animal emergency

Oh these fuckers idling their engines in the animal hospital parking lot, I guess so they can leave their air conditioners on. I’m not broken by the prospect of an emergency vet bill, but that’s a new feeling for me. Perhaps I’ll become someone who leaves my engine idling just because it’s a little warm outside once I get used to living above the poverty line.

I called my animal expert on the way home because my shoulders and spine were already hurting with the worry of not being able to handle this. Her expertise steadied me, her calm confidence assured me I could figure out how to do the right thing.

The smell of sickness hit me on my apartment stairs. The place was filled with it. It’s a small apartment but a very small cat so the smell alone told me she needed a vet. As I was driving to the animal hospital, I kept getting whiffs of it. Almost like vomit, but not quite. Internal fluids pushing out poison. She’s dripping pus and blood out of her head. Thick viscous soup of insides. For some reason I thought of those times I tasted whiskey on his tongue but told myself I was imagining it. Now I’m getting hot sitting here in the sun and start to consider turning on the air conditioner even though I’m nothing like these fuckers who have gone their whole lives being able to afford emergencies and shiny reliable cars and to idle their engines for the sake of air conditioning in the slightest heat. The lady to my left’s engine revs and relaxes every fifteen seconds. It’s not just that it’s running, it’s the audible cycling driving me crazy. She’s wearing a goddamn sweatshirt inside her shiny car. Probably north face. Shit.

I thought of the whiskey as I was driving here down 6th Avenue. Which I hate. Everyone who knows me knows I hate 6th. But now that I live where I do it’s the most direct route to certain places so I take it. Twelve years ago I had a dream that I got stuck on this impossible concrete island on 6th Avenue and had lost my son, so I’ve tried to avoid it ever since.

I thought of the smell/taste of whiskey in his mouth and how it seems like my sense of smell has always been a little extra, but especially since my last pregnancy. How we hardly think of it but smell is a real survival essential. I hope they triage my pet ahead of this asshole to my left. I can also smell her middle class lady scent seeping out of her car. The pus. Dust. My skin in the sun, rose and tobacco.

If this was my kid I’d definitely not smoke during the wait but it’s my cat so I’m considering it. She’s calm. We’ve had her for six days. My lips have been really chapped and random sources keep reminding me to drink water so I have been but they’re still chapped. I only have lipgloss so I put some on and check it in the rearview mirror and my lips are so beautiful I am immediately sad that no one, not even the vet, will see them glossy and gorgeous. She’s calm so I take a selfie so someone besides myself can benefit from the appearance of my lips.

It’s not like I can take her out of her carrier and cuddle her or anything, but I still feel compelled to…attend to her suffering instead of read these zines in my backpack or these books I brought from work that are stacked on the passenger seat. I left work without waiting for permission. Thank goodness my mama was there at home and happy to stay there with my daughter so I didn’t have to bring her, too.

I think, thank goodness I don’t have “Waiting Room” stuck in my head like always happens when I’m waiting and then the first chords sound. To be continued until we see a doctor. An animal doctor. I said I’m taking her to the emergency room and Mom said, the animal emergency room? As though I might have possibly meant the human hospital. Even though we’re in the parking lot and it’s an animal hospital it still feels like the emergency room. I’m sure there’s literally no one who enjoys emergency rooms but fuck I hate them. And waiting. The waiting part is intrinsic to the hating, I guess.

I guess I guess. Sorry sorry sorry. I wanna get up and bend over and touch my toes in the parking lot but I’m afraid of how it’ll look. I’m afraid of taking up that much space in the world. I’m afraid of how my big ass up in the air will make everyone in this parking lot feel.

Thank goodness my daughter is at home and not sitting here with me. It’s like a vacation. It’s like free time I should be making the most of since the cat is calm and with the windows down I can barely smell the pus.

When I thought of the whiskey smell my eyes filled up with tears. I wasn’t crying. It’s that I thought of how he let me down not by drinking but by lying and how long I’ve been wishing for someone strong by my side. Someone who doesn’t mind 6th Avenue and refuses to crumble in emergencies. Someone to see my lips glisten and think how beautiful and remind me to drink water and delight in the sound of my voice. How my mama thinks she’s incapable of driving in a city or doing anything that seems like man’s work so that’s left her with a lifetime of undone things. Last night she was saying how when my sisters were little she worked two jobs, one of them as night receptionist in an emergency room. How one night they left a corpse on a gurney right next to her desk. All night. I think of her working the two jobs or three like she sometimes did and raising four girls mostly alone and getting back on the basketball team her senior year even though she’d just had my sister six weeks before and I wish she’d quit telling herself she can’t do certain things.

My eyes filled with tears but none fell because I finally found what I’ve been wishing for. Someone capable and calm and confident in their ability to pay for a small emergency. Someone cool and warm. Someone to count on.

I get out of the car and touch my toes, directing my fat ass to the west, to the sun. My hips are a rusty old hinge. My shoulders a boulder.

I’m writing a scifi short so all the books in the passenger seat are about space. LIVING IN SPACE. (don’t we all?)…OUTER SPACE EXPLORATION. WOW Look What’s in Space. If Pluto Was a Pea. Those last are picture books, because I hope maybe she’ll take an interest too so I can feed us both at once. Borne, because for some reason that came up in the catalog when I searched for astronauts but so far it just seems like it’s about a ruined Earth. I read the book and wait and think about what I’ll write about. I’m learning terms like lunar perturbation, laser broom, graveyard orbit and I can’t wait to use them in a sentence.

My daughter has inherited my tendency to narrate life. She’s been doing it always. She learned the sign for milk at ten months old and to say Mama soon after. She’d make the sign and smile, her fat little fists pumping. Like milking an animal. Milk, milk, milk. Mama mama mama. Wike it milk, mama. Baby drinka milk, mama.

Suddenly the sun’s gone down and it’s cold. I love that about where I live: night never holds the day’s heat. The parking lot is nearly empty. The cat is safe with the vet. My daughter is safe with her grandma. On the space station the astronauts see sixteen sunrises and sunsets every twenty four hours. I’m alone with myself.

Despite all my best efforts I still wanna text him baby but I don’t. Maybe I sent him a song earlier today along the lines of likening him to mountaintop or peak, things I had but couldn’t keep. But I won’t go so far as to text him baby. I pay the bill and it’s strange to feel how it feels to do that no problem. No sinking feeling of everything that might have to go unpaid after this large sum departs my hands. How it feels to have enough.

My cat is fucked up. When I open the carrier at home she scrambles out, does a frantic back flip, belly flop, drunken sailor. The entire top of her tiny head is a raw wound. They cleaned her up and drained the abscess. Antibiotics and painkillers and the dreaded cone. I thought about trying the drugs the vet sent as soon as the tech held them up. A bag of tiny pre-filled squirty syringes. They’re opiates, she said. Was it just me or did she pronounce the word sensuously? Opiates. No one can deny it’s a beautiful word. While she was giving me instructions on how to give them to my cat I was trying to figure out how much was in there. As soon as the thought rose, I said no. But that doesn’t stop my brain from trying to figure how much cat drugs I might need to get high. That doesn’t stop my brain from asking, but what if we just tried one? And then immediately, without missing a beat, or all of them?

I think of how nice it would be to get some goddamn fucking relief. I think of how the part of me that asks questions like how bout just one or why not all of them is a real piece of shit, incapable of framing those queries in the context of: the creature in physical pain who needs these drugs, the daughter who has never seen me drunk or high, the fact that it’s taken me thirteen years of hard fight to still be alive. The irrecoverable losses. The damage done. And so on.

I don’t like knowing that voice is inside me. I don’t like owning that cold calculating addict. But it’s me and it’s mine. And I wanna say shut the fuck UP you piece of SHIT we are NOT doing our cat’s DRUGS!! but instead I say, hey friend. It’s been a long day. How about a cool drink of water? I’m calm and kind with this piece of shit part of myself, because I know her bad ideas are ones that helped me survive. I know the dumb selfish shit she suggests is because she doesn’t know any better. Underneath the calculating, she’s as helpless and confused and hurt as this tiny cat with an oozing head wound. To her, everything feels like an emergency. To her, everything must be escaped.

Unlike her, I know how to call for help, wait, pay the bill. Drink water. Follow up. I know pain is temporary and inevitable and escape leads to nothing. I know even when everything is not ok, that’s ok. I know doing my cat’s drugs is not a viable option for my life today, and that I’m not a piece of shit just because the thought crossed my mind. I know those who need me can count on me, finally. And I realize I can count on myself, right now, for real, and that’s a genuine relief.


  1. Jeff Cann says:

    I enjoyed your story. Bourne is a neat book, but I think it badly jumps the shark at the end. Waiting room is one of the most common songs to get stuck in my head and I *never* get sick of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeff Cann says:

    I thought about your zines while I tended my firepit and vaporized deadfall. Are they the type of zines made at a copy center a la 1982, or are they slickly produced on a platform like KDP/CreateSpace? Or are they something entirely different?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Jeff! I make my zines in different ways, and my process has evolved since making my first, Soft Animal, in 2019. Sometimes I print on fancy printers using booklet printing, sometimes I do the layout and copy them at home, or some combination of that. Some of the covers are physical cut and paste and copy, sometimes I use Canva to create them. I don’t know the platform you mentioned. My process really depends on the particular project, time and resources available. Thanks for your interest!


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