Flu Shot

My mother drags me, kicking and screaming, down the sidewalk. She is taking me to the doctor to get a flu shot.

“Ellie!” she scolds. “What is wrong with you?!” 

People on the street are giving us very strange looks. I don’t care. My mother pulls on my arm and I try to go in the other direction. I am crying loudly. 

I am deathly afraid of shots. Just thinking about a needle in my arm makes me shudder. 

“I… don’t want… a shot…” I wail, but I am so panicked my words get slurred together and my mother doesn’t understand what I am saying between my uncontrolled sobs.

Suddenly I realize we are right in front of the entrance to the doctor’s office. How did we get here so quickly? My mother opens the door, holding me by the wrist, and we walk in.

My sobs get quieter as I take in the familiar waiting room: colorful chairs and wallpaper, some toys and coloring sheets in the corner, and the receptionist’s desk across from us. I think to myself, can it really be that bad?

The peaceful setting calms and distracts me a little. I pick up a crayon and scribble on a coloring sheet while my mother signs in with the receptionist. I hear her say “flu shot” and I bite my nails nervously, resisting the sudden urge to make a run for the door.

A few minutes go by. A young nurse comes into the room. “Ellie Thomas?” she calls.

I jump when I hear my name. Clutching my mother’s warm hand, I follow the nurse into a narrow hallway out of the waiting area. We enter a smaller room that smells like bleach and sanitizer.

The nurse pulls out an alcohol pad and a syringe. Seeing the needle, I panic and start to sob again.

My mother bends down so she is eye-level with me. “Shhh. Ellie, it’s going to be fine. You can squeeze my hand. Don’t look at the needle.”

It takes me a few tries to find my voice. “I’m scared,” I manage to say. 

“Don’t worry,” she reassures me. “It’ll be over before you know it.”

I hiccup and my heart gets caught in my throat. I am rooted to the spot with fear.

I feel the sudden cold sensation of the alcohol pad rubbing against my skin. Wondering when the nurse is going to inject my arm, I turn to look, taking shallow, short breaths. 

Big mistake. In slow motion, I see the needle just as it pierces my skin. I let out a strangled noise as I feel a sharp stab of pain. I grip my mother’s hand tightly.

And then it is all over. The nurse sticks a bandage where the needle entered. Blinking, trying to process what just happened, I lift my arm. It feels a little sore, but that’s it.

Smiling, the nurse hands me a lollipop. My mother gives me a hug and says, “You were so brave.” Relieved, I walk out of the door. Everything is a blur. My mother signs us out and we leave the office. I feel the warm sun on my face. I did it. I survived a flu shot. It really wasn’t all that bad.

Happily sucking on my lollipop, I trail behind my mother and we walk home.

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