Nine, one, one, that’s what Officer McNulty said on Safety Day. I wish he’d told us what to do if the phone was missing and your mom was flopping around on the living room floor, gasping and gagging. The phone usually sits on mom’s lap during General Hospital, dinging with Aunt Maureen’s texts about the people of Port Charles, but it disappeared when Mom slid from the couch, her eyes rolling back, her head nodding. I screamed and told her to stop, but she just lay there, drool around her cheek, her Rolling Stones T-shirt ridden up so one boob showed.
Under the couch: a slipper, a dancing collection of dust motes, a few pennies. No phone. I lifted the dust skirt on Dad’s chair and reached into the black square of space, scared that something would bite off my arm because 8 is not too old to still believe in monsters. I swept my arm like a windshield wiper and the phone slid out!
A woman asked what was my emergency and I said Mom looked like a dead person, and the woman told me her name was Gina. She asked if Mom was breathing and I told her Mom was making ghoul sounds, and she said that was good and I said no it wasn’t. Gina asked for my address and I said giving strangers your address means they might come kill you or steal your TV. Gina said she wasn’t a stranger, she was a helper, and that was the exact same thing the stranger in the Safety Day video said to the boy walking along the tree-lined sidewalk. I gave Mom’s arm a few pokes and said there’s a stranger asking for our address. She said where am I and I said home and Gina yelled into my ear that she needed my address right now and that she knew I was overwhelmed but someone would come help if I just gave her the address. I asked what overwhelmed meant and Gina’s answer was the truest thing I’d ever heard.
The phone dinged and it was Aunt Maureen’s text asking Mom if Sonny could be any more like Jeff. I read the text to Gina and told her Jeff is Maureen’s shit-for-brains ex, who’s also handsome. Gina asked for my address again and we’d been talking so long that she didn’t feel like a stranger so I gave it to her. Mom started saying something and I told Gina that Mom was talking and Gina said help was on the way and wanted to know what Mom was saying. I told Gina Mom was saying what, where, fuck, I can’t, floor, don’t, my head.
Aunt Maureen beeped in, and Gina said it would be better if I stayed on the phone until the ambulance arrived and then Gina told me to go to the front window and see if there was an ambulance. I went to the front window and remembered I was supposed to take in the trash can. There went my allowance.
The front door opened, and it was Dad and Paul. I fainted. My counselor says my body let go because I no longer had to be in charge of an adult situation. When I opened my eyes, Dad was on his knees with his ear near Mom’s mouth. I hadn’t seen them that close since the camping trip two years ago, when me and Paul climbed the trail from the lake to find Mom and Dad sitting in a camping chair with no clothes on, Mom straddling Dad, the red Sports Authority logo on the back of the chair moving up and down.
Four white sneakers walked by. They put Mom onto a stretcher and wheeled her out of the living room. Paul begged to go with Mom but Dad made him stay. I asked Dad what would happen next. Instead of answering, he drank four little glasses of alcohol. Maureen rang the doorbell and Dad ran out with the ambulance and I watched him get on board and wondered if he noticed the trash can I’d forgotten to take in. Maureen helped me and Paul pack overnight bags, but she wouldn’t tell us what happened or what would happen next. I wondered if Officer McNulty knew.
Table of Contents | Return to Story Directory