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Laura’s feet were killing her, and her head pounded like a jackhammer. It was all she do to toss her bag on the kitchen counter and kick her shoes off as she nearly ran to the couch and plopped down.

What a day!

Seemed like every pregnant woman in the county decided to give birth on Laura’s shift, and all the other nurses called off — vacation, flu, car trouble … you name it! Laura hadn’t even had a morsel of food since early that morning, but all she wanted to do was sit there with her eyes closed and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Wait! What peace and quiet? Laura sat upright and looked around the living room, wild-eyed.

“Something is wrong here,” she said. She stood and started down the hallway but stopped after few steps — the back bedroom door stood open.

“Ralph?” she called. No answer. She listened to the silence, and it was total. “Ralph, where are you?”

Panicked, Laura hurried to the counter and fished her phone out of her purse. She punched in 9-1-1 and hovered a finger over the “send” button. She tiptoed down the hallway, looking for any hint of motion, listening for any tiny rustling.

Finally, she took a deep breath and popped into the bedroom. There was nothing. Where was Ralph?

Just then, something rattled at the front of the apartment, and Laura heard the door swing open. She woke up the phone and got ready to call for help.

“Mom!” a voice called, followed by heavy running footsteps.


Laura stepped back into the hallway, and Ralph bounded from the edge of the living room, jumping right up into her arms and licking her face.

“Hi, Mom,” her son said as he closed the door behind him. “I guess Ralph is as happy to see you as I am. Anyway, surprise!”

Laura was thrilled to see her boy, who hadn’t been home for months. Between college graduation and starting a new job, he was off on his own life adventures.

Laura smiled and set Ralph on the floor. “It’s wonderful to see you, honey!” she said as she walked toward Lance, arms wide open. She was flushed with the relief of finding her dog and the joy of seeing her son, not to mention the confusion about why he was there.

Lance picked up on his mother’s bewildered expression. “I’m sorry for taking Ralph, mom, but I haven’t seen him in so long. And he said he had to, um, go.”

“No, thank you for taking him out. It’s been a long, long day, so I’m sure he was relieved to see you.” She grinned at her pun. “But … what’s the occasion, honey? Is everything OK?”

Now it was Lance’s turn to look confused.

“Well, mom … you didn’t think I’d let you spend your birthday alone, did you?”

Her birthday! She had forgotten all about it! Tears welled in her eyes.

“Of course not, honey.”

Rest could wait a few more hours.

Published inFlash Fiction

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