“The Lightning” by Elizabeth Fenley
I drove safely; the lightning had shitty aim.
I have to get to my dogs; they might be out in this thunderstorm. My house is going to smell like wet dog. Six wet dogs. Good thing I sent an hour mopping the floor. Gotta remember to dry them off before they jump on the bed.
Sarah and Barry tried to convince me to stay at work, wait until the storm passed. Charlie said I had to stay there and eat dinner with them, and then he volunteered his older brother's bed for me to sleep in tonight. I wonder how Evan would feel about that.
I can't tell a three year old that after spending ten hours nannying two young children, I have to get the fuck out of here before I strangle someone.
"Miss Elizabeth has to get home to her doggies," his mother tries to explain to him, to give me an escape route.
"No!" Charlie yells, grabbing my legs-- he's really strong for a small person. His face it buried awkwardly in my crotch; I'll be glad when he grow a few inches taller, because that's just so wrong on so many levels.
I manage to peel him off. I tell him I love him, kiss him soundly all over his face, and promise him I'll be back first thing tomorrow morning.
He starts screaming and crying.
His father scoops him up so that I can make it out the door.
"Drive safely," they both advise me.
"Ah, man," I joke, "That completely ruins my plan. I was totally going to drive recklessly. Buzz kills." I grin.
I make it out the door. I can still hear Charlie screaming as I dash across the street to my car. I'm too old for raincoats, and umbrellas are just lightning rods. I throw my stuff in the passenger seat and jump in.
I look in the rearview mirror-- yep, I look like a drowned rat. Good thing it's the end of the day, and I don't give a shit, and I'm going to take a shower when I get home anyway.
Just because it’s raining, my fellow commuters can’t drive the speed limit or get the hell out of my way. It's just rain, not the fucking Zombie Apocalypse. Just drive, morons.
“God-fucking-dammit!” I yell, punching the steering wheel.
The noxious odor of smelling salts stirs me. “Uck,” I murmur, my voice coming out dry and small. I open my eyes, immediately find it much too bright and close them again. My head hurts like a bitch. Something’s up my nose— oxygen tubes, which I pull out.
“No, don’t do that,” a male voice whispers.
“Ma’am, can you hear me? This is giving you oxygen. It needs to stay there,” the same voice says, louder, hurting my head, as the tubes are forced back up my nose.
“No,” I protest, pushing his hands away. “Stop.”
“Another difficult one.”
“Ma’am, you were in an accident—”
“Shut up, you’re making my head hurt. Get that out of my nose.”
“I’m trying to save your life, you stupid woman.”
“I’m the fucking patient. I’m not dying, and I’m certainly not stupid. So fuck you.”
“What did you just say?”
“Don’t call me stupid.”
“I didn’t,” he protests.
“You did. Tell me what my vitals are.”
“No, I’m not a doctor. I’m a professional patient. Run it.” I open my eyes enough to see confusion etched on his face. “Is this your first day? Heart rate, BP, O2 , LOC, did I flatline, 12 lead EKG? What’s in the IV?”
“What the fuck?”
Useless man. I raise my hand to my neck to check for a c-collar—nope. Not strapped to a backboard. I wiggle my legs; no spinal injuries. Fuck it, I’m sitting up.
“Lower your voice.” I look at the display on the portable monitor, blurry at first. Pulse 100, considering stress and pain. BP 90/50—that’s why I feel a little dizzy; IV is normal saline. O2 sat 90—a little low. I study the EKG on the monitor. “Looks like a normal sinus rhythm to me.”
“No, but it’s not my first rodeo.” He looks like he’s going to pass out. “Pull your shit together, man.”
“How long was I out?”
“Maybe 20 minutes.”
“Did I flatline?”
He shakes his head.
“Tell her carefully---”
This is pissing me off. “Stop talking to yourself. What happened?”
“Ma’am,” he begins slowly, gently, “your car was hit by a lightning strike.”
“Well, that would do it.” My poor car. “Injuries?”
“You might have hit your head.”
“I might have hit my head? Jesus Christ, man, that’s your professional opinion? I could get that by shaking a Magic 8 Ball.”
“Didn’t I tell you to stop talking to yourself?”
“Never mind. Get me an Uber. I need to get home to my dogs.”
You would think being able to read people’s minds is a superpower everyone wants—trust me, it’s not. People are assholes out loud; what they think is so much more annoying. I’m tired of knowing what people think:
No way that’s her natural color. Her eyebrows don't match.
God, what happened to her neck? I couldn’t live with scars like that.
I've never seen so many freckles on an adult. Maybe they're age spots. The makeup is not covering them up.
Wow, she's pale. She needs to get out more. Maybe she's a vampire.
She's way too old to pull off a ponytail.
Crocs? Really? That's so embarrassing.
That shirt is so not flattering.
She looks like she's pregnant. I wonder if I should say something. No, she's too old to be pregnant. She's probably just fat.
She might be pretty if she lost 20 pounds. Or maybe 30 pounds. Maybe she used to be pretty when she was younger. I wonder how many kids she's had. I guess her husband loves her anyway.
Let’s see if you can read my mind: FUCK ALL OF YOU.