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Chapter One of Fat Trophy

CHAPTER 1
 

 

Karen Jacobsen gripped the steering wheel of her car with trembling hands. She inhaled a deep breath, and blew the air out with an impatient sigh. Her head dropped forward. As she listened for the garage door to open completely, tension in her shoulders finally gave way to exhaustion.

The grind of each chain resonated through her pounding head, but at last, with a familiar sweet ‘hmmm-up’ sound, the door reached the top. She inched the car forward those last few feet into the garage, pried her hand from the steering wheel, and shoved the gear shift into park. She pointed her finger toward the ‘ignition off’ button, forcing her shaky hand to push it. So much effort for such a routine act! She closed her eyes, grateful somehow to be safely in her own garage. Relief flooded her body.

Oh God, how did I even drive home?

Karen had no idea. Here sat a respected senior bank vice-president who never called in sick, or missed work for any reason. She left early on this rare occasion, refusing to be seen in her weakened condition, aware she no longer had value today. This intelligent, competent woman now had only one issue in front of her; how to close the garage door. She didn’t remember pushing the button to open the garage door, but clearly, she did just that about a minute ago. How hard could it be to hit the same button again?

A problem solver at heart, Karen’s brain struggled to complete this basic assignment. Why was her usually quick mind resistant to competent thought? Why did every achy muscle resist normal movement, and shake uncontrollably instead?

As her tired eyes scoured the dash, they finally focused on the garage door button right in front of her face where it always was. Her shaky finger pressed the button lightly, unsure if anything would happen. She heard the gentle purr as the door churned down to the floor with a clunk-clunk. Ah, success.

Free now from total concentration on operating the car, she became aware of how damn cold she was––yet all her clothes were clinging to her body with sweat.

Karen closed her eyes, wishing she already was in the house. Exhaustion was beginning to envelope her completely––how could she gather strength just to get out of the car? If she broke the entire endeavor into manageable assignments, maybe the whole process of a normal, routine walk from the car into the house wouldn’t be so daunting. She ran a plan through her mind, imagining she actually accomplished each task one by one:

Unbuckle the seat belt.

Open the car door.

Walk in the house.

Climb the stairs.

Yank off rigid, sweaty work clothes, no matter how difficult, because the reward will be to…

Fall into the blissful comfort of the most wonderful bed in the entire world.

Karen opened her eyes. She remained sitting behind the wheel, shivering uncontrollably in her now uncomfortable designer suit with matching high heels which hurt her cold feet. Without physical strength, she needed true mental determination to force her aching body out of the car.

Come on Karen, you can do this, she told herself. You can’t sit in the garage forever.

Finding a small surge of energy from her internal cheerleader, Karen unbuckled her seat belt. One task accomplished. With momentum going, she opened the car door. She swung around slightly, placing her high heeled feet carefully on the cool garage floor. She rested, proud of her progress, but knew she had to keep moving. Karen gazed at the door into the house. If she could use the car door to help her stand up, and then walk a mere ten steps… While convincing herself to get up from her seat, she glanced around the garage. Suddenly, Karen noticed Jeff’s car parked in its spot. Why was her husband home today?

If Jeff made a mess in the kitchen while Karen felt this horrible, she was going to kill him. Now Karen had an even more terrifying thought. What if Jeff was sick too? How could she care for a husband-patient, when just the thought of movement exhausted her?

With those unanswered questions swirling in her throbbing head, Karen stood up. Slamming the car door with what she thought was an emphatic shove; Karen heard the car door barely latch. The exertion threw her off balance, causing her to lurch forward. Her shoulder crashed into the door to the house. Her shivering hands fumbled with the doorknob, but somehow, the door swung open. Karen fell forward against the wall, incredibly, staying on her feet as the door swung back closed. She haphazardly kicked her shoes off. Barefoot, but wobbly, Karen stumbled her way to the kitchen breakfast bar to catch her breath. She grabbed the counter and hung on, breathing deeply.

Grateful to have made it into the house, she rested her head to regroup. Even this position was too much effort for her trembling legs to remain standing for long. As wonderful as the cool granite felt on her hot cheek, she sensed her limited strength to get up the stairs soon would be gone. Even though some strange illness was making her weaker by the minute, she refused to settle for the nearby couch. She remained determined to fall into her bed wrapped in the exact comforter her body ached for. At this moment, Karen had only one goal in life; finding enough energy to climb the stairs to bed.

She lifted her pounding head, looking around the house. Everything remained exactly as she had left it this morning. She considered calling out to Jeff for help, but thought better of that idea. Maybe he was asleep since it didn’t look like he ate lunch. Sick, irritable Jeff was the worst possible thing that could happen to sick Karen. If Jeff was asleep, Karen did not want to wake him.

Maggie, their Golden Retriever, slapped Karen’s achy legs with her tail, confused, but completely happy to have people home during the day. Having her poor legs tail-slapped really did hurt, so she staggered from the kitchen to the staircase, collapsing on the bottom stair to gather strength for the long trip to the top. She leaned against the stairway hall and closed her eyes, but Karen soon was receiving repeated tail lashings to the face.

Reaching for the dog’s head to bring the better end to her face, Karen stroked Maggie under the chin. “I’m sorry girl,” Karen said softly. “No walk today baby, not even ball throwing. Give me some sleep, and I’ll be the perfect dog mommy tomorrow. Or maybe the day after, I promise.”

Karen looked into Maggie’s trusting eyes. “Maybe Daddy will take care of you today.” Karen smiled. What a silly thought. Jeff barely noticed the dog.

Karen sighed and patted Maggie’s head. “You’re going to have to use your doggy door, OK? I don’t have the strength to open one more door.” Karen reminded herself how smart she had been to install a doggy door; an absolute necessity today.

Still leaning against the wall, she turned to peer at the upstairs hallway. It looked like Mt. Everest from her vantage point on the bottom step. She sighed, knowing she couldn’t stop this close to her goal, not now. She reminded herself of how comfortable she soon would be––wrapped in a wonderful comforter, with her head cradled just so on her perfect pillow. Soon sleep would take her away from this day from hell.

Her brain snatched this brief moment of dreamy bliss away. Don’t think about it––DO IT! GET YOUR ASS OFF THE STAIRS KAREN! She knew she had to start moving if she wanted the daydream to become reality.

Unable to stand up, Karen began to climb the stairs on hands and knees like a dog. All effort was concentrated on the careful movement of one limb at a time. She wasn’t trying to be quiet on purpose, but banging up the stairs wasted precious energy. Maggie followed right behind; mimicking Karen’s every move in an uncharacteristically stealth-like manner. They made quite a pair on the treacherous hike. Karen knew Maggie was right behind her, and she received strength from her four legged teammate.

Halfway up the staircase, Karen leaned her shoulder against the wall, unable to continue. Maggie, her faithful companion stopped too. She heard what sounded like labored breathing––then bed shaking coming from the master bedroom. Maggie panted directly in her ear, and Karen’s head throbbed so hard she couldn’t identify the muffled sounds. She focused harder, trying to listen. Jeff was moaning.

Karen pictured Jeff in agonizing pain. Oh no, he must be sick too. How could Karen care for him when she had to crawl, rather than walk, up the stairs? Somehow, they would get through this misery together. Worry overtook exhaustion, so with her last smidgen of strength, she scampered up the remaining stairs to sit in the upstairs hallway. Maggie matched her step for step, still panting in her ear.

She leaned against the wall. Breathing hard, but pleased with her successful climb, sweat drenched her face. Her clothes and hair were a disheveled mess. Karen had drained all her energy, but it was worth it; she had conquered the stairs.

Desperately ill Jeff was her immediate concern. Even louder moans came from the bedroom. Her fatigued body crawled to the doorway of the master bedroom, grabbing the door frame to sit upright. Karen stared at the bed. Her aching brain rejected as fact what her eyes saw. The repulsive sight in front of her could not be happening. The bed was moving. Karen’s head began to spin. Maggie barked.

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