Fixation and étouffée
Kathleen Listman


The throbbing wail threaded the streets towards the French Quarter. “The siren’s headed towards Barracks Street. I wonder if Mom had a heart attack?” Rob stammered.

“Just call her and find out.” Charlotte replied.

“But it’s almost midnight.” He protested.

“Fine, just fret about it all night.”

Ever since the old woman had an angina attack while cooking étouffée for him, Rob imagined her demise at every siren. His almost daily visits didn’t help her. If Rob were in a bad mood, the old woman would shuffle into her kitchen and make his favorite food just to keep him from talking. Charlotte swallowed an antidepressant tablet and then stretched prone on the bed as Rob ranted about his younger brother “abandoning Mom and leaving all the work to me.”



Sixty sleepless minutes later the Tulane Medical Center called.

“Mom’s been admitted, unconscious, cardiac arrest. Get moving. I’m power of attorney for her. They not going to do anything without consent from me.”

All the hospital staff needed was Rob ordering them around. “They’ll know what to do.” She assured him.

“You need to call everyone and tell them. She’s in the hospital.”

“It’s almost one in the morning,” she countered.

“Call them now!” he screamed

Why don’t you make the blasted calls, instead? Charlotte reached for the phone. Their son did not answer. Rob was incensed at the lack urgency in her message.

“What about Alan?” he demanded.

“He’s your brother,” she reminded him. “He’ll be awake. It’s daytime in Iraq. She slipped into the bathroom. Rob would be would up all night. She must get some sleep. The pain relievers the doctor prescribed after her hysterectomy—there were a few left. Those would do the trick.



Charlotte woke up in a white fuzz, befuddled as when she had her wisdom teeth removed. The swishing noise of suction, the bright lights and acrid smell—all familiar. Did she have oral surgery again? Hopefully her son had come home to help. Rob didn’t even take the day off when her wisdom teeth were cut out.

Someone trod into the room. Charlotte coughed.

“You’re awake.” An unknown face with dark eyes leaned over her. “I’ll go get your husband.”

“Where am I?”

“Tulane Medical Center. You did walk into the hospital but were disoriented--a reaction to your medicine. You probably don’t remember.”

“By myself?”

“No, your husband brought you.”

“His mom, how’s she doing?” Charlotte croaked.

The dark eyes opened wide in shock. “You don’t know? She was dead on arrival when the ambulance pulled in. I’m sure they called and told y’all. He’s still with the body. They can’t get him to leave.”


First published: August 2018
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