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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

Sandra starts over


My appendix ruptured. I was in the hospital six weeks – inches from death -- but  it gave me insight.

I was sitting on my sun porch catching up on six weeks worth of newspapers, magazines, and mail when Mae tapped on the door. “I brought you a banner from work,” she said. “Everyone signed it.”

It was a roll of paper where everyone wrote, “Get well, Sandra.” “We miss you, Sandra.” We’re sorry you lost your job and we got to keep ours.

Well, no, they didn’t write that, but it was true. I smiled sweetly, “Thank you, Mae.”

Mae sat down. I could see her summoning up her nerve, “Sandra, you didn’t drink poison?”

Dear God! “My appendix ruptured.”

“It’s just that you worked for the company for twenty years and when they sold it, the new owners deleted you. And coming so soon after your divorce some people thought . . .”

 I shrugged; it hurt to shrug or do anything. My guts were stitched tight. “Let them think whatever they want to, Mae. The truth is, I got a chance to think inside that hospital. This can be the start of a whole new life. I don’t know what it is. I’m just getting my strength.”

My eyes fell on the banner where Jimmy Weston had signed. He had that straight up and down signature. “Sorry about your job,” he wrote. “You’ll land on your feet again.”

I rubbed my fingers across his words. “Oh Mae, I was just reading in the paper that Jimmy disappeared in the flood. It can’t be true that he’s gone.”

Mae shook her head. “It’s a strange, bad time. First the company gets sold and we heard that you lost your job. Then you got sick – we thought you might die – then the flood came. The river rose up like it does every year and, when it went down, they found Jimmy’s car. They think he drove in the river thinking he could make it across but then his car stalled and he drowned.”

“They haven’t found his body?”

“No, he’s swept to the sea by now. But you were so sick, Sandra, we didn’t tell you. You and Jimmy worked together for twenty years. We wanted to wait until you were better.”

My brain slowed. Inches from death makes everything slow. I was back in intensive care tied down with tubes.

“There’s something else, Sandra,” Mae truly looked frightened, but it was like I already knew. “The company’s going over the books and eight million dollars is missing.”

The clouds shifted; my sunroom brightened. I sat in a beam of light as it all came clear. Eight million dollars was missing and Jimmy Weston had disappeared.

* * *

Jimmy and I worked together from the beginning of Lenley Mutual Insurance Company. It was a progressive company and so were we. Back then we traveled to see prospective clients and stayed in the same hotel. He was married with two kids and I was married, too, but I had a dream about us.  He’s hold his head over a column of figures, take the pencil from behind his ear and start tapping. I felt that tapping down to my toes. Then he’d give me that half wink, and his eyes would light. He had the clearest, bluest eyes and when he got hopping it was like you turned up the gas flame. I had this dream that someday when his kids got grown, there’ d be this time for us.

In a meeting, he’d hold his head down, but then he’d lift his head and start talking. When he talked people listened. We sold to a lot of clients in the early days and afterwards we’d get chili at the best place in town. Jimmy loved chili. One night we went to a place that was so packed we had to wait at the bar. Soon he had five empty beer bottles lined up in a row.

I was pretty well lit myself and said, “Did you ever want to  disappear?”

Jimmy leaned across his bottles, “You mean like get away from my screaming wife and live in the woods.” His eyes got bright. “I’d go to Plainview, Montana. My grandfather lived there many years ago and he told me if I ever wanted to hide out to go there. One time I told my wife I was going on a business trip and flew out there and drove all around. It’s like my grandfather said. You could dig a hole and disappear.” He took the pencil from behind his ear and started to tap, beat-beat on his bottles. Then he blinked. He looked down and when he looked up, he’d gone back into his shell. “I was kidding you, Sandra,” he laughed but he didn’t convince me. He’d told me his utmost secret.

After that, we didn’t travel together. The company expanded and Jimmy and I moved into separate departments. He was in accounting and I was into sales. I still saw him sometimes, but things were different. I always thought we got too close and he pulled back. I never mentioned Plainview, but I cherished it.

I knew that he only told me.

* * *

One thing about a ruptured appendix is that you’re powerless. You’re powerless over the IV’s and the catheter. You’re powerless over the drugs they give you. I’d lie in that intensive care in a fog of drugs and be helpless.

Walking up and down my sunroom in pretty pink slippers, I’d say this over and over, “You work for a company for twenty years and they delete you. You’re married to a guy for twenty years and he divorces you.” And it formed in my mind to go to Plainview and find Jimmy.

Inches from death gave me insight; maybe they took out my fear. I’d lost forty pounds and most of my hair. It used to be long and dark and I wound it tight in a bun. It grew back white, so I dyed it blond. I’d worn these manly business suits but now I wore tight jeans and spangly sweaters. I got rid of my glasses and wore great loopy earrings. The new me, the – faced death and lived – me. Now was the time for us. I’d walk up and down that sunroom and practice, “Hey, Jimmy, what’ ll we do with the money?”

* * *

I flew to Montana and rented a car. It was summer and Plainview was a beautiful drive. The sky was blue and cloudless. I sang country songs on the radio as the mountains rolled by, then I came to a tiny crossroads. There was a bank, a grocery store, a feed store, and a few older houses. One  house was a place to stay so I checked in and looked for somewhere to eat. There was only one diner, this grubby place with moose heads on the wall, but every Friday, chili was the special. So, I positioned myself at the back booth behind a magazine, because Jimmy Weston was going to walk through that door. He was going to sit at the counter and order a bowl of chili.

I sat through two consecutive Fridays, and call it whatever you want, but the next Friday, Jimmy walked in and sat at the counter. He had a bushy beard, a burly coat, a squashed down old hat.

Everything got still and I couldn’t breathe. I was back in intensive care, hooked up to tubes.

Jimmy took off his hat, pulled the pencil from behind his ear, and started to tap. He tap-tapped on the counter,  then ate his chili with his head down. He was tapping at the cash register as they rang up his bill. Then he looked quick over his shoulder straight at me.

He got in an old red pick-up and I followed him in my car. Way back, just keeping him in sight. We drove ten miles down a long dirt road and then he turned into a lane. His truck wound slowly behind huge boulders and it was like I was back in intensive care and slowed down by drugs. Then Jimmy’s truck disappeared into a forest of pine trees.

I stopped! My breath came in short ragged spurts. Slowly I inched my car in through the branches until I came to this clearing.

Jimmy stood there in front of his truck. “Sandra,” he said walking toward me. His eyes were that glittery bright.

 I put my hand on the key to turn off the engine, but then I got insight.

He reached in his coat and pulled out a knife. I clutched in horror as everything stopped. Everything got still inside my head. He ran at me screaming in rage so  I stomped on the gas. Knocked him into his truck.


* **

It was the beginning of a whole new life. I now  find people who disappear. I used to think Jimmy Weston was the first person I ever found, but I found myself first. I don’t take chances now.

Inches from death – is what it sounds like. You don’t want to go there twice.

Submitted: May 16, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Suzanne Mays. All rights reserved.

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