Three Methods to Save Your Life, Chapter 2

By Stacia Levy

eing held hostage is, besides terrifying, mostly boring. We sat around a laptop table across the room from the door and looked at each other. I plowed through the paper that was spread across a chair and then passed it on. I stared at the clock. I looked at the guys again, then looked away. I stared at the clock some more and counted off the minutes. I held conversations with my ex and dead parents in my head. A couple of hours went by.

Dylan was up and prowling the room like a panther, mumbling to himself. Jake was monitoring the situation outside on the phone.

“Ever notice—” he began.

“Please.” Dylan slammed his fist against the wall. “Shut up.”

Jake continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted. “—how people are always telling you to ‘be aware’?”

“What?”

“Well, with gunmen, for example. Mass shootings. A reporter just said we should always be aware of our surroundings. Remember after 9/11, everyone was telling us to be aware? Do you think that was the problem? If we’d been paying more attention—?”

“Why?” Dylan asked. “So that we’re fully cognizant when they blow us away?”

This drew bitter laughter. We had all migrated to the floor at this point because the chairs were uncomfortable, our legs drawn up to our chins, in symbiotic communion.

I couldn’t stand it anymore and started talking. “You know what I’m going to do if we get out of this mess?”

“No, Sharona,” Jake said. “I don’t. What are you going to do?”

I didn’t know either—I wasn’t a particularly future-directed person—but I said, “I’m going to get a better a job. Maybe buy a house, find a boyfriend.”

“If you could do all of that,” Dylan asked, “why haven’t you already?”

“A legitimate question,” I said. “I’m kind of a screw-up.” I hated to admit it, but it was hard not to, given the current situation, and what the hell did I have to hide at this point? “I’ve messed up just about every relationship and job I’ve ever been in. But maybe things will change after this, you know?” Maybe, if I survived it. Crisis and opportunity, they say.

“What kind of job do you want?” Jake asked.

I had no idea but I said, off the top of my head, “Maybe as a paralegal. Work in a law office.”

“Sounds good,” Jake said. “Why not? I’m thinking of sending my resume out again too. How about you, Kevin?”

“Please,” he responded, not looking up. “I’m just trying to focus on surviving this.”

“And you, Dylan?” I asked. “If we get out of this, what are you going to do? Don’t you go to college or something? Maybe finish your degree, try to make up with your parents, or whatever?”

An ironic smile played around his lips. “I wish.”

“Well, why just a wish? What are you going to do?”

“Probably seek treatment.” He spoke after a minute.

“Yeah? For what? Alcohol, drugs?”

“If you really want to know, bipolar disorder. I’m not a college student, and I work here because my parents kicked me out after I busted the big-screen TV when Scott Pelley was pissing me off. Okay?”

“Wow.” That was impressive—I couldn’t top it, even with my record of drinking and promiscuity and patchy job history, all due to poor impulse control. “Guess you were off your meds?”

“Sharona, that is enough.” Kevin spoke up. “Leave him alone.”

“Well, aren’t you freaked out?” Dylan raised his head to stare at us.

Kevin gave a brief laugh and lit a cigarette. His hands were shaking so badly I was afraid he’d burn himself. “I think we’re beyond being freaked out by each other. I swear at this point you could tell me you’re Hannibal Lecter, and if we get out of this together, I’ve got your back for the rest of your life.”

“Yeah,” Jake said. “And if we don’t get out, we’ll all go down together.”

We all murmured agreement.

“Well.” I tried to make a joke. “Shall we all join hands? Sing? Say a prayer?”

“Shut up, Sharona,” Jake and Dylan said, more or less together.

After that we were silent again. Kevin, sitting next to me, seemed to be taking this harder, cracking under the stress more, than the rest of us—shaking, eyes clinched shut, pale.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m great.” He gave a brief laugh but didn’t open his eyes. So I shut up for a while, but then, because in general I can’t stop talking, I spoke up.

“Kevin, are you observant?”

“Observant of what?” He didn’t look up.

“Of Judaism, what do you think—an observant Jew?”

“Do I look like an observant Jew?”

“But you are Jewish, right? I’m more of a cultural Jew too.”

“Meaning what? You eat Chinese takeout, go to bar mitzvahs, avoid extreme sports?”

“All of the above. I haven’t been to services in years, though.”

“Yeah? Well, maybe this is as good a time as any to reconnect with our faith. How about you guys—Jake, Dylan? You religious?”

“Just enough to wonder which god I pissed off in that past life,” Dylan said. “How about you, Jake? What’s your Higher Power, if any? You seem an upstanding, church-going man, if you don’t mind my saying.”

“I’m not so upstanding.”

“Yeah?” Kevin snorted. “What’d you do—take someone’s pen? Stiff some rude waiter of his twenty percent?”

“No. I’ve been stealing from the company for over three years. About five thousand total.”

“That really pisses me off,” Kevin said.

“Well, you asked.”

“I mean, in three years? You couldn’t have taken more? Or lifted some of the merchandise at least?”

“What’s the situation outside?” Jake asked Dylan.

He glanced at the phone. “No change. The police have gotten a phone in there and have the bit going with the hostage negotiator, but looks like it’s pretty stalled.”

We groaned. I got up and walked around, stimulating the circulation in my lower body. No use coming out of this a double amputee from cutting off circulation.

Another hour ticked by.

I was sitting next to Kevin at this point, back at the laptop table. He’d picked up a knife from some silverware piled at the end and was taking stabs at the table with it in circles around his hand and between his splayed fingers.

“Please.” I couldn’t take it anymore and covered his hand with mine. “Stop. What are you doing—playing Russian roulette with your fingers? Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, fine.” He put the knife down. “I told you already.”

“What’s this?” My hand was still over his, and I noticed, for the first time, the thin, silver chain on his wrist. I picked it up. He didn’t seem the kind of guy who’d be into jewelry.

“Med Alert bracelet.”

“Med Alert?” I only vaguely knew what that even was, thought it was something old people with Alzheimer’s wore. “For what?”

“Diabetes.” He spoke after a minute.

“Diabetes?” This was like the worst possible news—aside from the hostage thing, of course. Really didn’t want to hear it—it was so unfamiliar, thinking about someone else’s needs. “So the bracelet’s so medics will know what to do if you go into a coma? And you were going to tell us when?”

“When you noticed the bracelet.”

“I’m sorry. We’ve been a little distracted here—”

“Are you insulin dependent?” Jake asked. Kevin nodded. “Well, do you have it with you?”

“No. I didn’t think I’d need to carry all of it with me—”

“—to the break room.” The rest of the sentence, in basically the same form, came from all of us.

“It’s not the insulin that’s the problem now, anyway,” Kevin said. “It’s the missed food. Insulin drops your blood sugar, and then you have to balance it with food.”

“Did you just take your insulin before this whole thing went down?” Dylan asked.

“Yeah, yeah. Forget it, okay?”

Forget it? Don’t you need to eat something?”

“Why the hell do you think I was in the break room? But what’s it matter now if there’s just no food?”

“You really should have told us before,” Jake said.

“Look, I appreciate your concern—”

“I’m not all that concerned,” Dylan said. “I just don’t want your defective blood on my hands. And I was really honest with you, wasn’t I?”

“So? I told you to come out? I didn’t want to hear it.”

“There’s got to be food someplace,” I said. “I don’t think a bunch of fat managers are going to sit in here for hours without food.”

“Well, it looks like they did, didn’t they?” Dylan was pacing around again, lifting papers off the table and chairs and looking under them.

“You’re not going to find a doughnut stashed underneath yesterday’s paper,” Kevin said. “So just stop, okay?”

“It’s not just about you,” Dylan said. “Not everything is, believe it or not. I tend to get hypoglycemic myself when I don’t eat. And I get really irritable, I can tell you, when I’m hypoglycemic. And I’ve already told you the kind of things I’m capable of when I get irritated. So we’re looking for food, okay?”

“The silverware,” I said. How could we be so stupid? “If there’s silverware, it means they did eat in here, and there almost has to be food somewhere.”

“We could probably sniff it out,” Kevin said. “Like police dogs.”

“The boxes.” I suddenly knew it. “There almost has to be food, nonperishable stuff, in the boxes.”

“Okay.” Jake seemed to brace himself. “So we need to go through the boxes.”

“How are we going to do that,” Dylan said, “and keep the barricade up?”

“We’ll just have to take them down individually, go through them one by one, and then put them back up right away,” I said.

“Right.” Jake rose. “Let’s do it. Let’s each take a row.”

So we went through each box, putting it back after. We repeated this process for what seemed an hour—muscles in my back and arms screaming, sweat dripping down my neck.

At the bottom of the next-to-last box in my row, under a ream of printer paper I almost didn’t bother to lift out, I hit pay dirt. A box of granola bars. And a six-pack of plastic water bottles.

“I knew it.” Joy, redemption, swept over me. Praise God, Allah, Jesus, whoever else was up there.

“What’d you find, Sharona?” Dylan pulled himself off the floor, where he’d been sifting through a box.

“Water and breakfast bars.” I never thought I’d be so happy to see those gooey, dried-out things, cloying sweet from raspberry and other crappy filling.

“Thank God.” Jake’s thought patterns clearly had mimicked my own. He took the box from me, then started to pass it to Kevin. He then paused. “What about the expiration date?” He looked at the side of the box. A groan rose from both Dylan and me. Dylan grabbed the box from him.

“Jesus, these things could probably outlast all of us if we were stuck down here during a nuclear holocaust.” He passed the box to Kevin. “Here.”

“Thanks.” Kevin took two. “You guys take some.”

We all ate.

“I don’t know about anyone else,” Dylan broke the silence. “But I’ve got to take a piss sometime very soon.”

“Yeah, same here,” Kevin said.

“We’ll just have to go in a corner in the wastepaper basket or something,” Jake said. “Sharona, I’m sorry, you’ll excuse us.”

“It’s not like I don’t have the same problem, more or less.” What did he think? “Oh, by the way, you’ll all be careful to splash the shiny clean walls a little, won’t you?”

After we took care of our bathroom needs, we migrated back to the table.

Kev lit another cigarette.

“I get your addiction, man,” Dylan said, “but should you be doing that, with your health concerns?”

That was more than I could take. “Obviously anyone who smokes is doing it against medical advice,” I said. “Leave him alone, okay?” Like we needed to heighten the tension by picking at each other.

“We’re probably not going to live long enough to worry about secondhand smoke and lung cancer anyway,” Jake said.

“It’s not him I’m so worried about,” Dylan said. “Why does everyone think that? I just don’t want my last breaths in here filled up with smoke.”

“Happy?” Kev stubbed out the cigarette on a plastic plate. “What’s going on outside?”

Dylan looked at his phone. “Oh, shit.”

“What?”

“They’ve released a couple of the hostages.”

“What in hell’s wrong with that?” Jake said. “That’s progress.”

“Problem is—” Dylan paused and I could visualize his mental cogs turning, “—they’ve done a body count.”

“Body count?” I shivered. “How many dead now?”

“Sorry, bad choice of words. I mean a roll call, of those who made it out plus those still stuck inside.”

We all sat and let this news sink in.

“They didn’t—” I began. Oh, no, they couldn’t be that stupid.

“I’ll put it on speaker.” Dylan set the device on the table and hit the settings.

“—four of the store employees—” a reporter was saying; I recognized her voice, Katie something-or-other, they were all Katie something, “—in one of the most worrisome of developments. Dylan Alvarez, Sharona Feinstein, Jakob Anderson, and Kevin Wasserman remain unaccounted for and are assumed—”

“Assholes.” The same word burst from all of us at the same time.

So it was only a matter of time now before the hostage-takers figured out we must still be in the store somewhere and found their way over here. Which meant, optimistically speaking, we’d also get released soon. More pessimistically—or, as we pessimists prefer to say, realistically—the hostage-takers could come blasting through our jury-rigged barrier anytime.

 

Read chapter 3


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