I woke slowly… my limbs felt strangely heavy… something cold lay across my face, and with a groggy frown I pulled it down; it was a stark white sheet.
I frowned; my sheets weren’t white. As I puzzled through my confusion, I became aware of the muffled sound of someone sobbing nearby. Looking to my right, I saw a woman hunched over her purse, sobbing into her closed fists.
Recognition made its way through my fuzzy brain. “Epenie?”
My best friend sat straight up in her chair, all the color draining from her face, eyes wide and gave a strangled scream before slumping from the chair to the floor in a faint.
I sighed and sat up on the bed, shuddering as the sheet fell from the top half of my body. I was suddenly chilled to the bone. Glancing down at my body, I gasped as I realized that not only was I completely naked, blood was smeared quite liberally across my torso.
The sight of all the blood chased away the last of the lethargy filling my limbs. I quickly wrapped the sheet around myself toga style and climbed down from the bed to check on Epenie.
Bending down, I gently shook her. “E?… Epenie?”
Her eyes fluttered slowly open, then sprang wide as she stared up at me in a mixture of shock and awe. “Xandie? It can’t be… y-you’re dead.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not.”
She frowned at me as she rose to her feet. “You were dead.”
“No, I wasn’t.”
“Yes, you… I’m not going to argue the point… obviously if you were dead, you aren’t anymore.”
I narrowed my eyes at the sour expression on her face. “Sorry to disappoint you,” I said, sullenly sniffing in affront.
Epenie rolled her big brown eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m thrilled you aren’t dead, but allow me a moment of confusion as I bring myself back from the brink of despair and adjust to the fact that you aren’t dead and actually look surprisingly healthy.” She studied me closely with a frown. “Except of course for the fact that you are covered in blood.”
“I know. How come? What happened?” I asked as the surreal quality of the situation began to sink in.
“You don’t remember?”
Shaking my head, I wrinkled my brow as I tried to think of the last thing I remembered before waking up in this cold and sterile room. Looking around, I asked, “Exactly where are we?”
She lifted her eyebrows and smirked at me. “The morgue.”
“Yeah, explain that, Ms. Lazarus.”
I sank back down on the edge of the bed. “I have no idea. The last thing I remember is leaving my apartment to go for a power walk in the park.”
Epenie sighed and sat back down on the straight-backed chair. “I got a phone call that you were at the hospital. They said some sort of large animal had attacked you and I was your emergency contact. When I got here, they told me you’d been moved to the morgue and brought me down here to identify your remains. They left me alone with you to give me time to accept what happened and say my goodbyes.”
“Why did they think I was dead? Obviously I’m alive and fine. The only place I’m even sore is on my shoulder.” I pulled the sheet back from my left shoulder and studied the deep puncture wounds. It was a very obvious animal bite but certainly not a life-threatening one. “What kind of doctors work in this hospital?”
“That is a nasty-looking bite. We better make our way back to the ER so they can take care of that.”
“You mean the ER where they said I was dead?” I have to admit to being a little miffed by being diagnosed as dead and carted off to the morgue. My injuries weren’t even serious, for goodness’ sake.
A longsuffering sigh was her response as she took my arm to lead the way. “Apparently you didn’t have a pulse so dead was the natural assumption.”
I glared at her from underneath my lashes. “You know what they say about doctors who assume things.”
“They say you’d better behave yourself so we can get out of here and go home,” E said rather tartly.
Okay, I realized she’d been pushed far enough through the bizarre circumstances and I needed to cut her some slack. After all, if someone called me and told me my best friend was dead, I’d be more than a little upset as well. Then to have my friend sit up and begin chatting with me, well, it was more than your average visit to the hospital.
I closed my mouth and followed Epenie from the morgue. Looking at the blood-stained sheet that was my only clothing, I wondered what happened to my jogging suit and tennis shoes.
At least the air seemed to warm substantially once we left the dead room. Maybe in the ER they would have some of those warmed blankets.
After three more hours of examinations and exclamations, we were finally allowed to leave the ER with the understanding that I was indeed alive.
Of course the first hour and a half had been mass chaos. Apparently E was not the only person at Wilson Memorial Hospital that night with a delicate constitution. Before everything was said and done, three nurses and five doctors had fainted.
Of course, I hadn’t helped, as in retrospect it hadn’t been the most brilliant plan to look at doctors number four and five and yell “Boo!” But in my own defense, I was really tired of having to say I’m not dead… heartbeat on the floor!
As it turned out, physicians and nurses don’t have that great a sense of humor when it comes to mistakenly diagnosing death and the director of the ER didn’t have one at all. He was the soul of courtesy to me and Epenie, apologizing profusely for our ‘little misunderstanding,’ but his glare could have bored holes in the Arnold Schwarzenegger of residents. He said something about bedpan duty for the next hundred years and I instantly became the pariah of the entire floor.
I decided if I had any further emergency situations in the next millennium, Mercy West across town would be my hospital of choice. If I came back here, the residents might kill me before I had the chance to die of natural causes.
Thankfully the hospital staff had been able to give me a pair of XXL scrubs to wear home. Good thing there was a plus-sized nurse on duty with an extra pair, though the top was crushing my generous bosom just the same.
It was heaven to actually be able to climb into E’s little powder blue VW bug. As she cranked it up and turned the heater on full blast, my stomach growled loudly. I was suddenly ravenous.
“Could we pull through Mickey Dee’s?” I asked hopefully.
“Didn’t you just start another diet today?” Epenie was always supportive on my dieting attempts and didn’t generally rag me too badly when I inevitably fell off the proverbial wagon.
“I was dead; if that doesn’t allow me a Big Mac or two, I don’t know what does.”
Epenie laughed. “You’re so crazy.”
I grinned in response, knowing I was as good as in the drive-through. When we pulled up to the speaker to order, suddenly two didn’t seem to cut it; pushing across the seat over E, I leaned out the window.
“I’ll have four Big Macs, three large fries, two fried apple pies, and a large diet Dr. Pepper, easy on the ice.”
I relaxed back into my seat after the clerk correctly read back my order. “Did you want anything, E?”
Epenie shook her head incredulously. “Are you sure you meant Diet Dr. Pepper?”
I blushed. “Well, I’m hungry, but you gotta cut the calories where you can.”
“Uh huh… keep telling yourself that,” she said with a wink.
It wasn’t until we pulled up to the window that I realized I didn’t have my purse, much less a wallet. I smiled sheepishly at Epenie.
E rolled her eyes, and then pulled her own wallet out.
“Thanks, E, I’ll pay you back tomorrow.”
By the time we pulled up in front of my apartment building, I’d already demolished three of the hamburgers, all the fries, and one of the pies. I decided to save the rest for once I was inside. I didn’t think my ego could take anymore of Epenie’s slack-jawed amazement.
I knew it was hard to believe, but I really was that hungry. As I climbed out of the car I gave my already rather large bottom a rueful pat. Hopefully by tomorrow my appetite would be back to normal or I would soon graduate from Lane Bryant clothing to strictly muumuus.
“Do you want me to come in with you?” Epenie asked, unsure of whether or not to leave me on my own.
“Nah, I’m fine. Thanks, Epenie, I’ll call you tomorrow.” I shut the car door and waved at her before climbing the stairs to the front of my building. What a night!
I munched my last fried pie as I rode the elevator up to the sixth floor. At the door of my apartment I was met with frantic barking from the other side.
Poor Dizzy was beside herself. I opened the door expecting my Yorkie, Dizabell, to launch herself at me in a frenzy of yips and licks; instead I was greeted with a very serious growl and a nip.
“Dizabell, no… bad dog!” I snapped at her. In response she snarled and backed away.
I frowned. “Dizzy, what’s wrong? It’s me…” I bent down to pet her head reassuringly and she jumped up and bit me on the end of the nose.
I suppose I could chalk up what happened next to the fact that it had thus far been the strangest night of my existence; what else could explain that fact that I growled and bit my dog back? I didn’t bite her hard, just a little warning bite, but the fact that I bit her at all was weird to say the least.
I’m not sure who was more surprised, me or Dizabell.
But after I nipped her on the nose, everything was okay again. She rolled over on her back and whimpered.
Using one hand to wipe the taste of dog fur out of my mouth, I scratched her belly with the other. That was all it took; we were best friends again.
Dizzy rolled around all over my feet and followed me back to the couch where I ate my last burger. She jumped up beside me and curled as close to me as she could get.
I wiped my mouth with a napkin and collapsed sideways onto the couch; suddenly I was exhausted.
With Dizzy curled warmly to my side, I was asleep in seconds.
The sound of Dizzy growling woke me from a very pleasant dream. I sat up and looked around to see what she was growling at and froze at the sight of black smoke coming up through the floor vent. My downstairs neighbor must be making fajitas again; I could smell the meat burning.
I quickly covered the vent but it was too late; I sighed. He did this periodically and it was beyond annoying.
The resulting smoke was thick and black and filled the entire room. In a matter of moments, the fire alarm began shrieking its warning of impending doom. Dizzy began to howl right on cue, I opened my mouth with the intention of shushing her but instead found myself lifting my head and adding my own mournful cry to hers.
Before I could even completely register the fact that I was howling like a dog with Dizzy, my upstairs neighbor Mort began pounding on the ceiling demanding our silence. Thankfully that startled me out of canine mode and I was able to stop. I looked at Dizzy where she stood looking up at me wagging her tail. Apparently she’d found our little singalong great fun. I on the other hand was mortified. What was wrong with me that I suddenly felt the need to howl like a dog? First I bite my dog and now I howl with her; if things didn’t normalize soon, I’d have to seek psychiatric care.
The fire alarm still shrieking behind me, I grabbed the broom and gave it a whack. It must have been a much harder whack than intended since the entire alarm shattered, raining down bits of plastic on me and the floor, and the broom remained stuck in the ceiling.
Wincing at the thought of my security deposit, I pulled it out, sending down another shower of debris, this time of plaster and paint. I was still trying to solve the puzzle of my suddenly very canine behavior and super strength when someone pounded forcefully on my front door. I sighed, “Mort.”
With another longsuffering sigh reserved mostly for my annoying neighbor Mort, I opened the door.
“You aren’t supposed to have more than one dog in here and they are all supposed to be under fifteen pounds. I’ll give you a day to get rid of it or I’m reporting you to the super.”
As usual Mort didn’t even give me the courtesy of looking at me while voicing his complaints. Last time he insisted that Dizzy was hiking her leg to pee on his potted plants; even after I’d explained that Dizabell was a girl dog and therefore didn’t hike her leg on anything, he still insisted she was the culprit.
“I don’t have another dog, Mort, just Dizzy,” I said softly, trying to remain patient even though no one could have been more disturbed by the howling than me.
That brought his eyes up to mine with a snap; Mort loved a rousing argument. “I heard it! You have two…” His tirade trailed off as he stared at me.
“Hello, I don’t believe we’ve met, gorgeous.”
I blinked. “Don’t be stupid, Mort, of course we’ve met. I’ve lived below you for over four years.”
“Nah, Xandie is dumpy and rather ordinary, you on the other hand are anything but,” he said, leaning in to sniff my hair.
I drew back in horror; what was wrong with him? “That is not funny, Mort!”
“How about dinner tomorrow night, or even now?” He waggled his uni-brow at me suggestively.
Why a man thinks that after calling you dumpy and ordinary you would feel in any way romantic is beyond me. But then maybe that’s just me, but with everything else going on, it just plain irritated me.
“Get lost, Mort,” I said succinctly before slamming the door in his face. What a jerk! With a sigh, I went to clean up the mess in my living room.
It took me twenty minutes to clean up the crushed plastic, plaster, and paint. The drywall had left a fine dust covering on most of the living room. I really didn’t seem to know my own strength.
Finally finished, I sank back down on the couch and pulled the fuzzy blanket back over me. I was too tired to walk the few more yards it would take to get to my bedroom; snuggling in, I went back to sleep and prayed I wouldn’t dream about being a dog.