Saturday, April 20, 2013

Jesus-Hair Grass

Part III of Sun Jelly Pastures

     Maynard's first inkling that something was terribly wrong with Enid occurred shortly after they'd replaced the "Whistlin' Dixie Acres" sign out front with a new one that read "Sun Jelly Pastures." Enid had painted it herself, and he had to admit, it was..."innerestin'."



     Shocking was more like it. "What're the neighbors gonna thank?" he wondered, trying hard to contain his bewilderment. Delivering what he hoped would come across as helpful praise-a-cism, Maynard observed, "Momma E, you done a real nice job on this sign, what with this here mama and baby cow eatin' the Jesus-hair grass and all. I never knowed you was sucha arteest." Indeed, Enid's painting depicted two cows consuming meadow grass that appeared to be growing straight out of Jesus' head. Considering how much she loved the Lord Almighty Above, this didn't seem all that odd to him. Ill prepared for the response he was about to receive, he proceeded with his surprisingly gentle inquiry. "But, why's he dancin' barefoot on top a one a them mushroom-tainted cowpatties, shootin' a peace sign with Sun Jelly settin' on his shoulder?" 

     When Enid turned to answer him, he immediately noticed the dilated pupil in her lazy eye. Had it been like that before? He couldn't remember the last time he'd really looked at her up close. "Somethin' goin' on with that eye a yers, Momma E? It don't look right today." Matter-of-factly, she offered the following explanation: "Welp, Jesus's been using this here eye a mine as one a them there mind-readin' portals 'cause Sun Jelly done got hisself all tangled up inside the roots a my hair just like a dang turnip, and we need the Lord's hepp gettin'im out. Lately, I been seein' that child ever'where, inside a the dishwarsher, betwixt the onions and taters in the vegetable bin, and up under our bed. I been tryin' for 'round about a week now to dry mop them dust bunnies that's growed and multiplied theirselves under there, but ever' time I get around to it, his head pops right up outta the floor, just like a gopher, an' then Jesus whispers, 'Shhhh...go back to sleep now, ya hear?'" Equally perplexed and frightened by Enid's incoherent rambling, her newly crazed eyeball, and calm demeanor, Maynard carried her over to Earl Busbee's office that afternoon. He and Earl  had gone all the way from kindee-garten through high school with each other; now Earl was the town's internal medicine doc. "I'm gonna admit her to the hospital for some tests," Earl informed Maynard dutifully. "She's got me a bit worried."

     Enid spent a week in the hospital, undergoing one test after another: CT scans, MRIs, and bloodwork. At times, she was clear as a bell, back to her regular old self, which made Maynard hopeful that her condition was only temporary. Maybe it was that new fertilizer he was using. Maybe she'd had some sort of reaction to it. She was only 34; how bad could it be? She'd never been sick a day in her life. Healthy as a horse, she was. Maynard hurried to Enid's room, having made the last of that day's 40 mile round trips back to the farm for chores and feeding the cattle. Maybe they'd hear something today. Exhausted yet hopeful, he walked in to find Earl and his team of white coats crowded around her bed. 

     "I'm afraid the news isn't good, Maynard," Earl said. "Enid's got stage IV ovarian cancer that's spread to her brain. Her dilated pupil and these hallucinations are both from little seizures she's having in her right temporal lobe. Hers is a very unusual presentation. Normally, a woman with this type of cancer would have symptoms that are more localized, like indigestion, belly pain, or having to pee a lot. Had she complained of anything like that, we might have been able to diagnose her cancer earlier." Putting his hand on Maynard's shoulder, he continued. "I'm so sorry, old friend. I've arranged a consultation with an oncologist, but even with treatment, her prognosis isn't good...a few months at best." Pressing a business card into Maynard's palm, he continued, "I'd really like for y'all to meet with Dr. Homer Owl Song, who's in charge of our hospice program. You've heard of him, right? He's a bit unorthodox, but I think he'll be able to help y'all in ways that I can't. Please consider giving him a call." 

     Cancer? Hospice? Homer Owl Song? Maynard felt as if he was in the middle of a bad dream, only this was all really happening. To him. To her. To them. First Sun Jelly, now Enid. They'd only just gotten their grass-fed beef business up and running. Neither of them had health insurance; they'd never been able to afford it. Now, they never would. Lord, what's she ever done to you? he lamented silently, frustrated by Enid's stoic reaction to the grim news.  She done spent 'er whole life, givin' you nothin' but praise and glory, and you gonna treat 'er thisaway? If you wanted some-boddy ta pick on, I wurshed you'dve picked on me instead. His thoughts turned to Enid. Maybe if she'd of been more of a complainer, the cancer wouldn't a gotten this far. He'd noticed her weight gain and swollen ankles, but chalked it up to grief chased away with female hormones and too much ice cream. He cringed, realizing  suddenly how indifferent he'd been, always looking right past Enid to that damn picture of George W. Bush that was hanging on the kitchen wall. Maybe if I'd of given her the time of day...

     Amidst Maynard's private contemplation, Enid had fallen asleep. They hadn't spoken a word since Earl Busbee and his clinical posse left the room. There were things he'd sorely wanted to say to her, but couldn't. Talking was hard for him. Feeling his feelings was even harder. His parents had taught him to be a man, after all. "A real man keeps to hisself, no matter how sensitive a soul he is," Mama'n'Daddy'd said. Lord only knows how many times he'd heard that.  The way things were going so far, this was gonna be harder on him than it was on Enid. She don't seem to have a care in the world no more. Sitting quietly next to her, Maynard turned the card Earl had given him over and over between his trembling fingers, then finally reached for the telephone. 



     


     

23 comments:

  1. `one a them there mind-readin' portals'...Now, that really is a doozy Kris.

    Love the artwork.
    `What're the neighbors gonna thank?' ???
    With a plot like this, & such a rich palette of characters, I'm starting to wonder whether this is typical of everyone down there.
    Cheers, ic

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    1. That artwork made me realize how rusty I am, Ian! Wow...I need to get out the sketchpad more often. But, it was great fun creating that picture, and my husband and son got a good laugh out of it. As far as being typical of everyone down here, we are in Honey Boo Boo country, ya know! ;-P

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  2. Jesus-hair grass. Of course. What and where else would cows at Jelly Sun Pastures eat? I love the "clinical posse." I think that should be an official medical term. And I feel for Maynard. For his wife who's being "picked on." How many people would trade places with a sick child or spouse if they could? Once again, I so lose myself in the story that the end sneaks up on me. I can't wait to meet Homer!

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    1. Homer's up next, Gina. I'm gonna have to think on him a spell. It's been a very strange day, first conceiving and drawing that picture, and then, coming up with a story. Regarding the clinical posse, that is exactly how medical teams move about the hospital. When I was at Emory, there was a gyn-onc surgeon who always had a team of 8-10 medical students and residents in the OR with him, along with everyone else that was working in there. We called his team "The Pussy Posse." LOL :-D

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    2. LOL...that's perfect!!! And so is Homer's imminent arrival :)

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  3. The twister has gathered force! With such tragic turns, I am ready for a long haul. Although you have woven the atmosphere ever so vividly, the painting and the visiting card are integral to the story. Pathos is intense. The glitter of the story is truly golden.

    Is there a redemption too?

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    1. Indeed, Uma, there will be a redemption, and hopefully, it will add an interesting dimension to this story. I had to do quite a bit of research on this particular part of the story to determine what type of cancer would present with such symptoms, e.g. hallucinations. I located a case report from Mumbai of a 30 year old woman whose initial presentation of ovarian cancer was a symptomatic metastatic brain tumor. Gotta love the internet for that! It would have taken me months in a library to come up with that.

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  4. Such imagination! And I love the picture. Beautiful.

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  5. You really know how to put us right in the moment. I tweeted this. And, I REALLY like the picture. Jesus is the foundation and food for the spirit. It fits very well.

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    1. Thanks so much, Charlene, that's so sweet of you. I am glad you enjoyed the picture. I hadn't planned on doing an illustration, but when I tried to describe Enid's painting in words, I remembered that a picture's worth a thousand words, and got out my sketchpad.

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  6. Wonderful flow to the writing, Kris, so alive, so dynamic. Everything said, thought and felt by the characters seems so genuine, so real. I can feel Maynard's anger, confusion, helplessness and grief deep in my own gut.

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    1. Thanks so much, Marty...I love hearing that kind of feedback. Although these characters are imaginary, I've tried to infuse them with the everyday humanness of real life and experience, ways that I've felt and ways that I've seen people react to difficult news.

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  7. That is indeed some interesting artwork. The plot has definitely thinkened in this segment. You bring out the "character" in all these characters which are developing very nice. Can't wait for the next episode!

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed the artwork and the character development in this segment. I feel that I really "know" all these folks myself :-D

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  8. Kris, I love your painting! Positively “innerestin.” Jesus hair-raising indeed in sunny, colorful splendor! It fits so well with the storyline. Even before I read Enid’s diagnosis, I had an eerie feeling where the story might be going when Enid began seeing little Sun Jelly everywhere. I know that sometimes when people are near death, they see loved ones who have passed on before them. I saw it happen with my mother. About three months before she died, when I would visit, she’d suddenly look around and say, “Rest in peace, go away.” She was seeing my father, her parents and her sister who had died decades ago. I think it’s a remarkable thing.

    Poor Maynard, I felt his intense pain when he heard about Enid’s diagnosis, and so soon after losing Sun Jelly. I think the part about having a terminal illness and no health insurance is very timely to mention. I really like your design for Dr. Homer Owl Song’s business card, and the quote too. “You can’t wake a person who’s pretending to be asleep.” Words of wisdom, and now waiting anxiously for the next installment (still pulling for Enid against all odds!).

    Btw, just have to ask, is “praise-a-cism” something you made up or Southern terminology (‘cause ya know, I’m a Yankee)? Praising and gently criticizing together, I like it!

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    1. Ha, Madilyn, "praise-a-cism" is really just something I made up, for lack of a better term. It works, though, I think. I had a heckuva time last week coming up with the type of cancer that would cover all of Enid's symptoms and prognosis...thank goodness for Google! I've often heard that about people who are dying, too, that they see loved ones who've long been gone. I think hallucinations are absolutely fascinating and actually enjoy interacting with patients who are actively having them, provided they are not also combative. The mind is an incredible thing. I'm glad you liked the artwork...man, it was rough sketching it out because I'm so rusty, and I kept breaking my colored pencils! I had an even worse time with the business card ,until I found an iphone app that would generate one. Thought that was pretty cool B-)

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  9. Amazing how a story can turn into something else inside the space of a paragraph. Nicely done.

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    1. That's what I love about writing, Big D. It's like magic!

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  10. Poor Enid, the news must have been so shocking to them both. I guess that's how it happens in the real world. I can't imagine what you'd say if you were told you only had months to live and all the thoughts about 'if only I had done this or that'.
    I'm so curious what the great Dr Homer Owl Song has got up his sleeve for her.... I just know there's a twist coming.
    Loved the crazy picture too Helena.

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    1. Somehow, RPD, I think this bit of bad news is going to be as hard (or harder) on Maynard as it is for Enid. Homer's going to have to be pretty creative in his approach.

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  11. NOOOO! Great story, Kris -- though I want a happy ending, dammit! These characters are too much fun to see them go through so much pain. You've really got a way with words, my dear.

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    1. Thanks, Janene. I think you'll enjoy where it's going...

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