Backhand Stories: The Creative Writing Blog

She never told me her name but she told me lot about Julie. Unlike most of the people that came to us because they had no choice, she did and yet she still came. As for why, well, I really couldn’t tell you why, and at the time I never thought to ask her. Maybe I should’ve. Or maybe it was the obvious. Maybe it was because she looked at me or my guys as a part of her tribe, just another bunch a crazy fuck-ups, like her that just so happened to have some medical training. Maybe she thought she wouldn’t be judged or looked down upon as much as say some south side “white bread” M.D. Who knows. Either way she didn’t seem to mind the dogs barking.

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Truth was she wasn’t like us at all. She wasn’t really a fuck up. Far from it. She didn’t talk much about herself but she did allude to being an attorney at one point. She was well spoken and had nice teeth and an ever so slight northern dialect that brought back memories of home. She came to us in septic shock and on the verge of death. She almost died on my large breed exam table. Her request was simple. She wanted the hurting to stop but the dying to continue. I told her it didn’t quite work that way. I told her we’d be happy to try to take the edge off of her pain but we really weren’t set up for hospice. There’s no such thing as hospice for dogs or cats. To make her feel better we had to fix her. I finally got her blood pressure up and in check but she still was in real bad shape. This was gonna take some time. I suppose I talked her out of calling it quits at least a little. After all she was a pretty little thing and the world can never have too many pretty faces.

When I first began removing it, I thought I was going to have to sedate her because she was crying so much. I had to remove the rotting flesh of a small, roasted chicken that she had put up inside of her just a couple a weeks after the delivery of her daughter, Julie, a stillborn. The smell was unbearable and reminiscent of week old decaying road kill on August asphalt. She demanded, against my wishes, to have some time with the chicken. I swaddled the two halves of the bird and put it in her arms. She held it and hugged it tightly and rocked it in this firm embrace and cried for a good forty-five minutes and I’ll tell you this about that girl’s crying,… it sent shivers down my spine. It’s the kind stuff that’s scary enough to scare away your scariest nightmares. All I can say is thank God for those two, recently spaded hound dog sisters that howled against her cries. They did a swell job of drowning out most of it. I was a medic in Vietnam. Now this isn’t me bragging or trying to toot my own horn. Just because I was one of the many drafted teens running all over the jungle with a bag of gauze, that didn’t for a second make me out as some bad ass soldier boy. Far from it. But what it did mean was that I knew what it was like to be ran through a certifiable shit and misery cycle, one that had been stuck on repeat for a good couple of years. I’ve seen the type a misery and pain that makes the sight of stone cold death seem like a truly beautiful thing, a holy thing. But I swear to God, the way that woman sounded when she was wailing about, while rocking that swaddled up rotten chicken, it was like the moaning sounds of agony coming from hell. I’ll never forget it but I sure wish I could.

After that horror show was over and done with, we discreetly purged little Ms. 1 lbs six ounces of rotten bird and thoroughly flushed her vaginal cavity and treated her the best we could. We began an aggressive antibiotic therapy both intravenously and by packing.

Apparently, this woman knew about us because she was the favorite niece or cousin or whatever of some friend of a friend of my boss’ best friend and main colleague. So we knew money wasn’t the lady’s issue. Making her survive was the issue and it was going to take some creativity on my part. Adding the unneeded stress of my boss Roger and his annoying little hatchlings breathing right over my shoulder didn’t make it any easier to work.

Funny thing about serious, systemic infections is that it’s a toss up. Sure, age and prior health all play a part but really, it’s just ends up depending on how the body reacts to the treatment. Will her kidneys hold up? Can we control her fever? When should we be considering dialysis? Can we get her to heal? The big problem was gettin her to want to survive. I don’t think she set out to commit suicide. I just think her dyin was an added bonus. I’ve always believed healing was just as much mental as it was physical but she needed sleep, and food and most of all, hope. She was in pain, immense emotional pain that all my little opiods and their fake friends couldn’t seems to touch at all, and with her blood pressure the way it was, I shouldn’t have really given her the amount of meds I gave her. The heart break was crushing her and it was gonna end up killing her. She just wasn’t gonna allow herself to get better without her baby.

But even though she seemed to be on this fatalistic path, she was, by know means, an introvert. She talked. A lot. She talked my ears off. She wore her feelings on her sleeve and I listened. To sum it up she basically had never finished mourning her loss. The doctors handing her that dead baby just didn’t do it for her. That lifeless child, as much as she loved that lifeless shell and as much as she held and kissed and rocked that lifeless shell, it just, still, was just a shell. It wasn’t her daughter, not the daughter that she knew, or got to know, or got to feel. Julie to her, the real Julie, the only real Julie she felt she knew, wasn’t the dead child she held her arms.

Instead, it was Utero Julie, that was her Julie. That was her daughter; the Julie that she never held alive, but would rock to sleep by rocking herself. The Julie that she may have never seen alive but felt alive, always kicking away. The Julie that loved Tex-Mex cause that’s what she craved all the time when she was pregnant. Not Mexican, mind you, but specifically Tex-Mex. The Julie that was a devout night owl that wouldn’t even begin to start stirring around until after Letterman, and then wouldn’t quit until somewhere in the wee early witching hours. The Julie that had the propensity for hiccups in the afternoons, and the Julie that she seemed to be athletic and strong because she kicked low and hard as if she was trying to kick open her cervix and get out. The Julie that was excited about life, and ready to get started. Maybe she wanted to go back and talk to that Julie, to put her hands on her belly while she was alive and well and kicking against her palm, and be able to tell her precious daughter that it was ok to leave if she wanted, that it was ok to go if she felt like she had to.

I don’t know really. I’m not a psychologist. Hell, I’m not even a doctor, at least not the kind you’re thinking, but I really wanted to get this right. I wanted to save this woman, I wanted to score some points with the boss man cause I’d been in the hole for points lately. And I did genuinely like her. It wasn’t everyday that I got to talk someone that seemed as messed up in the head as me. So I got this idea, but I didn’t know yet exactly how I was gonna go about it.

First, we experimented. We tried several tools but they felt cold and/or too hard, too mechanical and inorganic in movement but she was patient and she could see I was trying. Eventually we both decided that I would use my hand. I would lube up heavily, and while donning the thinnest latex glove that I could possibly find I’d slowly work my whole hand inside of her and move up close to her cervix where I’d begin closing my hand and making a tight, trembling fist before opening it back up. I’d then push up close to her cervix and make firm, un-rhythmic pokes with my fingers, doing the best I could to simulate Julie’s once firm little kicks. Now, even though I wasn’t in her uterus and that “the baby” was essentially kickin’ on the wrong side of the door, to momma, it was enough. A lot of things could have gone wrong with this amateur psych maneuver. What if it hurt her? Even though she was still stretched from the birth it was still a possibility. What if it seemed sexual? What if it made it worse? But I knew I was onto something when, the first time we tried it she just began looking at me with tears rolling down her face, her bottom lip quivering. And that was just the beginning, just a test. After that I went all out.

First I’d get Nam or Missy to run up and get us some Tex-Mex and fill ol’ momma to the brim with some good ol’ fashion, grease loaded, shitty Texas infused, crappican . We’d eat, and try to get her to laugh and then I’d give her a little something to get her sleepy and she’d lay her head down and burp Tex mex. I would then perform my medically prescribed fisting every night. Upon her request I put headphones on and turned up my Walkman and listened to classical while reading BOW HUNTER magazine. Turning the pages with one hand was difficult but Missy helped when she was there.

“Doin great, Doc.” Missy’d tell me with a grin while shakin’ her head and walking away.

The woman wanted privacy. She got that, I suppose. I mean how much privacy can you say you want to a man that’s already inside of you? Sometimes I’d swear I heard the faint crying sounds of a woman in the distant background of Beethoven’s Opus 36 in D major or perhaps a bit of Mozart, preferably any works in the Salzburg-era. Sometimes I’d feel the pressure of an exterior hand rubbing the belly. It never took me more than twenty or thirty minutes and she’d be asleep, out like a light. Twenty minutes soon turned to fifteen, then ten, then five.

One night I walked in. She was sleeping and she looked well. So much so it was as if she was morphing into this incredibly beautiful woman. I just stood there and looked at her while tossing my latex gloves on my shoulder. She opened her lovely eyes and just looked at me. She didn’t say anything. There was just the faintest of a smile. I gave her one right back. She closed her eyes and I left and threw the glove in the trash.

W.A Coleman is a Freelance writer based ‎out of Tulsa, Ok. His work has been featured in Evergreen Review, Houston Literary, 3 AM Magazines, Echo Ink Review, Thrice Fiction, Founding Review, and many more. His first collection Wound and Suture ‎(Montag Press) was published last year.

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