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It happened in an instant.

One minute he crouched beside the table, screwdriver in hand. His vision, always perfect despite his sixty years (he never even needed reading glasses!), noticing the exact angle needed to put the two ends of the machine back together. He glanced back at the pile of tools on the floor, the handful of plastic that still needed to be added, stuck together like jigsaw pieces.

The next he was on the ground.

One critical moment. The tiniest fragment of blood that stuck together and clotted, thrown turbulently through his heart, out of rhythm in a way he had not yet noticed. A tiny piece flying through the thoroughfares of the body, up to the brain along with the millions of normal red blood cells ferrying glucose and oxygen to the parts where they’re most needed. A miniscule disc, now lodged in the webbing that feeds the brane.

Embolic stroke will be the words written on his medical chart, hours later.

For now, it’s a shift in his vision. A shimmering in the room as if his eyes were panes of glass in the pouring rain. A sudden headache, a hundred times worse than the headache he’d left the house with this morning, an hour later than usual because it was his granddaughter’s first day of second grade and of course he had to stay and make her pancakes and take the pictures posed with her favorite fuchsia dress and the ridiculous sign her mother had made like everyone does these days, an hour late to grab his familiar cup of coffee from the local place down the street.

It’s the pain that brings him to the floor. That and the fact that the room is rocking worse than the ship on which he was stationed in Hawaii for years while in the Navy. He might throw up. In fact, he almost certainly will. But not here, not now, he can’t, not at work. He’s a visitor, in here to repair the clinic’s x-ray machine. That’s all.

A clinic. Every clinic has a panic button, right? Something that will call someone? An emergency in case someone falls while trying to balance for their films? Or passes out? Or vomits? He thinks he remembered seeing on the wall by the door, but everything in front of him is swimming now. He feels he is reaching his arm out in the fog.

As the fog closes in on him, he wonders how long it will take for anyone to remember he is here.


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