Pandemonium was breaking out in my local supermarket today and I was so happy to be a part of it.
I try to avoid crowds when I shop, but with the oddly-named blizzard Nemo clawing its way toward New York, everybody and his brother was crowding the aisles of Key Food in search of the last ounce of everything.
The mob scene didn’t bother me, though. I was happy to be amongst humanity. After the preceding few hours I was happy to be at all.
Last night I had sat down before the computer determined to make some progress on a short story that’s been giving me fits.
Elmore Leonard once said writers should forget about short stories and focus on novels and screenplays.
Now I know what he’s talking about. You have such little room to work with in a short story that if one bit doesn’t sound right, the whole thing goes off the tracks.
I was just getting down to business when I started to feel this strange pressure in my chest.
It’s your imagination, I told myself. It’s not…you know…what you think it is.
But the tightness in my chest got worse and my skin felt dry and cold. I started guzzling water and returned to the keyboard, even though I was feeling worse by the minute.
I felt a weird numbness in my fingers and my hands trembled as I reached for the bottle of Xanax I usually reserve for flying. Why the hell were my fingers tingling?
I wondered if this was it, the Big One, that Fred Sanford used to have with amusing regularity. I actually picked up my phone twice to call 911, only to back off at the last second.
That was a huge mistake, by the way, because even if you’re wrong and you wind up spending hours in the ER for nothing at least you’ll put an end to the guesswork.
And Nemo Was His Name-O
The smartest thing I did all evening was to not Google heart attack symptoms because I knew I would’ve found something to make me even crazier.
I finally got to sleep and felt better when I got up this morning. But I still didn’t know what was going on and realizing that a blizzard was on the way, I called my doctor’s office the second he opened his doors and got my quivering tail over there.
What if it really is something serious, I chided myself. Think of all the time you wasted regretting the past and fuming over every bad thing that’s ever happened to you. Is that the way you want to check out of this world?
The nurse, God bless her, cheered me up a little bit when she told me that I didn’t look my age and then my doctor did her one better by saying my heart wasn’t the problem.
He said I have a hiatal hernia, which, while not pleasant, is certainly better than what I thought I had. He gave me a prescription and recommended I see a specialist.
I stretched out on the examination table to get an EKG, lacing my fingers behind my head and easing back on the pillow.
“Don’t do that,” my doctor said. “Your fingers will go numb.”
I walked out there with a new love for life. Nemo be damned, I was going to enjoy myself.
The good feeling lasted all day and even as I stood on the supermarket checkout line listening to that godawful song “Isn’t She Lovely?” playing on the sound system.
Life is a very short story indeed and allowing our emotions to get the better of us will only bring it to an abrupt and pointless end.
A little girl behind me started singing along with Stevie Wonder and suddenly the song sounded much better to me. As she and her father unloaded their shopping cart, she turned and looked up at him.
“When I grow up, Daddy,” she said, “I’m going to sing a song about you.”
She then placed a six-pack of beer on the counter.
"Daddy," she asked, "how come you buy beer but you never buy soda?"
"That's not true," the father said, and gave me a wink.
I couldn’t help but laugh. Your father is a very lucky man, I thought, and I hope he knows it. His beautiful daughter had given me a lovely memory that I’ll hold on to long after Nemo has come and gone.