Category Archives: bodily harm

snow ponder

Sometimes I ask myself, why am I so fearful? And of all the things to be afraid of, why these things? My three top fears are: snakes, physical pain, and something bad happening to my cat. Actually, those are pretty reasonable things. I found a fourth fear yesterday: I have a paralyzing fear of the utilities going out. This awareness was brought on by the blizzard, the one that hit the East Coast yesterday, the fodder of countless Facebook posts and the joy of terror-mongering meteorologists worldwide.

It seemed like just another snow storm, until my friend brought up the likelihood of the power going out. I hadn’t even thought of that. A quick check with the National Weather Service confirmed – there would be at least two feet of snow and winds gusting to 65 – they said there was a “high probability of whiteouts and blackouts.” White and black and out. That’s not good.

My friend also mentioned that the last time the power went out, it was out for three days. She told me that her family had already procured provisions including food, water, and a back up generator, to last a week. I have one flashlight, one blanket, one bottle of water I found in the backseat of my car, and a meager amount of cheese. My extremities were going to freeze, slowly, painfully dropping off one by one. My cat would suffer a similar fate. Short of snakes, this snowstorm threatened to be my own personal hell.

So, at 2am the morning of the blizzard, I started to chant. I’m hesitant to say ‘pray’ for fear of losing half my readers who’ll think I’m one of those praying-types. Somehow ‘chant’ seems better – y’all might think I’m weird, but it will be in a bohemian, cool kind of way.  So, this chant.  It followed the tune of the kindergarten sing-song, “Polly Put the Kettle On,” and went like this:  “Please God, keep the utilities on, please God keep the utilities on, please God keep the utilities on, that would be so nice.”

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I’m sitting here in the warm draft of indoor gas heat, sipping hot tea from an electric kettle, the only thing that hurts is my back from shoveling snow, and my cat is sleeping contentedly on the desk beside me. In other words, they chant/prayer held it’s own. Now, if whatever animal it is that has taken up a desperate haven in my attic is not a snake, all will be well.

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can’t move ‘er

My plan for tonight was to wow you with some insightful yet hilarious prose about waiters and cutoff shorts , but my cat has taken up residence on the upper quarter of my tablet and just typing these few sentences has incurred lacerations on both of my wrists and, somehow, the palm of my left hand.

Could you bear to disturb her 20150614_123603slumber? I cannot.

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Freeway Funk

Leslie had never wanted to drive on the freeway. She never wanted to go that fast. She didn’t ski, she didn’t bike, she didn’t rollerblade for the same reason. Going fast wasn’t desirable. Going fast risked being out of control, at the whim of gravity and unpredictable factors like angry drivers, roads in poor condition and stray animals. No, freeways were laden with dangers, rife with the chance of pain and death.

Not that death was that scary. There were plenty of days that death seemed appealing. A way to stop all the hopelessness and anxiety. What if I’m in this job forever?  How will I ever find another job if I lose this one?  How can I have a PhD and be so unqualified for anything?

So, most days she was open to death. It was the pain that worried her. Dismembered, brain damaged, these were the real dangers of going fast. A rock on a bike path could throw her off balance and crack her skull. A mogul, coming up too soon, could incite a swerve into a gully and break her legs. A bear, wandering onto the freeway… and so on. So many scenarios that could bring pain and a longer, more miserable life than the one she had now.

Fairytales would have her meet a man or take up a hobby that filled her soul and brought her joy. She wasn’t keen on either of those.

What brought her a reluctant sense of relief was to stop going on about how depressed she felt, get up from her desk and fucking do something like, for example, get dressed and go to work.

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Just Kill The Old Bird

I wonder if, when I am seventy, I wonder if I will be standing at the cashier’s counter of the Wild Bird Store, discussing with Agnes in great detail the benefits of hulled over non-hulled safflower seed vis-à-vis its desirability to the North American Carolina Wren, I wonder if there will be a forty-year-old woman standing behind me, struggling to hold a twenty pound bag of sunflower seed in her arms, and if that woman will be trying to decide if she should smile or if she should not smile when she spins that bag around like an Olympian shot-putter and launches it at my balding, blue-haired head.jenny bird seed

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Funny Pharm

“Jennifer?”

It’s my boyfriend, standing in the doorway of my studio and speaking softly. “Jennifer?”

“What?” I say. I had left the studio door open. He’s allowed to talk to me if I leave the door open. If I close the door it’s understood that I’m in the ‘Red Zone’ and he has to leave me alone unless the house is on fire. ‘Red Zone’ is supposed to mean that I’m deep in a groove with my painting and shouldn’t be disturbed. In reality it means I don’t want him bothering me. Today I forgot to close the door.

“Jennifer?” he says again, his voice still soft.

“What?” I say, looking up from my magazine.

“Well, I think there’s something you ought to see.” His voice stays soft, but his tone rises in urgency. It sounds panicky, fearful.

“What is it?” I ask.

“You better come downstairs.”

I follow him downstairs to the kitchen. He walks around to the far side of the breakfast bar and points at the counter. “See?” he asks.

There on the counter is a tiny white pill. It’s one of the many pills I take every morning. There are the supplemental vitamins and minerals, and there is the medication for my glaucoma. There’s the blood thinner, the cholesterol lower-er, and the one to stave off my IBS. And that’s just the starting line-up. The really heavy hitters don’t even make sense. First, I’m not epileptic, but the anticonvulsant levels out the swings of my bipolar fairly well. Second, I’ve not been diagnosed psychotic, but it’s an antipsychotic that picks up the slack where the anticonvulsant leaves off.

And there, on the counter, is the latter, the one that kept me out of the hospital last winter. That bad johnny is $125 a month, but last winter the cost wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I really didn’t care if I took it or not. When the shrink said, “But it will make you feel better, Jennifer. Don’t you want to feel better?” my response was sullen silence. Ask a manic depressive who’s scraping the bottom of the ‘will to live’ barrel if they want to feel better and that’s what you get. A non-answer from someone who doesn’t give a damn about feeling better.

You’d think such a life changing pill would be bigger. It’s even smaller than the flea pill we give Mr. Buckles. It’s tiny. So tiny that an extra one could easily slide out of the bottle when I tipped out my dose, so tiny that it could slip right out of my hand when I popped a fistful of meds into my mouth. Either way, the pill had landed on the kitchen counter this morning.

So which was it? Was it a wayward extra that I didn’t need to take? Or was it the one I should have taken? If I took this pill and I’d already taken one, I’d be doubling up for the day. If I didn’t take this pill and I hadn’t had one already, I’d miss a day. There was a 50/50 chance that I’d guess correctly, and my action based on that guess would have serious ramifications. How I chose to proceed would determine on whom disaster would fall. It would be me, or him.

If I took the pill twice, it would be hell for me. The known results of doubling up on this particular drug were well known. There had been medical studies done, and there were warnings on the package. I would experience dizziness, uncontrollable shaking in my extremities, blood in my stool, and an urgent need to pass said bloody stool.

In contrast, if I didn’t take a pill at all, it would be hell for my boyfriend. I would become ‘irritable’. Last time I missed a pill was on Valentine’s Day. I wanted to serve fresh grapefruit for brunch, but grapefruit is out of season in February, so it was impossible to peel. I couldn’t get a grip on it, and the tiny shards of rind got all up under my fingernails. It hurt. It made me angry. My boyfriend walked into the kitchen whistling ‘happy days are here again’, so I hurled the grapefruit at his head. It grazed his shoulder, bounced up, and smashed against the wall above the bay window. I had to pay the maid an extra twenty to climb up on the table and clean up the pulp and juice that had splattered on the glass.

So, my choices were to either inflict bodily harm on myself or to traumatize someone I cared about. It was a tough call. I stared at the pill and pushed it around the counter with my finger. I picked up the bottle and looked into it. I thought about sitting on the toilet all day, and then, as I looked into the eyes of my anxiety ridden boyfriend, I considered the certain end of our relationship. I knew what I needed to do. I picked up the pill, lifted my hand, and

 

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In the Pits of Pain

Ladies:
Do you ever wake up on a Sunday and decide that you’re not going to take a shower but the prickles in your armpits are uncomfortable so you scrape them with a dry, twin-blade, Venus knock-off and all seems fine until about 15 minutes later when your pits burn with the intensity of a white-hot sun?  And then later in the day you decide to go ahead and take a shower and while doing so absent-mindedly drag that same razor across your pits again and scream with the sensation of having smeared wasabi on an open wound?

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Scouting for the Danger of Trees

My neighbor Frank was well on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, pending his Woodcutting badge. He believed the badge would be easy to earn, since earning badges had always come easily to him and he lived in a neighborhood full of trees. Alas, the “Ecology” badge on his sash prohibited him from chopping down live trees, so he was faced with the task of finding a woodpile. Since he lived in Charleston, South Carolina, with its year-round heat and humidity, this was challenging. Ours was the only house in a four block radius that had a fireplace and ergo a woodstack. So Frank, with his hatchet in hand and dressed in full Boy Scout regalia, rang our doorbell and asked my Mother if he could have a go of it in our side yard. She said ‘yes’, of course, how could anyone deny a young man in the pursuit of his dream?

He consulted his Boy Scout Handbook and educated himself on form, leverage, and torque. Feeling satisfied that he was ready to begin, Frank anchored his left ankle parallel to his body on a low tree stump, raised his hatchet to precisely the height of his shoulder and swung the hatchet downward at 40 degree angle with a quick, even, determined stoke, promptly shearing off his left foot.

Adhering to the tenant of Boy Scout stoicism, Frank did not scream. It was the suspicious lack of chopping noise that drew my Mother outside, where she saw Frank rocking from side to side and clutching his leg in one hand while he held his orphaned foot in the other. Even with no experience in handling severed limbs, my Mother intuitively knew she had to act quickly. Rather than going back into the house to search for bandages, she raced to Frank’s side and whipped his yellow and blue kerchief from his neck. Tearing the fabric into strips and wrapping them around Frank’s lower leg she created a tourniquet, pulling it taught and staunching the blood long enough to drive Frank to the hospital.

Later that month, at a ceremony attended by all his den-mates, his Den Master and the Director of the Regional Council Forty-Seven, Frank was not graced with a Woodcutting badge.  Instead, my Mother was received an honorary First Aid badge, which made all in attendance very proud.

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