The world reminded me of my thesis, a project I had set aside. There were a lot of things wrong with the draft, mostly the story was locked inside my head and I hadn’t yet figured out how to get it on paper. I’m used to stories falling out of me, but this one was different, bigger, and more complex than my usual work. This was to have an element of love.
I’m no good at capturing the ewe-y gooey, but I gave it a shot. The result was disastrous.
What’s a girl to do when she gets stuck? Look to the masters.
I read somewhere that Edward and Bella’s love story was based on Victorian novels that SM had read. Say what you will, but I believed in Edward and Bella’s love. I also read Pride and Prejudice in high school and still swoon over the thought of Mr. Darcy. I hoped that by reading Sense and Sensibility I would better understand how to capture romance.
Most of what I found made me laugh out loud.
She [Marianne] spent whole hours at the piano-forte, alternately singing and crying; her voice often totally suspended by her tears. In books, too, as well as in music, she courted the misery which a contrast between the past and present was certain of giving. She read nothing but what they had been used to read together.
“Oh,” cried Marianne, “with what transporting sensations have I formally seen them fall! How have I delighted, as I walked, to see them driven in showers about me by the wind! What feelings have they, the season, the air altogether inspired! Now there is no one to regard them. They are seen only as a nuisance, swept hastily off, and driven as much as possible from sight.”
“It is not everyone,” said Elinor, “who has your passion for dead leaves.”
“No; my feelings are not often shared; not often understood. But sometimes they are.”
I’m not sure if I turned bitter or older, but this sort of romance seemed trite*. I couldn’t concentrate on the book. I only made it to page 109. I liked it, JA was on point with her humor, but my thoughts kept wandering. They orbited around a dog I once had named Buddy.
I was fourteen and it was summer. I sat at the kitchen table eating a Freeze It popsicle**. I was thinking of how I would roll up the wrapper and blow it out like a party horn when I happened to glance out the window. A yellow lump of fur lay in the next yard over. This was B, a puppy my stepsister, D, received on the heels of having a new baby.
He didn’t seem like the B I knew. Instead of wobbling around with ears too big for his head and a constantly wagging tail, he just laid there, unmoving. I knew it was hot, but something wasn’t right. Surely he should have been panting, or scratching, or sniffing, or doing any manner of puppy things like eating grass and puking it up. He didn’t even seem to be breathing.
I called my stepmother. She looked out the window.
SM: That dog has been out there all day with no water. I’ve been watching.
Me: Shouldn’t we do something?
SM: He’s D’s responsibility. He won’t take water now.
Me: What should we do?
SM: He needs an IV. I’m not paying for it.
She walked out of the room. I went outside, jumped the fence, and filled B’s water bowl with the hose. I spent a few minutes trying to make him drink, but he couldn’t lift his head. SM was right. B needed medical assistance.
I worked at a veterinarian’s office part time after school. Mostly, I cleaned kennels and fed the animals that were boarded there. The doctor gave me duties slowly: grooming, prepping and cleaning the examination room, answering the phone, taking payments. He upped the responsibility. He asked me to bring the bagged and euthanized animals to the freezer. Next to bag the animals. Then one day he asked if I wanted to watch. A family dropped off a cat and they couldn’t bear to stay.
V: Would you like to try? You can’t mess it up.
This was a rare attempt at a joke, but something inside me knew he would let me practice. I declined.
Paying for B’s bill wouldn’t be an issue. The doctor would take payments out of my check. Maybe it’s not worth mentioning, but SM worked there, too.
B was heavy, an easy thirty pounds, but he felt heavier because the weight was lopsided and I wasn’t that strong. I carried him a mile in the summer heat. It was the longest, hottest mile I ever walked.
The doctor saw us right away. I laid B down on the examination table. He pulled back the scruff of B’s neck. The skin did not flop back into place. He looked me directly in the eye.
V: This is dehydration.
His voice was flat. At the time I thought it was angry, but now I hear only his knowledge and the cool distance he needed to maintain.
V: There is not a good chance he will make it.
An IV was started. He carried B to a cage in the back. I was told to go home.
Now I wonder if my stepsister lacked common sense, or if it was it love for her new baby, that made her leave B outside without water for so long? She simply forgot about him.
What made me carry B the mile in the heat? Where did I find the strength?
Why did the doctor give B an IV if he didn’t think he’d make it?
Why didn’t SM at least give me a ride to the vet’s office?
Why is it that questions like these keep me from becoming engrossed in a novel I would ordinarily love?
I received a call the next day and found out that B was fine. He had a full recovery.
When I heard the news, I didn’t play the piano-forte, but I did cry.
Her sensibility was potent enough! Well played, JA, well played.
*This new notion alarms me. I’m becoming jaded.
**the generic brand of Fla-Vor-Ice.