Fiction: A Souvenir Clock Chimes The Hour

Peter lay on the floor propped up against a kitchen cabinet. He stared across the room through the door to the hallway straining to hear any noises. It was quiet. The man had left.

The man had left leaving Peter to his fate. He could have phoned for help. It wouldn't have mattered but the man was afraid. Peter tried to understand why the man would be afraid however the question seemed quite immaterial now. The pool of blood was not growing as fast as it had been but it was still slowly widening on the kitchen tiles. How much time did Peter have? How much blood could the human body lose before the loss of consciousness then death?

This was certainly an unexpected turn of events. Peter had hoped to spend a quiet evening in. He had picked up a spy novel this past weekend at the library and right from the beginning, the story had captured his imagination. While he was trying to limit his time reading it, he had become so engrossed in the story he literally couldn't put the book down. He had spent a couple of hours each evening with his nose in the book eagerly waiting for the next plot twist. The action adventure of this globe-trotting spy was anything but the quiet uneventful life Peter led. What an odd surprise to have some of that action show up in real life when Peter comes home after work to find an armed intruder in his home. And what an unfortunate surprise to have said intruder panic and shoot Peter in the abdomen.

Peter looked at the blood. It was a very dark shade of red. Hmmm, wasn't it supposed to be red red? How was he going to clean this mess up? He remembered the last time he had gotten some blood on his shirt. He had been slicing a tomato on the counter for a salad when the phone rang. It distracted him and he nicked his finger. He jumped he was so surprised then immediately turned on the cold water tap and ran some water over the cut. He wrapped it in a Kleenex and put some pressure on it with his thumb trying to stem the flow. That's when he saw the drops of blood on the front of his shirt.

Mom had always told him to get blood out as soon as possible. It apparently had a tendency to set in the fabric when it dried and after that the stain was permanent. He managed to pull parts of his shirt away from his chest and hold them under the cold water of the kitchen tap. It was funny how the water quickly spread in the material of his shirt making big splotches. While his shirt was blue, the wet marks showed as a somewhat darker blue. Now instead of two tiny stains of blood, he now had two enormous wet marks on the front of his shirt. Peter had laughed. It struck him that the cure was worse than the disease.

Peter looked down. This time however, oh God what a mess. He held his right hand over his stomach. Was this an instinctive gesture to touch his injury in a vain attempt to stop the bleeding? That didn't work very well. The lower part of his shirt was soaked in blood. The red stain went down on his pants and there was a small pool of the red liquid slowly spreading out from his body.

How odd. Even though he had been shot, even though there was all this blood, Peter didn't feel pain exactly. He felt some discomfort but no real pain. Was he in shock? What was shock exactly? What a curious predicament. He had never been shot before so he didn't have any idea of what to do. He certainly didn't know what the experience was going to be like but here he was shot. So this was it. This was what being shot is. How odd.

Was the man gone? Then again, was it a man? Peter had the impression that the man was young, maybe a teenager. He certainly was shocked to see Peter standing in the kitchen. It would seem that whoever he was, he couldn't have been a professional thief. Would a professional have been so surprised? Would a professional have shot him like that? Peter thought a professional would have done a better job of planning a robbery so as to avoid any such confrontation with a home owner. Does anybody want to go from robbery to possibly murder? Somehow that seems like you're really upping the ante.

Peter thought he should try to call for help. Now that he was alone he didn't have to worry about the robber coming back to shoot him again. But could he move? He felt very weak and lightheaded. Once again it was odd that he didn't feel pain so much as a certain discomfort. He always thought from the television shows that anyone would be in agony after being shot.

Putting his unbloodied hand on the floor to brace himself, Peter attempted to move his legs. All of a sudden a stabbing pain came up out of abdomen and he was momentarily blinded. Peter let out a gasp and froze, his eyes squeezed shut. Time stopped. The apartment was totally quiet.

Peter relaxed back against the cabinet. He wasn't going anywhere. That was incredibly painful and let's avoid pain. Even though he hadn't necessarily been feeling pain, he knew he was hurt and hurt badly. Whatever that bullet had done inside him, trying to move didn't help matters. Of course, even if he could move, how was he going to call for help?

Peter had come home after work and unlocked the front door. It had been three years since his wife had died and he had seriously considered moving to leave his former life behind him and to make a fresh start but like many he suffered from inertia. How much would he make selling the house and how much would another house cost? He was settled here and was it worth it to deliberately unset the apple cart? Then again, since he was now single again, did he need a house? Probably an apartment would be more than adequate at this stage of his life and who knew if he would ever again find himself in a domestic situation.

Stepping inside the front door, Peter bent down to pick up the mail that the postman had shoved through the mail slot. He shut the door and walked across the living room to the kitchen. He had just finished setting the few pieces of mail on the counter when the young man walked through the door on the opposite side of the kitchen. He was carrying a gun. For one brief moment their eyes locked and Peter saw the look of utter surprise on the man's face. It was then there was a bang followed by this sharp pain in Peter's stomach. He automatically grabbed his stomach then looked down. Blood was oozing out of him. Peter thought he was going to faint. He had to sit down.

Still holding onto his stomach, Peter slowly slumped down onto the floor. He sat on the tiles with his back up against a kitchen cabinet. Peter felt incredibly weak as if all his energy had drained out of him. He held his blood soaked hand up. This was surreal. He had been shot.

Peter looked at the man. He still had a look of surprise on his face. Had he meant to shoot Peter? Was it an accident? At this stage of the game did it matter? The results were the same.

Peter softly said, "Help."

The man did nothing. He was frozen on the spot. He stared at Peter with wide eyes. It seemed he was wrestling with the idea of what to do. Peter had seen him. Peter was a witness. On top of it, Peter had been shot by him. This was not adding up to be a slam dunk, in and out smash and grab. No, this had suddenly gotten really, really complicated.

Peter repeated softly, "Help." His voice was more of a whisper.

The man looked around the room. He saw a wall mounted telephone beside the kitchen table. Taking two steps to the phone, he set his gun on the table, picked up the receiver and unplugged the cord. He picked up the gun then turned and headed back from where he came. At the door, he turned and glanced at Peter for a brief moment then disappeared. Peter heard a few noises then what he thought was the backdoor being opened and closed. It was silent.

How long had Peter sat there? Five minutes? Ten minutes? He couldn't say. He didn't have a real sense of time. Besides he felt lightheaded and that made him a little confused. He tried to shake this mild stupor off him because he was realising he needed to do something. What exactly he wasn't sure but he couldn't stay sitting on the floor. It seemed as though he wasn't going to stop bleeding so he needed to do something to get help.

Peter looked up at the wall mounted telephone. The curly cord which normally attached to the receiver hung down from the main unit. The thief had deliberately taken the receiver. He didn't want Peter phoning the police. Never mind the police, did it not dawn on him that Peter couldn't phone for help? Now what was Peter going to do?

There was an extension in the den. Could he crawl that far? Could he attempt to walk? Trying to get up before was excruciatingly painful but he had to try something. But if the robber had taken the receiver of the phone in the kitchen, how did Peter know whether he had not done the same to the phone in the office? Maybe he didn't think Peter was going to be able to move.

It suddenly occurred to Peter that nobody would find him for days. Years ago, the household had been a bustling social center with children, friends of children, and other neighbourhood parents. There never seemed to be a time when the house was empty. Now with children grown up with their own lives, life was a lot less hectic. And now that Peter was a widower, the house was more than just quiet, it was empty. A house is just a house but with a wife and children, that is with a family, a house is a home. The kids were great but they did live on the other side of the continent. In these modern times, you had to go where the jobs were and they all got great opportunities. Unfortunately those opportunities were very far away and that meant visits were not all that frequent. Oh there was the phone but it wasn't quite the same as face to face.

Yes, if this had happened years ago, Peter would be found in hours if not minutes. Now, Peter would be lucky if he was found in days. He had to do something. He had to go to the den.

Peter took a deep breath. He didn't feel lightheaded as much as dizzy. Focus, Peter, focus. He rolled to one side and attempted to get up on all fours. It was painful but he thought he could put up with it. He crawled a step. He looked down. His bloodied hand had left a big print on the tiles. No matter. He could clean this up later. He moved one arm and one knee forward to take another step. His head was swimming now. Was he going to pass out? Peter took another breath and continued moving forward. He forced himself to focus on the task and to ignore anything else like his pain or his dizziness.

Peter moved into the hall. He winced with every movement. Blood was dripping onto the floor but Peter was ignoring it trying to stay focused: one step at a time; one foot in front of the other. He shook his head. The dizziness was getting worse. Was he going to make it? He shook his head again then…

Peter lost consciousness and collapsed on the floor. The house was filled with a pervasive silence as Peter's breathing slowed and became shallower. Somewhere in the den a souvenir clock from Disneyworld softly chimed the hour.

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