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Lost & Found
Bob had left the waxed food carton on the counter the night before and it now smelled of grease and fish. Rocky picked up the box and a puddle of oil pooled beneath it. Her husband ate deep fried food when salted fat was the only way to soothe the layers of accumulated sadness after a day telling a pet owner, "Your dog has had a good long life and this cancer won't be cured by surgery or chemo. Her kidneys are failing. What would you like me to do?" She knew from looking at the contents of the food container that Bob's day had gone badly yesterday and that his mumbled response to her as he got into bed was a result of self-medication with the worst sort of fast food. "They only change the grease in that place once every week," she warned him.
They had traveled to Ireland one year and the highlight of the trip for Bob had been learning that the Irish had a polite form of a well-worn expletive that was cleverly one letter off. The first time he heard a storekeeper in Sligo say "Oh feck!" Bob perked up. "Feck?" he asked. "Is that something you can say around your mother?"
"'Tis, as long as you don't say it about her, if you get what I mean. But don't you dare say 'fook' around Herself," he explained, pronouncing the expletive with an Irish lilt. Ever since then, Bob said the world was fecked if he was mildly peeved. He mostly said it to his patients, cats and dogs, who came to him. "Why, that's a fecking shame, Simon, but antibiotics will clear that right up." But if he was massively indignant, the world was completely fooked. When he was sad from too many old golden retrievers looking at him with dreamy-eyedforgiveness as he injected them with death, he went to get "fooking fake fried clams at Johnny's Drive-In."
Rocky tossed the white container into the garbage. She was on her way to the university, but remembered her promise to order new socks for them to wear at night as they scuffed about the house. She was annoyed that he had been so insistent and it was only the first week of May. Why couldn't he take time to make the call? And why now? The semester would be over in ten days, then she'd have time for this, not now. She began lining up her points for the argument that she planned to have about Bob assuming that she should call. They would have the argument over dinner.
She picked up the cordless phone and punched in the 800 number for Lands' End, when she heard the thick sound from the upstairs bathroom. She pictured Bob brushing his teeth, peeing a coffee-scented stream into the toilet, shaving his face, but none of those predictable morning rituals accounted for the sound.
"Good morning. This is Priscilla. Let's start with your catalogue number," said the voice on the phone. Rocky hit the off button and climbed the stairs, head cocked to one side, listening for another sound to explain the first one. She held on to the phone in her right hand as she mounted the stairs and went through the doorway into their bedroom.
She called to her husband and the hollowness of the house hit her beneath her ribs. "Bob, are you okay in there? Did you drop something?" She tried to open the bathroom door but something was wedged against it, letting her open it only an inch. There was nothing else in the bathroom other than Bob that could provide such resistance. Had he fainted? She shoved the door open, inching his body back and wondering if she should call 911, or would she look foolish if he'd only gone dizzy for a minute? When the door was open wide enough to stick her head in, she saw his open-eyed stare and punched 911 into the phone. Then she flexed her legs and heaved all her weight against the door and entered the bathroom with such velocity that the latch of the old door caught at her pants, ripping them at her thigh, grabbing at her skin. She dropped to the floor and put two fingers of her left hand on his neck. Rocky had been a lifeguard since high school, through college and grad school. Her old bathing-suited self, ten years younger, dropped down from the white lifeguard chair. Someone answered the phone and Rocky put the phone near Bob's head so that she could shout her replies. "No, he's not breathing. Yes, I know CPR. No, I'm not going to keep listening to you. I'm doing it now; I'm doing the CPR. Just get someone here fast. Please."
She breathed into him, first tilting back his head, closing off his nose, then sealing his lips with hers and blowing air into his mouth, keeping her left eye open to see if his chest rose. She tasted mint toothpaste. There was shaving cream on his neck, the part that Bob hated shaving, so he saved it until last. Her brain stopped working except to think things like, The front door is open because I let the cat out. The ambulance guys can get in, so I won't have to stop breathing for Bob. Her body took over. She pressed the heel of her hand slightly to the left of his breastbone and met with surprising resistance. Bob's chest was suddenly unyielding and without the fluid grace of his big easiness. Rocky had never pressed this hard on him for any reason. Five compressions, another breath, was this right? She looked at her watch, how much time had gone by? She should have run up the stairs instead of walk. How long had he not been breathing? His wonderful brain needed blood. Where the hell was the ambulance? She did not want to be the one compressing his heart and breathing into his lungs, someone more experienced, more medical should be doing this. In all her summers of life guarding she had never really done CPR on a victim, and now she wondered if she ever knew how.Lost & Found. Copyright © by Jacqueline Sheehan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.