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.
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.
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.
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.