Thursday, January 21, 2010

Howler Monkeys

Nightmares, fever, delusions—they’re the same. We’re stuck between past and present, which aren’t in sync.

After midnight, my mother slams the door, gone for good. But then she runs inside again, slamming the door again and screaming that my dad’s not worth it. Listen, she yells! She drove to the edge of a Lake Michigan pier, front wheels riding the night air, her foot ready to press the pedal sending her and the car to the icy depths, when just in the nick, the question arose: how in hell is he worth her life? He’s an asshole who should go drown himself. He deserves lake water filling his lungs, not her!

(Click here to read the first episode and here for the previous one.) 

Simultaneously, my dad’s screaming at me, “Who broke the Christmas angel if not you?”

 Do I think he did it? Or, Mom? “That leaves your sister Annie. Are you telling me your sister, who’s not even crawling yet, grabbed the Christmas angel from the mantle and snapped its head off?”

My dad’s punching me but I don’t get up, but because this isn’t real. So he’s free to keep beating and punching and kicking me all he wants.

“You’re lying to me, Scott! What makes you think you can lie to me?”

My head pounds. It weighs two tons at the top of my fossilized neck, which itches like hell. I’m lying flat, stripped except for my shorts. And what should be my right arm is twice as big as the rest of my body. My mind’s spinning in colorless, odorless, and extremely lethal vapor.

A voice says, “Don’t move!” “Don’t twitch!”  A plastic case covers my mouth and nose. A metal tank by the bed clanks out loud how fucking stupid I am. A tube connects the tank with the face mask, which I can’t rip off, because of another tube attached to my arm, the one that still is an arm. That swollen growth where my right arm used to be boils and bubbles, the scalding fluids searing at gristle that’s still me because otherwise it wouldn’t sting and burn in my mind like a sick reptile, bristling with fangs.

Two guys are arguing. “You could’ve killed him. If he was allergic, Pedro, he’d be dead.”

“Not with the sheep serum. This wasn’t the horse shit, Polivalentes. I stuck four sheep vials in his butt.”

“And what if he was allergic to sheep antivenom? You didn’t know.”

“What about all those shots you gave him, Doc?”

“Standard tetanus. And cortisone because he’s got that rash in his throat. Why am I explaining this to you? Inside the wrist is the worst place for snake bites. Especially pit vipers. Their venom gets into the veins and you get blood clots, strokes.”

“But he’s okay, now. Or do I call for the plane?”

“Overnight here. After two days he can go to San Jose for chest X-rays and an EKG. I’m not sure if they’ve got MRI there or not.”

Emma’s screaming, “Oh my God!” She’s flying, wearing a bikini, about to jump on the bed.

“Who are you? What’s she doing? Pedro, get her out of here.”

“It’s Emma, Doc. Scottie’s amante.”

I fall into a solider darkness with the howler monkeys. Their howling is funny and scary. They wake you at dawn, but it’s not dawn. I’ve got no idea what time it is, but it’s not dawn.

Pedro’s leaning over the bed before he leaves. “You’re gonna be fine, Scottie. Just rest. Pura vida, hombre.”

Emma’s saying, “Dr. Arelleno,” and he lets her touch my forehead while he shoots me up with more antivenom. “Every six hours now,” he says.

He’s measuring the roiling, man-eating creature that used to be my right arm. “Stabilized but not subsiding.”

It’s right out of a tired cartoon. A cheapo Frankenstein movie where I’m the monster. Emma tugs on Dr. Arelleno’s sleeve and they step into a shadow. She says, “He’s trying to say something. Can’t you see? He wants to talk.”

(Click here for the next episode)


Dan Leo said...


Okay, definitely no tropical vacations for me, ever...

kathleenmaher said...

Don't let stupid Scott dissuade you, Dan. Just don't volunteer to chop up uncleared ground. And if you do, don't take off your gloves, thinking you can bat away bugs better with your bare hands.

Lisa said...

I found this kind of funny in a weird dashing sort of way. I mean, how bizarre! You did it again, K. High drama but certainly unique.