Writers are known for going to great lengths to research their books. Some join the police academy to learn about law and order. Some go to school to learn about law. Some take classes in...(fill in the blank)...
My husband is a part time police officer, so for my upcoming book, I grilled him a lot about the plot of my story. I never dreamed my research would give me the opportunity to get a little more in-depth experience the way it had recently.
You see, I was recently initiated into the pepper spray club...by accident. Picture me sitting at my desk concentrating on my work. My attention is taken away from my manuscript by the sound of a sudden crash! I then hear an unfamiliar hiss that has me getting up from my seat to investigate what crashed. My eyes were immediately drawn to the bureau next to the desk and the missing photo that used to sit there.
Unbeknownst to me, there was a small can of pepper spray behind the picture and when the picture fell over, the can went with it, setting it off. Of course, I had no clue and as I bent down to retrieve the picture (all the while knowing there was something funny about the hiss and the sudden fumes I was smelling) I was hit by the spray. My throat immediately started to close up, I lost my voice and I did what all police officers are told not to do. I panicked!
In retrospect, my run around the bedroom screaming (with no voice) for my husband was probably funny to watch. Thank goodness he'd been taking a nap or I'd have gotten an ear full of laughter. I finally managed to wake him and after one whiff he said. "What are you playing with the pepper spray for?"
Yeah, playing. He then told me not to panic. Too late. I was already well past the state of panic.
"Relax. You're going to be fine." Fine? I felt like I was a suffocating? Now I understand why some police officers going through the academy rush to the bathroom and dunk their heads in the toilet if there are no available sinks to get the pepper spray off their faces. I didn't need a toilet and never got a face full of spray. But my lungs felt as though they'd collapsed.
My eyes are now watering. I'm standing on the deck trying to get some air and coughing like I have a bad case of pneumonia. My husband (calm as can be in his sleepy state) appears in front of me and thrusts a glass of water into my hand. "Drink," he says. "You'll live."
When I'm finally able to make noise, I ready to ask him how on earth a can of pepper spray got behind the picture frame when it dawns on me that I'd seen that can of spray when I'd been dusting and alas, I had been the one to place it there and forget about it. Instead I screamed, "The cat!"
I realized my beloved cat, Keturah, was still in the room and was probably breathing in those nasty fumes. I put a towel over my face (BTW, that doesn't work) and rushed into the room. In one moment, I scooped up my 15 year old cat (who didn't seem effected at all) and brought her out for a breath of fresh air.
It is now 3 hours later and my room is free of pepper spray fumes. I know what my husband went through in the academy when he had to do his pepper spray test. The panic is still very fresh and raw in my mind and I'm convinced I'll use this experience one day in a book. What we writers do for research. Even unwilling...
Until next time, many blessings, Lisa Mondello