••• The International Writers Magazine: Life Stories
A Bagatelle of Maladies
Allen P Cook
To see his life-long partner cut up into smithereens caused John to pause.
He felt the muscles in his throat harden. He thought he had known what had happened. His wife, June, wasn’t feeling well. She was having problems with her legs. She saw some doctors about her condition (no one was totally sure what was the matter), and then went into the hospital for surgery. She came out cut up, sporting several hundred surgical staples. She now lay supine in her bedroom bed under snowfall-white sheets, which drifted this way and that way over her body.
As John looked at her, confusion twirled in a tornado. He metamorphosed from an affable old man into a dodo. Suddenly, he was speeding down an expressway, in his red Oldsmobile with gold lettering on the door, not knowing where he was, or why he was where he was. From out of the corner of the room her groans spread into a brush fire. Animal yelps of pain caught up in the flames hid their inner meanings from words.
John then remembered that his friend called a few weeks ago to tell him that his old piano teacher had died. The woman had been an inspiration for him his whole life. John turned topsy-turvy. How could his private Stonehenge suddenly disappear into a gauze of Dark Energy, about which we knew nothing except that it existed? John now nailed his thesis onto an imaginary door: Unacceptable! How could June, who would get up at 5 AM to work in the garden, now look like a pulled out weed?
He tuned back onto his usual brain-circuits, away from this deep-sea fear. June looked, drawn and half comatose, as if she were living thirty years from now: future creates present. Time, with its Jack-in-the-Box surprises, sometimes jumped around and made a summer day of life into ice winter.
Breath went in and out her nose… a heavy rock.
It was not that he simply missed her. She was right in front of him. He felt diminished. It was as if he suddenly wanted to go out to Burger King for a 2 for $4 breakfast and the seat next to him was empty. He missed her lovely dark blond hair through which he would run his hands, or that sweet smell she would leave on the pillow when she got up in the morning. Her bodily perfume, which he found so captivating, she called “body odor” that needed spray deodorant.
The anesthesia had turned his wife’s hair brittle, mousey grey. Her once sensuous fingers that would engulf him with a strong grip now lay flaccid, a bit like jellyfish that rolled up onto beaches in late August. He picked up the sheets to see the incisions in her legs. He involuntarily thought of some third world meat market with legs of lamb and beef hanging on hooks… black with rancid hints of yellow and green.
Little of this mess registered as important. For John, such handicaps were simple bagatelles compared to the Hallelujah Chorus of his bride’s loveliness.
As he stared in the air over her head lying on the pillow, he thought about his two grandsons. The boys would probably be a bit frightened at the sight of the woman who looked like Grandma Frankenstein. Jake and Caleb (ten and seven) recently told Gma and Gpa about the video game in which a Phyllis Diller of an old lady would invite children into her vast falling apart house to cut them up and eat them. They all laughed, albeit a bit uncomfortable with old age.
As John loitered in the bedroom, the phone rang with its video window. Caleb called to see how his grandmother was doing. He broke into a horizon of a smile and a breakdance, when John told him that she was better. He shook his body as if it had no bones and broke into Saturday night fever frenzy; he repeatedly pointed his right fingers to the floor, then into the air and shook his booty.
“Grandma, grandma does this mean you will be able to play tent with us soon?” June did not respond.
Their two grandsons had a rather limited understanding of time, and everyday life. Existence was a piece of wiggling spaghetti with only three demarcations: when they were little boys, now, and when they will be able to get their driving permits.
Although much of their thought involved tents, cars and sports, both could also be rather unexpectedly serious about maladies. They frequently drilled their grand parents about matters of health and how long they would be alive. “Will you be around to see us have children? Why can’t we be teenagers together?”
The day his grandmother entered into the hospital, Jake, shaken with the news of her bad health, whispered into John’s ear, “I think Death is a bad plan. Instead, we should all be given little green cards at birth with the option of handing them in when we turned eighty, either to go back being twenty or to call it quits. Eventually, most people will call it quits. Everything would run much more smoothly that way.”
Another time, Jake asked John a rather unexpected question as they were walking through gardens around their grandparent’s Civil War Era house (a place that had seen many birth and deaths). The grounds were in full bloom, generating smiles in every color of the light spectrum. Jake turned somber, “Grandpi, why does everything start to die when it first starts to live?” He faced the conundrum of sickness and health, birth and death, with surprising candor.
With his grandchildren as a backdrop, John now looked at his bride’s face in the frame of her pillow and thought about about their history together. Sickness became the MC of history. He glanced into her half opened eyes and murmured close to her ear,” My dear, you still have those full moon eyes that opened our nascent evenings together; those radiant baby blues that floored me when we first tangled.”
He paused (being uncharacteristically romantic) and then continued with a sonitina of more complements. “Don’t forget that the wild animals which roamed between our eyelashes, though now ghostly, will jump again.” For him this present overcast, was only a transitory weather front.
For a moment, John caught a glance of his own face in the dresser mirror and realized he, too, was another victim of the malady of age. It was like he woke up in the morning, ready for his oblations, when suddenly started by the stranger looking at him. “ What are you doing, you old rag, interrupting me brushing my teeth? Am I being attacked by some new species of dinosaur?”
On the back of the flash of this ugly chimera, John caught in the sparks of a dream catcher some of the rather tenuous moments of his relationship with June. Over the last half century the couple had woven a complicated web.
When they first decided to live together and have children (marriage was a bit out of mode) friends gave them a total of two weeks. They were off by approximately five standard deviations: the marriage had lasted almost fifty years. Today when starry-eyed young people, filled with love, asked what insights John may have about his lengthy marriage, he flatly answered,“ I wouldn’t recommend it.”
In contrast, when middle-aged couples, which have been together for a number of years, asked the same question he usually replied, “ It is like WWI trench warfare. Not too bad if you don’t get blown up or gassed to death.”
But when he wanted to be a bit indelicately truthful, if he liked a person, and had time to unpack a moment, John might then give the real reason why their marriage lasted: the toilet seat.
Marriage depended a lot on little things. Of course, there’s love, but love doesn’t cut through all of it. Old married couples were not just two singing lovebirds. In addition, coocoos, sparrows, bluebirds, starlings, robins, parakeets, ostriches, and maybe even an emu or two, made up the marriage chorus line.
Did your partner squeeze the toothpaste from the top or the bottom of the tube, or splash little dots on the bathroom mirror when washing-up? Did he or she throw their underwear into the corner rather than the wash basket? What happened when one person, at 3 AM in the morning, kicked the other out of bed or tried (completely sound asleep) to choke the beloved to death?
The problem of the toilet seat between John and June had been ridiculously simple. After peeing, John would repeatedly forget to put down the toilet seat, which meant that in the middle of the night (with the bathroom dark as Hades) if June had to go, she frequently sat down on a cold porcelain toilet base. June also found it unsanitary to have the toilet seat up. In addition, it was just simply rude if a visitor had to go into a bathroom with the toilet seat up. The couple also had to set an example for the two boys. The kids needed to know acceptable sanitation procedures that should take place in family life.
At first John was cool. Of course, he would remember to put the toilet seat down after using the facilities. He was not a filthy barbarian. Besides, why would he want to aggravate June by not taking her concerns into consideration? After all the couple wanted to live together harmoniously.
He was not successful. He kept forgetting.
June thought otherwise. He was not simply forgetful. She had put up with John and his sloppy habits for years, the toilet being just one of many gripes. Was she his servant? His closet was a cave of galactic chaos. He left tissue paper in his pockets so when she did the wash, the machine peppered lint over everything. She ended up doubling her laundry time, while he was upstairs painting another one of his blasted pictures about heaven knows what. The toilet seat was simply the last straw.
With another load of wash, she muttered, “ If John really loved me, he would put the toilet seat down because he knew how it aggravated me to have it up. I measure his egotism by the number of times I have to put that damned seat down!”
Although this altercation over the toilet appeared to be such silly nonsense, it hid psychological icebergs; a slight twitch of eyes or of muscles in the body sometimes may erupt from the movement of the plate tectonics of personality. In short, a little bit of this toilet seat drama showed, but a lot more of the show lurked behind the curtains as some monstrous Wizard. June thought John is, was and always had been taking advantage of her.
The toilet seat gradually heated up into a volcano.
Frustrated at John’s cavalier attitude, Don Quixote of the Bathroom, (he left the toilet seat up yet again and again), June decided she would stop “being nice.” She would stop riding a flying carpet around the house, hoping to meet some Aladdin to come and whisk her off to an exotic Bagdad of love-- someone who would never fail to put down the toilet seat.
She took a heavy black magic marker and wrote in big capital letters on the underside of the toilet seat, “ KEEP THIS TOILET SEAT DOWN.” The war of “nasties” had started.
John thought, “Was nothing too good for this witch?” Once in a while he may forget to put the toilet seat down, but he was a much-reformed criminal. He tried everyday to be a good husband. Why was she so implacable? Had she turned into some hanging judge ready to strangle freedom out of his soul. Besides, he didn’t treat her the same harpy way, as she treated him. What about her problems that he always ignored because he didn’t want to sew discord? In general, she tended to take tiny things (not screwing the of bottles or jam jars securely) and turn them into some constitutional crises. He carried all of this nonsense on his shoulders without a peep.
John blamed architects, and middle-class sensitivities about bodily functions, for the bulk of bathroom problems. Every bathroom should have a toilet and urinal. Though people tended to avoid talking about toilets, unless it meant fancy price, there was no reason to leave men out of the picture of bathroom design. If people could have hot tubs and twelve unit showerheads, they sure could have urinals as regular bathroom accessories.
June would have none of it. She retorted, “John, you are simply an asshole. You are too lazy to put the toilet seat down and try to blame everyone else for your lack of consideration.”
John counter attacked. Every time he went by the bathroom he would turn the toilet seat up, so Jane (and anyone else passing by) could see the sign, “KEEP THIS TOILET SEAT DOWN.” When guests might ask about the sign, John and June would dismiss it as nothing of importance, a slight “domestic altercation.”
After few weeks of incessant quarrels the family broke apart. Anger in the house could be found under every vase and piece of furniture, in every closet, and even in the garden. Fed up with their life of discord, John and June decided to separate. It was not simply a separation, life for the couple was always more complicated than a simple decision. What jobs would each have, where would they work and what would happen with the kids?
John had been offered an administrative position in an international AIDS hospital in Tanzania, East Africa. He wanted to take the whole family to Africa. June was presently unemployed and wanted to stay in New York. Although both were convinced that they should separate, they decided to follow a policy of Watch-and-Wait about the details. To cover all possibilities the family decided that everyone would first have a thorough medical check up.
The doctors found out Jane had a small, non-malignant brain tumor; a malady which if not removed might cause blindness. With his wife’s health paramount, John frantically searched for a job in the States that would pay him more than wampum. Not only did June not have a job; because of her health, she couldn’t get a job. Ironically, the only way the family could get by, was for John to go to Africa to make some money.
The compromise solution, while not perfect would work, at least temporarily? June and their oldest son would stay in New York. She would have radiation treatment and simultaneously get her Masters degree (June always had to be working on some improvement). John would go to Africa with the youngest son and fulfill his contract. June would live in a small place in NY. John would live in a big house in Africa and send money back to the US.
The couple separated.
It was a solemn airport scene. John and their youngest son got on the plane to East Africa. John was resigned. June stayed happily in NY. She finally had the freedom from her husband that she had wanted for years.
The beauty of Kilimanjaro hit John with the energy of a bullet train. In the early morning, Kibo (the rounded peak of the mountain) would glow through the large picture window in the living room --flamingo pink, ready to broadcast to the day the wonder of Africa. It would then cloud over most of the day, and at sundown, make another show-stopping debut.
Next to Kibo stood Mawenzi, the second peak of Kilimanjaro, with jagged, sharp teeth structures eating into the sky. No one ever sang about poor Mawenzi in literature or in pictures, although it was just as much of Kilimajaro as Kibo. It was alone. John identified with Mawenzi.
His house was a ten- room “bungalow,” a left over from colonial days. From almost every room, it had fabulous views of Kilimanjaro. Although the road from the house to the hospital complex was dusty, the air all around was incredibly clear and light. Hanging above the head, the sky was dotted with clouds that the mountain attracted and then ate up, a giant geographical Venus Fly Trap.
While he loved Africa, John missed June badly.
June also smarted. She missed the comfort of John’s body, even if his tongue could be so acetic. She ached from her medical procedures. It was the last few steps out of the train station that caused her to cry. By the day’s end, the city hubbub decimated her Swiss cheese brains.
One day, while taking the Number Two subway uptown, June stood clutching the pole in a packed car; you had to be a contortionist (cum trapeze) artist in order not to fall on the person next to you. She started up a conversation with the lady sharing her subway pole. June, as she frequently did, easily talked to both friends and strangers. In passing she mentioned that her husband was working in a medical complex at the foot of Kilimanjaro. The woman dropped her jaw. She asked June his name. She replied John Jenkins.
Stunned, the woman replied that she was at a party last week in the Medical Center and spoke to John about his wife! John and she knew each other quite well (six degrees). “ You know,” the woman said, "he went on constantly about how he missed ‘his bride.’”
June replied, “I also miss him quite a lot.”
She then explained that she was living for the year in Queens, in a finished basement apartment. She kept on telling the landlord that there was a gas leak in her kitchen. He simply smiled. She was being killed. Life in the Big Apple was NOT a Dream Machine.
The woman smiled. “It’s probably none of my business, but it looks as if you both could use a strong dosage of each other.” The train screeched to a stop. June and her newly found acquaintance separated.
As June got out of the subway car she muttered, “How strange.” Walking on the platform, being pushed around by hips, arms, and even a little Pekingese (and this was a Guide Dog?), June thought more about the incident. She climbed the eternal subway stairs. “ I never even got that lady’s address or contact number. Was it just dream?”
That night, they phoned each other. They simply decided that their separation was not working. Things would have to change. John would go back on the job market and June would finish up her medical treatment and her degree and join him (or was he joining her?) The two boys would come along wherever the family landed. They would settle together somewhere in an area with good (International?) schools, and give the marriage another chance.
The toilet seat had shown them The Way. Personal differences were no force for the truck-slam of love.
John suddenly snapped to it. Was he daydreaming, yet again? Now only inches from the face of his wife, he softly told her that she was looking great. As they touched fingers, a breeze of affection passed between them. He had to get his bearings. Time moved with the speed of an electric current through the synapses, and brought years of reality back to life in less than a nano-second.
June began to wake up a little. She was more talkative, “I look a lot worse than I actually am. There was one thing that being cut-up has taught me. You may stretch out your sixties into ‘middle age,’ but when you hit seventy you are plain ordinary old! “ She smiled, “Actually today at seventy, I don’t feel much different than I did at sixty nine!”
John broke in, "You look great. Most people would wish they could heal as well as you even if they had only stubbed their toe." John could see June was already getting restless, even though she barely had woken up.
“Are you OK? You look very unsettled. Do you need some pain medicine?”
“It’s not a question of pain. I am totally drugged on opioids. I simply am bored. I can’t stand laying in bed hour after hour, catching a TV program the way you catch flies on a hot August afternoon.”
June quickly changed the subject “Where’s the dog? Did you take her out to do her duty?” John explained that she was in the bathroom, sleeping.
The family had a miniature long hair Dachshund named Brunhilda. For the last eighteen years she had been the love of June’s life and the bane of John’s. Perhaps the most salient characteristic of this bundle of belly was her desire to be as close to June…preferably between her feet, so that June could easily break her neck when she tried to walk.
The dog would also try periodically to climb the curtains. Go “there” when she was told to come “here.” Would feverishly try to get into bed with June, whenever she thought that no one was looking. Would eat anything that could even vaguely pass for food. Would run into the street when not leashed. Would put her head under any hanging hand in order to be petted. Would mess up the car windows with her long nose drips. Would cry when left by herself. Would growl and sometimes nip at the grandchildren when they tried to pet her. Would roll over the carpets and fill them with hair. Would gnaw the furniture legs. Would get into the kitchen cabinets and drag out pots and pans. Would trample flowers when exploring the backyard, and would bark wildly at strangers who would ring the doorbell. In short, Brunhilda was the perfect Dachshund.
John knew that June would like Brunhilda to be in the room with her. Brunhilda would be good medicine for June. June often talked about the sensitivity of the dog and her loving attitudes. She recalled when she would laydown next to her, Brunhida would never actually touch June, but get close enough to lightly brush against her. It was as if a tiny cavern of wind touched the two bodies softly but inexorably. The dog wanted to lay next to June, but not be suffocated by her.
June actually never trusted John to treat the dog the “right way.” She had a point. John might push the dog away as she rubbed against his pants or slap her on the butt when she thought the living room curtains were two Mt. Everests. He would sometimes let her cry when she was put into the bathroom for anti-social behavior (eg ripping up an errant tissue all over a room). According to John, “Just let her alone. She has been a pain in the neck and needs to know she was “bad.” June did not agree.
John protested that Brunhilda would only get into trouble. June needed rest not to have the dog around.
“But John, sometimes sick animals help people get better. They bring out healing in a person. Besides, I can hear her crying. I know she wants to be with me.” John capitulated. He went to the bathroom, picked Brunhilda up and brought her back to the bedroom. He placed her on the floor when the dance started. Brunhilda was now eighteen years old… pretty ancient in dog years and had developed canine dementia.
Brunhilda walked around in circles, chasing her tail—a long skinny protrubance that resembled a hair-covered piece of uncooked spaghetti. She would sometimes suddenly stop, totally exhausted. Alternately, she might fall over having gotten herself so dizzy that she couldn’t stand anymore. She might piss as she turned round and round and then startled when she turned wet from her own body fluid. Worse yet, she would shit, as she turned, and then walk her poop all round the circle of her path. She would finally realize she was “in the shit,” and then leave the circle in a tangent only to create another circle for her dance. In her tangency she might hit a corner and just stop dead still. She couldn’t push the wall down with her nose so she was trapped. The confused dog never realized she could just back up.
Even without all her doggy marbles, June loved Brunhilda and no matter how John protested her presence, June insisted on having the dog in the bedroom. John’s biggest fear came from sanitation but the couple thought of a solution to that worry. John would place towels all around the room so that if Brunhilda had an accident, the towel could be picked up and disposed of into the washing machine. As John covered the bedroom floor with towels, and placed Brunhilda gently down doorbell rang. He wondered who it could be, since all their friends and acquaintances knew June was at home in bed resting and did not want any company.
He lumbered down the stairs (arthritis), went to the front door (heavy oak, hard to open). Two workmen stood there; they looked bedazzled. They wondered where “he put” the house siding, which they were supposed to work on. John hadn’t the faintest idea. He protested, "I didn’t put the siding anywhere!” He vaguely remembered that they were getting new siding but recalled nothing about the details. He knew from bubkus. June always handled these domestic details.
June yelled down from upstairs, “What’s happening?”
How could workmen lose an entire house of siding? John didn’t quite know what to say when the two guys suddenly broke into Spanish (or was it Portuguese)?
The workers became more and more animated. In his floppy slippers John went outside to see what he might do. After about ten minutes or so he ran back into the house, empty handed, totally flummoxed. Fortunately by this time, June was wide awake.
June explained, “Patrick (the boss) told me he was putting the planks into the hut at the back of the property.” John, then went out to the garden, opened the door of the hut and almost feinted with the smell of mothballs. Why would Patrick hide the planks in a plethora of mothballs? Was he afraid that a gang of chopping chip monks would decimate the planks?
This situation with the siding, made it clear that June’s sickness, made John sick or at least, completely discombobulated. They were more like conjoined twins than a couple, as if the two of them shared the same circulatory system. If one got sick the other suffered.
Within a half hour the bell rang again. “Can’t people leave us alone for a few hours? Is the world going to collapse if we don’t answer bells and cell phones?” Once again John got up, swung his aches in motion, went downstairs and opened the door. He had no idea it would be a field representative of God.
The young man was extremely good looking. He resembled a movie star. He wore a neat little tag on the pocket of his impeccable long sleeve white shirt and started his conversation off with a smile. He was a Mormon missionary.
John, who didn’t have the slightest interest in religion wasn’t actually an atheist, just a not a churchie. In fact, he believed in something “big and eternal.’’ He just didn’t know exactly what it was. He looked right through the young man for a while and really didn’t see him, but recalled his past experiences with Mormon missionaries.
Once again John traveled off into his past on the flying carpet of memories while the young man (why were there not two young men?) preached something about the angel Moroni and Joseph Smith. As the young man droned, once again John found himself, in memory, in Africa, at the foothills of Kilimanjaro.
In this reverie the hills lifted the body up with lightness of spirit, particularly in the late evening and early morning. Unfortunately, this touch of paradise had one big drawback: food was scarce. Even if you paid top dollar, you could barely get ground beef and flour. For an American palate, things were rough.
Then the Mormons stepped on stage. Not far from John’s bungalow lived a Mormon couple from California who were friendly, who understood the cultural hardships of Americans living in East Africa, and were really fun.
These Mormons were the best cooks that John had ever run into. They told him that Mormons were expected to have lots of food on hand because of some theological principal, which John forgot. Today, when he saw the young man he remembered all great meals he had with his Mormon acquaintances.
Everything was always fresh. There were always a number of mouth-watering courses well balanced and nutritious. Best of all were the homemade pies and desserts. Even in dire shortage that plagued the Kilimanjaro region, the Mormons were able to cook many course meals for loads of people.
Once the American Counsel visited the area. The fact that boiled beef was the delicacy of the moment did not fly. In some miraculous way the couple were able to get a small feast of Bar-B-Q beef , chicken and wildebeest together with corn, peas, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, onions along with juices of all kinds. (Mormons don’t drink coffee.)
In John’s eyes the two of them had created a giant Thanksgiving feast.
Prime facie, when John ate at their house (which was very frequently) he was having a party at a fancy California restaurant that specialized in organic foods. (Everything was organic in the Kilimanjaro region since most people couldn’t afford artificial anything.)
The flashback of Kilimanjaro evaporated. John let the young man past the front door, but not much further. He confessed that he just couldn’t buy the Mormon stories of Joseph Smith, golden manuscripts and the angel Moroni, but that he had a great deal of affection for his two Mormon friends from Kenya, who were very kind to him when he was struggling in Africa. They always listened to his whines and always offered him good fresh food, but most of all they always had ready great desserts.
With a little chuckle John said he thought the religion should have a Book of Macaroni in addition to the Book of Moroni. They Church would attract a lot more people in this age of foodies. The young man smiled, being a good-natured soul who was slow to take umbrage.
In the hallway, John and his new Mormon acquaintance could hear June yelling at Brunhilda as she went around and around in circles taking time out to poop. The dog had fallen over from being dizzy and landed in her own puddle of poop and piss. June was too slow to catch the accident, before it happened but she was annoyed, although still loving, “You crazy dog! Can’t you see your walking in your own piss and shit. I will just have to wash you from head to toe. And me being as sick as a dog.”
John smiled sheepishly. The young man smiled and realized this was not a good time to talk about Joseph Smith and the Angel Moroni. John thanked him for the visit, but reiterated that religion was not for him; he frankly thought Joseph Smith was just too wild for his own sensibilities. As the young man left his card he turned to John with a home grown wisdom, in spite of his years, “You know, Sir, whether you believe in Mormonism or not, it is extremely important to eat good food when a person is sick. If you need any help in getting meals together, just call me. I am sure people in the Church would be happy to help out.” The young man then handed John his card. John then went upstairs to Jane.
An hour or two after the young man left, John went downstairs again and microwaved frozen burritos for dinner.
The next day June was wide awake with sunrise. She was ready to rumba. John was more cautious and urged his wife to stay in bed. After all, she had a few hundred staples in her legs, which looked just as terrible as they did yesterday. Full of confidence she declared, "I want to take Brunhilda out for a walk.”
John almost fell over. “Are you crazy you Treacherous Beanstalk (one of his fondest appellations for his wife). You can barely walk to the bathroom!”
Nevertheless, he knew it was futile to argue with June. After all, one of her grandmothers had been a German Jew and another one a German Mennonite, which meant that June was genetically always right.
She would not budge, “I was not made for sleeping in bed. It will kill me if I spend another minute in that awful contraption. Even with all its buttons regulating up, down and sideways I can’t get comfortable.”
John knew when to assault the brick wall of his wife, so he picked his battles carefully, “If you insist on going out, climbing up and down those steep, narrow stairs at least let me carry Brunhilda out for you.”
June waddled out of the bedroom, over to the banister and down the nineteenth century narrow (yet absurdly high) stairs. At the bottom of the staircase, John met her with the dog. In a minute both mistress and dog were in the garden.
As soon as she hit the grass, Brunhilda started going around in circles, chasing her tail. She fell over a few times, piddled once and tried to shit once. In short, she was having an apparently fine time of it. As Brunhilda carried on, June (waste not want not) decided to use her time wisely and started to weed. The dog would be fine by herself for ten or so minutes or so. For all Brunhilda knew she was in the middle of Kansas, apparently having one tornado of fun.
After ten minutes of so passed, June called Brunhilda’s name, and then called it again and again. Brunhilda did not come. June had made a mistake. She should have watched the dog more carefully. June then went searching the garden to see if she was caught in a bush. Sometimes Brunhilda would stop and stand perfectly still if her nose hit into a leaf or branch, probably thinking she had hit into the Rock of Gibraltar.
June began to panic. Where was that pesky animal? Her quest was no easier since her leg bandages started to unravel and she began to look like a walking Zombie, “Brunhilda, Brunhlda where are you? Mommy wants to take you inside.” June was particularly concerned because, in the chaos of the moment, she had forgot to put on the dog her collar, which had the dog’s ID on it.
Now the neighbors started to help. Though it was early morning, June had woken up her friend opposite to the house and left and right from it. One or two of them came out their doors to see what was the matter. Suddenly, a chorus of older women called out “Brunhilda.” After a half hour or so of this concert, June was in tears and tares (her bandages were seriously unraveling). She had reached her limit of pain and had to go back to bed. If the dog had been run over or picked up by a stranger, so be it. It was the Hand of Fate.
As June opened the front door Judy, the neighbor who lived in the cute farmhouse on the opposite side of the street, decided to call the local police. Sure enough, someone had brought in a small long-haired frankfurter dog, which he found stuck in the middle of the stream that ran under and through town. The officer indicated that he would take the dog to the town vet and June could pick her up. No one imagined how Brunhilda ever got into the stream, and stood there comatose until rescued. June was all smiles.
John drove June to the vet, where the two sick souls, June and Brunhlda, were reunited. June was ecstatic. She sat in the passenger seat of the car with Brunhilda in her arms, cooing with love.
The vet was in a wooded part of town off the main road. Entrance and exit were particularly tricky. In their older years both John found driving a bit more difficult than when he was younger. He was ever slower, while the traffic was ever-faster. In coming out of the parking lot John looked both ways, but failed to see a speeding SUV coming up on his left. In a second or two it was over.
The SUV hit the driver’s seat of the old Olds with full force and smashed John into smithereens. He died instantly. June suffered multiple injuries but came out OK; she sustained some broken bones and hemorrhaging. The fact that she was already cut up did not help, but eventually was a godsend. She was used to blood, bruising and pain.
Brunhilda lived for another year or so. She continued to walk around in circles chasing her tail, falling down, defecating and urinating, as she walked around and around.
After she finally passed at the age of twenty, Brunhilda was cremated. June placed her urn next to John’s urn on the fireplace mantel in the living room then moved on to her gardening.
© Allen Cook - Dean - Bridgeport University - Connecticut - August 2018
email: acook at bridgeport.educ
Can of Tuna
Allen P Cook
Her head travelled horizontally back and forth trying to get its bearings--restless wheat in a breeze. The Basilica of Nuestra Senora del Pillar lay in front of her, big as a football field.
Joan first met Patrick in a dumpster. This altercation had a lot to do with the neighborhood in which she lived.
Israel ( and further adventures of Patrick)
Although New Yorkers, who loved lox and bagels, Joan and Bob were goyim, not Jewish. By going to live in Israel they did not plan to make alliya (become Israelis.) Rather, they simply wanted to see first hand what was going on in the region.
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