- Fred Smith
Glucagon a short story
Mitzi heard the thud from the hallway. She had been waiting the last eight minutes to use the bathroom, but not to pee. She wasn’t sure what was about to happen, but it had something to do with Jacque. She'd convinced herself that she would wait until tomorrow to assess just how bad the decision to let Jacque's stoner bad boy charm work its way to at least first base. For now she was content to break from the party for an impromptu game of tongue hockey in the hallway. That’s when the bathroom door shook like bass drum.
“You hear something?” Mitzi said pulling away and straining her ears to focus above the music that pulsed throughout the house.
“Auditory hallucinations,” Jacque said hoping to resume the course. “You’re just stoned.”
“Go tug it yourself, Jacque. It sounded like someone fell in there.”
Mitzi knocked on the door. “Hey, you OK in there?” No answer. She put her ear to the door. Nothing.
“You’re just being paranoid,” Jacque said in a condescending tone.
“Go get Josh,” Mitzi said. “It’s his house maybe he has a key.”
“Where the hell am I supposed to find him?”
“Figure it out, Jacque. Someone could be hurt in there.”
Jacque leaned against the wall with body language Mitzi took to be defiant. “I found him,” he said just as Josh emerged from around the corner and turned into the hallway.
“You guys seen Larissa?” Josh said with modest hint of concern on his face. “We were talking and she just darted off.”
“She the chick who passed out in the bathroom?” Jacque said, a flippant question that upgraded Josh’s level of concern from modest to immediate.
“We don’t know for sure,” Mitzi interjected while shooting Jacque a look of disgust, “but we heard something. Like someone fell.”
“Jesus,” Josh reached for the door knob and turned it without avail. “Larissa! Are you OK?”
“It’s locked,” Mitzi said, “you got a key?”
“You guys are totally overreacting,” Jacque said just as Josh pulled back his foot and kicked the door open. The trio looked into the bathroom and saw the body lying face down on the tiled floor.
“Larissa!” yelled Josh as he pushed his way into the confined bathroom and knelt by her side.
“Is she OK?” Mitzi asked leaning over Josh to get a better look.
“Did she O.D.?” Jacque said from the hall.
“No way,” Josh snapped. “She couldn’t have. She doesn’t drink. She doesn’t do anything.” Josh rolled Larissa’s body onto her back and listened for a sign of life.
“That’s how these quiet ones are,” said Jacque. “One minute they’re squeaky clean prom queens, the next they’re turning tricks in the John.”
“Fuck off, Jacque,” Mitzi snapped. “How many times have you passed out in a bathroom? Have a little compassion. Prick.”
“She’s breathing,” Josh said.
“We should call 9-1-1,” Mitzi suggested.
“No,” Josh snapped, “My parents will find out I threw a party. They’ll kill me.”
Jacque chuckled, “Ah, the voice of self-preservation.”
Mitzi pleaded another case, “Josh, what if she’s hurt? She could need a doctor.”
“She’s not hurt. She’s just passed out. I’ll wait here with her until she wakes up,” Josh sounded like he was trying the convince himself of a desirable truth. “It’ll be OK.”
“Dude, I wouldn’t count on hittin’ that tonight,” Jacque said prompting Mitzi to shoot him another look.
“We were just talking.” Josh couldn’t help the defensive tone.
“I saw you two in the kitchen,” Jacque said, “seemed pretty close. Kinda like now.” Josh looked down and realized he was stroking Larissa’s hair. Her body began to convulse, led by her legs which shook her torso across the floor like a fish out of water.
“She’s having a seizure,” Mitzi said in a reasonably calm voice as Josh turned two shades whiter. “Hold her so she doesn’t hurt herself.”
Josh tried to corral Larisa’s body to safety, but by the time he secured his grip the spell had subsided. Larissa seemed shaken, like her unconsciousness was closer to permanence than it was to sleep. A white liquid discharged from her mouth. She looked dead. Jacque stepped over the trio on the floor and stuck his head in the toilet and aimed as if to hurl the contents of his stomach in the porcelain below.
“False alarm,” he said. “I’m good.”
“I’m calling an ambulance,” Mitzi said pulling out her cell. Josh knew she was right and imagined what he’d tell his parents when they returned from their European excursion. The rest of his high school life flashed before his eyes. A life he’d undoubtedly spend grounded, whose Friday nights would play out in this very same bathroom jerking off to whatever free porn his smart phone could deliver. Then he looked down at Larissa and became overwrought with guilt and silently chastised himself for being so selfish. Something was wrong. She needed help. Real help. End of story. Then he saw the contents of Larissa’s spilled purse. The glint of the bathroom light bounced off the shiny tip of a hypodermic needle that lay on the floor next to a compact package of Altoids. He reached for the needle.
“What’s that for?” Mitzi asked as Josh held the needle and examined it.
“I told you these honor roll kids have a dark side,” Jacque quipped.
“It can’t be,” Josh mumbled in bewilderment. “This doesn’t make sense. Why would she do this? She’s smart. She’s nice.”
“She fooled you,” said Jacque, “welcome to the dark side. At least see what she’s holding. Don’t look like it’s gonna do her any good.”
Mitzi emptied the contents of the purse onto the floor and discovered the usual: more breath mints, lip gloss, a spare tampon in a discreet package and a small vile of clear liquid which she picked up and held to the light.
“What is it?” Josh asked.
“Dude, that’s good stuff,” said Jacque. “I got dibbs.”
“Back off, moron,” Mitzi shot back.
“Glucagon is for diabetics,” Josh said snatching the vile from Mitzi.
“How do you know?”
“My older brother is a nurse,” said Josh. “He used to walk around the house mumbling the names of drugs and what they were prescribed for. Kind of like mental flash cards. This is like a last resort after a crash.”
“OK, so how much do we give her?” Mitzi said snatching the vile back from Josh, “It’s gotta have a dosage on the bottle.”
“It doesn’t,” Josh said.
“Well, are you sure that’s what the stuff is for?” Mitzi asked.
“Yeah, I mean pretty sure.”
“Jesus, Josh. Pretty sure means you might kill her.”
“Well, what the hell do you think we should do?” Josh snapped.
“Call her parents,” Mitzi said. “Their number must be in her phone.”
“And tell them what? Hi Mr. and Mrs. Timlin. Your daughter overdosed on my bathroom floor?”
“Alright, check it,” Jacque said staring into his cell, “I got the scoop on Wikipedia. Glucagon, a peptide hormone secreted by the pancreas, raises blood glucose levels. Its effect is opposite that of insulin, which lowers blood glucose levels. An injectable form of glucagon is vital first aid in cases of severe hypoglycemia when the victim is unconscious or for other reasons cannot take glucose orally. Dude, it looks like Josh’s bro had this right.”
“So how much do we give?” Josh said as he prepared to draw the glucagon into the needle.
“You sure you wanna trust Wikipedia, dude? I mean this not a reliable source of-”
“Gimme the phone, Jacque!” Mitzi snatched the phone from Jacque’s hand and examined it herself.
“Injection...injection...injection. Ok here it is,” Mitzi glanced at Josh who was hanging on her every word.
“Adults and children over forty-four pounds typically receive a dosage of one milligram of glucagon in the thigh or abdomen.”
“That makes sense,” Josh said. “There’s a one milligram mark right here on the needle.” He drew the substance into the vile. “Ok so, now what? I stick this in her leg or stomach?”
“Dude, go for the leg,” Jacque said. “That girl doesn’t have a stomach.”
“Well, is the leg better?”
“Would you want that thing jabbed in your gut?”
“She’s got jeans on,” Josh said almost apologetically, “If I go for the stomach all I have to do is lift up her shirt and inject.”
“Be a man, Josh,” Jacque said. “Pull the girl’s pants down and stick her in the leg. If she doesn’t die, she’ll thank you for it. Besides, you’ll be able to tell if she was into you by the kind of panties she’s wearing.”
“You’re an asshole, Jacque,” Mitzi said as she undid Larissa’s belt and pulled her pants to her knees in one move. “Have at it.”
“Ok, so where in the thigh do I-” Josh’s question had barely left his tongue when Larissa’s body went into another seizure. This one seemed more violent than the last.
“Do something!” Mitzi yelled.
“Stick her, dude!” Jacque said.
“Grab her legs and hold her still!” Mitzi followed Josh’s command and tried give him as open a target as she could. Josh jabbed the needle into Larissa’s thigh and pushed the glucagon into her blood stream as the seizure subsided. The three looked at the body each of them silently hoped was merely unconscious. Josh fell back against the sink with an exhaustive posture and an empty post traumatic stare across his face.
“Did it work?” Mitzi asked.
“I dunno,” Josh answered, “how long does Wikipedia say it takes for glucagon to kick in?”
Larissa opened her eyes.
“Larissa!” Josh said with a zeal that was understandably intense. “Are you OK?”
Larissa’s eyes darted around the room as he tried to fill in her lapsed memory by sizing up the situation.
“Josh,” she said calmly, “what happened?”
Jacque spoke up first. “Mitzi pulled your pants off.”
“You had a crash,” Josh said. “We gave you a shot of glucagon.”
Larissa seemed to relax upon hearing the news. “Oh,” she said, leaning her head back against the tile. “For a second I thought things were about to get weird.”