Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Call in the Night

Fumbly phone at the ear, as fatigue washes over Eleanor. At first she can’t even register the words on the other end. But finally urgency breaks through and she pushes back with her knees into a sitting position.

“What?”

“The barn! The barn is on fire. Eleanor, you must get help!” It is the voice of her grandmother, dead for the past twelve years, but Eleanor recognizes it perfectly, and raises a hand to her mouth in alarm.

“Grandma?” she says slowly, hesitantly.

“Eleanor, wake up! WAKE UP! The barn is on FIRE!”

“Grandma!”

“You have got to get help!”

“Grandma, okay. Okay, I’m coming!” Eleanor sets down the receiver. Tears are sliding down her face.  Eleanor is having flashbacks of long summers on the family farm, shelling peas and swimming in the pond with the baby ducklings. Her Grandma has come back. She can’t wait to taste her coconut cream pie again, to wrap her arms around that firm middle in a huge hug. Only she’s taller now. Why, she might be taller than Grandma now! She sinks back into the pillows, thinking of all the delicious memories and all the adult conversations she can have with her Grandma just as soon as she gets to the farm. The farm! The barn! Oh!

Eleanor lurches out of bed, sliding on a pair of sweats. Her hands aren’t working quite right, and she has difficulty finding the legs. At one point she starts to fall over, but then she catches herself on the side of the bed. Grandma. Grandma needs her!

She is trying to walk but her legs are thick and groggy. It feels like it takes an hour just to take a step, but really it’s just a minute. Shuffling, groping the walls, she makes her way toward the kitchen. She’s going to help Grandma in just a minute. But first she must get something to drink. She’s so thirsty. Why is she so thirsty? Blackie, her cat, hisses as she stumbles past, and dashes into the bedroom and under the bed. Odd really. Eleanor can’t remember Blackie ever hissing in the past. Maybe Blackie is hurt or sick. She should go check. Just as soon as she gets a drink.

It takes three tries to wrap her fingers around the fridge door, but she finally gets it open. Blurry eyes peruse the selections, and finally, with great delight, she raises the bottle declaring Heinz to her lips and squeezes. The thick, pureed tomato sauce slides coolly down her throat, soothing her thirst. The fridge feels nice and inviting, and Eleanor wishes she could climb in. Instead, she perches against the edge, squatting down. Wasn’t there some coconut cream pie somewhere? She could smell it. Yes, there must be. Oh, but she was too tired and resting with her back against chilled air felt so divine.

“Eleanor, THE BARN!”

“Grandma!”

What was wrong with her? She stood up. She had to help with the barn. Wait. Couldn’t she just call 911? Why on earth hadn’t she called 911? Eleanor pushed her feet with great effort, and they finally carried her across the room to the phone. Where could she find the number for 911? She reached for the phone book, knocking over a bottle in the process. Distracted, she grabbed the bottle. Ambien. Ambien? Her eyes widened, as she recalled reading the insert of possible side effects prior to taking the pill for the first time earlier that evening: Abnormal thinking, behavioral changes, complex behaviors: May include "sleep-driving" and hallucinations. Immediately evaluate any new onset behavioral changes.

What was real? What wasn’t? Was the barn really on fire? Eleanor thought she smelled smoke, and it felt like her eyes were burning. She coughed.

“Eleanor, please! GET UP NOW!”

Eleanor had never heard her Grandma yell at her like that before. Alarmed, she shifted. And then felt a pulling, a pulling back to the surface. She opened her eyes and sat up. She was once again in bed, but her shirt was covered in ketchup. She stared with blurry eyes in alarm at the smoke that poured out black clouds from the vents in her old radiator.

Critique on this piece is welcomed.  This story was inspired by The Red Dress Club prompt:  In the middle of the night, you get an urgent call from a friend you haven’t talked to in years. Something terrible has happened. What is it and why is he/she calling you?"

21 comments:

Home In The Hollow said...

Sure...blame it on the drugs! Great work, Baby Girl, so vivid and lifelike!...:)JP

Nancy C said...

OH, I love this. So menacing and full of tension.

Nancy said...

I've had dreams like that -- so vivid and sensory. Just amazing what the mind can do.

Great story -- and I would never take Ambien. Would not be good == I'd be one of those midnight snackers too. :)

texwisgirl said...

yeah, i couldn't take a sleeping pill either. they'd probably find me face down in the pond or something... nice job on the story! i was struggling right along with her to lift her heavy feet!

Andrea (ace1028) said...

I loved the spin on this one! SO great. I thought maybe she was a drunk, so the Ambien was a good switch for my mind. Honestly, I didn't even need the Ambien, because I wanted to just think her Grandma was helping her because she needed it. I get the fuzzy aspect, and I enjoyed the scene at the fridge, but I wanted to throttle her and tell her to get OUT! I was confused, for a bit, because I couldn't tell if she was at or near the barn, or if it was somewhere else, until the end when the smoke was coming through. I was like, how is she going to call 911 and say the barn is on fire and she can't see it? SO basically you captured all the confusion of the character and I felt it. Great job with this one, Lisa, I really enjoyed it and I may, quite possibly, want more of this story ... ;)

Ginny said...

I love this story and you kept me on the edge of my seat!! But you left me in the lurch!!! Well, not really, I guess she was O.K. because she did wake up in time. Spooky, suspensful, and intreguing!!

Hayley said...

Nice twist on the asked-for story! At first I was thinking it was going to be an emotional type thing- dreaming of dead Grandma- and I thought, Lisa, are you going to make me cry this early? (Ok it's like 10). And then she drank ketchup, and I got confused. And then Bam! Ambien!

I'm sure I'm not supposed to laugh, but I laughed. My MIL takes Ambien- I won't tell you about when she visited, went downstairs naked and ate an entire container of Coldstone Cupcakes and then walked into my room instead of the guest room, covered in chocolate.

Oops, I just told you. Silly me.

Dawn said...

Sitting on the edge of my seat....
Drugs do FuNnY and not so funny things to me. Depends who you ask;)

Valerie said...

Your writing is so wonderfully descriptive that I was struggling and faltering right next to Eleanor!

I hope she was able to get out ok-those were some pretty terrifying side effects!

Bob Bushell said...

Don't blame it on the drugs, we all can think about it.

blueviolet said...

Even a Tylenol PM can do that to me! Well, maybe not THAT bad.

Shanae Branham said...

Very interesting. My question is would she be coherent enough at the end of this piece to remember the drug. It was clever how you worked it into the prompt. Very clever, but I would think you would need someone else added to the story to give us that she was using a heavy drug which caused this side effect. Otherwise you have a break from point of view. Thanks for stopping by and giving your support for my fitness effort! Cheers. Shanae

The Blue Zoo said...

It certainly makes me want to NEVER take Ambien! lol

Kim said...

I liked it, short sweet to the point but suspensful and kept me reading I can tend to skim though things but I really hung to every word!
I wanna play!

Shanae Branham said...

Thanks for your encouraging words about McDonalds. It helps me feel a little better about myself. Cheers.

Kris Mulkey said...

That was great. Describing a dream is hard. Loved the part of looking up the number for 911. Very funny.

K Pugliano said...

I felt like I was stumbling along with her...glad she finally woke up...and just in time!

Stephanie said...

I totally enjoyed this, too. It was a bit of wacky fun. Good reading!

Jack said...

I liked the twist of the Ambien- that was good. It offers all sorts of possibilities.

CDG said...

A very unique spin on the prompt, and very vivid.

I loved the tension, and I think maybe it was the present tense that added to that tension. It's a hard tense to read in, and in this case, it REALLY pulled the focus.

Love it!

Mommylebron said...

I love how you let us feel confused right along with her, only giving us a little clarity bottle. I would only suggest you drop the part where she recalls the warning, I don't think she really would. Just having her notice the bottle, maybe giggle at it, would drive how the point.
Great job, I really enjoyed reading this.
Stopping by from trdc!