Panic. Short Story.

Sorry this is up so late, I’m over at a friends at the moment and it was all a little unexpected, here it is anyway!

College was pretty fun and interesting, I hope it continues in that vein. I had a poetry class, that was interesting as I just do not understand poetry at all. I’m off to watch football and spend the entire time asking stupid questions trying to figure out what is going on.

So…that ball is supposed to go IN to the net…right?

On with the show!

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Panic. Short Story.

He looked at the shelves of groceries, the endless options that were all the same but slightly different. He picked one up and studied that back of it, reading the ingredients, then the description, after a moments consideration he put it back, then chose another. He put one box into his cart and looked at the others, sighing, he moved forward, pushing the trolley slowly. He hated shopping but it had to be done. It would have been faster had he made a list, but he never did, every time thinking that he would see what he wanted. He looked at the colourful packaging then at the prices, finally he chose the cheapest. They were all the same really. The trolley was half full at this point, he glanced over what he had gotten so far, trying to figure out how long it would feed him for. He moved to the next aisle and wandered down it, occasionally picking up something he remembered he needed, like shampoo or bleach. Finally, when the trolley was full, he rolled it to a till and started to place everything onto the conveyer belt. The cashier smiled at him briefly, an automatic reaction, a smile briefly tugging at her lips, bringing life to her face before the muscles relaxed and her face once more became a blank slate. She stared ahead as she scanned each item, not acknowledging him or his purchases. As she scanned he packed his bags, filling them as fast as possible, fearful as always that he was holding up the queue. As he was putting the last item in a bag she told him the price, he dug through his pockets, seeking his wallet, his fingers glanced against the smooth familiar leather and he pulled it out, shuffling through the notes until he had as much as he needed. He passed the money over and after a few seconds he received a receipt in return. He pushed the trolley away from the till.

It was dull outside, as though it was going to rain, when he first went in it was bright and sunny, a cheerful day, now everything was grey and drab. He went to his car, fighting against the trolley for the journey, struggling against the weight as it tried to roll into a car. He wrestled it into place beside his boot then started unloading everything. Once the car was packed and the trolley was put back, he got into the car. He put the key in the ignition and sat for a moment, breathing slowly, trying to calm himself. He was a nervous driver, always had been. It was something he expected to lessen with experience, but it always stayed the same. The harsh honk of a horn shocked him from his contemplation, someone waiting for his space. Sighing, he turned on the engine and pulled out of the spot. Once he left the gauntlet of the parking lot, he started to fiddle with the radio dial, trying to find something soothing, calming. Normally he brought a CD with him, but he had forgotten this time. The drive home was stressful, but no more than usual. Nothing happened to shock or unnerve him. He pulled into his driving, happy to be home.

When the bags were laid out on the counter, he wondered if he had bought enough food, it seemed like very little for the amount he spent. Sighing again he started to put everything away. Once the counter was clear again he felt a little better, everything was clean and calm. He put on the kettle, deciding a cup of tea would be nice, soothing and relaxing.

He sat with the mug, sipping slowly while reading his book. He had started it a few days ago and was making steady progress through it, it wasn’t as good as he had expected but it was acceptable. He marked his place, then put the book down, there were things he needed to do today and he had gotten almost nothing done. He drained the mug, then rinsed it in the sink. He could always clean it later. He looked around the kitchen again, checking to make sure there was nothing out of place. Pleased that everything was in its place, he went upstairs to shower.

He didn’t spend long in the shower, washing and drying himself quickly. He wasn’t running late but he liked being early. Things had always gone to plan when he was prepared and today, he was prepared.

He checked his tools, everything he needed. He put the sports bag onto the floor of the backseat, he didn’t want anything to be displaced while he was driving. The drive this time was shorter, and he remembered his CD, it was relaxing. His stomach lurched and he slammed his foot on the brake, the car skidded to a halt, a few feet from the bumper stood a child, her eye wide in shock. She had run into the road, chasing a red ball. Still shaken, she moved back to the path, he drove on, shaking heavily. He pulled over to calm himself, if he didn’t something might go wrong. After ten minutes he felt well enough to drive on. He still had plenty of time so there was no need to panic yet.

He pulled into the parking lot and sat in the car for a few moments, looking at the community centre, running over what would be happening during the night. He was nervous, but that was usual. He needed this, but that didn’t mean he enjoyed it. He got out of the car and took out his bag, a passer-by called out his name, he raised his arm in greeting, giving a brief wave. He glanced at his watch and walked a little faster. It would be starting soon and he still had things to do. The weekly meetings were good, the others had told him it would get better, the driving, but it hadn’t yet. He knew he would just have to persevere. But every time he got behind the wheel he could remember the feel of his car striking the body, the thud and crack as she hit his windscreen, the bright red fan of blood. She had been young, fourteen, chasing her dog. He had pulled free of his collar and ran and she had given chase. He wondered if he would have hit her if he was sober. If things would have been different, if he would have had time to stop. He shook his head slightly, trying to dispel the thoughts that were always there, lurking, waiting. He had been sober for almost six years now, he didn’t think it would ever get better, but maybe that was ok, maybe that was right. It would never get better for the parents of that girl. They would never recover and he knew that. They had forgiven him, how and why still eluded him. Taking a deep breath he readjusted the weight of the bag and went into the hall.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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2 Responses to Panic. Short Story.

  1. Dinny Rex says:

    I like the mysteriousness of the whole story……but now I want to know more!

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