Friday, July 30, 2010

Brains and skulls and ringing bells

Here's another #Fridayflash story. Please comment and critique. Constructive criticism is always welcome. So are compliments, of course.
JJ’s headache started behind her eyes and spread out sideways and upwards feeling like a swimming cap two sizes too small. Her face didn’t hurt so she concluded that her sinuses were clear. There was a history of headaches in her family but her health had always been great with the exception of the burst appendix last year, and that could happen to anyone. Besides, you only had one appendix and when it bursts and the mess is cleaned up, if you live through it, you never have to worry about it again. A head is a whole lot different than an appendix. You need it every second of every day. If it explodes thinking is no longer a problem.

Every sound was amplified. She lay in darkness in her bed hoping for absolute silence. Then she heard a fire alarm ringing. It stopped. It rang again and stopped. Oh my God, she thought, why is a fire alarm ringing in the house? We have a smoke detector. Each time the alarm rang her pain sent streaks of lighting from one ear around the lower back of her skull to the other ear.

It took four rings before JJ realized it was the telephone on the table next to the bed. Glancing at the clock, she tried to get her voice to sound normal as she picked up the phone and said, “Hello?” From the inside her voice sounded chirpy but the rasp of sleep and pain was not completely hidden.

“Hello, is this Jane,” the voice said.

Without thinking she said, “Yes.” Immediately she wished she had said “Jane’s not available” because in fact, she didn’t feel available for a telephone conversation at the moment.

“Hi Jane. This is Nellie, your neighbor across the back yard and one house over. I’m sorry to bother you but I know I didn’t wake you.”

How could she know that? JJ thought. Although her bladder felt like it would burst, she had fought the sensation and held it so she could finish her dream and then that damned fire alarm—oh no, the phone—started ringing.

“Hi Nellie. What’s up?”

“Your dog has been barking for over an hour. You know I wouldn’t normally complain but Nate woke up with a terrible headache and the sound is driving him crazy. Could you bring her inside and quiet her down?”

“Oh, Nellie. I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize she was out on the porch barking. It must be the squirrels on the screen. You know how she gets when they stop still and she can’t get to them. I’ll go get her right now. I hope Nate feels better.”

As JJ dragged her body out of bed she reached down and picked up the pair of shorts on the floor and pulled them up over her wide hips. Thank God for elastic waistbands. The throbbing continued but at least the ringing had stopped, she thought. Her footsteps resonated so she carefully shuffled her feet toward the sliding glass door. Indeed, the dog was barking continuously. For a 9 pound dog, Sadie could register high on the decibel ladder but how she was able to keep at it without taking a breath was astounding.

Opening the door, JJ called to her, “Sadie, get in here.” Her own voice was like that of a soccer announcer speaking through a microphone at a World Cup Championship game. The dog looked at her. This time she whispered, “Sadie, you come in here right now.”

Sadie sat on the hard cement floor, looked at JJ and tilted her head staring into JJ’s eyes, trying to understand the language. That’s when JJ remembered something she had seen on TV, the Dog Whisperer. He had made a sound like shushing a baby, but with a p in front of it. JJ tried it.

“Psssssshhhh!” Sadie stared at her, but at least she wasn’t barking anymore.

“Psssssshhh,” JJ repeated. “Come,” she whispered. The dog put her little white fluffy head down and slinked through the doorway silently. She went directly to her crate, stepped inside and laid down on the towel that served as her mattress.

The lack of sound immediately caused the muscles around JJ’s scalp to ease. How long did Nellie say Sadie had been barking? She noticed that her headache had slipped away, perhaps exiting through her ears which was exactly where it had entered.

Then she pondered her decision to install a doggie door in the slider. Whose brilliant idea was that?


Tomara Armstrong said...

I have head those kind of headaches... but I think they have "kids" written all over them.

Sadie is too cute :-)

Susan Cross said...

Kids, dogs, the same thing but the dog doesn't speak English.

Eric J. Krause said...

Sometimes the kids don't speak English, either. ;-)

Good story. Those darn squirrels always get the dogs in trouble.

Susan Cross said...

I think I know those kids! Isn't it funny though when dogs look at you and tilt their heads while you talk to them?

Donald Conrad said...

Pain filled story. I couldn't pass up the title when I saw it in the collector.

We have a barker at our house as well. He's a 14 pound Shih Tzu that thinks he's a much weightier Pit Bull...

Thanks for the tale.

Susan Cross said...

See Donald, I fooled you with the title. I always write such boring titles and I wanted to do something different for my #fridayflash. I need to step out of my comfort zone and explore what's going on in my head...nope, nothing going on. The lights are on but nobody's home.

Jai Joshi said...

Haha, as someone who has neighbours who's dogs bark all day long, I can well appreciate this story!