by Nancy King

I woke up, itching intensely. My thigh had been bitten by an execrable critter with the temerity to invade my bedding and create a huge and hideous scarlet welt that thumbed its nose at all the anti-itch creams and ointments in my medicine cabinet.

An hour later, still itching and scratching, I went online to look at my bank transactions and got a disagreeable error message; there was a system failure. I was denied admittance. After talking to too many bank employees I finally learned that a recent Mac security upgrade had affected my online bank access. I contacted an Apple technician and was told, “Your three-year warranty’s run out. We don’t offer renewals but you can pay forty-nine dollars for a month’s work of help.”

“That’s totally unreasonable. The Mac security upgrade caused the problem.”

“Nothing I can do about it, it’s company policy. Do you want the renewal?”

I asked to speak to a supervisor who finally agreed to waive the fee and offer much needed help. For over two hours she experimented, asking me to click and unclick, install and uninstall—tactics designed to remedy the situation. Nothing worked. “If you want online access you’ll have to un-install your operating system and re-install it,” she said. Me? The terrified, still itching and scratching, technophobe?

Desperate, I called the bank back and told the web specialist what the Apple technician had said. No way could I remember which techno tricks she had tried. He agreed to contact the bank’s systems people to see what they could do but it would take time. How much? He didn’t know. My itching intensified.

Trying to distract myself, I started to put a load of dirty clothes into the washing machine and noticed a swarm of repulsive black bugs crawling around the toilet. Without a second’s hesitation, with my eager finger on the trigger, I blasted orange cleanser on anything that moved or even thought about moving, not one bit ashamed of the pleasure I felt as I watched the squirming, wriggling critters drown.

A few minutes later, as I was preparing to leave for an appointment with an oral surgeon, a friend called. Her doctors hadn’t gotten all the cancer. She had to have more surgery. She needed to talk. Having been through two bouts of cancer myself, I know how difficult it can be to talk about the despair, anger, grief, and terror evoked by cancer and its treatment, especially when the cultural model is to be cheerful and upbeat. No way could I say no. So, I listened, wishing there were more I could do.

When we hung up, I rushed out of the house, drove too fast, and narrowly avoided hitting the car in front of me that was abruptly stopped by a policeman who was directing traffic. I suddenly noticed that everywhere I looked there were police and police cars stationed at regular intervals along the street, towards the end of the street, and in the parking lots, blocking all entrances and exits. I managed to move my car through the traffic mess and park at a medical center not too far from the office of the oral surgeon. I set out on foot to his office. Just as I approached the front door, a policeman yelled at me. “Get out of there! Go across the street!” I guess I didn’t move quickly enough for him because he screamed even louder, “Now!” I saw people staring at me, motioning me to come to where they were, in the hospital parking lot.

I hurried across the road, maneuvering around cars that were being signaled to turn around, away from the building and came face-to-face with a policeman who was directing traffic. “You coulda been killed,” he said. “There’s a man with a gun. He already shot a policeman. Last time we saw him he was near the building where you were going.”

I shuddered and thought about the recent spate of shootings in schools and workplaces. About the NRA that strives to quash even the most sensible gun laws. About people who get up and have breakfast and go to work or school thinking it’s an ordinary day. Only they don’t come home. They never have the chance to say “Goodbye” or “I love you” or “I’m sorry” or . . .

What if we knew today was our last day to live? How would we act? What would we do? What would we say? To whom?

I promised myself, as I stood watching the police surround the building I had just left, that I would cherish life even on shitty days, even with a thigh that wouldn’t quit itching.

Nancy King has written many books and articles dealing with imagination, creativity, drama, and literacy. You can read the first pages of her novels: A Woman Walking, Morning Light, and The Stones Speak. on her website: www.nancykingstories.com. Her books can be purchased from her website or ordered by local bookstores.

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