“We can go to Wendy’s and get a Frosty, or we can go to the park and play dinosaurs and cave-men.” The therapist was the picture of patience.

Drew squirmed. His mouth turned into the wide grimace that meant he was trying desperately not to cry. He breathed heavily, almost gasping.

His foster mother watched calmly. Decisions were always like this for the boy. Even though both alternatives were fun, some of his favorite things to do, he knew that saying “yes” to one alternative meant that he would not get the other.

If he gave in to his desire for sweets, he wouldn’t get to play dinosaurs and cave-men with John. John was the best at playing dinosaurs and cave-men. If he decided to play dinosaurs and cave-men, he wouldn’t get the frosty, and he knew that if he didn’t eat his dinner he wouldn’t have any sweets at all.

The decision was killing him.

John put a steady hand on Drew’s shoulder. “Take a deep breath, and blow it out. It’s OK. Either way you decide is fine, but you can’t have both.”

Tears were squeezing their way out of both Drew’s eyes. The first breath came out in a shudder. The second was a little calmer.

Drew’s eyes went to the clock. He only had an hour with John. If he took too long to make his decision, it just ate into his time with his friend.

“Dinosaurs and cave-men.” Drew announced.

John smiled and stood. “Great. Let’s go!”

Drew’s face broke into a wide grin, anticipating the fun they’d have in the park. The tears instantly dried, and he happily waved to his foster-mom as he and John headed to the car.

That was what it took. The decision had to be made. It tore him apart, every time, even the little choices. But once he had decided, it was all over. He could relax, and all was well.

This was written in response to the Write On Edge prompt:

In 400 words or less, write a story or memoir which relates to choices and/or consequences. Because of the word limits, you may choose to focus just on the choice, or just on the consequence. Remember to capture a moment using dialogue, action, and reaction.

The concept of being able to write either fiction or memoir has been freeing for me. This one is a fictionalized memoir… there really was a boy who would go through intense anxiety over the simplest decision. Watching him go through this made me realize that we all have choices like this… sometimes we give up one thing we like in order to have something else. It’s not a loss… it’s a choice.

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