Gasping, Jimmy Rickliefs rocketed up in bed, sweat rolling down his face. Pain shot from his stomach to his back in waves and the night-darkened room spun around him. Looking for relief, he sat up on the edge of the bed, clutching his midsection, rocking back and forth. His breath came in short spasms and he felt his right side go numb; he’d never felt such pain before.
His wife stirred, the black sheets rustling as she sat up, and he felt her hand on his shoulder. “What’s wrong?” she asked, her voice laced with sleep.
He turned towards her and tried to smile. “Just a stomachache. I probably shouldn’t have had that left over sushi last night, that’s all. I’ll be fine.”
She rubbed his shoulder, but he shrugged it off; his skin felt like it was crawling. His skin felt hot and clammy all at once and he stood, putting on a brave face, headed for the bathroom.
The bathroom was the smallest room in the house. The toilet was tucked into a tiny corner, his knees bumping the wall when he sat. The floor was covered in ugly green tiles, and they’d been saving up to replace them. The vanity was next to the toilet, and while Jimmy wasn’t a large man, he just fit in the space.
When nothing happened, he took something to calm his stomach. Just his luck, the chalky pink liquid acted more like ipecac than a soothing balm; he grabbed the trashcan near the toilet and heaved into it, his stomach muscles clenching painfully. He started sweating more profusely and sat on the ugly green floor in an attempt to cool down, his skin erupting in goose bumps. When the dizziness got the better of him, he leaned against the toilet, welcoming the coldness on his cheek.
Moments later, his wife leaned over him and hauled him to his feet. He didn’t have the energy to walk and every step made him more nauseated. When she sat him on the bed, he had a vague idea what might be going on, and sure enough, she helped him get dressed. Her hands were shaking and her breathing was rapid. She only did that when she was scared. Moving made his pain worse and his stomach roiled in protest. He held the offended organ as they made their way through the bedroom, pausing long enough for her to grab a trashcan. He set it on the floor of her car, holding his stomach. He barely noticed the houses zipping past as his wife headed for the hospital.
Allison stopped the car at a light, and he heard her ragged intake of breath. She offered him a wobbly smile, but he knew she was going to cry. He was feeling worse and was relieved when she proceeded into the intersection at the green light, even as a particularly violent spasm raked his back. All of a sudden, there was a flash of light, and Jimmy felt as if he were being crushed.