Years ago I was challenged to write to a prompt. That means someone gives you a sentence that you must use to start a story. That’s how this story “Snap” got started. I hope you enjoy it. One surprise is that there isn’t a horse anywhere in the story. The other surprise is the tricky ending. Hope you enjoy it.
Ann was due to be relieved at five o’ clock, and was looking forward to the weekend off. She had been the major caretaker for Mr. Johnson in room 202. Johnson was a 50 year old male who had been hospitalized four days ago with a kidney infection. Ann had decided not to tell her replacement about Johnson’s odd behavior. As a nurse she was obligated to pass on the required information that would include his vital signs, how many cc of saline and antibiotics had been dripping into his vein, and how much had been going out through the catheter. She would share all those medical details. But about what had just happened? She had made up her mind not to tell her relief about that. What she had seen today in 202 was different, but it didn’t have to go on the chart. Besides, Ann needed a little time to reflect on it.
She had never seen him standing, but could tell by the amount of bed he took up, that Johnson was a small man, perhaps just 5 feet tall. After his size, the next thing that Anne had noticed was his rather pointed ears. They seemed to pop out from his rusty red hair which stuck out in all directions and was badly in need of a trim. She had a hard time not staring at his eyes, or rather, what hid them. He had these incredibly bushy red eyebrows. Those hairs were so long that they almost hid his eyes. He watched you kind of funny, too. Whenever Ann walked into his room Johnson would cock his head to the side and just stare. He had a tendency to whine, way back in his throat if he was uncomfortable or wanted something. He could talk, but seemed to prefer whining. “Strange little man”, she thought the first time she saw him, even before the bizarre behavior of this afternoon.
At around one o’clock Ann was checking the urine bag at the end of the catheter that snaked from under the covers to hang beneath the bed. She was bent over, in the process of unhooking the bag, when the bed jerked and she heard a sharp noise. Ann looked up from her crouch and saw Johnson’s dark eyes jumping here and there as he looked around the room.
“Uh, is everything OK, Mr. Johnson?” First a little whine, and then: “Fine, fine,” in his high barky voice. Ann attached the new bag, and was taking the full one toward the door when she heard a rustle in the bed and then a loud SNAP! She turned quickly and saw Johnson sinking back into the bed, his eyes in constant motion.
Wait a second, there it was! A fly! A bit of a surprise, here in the hospital, but they did come in occasionally, most likely catching a ride on visitors. Johnson’s eyes followed the insect as it darted around the room. Ann stood there, still holding Johnson’s bag of warm urine, hypnotized by the scene. The fly flew inches from Johnson’s nose. Johnson gave a jerk, rose up and slammed his jaws shut over that fly! He lay back down, swallowed, and wore the hint of a smile.
Ann immediately thought of Sammy, a dog they had at home when Ann was a teenager. In the summer months Sam saw it as his mission to catch flies. It was the sound of those teeth slamming together. Snap! At home they used to joke about Sam and his enamel fly trap. He didn’t snag all the flies that buzzed near him, but he always caught enough to keep him interested in the game.
Sam was one of those once in a lifetime dogs. Ann would never forget the day she and her Dad took 14 year old Sam on his last trip. They were going to the animal hospital over in the town of Benson. On the way to the veterinary office, a fly landed on Sam’s nose and the dog never reacted. The vet agreed that old Sam was failing and it was probably time to put him to sleep Ann sobbed all the way home from the Benson animal hospital. Her tears wet the fur on Sam’s still warm body draped across her lap. She and Dad wrapped him in the blanket from his dog bed and buried him beneath the old apple tree in the side yard.
At five PM Ann went over Johnson’s chart with her replacement. The conversation was about liters of fluids in and fluids out. Ann never mentioned Johnson snagging those flies. It was just too weird and it had really spooked her.
Early Monday morning Ann was back to work. She was surprised to see the bed in Room 202 empty. Ann asked the charge nurse where Johnson was. She replied, “Well, it was the craziest thing. Saturday morning Johnson pulled out both his IV and the urinary catheter and just walked out. I told him that he couldn’t leave without the Doctor’s permission. He said that he guessed he could!” Told her that he was going to check in over there at the Benson Animal Hospital where they knew what they were doing.
David A. Jefferson, DVM