Bated Breath

By Kimberlee Akimoto

Baxter Caldwell was driven.

By the tender age of five, he had crafted his first five-year-plan. Although monosyllabic, it built the foundation for subsequent five-year plans which eventually led him to become the youngest associate to make partner in his law firm.

His days often began at 4am with a quick jog, a short shower, and a one-hour commute to the office. From there, his life became a blur of meetings, depositions, and trials and associated tribulations until the sun sank deep into the horizon and Baxter found himself burning the midnight oil yet again on another big case.

Eventually, Baxter began to forego the commute and opted instead for nights spent at the office. His assistant made certain that he always had fresh suits on hand and that the shower facilities were well-stocked. He had a standing dinner order with the Chinese restaurant down the street and although the young woman who delivered it always flirted with him, Baxter was much too focused on his work to notice.

The last time he spoke with his mother, she warned: “You’re not living, son. Breath life. Live life.” Only now did he understand what she meant. He had spent his entire life waiting with bated breath until he accomplished one goal, only to resume his holding pattern while he raced to accomplish the next. In doing so, life was passing him by.

These self-revelations ran through Baxter’s brain as his Lexus LS-460 sank into the lake. He had been in the middle of a contentious mobile call with opposing counsel when a deer wandered into his path and caused him to swerve off the bridge and take a nose dive into the swirling waters below.

Panic ripped through his body as he tugged on his seat-belt; it was stuck. Baxter began to hyperventilate as water seeped – then poured – into his vehicle. Just before the water enveloped him, Baxter took a deep breath knowing it would be his last.

Then the world fell silent.

As he sank into the deep, Baxter raised his head and gazed at the late evening sunlight dancing on the surface waters above. It was mesmerizing. For the first time in his life, he had finally slowed down long enough to notice something simple, yet so beautiful. He relaxed and stopped struggling and when he could no longer hold his breath, he calmly let go and watched the air bubbles make their way up to the light.

Then: shock as water entered his lungs, followed by darkness….


Baxter awoke to a kiss.

Well, not a kiss per se – more like mouth to mouth resuscitation from the burly EMS who had arrived on the scene. Luckily, someone had seen the accident and called it in. It appeared Baxter had been given a second chance. Once the water finally cleared from his lungs, Baxter took his first true breath:

It was full of promise and of life.


5 Responses to Bated Breath

  1. Jean myers says:

    Loved this, Kim.

  2. Although monosyllabic, it built the foundation for subsequent five-year plans . I really loved that line. I also really liked that he was mesmerized by the sunlight dancing on the water. I know people like this and that sequence when he was drowning really worked. A lot going on in 500 words (or less, I didn’t count).

  3. Pingback: Winner, ‘Breath’ Challenge | Waxings

  4. Melinda says:

    Congratulations, Kimberlee! Such an enjoyable read, with great sentence flow and snappy pace. A good reminder to us all… to beware of the Baxter within. 😉

  5. formica56 says:

    Absolutely wonderful, Kim!

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