I think it was the silence that woke me up.
You know that moment of silence right after the power goes out? And how it’s like the loudest silence ever? Or how when the power goes out in the middle of the night, you wake up, even though it’s quieter than it was when you went to sleep? How do we recognize that? What is it about that silence that makes us instantly alert and aware?
I looked around, thinking the power had gone out. Glanced at the alarm clock. 11:05 AM? Oh, man. Why did I sleep so late? How did I sleep through my alarm?
I grabbed my phone to see if I had somehow managed to turn the alarm off last night, but it was showing that it was still set. I didn’t have any notifications, either. Nothing from social media, the news services, or the games that I usually played. That was really odd. I was getting nervous, and I wasn’t sure why.
I sat up and swung my legs over the side of the bed, sitting there for a minute, listening to see if I could figure out why my gut was telling me something was terribly wrong.
Minion, the big black boxer-lab-rottweiler mix I’d rescued from the animal shelter a couple of years ago, lay in front of my son’s bedroom door, which was his usual post at night. Except Kevin’s bedroom door shouldn’t have been closed. By this point in the morning, he should’ve been on his way to school.
I called out again, and again there was no answer. “Dude, if you overslept again, I’m gonna beat your butt.” He’d had a big problem with that first semester, but it seemed to have settled down, now that we were halfway through the second semester. I stood up slowly, waiting for the pins and needles in my feet to settle, then headed to his bedroom to wake up my son. “Kevin—”
He lay sprawled on the floor, still in his pajamas.
Minion pushed past me, nuzzling Kevin’s face and licking at his human.
I didn’t scream. You’d think you would scream at that moment when you see your teenaged son collapsed on the floor, not breathing. But I didn’t scream.
Every bit of first-aid training that I’d ever had over the years suddenly flooded into my mind. ABCs. Do the ABCs. Airway, breathing, circulation. I knelt beside him, looking for the rise and fall of his chest. Nothing. As I went to tilt his head, I glanced at his eyes. They were wide open, his pupils fixed and dilated.
His skin was ice cold as I lifted his chin. His neck muscles were stiff and hard to move.
Keep going, Adam! Keep going!
Two quick breaths. It was hard to get the air in, harder than it had ever been in any of the first-aid classes I’d had. I remembered one instructor warning us not to put all of our effort into breathing for a kid, so we wouldn’t blow out a toddler’s or child’s lungs. They warned us that, with the adrenaline of an actual rescue, it would be very easy to injure a smaller person. I didn’t feel that this time. I felt like I was trying to blow into a tube that was blocked.
Minion whined now, confused at my commotion.
I jumped up, ran back to my bedroom, grabbed my phone, and was back by his side. Dialed 911, and switched the phone to speaker. Then I went back to trying to clear his airway. I tried lifting his chin higher. Nothing.
I tried the old head tilt and neck lift thing that they had done away with years ago. Still nothing.
I need a light. I did a finger sweep and realized how dry his mouth was. I tried two more breaths, but still nothing.
Why haven’t they answered at the dispatch center? I glanced at the phone display, and all it said was dialing. I’d called 911 before in Jasper, and they’d always been very quick to answer. The call timer said passed the one–minute mark.
I started checking for a pulse everywhere I could. The whole time, I began to argue with myself.
No, he’s not! Checked his neck for a pulse. It was cold and still.
See? I told you he was dead.
Shut up. No, he’s not. Moved to his wrist. Nothing on his right. His left arm was splayed out to his side and I had to stretch to get over to it. I tried pulling his arm closer to his body but the muscles were cold and stiff, just like everything else.
Yep, still dead.
I checked his groin and his foot for a pulse. His groin had just a hint of softness to the skin, but everything was still cold. And dead.
I slumped over.
The phone beeped. The display said, “Call ended.” I dialed again and waited. My thoughts raced. What could’ve happened? I looked through the room from my spot on the floor next to him. I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for. I knew he didn’t do drugs of any kind. He’d had a few beers with me at cookouts or bonfires, but that had been the extent of any experimentation on his part.
There was no history of cardiac problems on my side or his mother’s side. My parents had lived into their seventies. Her folks were in their mid-eighties and just starting to go downhill.
How the hell was I going to explain this to his mother?
Why hasn’t 911 picked up yet? The call timer read forty-five seconds. Still no answer, which made no sense at all. Even if they were completely backed up, there was usually an automated answering system that answered your call and put you in a holding queue. But that’d only happened once in the five years that I’d been living down here.
I hung up again and scrolled down to the direct line to Care Plus Ambulance. I had picked that phone number up a couple of years ago when I was doing an article on the medics there. I pressed dial and instantly got a busy signal.
What the actual hell is going on?
I tried to call again and got the same result. I stared at the phone, nothing on the display really registering in my mind. Scrolled to the Jasper PD number and tried it. Let it ring for a minute and a half.
Next up was the County Sheriff. Same result.
I called Kevin’s phone to see if I was just imagining things. It rang just fine.
No one was answering.
And my son was still dead.
That’s when I screamed.
Copyright © 2019 Bob Mueller
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