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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Plan B

Sitting at Cathy’s dinette table, I cradled my bandaged limb; even my fingertips had been burned. I wore the prescribed cotton sling, but the pull of the cloth support created too much pain in my charred forearm. Using my good hand, I relieved the pressure by lifting slightly on the injured arm’s elbow. The shot the nurse gave me eased the searing agony but clouded my reasoning. I fought to bring my mind out of the Demerol-induced fog.

“—you think?” Cathy turned to look at me, holding the dishtowel against the plate.

“Sorry. My mind is wandering. What did you ask me?”

“That’s okay. Pain medicine can do that. I asked you if you wanted to phone the kids to let them know you’re here?”

“I’m sure Carroll explained about the furnace exploding and burning my arm, but maybe I should let them know I’m okay. Carroll planned to bathe them right after supper, so I’ll give her just a little more time.”

“So, they know they’ll spend the night at Carroll’s, and you’ll be here?”

“That’s the plan. They enjoy playing with her kids. I think they’ll see it as a treat.” I spoke to Cathy’s back, as she busied herself putting the clean dishes away.

Without thinking, I leaned forward and rested my arm on the edge of the table. Fiery rockets of white-hot pain launched at the moment of contact. I immediately retracted my arm but too late.  Clenching my jaws hard, I fought to restrain the scream pushing to be released. Burning tears poured over and streaked my cheeks. I swiped the back of my good hand to clear the tears just as Cathy hung the dishtowel. I turned my face towards the window. Like I could actually see anything in the night’s darkness.

As my friend grasped the back of her chair, the phone rang. She let go and moved to answer.

I continued staring into the night, forcing my breathing to slow so my heart rate would follow suit. Did my eyes still reflect that new burst of pain?

I heard Cathy respond to Carroll’s greeting and thought I’d speak to the kids as soon as my friends finished. Instead, Cathy hung up.

She pulled her chair back and sat down. I tensed as I glimpsed her furrowed brow and pursed lips. “What? What’s wrong? You didn’t let me talk to the kids.”

“You’ll get to talk to them, in person, in a few minutes. Apparently, Carroll’s husband doesn’t want the girls to spend even one night in his house. Carroll didn’t say why, but probably couldn’t with him listening to her side of the conversation. She’ll be here in a few minutes.”

I groaned for the trouble I’d brought to my friend, wondering if Cathy and Doug had room for the girls. My former university roommate responded before I asked.

“Don’t worry. There’s a double bed in the basement bedroom. It’s cold down there, but Doug can get the little heater going and I think it’ll be warm enough for the kids. Susie* can stay in the room up here with you for tonight.” As she stood, I asked if I could help her make the bed. “Thanks for the thought, but I think I can do it faster myself than with your help at the moment,” she said smiling, pointing at my bandaged arm. “Just relax.”

I walked over to a chair in the living room, trying to relax. The pain had lessened, but I couldn’t help thinking about Carroll. What would things be like for her when she returned home?

I heard the backdoor open at the same time Doug and Cathy came up from the basement. Deni* and Jamie* ran into the living room, halting just feet in front of me. The little faces stared at my bulky bandages.

“It’s okay. It looks worse than it is, kids. I missed you so much. I’m glad you’ll be here in this house with me tonight. Did you have supper at Carroll’s house?”

Silently, two heads bobbed.

“They’re good little eaters, Mama Dar,” Carroll said, coming up behind them. “I enjoy cooking for kids who like to eat. Susie* fell asleep on the way over. She’s had her bottle.”

As Cathy directed Carroll to my bed in their guest room, I lifted my good arm beckoning the girls in for a hug. Ever so tenderly, the girls took a turn inside my embrace, trying not to bump my injured arm.

“Does your owwie hurt?” Deni barely touched the bulky white bandage as she spoke.

“It hurt a lot when it happened, but the doctor gave me some medicine. It doesn’t hurt as much now.”

“Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Amen,” Jamie said as her tiny fingers lit like a butterfly on the bandages.

“Thank you for praying for me, Princess. Jesus loves to hear kids pray.” I nodded to Deni, who asked Jesus to make my arm all better. “Thank you, Sweetheart. I’m so glad my girls know how to pray for people when they get hurt.”

Seeing the little ones yawn simultaneously, I knew the time had come for all of us to leave the day’s burdens in God’s hands, and let our bodies rest. “Okay, kids, it’s time for us all to go to bed. Susie’s already sleeping. Let’s ask Jesus to watch over us for the night and bless our friends for helping us.”

After we’d prayed, I accompanied Cathy to the basement to tuck the girls in. On the way back up the stairs, I learned that Carroll had returned home as soon as she’d laid Susie on the bed.

She said she’d call you when she could tomorrow. Carroll said not to worry, just to pray.”

“Hard order when I don’t know what she might be facing right now, but I’ll try.”

“Are you tired, or would you like something to drink? What can I do for you?”

“Oh, Cath! You’ve already done everything I need. Thank you so much for helping us. I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go to bed. No tellin’ if the girls will stay asleep down there. I may need to get up in the night with one, or all, of them. Better get my rest when I can, right?”

In the middle of the night, Deni crept into my room. I felt a light tap on my hand and looked up. As I brought my eyes into focus, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. Jamie stood in the doorway.

Slowly, I slipped out from under the covers, carefully replacing the blankets so Susie wouldn’t awaken.

I wrapped my good arm around Deni, and the two of us left the bedroom. Walking out to the sofa, I turned to the children. “What’s wrong, kids? Do you need something?”

Jamie nodded. “Jamie afwaid down dare.”

I looked up at Deni, arching my eyebrows. “Her can’t sleep, Mama Dar. Me not scared. Her don’t sleep so me neither.” The little red head bowed, and she shrugged her shoulders.

How I wanted to laugh. What a dramatist, this almost-five-year-old.

“Okay. Let’s ask Jesus to help you both go to sleep. I know it’s hard in a different bed. It can be scary in basements sometimes, too. Let’s ask Jesus to help you with that. He understands just what you need.”

After praying with the children, I took them back to their big bed. Planting a kiss on the forehead, I tucked the blankets tightly around each precious child.  Had I known then, what I’d know by that time the following night, I’d never have left their room.

*Name changed
For the first part of the above story, click the following link: From Ice to Fire

Story thread begins with this link: With Just One Phone Call 


  1. You have done it again, ended with me curious and concerned about what happened next...