Bobbie Ann Mason

Two Stories

Falling

Synopsis of My Day

George had a fit­ful night, the nurse said on the phone. Surgery sched­uled for nine a.m. Frantic about get­ting to hos­pi­tal in time.  First:  I zipped Squirrelly Girl over to the groomer–her spring molt. It took a month to get the appoint­ment so I didn’t want to can­cel. Had to leave her there for the day.

Waited for  Shelby to arrive.  She can’t man­age dogs and vac­u­um clean­er at same time so I had to leave four dogs out­side with storms fore­cast.

Walked Bootsy and shut her in laun­dry room for the day so Schotze wouldn’t both­er her.

Tractor Guy called about pick­ing up lawn trac­tor for repair. No, don’t know where key is.

Rain and storms.

Dropped Kookie at the Cat Clinic on the way to hos­pi­tal. She was  very dehy­drat­ed. George always gave her IV flu­ids.  I can­not even get the cap off the nee­dle.

Yesterday, when George lay uncon­scious on the deck the dogs did not jump on him. They cir­cled him and kept bark­ing. They howled when they heard the siren. I fas­tened them indoors and they were afraid.

Downpour and thrash­ing wind­shield wipers. Traffic, hell­ish cir­cling in park­ing garage, shut­tle to hos­pi­tal.

Reached hos­pi­tal just as George was arriv­ing in his room from recov­ery. Asking for crack­ers.

Could have been far worse, a cheery nurse said. She said there was a rod in the leg. Another nurse said it was a plate with six­teen screws.

A third nurse said, “Third lad­der fall I’ve seen in two weeks.”

No sign of a doc­tor.

Loved the new hos­pi­tal. Wanted to move in. Charming guest nook with daybed, desk, Internet.

There were heli­copters out­side the win­dow all night,” said George.

When he fell asleep at four some­thing I left to get Kookie.

Met with vet about Kookie and arranged drop-off for flu­ids again tomor­row and Sunday. $325 today for blood tests, etc.

Took Kookie home.  Driving rain.

Went to get Squirrelly Girl. All pret­ty and fluffy.

Talked with groomer about the dog’s paw–the limp from her last fight with Schotze.  Groomer sus­pects a “joint mouse.”

Home with Squirrelly Girl.

Fed every­body. The dogs wouldn’t eat. Kept look­ing for George.

I ate a bowl of soup and fell asleep. Woke up sev­er­al times, hear­ing that lad­der slide and thump once more.  I woke up too ear­ly.

The moon was a lit­tle grin in the dawn.


At Home

I bought George a lux­u­ry reclin­er to cod­dle his hurt leg. It rais­es your feet high­er than your heart.  Your head flips back and your feet aim for the stars. Your tor­so remains per­pen­dic­u­lar to your legs, as if you were sit­ting. It’s the astro­naut posi­tion.   Whoopee,  but can he sleep in it, with a bro­ken leg?

I ordered this over the phone and got the store to agree to a two-week tri­al, since I was buy­ing it sight unseen. It is a floor mod­el, 35 per­cent off.  Bargain.

The store man­ag­er brought it him­self. He and his burly man unpacked the chair and showed me the chair’s tricks. The astro­naut posi­tion is sup­posed to take the pres­sure off of every square inch of your body. I keep won­der­ing how you cal­cu­late the sur­face area of your body in square inch­es.

The chair uses back­up bat­ter­ies in case of pow­er fail­ure.  But it didn’t come with bat­ter­ies. Would any­one ever expect bat­ter­ies? George was afraid the elec­tric­i­ty would go off dur­ing the storms last night and he would be strand­ed in take-off posi­tion on the launch pad.  I  fetched the 9-volt bat­ter­ies from town.

I fetch every­thing now.

Here comes the hard part. You send the chair, on its own, into astro­naut take-off posi­tion. Then you find the lit­tle recep­ta­cle with a wee plas­tic door where the leads for the bat­ter­ies are stored. To con­nect the bat­ter­ies, I had to poke my head into a cave under the chair and, at an awk­ward angle, try to fit the male part of each bat­tery to the female part. But in my strained posi­tion I couldn’t get them to make love. The sex parts failed to grab, so I couldn’t press them togeth­er. I recent­ly watched a pair of orang­utans on TV grap­pling  with this same prob­lem, up in a tree.

I wor­ry about trees.  Last week I saw a dead tree with a jagged crack near the base. It could fall any moment, I thought, so I didn’t go past. It fell with­in the day and brought down a live tree with it, and two or three oth­er dead trees also top­pled, encour­aged by the crash­es and thuds.

While I was study­ing the dev­as­ta­tion I saw anoth­er dead tree tilt­ed at an angle of about 50 degrees. I thought it was lean­ing on anoth­er tree for sup­port, but as I inched clos­er I saw that the two trees were not touch­ing at all.  I backed away swift­ly.

Storms in the night. The elec­tric­i­ty flick­ered off momen­tar­i­ly, but the chair was untrou­bled. Dulled by oxy­codone, George lolled in his ease­ful new elec­tric chair, so far away from me, strung up like a man on a rack.

Rain, rain today. Momentary hail. Going out to look for the dead tree, to see if it has sur­ren­dered to the earth.

Car Wash

Hi, Betsy,

Got here on Tuesday and had a job by sun­down! They say the econ­o­my is in the ditch, but I’m just a lucky guy, I guess.  I’m not pushy, but I can speak up for myself. I hit just the right bal­ance.

The job is at a ser­vice sta­tion with a car wash. It’s kind of upscale where peo­ple leave their cars to be cleaned.  And they mean clean.  There is a fan­cy wait­ing room with trays of cook­ies and cold drinks free. Little cubi­cles with TVs, La-Z-Boys. These are rich peo­ple, who don’t need free snacks, and some of them are so rich they don’t even bring in their own cars.  Their “peo­ple” bring them, I nev­er knew this but if you are a movie star out here you don’t have to get your own gas or a lube job or any­thing.  Someone does all that for them. I guess if you’re famous you don’t want to be seen pump­ing gas or doing any­thing ordi­nary. They must think they live in a sort of heav­en where they eat things with gin­ger and sea­weed and can take a dump in the shag car­pet if they’ve a mind to and some­body else will clean it up. Their peo­ple won’t tell who they are work­ing for either, so we do a lot of spec­u­lat­ing. Wednesday there was a vin­tage Corvette that belonged to George Clooney–and it was true because there was a book on the seat with his name writ­ten in it.

Yesterday I had to clean out a car that smelled like puke. No real mys­tery there, the way these peo­ple binge, or so I’m told.   I had to use four rounds of deodor­iz­er on the car­pets in that car. The leather uphol­stery wasn’t ruined, but it was bor­der­line. Of course they can just have that replaced, or buy a new car.

Today I cleaned out a glob of some­thing chewy that had to be cut out of the car­pet. I felt like a sur­geon, try­ing to cut the fibers of the car­pet so it wouldn’t show. I’m sure this is a skill that will be use­ful in a bet­ter job.  I got the damned chewy stuff under my fin­ger­nails and had to use indus­tri­al sol­vent to get it out.

But I like this job so far. Most of the oth­er employ­ees are Mexican and I wish I had paid atten­tion in Miss Garrity’s Spanish class, but I can say ami­go and that goes a long way.

I’m sor­ry I left in such a hur­ry, but I hope you change your mind and come out here. You know I didn’t mean to slap you that way. I just get car­ried away some­times, I know we could have us a fine time out here. I don’t see any way but up.

Love,

Mark

P.S.  I wrote this yes­ter­day but haven’t mailed it yet. I don’t know where the post office is.  This morn­ing I had to clean up a car that had blood in it. The guy who brought it in said he had to deliv­er his sister’s baby him­self on the side of a busy free­way, and he had to cut the umbil­i­cal cord with his hunt­ing knife. He talked like he was a big hero. He said she would have died if he hadn’t been pre­pared.  Like some pim­ply Boy Scout, I reck­on. That was the guy’s sto­ry, but it sound­ed fishy. You nev­er know what real­ly hap­pened when peo­ple are telling you things out here.  So much out here is just sto­ries.

~

Bobbie Ann Mason’s short sto­ry “Shiloh” and her nov­el In Country are taught wide­ly in high school and col­lege class­rooms. Her newest nov­el is The Girl in the Blue Beret.