Out June 12th!
At this point, we do not know exactly what is causing Mac to have what appears to be panic attacks that places him in some sort of suspension and away from the present...he is aware only of what is happening inside, the panic, the overwhelming feelings of not being able to breathe, and more... But once the episode ends, he does not talk about what happens. In fact, he has begun to lie or use excuses to cover for his...reality...
This short story hit me hard, personally, since, during the period prior to my response to intense Job Burnout, and ultimately going into clinical depression where I was unable to stop crying, I had a major experience which scared me--I had blanked out in a meeting, knowing it, but unable to remember or continue to talk... I knew what was happening internally, like Mac did, but had no idea what was happening around me.
Whether it is called PTSD, Depression, Anxiety or something similar, many Americans find themselves in situations where they are no longer able to respond to daily life... Of course, I was immediately interested in Manchester's new book...
Like Mac, individuals who find themselves in similar situations begin to feel isolated. They are unable to grasp that they need help and act upon that knowledge. Yet at the same time, while family life continues, unaware of the issue for one, family members negatively react, not understanding why one family member has changed... Tension grew between Mac and Jen, as she was starting a new job, at the same time Mac was under deadlines for his job.
Was it Jen going back to work that bothered Mac? We don't know, of course. But from the relationship interaction between the married couple, readers know that an underlying tension may be leading to real trouble for the two...
Sooo, consider that we, the readers, are placed right into this family dynamic. We have sympathy for all family members, while I had empathy for Mac as well... And the author leaves us with:
Mac leapt to his feet, his heart pounding hard enough to explode. As if he were sucking in air through a crimped straw, he struggled to breathe. The sudden lack of oxygen made him dizzy, while his extremities began to tingle. As he fought against the invisible enemy, a heavy coat of fear and despair draped over him. The intense rush—lasting several eternal minutes—carried him to a lack of control he’d never known before. And once done, he felt scarred in every aspect—physically, emotionally, even spiritually. It took some time for Mac to reclaim some semblance of normal breathing. Cautiously, he eased back into his chair. Maybe I should tell Jen that it’s getting worse, he thought, gripping the arms of the recliner like he was sitting in the electric chair. No, he decided, she has her own stuff to worry about.
Breathing erratically, Mac sat alone in the dark, terrified over the next attack he was sure would come. I don’t know how much longer I can live like this, he thought, losing his breath once again. Something has to give. ~ THE END
Perfect Ending for a Prequel! I was solidly hooked--I couldn't not reader the book to find out what happens to his family...all because the author had use his talent to excite us, to bring our emotions into play, knowing, hoping, that his fans would want to read more... Kudos to Steven Manchester!
For those who have not yet read this author, you might not understand my response to this Prequel. But, my having read many of his books, I've already been totally satisfied with anything he writes. I invite you to use this opportunity to get to know an author who excels in family dramas with messages in each book.
With Pleasure, I am including an excerpt from the book Three Shoeboxes.
Mac jumped up, panting like an obese dog suffering in a heat wave. His heart
drummed out of his chest. Startled
from a sound sleep, he didn’t know what was wrong. He leapt out of bed and stumbled toward the bathroom. He
couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think. There’s something wrong, he finally thought, I…I need help. He searched
frantically for an enemy. There was none. As he stared at the frightened man in the mirror, he considered calling out to his sleeping wife. She has enough to worry about with the kids, he thought, but was already hurrying toward her. “Jen,” he said in a strained whisper.
She stirred but didn’t open her eyes.
The constricted chest, sweaty face and shaking hands made Mac wonder whether he was standing at death’s door, cardiac arrest being his ticket in. I have to do something now, he thought, or I’m a goner. “Jen,” he said louder, shaking her shoulder.
One eye opened. She looked up at him.
“It’s happening again,” he said in a voice that could have belonged to a frightened little boy.
Jen shot up in bed. “What is it?”
“I…I can’t breathe. My heart keeps fluttering and I feel…”
“I’m calling an ambulance,” she said, fumbling for her cell phone.
“No,” he said instinctively, “it’ll scare the kids.”
She looked up at him like he was crazy.
“I’ll go to the emergency room right now!” Grabbing for a pair of pants, he started to slide into them.
Jen sprang out of the bed. “I’ll call my mom and have her come over to watch the kids. In the meantime, Jillian can…”
Mac shook his foggy head, halting her. “No, I’m okay to drive,” he said, trying to breathe normally.
“But babe,” she began to protest, fear glassing over her eyes.
“I’ll text you as soon as I get there,” he promised, “and then call you just as soon as they tell me what the hell’s going on.”
Jen’s eyes filled. “Oh Mac…”
He shot her a smile, at least he tried to, before rushing out of the house and hyperventilating all the way to the hospital.
I’m here, Mac texted Jen before shutting off the ringer on his phone.
The scowling intake nurse brought him right in at the mention of “chest pains.” Within minutes, the E.R. staff went to work like a well-choreographed NASCAR pit crew, simultaneously drawing blood while wiring his torso to a portable EKG machine.
As quickly as the team had responded, they filed out of the curtained room. A young nurse, yanking the sticky discs from Mac’s chest, feigned a smile. “Try to relax, Mr. Anderson. It may take a little bit before the doctor receives all of your test results.”
For what seemed like forever, Mac sat motionless on the hospital gurney, a white curtain drawn around him.
I hope it isn’t my heart, he thought, the kids are still so young and they need…
“Who do we have in number four?” a female voice asked just outside of Mac’s alcove.
Mac froze to listen in.
“Some guy who came in complaining of chest pains,” another voice answered at a strained whisper. “Test results show nothing. Just another anxiety attack.”
No way, Mac thought, not knowing whether he should feel insulted or relieved.
“Like we have time to deal with that crap,” the first voice said. “Can you imagine if men had to give birth?”
Both ladies laughed.
No friggin’ way, Mac thought before picturing his wife’s frightened face. She must be worried sick. But I can’t call her without talking to the doctor. She’d…
The curtain snapped open, revealing a young man in a white lab coat with a stethoscope hanging around his neck.
This kid can’t be a doctor, Mac thought, the world suddenly feeling like it had been turned upside down.
“Your heart is fine, Mr. Anderson,” the doctor quickly reported, his eyes on his clipboard. “I’m fairly certain you suffered a panic attack.” He looked up and grinned, but even his smile was rushed. “Sometimes the symptoms can mirror serious physical ailments.”
Mac was confused, almost disappointed. So, what I experienced wasn’t serious? he asked in his head.
The young man scribbled something onto a small square pad, tore off the top sheet and handed it to Mac.
“This’ll make you feel better,” he said, prescribing a sedative that promised to render Mac more useless than the alleged attack.
“Ummm…okay,” Mac said, his face burning red.
The doctor nodded. “Stress is the number one cause of these symptoms,” he concluded. “Do you have someone you can talk to?”
Mac returned the nod, thinking, I need to get the hell out of here. Although he appreciated the concern, he was mired in a state of disbelief. I’m a master of the corporate rat race, he thought, unable to accept the medicine man’s spiel. If anyone knows how to survive stress, it’s me.
“That’s great,” the doctor said, vanishing as quickly as he’d appeared.
My problem is physical, Mac confirmed in his head, it has to be. He finished tying his shoes.
Pulling back the curtain, he was met by the stare of several female nurses. He quickly applied his false mask of strength and smiled. A panic attack, he repeated to himself. When put into words, the possibility was chilling.
The nurses smiled back, each one of them wearing the same judgmental smirk.
With his jacket tucked under his arm, Mac started down the hallway. Sure, he thought, I have plenty of people I can talk to. He pulled open the door that led back into the crowded waiting room. That is, if I actually thought it was anxiety.
Mac sat in the parking lot for a few long minutes, attempting to process the strange events of the last several days. Although he felt physically tired, there weren’t any symptoms or residual effects of the awful episodes he’d experienced—not a trace of the paralyzing terror I felt. And they just came out of the blue. He shook his head.
How can it not be physical? He thought about the current state of his life. Work is work, it’s always going to come with a level of stress, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary.
He shook his head again. I just don’t get it. He grabbed his cell phone and called Jen. “Hi, it’s me.”
“Are you okay?” she asked, the worry in her voice making him feel worse.
“I’m fine, babe.”
“Fine?” she said, confused. “What did the doctor say?”
“He said it’s not my heart.”
“Oh, thank God.”
Her reaction—although completely understandable—struck him funny, making him feel like the boy who cried wolf.
“So what is it then?” she asked.
He hesitated, feeling oddly embarrassed to share the unbelievable diagnosis.
“The doctor thinks it was a...a panic attack.”
This time, she paused. “A panic attack?” she repeated, clearly searching for more words. Then, as a born problem solver, she initiated her usual barrage of questions. “Did they give you something for it? Is there any follow up?”
“Yes, and maybe.”
“What does that mean?”
“He gave me pills that I’d rather not take if I don’t need to. And he suggested I go talk to someone.”
“Talk to someone? You mean like a therapist?”
“I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant.”
“Oh,” she said, obviously taken aback. “Then that’s exactly what you should do.”
“I don’t know...”
“Is there something bothering you I don’t know about, Mac,” she asked, “because you can talk to me, too, you know.”
“I know, babe. But there’s nothing bothering me, honest.” He took a deep breath. “For what it’s worth, I don’t buy the anxiety attack diagnosis.”
“Well, whatever you were feeling this morning was real enough, right? I could see it in your face. It wouldn’t hurt anything for you to go talk to someone.” She still sounded scared and he hated it.
“Maybe not,” he replied, appeasing her. In the back of his head, though, he was already contemplating how much he should continue to share with her—or protect her from. “I need to get to work,” he said.
“Why don’t you just take the day off and relax?” she suggested.
Here we go, he thought. “I wish I could, babe,” he said, “but we have way too much going on at the office right now.”
“And maybe that’s part of your problem,” she said.
“I’ll be fine, Jen,” he promised. “We’ll talk when I get home, okay?”
“Love you,” he said.
“And I love you,” she said in a tone intended for him to remember it.
Mac arrived at New Dimensions Advertising. As an executive
at the pinnacle of his impressive career, he was energetic, in control and one step away from the next big promotion. An early meeting had been scheduled with his creative team. He walked in late, a tray of hot coffees in one hand and a box of donuts in the other.
“I know. I know,” he began in his even-tempered demeanor,
“I expect everyone to be here on time, except for me, right?” He smiled at his handpicked crew. “Okay, now that we have that cleared up…” Except for several laughs over the donut box, there was no response.
He went on. “Oh yeah, and Brady wanted me to thank everyone again for their generous gifts.” He smirked.
“Well, everyone but Scott.”
Scott, an entry-level consultant, peered up from the box. White powder covered his half-open mouth. He was clearly confused by the comment.
“No, I’m sorry Scott,” Mac said, his smirk growing into a full smile, “I have that wrong. Brady loves the monster truck you gave him. It’s me who has the problem with it.”
Scott still couldn’t respond, his mouth stuffed with sugary dough.
Mac leaned in close to his young prodigy. “My friend, never ever buy a child a toy that can scream louder than the child’s father.” There was a comical pause, followed by Mac’s wink. “Trust me, when you have kids you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.”
Scott’s smile displayed his relief. The three women and two men seated at the conference table all laughed.
From the look in their eyes, they held a deep respect and
admiration for their affable boss.
As everyone dove back into the donut box, concepts at different levels of development began flying around the room. Mac controlled the flow, occasionally jotting down some of the ideas into his leather notebook.
Receiving a nod from Mac, Scott took the floor. “I’ve done the legwork on this one, boss. The way I see it, Woodpine Furniture is competing with three major retailers, each one located within a ten-mile radius of the other. With such a concentration, they can’t…”
“Competing?” Mac asked, jumping in. “I disagree. In fact, it’s been my experience that a rising tide carries all ships.”
Scott—along with the rest of the team—awaited an explanation.
Mac chuckled. “It means that when people are looking for furniture, they’ll shop around—especially if it’s only within a ten-mile radius. And we can use this knowledge to give our client the edge.” Mac’s eyes drifted off into a creative world that few people ever got the chance to witness. “That’s our ace, Scott. We’ll monitor the other stores’ advertising and find a way to capitalize by enhancing our own.”
“Love it,” Brandt blurted, while the rest of Mac’s team sat in awe.
Scott cleared his throat. “Ingenious,” he said, “then we can…”
Mac’s eyes glassed over and he suddenly realized his mind was floating away—and it wasn’t promising to be a pleasurable experience. His knee bounced from nervous energy. Although he tried to stop it, he couldn’t. Aware of the fact that he couldn’t stop fidgeting, a clammy sweat began to form on the back of his neck.
“Blah…blah…blah…” Scott said, his voice no more than an annoying hum now.
Mac pulled at his collar a few times before getting to his feet. I can’t friggin’ breathe again, he thought, his mind being thrown into a death spiral. He could feel everything inside of him turning dark, like he was being taken over by some evil force. I…I can’t breathe…
“Everything okay, boss?” Scott asked.
Mac shook his head. “If…if you’ll all excuse me…please.”
Scott halted his presentation, while Mac took the opportunity to hustle out of the room, shocking everyone.
Mac rushed to the management washroom. Before the door had completely closed behind him, he was bent at the waist, struggling to take in oxygen. Oh God, he thought, trying desperately to calm down and center himself. As he began to slow his breathing, he caught his own reflection in the mirror. This scared him more.
Instead of finding the confident man that normally grinned back at him, he was looking into the terrified face of a man he barely recognized—the poor guy’s wide eyes searching frantically for answers. “What the hell…”
Mac managed, his pitiful voice echoing off the subway tile walls. Am I really having panic attacks?
Well, this is the second day of Reading Along...
I'll start! I was upset with how the medical staff allowed themselves to be overheard and how Mac was made to feel... When I went to my doctor, and after I had been able to share what was happening, he told me "Well you have two choices--your job or your life..." Stress can ultimately kill...and it is not enough to hand somebody a prescription and send them home...
On the other hand, was it because Mac was a man that he could not easily accept the possibility that his concerns were mental rather than physical. Do many of us retain a reaction that does not allow or are embarrassed that our mind can become burned out or changed in some way?
At this point, knowing some of the statistics on stress in America, I believe this will be an important book for Manchester... What do you think? Were you interested--after the Prequel? Or After the beginning excerpt? Why or Why not? Would really like to hear from you!!!