Posted by Kathy Waller
Writing this post won’t be easy.
Sixteen pounds of Ernest lies across my right forearm, pinning it to the arm of the recliner. He’s on his side, positioned so he can turn his head and, with a moonstruck expression, gaze upside-down into my eyes and/or reach across to pat my chest. At present, he’s making biscuits on my upper arm and, head thrown back, pushing with his chin at the mouse, which will soon fall to the floor. It doesn’t matter. With my arm weighed down, my fingers are the only movable part of that appendage, and they’re typing as fast as my brain can make up words. The mouse is purely decorative. I’m surprised to have gotten a whole paragraph down.
Well, no, not really surprised. We do this all the time. I say, “We’ve talked about this. You can’t lie on my arm when I’m using the laptop. So move.” He turns his head, gives me the coy But-I-wuv-you look, and thinks something like, Not on your old lady’s corset cover. I’ll move when I’m good and ready.
He’s good and ready when David brings bacon and eggs, or, rather, bacon and egg. David, bless him, has been providing chair service since I started chemo. I spent six months eating mostly Rice Krispies, because they tasted like what they were; David spent the same six months eating fruit and vegetables and ravioli out of cans, and Pita Pockets out of the freezer. I felt bad about letting him eat such shabby meals until I realized he likes them. He’s just been polite enough (for twelve years) not to mention he prefers tinned pears to fresh.
Ernest is polite enough to raise himself up off my arm when I jiggle it sufficiently, but then he lies back down. While I eat, he watches and waits for crumbs to fall. If I were eating a biscuit, a muffin–anything that tends to shed–he would be crawling across me, snuffling my shirt. An iota of carbohydrate is enough to justify trawling.
Crumbs don’t fall. After David removes the tray, Ernest removes himself to the back of the recliner, above my head. That’s his new favorite place. Stationed there, he can sleep, pat my head, run his claws through my hair, occasionally kick me with a strong hind leg.
I slept late this morning, caught up in a dream I still can’t shake. I was sitting on a bench outside a new J. C. Penney store, waiting for a train (the tracks ran right by the front door), and Robert Redford, who had performed at the grand opening, was sitting beside me. The actress who had appeared with him sat on my other side. The actress said something to Redford about the skit they’d just performed, and he shot back a deadpan response.
Up to that point, I’d been pretending they weren’t there, as is polite when one finds oneself sitting between celebrities one doesn’t know personally, but his response was so funny that I clapped my hands over my face and guffawed. The actress said something else, and this time his reply was even funnier than before, and I guffawed even louder.
It was a dream, so whatever happened next made no sense. I did wonder how J. C. Penney managed to talk Robert Redford into opening a store. As to why I dreamed about Penney’s: Yesterday David told me that after a thirty-year hiatus, the company is again selling appliances. I have no idea why I dreamed the store doubled as a depot. I don’t know why I dreamed about Robert Redford, either. But who needs a reason?
After a brief pause, we return, my laptop and I in the recliner, Ernest on the chair back above my head. I’ve just been through the dry run for my first radiation treatment tomorrow. The most recent PET scan showed cancer in one lymph node, but no evidence of metastasis from it. Lesions are gone from the lungs. At this time, only the positive node will be treated. I was once told to anticipate results from all diagnostic tests would be better than expected. These results were exactly that. Peace of mind is no longer an option, but my expectations remain high.
Infusions continue, but the evil drug, the one officially classified as chemotherapy, was withdrawn nine weeks ago. Until it was stopped, I had no idea how rotten the previous months had been. Still, the side-effects I experienced were relatively mild–the side-effect of a positive attitude, perhaps. I feel better now, stronger, more interested in pushing a cart through the grocery store.
I’m not interested in cooking. Several weeks ago I made half a pot roast–I wore out after preparing the carrots, so David had to deal with the potatoes and onions–that turned out to be simply wretched. Last week I bought a chicken whose disposition is still hypothetical. The doctor told me radiation will probably make me feel very tired. I’ll wait to see what happens before taking back the kitchen.
But at some point, I’ll have to do the right thing. I’ll return to cooking. David and I will return to civilized dining. And deprived of chair service, Ernest will continue cutting off circulation to my fingers, making biscuits on my arm, running his claws through my hair, and kicking me with his strong hind leg–but with no hope at all of crumbs.
Kathy Waller blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly
and at Austin Mystery Writers.
Her short stories appear in Mysterical-E
and in Austin Mystery Writers’
crime fiction anthology,
MURDER ON WHEELS.
She is working on a mystery novel.