Fourteen Minutes

June 8, 2010
The things that take 14 minutes: boiling an ostrich egg, Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' video, it also takes 14 minutes to get from the Jagger Bridge to Michael P. Wesley Hospital. In those 14 minutes, one life hung in the balance. For the rest of us there was nothing to do but wait. I guess that’s why they call in the waiting room. Well, that’s where I’ll be in about two minutes if I touch another damn white line."
My pulse quickened as I touched the line before turning around and headed across the court. Shoes scuffed against the floor as everyone flew past me in the other direction. My breath came out unevenly as I lifted my burning legs from the ground. I slid my foot to the line as I felt the coach’s eyes follow me nearly losing my balance; I managed to catch myself just in time for my sweaty hands to pick up the dirt from the floor. I couldn’t even hear my feet pounding on the ground as I stared at the back of the heads of my well ahead teammates. Keeping up was hard and I felt like my body was going to give away at any second. Punk. That’s what my dad would scream from the bleachers if he were here, and thank the heavens he wasn’t or I’d never hear the end of it. Breathe! I pleaded with myself as my heart pounded in my ears and my breath burned my dry throat. But it seemed useless to tell myself this because it was as if I was speaking German and my brain didn’t understand. It was as useless as trying to open your front door with your car keys. I kept my head down as I ran towards my breathless team, trying to ignore the fact that I was the only one still running. I felt my legs quiver as I jumped sideways to avoid crashing into Jonnie. Bending down I rested my hands on my knees, closed my eyes as I failed to steady my breath, and waited for the wave of Coach Palmer’s words to crash over me.

“49 seconds? I must not be able to tell time!” he laughed sarcastically as I struggled to hear him over my heart, “What the hell is this? Am I coaching a bunch of seven year old girl scouts?”

The team kept their heads down as his voice bounced across the walls. I, like everyone else, kept my eyes on the ground to avoid his red face and his famous popping veins.

“What are you doing Penn? Do you not want to be on this team? I know I sure don’t want a guy who can’t even move his freaking butt across the gym with his team. I don’t care if you’re the best shooter on this whole team. If you don’t get your butt on the line when this whistle blows you might as well go join your girlfriend at cheer practice!”

Anger filled me as he raged on, not only my chest felt like it was on fire as my ears turned red and I stood up straight clenching my fist shut. As soon as I did this Coach’s beady eyes glanced at my fist and stepped up to me until his face was an inch from mine.

“Am I ticking you off Penn?” he breathed, allowing me to catch today’s chili cheese fries. “Huh? If I am good, now you know how I feel every time I lay my eyes on your lazy butt.”

“No sir,” I said staring him square in the eyes.
Not getting the response he wanted he stepped back his face seeming red as a tomato compared to his white hair and beard. Honestly who is your inspiration? I asked myself as I glared at him, Hulk Hogan?
“We’ll girls you can all thank your captain because we’re going to do this until everyone gets across that line before the timer ends. Everyone line up.”
Groans filled the air as everyone slowly grabbed a spot on the white line.
“It’s cool bro,” Jonnie smiled as he clapped his hand on my back. “You’re way better than any of those guys; just make sure you get your butt across that line.”
Smiling, I waited until the whistle blew to start running for what felt like the hundredth time, my mind on Jonnie’s words, the only thing keeping me running, as everyone shot daggers at me as they passed. It felt like a hand was pressing down on my heart, not allowing me to breathe. Glancing at the clock I read a blurry fourteen minutes as tears burned my eyes.
Shoving my drenched clothes into my bag I slammed my locker shut before resting my head on its cold surface. Closing my eyes I listened to the drips of the empty showers as I took a normal breath finding it had been forever since I had. Throwing my bag over my shoulder I left the locker room and entered the deserted hallway. Glancing down both ways I noticed all of the lights were cut off, except for a white light by the front double doors. Walking towards it I glanced down at my phone to read five missed calls. Pushing it aside I paused under the white light and faced the well polished mahogany cabinet. Through the stainless glass sat more than thirty trophies, but they weren’t what I was looking at. My eyes were drawn to a picture taken a year ago at the state championship game. I rested on the team’s shoulders with my dad holding up the trophy. My throat tightened as I lifted my hand to the chain around my neck.
“Duncan?” came a voice blocking my tears from falling.
Glancing down the hall I saw a small Hispanic girl walking towards me. Her black curly hair fell in her face as she caught her slipping pom poms. She flung her arms around my neck, but quickly stepped back once my arms remained at my side,
“I called you like a million times,” she sighed as she dragged me by my hand towards the double doors. “Why didn’t you pick up?
I let my mind drift away to tomorrow as Kathy rambled on about her practice, too busy texting to notice I was no longer by her side.
“Wait? Dunc?” she called as she paused in the middle of the almost empty lot. “What happened to the party?”
“I don’t feel like going” I sighed as I unlocked my truck and tossed my bag into the trunk. Closing it I turned to meet her.
“But you promised.” She pouted, her big brown eyes gazing into mine as she slid her hand onto my arm.
“Well I changed my mind. You’re not going to die Kathy.” I huffed as I headed around the car.
Pulling the door open I closed my eyes as I slowly inhaled, letting the cold air fill my lungs and chill my insides. Closing the door I looked over the car to see her still standing there, her eyes on the ground.
“Look, I’m sorry.” I sighed as I hugged her. “I’ve been having a bad day”
More like week
“Tomorrow will you be happier?” she asked, her voice muffled against my sweatshirt.
“Yeah. I’ll call you.” I lied as I kissed her forehead before letting her go.
Waiting until she was in her jeep I climbed into my truck, locked the doors and pressed play on the cd player. Turning the volume all the way up I headed home at full speed, running every red lights in hopes that something would knock me out of the hell now called my life.
Wiping the mirror dry with my arm I stared into it. Gripping the sides of the slick sink I closed my eyes as my stomach churned. Letting out five deep breaths I turned on the cold water and splashed my face. My whole body was shaking and it felt like flames were under my skin, heating my blood. Looking up at my reflections I took in my short brown messy, ruffled hair. My blue eyes with bags, which could’ve made the Genis Book of World Records, under them. The thin hook scar that ran from behind my left ear, down my neck and to my right side. I remember when I got that, four years ago my dad decided to bring my cousin and I along for a fishing trip. Well, lets just say it was my mom’s turn and I was her fish.
A knock came to the door causing my heart to jump before I cut off the light and pulled the door open.
“Oh, hey hon.” My mom smiled. “I wanted to make sure you were up. Jonnie just called.”
My stomach clenched as she said this. I was hoping he would’ve forgotten about today, like he normally does.
Looking up I met my mom’s big hazel eyes and quickly looked away.
“Are you okay honey?” she asked as I crossed the room to grab my polo.
Yeah ma” I lied as I pulled it on before heading to the door.
“uhm” she smiled as she cleared her throat behind me.
Turning around I smiled as she stood on her toes to drape her arms around my shoulder and hug me.
“You’ll do fine,” she whispered in my ear as she ruffled my hair.
Not replying, I headed outside to Jonnie’s truck.

“Mr. Duncan Penn and Jonnie Buell.” Came a high pitched squeaky voice as a small women in Elmo scrubs smiled.
“That’s us bro.” Jonnie smiled as he slapped my arm and got up.
My heart pounded in my chest as the lady’s eyes looked up from the hot pink clipboard in her hand and landed on me.
“Right this way.” She said turning and heading down the hallway.
Getting up I followed Jonnie down the hallway, my stomach feeling like I had dropped my intestines inside of my mom’s blender. I felt my throat suddenly go dry as I passed a coco-cola machine. Swallowing my spit I winced as a it tingled.
“In here.” The lady smiled as she paused to the left of an open door. Reading her name tag I read Maci. “Good luck.”
Jonnie smiled a huge thanks and I probably looked stupid because I tried to force a smile on my face, but from her look it wasn’t that pretty.
As soon as I stepped into the doctor’s office I felt a sweat break across my forehead. Collapsing inside a stiff black chair I watched as Jonnie jumped up onto the white bed, a smile on his face.
“Aren’t you happy that we’re finally here?” he asked, but he replied before I could; “Now my mom and dad can get off of my back.”
“Yeah,” I managed as I looked around the room.
SpongeBob and Scooby-Doo posters hung on the wall for the children and I found myself wishing I was still ten years old and never had picked up a basketball in my life.
“Hey man,” Jonnie whispered as I looked up, “It’ll be quick. Twelve to fourteen minutes you know?”
Nodding, I faintly smiled as Jonnie explained his plans for driving cross country this summer and I found myself thinking of the first day we’d met. It was the first day of third grade and I was coming outside after eating lunch late and there was a group of fourth graders standing in a circle. Of course being a kid I went over to see what it was. Inside the circle was a scrawny blonde haired boy, with glasses as big as a chocolate chip cookie. He had his shirt tucked into his pants which stopped at his ankles. I mean, the kid wasn’t making it any easy for himself looking like this. Jonnie was bleeding and on the ground so I stepped in and handled it. I know you’re probably thinking really? A third grader against four fourth graders? We’ll that’s what happens when your dad was a wrestling coach for your cousin’s team. I taught Jonnie never to dress like that again and he taught me how to speak French. We’ve best vest friends ever since.
“Hey guys.” A middle aged brunette smiled as he closed the door.
As he began placing a blood pressure machine to Jonnie’s arm and five suctions to his chest I quickly got up.
“I’m sorry.” I sighed before I pulled the door open and headed down the hallway and pass Maci.
That night I played in my game. I knew I shouldn’t have. When we got back to Jonnie’s house I waited until he was in the shower before stealing his results and making a copy. I went home and gave them to my mom who cried and hugged me. It’s a win-win situation. She didn’t have to walk around scared to come home and finding me dead on the floor, and I got to play basketball. My sister never showed the signs of HCM like I did. My father died from it two months ago and left us the gracious gift of a 50/50 percent chance for his offspring to have it. Well I was the lucky winner.
That night I collapsed at my game and woke up in the hospital and I knew it was bad, my mom was there. She told me I could play basketball, but had to take medicine that would slow me down. I’ve never been able to play basketball the same and didn’t get the scholarship I wanted. Instead I went to school as journalism major and am working on my first novel. I never knew how significant time was in our lives until one night at a high school game when fourteen players watched one collapse to the ground. With only fourteen seconds left in the game and a ball in his hand never knowing if he’d ever learn what came of those last fourteen seconds of his championship game.





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