Jack closed his eyes in frustration and counted to ten.
Sara had emerged from the bedroom in an outfit made for raking autumn leaves. A knitted cap that had seen better days sat lopsided over her uncombed hair. She wore one of his old sweaters, frayed at the wrists and coming apart under one arm. She clomped through the house in a heavy pair of work boots. Where did she find these ridiculous garments? He thought he’d sent that sweater to the Goodwill long ago.
He glanced at the clock and sighed with exasperation. They had errands to run: the pharmacy, the post office, the market. “Come on, Sara. I can’t take you out dressed like that,” he said.
“What’s wrong with it? This sweater will keep me warm, and these boots are good for walking.”
“It’s summer, that’s what’s wrong with it. Today’s a scorcher. It’s eighty degrees and only half-past nine. Put on a pair of shorts and a blouse and let’s go.” He reached for her cap. “And get rid of this.”
She blocked his arm, grabbed the other, and gave him a nasty pinch. “I can’t go anywhere without my cap,” she cried, darting away.
Jack yelped in pain. Clutching his aching forearm, he chased after her through the dining room, the kitchen, the living room, and back again, before facing off at the single step leading into the family room. Again, he reached for the cap. She lunged forward to deliver another pinch and they lost their balance, falling over the step. Sara landed on her right hip with a terrific bang. Jack landed on top of her.
That’s it, he thought, afraid she’d broken a leg, hip, or worse. He pulled himself upright, groaning as his stiff joints protested. He tried to stand her, a tiny, wiry woman, but she felt like dead weight and resisted his efforts, howling like a wounded dog. He bent over her, and with his strong but gentle hands grasped her right leg and cautiously checked its range of motion.
She clawed at him and screamed, “Let go of me, you old fool, I’ve hurt my leg.”
He removed his hands and tried to stand up but she pulled him back down on to the floor.
“I’ve hurt my leg,” she cried. “I can’t get up.”
“I know,” he grunted, breathless from his exertions. “I’m trying to help you.”
She wouldn’t let him go, but he needed to call for help. He struggled to pull himself free and wrenched his own back, sending a violent spasm up from his lower spine to between his shoulders.
“Good God,” he cried, and she released him.
He staggered to the phone and called the paramedics. Then he dropped down on the floor beside her and spoke to her with soothing words.
“It’s all right,” he said. “Everything’s going to be all right.” He stroked her face, her hair, and repeated this mantra until she settled down. When she had quieted, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a tiny vial of medicine, and placed a little pill under his tongue to quell the ache in his chest.
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