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the springy plastic of their stitches
february 8, 2003
This past Tuesday night, I slept like a six foot baby.
Lady, our adult female cat, who had been in heat for months, roaming both floors of our home, screaming in agony, but whose spaying had been delayed several times because of one hitch or another, was finally at the veterinary hospital, and in fact earlier that day had been neutered. She had to stay over Tuesday night for observation.
Mary and I woke up refreshed Wednesday morning, full of energy, indulging in those arms-out stretches in bed that give an incredibly pleasant tingle at the base of the spine, but lonely for her, and for Chirper, one of our male cats, who we brought in at the same time for his latest bout of dental surgery (Chirper has had dental problems for years. We resolve them, we think, but then a few months later he'll be walking across our bed and suddenly let out a squawk, pink tongue spilling way out to lick his fangs, orange and white paw lifting to rub the side of his mouth. This visit, they had to pull two teeth that fractured, the surgeon working for an hour, digging out root fragments in the gums, Chirper's head lolled to the side like a tiger's. Plus apparently he'll need even more oral surgery. Poor guy. And the thing is, it's impossible, even with drawings, to explain to him why he has to keep going back to the vet).
Two weeks prior, we brought all five of Lady's newborns to the vet's, to get them neutered and their front paws declawed (to those of you who think declawing is barbaric, I'll show you pictures of our furniture, and my shins). They all took the procedures extremely well, harboring no resentments against us, which surprised me a little. They still sleep huddled in a warm mass in our bed, between us, heads on stomachs, like dockhands snoring off a binge. I reach down at night, in the darkness, my hand passing over small furred bellies, ribcages, little tongues licking the side of my hand, ball of my thumb, multiple purrings starting up, tips of my fingers feeling, on their abdomens, the springy plastic of their stitches.
The night before we took Lady in, I did a recording of her call. The recording is flawed, because she was downstairs, and I was in my loft, holding the computer's microphone over the half wall of the loft, so it's nowhere near as loud on the recording as it was in real life, plus for some reason there's a loud hiss on the recording, my own technical incompetence, but the very amateurishness of its quality suggests something real, or so I console myself, a microphone lowered into hell. If you want to get some idea of what Lady sounded like, download this file and play it as loud as you can, twenty-four hours a day, for a couple of months.
Mary and I met my friend Dave for lunch Thursday.
We hoped to see his wife Reid again, but she's preparing for a show.
The three of us went to the local Romano's Macaroni Grill, where we had a great meal, starting with their wonderful Shrimp and Artichoke Dip, heavily flavored with parmesan cheese, minced spinach swirled in, little triangles of garlic bread around the perimeter of the plate for dipping.
Although Dave looked as robust as ever, he's been suffering from an ailment his physicians haven't yet been able to identify.
His body aches from the moment he wakes up. He loses energy in the late afternoon, goes to bed early each evening, exhausted.
Dave was diagnosed with kidney cancer several years ago, necessitating surgery. Part of his worry (and who isn't worried when your body isn't right) is that cancer may have returned, but the doctors haven't found any. (Cancer remains the big monster in the hallway of modern man, much like tuberculosis was a century before. From working in the healthcare industry for so many years, I know that even now, when a physician diagnoses a malignancy, he or she never writes, 'Cancer of the liver', but instead scrawls, 'Ca. of liver', as if the great god cancer, yahweh in its metasis, cannot be called by its real name.)
The three of us had a great time, nonetheless. I always enjoy talking to Dave. He's my closest, non-related, friend.
Last Saturday, February 1, I woke from a pleasant sleep, glanced at the alarm clock, at Mary, the cats between us, enjoying the luxury of closing my eyes again, letting my thoughts pole lazily down the wide, green river.
I heard a loud boom from the sky.
Later, I turned on the local news. A number of Texans had called 911 about the boom in the sky.
The local newscaster assured us all there was no need for alarm. The boom was just the space shuttle re-entering the atmosphere over north Texas. He showed some amateur video of the blue and white sky, a yellow burn shaking across.
We spent the day in our garden, enjoying unusual seventy degree weather, clearing brush. As good as flowers smell, it's the scents from foliage and wood I tend to remember most, tomato and geranium leaves, or that day, snapping the dead branches of our lantana, the wonderful aroma of their broken branches.
It wasn't until that evening we realized the shuttle had blown apart, and the video shown earlier, meant to reassure, was in fact, at that early hour unrecognized, a document of the shuttle exploding.
My heart goes out to those heroes, and their families.
The history of this century, and the last, will be the history of our first reachings towards outer space. There will be many times when our hands, extending forward, touch not God, but fire.