A short story with an O'Henry twist
| At age 29, Sharon knew this would be her final marathon, and she was at peace with that. She would always be a runner, but marathons are too difficult on the feet. During her second marathon, she had lost a toenail. Her third and final one was in four weeks, and she was in the final stages of training. This particular morning, she was scheduled for a 15-mile run; it was the longest distance she would run in training before running the entire race.
"Out again, Ms. Thorpe?" asked the doorman, Phil, who was on early shift at 5:00 a.m.
"Yes, I have to be up before the sun to train."
"I admire your dedication, Ms. Thorpe."
Sharon laughed. "It's been tough, but it's worth it," Sharon replied, as Phil pushed open the door for her that led to the Fifth Avenue. It had indeed been tough. Sharon had decided to train extra hard for this marathon since it was to be her last. She had begun four months ago with strength training and balance exercises. She alternated between the weight rooms and the yoga classes at her gym uptown. She had begun to drink protein shakes and had put on 5 lbs. of 'pure muscle,' according to her trainer, Ginger. In the upcoming weeks, she had a rigorous diet to adhere to. For the last week, she was only to eat protein shakes mixed with olive oil and muscle milk.
Once on the street, Sharon jogged in place for a minute and then stretched. She began to run down Fifth Avenue toward Soho. The street sweepers were just finishing their nightly work, and the sidewalks were relatively empty. This was Sharon's favorite time of day. She could run in one of the world's busiest cities without running into people. It sometimes made her believe that she had the city to herself. She ran and concentrated on her breathing and her pacing. A page of a newspaper which had escaped the street sweeper blew in the wind in front of her. She watched it rise between the sky scrapers and just as quickly be blown down again by another wind. She began to feel her endorphin high and suddenly her training seemed worth it all. Endorphins are the best, thought Sharon.
She was a petite brunette. She had been popular in high school and after graduating law school, she had secured a job working at a Manhattan law firm. She had no time for socializing, but training was something she could do thanks to the world-class gym that her 5-star law firm provided its employees. Her premium health insurance guaranteed that she could see a podiatrist before the race to make sure she would not have another toenail mishap. She was scheduled to go to her college girlfriend's wedding in Maui in two months, and she needed a full manicure/pedicure before leaving. She was to serve as a bride's maid.
Even endorphins couldn't stop her from worrying about the dress that she might have to wear. She hoped Christine hadn't picked out anything too hideous. Sometimes, her taste couldn't be trusted. Sharon only knew half of the wedding party since Christine had met her husband after college while working in Boston. She wondered if any of the groomsmen were cute and eligible. Sharon had never taken the time to date anyone and lately she had regretted it. She had been feeling isolated at dinner parties when everyone else was part of a couple. Sharon had reached Soho and the Manhattan sky had changed from inky black to midnight blue. It would be another hour before the sun's rays would have an impact on the street below; so Sharon ran in the light of the street lamps and filled her brain with endorphins and frivolous thoughts of dresses, nail polish, and men.
Sharon ran for another hour and arrived back at her apartment building breathless with her muscles screaming. She had run the route she planned the night before and it had worked perfectly; she had even been three minutes faster than she had anticipated. She paused before entering the building to stretch again and take a deep breath.
Once upstairs, Sharon quickly took off her sweaty clothes and took a long shower. It was only 8 a.m., and it was a beautiful Saturday. She was looking forward to her day off; she hadn't had one in three weeks. She towel dried her hair and wrapped the towel around herself. She began to think about today's menu as she opened her cabinet to take her vitamins and supplements. She took eight supplements per day before breakfast just to improve her skin and nails. She poured herself a glass of water and swallowed 2 pills. What should she do first today? Sharon knew she had dry-cleaning to drop off. She put two more pills in her mouth, took a sip of water and swallowed. She also knew she had to check on the MET's ticket availability for next opera season. Sharon was an avid opera fan. She put two more pills in her mouth and took a sip of water. She tried to swallow, but the pills were stuck together. The pills would not go down her throat. She tried to swallow again. Then she tried to swallow by taking a larger gulp of water, but all she did was get water all down the front of her.
It was then that Sharon realized that she could not breathe. The supplements blocked her airway completely. She scrambled to a chair and attempted to do the Heimlich maneuver. It didn't work. She hit the buzzer to call down to Phil.
"Hello, Ms. Thorpe. How can I help you?" he answered in his ever-friendly tone.
Sharon tried in vain to make a sound. Instead, she pounded on the wall and hoped that Phil would know she was distress.
"Ms. Thorpe, I hear banging. Are you ok?"
Sharon then remembered she had once heard how to signal for help with Morse code. It was three short burst, three long bursts, followed by three more short bursts. Or at least that is what she thought she remembered, so she tried it on the buzzer. Between her buzzer presses, she could hear Phil talking to her.
Finally, she heard, "Ms. Thorpe, if you can hear me, I am coming upstairs to check on you. Please unlock your front door so I can get in."
It would be at least two minutes before Phil would reach her apartment, and she knew that was too long. In a final attempt to save herself, Sharon grabbed the vitamin bottle and pushed it against her throat, hoping to dislodge the pills upward. Sharon sank to the floor, fading out of consciousness. The last thing she saw was the warning label on the side of the bottle: Choking hazard, Coating can be sticky. Take pills one at a time.