paid and laid. It must be the shades.”
Evan stood next
to Jeremy’s desk grinning broadly.
“No way,” his
young coworker said, a smile gradually broadening on his face.
“You cleared it
“Of course I
Melissa was the
marketing manager at Ray-Ban. Evan’s
company, T9 Solutions, was ultimately responsible for producing the ad, but
Melissa would have to approve the final product.
“I mean, I know
this is going in Playboy, but…”
“But what?” Evan
asked. At six-foot two, 220 pounds, he
towered over his colleague, even when Jeremy wasn’t seated. He wore a full beard with a trimmed
moustache. His skin tone was medium
brown. “You don’t think it’s sexy?”
“Oh, it’s plenty
sexy,” Jeremy said, returning his attention to his monitor. “If you say it’s a go, it’s a go.” He quickly typed the tagline and positioned
it mid-right of the models.
around his desk and looked over his shoulder.
“Wait, what happened to the other models?”
“I thought we
were going with this guy?”
“I like him,”
Evan said, staring at the smartly dressed man sporting the Ray-Ban product. His eyes narrowed. “But it won’t work for this tagline. You had the one with a woman and man, the guy
with the slim-fit suit…”
“Oh, yeah, I
still have it.”
Jeremy did his
magic, and the new image replaced the first.
him,” Evan said, scrutinizing the photo.
“I like that. He definitely looks
like he’s getting paid.”
“And from the
look in her eyes,” Jeremy said, referring to the female model, “I’d say he’s
“It must be the
shades!” they both said and laughed.
The male model
sported a pair of sleek Ray-Ban’s. He
was young, cool and confident. He was a
mover and a shaker. He didn’t look like
he ever stressed about a mortgage payment or a relationship. Even the woman devouring him with her eyes
barely caught his attention.
“This is a
winner,” Jeremy declared as he positioned the rest of the printed information
on the ad.
agreed. “But I need that tagline to pop. Why don’t you–”
“I got you,”
Jeremy said as he adjusted the font, color and size. “How about this?”
inwardly as his coworker made the adjustment.
After working together for fifteen years, he would swear Jeremy could
read his mind. Sure enough, he shifted
the last line, “Must be the shades,” in the direction Evan was going to
“Okay, what do
Evan patted him
on the shoulder. “My man. Send it to me,” he said as he stepped away
from his desk. “I wanna run it by Gwen
before we tinker with the graphics.”
said before he was twenty paces away.
Evan accessed the
file on his iPad and headed for his manager’s office.
Working as a
content marketer wasn’t on his radar when he majored in journalism 24 years
ago. Back then, Evan envisioned himself
winning the Pulitzer prize for a hard-hitting Exxon exposé. Or maybe he’d find himself reporting from the
frontline of whatever war-torn Muslim country the United States decided to
attack by the time he graduated college.
But life has a way of taking you in different directions. As far as divergent paths go, he was happy
with the way things had turned out.
Gwen was manager
of their print ad division. Since he’d
been with the company, Evan had the pleasure to shine in all departments:
print, digital, television and radio. He
didn’t have a preference, when it came to the work, but he always enjoyed
working with Gwen. Although she was only
ten years his senior, she gave off motherly vibes that made him long for his
family in Washington. She had smooth,
dark skin, a slim figure and serious eyes that were known to be extremely
critical of the work her department produced.
“Morning,” Evan said
as he stepped into her office. “How was
“It was a
weekend,” she replied without rising from her seat.
“You can’t refer
to a weekend with the same dryness you’d refer to a Monday.”
“I kept the
grandkids Friday night, took them to dance and karate practice Saturday
morning, dropped them off, caught a movie with Richard, dinner at Cheddar’s and
worked all day Sunday,” she informed him.
Evan chuckled. “You make your family time sound like a
chore, but I know you loved every minute of it.”
Her smile was
subtle but not lost on him. “What about
you?” she asked. “Did you get anything
done this weekend?”
“Not on the business
side, but I got right to work when I got here today. Check it out,” he said, offering her his
Her smile was
unmistakable this time.
“Did you clear
that tagline with Melissa?”
“Of course I
“Who came up with
it?” Her eyes continued to study the ad.
“You think anyone
in this building besides me can come up with something this brilliant?”
“So modest you
“You know I’m
“It’s okay,” she
said. “You’ve got a right to be proud of
this. You do amazing work. I love it.”
“You and Jeremy
put this together?”
“Yes. We have a little more work to do on the
graphics. Wanted to get your opinion
before we finalize it.”
“You and Jeremy
should go into business together. Every
time you… Evan?”
perspective, her esteemed colleague’s eyes fluttered as he swayed briefly
before falling quickly to the floor, like a toy robot that had its battery pack
perspective, there was a slight tightening in his chest before the world swam in
dark gray and black dots, and he felt himself sliding down a dark tube. The experience was oddly comforting. He didn’t have the wherewithal to reach out
and try to break his fall before he impacted the thin carpet.
* * * * * *
He awakened in
the back of an ambulance. Two EMT’s were
busy affixing telemetry pads and leads to strategic areas of his torso. His shirt had been removed. He lie flat on a stretcher, part of his
vision obscured by an oxygen mask affixed to his face.
He sat up
unexpectedly. His brain rewarded him
with a sensation of vertigo. He squeezed
his eyes closed to ward off the dizziness.
“Whoa there,” the
man on his right said.
“Evan, you need
to lie back down,” the woman on his left advised him. She placed a hand on his chest and prodded
him in that direction.
Evan didn’t fight
against her, but he braced himself up with an elbow and maintained his
position. When he opened his eyes again,
he saw the back of the ambulance was open.
Gwen stood in the parking lot, her expression as worried as he would
expect. Jeremy stood a step behind her.
“Evan, could you
please lie back?” the female EMT said again.
“Wait a second,”
he protested. “I just woke up in the
back of an ambulance. Is it okay if I
ask some questions?”
He thought his
voice sounded muffled behind the oxygen mask, but the paramedics seemed to
understand him perfectly. They removed
forward. “You passed out in my
office. You weren’t out that long. The ambulance showed up less than five
Evan said to the male EMT. “I think I’ll
be fine. I don’t need to go to the
“Do you have a
history of heart problems?” the paramedic asked.
That question was
too specific. By then Evan’s head had
cleared enough to fix a look of How could you? on his manager. Gwen pursed her lips and actually rolled her
neck slightly, as if to say, So what if I did?
grudgingly told the EMT. “CHF.”
definitely need to let us take you to the hospital,” the EMT said.
“Can’t I take
myself there?” he asked. “Or Jeremy – he
can take me.”
nodded in agreement. “I can take him, if
that’s okay with you two.”
“It would be best
if we make sure you’re stable first,” the female paramedic countered. “We can do that now, but in the time that
will take, we would’ve made it halfway to the hospital. It’s best if we take you, just in case.”
“Hush you,” Gwen
said. “You need to let these people do their
job. Scared me half to death when you
fell out. I’m still shaking. I don’t know if you’re being macho or
fool-headed right now, but these people are here to help, and you’re gonna let
them. Now lie back and let them do their
Evan sighed in
resignation. The problem with having a
boss who gave off motherly vibes was sometimes she took the role too seriously.
“Can I, can I at
least call my wife first?” he asked the paramedics.
One of them
retrieved his phone.
He cringed as he
unlocked it and phoned Delores. Fortunately,
the call went to voicemail.
“Hey, baby. I’m, uh, I’m headed to the hospital. I think I passed out at work, and they called
an ambulance. I’m okay, but they insist
on taking me to the ER. I’ll, uh, I’ll
call you when I get there.”
He sighed again
and returned his phone to the EMT. He
continued to plead to his manager with his eyes as they affixed his oxygen
mask. Her expression remained resolute,
but he saw fear and concern too. He
hated himself for making her worry about him.
He lie back, and
the paramedics resumed applying stickers to his skin. A monitor mounted on an IV pole awaited the
heart rhythm the electrodes would provide.
* * * * * *
was not a pleasant sight, but it was a familiar one. After being denied the request to exit the
ambulance on his own two feet or at least be wheeled into the ER by wheelchair,
Evan relented to his caregivers and allowed the process to play out as they
He remained in
the ER long enough for his nurse to declare him stable and for his cardiologist
to arrive at the hospital. Dr. Davi
initially diagnosed him with congestive heart failure eight years ago. Evan hoped his fainting spell was
insignificant enough to warrant an immediate discharge. Dr. Davi approached his stretcher with a
smile, but she did not deliver the news he expected.
“How are you
Evan?” She was a slight woman in her
late fifties. Her middle eastern accent
“I feel fine,” he
said. “I fainted or passed out at
work. Not sure what that was about.”
respond as she assessed his rhythm on the EKG monitor mounted above his
bed. She removed the stethoscope from
around her neck and plugged the earpieces in her ears.
“Could you take a
deep breath?” she asked as she placed the chest-piece near his heart.
complied. She repositioned the
chest-piece and continued to listen. Her
smile returned as she returned the stethoscope to its perch around her neck.
“I’m sending you
to the cardiac tower for monitoring.”
Evan rolled his
eyes. “Is that really necessary?”
anticipate keeping you overnight. I know
how you feel about being here.”
But how could she
truly know? At 42, Evan understood he was
past the prime of his life, but he didn’t feel like he was over the hill – at
least he didn’t want to feel that way.
He certainly didn’t want to have the word terminal hanging over
him, but every trip to the hospital seemed to propel him towards that destiny.
* * * * * *
had three floors in the “heart tower.”
Cardiac ICU, on the first floor, was for those critically ill. Cardiovascular ICU on the 2 floor
housed heart surgery patients. The third
and fourth floors were cardiac telemetry.
Evan was sent to C3 on most of his visits, as he was on this date. His wife called a few minutes after a PCT got
him settled in.
wrong? Are you alright?” The dread in her voice made him feel worse
than he already did.
“Yes, baby. I’m fine.
I fainted at work, or something like that, and they called 9-1-1.”
you? They took you to the hospital?”
“Yeah, I’m back
on C3. Dr. Davi wants to observe me for
a while, but she says she doesn’t plan to keep me overnight.”
“Okay. I’m sorry I’m just now getting your
message. I was in a meeting, and I had
my phone on silent. We have a couple of
hours left in school, and I was supposed to stay to meet with the attendance
committee. Do you need me there? Do you think you can handle this on your own?”
that his wife’s duties as an assistant principal made it difficult for her to
take calls in the middle of the day.
“It’s okay,” he
told her. “Don’t leave work. Everything’s fine. If you’re still working when I get off, I can
get a ride to my office and get my car.”
“Get a ride? From who?
You don’t want me to come?”
that. I just, I feel bad enough about
what happened. I passed out right in
front of my boss, freaked her out. I
don’t need anyone else’s day to get disrupted by this.”
“Disrupted? It’s not like you’re calling me to bring you
a spare key because you lost yours.
You’re in the hospital. This is
“It’s not serious every time I come to the
hospital. Sometimes it is, and you’re
aware of those times. Today it’s
not. If I’m still here when you’re done
with your meeting, you can head this way.
But I’m sure I’ll be discharged by then.”
After a pause,
she sighed. “Okay, Evan. If that’s what you want.”
He wasn’t sure if
she really wanted to come, or if she was eager for him to give her an out. He told her, “I’ll be okay.”
“You’ll call me
as soon as they give you an update?”
promise. Get back to work. Don’t worry.
“Alright. I’m gonna call Sharelle. If she’s done with classes for the day–”
Sharelle. She worries about me more than
you let me come to the hospital this one time without getting everyone all
worked up? Just this one time.”
“Alright, but you
know you’re being stubborn.”
“Fine, call me
stubborn. Don’t call Sharelle.”
* * * * * *
into his room an hour later, while his PCT was taking his vitals.
this I hear about you not wanting anyone to know you’re in the hospital.”
“Yet, here you
He couldn’t help
but smile at her. Sharelle took after
her father in many ways, from her height to her skin complexion and full
lips. Always athletic, she was a
business major at Texas Lutheran, awarded a full ride with a basketball
scholarship. She approached the bed with
large, wet eyes. It broke Evan’s heart
to know she’d been crying.
“Mama said you
passed out at work.”
“I did, honey,
but I’m okay now. It’s nothing.”
happened then? Why would you pass out,
if it’s nothing? What’s going on with
him?” she asked the PCT. “What did the
Caught off guard
by the new energy in the room, the PCT’s eyes and mouth widened at the same
“I – I don’t have
any information about him. Do you want
me to get his nurse in here?”
Evan said, “No.”
“Yes,” at the same time.
“I’m waiting on
Dr. Davi,” Evan told his daughter.
“She’s gonna give me an update and let me get out of here soon. If you want to wait, you can hear what she
has to say for yourself.”
“I’m not going
anywhere,” she assured him.
silent until the PCT got her numbers and exited the room. Sharelle confronted him the moment they were
didn’t you call me? Why do you want to
be at the hospital by yourself?”
“I don’t want to
be here at all,” he complained. “But if
I have to be here, I don’t need everyone in my life disrupting their schedule
“Mama told me you
said that. What do you, you think you’re
some kind of burden to us?”
“I, I think over
time it can be a burden,” he acknowledged.
“Yes, I do feel that way.”
“How many times
have you been at this hospital, on this floor or the ER or ICU?”
does that make? I’ll come here a million
times to be with you, if that’s what it takes to get you better.”
Evan bit his
tongue to stifle his reply. What if he wasn’t
you’re here, so can we stop arguing about it?
I’m sorry I didn’t call you. I
honestly thought I was doing the right thing by not getting you involved this
time, but I can see that I wasn’t.”
closer to the bed and placed a hand on his cheek. “No, it only made me scared and hurt at the
Her touch melted
his heart, as did the fresh tears in her eyes.
“How do you
feel?” she asked. “Tell me the
truth? Does your chest hurt?”
“The only thing I
feel right now is love,” he said honestly.
“My chest doesn’t hurt at all.”
* * * * * *
Dr. Davi came
thirty minutes later with her prognosis, or lack thereof. “Evan, I’m not sure what happened today. Your vitals look good. I didn’t hear anything new when I listened to
your heart. But passing out is not a
good thing for anyone, especially a heart patient. I need to evaluate you further, before I know
what steps we need to take.”
sank. It sounded like she wanted to keep
said, “I would like to schedule an ECHO, so I can get a good look at your
heart. You can do it as an outpatient.”
replied. He’d agree to a colonoscopy to
get out of there.
“You can schedule
it before you leave or call tomorrow.
Your nurse will come and give you your discharge orders in a few
minutes.” She gave Sharelle a comforting
smile. “How are you, angel?”
“I’m fine. Worried about my dad.”
“Yes, I know how
you feel. We’re doing the best we can to
get his heart back to one hundred percent.”
“I know you
are. We appreciate everything you’re
When they were
alone in the room again, Evan told her, “Why don’t you get back to school? I’m gonna stop by the job to get my car, and
then I’ll head home. I’ll call you when
I get there, to let you know I made it.”
her eyes in exasperation. “Why are you
doing everything you can to get me to leave you alone?”
twenty-one, and you need to be enjoying your college experience.”
“I don’t know how
enjoyable you think my night will be if I leave my dad in the hospital.”
“You think too
much,” she told him. “Maybe that’s why
you’re taking so long to heal, because you’re too busy worrying about trying to
do everything yourself.”
“When Mama called
me, she said the same thing about you,” she said with a smirk.
help but laugh at his mini-me.
A nurse knocked
on the door a minute later.
“Hey, you ready
“Yes, we are!”
Sharelle said and began to gather her things.
Evan agreed. “Don’t take nothing to get a
brother up in here, but I feel like I need an act of congress to get out!”
*** Thanks for reading this excerpt. I hope you enjoyed it. If you'd like to read the rest of this book, Evan's Heart is available for pre-order ***
© Keith Thomas Walker