Forever in a Heartbeat

Published by Cogito in the blog Cogito's blog. Views: 391

Todd Rizzo could not keep his eyes off the gun. Once again he lifted it from the coffee table to feel its cold weight in his hand. The Smith and Wesson .22 caliber pistol weighed 33 ounces, a little over two pounds. He was surprised how easy it had been to buy it through his friend Barry. The faint smell of steel and gun oil made him feel both nervous and somewhat excited. What the hell am I doing he thought for a moment. Annoyed at his weakness, he firmly set the gun back down on the table next to the half-empty pizza box. Picking up the can of Colt 45 instead, he gulped down the last third of a can, then flipped the can toward the trash. It clattered against the wall and came to rest a foot to the right of the trash bucket.

Elaine Federmeyer stepped out from the shelter of the bus stand as the bus pulled to a stop. Hurrying through the cold drizzle, her foot splashed in an oily puddle in front of the open door of the bus. There were no open seats, so she braced herself with one of the upright steel columns and glanced at her watch. She should make it home around 5 PM, and she was dreading the argument she was sure would come. Or perhaps tonight would just be another crackling silence, waiting for an explosion that would never come. She wasn’t sure which was worse. She shifted her weight so the pole wasn’t pressing on her bruised shoulder.

Todd looked at the clock and sighed. Only 4:50? He was sure it would be after 5:00 by now. But everything seemed to drag on forever since last Thursday. It wasn’t fair. He had been less than ten minutes late, and it wasn’t his fault. He had told her he didn’t have time to discuss it, but she wouldn’t let it go. He looked at the time again.

Elaine rummaged into her bag and found a sample packet of Advil. Tearing open the packet, she swallowed the tablets dry. Todd had been hard to live with for a while, but he had become impossible to be around after losing his job. But after last night, she knew she had to leave him. A tight wave of fear gripped her at the thought. She had nowhere to go, and was afraid of what he might do when she told him. He had changed so much from the thoughtful man with the easy sense of humor she had moved in with. As the bus slowed at the Roosevelt Street bus stand, she checked her watch again.

Todd put down the crust of the last slice of pizza, and popped open another can of beer. He tipped it back and savored the icy rush of it down his throat. Then he stopped and listened. Was that the outer door of the apartment building? He looked at the clock. It was a few minutes after five, it could be her coming home. He listened, and thought he could hear footsteps on the stairs.

Elaine pulled the key from her bag and hesitated for a moment before sliding it into the lock. I’m not going to say anything tonight, she thought. I need to be smart about this, find a place to move to first. She turned the key and opened the door.

Todd heard the key scrape into the lock, and he picked up the gun. He pushed the safety off, and pointed the gun toward the door. He reminded himself that he had run out of choices.

Elaine smelled the beer as she opened the door, and pizza. Then she saw Todd, sitting on the couch. He was looking at her strangely. He was pointing at her. He had a gun. Everything seemed to be in slow motion, but in flashes. The flashes were coming from the gun. She dove backwards throw the open door, or maybe she was falling. A sharp pain seared the side of her head. She hit the floor hard, and her breath wouldn’t come. A loud bang echoed in the enclosed space, or maybe more than one. She wasn’t sure.
As Elaine stepped through the door, Todd squeezed the trigger and the gun jumped in his hand. He fired again as Elaine fell out the door into the hall. Then he pushed the gun barrel against the roof of his mouth and squeezed a third time. Hot white pain exploded in his skull.

Elaine was dimly aware of doors opening, of feet pounding on the stairs, of voices yelling. The fall had knocked the wind out of her. She struggled to breathe. The seconds dragged by as she gasped painfully.

Todd’s gaze was fixed on the clock. He couldn’t move, or even blink. The searing white fire was growing in his head. Todd wanted to scream, but nothing came out. The time was 5:09, and the second hand hovered over the 7. Todd waited for the pain to end, along with everything else.

“Hold still.” Someone was bending over Elaine, checking her over. “Looks like a piece of the doorframe hit her. She has a nasty cut, but I don’t see anything worse.” Then to her, “The EMT’s are on the way. Just stay still, you’ll be okay.” Elaine’s back began to throb painfully as she waited for the ambulance. Time began to return to a normal flow.
The agony in Todd’s head in Todd’s head continued to grow, until it and the clock were all he knew. The second hand ticked once, twice toward the 8, and froze. The pain grew to a roar. The second hand ticked again. Something was wrong. Todd could not feel the end coming. All he could feel was pain, never ending torture. He felt minutes stretching into hours, and hours stretching into days, and the pain continued to expand beyond all comprehension. Suddenly, before the pain washed away even this thought, Todd knew there would be no end. Time in the world would continue, but for him this minute would never end.

The second hand ticked to 5:09:39.

(I started this story in 2003, and revised it a couple times over the years. When I arrived on the Writing Forums in May of 2007, I received valuable feedback which led to this, probably final, revision.)
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