I’m Not That Good at Breathing In.

Version 4

I’m really not that good at breathing in.

My mum was the first to notice it.

It has a name and everything — dyspnoea.

It created a few problems when I was at school.

I would talk really fast on the out breath, and everyone would stare at me, waiting for me to finish the sentence, which I was unable to do until I managed to breathe in.

As I got older, I learned how to say stuff in a precise manner, but when I was younger, it multiplied my embarrassment.

One of the upsides of my affliction was that I rarely needed to be banged on the back because I had ‘breathed something in’.

You know the scenario; you are eating a biscuit, and someone says something that requires an answer. You breathe in quickly and down goes a chunk of biscuit followed by you coughing and sputtering followed by some large bloke pounding you on the back or worst still, trying the Heimlich manoeuvre on you resulting in three cracked ribs and flying biscuit crumbs.

Doesn’t happen to me.

When I breathe in small children, stop and stare.

The convenience store is open [I’m pretty sure that they stay open unless someone dies, and even then it’s only a ‘half day’] and I don’t recognise the person behind the counter, and more importantly, they don’t recognise me. I grab a newspaper and a pint of milk. I might be technically on the run, but I’m not missing out on milk in my cup of tea; a person must maintain standards.

The newspaper doesn’t have anything in it about me, and I’m not sure why it should, but it is reassuring all the same.

The date on the newspaper tells me that I have travelled forward in time by one hundred and fifty-eight days.

People are still driving cars and talking on mobile phones, and there are no longer any unmarked police cars parked outside my house.

Amazingly my letterbox is empty; someone has been collecting my mail.

When I get back home from the convenience store, I see Mrs Wilson waiting for me.

It’s too late to hide so I keep on walking, and I say ‘hello’ as though there is nothing unusual about this day.

“I’ve been collecting your mail for you. The man on the TV said that burglars notice if the mail piles up, so I have been taking it to my house each day. Not Saturdays and Sundays, of course, they don’t deliver on the weekends. They used to on a Saturday when I was a little girl.”

Mrs Wilson is pleasantly nuts.

She’s been pleasantly nuts for as long as I’ve lived on this quiet little street.

The other neighbours talk about her behind her back, but I’ve always liked her, and she has always been friendly to me.

She babbles on for several more minutes without mentioning the police raid or my boarded up front door. She doesn’t ask me what happened, and she doesn’t want to know where I’ve been, she’s just happy to see me.

She reminds me of a large faithful dog. They don’t care where you have been, what you have been doing, or why you have been away for so long — you are home now, and that’s all that matters.

As I mentioned, Mrs Wilson is more than a little bit crazy, and I wonder how she has escaped the attention of the authorities and her greedy family.

Her house must be worth a small fortune, but somehow they have not been able to sell it out from under her.

I asked her about it once, and she gave me the best answer.

“I know where they live, and everyone’s scared of people like me. They never know what we might do,” she said with a cheeky grin.

I listen patiently as Mrs Wilson continues her monologue but it occurs to me that I’m somewhat exposed standing on the street, in daylight, in front of what remains of my front door.

“Would you like to come to my house for a cup of tea Mrs Wilson?” I say, remembering that it has been six months since I’ve had a cup of tea.

The thought of that much time makes me wonder how I managed to go that long without a cup of tea; then I remember it has been only a few minutes for me.

I feel a little silly and hope that the next time I’m drunk I don’t mention it to any of my scientist friends — I’d never hear the end of it.

“That’s all right dear; I’m fine for the moment. Besides, you don’t have any gas or electricity.”

Mrs Wilson is sharper than people think she is.

“That nice young man was here a few days ago. He was carrying a large black bag when he left your house. I asked him about it, but he said that it was okay, and I was not to worry. He did ask me to say hello to you when I saw you and to tell you —— now what was it? I know I can remember it, just give me a moment ——- that’s right he said to tell you, ‘thank you, and remember Custer’s last stand’. He said you would understand.”

I must have looked a bit confused because Mrs Wilson asked me if I was feeling all right.

I smiled and told her that I was okay, but in my head, I was working out how I was going to get to Blairgowrie.

‘Custer’s last stand,’ was what we called Michael’s grandfather’s holiday house.

Now I know where he is, and I’m going to beat him with a very large stick when I catch up to him.


9 thoughts on “I’m Not That Good at Breathing In.

  1. Love it!!! You had from the title in & your ability to mix oddball elements with everyday detail and sly wit, unparalleled! OK, so I have to ask–is there more? (I sound like that kid in Oliver Twist, apologies!) I mean, it certainly works as a short and generally I’m a brevity is the soul of wit kinda gal but this one, for some reason, leaves me wanting a novel. Or, at least, a novella. SF is very popular these days, I hear, hint hint. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • A while back, I wrote a story that I liked a lot. It was a bit different to my ‘usual’ stories. I submitted it to a few magazines and mostly they rejected it. A couple of ‘kind souls’ told me how I should have written it and a few more told me what was wrong with it. I stopped sending it out, but I didn’t stop liking it………. fast forward and I get an email from Australia’s most prestigious Lit Mag asking me if I had placed the story. Say what? I don’t remember sending them the story……. not exactly the kind of story that a high brow Lit Mag hangs out for. I told them that the story was up for grabs and they published it…… not in their actual magazine but their online version….. a kind of second tier big deal. I didn’t mind, it looks good on my ‘published list’ and they paid me more money than I had earned from writing in the previous twelve months! The story ends with a cliffhanger [no surprises there] and over time, I tried to work out what happened next. I wrote a story and was not really happy with it, so I put it in the ‘bottom draw’. I found it a couple of days ago and I fell asleep reading it! But, about half way through it took off. I threw out the first half and what you see is a tweaked version of the second half.
      I read somewhere that a famous movie ended up being famous after the director threw out the first three reels after the preview screening.
      The story that this one springs from is called, ‘Breathe in the light and say goodbye’. It will be included in my new short story anthology, ‘Slightly Spooky Stories’ which is due to be published on August 3rd [I had to wait a long time before I could publish it because the Lit Mag held the rights until now].
      I’m just as interested as you are about what happens next. I want to know what the main character will do when he gets to the beach house. He wants his life back. He wants his name to be cleared and he wants a chance to work on his invention…….. the problem he has is that I’m up to my neck in writing projects, but I think that we all need to know what happens next.
      Two new books due out over the next few weeks and one of them is going to need a lot of ‘hands on’ promotion.
      I’m sick of editing and pasting up and everything else that takes me away from writing. I’m looking forward to a time when I can pay someone else to do all the annoying stuff. Do you think I will live long enough to see that happen?
      Thank you for your enthusiastic comments. You encourage me greatly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wait, I’ve read “Breathe in the light”, haven’t I? I *love* your SF lit stuff!!! So glad to get the complete (happy ending) backstory on this. Terry, I know how terribly discouraging it can be with constant (and normal, even necessary) rejection but those moments when someone says yes…we live for those. And, yup, I think you do have a book in there waiting for you to recharge. PS, this is officially a mutual admiration society, btw. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. cops, time travel, dear crazy neighbours and some mystery man out at Custer’s Last Stand. all in fewer words than it takes me to describe the tragic damsel who will be left alone when her hero leaves her to solitarily walk the foggy moors. well done.

    Liked by 1 person

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