Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Ballad of Pine Resin

I've been meaning to write this for some time. It happened weeks ago, now, but I have felt unequal to the task - especially since it's someone else's story.

It needs to be told, however, told far and wide. It is a cautionary tale -- one filled with


It is, "The Ballad of Pine Resin."

We paid Chicago a visit a few weekends ago - well, not Chicago, per se, but the two Chicagoans we actually care about (the rest of them can basically go to hell) - Alexis' sister Sarah, and her live-in cabana boy, Mark. We brought the pups, mostly because we can't find anyone besides Kate who can lure Oryx out of her den to pee (Kate is like the "dog whisperer," and has since moved to Chicago. Wait...make that three. Three Chicagoans! Wah-hah-hah.) Generally, it's not a big deal, and the dogs stay quite happily on the third story looking at the busy road through the living room windows.

You see, Sarah and Mark's house, being family digs, is one of the few places we can bring the very bad dogs (VBDs). And so we do. Since the last time we'd visited, however, they'd acquired two new cats...extremely expensive cats. No, not fancy, but unbelievably expensive nonetheless. Zabar and Easement. Zabar is a rolly, fluffy, cuddler of a cat, and it seemed like a good idea to introduce him to the dogs first.

Zabar stood in the middle of his hallway, looking extra fluffy and angry. Crisfield bounded up to him in her dopus fashion, running like a cross between a hobby-horse and a sea cucumber, and made to give him a deep, thorough snuffling (that's my story, anyway). Zabar was having none of it, and before you knew it...

Hiss, slash, scurry.

Crisfield did her trick of unlocking her jaw and fitting it around the kitty, like some sort of Amazonian Python/Dog (A dython?) and Zabar did his best to attack from "within."

This was all happening too fast for me. I was standing in the room, eating some toast, I think, as Alexis dragged the dog away from the cat, and the first STARTLING EVENT occurred:

Sarah threw herself on the cat.

I mean, this cat was in a left in the time-out corner for several minutes. But Sarah, loving Zabar as she does, covered his fluffiness with her torso and crooned gentle reassurances in his quivering ears. When she arose, his white chest was covered with blood, and a collective gasp filled the room. We then realized the HORRIFYING TRUTH of it:

It was all Sarah's blood.

Zabar had bitten multiple times directly into Sarah's right index finger, and had raked parallel furrows in her left palm. It was not a good scene. We got her washed up, examined, and we all spent a while calming down. Then we did what any group of sound-minded individuals would do: we went out for French food and chestnut gelato.

When we got home, Alexis, having had an evening to think on it, decided to do some medical research regarding possible infection and tendon damage. How, you may ask, does a doctor do medical research in a house full of nothing more than law texts and expensive liquor? She begged me not to reveal it, but here's the HORRIFYING TRUTH:

She used Google.

That's right. Doctors, when faced with a medical quandary, do what you or I do when researching the origins of "The Shocker," they Google it. She was then able to give her $150,000 medical opinion: "It's only bad if the red starts moving elsewhere." Then she demanded expensive chocolate. And got it.


The next day, Sarah and Mark did whatever they profess to do with their days, and we went suit shopping downtown. By the time we met up in the evening, Sarah's bandaged hand was hot and red, so we did what we had to: STARTLINGLY...

that meant going out for Indian food.

We got home late, mouths burning from some damn spicy Sag Paneer, and checked back in with the Google imagery. Sarah held her hand up next to the screen for comparison, and we read the small print: "infection can move into the joint within 24 hours." Oh. Like, yesterday before we went to dinner. Nice.

At about 9:30pm, Sarah was calling a doctor for an emergency room referral, and in a few minutes, Sarah, Mark, and Alexis had piled into the car to head to the hospital. I stayed behind to ensure inter-species conviviality and to watch the X-Files fourth season, was too scared to watch alone, and promptly fell asleep.

By the time Alexis crawled into bed at 5:00am, Sarah and Mark had been begging for emergency surgery for several hours. Not because of the pain, you see, the HORRIFYING TRUTH is that:

they didn't want to miss the next day's classes.

So, Sarah spent the night lying gurney, shooting up IV antibiotics, with the embarrassing fact of her one true allergy scrawled hastily on her hospital bracelet. And this allergy, known only as a result of the countless hours spent wrapping twinkle lights on countless Christmas Trees.

Oh, Tenenbaum.

At the end of it, Sarah had 24+ hours of mainlined antibiotic, emergency hand surgery (three incisions - with two left open to drain. The infection, had, indeed gone straight to the joint and tendon, and could have shot up her arm within a few days). As a final, terrible, STARTLING EVENT:

Sarah has to take in IV antibiotics four times daily for three weeks. For this, she has a temporary PIC line (a port) in her upper arm.

I can see it now, Sarah and Mark in class - Socratic fury in full effect - and Mark holding the IV bag high to get the last few drops in.

"Mr. Spottswood, do you have something to add?"