Monday, August 30, 2010

On the Road

You feed Sally a generous breakfast because she has lost some weight and because you might not be seeing her for a few days.  Then you load her into the car and start down the PCH toward LA, taking a route she has taken with you for a number of years.  Little does she know what awaits her.  You are barely punctual for a ten o'clock appointment at the office of the man who was the instructor in veterinary school of your present vet.

Sally is logged into the bureaucracy.  The Brentwood Pet Hospital is like an episode of ER but no George Clooney, rather a cadre of Goldens, a Whippet with front legs in a cast, a frizzy poodle and an amiable pound dog, short hair looking like a mix of hound and boxer.  The doctor is only half an hour late and this was because another doctor was using the ultrasound device.  He spends some time feeling about Sally's throat, grimacing with what you try not to interpret as truly bad news as in inoperable bad news as in unable to remove the afflicted thyroid which has been diagnosed as nodular with high probability the nodules are malignant.

A bit more than an hour later,he returns Sally to you, a patch of hair having been shaved below her chin.  The tumors have been scanned and emerge sufficiently lacking in the density associated with cancerous behavior.  Besides, both aspects of her thyroid have nodules at the same place; unlikely behavior for cancerous tumor.  Sally's chart is off to an endocrinologist and Sally is back up the coast to Santa Barbara, with the attitude of one who knew all along that this was no big deal.

The vet's grimace turns out to have been his skeptical look, the look of not trusting a diagnosis and wanting further verification.

Your own expression was much other than skeptical, rather jubilant.  You'd thought the proper course would have been removal of both her thyroids to prevent cancer from metastasizing and spreading through her body as cancer cells are likely to do, an act that would have put her through a rough week and then a life time of needing to take thyroid pills, just as Mary Conrad needs to take them or, for that matter, a former student, Donna Barnett.

Sally knocks off a hamburger patty and one of the two sausage links that came with your brunch.  You both burp happily northward up the Pacific Coast Highway.  You experience the pure effervescent joy of knowing a dear friend is out of harm's way, of a chaotic universe with a moment of respite and enthusiasm.  Your friend dozes while you drive, hearing a lively music of the spheres, the sounds of a world where for a moment all is well.  You are reminded of the tail end of the motion picture, The Lion in Winter, where Peter O'Toole as Henry II of England sets Katherine Hepburn as his estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, off in the bark that will take her back to the castle where she is more or less under house arrest.  He waves fondly after her.  "Sometimes," he calls after her, "I think we'll live forever."

As you approach Deer Creek, one of Sally's favorite gamboling and sniffing places with a stunning, hundred-eighty-degree view of the coast, you call to her in the hatchback platform where she is now coming alert.  "Let's live for ever, kiddo, and write the hell out of things."

The expression on her face suggests she is nodding.  She is really taking in the rich smells of chaparral, sea iodine, and the animal population of the canyon:  coyotes, bobcats, birds, rodents, squirrels.  Maybe, she seems to be saying, fifty-fifty.  Write the hell out of things and spend some time in places like this.  Deal?

Deal.

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