1. Yesterday

David rapped at the door around midafternoon. He looked like hell.

Longtime readers will remember David, my witless, hapless gardener, who mows my lawn, plants three rows of organic vegetables in my back yard, witnesses Jeebus and talks to cheese. I hadn’t seen him since October and hadn’t heard from him since around Christmas; he always sends a Christmas card, with a tract, and in this case enclosed a note apologizing for not returning my last phone call, about some corded yard tools I wanted to offer him. He’d been sick, he said, and just not up to anything.

He has always had a stunned, exophthalmic look that suggests too many nights spent on benches or other dubious accommodations, but now his eyes are wide in a haggard face and there is no missing what he described as a loss of twenty pounds (“I think I gained about three back since I been feeling a little better”). He went on about Candida and irritable bowel and his colon, see, he has a lot of colon pain.

I don’t know whom he might have seen about this. When I tried to explain to him how he ought to look into getting insurance under the Affordable Care Act, because for one thing he would be assessed a fine if he didn’t, he objected that he had waited months to get accepted at the Free Clinic and he can’t go there any more if he has insurance. I don’t think they do colon checkups.

What he wanted to tell me about, though, other than the usual spring heads-up that he would be amending the soil and need the water on outside, was the rabbit. Something had killed a big buck rabbit and eaten a good bit of the soft parts, and the remains were out in the yard and well, he could take care of it for me, he guessed.

I don’t know if he was fishing for a tip of some kind. I have been letting him occupy two or three square yards under my porch and grow his family’s food in my yard for years. I think it runs to a dead rabbit. I suggested he get a shovel and move the sad carcass under the thick shrubbery at the far end of the yard, which verges on a four-lane divided; in this weather, only an octave above freezing, I figured decomposition and scavengers would do their work before any olfactory nuisance set in.

I had to finally more or less shut the door in his face, because he will go on, but dear goddess, even though he appears fit to work, I have seen that gauntness before, and he looked like mortality on two legs.

2. Last Night

It was really this morning, I suppose; around five. There was only the suggestion of pale light coming through the window at my head, there was a cat against my ribs, and I was vaguely half-awake as I often am around five. I lifted my right hand to scratch the cat’s head — it was Miss Nickel Catmium, an especially tenacious coverlet fob — only the hand didn’t lift.

I picked it up with the other hand and cocked it back. As soon as released it flopped down again, like an empty glove.

I felt like a person trying to open the door of what is obviously his or her own car (before realizing that there are six identical cars in the same lot) and getting no result. Lifted the right hand again with the left hand. Watched it drop.

Mother fucker.

The extensor muscles on the dorsal aspect of the forearm, which perform the unavailable movement, are also dab at constricting the nerve that transmits the signals. I was still too groggy to panic when I dug my thumb into them. Ow. (Normal reaction). Lifted hand. Hand moved.

The Massage Gods are telling me not, ferfrigsake, to book four in a row then dinner then one more, and the next day book five then dinner then one more, no matter how many hurting runners and people who have just buried their fathers etc. etc. call up. On investigation the bicep of my good right arm was a mine field of trigger points, my collar bone was cemented to my ribs in a way that snarls the whole brachial plexus, and there was a giant glue-ball in the place where the root median nerve penetrates the trapezius. I had pins and needles in the hand until half way through my first appointment, and the three fingers served by the radial nerve had all the coordination of a monkey’s paw right through my workout.

This must be what it feels like if you have a stroke or multiple sclerosis, and I am only glad I had to experience it when I was not really awake, because mortality. Enough already.

3. This Afternoon

Carol was at the door this time, my rarely-seen back-fence neighbor, who has a rescue dachschund but otherwise lives alone (divorced, like me, her ex-husband dead, like mine). I had a fibrositic Ukrainian lady on the table but the knock had sounded urgent.

“I’m so sad,” Carol began.

I wasn’t sure what she wanted me to do about that.

“I took my dog for a walk for the first time in a few days [the dog is getting older, I reckon; she has a fenced yard to go out and crap] and there’s this big dead rabbit and he looks awful, awful, something has been eating on him, and I love the bunnies even if they poop all over my yard and I guess they eat David’s garden, but he’s in your bushes and I don’t know what you want to do…”

I explained that David had been going to take care of the matter, only I expected him to put the remains way, way further back in the bushes than an elderly dachsie’s leash could reach.

“It’s just so sad,” said Carol, who has never before seemed to me an emotional person. Unsure whether I was being called on to perform grief therapy on the spot, I kept thinking of an increasingly impatient Ukrainian in suspense. “Does the animal welfare for the county pick them up? Have you called them?”

I recited the number, which I’ve had off by heart for years. No I hadn’t. Go ahead, please, please. I got back to my victim before she cooled off.

Along about dinner time I glimpsed a green-uniformed party striding purposefully down the yard with some sort of poled implement.

Am I becoming hard-hearted in the face of mortality? I love the bunnies too, but it is a matter of natural law that some of them die; I’m guessing fox, this one.



8 thoughts on “Mortality

  1. 1) It’s one of those truths that’s difficult to chew over…the imminence of someone’s probable suffering or death really doesn’t make them less annoying, if they are already inclined in that direction. 2) That sounds terrifying…truly terrifying. I’m glad it resolved itself, but…geez. Heed the warning. 3) Did I miss something, or was this…just a dead rabbit? It wasn’t, like, the leveret with the bejeweled collar kept by Mary Queen of Scots? It was just…a rabbit? How keenly must one feel the perishing of vermin, however huggable it might be?

    • I think it must have been a grisly sight. David has approached me about dead rabbits before, but he banged on almost as long as Carol did about the poignance (is that a word?) of the spectacle.

  2. This brought back memories of your story “The Ring.” I think that was the title … The opening scene is a woman shoveling up racoon road-kill.

  3. Funny she kept saying sad rather than, perhaps, disgusting. Maybe it looked asleep until you got close and saw the gaping wounds. Anyway. Hope your arm is better. Still wishing you lived over here, I’m still screwed up and more Krav tomorrow evening. I won’t back down until I have to!

    • That’s my motto too.

      I got Dr. Bill the chiropractor on the arm, and I’ve been maniacally working the scalenes and the thoracic outlet. By the way Dr. Bill would probably advise you to hang by your hands from a bar (with your feet touching the ground but your legs relaxed). He gives that advice to everyone. It does improve things for me although I only have garden variety tight spots in my back.

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