, at home, in our wild backyard with the giant oaks and pines and cedars in the forest of our lives, stoking the campfire, adding kindling and making s'mores. For her girls. The loves of her life.

Those were the days. Long before I knew anything about you.

I gave her my word. As she lay dying. So I'm doing this for her, right now. Before I lose my nerve.

I dial your digits. Let it ring. Breathe in.

Ring one. I'm listening, waiting on you to answer. You have so much to answer for. Maybe, maybe I have answers too. Breathe out.

Ring two. Breathe in. It's torture, not knowing if you'll answer. I'm focused, not focused. Anxious, feeling inadequate. Lacking confidence. What am I doing? Hang up. Hang up!

Ring three. Breathe out. I move my fingers, let them hover. Nearly doing it. Disconnecting. Giving up. But not this time. I keep my promises.

Breathe in. A train's whistle breaks the silence, sending chills chugging up the links of my spindly spine. You were my age. I can't imagine.

Breathe out. The train carries a heavy load but operates under its own steam. I can respect that.

Breathe in. Ring four. I can't take any more. Not knowing where to send my 1,000 yard stare, I stare in the train's direction, watch the conductor without watching what he does. All the cars move swiftly down the parallel tracks, not looking back.

I won't let myself off the hook.

Breathe out. I think, maybe, now I want this. Maybe, it's for my mom but maybe a little bit for me too. I'm guessing you won't answer. Your cell won't know my number any more than you know me.

Breathe in. No, of course, you don't answer. The next bit's harder. My breath catches in my throat when your answering machine picks up. I freeze. Ice, bagged and trapped outside a convenience store. I could live right where I am, out in the cold. Am I just an inconvenience?

Your machine clicks in. Now comes my cue:

"Hello! You've reached Jenna. Well, not me. My machine. Anyway, you know what to do. After the beep. Before the beep would be silly."

You end with a goofy sort of chuckle like you're laughing at yourself. And that's the same sort of dumb-ass thing I've been known to do.

Next comes the beep to signal the end of you and the beginning of me. My turn. Player, play.

I'm a million mixed messages... I have the words. I memorized them. Practiced and prepared them until they knew their places on my tongue. My mom--my mom--helped me write them, so I trust they're good.

This second takes a lifetime.

What courage it takes, to speak into your phone!

I didn't know I had it in me. Mom knew.

I hang up.

It's too soon. Way too much, way too soon.

Do you even want to hear from me? Have you told anyone I exist? Or am I nothing but an eighth month sonogram folded over and left behind in a tin box laid out flat and dusty in between the creaky floorboards of your high school bedroom with the yellow walls and that enormous frilly bed and posters of Duran Duran and a nail that slid right out to lift a floor board?

Am I your worst mistake? Your first regret? Nothing to you now?

I gave my word. I dial you back, just one last try.

Breathe. Just breathe.

Ring one. Did you think of names for me?

Ring two. I can't be anyone but me. Will I be good enough? Mom always thought so.

Ring three. The seconds stretch like hours and it's nearly time to speak and my tongue weights sixty pounds and will not work. Breathe, easy now.

I find Mom's strength in me. I've got this, suddenly.

Your answering machine again. I can't tell much about you, but it's more of you than I have had my entire life.

I speak, calmly, leaving my message. The one I'd always planned. When I hear the click, someone says, "Hello?"


Copyright © 04/06/2024 by Christy Munson. All rights reserved.

Young AdultPsychologicalfamily

About the Creator

Christy Munson

My words expose what I find real and worth exploring.

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Unofficial Challenge Winners:

Ask Me in December | Story of Humanity | Strangely Art

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

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Comments (18)

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  • Anna 23 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!

  • Flamance @ lit.25 days ago

    Amazing job congratulations 🎉🎉 top story great

  • angela hepworth26 days ago

    Congrats on top story!!

  • Belle28 days ago

    Congrats on top story!

  • JBaz28 days ago

    This was brilliantly written. The way you created suspense with pure emotion because of a realistic situation. My heart went out to her as she deliberated. Congratulations

  • Andrea Corwin 28 days ago

    Congrats on T.S. Well done!

  • Andrea Corwin 28 days ago

    Fabulous story with so much suspense. You wrote the experience with truth, feeling and took the reader inside the emotions and phone call!

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • D. D. Lee28 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!

  • Babs Iverson28 days ago

    Magnificent mysterious and suspenseful all that and more!!! 💕❤️❤️

  • D.K. Shepard28 days ago

    What a roller coaster! This was so emotionally gripping! The use of breathing in and out was a brilliant way of making each second and each sentence have weight

  • Gail Wylie28 days ago

    Wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW!!! As a family therapist I spend a lot of time with adoptees.....even this morning. You have put the experience of so many into words. I thank you! And congratulations on top story. You deserve it.

  • Congratulations on your top story

  • Intense story and love the last line, a huge feeling of release after the tension

  • Omgggg, I was sooooo anxious the whole time and relaxed a bit when she was able to leave her message calmly but you gave me a heart attack my making Jenna answer when she was leaving a message! So fast-paced and intense! Loved your story!

  • Caroline Craven29 days ago

    Gosh this is wonderful Christy. Good luck with the challenge. I have a good feeling about this one.

  • Wait a minute, this was AMAZING

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