Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Time-consuming (02/24/11)
TITLE: Sleeping Sarah
By sandra hoolihan
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The postoffice line rarely had a wait so it was surprising to see a line on a Wednesday afternoon. Mrs. Hawthorn was at the counter ordering stamps as her twin girls teased each other and used their mother’s legs as a barrier from one another’s taunting much to the dismay of the postmistress. Her tightlipped smile was frozen to her face as she held up the stamp book options for Mrs. Hawthorn who, used to the constant buzz of her own children, took her time to decide.
“Where is little Sarah?” a voice behind Grace inquired. It was her neighbor Mr. Dempsy.
“Oh -,” Grace said caught off guard, not sure of what to say. “She is with a friend.” she lied then reflected on her response. A wave of paranoia washed over her as she glanced at her watch and thought about Sarah slumbering in the car. Only four minutes had passed and she was next in line so she cast aside her doubt.
“It must be nice to run your errands alone.” he said kindly as he glanced over to the twins now trying to see who could whine the loudest.
“Yes.” she answered in a tone more curt than she intended. Mr. Dempsy’s comments seemed to have an effect on her. The doubt resurged as she watched another customer walk in the door with a fresh line of sweat along her brow. Grace felt short of breath. The clock on the wall ticked like a metronome and seemed to be getting increasingly louder.
“Next!” the postmistress called out.
“No insurance, first class to New York City.” Grace said impatiently. Her chest was starting to heave with each breath, but she made every attempt to seem in control. The thin red line of the post office thermometer seemed to be growing endlessly. Grace stared past the postmistress at the black and white clock on the back wall and felt it stare back at her with a cold look of judgement.
The phone rang. Please don’t pick it up, she silently begged as the postmistress unconsciously reached for the handset and took the call. The question was a complicated one and pulled her away from the desk for 40, now 50 seconds. Each second compounded Grace’s agitation.
By the time the postmistress returned to her desk, Grace now displayed a wild eyed savage look. “Please, I am in a hurry.” she said not caring that her sudden desperation made her appear unstable. Then, without explanation, she tossed the twenty dollar bill onto the counter and ran through the door almost knocking down a gentleman attempting to hold the door open for her. She careened around the door picking up speed as she ran toward her car. Please God, Please God, Please God she begged with each stride bringing her closer to the car. The sun was beating down on her and the humidity gave her the feeling of running through wet blankets hung on a summer line.
At the car she fumbled for her keys while banging on the window. “Sarah! Wake up!” she demanded pounding on the window while noticing the infant was unresponsive. Grace started the ignition and blasted the air conditioning, but even as she drove out of the lot headed for the hospital, Sarah’s eyes remained closed and her cheeks cherry red. As the car sped by the post office, Grace could see Mr. Dempsy standing on the sidewalk calling out to her while waiving her change into the air.
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