“It’s time,” my wife said, nudging me gently in the ribs. “We need to go.”
I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and looked at my watch—three-thirty on Christmas morning. “Are you sure? The doctor said—”
Stepping into my sweats, fully awake now, I considered the sixty-mile trip to the hospital. At this hour the traffic shouldn’t be bad. “Have you got everything?”
She nodded, and I could see the pain in her reddened eyes as she struggled to stand, the added weight she carried hindering her slightly.
“It’ll be all right. Do you need help to the car?”
“No, I’m okay. Just get the door.”
“Hang on. Let me warm it up first.” I pulled on a hoodie, grabbed the keys, and hustled out. I should’ve taken a moment to put slippers on. My bare feet screamed when I stepped on the frozen ground. I hesitated, looking to where the car sat twenty-feet away, and back to the inviting golden glow of the foyer. Ah, screw it. I ran to the car, forced the key past the ice covering the lock, opened the door, and jumped in. “Shit, it’s cold.”
Mercifully, the car started—new battery. I turned the heat knob to the right and cranked the fan to max. I kept my hands in my armpits and waited as the defroster began to melt the windshield ice. Satisfied the old Buick would not stall, I steeled myself for the return sprint to the front porch across the slippery flagstones of the walkway.
My wife stood in the foyer as I burst through the door. Her sober demeanor banished the curt comments I was preparing to share regarding the timeliness of the latest cold front, and I moved past her to retrieve my shoes and jacket. I needed more than my thin hoodie.
“Watch your step. The ground is icy.” I held her close to my side as we worked our way to the car.
It took a moment to lower her in the passenger seat but finally had her buckled in. I shut the door, ran back to double-check I locked the front door, and realized the keys were in the Buick’s ignition.
“Damn.” I rushed back, apologized for the gust of cold as I snatched the keys, then ran back up the steps to secure the deadbolt.
My ears and cheeks stinging, I dropped into the driver seat. Jerking the car door closed, I said a silent prayer. I slid the key in the ignition and turned it, hoping. The engine turned, coughed once, and started. I released the breath I had not realized I was holding.
I reached over and squeezed my wife’s cold hand. “You okay?”
She turned wet eyes to me but did not speak.
“Yeah, I know.” I put the Buick in gear and backed out of the driveway.
I twisted the wiper control to low. The rhythmic scratch, thump of the blades as they scraped slush from the windshield, sounded very loud over the silence in the cabin.
The radio remained off. Up here in the mountains static was the only guarantee.
I said nothing. What was there to say? I knew we both understood what was happening. I certainly didn’t want to open a dialogue about it. I knew the consequences should I broach the subject. I had been here several times before.
But, it was a responsibility, one I took seriously, and it was time.
Neither of us said a word for over an hour.
I turned in the entrance of the empty hospital parking lot and felt the tires crunch over snow and ice as I steered the Buick into a spot close to the doors. Pale yellow light spilled from windows onto the latest snowpack, and I thought of Frank Zappa.
“Don’t eat the yellow snow.” The words were out before I realized what I said. “I’m sorry — poor timing. I’m just…God, I hate this.”
My wife touched my arm as I opened the door. “She needs you to be strong.”
I stopped, my left hand on the door handle, my right still gripping the wheel. “I will be. I always am.” I climbed out, pushed the door shut, and stared at the illuminated sign over the sliding doors of the hospital: Blue Pearl Animal Hospital.
Sighing, I went to the passenger door and opened it. “Give her to me.” I gently extricated the small wrapped bundle from my wife’s embrace. “Wait here. I’ll take care of it. If you get cold, the keys are in the ignition.”
Choked sobs were her only response. I eased her door shut and turned toward the light of the emergency entrance.
A veterinary assistant met me at the check-in desk. “Good morning, sir. Is that Abigail?”
I nodded. My vision blurred as tears formed. I blinked them away and took a deep breath. Lifting the nine-year-old scottish terrier higher in my arms, I said, “It’s time.”
About the author
Keck has been writing adventure and fantasy fiction for 30+ years. He has seven titles published and is working on more. A retired Navy bomb disposal technician, he infuses his adventure series with real world situations.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Original narrative & well developed characters
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme