By Scott Sullivan
All I wanted for Christmas is a bomb cyclone, colonoscopy, mad dog, survival.Not necessarily in that sequence.
First, scheduling. I’d dragged my feet for 2 years past my quinquennial doctor-ordered flushing, having twice before not enjoyed them.
After our family doctor retired, my new G.P. rolled his eyes enough I called U-M Metro Health West — a block “M” represents their shared logo. Its new campus lies 5 miles south of our house on a plane sloping down to M-6, aka the almost equally-new South Beltline. I set what turned out a 9:30 a.m. Dec. 22 appointment to make that short trip.
The pit bull’s struggles worsened in between. He struggles now to walk since his right rear hip gave out suddenly. When he does, he slides on the tile kitchen/corridor floor into walls and furniture. Now he now fears and fights going far from his bedded crate.
I’ve had at least three concussions myself, likely many more I’ve forgotten. Bumping your head hard mitigates pain at first being unconscious. Then you come to with cranial bruises and scalp lacerations. Doctors have to shave hair to access long or short lines of stitches. You go back to have sutures pulled before hair regrows.
Mine, thin white shafts, somewhat hides scars later.“Bonus!” Progressive’s Flo might chime of such purging badges we old-timers like comparing, knowing more learning missions wait.
“Ori” (for “Oracle”) curls and sleeps latched inside his steel-barred crate overnight while I sleep and my nightshift-nurse wife works when not home. Proactive Piss Prevention This lasts till he starts high-pitched whining around 6 a.m. to get outside the crate, not house. He then skids and hobbles off to relieve himself.
She says woo him out onto the porch with a cheddar cheese slice. The Skaters Waltz there continues. Ori must pivot sharp right on his bad hip, cross a cold concrete floor dodging rolling frozen-hard water bottles and empty cans he’s disturbed, then crouch through a smaller portal into the snowy back yard to do his duty.
I too have fallen before on hard surfaces, making it less slapstick than pathetic. The poor dog nonetheless tries gamely.
I was doing daddy duty for Flannery two days pre-reaming at the time Mary had at last set to take “Ori” (for “Oracle”) to the vet. This assumed she, a small woman, could force a large, still strong though spastic and frantic dog unassisted straight this time through the porch, unlatch the human door down a cement step to the uneven gravel driveway not shoveled and salted enough yet as snow kept falling.
Should they get that far, thence to her orange subcompact, where she figured she’d hoist him enough to climb through the driver’s-side rear door onto the upholstery where she had laid a plastic sheet.
(I won’t share the secret way we can also unlatch that door from the outside as it has to do with Zootsuit — a dog with whom I ran many miles years ago — going nuts. Suddenly she feared howling winds and barometer drops to a point where she smashed windows to escape outside into it.)
“Mom just called,” said Flannery after her appointment. “Ori broke free from his harness so she canceled the vet’s. Don’t ask how far they made it.”
Colostomy prep means a full day fasting, drinking just clear liquids to purge your bowels. Wait, there’s more. Glugging down 2 gallons of water mixed with Chloride bicarbonate powder whose “lemon” flavor is chalk, spread 1 gallon each over 2
A 10-hour interval. When your diarrhea turns into water, you are ready.
The big morning came. On a sliding-curtained ringed gurney I stripped, donned a gown and waited to be part-fentanyl sedated. Dr. Hassan would then shove a telemetried rubber hose which could also snip polyps found up my keister. Unlike me, he didn’t need to be told where to put his camera.
The bomb cyclone revved up outside while I recovered that afternoon. When I awoke from my nap I discovered Mary hadn’t blocked my car access down the driveway, so I could drive to the Y for a workout, then grab groceries coming home before hunkering down what I figured might be at least three days.
I’d set up work to do on my two computers framed by second-floor windows looking outside at the blizzard. The window screen Cali the Calico had clawed a hole through to escape out onto the porch roof flapped in wind and had started accumulating snow spots. Beyond hung attic eave icicles and monochrome hardwood limbs, some still dangling stray fall leaves. They swayed and wove in the growing wind. In faint distance beyond thrummed more tree limbs leading down to Buck Creek and white wind-scoured rooftops, steam fleeing from chimneys.
Four days earlier there had been an incident next door with not-so boy and girl friends’ f-bombs and police parked outside their/our homes, but now that had moved indoors.
Ever see “Rear Window”? Alfred Hitchcock’s classic starred Jimmy Stewart as a laid-up photographer with too much time to speculate peeping out glass at neighbors.
I instead entertained myself reading 80- and 236-page depositions, not including exhibit listings. Nothing warms winter chill like lawsuits.
Continued on Page A8
If 12 pages of San Sabo (Texas) kids’ letters to Santa I found appended to the paper I edit last week didn’t warm my heart during the bomb cyclone, there was hope San Sabo section sponsors would weather the drought of my patronage. Soon, I hoped things would clear. Then I’d drive 1,000 miles southwest to sidle through merchants’ doors and thank them.
I had time in between to research the order of my entreaties. First Riverside Laundry. There, while my shirts, pants and socks tumbled, I could buy Hawaiian Shaved Ice and slurp.
From there I’d advance on
Shannon’s Deer Processing & Taxidermy, Wise Meat Market, Rick’s Bottle Barn & TX BBQ. Then Pepperbelly’s Tex-Mex Restaurant and at last the famed Pecan Valley kitsch shops. They’d have to get by on their own clienteles for now.
Day Two family bonding here was enforced by my wife’s car in our snow-buried driveway, further blocking mine. No more running out against doctor’s orders like yesterday, the stern nurse was saying.
Into a bomb cyclone for confinement we’re now prepared for?
Two 12-packs of hard seltzer water?
She long before had been ready for anything.
Look at these mildewed expiration dates. Now three days’ worth of latest-date cold shredded cheese, mini-mushrooms, Arnie’s Multi-Grain Sourdough loaf. The Home Run Inn Pepperoni & Sausage Pizza 2 weeks in the freezer can be heated in the mic, still tasty … Protestants protest of course.
Since you set yourselves up that way.
So who started it?
Our Father Jesus Christ. You have who, John Calvin? Martin Luther? Yet one more Reformation?
You needed to do it yourself. Assess, adjust, correct course as evidence and logic warrant.
I prefer oven cooking.
I preferred not staying a bachelor but learned to be flexible, situational. Many in One, One in Many.
So you mean No One?
Forty-four years after the Clash sang “Clash City Rockers,” Ori kept up Crash City. Clatter downstairs. Damn, hit the plastic chair I made top-heavy hanging my jacket there. Get down fast and scrub.
Percussion, now pitch: “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” 2 New York assailants grilled ex-CBS News Anchor Dan Rather in 1986. Six years later U.S. band REM reinforced “Kenneth” in a song played on airwaves.
After Ori leaked another lake he’d run back and forth through, distributing new Yellow Rivers through paw-print terrains with enough topsoil to be fertile Archipelagos parted smaller lakes and snowmelt ponds, gridded by grout irrigation, giving me God’s view from straight up should I not slip down.
Mopped up with Clorox-sprayed paper towels left a streaked grid of once-white tiles, my surrender flag. The coat could hang somewhere else.
Depositions deepen theatrically well-staged and accurately recorded. Thought I was done with Fetanyl in and out. Anaesthesia is interesting one time too. Blest having it many more, I’ve set grading scales. On multiple-choice tests they’re bottom options.
My last CD player was in my car, blocked by snow, my wife and reluctant but eager lassitude. Neither Mac nor PC in my den had disk slots; they’re obsolete. YouTube and Netflix warm inside beat that.
Many grow with age to be more selective. Pick up and pitch my crap? Yours is worse, Ori’s literal. At least mine is getting more regular.
It’s too cold to fight. It’s too something always. Let the nostalgia stash stay and grow cobwebbed. Tunnel your dog through vermin-gnawed nursing, cooking and mystery books, their droppings a study too.
I grew nostalgic for San Sabo, where I’d never been. Through panorama Texas desert, overhead topo maps showed, I’d pass under panorama skies, the Pecan Oasis rising mirage-like in the distance.
“Looks like a storm brewing yonder,” Pepperbelly’s chef, taking a smoke breather out back, would drawl, nodding west.
“Yup.” I’d say.
“Git inside! Fast!”
I’d had enough cyclones to Oz; lucked out this time. While my skilleted savior stood guard in the Tex-Mex kitchen heat, I sought pit bull signs.
“Love dogs?” he asked. “Meet Chico.” His chihuahua, a Texas wolfhound. knocked me down, broke my glasses and loomed panting over me. “Sí, he likes you,” my host proclaimed.
Through Pepperbelly’s glass ceiling we watched Dorothy’s home, farmhands, the spinster who dognapped Toto pedaling her bicycle turning into a broom. Professor Marvel pirouetted with them on air.
Back to depositions. Day 2’s reading furthered implications and jousts genteelly. Civilized people impale each other, shake it off, smile, fight again. I saw few barristers spin in the bomb cyclone out the window. Colder flakes now. The vortex below slept benign for now in a steel-barred crate I thought Crete, Minotaur complete. What hav our bullheaded bodies wrought?
Mary and I joined Flannery that night watching “Run” on Netflix. The 2020 horror thriller stars Sarah Pondstone as a mother whom, having lost her baby, steals another from the maternity ward, then for years poisons her “daughter” with medicines till she is wheelchair-bound and rash-covered. They bond in the when the girl hobbles up and poisons her faux-mom back.
Near midnight the women like sharing such fare while I sleep, but tonight I would stay up and take one more stab at bonding. Time to reheat spaghetti.
As I ate I looked out the window for reassurance. Recapitulate, calculate. Save what you need, prepare better, patient not impulsive. Strike once more, capitalize, this time live in luxury.
To be continued
Buffalo woke to 43 inches at 7 a.m., 1 or 2 more feet expected, 40 mph winds off the Great Lakes, cars buried under 6 feet drifts, Christmas lights dead from power outages, outdoor strands shaken off trees, blowing,
Flannery, Mary and I dug, rocked and somehow pushed her subcompact out of spinning-tire ruts out the driveway’s end. I’d had to take a warm-up break to get my blood sugar back over 40. My larger car, locked and blocked further up, wouldn’t be as easy. Deferred gratitude means you get to it.
I sat in the white plastic kitchen chair Ori keeps knocking over and snarfed two double chocolate chip trying to get my head clear. Since he and Pilot, our smaller dog who bites harder, fight over food and turf, two so far have killed bunnies and one my wife’s mustache parakeet, she’s made the entire downstairs a Rube Goldberg device of cages and gates, none of which fit in sequence or make sense.
The San Sabo storm passed before it started. On the prairie, under crystal blue skies, lay The Emerald City. I strapped up my stirrups, strutted between swinging doors and demanded, “Where’s the editor?”
The main desk man at the San Saba News & Star desk clerk lowered and peeked through his ponce nez meekly. “Oh dear,” he said.
In strode H.L. Mencken. “Who asks?”
“You answer first.”
“You’re the applicant.”
Fencing foils are bigger than most pens. Bearers wear tights, masks, react to foes’ thrusts in a double dance. This would be no match.
I’d dreamed I’d go back to designing mass- produced clip-art graphics framing winsome kids’ notes and ads for Bend’s General Store and the Filling Station Diner. See you after Christmas. I’d had the colostomy just in time.
Dirt streets lined with horses’ hitches framed our duel. Now-published kids gathered, gaping. They’d not got their two front teeth but gained fame as far off as Saugatuck. Back to back I faced off with Mencken. We steppped away 5 paces each, turned, fired and both undershot our marks as planned.
Long-postponed laundry day. The washer and dryer sat with bricks under choice legs as the dank basement floor is crooked. I stuffed 2 weeks’ dirty clothes and bedding in an overflowing hamper and tried to navigate hoisting it, socks and sheets spilling out, down 2 stair flights.
Trying that 3 years ago I had fallen — too many hard seltzer waters — and come to with a right-elbow compound fracture. First surgery steel rods didn’t hold; second one month later Doc put the Mackinac Bridge in there.
My wife knows she can’t enforce common sense. I’m less confident now, more careful since the basement stair rail detached and I haven’t fixed it. Didn’t help I was wearing partly-unstrung cheap snow boots. My right ankle hasn’t been repaired and may never be.
Washer hoses meant to empty in a now-toppled plastic sink against the back cinder-block wall down there were part frozen. This might take forever. Wind howled through the cracked window under the warped-porch boards outside and above them.
No Santa Clause in my deposition readings this day. The “Sullivan Dies in Electric Chair” headline I’d clipped 40 years ago and kept pinned to my bulletin boards over changing offices and computers, now is stained and yellow. They did journalism then.
I played high school honor roles. Now they’ve degraded. In the Skaters Waltz I was writing, Ori and my pas de deux would be choreographed by Mack Sennett.
Three days and counting of diarrhea was no fun. I’d have to do e loads of laundry this time. Recalcitrant hose thawed slowly. Had the basement drier shut off again or was that the furnace? The Home Run Inn Sausage-Pepperoni Pizza, last of my food stash, was slow reheating in Mary’s oven. The last half of my lasted shredded cheese bag I’d spread on top didn’t melt. I popped it a minute in the mic; still didn’t. Time to reread Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Night fell, snow clouds cleared, between which I saw constellations. Reassembling the bed came slowly. Cornered undersheets seemed like Mobius strips trying to tuck them. Wink the Black Cat snuck under them just as I neared completion, laying on his back and sticking his claws through linen as it grew less clean.
Finally. Wink, bribed with food, cuddled near my head. Whiskers tickled my nose, small static shocks passed between us. Now he wanted out. Ori, whining in his crate, did 1-2-3, 1-2-3 also. Wait till Wink is out and I empty my bowels first.
Ah, San Sabo, Deep in the Heart. Where men are men and peyote grows free. Tex-Mex Jimmy Buffetts waste on worm-tequilaed margaritas and pecan groves sway like at home with nut clusters everywhere. You have to know where to look. Tomorrow the world reopens. Joy to one and all.