Saturday Journal

Geez, what a day. The little dog spent most of the night wheezing, trying to breathe. He was so weak this morning he couldn’t stand up, and it felt like it was almost time for him to leave us.

Still, I went to yoga. I needed my little yoga group – oh thank you, wonderful friends, for simply being. From the living room of B’s lovely old house filled with cats and a lifetime of treasures, you can see across the sea oats to the ocean. How could you not spend Saturday morning here?

Breathing in, all was peaceful. Then cannon fire drowned out the sound of our chimes. Fort Fisher was re-enacting the Civil War this weekend at the far end of the island.

I don’t understand these battle re-enactments. If I were running them, I’d use buckets and buckets of blood. Real blood. So people could see what war really was. I would just pour buckets of blood on everyone so no one could possibly miss this single fact: War is Hell. It was in 1865; it is in 2010.

But I don’t run war re-enactments and so people thronged to the island to watch people in old-fashioned clothes pretend to kill each other. Then they’d all go out for pizza and ice cream on the boardwalk. We heard cannons above the music of chimes as we breathed in, breathed out.

My phone rang just as we finished walking meditation. It was A. saying we need to get to the animal hospital. It was time. Hugs, tears, and I ran out the door, slamming into the car, hurrying to get home.

Shit. I should have known. Events like Civil War re-enactments bring lots of tourists, and the local police would be out in droves. I pulled to the curb in front of the flashing blue lights, even remembering to use my turn signal. I was already crying, and overwhelmed by the thought that I’d be too late because I was busy getting a speeding ticket. By the time the officer got to my car door I was sobbing those big gulping sobs and I blubbered something about my dog. She looked like she was already sorry she’d pulled me over.

I almost never have flashbacks, but all of a sudden it was 1993 and I was in a McDonald’s parking lot in Nowhere, Pennsylvania with my seven-year-old. My mother had just died. I’d already driven 300 miles that day and still had another 200 to go. We stopped for caffeine and a Happy Meal.

A young woman, maybe 15, was standing in front of me in line, wearing what may have once been a prom dress. She was 6 or 7 months pregnant and the dress hung uneasily over her stomach. She was with a young man with bad skin, bad teeth. They were with a couple of other people. Parents? Siblings? Witnesses? They had just gotten married, I learned standing in line, and here they were in McDonald’s.

I was already pretty numb, and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. When we got back to the car, the battery was dead. I must have left the headlights on when we went in to the restaurant. Would AAA even know how to find me in Nowhere?

I’d left this sad memory long ago and was surprised to find it with me so clearly today. I was, then and now, trapped in a car that could not move, when life or death was waiting, just out of reach, and when time mattered.

By the time the officer finished checking my record, I was sobbing for my mother, for that poor young couple and their baby, for every dog I’ve ever loved, and it felt like the whole car was shaking with my sobs.

She handed back my license and registration. “Be careful driving home. I’m sorry about your dog.” No citation.

I was careful driving home. I pulled into the driveway and heard something I wasn’t expecting to hear: the little dog barking. He’d heard the car, he pulled himself up and when I came up the stairs he ran to the door, wagging his tail at me. Huh?

I don’t know. We went to the animal hospital anyway, since we’d made the appointment. He pranced in on his own, happy to see everyone there. He’d gained some weight. His heart, lungs sounded pretty good. The veterinarian doesn’t know. But I guess the little dog knows. Apparently today wasn’t supposed to be the day, and so he’s keeping on keeping on for a bit. I’m just grateful for that, and so, it seems, is he.

7 comments to Saturday Journal

  • OH MY GOD!!! You are killing me with this! –wait can’t see to type–
    Okay, deep breath…
    That poor cop is going to remember you just like you remember that couple in McDonalds.
    I’m sorry about your mother but glad your little guy is still hanging on. A wagging tail is always a good sign.
    It seems the personal essays are getting easier. You managed to get through this one without deleting it.

    • Nancy

      Ah, Dayner, you do know me… Yeah, I do delete most of these personal thangs (if I write them at all) and it was a big jump for me to then post it. I did spend some time trying to figure out why that McDonald’s scene showed up when it did.


  • This is a beautiful essay. The kind that makes the reader grasp for each word. When you write from the heart like this, you produce your best work. I think we all related to the spread of emotions that you shared in this story. Your reaching into your experiences and making amazing connections.
    I’m also glad that your little buddy is okay for the time.

  • Nancy

    Thanks, DS. I am really struggling with writing emotion. I don’t want to be maudlin, but I want to present sort of dispassionately what I see and let those images whack readers over the head.

    Show, not tell, I guess. But I don’t feel like I do it well at all. I will probably write a post about that one of these days….

  • parrot writes

    I feel like I’m on this wild rollercoaster ride with you and your little dog. I’m so glad he pulled out of this crisis.
    I’m also so glad to get to know you a bit more. And thank you for adding me to your bolg list – I’m honored!
    I love your suggestion of the Hill-Stead Museum for the setting of my story. It looks like a perfect place. I’ve done some research on-line and found out many things about Farmington, Ct. Do you think your friend would be willing to chat with me , either via email or phone? I’m interested in knowing about the landscaping and gardens around the home. Linda


  • parrot writes

    Hi Natasha,
    It came through. Thank you!

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