Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “People Watching,” and today’s tale comes to you from Val Muller, author of The Scarred Letter. In this young adult reboot of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s original, Heather Primm is adept at people watching—so adept that her entire existence is threatened.
One Hundred and Two by Val Muller
“The fever’s back,” she said, nudging her husband in bed.
His mouth hung open, a snore escaping. How could he sleep at a time like this? Why didn’t he have a sensor, too, one that set alarms off each time the baby tossed or turned? The kid’s fever had woken her out of a deep sleep, even though the child was breathing peacefully.
“Did you hear me?” she asked.
His eyes popped open. “Wha—?”
“Her fever. It’s 101.8.”
“Okay.” He started to turn back over, but something in her face must have stopped him. He sat more upright instead. “So the fever is 101.8…”
“So what are we supposed to do?”
He shrugged. “I’ve never had a baby before.”
She rolled her eyes and hoped he could see it in the darkness. “I haven’t, either.”
“So why would I know what to do when you wouldn’t?”
She sighed, allowing her huff to disturb the night. The baby stirred in her arms.
“Give her Tylenol,” he said.
“Good, then. That’s what the doctor said to do if she ever has a fever…” He slid down into the bed and pulled the cover over himself. Before long, he was snoring again. Had he even awoken fully? Would he remember the conversation in the morning? What was it about guys—hard-wired to sleep through emergencies?
She propped herself up against the pillow, cradling the baby in her lap. She pressed the button on the forehead thermometer. 101.5. Maybe it was coming down. The doctor had said 102 was the temperature of concern. But was 101.5 close enough? Should she go to the hospital? What if she went, and they sent her home? And then her new baby would be exposed to a whole host of germs from the ER. And then what?
Then again, what if she didn’t go? And the fever got worse and worse. And got to 105, even. Could a baby even live at 105? What if she fell asleep and woke up, and the baby’s fever had risen, even with the Tylenol? What kind of a mother would allow that to happen?
She broke out in a sweat. It was 2 a.m. Emergency walk-in hours at the pediatrician started at 7:30. It would be an eternity.
* * *
She stood in line in the hallway, waiting for the pediatrician’s door to open. In front of her sat a mother with twin boys, each dancing around in the hallway. They didn’t look too sick. The mother was scrolling through her phone.
Behind the first woman stood another, a mother of a toddler boy. He was seated at her feet, playing Plants versus Zombies on her ipad. Really? Video games? The boy coughed, and the crinkling and crackling in his lungs sent the blood racing through her veins. How could his mother let him play a video game when his lungs sounded like an earthquake?
Behind her, a tired looking girl and her mother shuffled up. The mother sat down, cross-legged. The girl rested her head in mom’s lap.
“First timer?” the mother asked.
The mother glanced at the baby in the carrier. “Your baby looks fine.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve been through it once.”
She allowed herself a deep breath, and she turned to the other mothers, whose blood pressures all seemed half of hers.
“But her fever is—”
“It’s not about the number. You’ll know. Trust your gut, and you’ll know if something’s wrong. If something were truly wrong, you wouldn’t be here. You’d have gone to the ER hours ago.”
She turned a moment longer to people watch. These mothers were not concerned. They were patiently waiting for the office door to open.
And now, so was she.
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/