Dan Holden's Creative Writing
“There’s a boy in the kitchen with a knife in his mouth!!” she yelled.
“What?” I asked, popping awake.
“There’s a boy…in the kitchen,” she started, and then broke down in tears. As powerful and strong as my little Emmie is, she’s also totally sensitive, and if something touches her heart she falls apart completely.
Something really serious must have happened.
I jumped out of bed and pulled on a pair of jeans. I grabbed my cell phone off the nightstand and, shoving it into my back pocket, started to run out of my room and down the hall. I stopped at the door and Emmie ran into me from behind.
I turned around and crouched down to her face level.
“Stay here,” I said quietly but sternly. “Stay right here, don’t move. I will be right back, I promise.”
Emmie’s little body was trembling and tears were pouring out of her eyes, but she stuck her little fist in her mouth and nodded her head yes from the darkened doorway.
I turned and tip-toed to toward the kitchen. I didn’t know what was up.
It could be a kid or it could be a burglar. We live in a little old ranch house in the country, just me and my three little girls and our horses and cats. The nearest neighbor is just across the road, but there are no streetlights and the way is frequented by poor folk who sometimes steal pets and machinery to make a fast buck.
My hands curled into fists, I could feel my fingers digging into my palms and the muscles in my arms and shoulders tensed in anticipation. If there was a burglar in the house, and he had a knife, he had a distinct advantage over me. My objective was to get him out without any kind of altercation.
The light was on. If I rounded the corner, I would be in the kitchen. I could hear a faint sound like someone breathing quickly.
At the other end of the kitchen was a door that led outside. I wanted desperately to give this person an opportunity to leave that way.
“Get out, or I’ll fire!!” I yelled firmly, in a voice as deep as I could make it, “Vamanos! Pistola!”
Emmie walked into the hallway behind me, crying audibly again.
“He’s hurt, Daddy!” she said, and started crying again.
I took a deep breath, crouched down a bit and dashed across the entry to a point behind the kitchen counter, quickly scanning the room as I went.
I was shocked by what I saw.
There, in the middle of the kitchen, stood a slightly pre-teen boy, with tousled blond hair, baseball t-shirt, jeans and red sketchers, eyes wide open and hands flexing wildly at his side. He was shaking like a leaf and I saw a glint of metal in front of his face.
That’s when I realized what my daughter had tried to tell me: This kid had a 12-inch butcher knife stuck solidly in the back of his mouth, which was wide open, twitching from the effort required to keep his tender lips from the searing edge.
“It’s ok,” I said to him as calmly as I could, “I’m not mad at you. You are welcome here. We are going to help you.”
I moved slowly toward him, not wanting him to react in any way. I was terrified that the knife might be stuck in his spinal cord.
The boy dared not move or even utter a response. He just moaned softly and stayed as still as he could, for a kid who was shaking with fear.
Behind me, Emmie began walking down the hall toward me, still crying to the depth of her little soul. I saw the boy’s frame slump slightly at the sound; he was identifying with her misery.
I looked around quickly, trying to assess what I could do.
“Emmie,” I said, “go wake up Christina.”
At 12 years old, Christina is the oldest of my three daughters. She is smart, very perceptive and, most of the time, pretty cool under pressure. She broke her jaw earlier this year riding her horse in a competition. Except for the initial shock, she didn’t cry at all, even though the surgeons didn’t wire her up for four days. So I was hopeful that she could help me out here.
As Emmie ran to Christina’s room at the back of the house, I gently touched the boy’s shoulder and talked to him.
“My name is Dan,” I said. “This is my house. You are welcome here. I’m going to help you.”
His shaking slowed slightly and he took a heavy breath. Tears began forming at the edge of his eyes.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “We will take care of you.”
I walked slowly around him, looking him over carefully. He didn’t appear to have any bruises and as best as I could tell, there was no exit wound from the knife at the back of his head. I looked into his mouth; the blade was pointed toward his cheek but the point was embedded straight into the back of his throat. There was a steady trickle of blood running from the wound, and he swallowed involuntarily as it flowed. I had no idea how much blood he was losing, but as small as he was, it had to be a concern.
I grabbed a paper towel and tore a piece off. Folding it up, I placed it gently between the blade of the knife and the boy’s lip, so he could relax his mouth without cutting himself.
Then I gently touched his forehead; it was cold and sweaty. He was in shock.
I stepped back and pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. I called 9-1-1.
“911 please state your emergency.”
“There is a small child in my house, I don”t know who he is, but he has a knife stuck in his throat.”
“Where are you calling from?”
“San Martin, California.”
“This is your cell phone?”
“Do you know the address where you are located?”
I gave her my address.
“Is the patient conscious?”
“Yes, he is standing in front of me, he’s in shock. He’s cold and sweaty, shaking. He has a 12-inch knife stuck through his mouth and into his throat.”
“And you say you don’t know who he is?”
“No ma-” Suddenly Christina yelped behind me.
“Omigod!” she said, in a high, terrified voice. “It’s Jack!!”
“Is this a friend of yours?” I said to Christina, as calmly as I could, hoping to relay useful information to the 911 operator.
“We are sending an ambulance to your location now,” she said.
“Thank you,” I replied. “We may know who this is, hang on.”
“Yes I will,” said the operator, “and please stay on the line until emergency personnel get there. Also you should know this conversation is being recorded for training purposes.”
“It’s Jack,” said Christina at the same time. “He’s a boy in my science class. He goes to my school. What happened?”
“I don’t know,” I answered. “Emmie found him out here. Be gentle, he’s in shock. Don’t move him and don’t say anything upsetting.”
“Jack,” I said to the boy, “An ambulance is on the way, they will bring doctors who can help. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes, the fire station is a couple of miles from here.” I realized after saying so that it was more than 10 miles away.
He opened and closed his fingers in response.
“He’s saying ‘ok’,” said Christina. She moved to him and gently took his hand. He looked sideways at her, and tears began to stream from his eyes. Christina’s eyes welled up, too, but she smiled a trembling smile and squeezed his hand gently.
“It’s going to be ok,” she said sincerely. “My Dad knows how to help.”
Jack’s knees buckled slightly. His legs wobbled and I saw his eyes start to roll back. Before I could do anything, Christina had slipped behind him and put her arms around his chest. She held him close but not too tight, her face peeking out just above his slumping shoulder.
“I got him,” she said, looking up at me.
“He’s passing out,” I said to the operator.
“Don’t let him do that,” she said. “Talk to him, try to keep him awake. Is he on the floor?”
“No,” I said, “My daughter is holding him up. I don’t think it would be a good idea to move him at all.”
“The ambulance is on its way,” she said. “Can you get a pulse? Do you know how to feel for one?”
“Yes,” I said, hang on. I put my finger on his wrist and felt a weak, rapid pulse. Then I thought again and gently placed a finger to his neck. His pulse was even shallower there.
“He’s weak,” I said, “He has a pulse but it is rapid and fading.”
“Try to keep him warm,” said the operator.
“Emmie,” I said, “go get a blanket.” My little motorgirl whirled around and hopped into the living room, coming back momentarily with my favorite gray and black Mexican blanket. I spread it out in my arms and, moving behind Christina, wrapped it around both of them.
The boy suddenly reacted, grabbing the blanket in front of him and holding it close. I could feel their bodies relax in its warmth.
The faint sound of a siren came in through the window. A dog barked on a nearby property. The ambulance had to be at least a couple of miles away still.
“I wonder what he was doing here,” I said to myself. Nobody had an answer.
“It’s taking forever,” said Emmie, sobbing.
“Naw, it will be here soon,” I said. My eye caught my youngest daughter Angie, standing in the hallway half awake, gazing unknowing at the scene. I stepped in front of the boy and turned to her.
“Angie, why don’t you go find a movie to watch. Emmie, go help her.”
“I don’t want to,” said Emmie.
“Please,” I said, looking at her firmly. Emmie turned and grabbed Angie’s hand and walked her into the living room.
Behind me, Christina was still holding the boy. Wrapped in the same blanket and with their eyes closed, they almost looked at peace.
I realized I might need more help before the ambulance got here.
“Emmie!” I called.
“Yeah, Daddy?” she answered, running to me.
“Go get Lupita’s Daddy.”
“But it’s dark out!!”
“Oh yeah,” I said, looking out the window. “Never mind, help Angie.”
It occurred to me, duh, that whoever had stabbed this child might still be outside.
“Turn the light on,” I yelled to Emmie. As she did so, the sound of a Disney movie wafted into the kitchen.
I looked back. Christina and Jack were still standing, eyes closed. Their bodies were swaying ever so slightly, together, as if in a slow dance.
“Be careful,” I whispered to Christina.
“I’m not doing anything,” she said, her eyes still closed.
The siren was still way off, but more dogs were barking. I could see lights come on at the neighbor’s house across the street. Then I saw the father step out his front door and look up at the full moon. I skipped to my front door and opened it, flicking the light on at the same time.
“Manuel!” I yelled, “Come here quick, please!! Emergencia!”
He looked my way and waved. He closed the door to his house and trotted toward me.
Manuel is a wonderful man, a landscape architect who sees himself as an artist of sorts. He is a tall man with a soft Mexican accent, wears his gray hair long and sports woven wool Peruvian sweaters. Sometimes I think he is deeply spiritual, although I don’t know what his religious affiliation is. He has lived in this area all his life and once told me that he had wanted to buy my farm, but that I had gotten it first. Looking back, I guess I underestimated how much he wanted it.
But I, too, had wanted to have my own ranch forever, and after saving forever and searching forever, taking my daughters through open house after open house, I was finally able to buy this one and happily moved my little family from Silicon Valley to enjoy a real ranch life.
“What’s up my friend?” he called, as he came near.
“One of Christina’s school friends, he is in my kitchen; why I don’t know. Anyway, he has a knife stuck in his throat. He’s bleeding internally,” I said, opening the front door.
“You called the ambulance?” he asked.
“Yeah, that’s them coming,” I said, pointing in the direction of the sound, which was coming nearer.
He swept by me into the house, looked at the scene in the kitchen and almost smiled. He walked lightly forward. When he reached the pair, he gently touched their shoulders through the blanket and closed his eyes.
“That ambulance is taking forever,” I muttered. The farms were alive now with barking dogs.
He nodded slightly in response, eyes still closed.
I realized I was still holding the phone.
“Yes,” I said, “I’m here.”
“Have the emergency vehicles arrived?”
“No,” I said dismally, “They are taking forever.”
“Is the patient responsive?”
“His eyes are closed, but he is awake,” I said, as Jack moved the blanket ever so slightly.
“Have you sold the ranch yet?” asked Manuel quietly.
“What?” I asked, wondering why he need to know that now.
“The ranch, have you sold it yet?” he asked again.
“No,” I said, shaking my head, “It’s not for sale, but this is not the time -”
My eyes were distracted by red, yellow and blue flashes on the wall, and then I heard a muffled popping sound coming from where Jack and Christina stood.
I turned in time to see Jack’s knees failing again as an erie squealing sound came out of his mouth. His eyes flew open and then rolled back. He slumped, taking Christina down with him. Manuel’s hands hung empty in the air.
“He’s passing out again!” I said into the phone.
“It’s ok,” said Manuel flatly, “they are here.” He nodded toward the window, which was now filled with the lights of emergency vehicles.
Emmie flew to the door and opened it. Two sheriffs came through, low, with their guns drawn. They swept Emmie behind them and approached us cautiously.
“Let me see your hands,” said one. Manuel and I held up our hands.
“Daddy – ” cried Christina.
“He’s dying,” I said, “He needs help right away.”
“What happened here?” asked one of the cops, quickly scanning his eyes over to Christina and then Jack, who was lying on his back, the knife protruding horribly from his mouth. Christina looked up at me, shaking her head. He was gone.
I looked up to see emergency technicians coming through the front door with medical equipment in hand.
“Over here!” I said, motioning to where my daughter held the lifeless body. The other cop pointed his gun back at me.
“Don’t move, sir!” he said.
“This is my house,” I said, “I’m Dan, I – ”
“He stabbed this boy,” said Manuel calmly. “I saw it from across the street. I guess he thought it was a burglar. But he’s just a boyfriend of the daughter’s.”
“What?” I said incredulously.
“No!” said my daughter, rising with the blanket still around her.
Now both officers were pointing their guns at me. The EMTs stood back, waiting for the opportunity to work on Jack. Another officer took Christina and Emmie by the hand and walked them into the living room where a female officer was already sitting with Angie.
Suddenly, everything became a horrible, dizzy blur of sensory overload. My blood rushed to my head and I felt fuzzy and confused.
“This is just a precaution,” I heard an officer say, as he handcuffed me behind my back.
They walked me out of my house and toward the back of a patrol car. My girls ran out of the house after me, screaming and crying. Emmie, my powerful little one, wrapped me in a full bear hug and wouldn’t let go. Then they were all three wrapped around me, holding onto anything they could, trying desperately to keep me from being taken.
Several officers pulled them firmly away from me and led them to an unmarked van.
As I sat in the patrol car, half listening to someone reading me my rights, numbly staring out at the spectacle of my humble ranch house lit up with the gaudy, flashing lights of the ambulance and patrol cars, I realized that it wasn’t the emergency vehicles that had taken forever.
It was Manuel.