The Heimlich Maneuver — By Meeah Williams

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When Dad started choking on that chunk of lamb chop in the restaurant three days before New Year’s Day when I was fifteen I knew exactly what to do because we’d just been practicing the Heimlich Maneuver in Health Ed that semester and when the bloody chunk of meat and phlegm shot out of his wormy blue lips and landed on the white tablecloth like some aborted extraterrestrial fetus it was like proof I was right about having become a vegetarian the summer before and although I was considered something of an odd duck I became the hero of the family for a few weeks until my cousin Zach when off to Afghanistan and even Dad seemed to walk lightly around me like I was a plaster saint at church but it was also the year that he tried without success to teach me to throw a curve ball and caught me in bed with a guy from the tennis team and by New Years of the following year he’d given up trying to make a man out of me and walked around me like I didn’t exist at all and seemed glad to be rid of me when I left for college in Oregon two thousand miles away and didn’t have much to say even years later, didn’t even want to be caught in the same room alone with me, when I came home for the holidays with Jim, though Mom took me aside and told me any number of times how proud he was of the work I was doing which had to be a lie since I was just the manager for a small web design studio that Jim owned but Dad gave it his best shot trying to be hospitable to my husband…

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…you had to hand him that much even though he could never force the word husband through his grit teeth, it stuck in his throat, and you could tell it was killing him inside to see Jim and I hold hands or even look into each other’s eyes from across the dinner table and when I got the call that he’d suffered a massive heart attack I offered to fly home immediately but my sister said it was too late he was already gone and I thought no that’s where you’re wrong he’s still right here and I touched my chest where his disapproval was beating and would continue to beat with every thump of my grieving heart until the day I, too, died, with a lump in my throat and there was no Heimlich Maneuver to save me from choking on that.

Meeah Williams’s work has appeared in Otoliths, Phantom Drift, Uut, The Conium Review, Per Contra, Petrichor Review, Stone Highway Review, Dirty Chai, Shuf, *82 Review, Skin to Skin, Wilde, The Milo Review, Meat for Tea, Angry Old Man, The Ginger Collect, Former Cactus, Anti-Heroin Chic, and others. She lives in Seattle and tweets here.

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