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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Breathe (08/19/10)

By Robyn Burke


She was wound up again. He’d known the minute he’d entered the house. Her rages came more often, lasted longer and always, always, lacked any reasoning. He’d wanted to turn around and leave but he’d come for the truck keys. He needed them. Joey was waiting.

Bart carefully observed his wife. She’d been on the phone when he’d come in; whoever she’d been talking to had gotten an earful. What Kyra was pontificating on was nonsense as far as Bart could tell. That was how it was with Kyra these days. It was all in her mind. He had no idea how to deal with this and he took a deep breath.

"Have you seen my truck keys?”

She whirled around from where she stood, He realized suddenly, she had been having a conversation with no one. The hair on the back of his neck prickled.

Her blank stare prompted him to repeat the question and then her expression warned him that all-hell was about to break loose. He reflexively stepped back.

She came at him screeching, her long nails raking the air. Her language was littered with explosive words and he grappled with her flailing arms even as he grappled with his own emotions. He loved her even as he watched the Kyra he’d pledged to stand by in good times and bad, disappear a little more each day.

Bart didn’t know much about mental illness, but he suspected Kyra's spiraling behavior had to be connected to something far beyond their control. His arms wrapped tightly around her, he tried to whisper soothing words but her incensed writhing cut him off. He let go and stepped back. Shrugged helpless as she heaved and panted.

How did things get so messed up? In the privacy of the bedroom he held up discarded jeans hoping to shake loose the missing keys. He thought the keys were not all that was lost. When he’d first met Kyra he’d been bewitched by her passion for life. Sure, she was a little over the top sometimes but he’d figured that was just part of her artistic nature.

Their son was waiting for him. Bart had to find those keys, darn it! Just eight years old, Joey was operating his first lemonade stand at the gas station down the street but it was quitting time. Bart needed to move his truck over there to break down the equipment and haul it away. Distracted by the sounds of Kyra slamming things around downstairs, Bart stood, hands on hips and forced himself to breathe and think calmly.

He had to go back downstairs. Had to deal with Kyra. His patience was running thin. Count to ten, Bart thought, Count to one hundred if need be.

He went methodically through the basket where the assortment of other keys were. The truck keys were simply not there. He heard Kyra's low chuckle and he turned to see her slip back into the shadows of the hallway. He thought he heard a tinkling sound and realized it was a key chain rattling. Swearing under his breath, he followed her.

In the hallway they faced off. Kyra’s face contorted in a grotesque smile as she held her hands behind her back. Bart felt the pressure rising in his chest. Don’t lose it old boy, he thought, no matter how crazy she gets, you have got to stay calm. Breathe, just breathe.

“Kyra, do you have my keys?”

He couldn’t explain his wife’s behavior. He would never understand this intense wind that swept over her and turned her into a tornado. It broke his heart yet he was powerless to change things.

She dangled the keys, mockingly. As he reached, she whisked them away, her laughter falling around him like splintering glass. As he tried to reason with her, the 101 other times rose up in him, swelling, until he thought he’d burst. Her continued expletives, clouded his judgment until all he could think of was doing something—anything –to snap her out of this, to bring her to her senses. Without fully rationalizing it, he slapped her.

Frozen for a brief second, Bart successfully garnered his keys. Without another word, he swung on his heels and left.

With a stone in his gut, Bart dismantled Joey’s lemonade stand and in silence they drove home. In the driveway was a police cruiser. Two deputies flanked Kyra. The stone grew heavier.

Just breathe, Bart counseled himself, just breathe.

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This article has been read 513 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Anita van der Elst08/26/10
Had to remind myself to breathe as you took me into this tense and threatening moment of time. Well-written & authentic. I felt so sad for the MC and Joey. And for the woman too.
Author Unknown08/26/10
I think you have a great story here. (Love the "littered with explosive words"-- think that was it). And you had me the whole way until the end-- and then I was stumped at the police cruiser part. I don't know why they're there or who called them. Really beautifully-written otherwise.
Charla Diehl 08/27/10
This was a very real depiction of mental illness and how it not only destoys the person, but those in their wake as well. My heart ached for the MC and his son.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/31/10
This story is so sad on so many levels. mental illness be it OCD, bipolar or depression is difficult to live with and understand, but even worse to live in it, knowing that you're a tad irrational but helpless to fix it. You did a great job on such a difficult story and I commend you to bringing it to the forefront.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/31/10
As I read the other comments, I just wanted to say I understood why the police were there and that the MC would likely spend the night in jail for domestic violence. It doesn't matter if she or a neighbor called the police, yet it might bring some hope and help for both spouses.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 09/02/10
Congratulations for placing in the top 15 of your level and in the top 40 overall.