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The Quickest Way to the Hospital

by danshaw 

Posted: 29 August 2003
Word Count: 1208
Summary: A doting husband tries to prepare for the arrival of his first child.

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Adam’s digital watch alarm started bleeping at precisely 2:45pm. Dropping his newspaper he ran upstairs to where his wife was napping in their bedroom. Switching on the light he gently shook her arm.
‘Quick Julia, we need to go now, the clock is ticking.’
Julia grunted something indecipherable and turned away from her husband, who had begun frantically ticking things off from a list that was pinned to the bed’s headboard.
‘Suitcase… check. Car keys… check. Spare map… check. Mobile phone… check. Wallet… check. Cigar… check.’
Julia sat up slowly, rubbing her eyes and blinking at him.
‘It’s Sunday, Adam, for Christ’s sake.’
‘I know, but we haven’t done a Sunday before. There might be traffic outside the churches along the route.’
‘What churches?’
‘Exactly my point. We need to know.’
Julia gingerly swung her legs over the side of the bed and slid her feet into the shoes that Adam had placed there the night before.
‘If you’re not careful you’re going to give this child some sort of anxiety disorder before it’s even born. Now where’s my hairbrush?’
‘There’s one in the bag, we haven’t got time to worry about your hair now. Every second counts.’
‘Shut up Paul Daniels.’ laughed Julia, throwing a pillow at her husband’s head.
He grinned back at her.
‘If you think your hair’s messy now, you wait until after 48 hours of labour, my sweet.’ Adam laughed.
The second pillow hit him square in the face.
‘I love you, you know that.’
‘I had kind of guessed by the way you make me do this three times a week.’ Julia said sarcastically. ‘Come on then, Parker, let’s get this over with. I want to be back in time for Eastenders.’

By the time Julia had navigated the stairs and got her coat on, Adam had started the car and reversed it to within a foot of the front door, reducing his wife’s total number of footsteps needed to get to the passenger side by at least seven. Pulling the front door to behind her, Julia manoeuvred herself beside him.
‘Four minutes twenty to the car,’ said Adam, checking a chart that was taped to the dashboard, ‘slower than Wednesday, but still on target.’
‘Ooh, do I get a prize?’ smiled Julia, putting her hand on his knee and moving it slowly up his thigh.
‘Stop it, that’s unfair use of distraction tactics. I may have to take away your breakfast in bed rights for the next week.’
‘Okay then spoilsport, let’s go. But I’ll remind you of that wasted opportunity six months from now when the only thing you’ll be able to put near me is a cup of tea and a warm milk bottle.’
‘Right, that’s two week’s of no breakfast privileges for you missy, I warned you.’
Kissing her on the cheek, Adam pulled the car out of the driveway.

The route to Southridge Fields General Hospital was quite straightforward. Apart from the unknown quantity that was the occasional road works and diversions, the roads were wide and relatively clear. After five or six minutes they were due to be out of the village and onto the A33 dual carriageway that lead to within a few miles of the hospital. Then it was simply a case of two roundabouts, two sets of traffic lights and the winding B road that brought them to the hospital gates. After so many practise runs, he could drive it blindfolded.

Adam was secretly hoping that Julia would go into labour on a Tuesday afternoon, as they had got there in twenty six minutes last Tuesday. Although, to make sure, he would have to plan for a practise run on a Tuesday morning to see what the rush hour traffic was like compared to a Thursday or Friday. As the car accelerated onto the A33 Adam congratulated himself on a smooth first phase.
‘Can I put the radio on now?’ Julia asked, already reaching down to the dial.
‘Let me check the traffic news for a minute and then you can have it all to yourself for the next fifteen until we get to the turnoff.’
Julia sat back abruptly.
‘Go on then, Obsessive Man, but be quick, I want to hear the charts.’
Adam tuned it to Radio Presswich, the local radio station. He knew that they had a travel update at three. Of course, he knew all the times of the travel updates for all the local and national radio stations. Just in case.

After an eventless traffic update, Adam gave in to his wife and turned the dial to the Radio 1 Chart Show. They sat there in silence, listening to the saccharine offerings from the generation that they were just about to add to. God, I hope our child doesn’t want to be in a boy or girl band, thought Adam.
‘Wouldn’t it be great if our child was in one of those bands.’ said Julia.
Adam laughed out loud.
‘Nothing.’ Adam smiled.
‘No, seriously, you always laugh at me, Adam.’
‘I’m not laughing at you, I was just laughing.’
‘I hope so, because I’ve put up with a lot from you these last few months. The amount of dummy runs to this bloody hospital for a start.’
Adam turned to look at her.
‘I’m doing this for your benefit, you know. I’m doing it so that hopefully I can minimise any pain you have to go through.’
Julia softened.
‘I’m sorry. I just get tired of the routine, that’s all.’
‘Six more weeks honey, that’s all.’ He put his arm around her shoulder and they drove on.

Nine minutes and thirty five seconds later they were pulling off the A33 and approaching the first set of traffic lights. Adam looked at his watch. They had made up a bit of time, but were still off the pace. By his calculations they had just under six minutes to reach the hospital. He pressed down slightly on the accelerator. Up ahead the traffic lights turned amber. Adam kept going. It was only a few dozen yards and if they stopped then he had no chance of beating the time. He could feel Julia tensing beside him. She hated it when he drove fast.
‘Adam, slow down or this baby’s coming out now. Hospital or no hospital.’
Turning, he smiled reassuringly at her and drove on.

There were only a few yards to go as the lights turned red. Up ahead a car in the opposite filter lane was turning right. Seeing the light go red it swung out, straight into the path of Adam and Julia. There was no time for either driver to react. In the split second before the impact Adam was aware of his wife’s scream. Then there was nothing.


‘Alpha Echo one, this is Alpha Charlie twelve. Request secondary ambulance onsite. We have two vehicles and three casualties. Repeat. Three casualties. Status critical. One is a heavily pregnant woman.’
Alpha Charlie twelve, this is Alpha Echo one. Copy that. It’s on its way. What’s your ETA?’
‘We’re on our way with the pregnant woman and the driver. Should be there in less than three minutes if the traffic stays this clear. Over and out.’

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Comments by other Members

writersblock at 16:01 on 29 August 2003  Report this post

I really enjoyed this. Flows beautifully, easy to read, made me chuckle here and there...apart from the accident at the end of course. As a reader this worked for me...
Welcome - look forward to reading more.


Terry Edge at 16:37 on 29 August 2003  Report this post

This story has some nice touches, especially in the teasing between the two. And the ending is a good twist on the title of the story. However, there are a couple of questions I couldn't get past while reading it: 1) would anyone's husband really go to this kind of extreme in preparing for a birth? And if he did, surely his wife would put her foot down, and 2) why does his wife need to be with him on these runs? Okay, he could time her down to the car, but after that he could make the trip on his own.

The moral aspect is a bit tricky, too. The ending implies that the husband is getting his come-uppance, but you haven't portrayed him as bad, exactly. His wife seems reasonably indulgent of his behaviour. To make the story bite, you might need to paint him darker so we are more satisfied with the ending. To make it really dark, you could have her die and not him at the end.

One minor point: I think you have her give him too many nick-names. And I'm not sure why she calls him Paul Daniels, or Parker (as in Thunderbirds? If so, I don't see the connection).


danshaw at 17:41 on 29 August 2003  Report this post

Thank you both for your comments. These are the first ones i have had on any of my work and i was a bit worried !!

Writersblock: i'm glad you chuckled up until the accident. I tried to make it lighthearted so the reader is reading merrily until the crash - that way it hits you with the same shock and speed as it hits the characters (I hope).

Terry: you have a good point with you questions. There does need to be more of a reason for her to be in the car. I think maybe it could be rewritten so that she actually goes into labour this time - it may add to the urgency and explain his risk taking at the traffic lights.

I may look at how the ending appears because i saw the husband as kind and loving and i wanted it to be purely tragic, not him getting his come-uppance.

(She calls him Paul Daniels because of the old gameshow called 'Every second counts' that Paul Daniels hosted. It may be too obscure, i'm not sure).

Thanks for all the feedback tho. Very helpful.

Tabitha at 13:59 on 30 August 2003  Report this post
Hi, Dan!

I was really enjoying the humour in this story, so the shock ending felt completely out of place- but perhaps that's just me!

I thought the writing was fairly good, but there were a few instances when I was tripped up by the author's voice - yours - which kept creeping in at odd moments. A couple of examples:
Julia grunted something indecipherable and turned away from her husband...

Prior to this sentence, we, the readers, were firmly inside Adam's head, ie. seeing things from his POV, so this is a new POV which seems to me to be neither Adam's nor Julia's - it feels like yours. Generally, this is a complete no-no in writing - stick with your characters' POVs. As I've said, we're seeing this scene from Adam's POV, so all you need here is Julia grunted something indecipherable and turned away...

By the time Julia had navigated the stairs and got her coat on, Adam had started the car and reversed it to within a foot of the front door...

Again, the POV appears to be the author's. As you're writing, try to stay firmly inside your characters minds, and write what they see, not what you, as the author, see them doing.

I hope I'm making sense - if not, ask for clarification! :-))

danshaw at 15:28 on 30 August 2003  Report this post

Hi, thanks for your comments. You're right, the author's voice does creep in every so often. I think i'll change that in the redraft to be more consistent.

I'm glad you liked the humour. The ending was meant to be jarring and out of place, so i guess i should be pleased that people find that it doesn't fit. I may need to look at how i handle it tho, if more people don't like how it ends at the moment.

Thanks for reading it.


Lisa at 17:27 on 31 August 2003  Report this post
Hi Dan - great story. Liked the humour and the twist in the tale. I disagree with Terry that a husband WOULD go to all that trouble, and the fact that his wife goes along with it underlines a closeness, trust and "doing it for the best" attitude in their relationship. It makes me care about their relationship which makes the hard hitting shiock at the end even more devastating.

I agree with Tabitha about the changing voice - the point of view. I like it coming from Adam more so thanthe author/narrator's point of view.

Really enjoyed this.


Account Closed at 18:36 on 31 August 2003  Report this post
Hi Dan,
I liked the story and the twist and I got the Paul Daniels and Parker references. I agree the husband would go to all that trouble - after all, at this stage it's one very practical way to get involved (after the initial sperm donation!) However, I find the wife too indulgent!! You could, as you suggest, make it her going into labour and him going through the motions as in previous trial runs. Him panicking while she stays cool and jokes but that would take away the light atmosphere you have set up.

The ending at the moment reminds me of a road safety ad. "Those few seconds cost him his life" The accident could be completely random, like most accidents are. Feel free to ignore these comments!!

danshaw at 22:33 on 31 August 2003  Report this post
Hi Lisa and Elspeth,

Thanks for your comments. i think the general consensus is to adjust the tone of voice to be Adam's completely, so i will.

I like the fact that people can't decide if the ending is right or not - debate is always good to hear. At least it means people reacted to the story in some way.

It's funny that you think it sounds like a road safety ad, because i just quit a career as an advertising copywriter - i guess i still haven't shaken off that way of thinking yet !?!


bjlangley at 14:31 on 02 September 2003  Report this post
Hi Danshaw, that was a rather enjoyable story. I did like the banter between husband and wife.

I felt this part was a little out of place though:

"Adam tuned it to Radio Presswich, the local radio station. He knew that they had a travel update at three. Of course, he knew all the times of the travel updates for all the local and national radio stations. Just in case."

Whilst it gives us more information on just how obsessive Adam is, it doesn't flow as well as the rest of the tale.

Also, I liked the twist ending. I couldn't imagine it ending with them arriving checking the wathc and heading home, where's the fun in that?

Barney at 19:56 on 12 September 2003  Report this post
My favourite bit is how the title is explained fully in the last lines of the story. I think that's clever, and might have got a little lost in the tragedy. Some readers might be still gulping for air to even notice it. What if the accident isn't so severe - the husband gets some comical or ironic injury still requiring an ambulance - then the dabate, although healthy, might stop in favour of saying 'what a terrific little story', which it's well on its way to being already.

Thanks for a good read


willycan at 15:59 on 05 October 2003  Report this post
I enjoyed the gentle humour and thought the end was foreshadowed by the title.

My only crit is the format, it would bemuch easier to read if there were spaces between the lines esp the dialogue.

cheers willy

danshaw at 23:09 on 05 October 2003  Report this post
Wow, I'm guessing you have considerable experience of rescue services. I appreciate all the pointers. Thanks for taking the time to write them all down.


Heckyspice at 11:28 on 28 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Dan

I like this piece, it flows well and the verbal interplay is well constructed. Pop culture references used sparingly help us identify with the characters.

I don't think that you need to make Adam a darker character but maybe there needs to be some back story to underline his obsession. For example did his mother and father lose a child due to not getting the hospital on time? You could add some throwaway lines to further prove Adam's obsessions. The paper on the dashboard suggest he keeps a very detailed league table of Julia's times. Maybe he thinks she should wear her coat at all times and have he shoes on all day. Or that he has been digging up the flower beds by the garden path so that he can always park by the front door. Perhaps these are things Julia fears he will do.


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