They tell me to expect a broken leg. A broken leg bone is more likely than not. Learn to make a spoon splint, says one expert. These dogs think they can fly.
I consider our spoons. I lost a number of teaspoons during my marriage. They drowned in milky pools in the bottom of ice cream cartons, slipped out of sight and were discarded--baby with the bathwater, the way many marriages seem to go. Tablespoons now outnumber teaspoons roughly 2-1. I think of the Flying Dog, not even five pounds of canine. I imagine her bones, slight as plastic straws. Read up on butter knife splints, I think.
While I sleep, the greedy house binges on the last drops of another trough of oil. It belches and the pipes go still. I don't realize what has happened until the flying dog wakes us at 4 am, crying piteously. Although I know I am not supposed to, I go to her, descending the stairs to her ladylike crate beside her elderly companion Sir James, who slumbers on his pile of blankets. The air is thick and cold. I scoop up the shivering puppy with one hand and tuck her into my robe. I touch a copper pipe. Nothing. I'm sorry, I say to her. Sometimes the house gets away from me. Sometimes it all gets away from me. The road to hell and all that.
Her DNA is not of the judging variety. Cradled in my arm, inside the robe, she contentedly buries her nose in my armpit. All is well again, for her, just like that.
I carefully pick my way down the cellar stairs with the Flying Dog in my armpit. I check the oil tank. It seems like just last week that we had an oil delivery. Lose an 'e' and you can spell 'devilry" from 'delivery,' I think. The gauge on top of the monstrous tank tells me what I already know: empty.
Immediately I think of the Everybody and Everyone. If I tell of this, the Everybody and Everyone will say, See? How she is?
Yes. This is sometimes how I am. Doesn't matter if sometimes you are something else, something quite wonderful. This is not what will make the news, not ever.
I am nauseous with grief, that word forbidden to those not caught up in a death. I gag. I heave. My chest burns, here, here, and here.
The ring is antique gold, from England, with a comet fashioned from two tiny mine cut diamonds. I was happy to find it, because love is happy to find objects that speak better than words. I was not sitting too far away, I was not running away, I was never obligated. I was there and so glad to be there and then nothing I said mattered, because it was all happening too fast and too loud and too wrong. Baby with the bathwater, spoons lost.
And now, the ache begins.
With death, all is fair, and you can use any word you like. I envy widows, widowers. Gone. Rewrite the story if you need. The one left behind is granted this. Go on however you wish.
With space, distance, uncertainty, ambivalence, fear, anger, ways parted, divided loyalties, the ugly fraught unnecessities, the loss...
(and for how long? forever? six months? ten years?)
you'd best keep your grief on the down low.
If no one has died, if there's no body but your own numbness, you'll have to shoplift grief when no one is looking, stuff it down deep in your pockets. Frown and nod as polite society encourages co-opting a different noun—can we interest you in a smaller, more modest hole of a word?
Sadness is the suggested, go-to word, but it just won't do. Some of you know. It just won't.
In the glittering dark, I slurp my cherry Icee. When Anne Hathaway sings,
But the tigers come at night / With their voices soft as thunder
I begin crying. No one will hold Fantine close again, not that way. She will never see her daughter, Cosette, again.
My daughter, on the other hand, sits to my left, sharing my popcorn. I try not to shake, to make wet mewling noises. What is so bad, after all? I have enough. To someone, having a daughter to share popcorn with at the movies would be enough. It is all enough, or should be.
But still, the tigers. I know about the tigers. There are males and females and they do what she says they do. The dreams turn to shame.
The Flying Dog, rescued from vile innkeepers (or say they were), will be Isabella Cosette, and she is welcome to any of my cutlery: teaspoons, tablespoons, forks, knives. I stroke her satin skin and paper-thin ears, traced with fine red capillaries. Her tail has a lump, possibly a break from her brief time in her litter in Purdy, Missouri, puppy mill capital of the South.
I did this thing. I brought her home, because it was right. Right and stupid can co-exist, I learn all the time, the way of the necessary fool. I set her down and dig my knuckles into my eyes, my fingers smelling faintly of puppy poo and buttered popcorn. Some things, I can make right. Some things, I can't find my way.
I wake up warmer but wishing for death. It is an old habit, and old habits only die hard if you flog them, which seems too cruel a way of going about it. I am cursing at the sun again, never a good sign. I wanted to be away, to have a chance to settle, to calm myself, to think things through, but somehow this is not what happened. I hate each fucking day again, despise the need to raise my gaze from the floor. Each thing I see tells me something I do not want to know, to hear.
There is no such thing as being right and smart. Right and stupid: that's the only pairing up for grabs at this time.