Heart Beats – 1/3

“Honey?” Betsy’s call rose above the crinkle of paper bags.

“Yes,” shouted Adam from the living room.

“Could you help me with the groceries?”

With a heavy sigh, Adam folded up the Sunday paper. He lowered his feet from the ottoman and tossed down the newspaper, filling the dent left from his slippers. Gripping onto the rounded armrests with his veined hands, Adam scooted to the edge of the plush, flower print seat. Rocking, he heaved onto his feet with the third round of sways.

Adam wavered for a moment as he straightened. The clustered living room wobbled before his eyes as if the sagging couch and table strewn with grade school photographs had taken flight. Within a few short breaths, gravity took hold once again.

Shaking his head, Adam shuffled toward the kitchen. His wife dashed from the counter strewn with grocery bags and the opened cupboards and refrigerator.

Pausing against the doorframe, Adam took in the silver tinged tornado.

“I thought you wanted my help?”

“I do,” Betsy said, waving toward the paper bags on the stove. “Take the soda to the garage.”

“I thought I couldn’t have soda anymore,” Adam grumbled as he plodded over to the appliance.

“You can’t.” Betsy unpacked a towering mound of miniture chocolates in multicolored packs.

“Then why do you buy it?”

“For the party, silly.” She spun and waved a stick of pepperoni like an extension of her waggling finger. “So no snacking. Take them though, Doctor Jenkins says you need the exercise.”

“Doctor Jenkins says a lot of things.” Adam shook his head and peered into the bags. Shiny packages of potato chips, jerky, and containers of thick white dip filled the back three sacks while cherry and emerald colored boxes of cans sat stacked in the front two.

“Make two trips,” said Betsy as Adam tucked one sloshing bag beneath each arm.

“You asked for my help so let me help my way.”

With the weights in tow, Adam shambled to the other side of the room and fought with the knob without setting down either of the bags. His fingers fumbled with the latch and the door swung open, revealing Betsy’s cooling sedan sitting in a cloud of gasoline scented air.

Adam wobbled down the set of stairs and set one bag in front of the listing fridge.

He winced as he gulped for a deep breath and rubbed at his chest. Shaking off the pressure, he opened the refrigerator door. The appliance grumbled, countering the loss of frosted air as Adam leaned against the open door.

Taking another set of deep breaths, he bent to set the second stack on the concrete and then pulled out the first box by the cut out handle. Sliding the soda onto the top shelf, he followed with the other three cases before swinging the door shut. Gathering the bags, Adam made his way back up the stairs, and into the kitchen.

“Shut the door next time, hon,” said Betsy poking her gaze down into the last of the bags. “You’ll let all the heat out.”

“Right,” heaved Adam. He swallowed, hard and found his throat reluctant to comply. Staggering toward the kitchen table, he plopped down into one of the rickety chairs. The braided seat gave a crackled as he sagged against the slatted backrest. The bags fell from his hand like autumn leaves as he raised his fingers to his temples. His skin felt clammy and damp while the room began to spin.

“There’s more to go out back,” said Betsy. She turned with a dozen eggs in one hand, the other already on her hip. “Those chips-.”

The eggs crunched as they hit the tiled floor.

“Adam!?”

Adam stared down at the squares of lime green linoleum and tried to make the lines straighten. Betsy’s worried face appeared as if through a mist, her eyes wide. She set two fiery hands against his cheeks. Adam heard her whispering, “Oh God,” over and over.

“I’m alright,” he whispered and tried pushing her hands away. His left arm flared and refused to move as if stuck in a furnace and an invisible elephant sat back onto his chest.

“No you’re not,” snapped Betsy. She disappeared from his tunneling vision but Adam heard the receiver being lifted and her frantic press off three buttons.

“I’m alright…” he whispered again, while Doctor Jenkins’ warnings throbbed with each beat of his straining heart.

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