10 August 2008

DO NOT TEASE THEM WHILE THEY'RE EATING

When NoRay Kindle was in his mother's womb, she sustained a broken arm during an altercation with a man whom she believed was one of two men who could be her baby's father. The man had been drinking and playing cards, run out of money, and appeared on NoRay's mother's doorstep looking for cash. It was late in the month. NoRay's mother had no cash. Her food stamps were close to depleted. So the man who might have been NoRay's father tried to take her Black and Decker toaster oven for pawn. NoRay's mother, though five months pregnant, strenuously objected. She spent that night and most of the next day in the ER. She sustained a fractured radius during the melee. She also lacerated the man's cornea with her nail, and succeeded in kicking him hard enough in the groin that any thought he might have had about fathering more children instantly became moot. The toaster oven crashed to the floor, broken beyond repair. In the ER the doctor told NoRay's mother that an xray of her broken forearm was necessary before the bone could be set. "Nooooh," she cried. "Hell no. I'm pregnant. I gotta baby to think about." The risk to your pregnancy is no greater than the risk to you. We really do need to ---" At which point she tried to lift herself to a sitting position on the gurney, broken radius and all. "No rays on my baby! No rays on my baby!" Nineteen and a half years later, NoRay's mother is two months into a long penitentiary stretch for trafficking. NoRay is taking care of his mother's new baby: a female pit bull named Princess. Last week Noray could be seen promenading the Princess down Vine Street just after sunrise. NoRay walks Princess west on Race toward Race. Early morning people pass them warily; occasionally somebody jaywalks to the other side of the street to avoid an encounter with the pit bull. At 12th and Race, Princess sniffs and growls. NoRay can't quite determine what she has alerted to. Suddenly her growling changes pitch and gets louder. NoRay is fumbling with his wireless phone, trying to answer an incoming call. His grip on the leash is less than firm; Princess barks and takes off running. The leash jumps out of NoRay's hand. NoRay curses, pockets the wireless, and runs into the street after Princess. Tires screech on the pavement. NoRay misses being hit by inches. He has no time to be startled, but the near miss spikes his adrenalin. There are any number of his mother's ex-boyfriends whom she could enlist to put a beat-down on NoRay should he lose Princess. And what if she attacks somebody? Princess has charged at several pedestrians, only to be restrained by the leash. NoRay has never told his mother, but he carries a short bladed knife in case Princess turns on him. He pursues Princess into Washington Park. Finally he sees what Princess sees: she is in pursuit of a raccoon. The raccoon has something in it's mouth. It lopes across the park and turns north on Elm. Strangely, the raccoon stops running near a cluster of garbage cans. It drops what it's carrying ---- a half eaten piece of fried chicken it has scavenged --- and turns to face the oncoming pit bull. The raccoon bares it fangs. NoRay has never heard a raccoon growl before. He realizes, as Princess closes on her target, that the raccoon is noticeably larger than she. He also notices two more pairs of eyes staring from atop the garbage cans. Two more raccoons, each larger than the first one, leap from the garbage cans they have been raiding. The pit bull tries to apply her brakes, but it's too late, she has charged in too close. The raccoons surround her. NoRay stops running and screams. Princess nearly disappears under a snarling pile of raccoon fur. She is bitten and slashed bloody, in a matter of seconds. The raccoons pause and watch for signs of further resistance. Princess lies still on the sidewalk, blood oozing from her neck, her abdomen, her back. Her leash trails away from her like a severed umbilical. Satisfied, the raccoons saunter away. They are not predators, after all, they are scavengers. They have fought to defend one of their own. There is no question of finishing off the pit bull, for she is not prey. Raccoons have no concept of "prey." Even Over-The-Rhine raccoons the size of chimpanzees. NoRay takes his shirt off, the better to wrap up the bleeding Princess and carry her --- where? --- home to his mother's apartment? Is there a veterinarian in this neighborhood? She is bleeding profusely now. He rolls her gently into his shirt. Bare chested, teary-eyed, NoRay carries Princess back to his mother's apartment. He thinks about calling the women's prison to talk with his mother. He thinks about where he can go to ask about a vet clinic where Princess could be treated, but he has already spent most of the money his mother sent him, and he has not had work in weeks. At nineteen, his work experience consists of washing dishes, washing cars, and day labor. While he is thinking about all this, Princess begins to breath with her chest muscles. Her diaphragm is no longer carrying the load. NoRay heard this kind of breathing when his friend Tim Ivery was shot. NoRay sits on a doorstep, with the morning sun getting hotter, and Princess dying in his arms. That evening, his mother calls, and he has to break the news. There is a long silence on the other end. There are rarely long silences in the state penitentiary for women. I should have told you," NoRays' mother sighed. "Should've told you about those raccoons." "Lid here all my life," NoRay said. "Never seen those things before. I thought it was just, you know --- " A urban mist," his mother finished his thought. "No, my son. They real, those raccoons. Big as bobcats. And they ain afraid of nothin'. I should've told you to hold the dog back if she spot one. It's not your fault, baby. NoRay slept fitfully that night. In his dreams he walked Washington Park on a moonless night, calling for his mother, watched by pairs of yellow, disembodied, inscrutable eyes content to wait for centuries.

2 comments:

Amadeus Winston said...

Amazing story --- absolutely love it.
Is this fiction? Or what's the deal -- I am new to your site --

davidcarney said...

You can't believe how big Over-The-Rhine raccoons are. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

dc

All original text (C) 2007, 2008 David J. Carney. All rights reserved.

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