The place was Southern England, with green and sheep and rabbits. The base
wasn't big in size, but it was worthy and important, in World War II and
history. And then there was Desert Storm, but Desert Storm was over.
I was twenty-two. After I arrived and started to unpack and my son started to
explore the empty drawers, I gave him a bottle and retired to bed. I awoke to
knocking on the door, reminded, and answered to a pumpkin and another kid in a
Dalmation costume. "Trick or treat!" they said, almost singing.
There were just five of us: the physician, the desk clerk, and two perverts,
male nurse aids and then me, the lab technician. I ordered equipment, supplies,
set up quality control. Took down Desert Storm leftovers. When the people left
before, they left hard, and now junk was everywhere.
My husband was a lab tech just like me. He was at that base for Desert Storm
while I collected blood in Mississippi; when he came home, he came back
different, which made me wish he'd stay gone. He acted surprised when I got
orders. I ditched him and took my orders. I flew a C5 over, trying to shush my
son with suffocating hugs, wax earplugs and a bottle.
I heard stuff, found stuff, ran into women on base and I wondered how he knew
them. They laughed and giggled, wearing no bras and thin shirts. I tried to
concentrate on work and on my baby. When my boy laughed, he laughed like his
father. At work, I found old charts with his initials: documentations, daily
checks, temperatures and values.
Now everyone was sick. It was sinuses and viruses. When I didn't have lab work,
I checked in patients. I penetrated people's histories. People will tell you
I soaked up every detail. After we closed up, I went to the bunker and dusted
out the cobwebs. I expanded an old wheelchair, hearing it creak. I didn't smoke,
but found an old pack of Camels and sat on the chair and lit up, thinking of my
husband's old butts. I put the smoke out in a plastic spit tray.
I was about to lose my job and then a lawsuit and my kid was hooked on sniffing.
I felt like someone else, like I was knocked over or about to lose a fight or
maybe in the middle of a marathon when you hit the halfway mark and the people
who signed up for the half can quit, but if you were dumb enough to sign up for
the whole and didn't go on then you were still a loser. But I still had strength
enough to know I was okay, and I felt nothing mattered although in a hopeful
way, because before this mess I felt hopeless, but now I felt dumb for having
I took Shark for a jog, pulling the leash. He had a fancy collar. He was the
biggest dog I'd had and I grew up on a farm with enough dogs to last a lifetime.
He had a heavy coat that he liked to launder up with dirt and I imagined his
coat infested with peoples' problems. Sometimes I dreamt of secrets, ghosts
under his fur. He was smarter than my last dog Muffin, who perished in my
father's barn after it caught fire.
Shark made tracks in the snow and I ran on the sidewalk. It was slippery. I was
I still had my boyfriend. He lived far away and I loved him tons and missed him.
He listened when I needed. My kid would be in rehab. My job, who knows. There
were other things pressing but I felt no urgency. I kept running and the world
moved around me: people walking, some in hats and scarves and mittens, hot
breaths pushing into cold air. Cars passed each other, honking. Shark ran with
me. He started running faster, so I released him, watching him head.