“Come on Nicki, time for bed”, Nicki’s mother called out from the top of the stairs. Her reluctant daughter slowly dragged herself up the seemingly endless stairs. She didn’t want to go to bed, but she felt tired, so she resigned herself to the fact that Mom was to be obeyed. Mom was tired too. It wasn’t yet 9 PM but it might as well have been midnight. Long days are common for single moms.
Nicki’s mom tucked her daughter into the bed, and watched as Nicki grabbed her big fluffy teddy bear, Cuddly Joe, from his usual resting place on the pillow next to her. Cuddly Joe had been with Nicki through a lot – illnesses, the divorce, and moving from place to place. Nicki couldn’t sleep without Cuddly Joe, and at her age, Nicki’s mom was a long way off of suggesting her daughter ditch the bear. If it gave her a sense of security, then it was worth the hassle of toting it everywhere they went overnight.
“Mommy”, Nicki called out, “Cuddly Joe smells funny!”.
“What do you mean honey?”, her mother said wearily.
“He doesn’t smell like he’s ‘asposed to”, Nicki said adamantly.
“Honey, maybe he needs washing, or it’s just your imagination”, her mother said reassuringly, “We can figure it out in the morning.”.
“NO”, Nicki said, “He doesn’t smell right, and I can’t go to sleep until he does”.
Nicki’s mom knew that her daughter wouldn’t go quietly on this issue. When Nicki decided to pick a fight about her stuffed animals (or her stuff in general), she seldom gave in.
“Nicki honey, Cuddly Joe might just need a bath, or maybe it’s another smell from the day you’re smelling. Mommy can fix it tomorrow, but tonight we’re both tired, we should just get some rest. We’ll work it out in the morning”, her mother said to the child.
“NO”, Nicki said again,”It aint right”.
So Nicki’s mother spent another few minutes rationalizing to her daughter that things would be OK and that Cuddly Joe was fine, the world was fine, and everything could be fixed in the morning. At the end, she concluded with a strongly worded “Goodnight”. Nicki said nothing.
Turning on a small lamp, Nicki’s mom could see her asleep in the bed. “That was easier than usual”, she thought to herself. She left the room and started toward her own bedroom. It was weird that Nicki would find Cuddly Joe smelling different – she never complained about that before. Nicki would often smell Cuddly Joe to reassure herself at night, but never complained. Oh well, they were just so tired tonight, perhaps her daughter was acting a bit loopy.
Nicki’s mom found herself sitting in an old rocking chair that normally served it’s purpose of holding a pile of laundry, not rocking. How did she end up here? She started feeling sick, and all at once the pieces fell together.
A few hours later she woke up in the ER. Upon seeing her eyes light up, the nurse attending to her quickly told her exactly what she wanted to know.
“Mrs. Smith, don’t worry – you’re going to be fine, so is your daughter. It was a close one, but you managed to get yourself and her out of the house just in time. A neighbor of yours was jogging by and noticed you. He called 911. Any longer in there and that leak would have been… fatal”.
Nicki’s mom felt a shock of relief come over her. A few hours later they wheeled her next to Nicki’s bed, where Nicki lay sleeping. Her vital signs were good, there was no brain damage due to the lack of oxygen, and right next to her in the hospital bed was Cuddly Joe.