Sharon’s note: Everyone handle’s stress differently. Some people can handle hell with surprising grace, and some people crumble the second things get hard. Life isn’t easy, and there’s no shame in struggling, but you need to find a way to cope. Figure out what you need to cope, because giving up on yourself is not acceptable. Warning: Set up for story time.
I fiddled on the head set and tuned into my station. Ronnie was trying to keep poor Brian calm while the werewolf was howling in the background.
“It’s okay, Ronnie, I’ve got things. Go and see what you can do for the other operation,” I said as I started down the road.
“Where are you?” Scepticism practically dripped from his voice.
“I’m on a mobile headset. I’ve got it, Ronnie.”
“Alright,” He said, and disconnected. Ronnie may not know what I was up to, but he had more pressing matters.
“Okay, how are you holding up, Brian?” I made myself smile while I spoke, hoping it came across in my voice.
“It’s literally drooling on the shield.” Panic wasn’t far away for poor Brian. “And I think your guy is about to pass out.”
Ethan wasn’t holding out as long as I’d hoped, but there was no help for it. “That’s fine, just give the tail over to, what did you call her, Barbara? She can hold it until she’s about to go, and in the meantime, try to relax as much as you can. Tell the kids to rest too. The more rested you are the longer the circle will hold.”
“How can I relax when there’s a foaming werewolf literally five feet away from me?”
“Is he actually foaming?” I crossed my fingers for some good news.
“Yeah. Oh, god, is he rabid?” The pitch of Brian’s words rose.
“No, no. This is a good thing. It means he’s getting tired. He’ll attack the shield less if he’s tired and that means it will last longer. Besides, are you really worried about rabies? I think you have worse problems at the moment.”
The joke worked, startling him into a strangled laugh. “Yeah, I guess. Help is on the way, right?”
“As we speak,” I said, punching the gas a little harder. “So, tell me, Brian, what do you do for a living?”
“What? Why are you asking that now?”
“Because you sound a little stressed out and I thought a little idle chit-chat would help.” I laughed, because people don’t laugh if things are too serious. It helped a little more, because he laughed again, this time more normally.
“Yeah, I guess I’m kind of upset.” I heard giggling in the distance.
“What’s so funny?” I was genuinely curious.
“The werewolf is peeing.” Brian said flatly. “The boys think it’s funny. I have to say, I’m having problems appreciating the humor.”
“Meh, kids are weirdly resilient.” I sighed. “Their parent’s weren’t in the group that went down, were they?”
“No. They’re brothers, and their parents told them they had to go on this walk to commune with nature while Mommy and Daddy went to town to have a romantic evening. If we live through this I bet no one will ever complain about all the time they spend playing video games again.”
“Probably not. So back to the subject at hand, what do you do, Brian?”
“I work in retail. Nothing interesting.” I could hear his shrug. “What about you? Is this what you do all day?”
“All night, but yeah. It’s not the best paying work, but it’s very rewarding.” I fought not to let him hear my impatience as I stopped for a red light. “Oddly good health benefits.”
“How’d you get into it?”
I shook my head and smiled. “Nothing interesting about that. I’m a second generation Hunter, or I was until I had an accident. It took me out of field work and put me permanently on coms.”
He hesitated for a moment then asked, “What happened?”
I generally didn’t like talking about myself, but if that’s what he needed to hear right now, so be it. Besides, I set myself up for that question.