Zachary Tiedelbaum was not the best player on the Stringtown Stingers. He was not the worst either but pretty close. He was a good kid-just a little “different”. Coach Evans stuck him in the outfield because it was the least dangerous position for him to play. It was a common occurrence for spectators to hear Coach Evans yelling, “Zachary! Zachary! Pay attention. Watch the ball! Watch the ball!” Zachary wasn’t paying attention usually. For him, standing still and waiting for something to happen was not his strong suit. His mind needed to find ways to entertain itself. He’d stand in the outfield and wonder ‘Where did this dandelion come from? There aren’t any other dandelions around… is that cloud a clown or a motorcycle or a elephant…. I hope we go to Mames for ice cream… Do I want cookie dough or chocolate peanut butter…cookie dough…NO- chocolate peanut butter….’
“C’mon, God Damn It! Hit the gas! Holy Christ!” Margaret Peterson was one of the nicest people in the world. That’s what her patients and most people who knew her would say about her. She was a recovery room nurse at PeaceHealth. Years ago she had aspirations of moving someplace else and living the life of her dreams. But whatever those dreams were, now she couldn’t tell you. When Peter came into her life and swept her off her feet and into his bed and she got pregnant after the fourth date, those dreams changed. She became a mother and a wife and a nurse and wanted to make it all work. She accomplished two of those goals. Now she was just trying to find ways to juggle her career and her sons life and her own. So when Celia the nurse manager asked if someone wanted to leave early, Margaret jumped at the chance. She wanted to get to the ball field to watch Connor pitch. The Wharton Huskies were a pretty good team this year, partly due to Connor. He had really come into his own over the past year. Turns out the two weeks at baseball camp last summer actually was worth the money.
Maggie stood on the edge of the field near third base. She was waiting for the inning to end before making her way to the bleachers. Connor wasn’t expecting to see her there and she didn’t want to distract him. Zachary was standing in the outfield not far from her. He was kicking at something on the ground causing puffs of dirt to rise into the air. Maggie wasn’t paying too much attention to Zachary and Zachary wasn’t paying too much attention to the game. That changed when Connor threw a ball and the batter swung and the ball cracked off the bat. The ball flew fast right toward Zachary. He looked up too late. The ball slammed into his chest. Zachary made a ‘Whooof’ sound then fell backwards. He didn’t move.
A moment is created when the unexpected happens. Time and people freeze to make room for it. The data from the new event flitters around for a bit before the mind can figure out what to do with it. For example, people expect a little league game to go a certain way. Kids take the field and play ball. Coaches and parents yell and cheer at the kids. Parents yell at coaches. Coaches yell at parents. Someone wins and someone loses. No one dies. Being a nurse, and one of the closer people to Zachary, Maggie assessed and reacted to this turn of events a few seconds quicker than the rest of the crowd.
She ran on to the field to Zachary , “HEY, HEY, HEY, ARE YOU OK? CAN YOU HEAR ME? WE NEED HELP OVER HERE! ”
Zachary couldn’t hear her. He couldn’t breathe and his heart couldn’t beat either. Maggie found that out when she knelt down to check his pulse.
“Ah shit, Ah shit…GOD DAMN IT SOMEONE CALL 911!”
She tilted Zachary’s head back and breathed twice into his mouth and started pressing on his chest…1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and…Through the commotion and adrenaline haze flooding her body, Maggie heard people gasping and yelling, ‘Oh my God! Oh No! Please, please Father help him. That’s my son! That’s my son!’ Some people gathered round Zachary as Maggie continued giving CPR….and 21 and 22 and 23…Other people tried to help by keeping the space around them clear. Zachary’s dad stood there wringing his hands as people tried to console him. Coach Evans said, “Paramedics on the way”…12 and 13 and 14 and 15… The siren from the ambulance could be heard getting closer. The ambulance pulled into the parking lot then onto the field. Paramedics rushed out with a stretcher and equipment. Maggie was shaky and exhausted. She filled in one of the paramedics about what happened while the other two went to work. They cut off Zachary’s shirt and put defribrillator pads on his chest.
“Clear!” Everyone stood back while the defibrillator checked for a heart beat. One of the paramedics said, “He’s got a faint rhythm!”
Maggie made her way to the middle of the field and sat down. People patted her on the back and asked if she was OK and told her that she was a hero for saving Zachary’s life. Everyone watched as Zachary was put on a stretcher and carried to the ambulance as his dad followed close behind. The ambulance drove away and Maggie sipped from a bottle of water and cried.
The waiter reached over Ashley’s shoulder to top off their glasses of water. Ashley picked up her glass and took a sip. “Zach just forget about it. OK? We can still have a nice dinner here.”
“But I know I made a reservation! They should have tried to find someplace for us to sit.”
“We can go to The Haven another night.”
“Yeah, well, it won’t be our anniversary then.”
“Aggggh! Alright! Can we just try to have a good time! Drink your beer. It will be worth it later.” Ashley started to rub her foot on Zach’s leg under the table.
Zach smirked and grabbed his beer. He wanted tonight to be special for their one year anniversary. He had never had much luck with women. He knew Ashley was the one after their first date because, well, he just knew. They had other reasons to celebrate anyway. He had just been promoted to manager at Kline’s Auto Body and Ashley was getting ready to graduate from cosmotology school. He wasn’t ready to propose to her yet but if things kept going this good he could see it happening soon. He wondered how he would do it. Maybe he would do it the old fashioned way and knock on the door of her parents house. They would answer and he’d be nervous. He’d sit down on the couch and say “Mr. and Mrs. Haskins, you know Ashley and I have been seeing each other for a while now and… I know that maybe I’m not the most successful guy in the world but I love your daughter and I was hoping that maybe I could ask her to have her hand in marriage from you…..WAIT…NO that’s stupid….’Ask her to have her hand in marriage from you’…that doesn’t make any sense….”
“Zach. Zach. Zachary! God!”
Ashley’s face came into focus. “What. What. Sorry. So what are you going to order?”
The waiter walked past Zach and Ashley’s table with a tray of food and went to the table behind them. Zach picked up his menu and tried to make up his mind. He was relieved that the reservation fiasco happened. Now he’d have some money left over to help him pay for gas. The Haven was out of his price range. He was willing to splurge tonight since his dad gave him a hundred bucks for his promotion. He was half listening to Ashley as she was telling a story about coloring someone’s hair and how it wasn’t that big of a deal because it would wash out in a few days and not look so bad. Her story was interupted by a woman at the table behind them. The woman had begun coughing and choking loudly.
Ashley gave Zach look, “I wonder if that lady is OK.”
They heard the man sitting with her say, “Maggie, here try to drink something!”
The man had a deep voice but the pitch was high and strained. He was concerned. People sitting at the tables around them stopped eating and talking and drinking as they began to notice that something wasn’t right. But nobody did anything as Maggie’s became unable to breathe.
“Zach, oh my God! Someone should do something! You know how to do something!”
Zach was frozen- just watching like everyone else. The Ashley’s words made him remember. That’s right! He did know what to do. He had first aid training as a volunteer fire fighter. His eyes grew wide and an inner force took hold of his body. He jumped out of his chair and turned around to Maggie.
“OK, ma’am! I’m going to try to help you! I’m sorry.” He put his arms around Maggie’s waist and lifted her from the chair pulling Maggie’s body into his. He put his fist under her rib cage and started thrusting it up and in. Maggie’s face was a reddish purple color and tears streamed from her eyes. She made a breathy whistling noise from her throat every time Zach pressed into her abdomen. He didn’t seem to notice though. He kept on squeezing her because he that’s what they said to do until the person passed out. So that’s what he did. Suddenly a piece of steak flew out of Maggie’s mouth and landed on the floor. Zach was sweating. He helped lower Maggie back down into the chair as she gulped deep breaths. Applause broke out in the restaurant around them. People leaned over saying “Good job, young man!” Zach sat down in his chair- tired and red faced and wishing the chair could absorb and protect him from all the attention.
“Babe, you just saved that ladies life!” Ashley’s voice cracked and her eyes filled with tears. She reached over and put her hand on top of Zachs as he took a few sips of his beer.
After things calmed down and Maggie felt a little better, Maggie’s husband walked over to the table. Maggie turned her chair around and put her hand on Zachs shoulder. Her husband reached out and shook Zachs hand.
“Thank you. We don’t know what to say. You really saved her li…”
“Oh well it’s Ok. It was nothing really. I’m a volunteer fire fighter and learned it before but I’ve never done it…before. I hope I don’t again. That was pretty scary…. But I’m just glad she’s doing OK. Are you doing OK?” Zach turned and looked at Maggie.
Maggie gave a little smile and said softly, “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
“Her throat is pretty sore. Before we go, we’d like to buy your dinner to thank you. It’s the least we can do.” He looked at Zach and Ashley.”
“Oh no! We couldn’t possibly accept that…”
“Right. My girlfriend and I appreci…”
Maggie’s husband stopped Zach in mid sentence, “We won’t take no for an answer. Besides I’ve already talked to the manager.”
“oh… well, you…you really didn’t need to do that.”
“I think we did. But thank you again.” Maggie patted Zachs shoulder. Her husband smiled and shook Zach’s hand and Ashley’s. Then he went over and helped Maggie out of the chair and they walked out of the restaurant. Zach and Ashley ate their free dinner. They didn’t talk a lot both still trying to process the turn of events. Zach had no idea who Maggie was. And Maggie didn’t realize until some time later that the man who saved her life in the restaurant was the boy who’s life she saved on the ball field.