When life hands you lemons, toss them in the trash and eat cake

First Love – Part 2

Continued from First Love – Part 1

Note from author: The conclusion of this story may be a bit of a downer for a Friday… but try to look at the black comedy aspect of it. At the very least – laugh at my dysfunctional family – and love them dearly like I do. I would be a really lousy writer, otherwise.


Mabel: 7 p.m., May 15, 2000

Mabel had been so busy lately with the fundraiser for her anti-abortion non-profit. And with leading the group who said the daily rosary outside the local Planned Parenthood clinic, she had been working long hours and could barely make it home in time to make dinner for George and feed the dog.

Speaking of Indy, feeding him had become irrelevant. She came home most nights to find the food untouched from the night before. Taking him out for walks had become a chore, too. Sometimes she used a towel as a sling, fashioning it under his stomach to hold him up while he peed.

Lately, George had started talking about putting Indy to sleep, using phrases like “quality of life” and “it’s the most humane thing to do.” She refused to listen; killing the dog was just wrong. Sure, she was worried, but he was old and nature would eventually take its course. George could be so infuriating; he always chose the quick fix and never wanted to get his hands dirty. She shuddered to think what would’ve happened if she had not married him. It was her lot in life to keep him in line and, well, prevent him from killing living things, like the dog or the rose bushes out back.

Mabel had just arrived home after another hectic day outside the clinic. She dropped her purse on the counter and propped up the signs, with pictures of dead fetuses and the tagline “Choose Life,” against the kitchen wall. George was at the table, nursing a cocktail and doing the New York Times crossword, no doubt waiting for dinner to be served (which at this point seemed unappetizing, as he glanced at Mabel’s signs). The doorbell rang; it was their neighbor Mr. Langston, holding a soaked and traumatized mass of fur in his arms

He wandered into my backyard and fell into the pool. I had to fish him out with one of those pool nets, he said, depositing the dog into Mabel’s arms.

Unfazed, Mabel said thanks, shut the door and went into the kitchen.

George pounded his fist on the kitchen table, upsetting his cocktail glass and spraying scotch on one of the doily place mats.

Dammit, Mabel, it’s time, he just basically tried to off himself in the neighbor’s pool. I think it’s time to go see Dr. Maxwell.

Ignoring George, Mabel cradled the wet dog in her arms and headed to the bathroom, to wash the chlorine out of his fur.


George: Dawn, May 26, 2000

George was exhausted. He had been up all night. He had searched his medicine cabinet for the right combination of drugs, added water to form it into a paste and shoved it down the dog’s throat. Indy had been thrashing and crying out in pain all night; he didn’t put up a fight when George pried open his jaws and administered the lethal dose. George had wanted the vet to put him down weeks ago, but Mabel was against it. Now George’s Jack Kevorkian hat was planted firmly on top of his balding head, as Mabel slept soundly in the bedroom.

Euthanasia is wrong, it’s not God’s plan, argued Mabel when George had first brought it up two weeks ago.

Never mind she doesn’t think animals have souls, so what the fuck does God have to do with it? George thought. Jesus, if I get to the point where I have to be held up to urinate, just pull the plug.

His mind wandered back to Mabel, as he gently scratched the dog’s back. She had been a study in contradictions and stubbornness during their 35-year marriage. He had resigned himself to it, at times even laughing at the idiocy of it all. However, now, in the present, it made him angry. There was no humor to be found in killing the family dog with a cocktail of drug samples given to him by pharmaceutical reps, when it would’ve been far more humane to do it at the vet’s office. But this was his only choice right now.

He held the dog’s head in his lap, as both his and Indy’s crying and shaking began to subside.

George and Mabel: 3 p.m., May 26, 2000

Okay, so I need to dig the hole at least four feet deep and wrap him in how many trash bags? George bellowed through the receiver at the Health Department rep. He refused to admit that his hearing was beginning to go.

Okay, okay, got it, said George. He hung up and went to the utility room in search of bags and a shovel.

Indy was lying exactly where George had left him earlier that morning after he died, holding his own kind of Irish wake on the floor of the sunroom, nestled in the coffin of his bed. George was due for early rounds, so he had to leave without taking care of the body. He would take care of it when he got home. If George had a say in the decision – and he rarely had a say in decisions when Mabel was involved – he would cremate the dog, perhaps put the ashes in an urn or bury them in the yard.

Earlier that day, after emailing Bea, he called Mabel from work to state his case.

Absolutely not, said Mabel. First you wanted to euthanize him – which we now know was not needed – and now you want to incinerate his body? No, no, no. By the way, I just had to let the maid go home without working, I paid her for the day though. She let herself in the backdoor and tried to pet Indy before I could stop her. She was beyond traumatized – she had to breathe into a paper bag.

George cradled the phone against his neck and looked guiltily at his hands, the hands that had delivered the fatal blow of pills last night. Shit, he was done arguing, let Mabel live in her lala land, where pets die naturally and aren’t cremated and nobody is ever euthanized or aborted.

Okay, I’ll be home by 2 p.m. or so. We’ll take care of it then, he said, hanging up the phone with a satisfying slam.

At 3 p.m. and Mabel and George walked out to the backyard, George charging ahead, a man on a mission, while Mabel lagged behind, slightly shaky and unnerved. At least they had agreed on one thing: where to bury him. They had chosen a shady spot right outside their bedroom window.

George started to dig. It was a humid May afternoon and sweat dripped from his brow and onto his t-shirt.

Mabel, please go inside and get me a tape measure, he asked.

Why do you need a tape measure? she argued.

Just go get the damn tape measure, he said.

He dug and dug and dug, with sweat pooling under his armpits and dripping down his back.

Okay, that seems to be about 4 or so feet, he thought, and asked Mabel to hand him the tape measure.

The hole was barely four feet deep. He dug some more. Satisfied that he had excavated deep enough to ward off vermin and other grave diggers, he nodded to Mabel and they headed inside.

God, he’s so heavy, said Mabel, with tears finally forming in the corner of her eyes, as they gently wrapped Indy in layers of hefty bags. They lifted the bag and carried him outside, Mabel holding his front end and George holding his hind end. Mabel tripped over the patio steps and dropped her half, crumpling into a shivering heap on the brick. George ended up dragging the body across the lawn and heaving it into the grave himself.

Then Mabel, in her first act of sentimentality or love or assistance or feeling during this entire ordeal, walked across the yard and took the shovel from George. She began to fill in the hole he had created, repeating a silent prayer in her head with each thrust of the shovel.


Bea: 2 p.m., May 27, 2000

She heard the ding of an email coming into her inbox. The subject line read “Update and Other Important Information.”

Dear Bea,
Why haven’t you called? Did you get my email the other day about Indy? We buried him yesterday, near the window of our bedroom. Also, in light of the events of the past 48 hours, I’ve been doing some thinking and I want you to promise me that you’ll honor these two requests:
 #1: If it comes to the point where I’m wearing diapers and can’t remember anyone’s name, particularly my own, or I’m paralyzed and have to blink my eyes to communicate, or cancer is eating away at my brain, unplug me. And don’t let your mother or sister get involved. Your sister, I fear, will pull the plug if I have an ulcer, migraine or hernia. Your mother will keep me alive long after I am a comatose skeleton, attached to the beep of machines and the compressing hiss of the respirator.
 #2: Cremate me, please. Again, don’t let your mother or your sister get involved. Your sister would probably cart me to the crematorium before I’m dead. Your mother, on the other hand, will bury me in a worm-filled plot right next to her. I know I’ll be dead, but the worms and the fact that I’ll be sleeping right next to her for all eternity are not comforting thoughts. Scatter my ashes in the ocean off Longboat Key and just be done with it.
Please print this email for your records; I will be placing a certified copy in the lockbox in my bedroom, just in case.

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2 thoughts on “First Love – Part 2

  1. Great post today. Thanks so much for sharing. I enjoy reading your blog very much!

    It pays to write:

    Writers Wanted – Writing Jobs Available

  2. javaj240 on said:

    That was great. I love the end. I’m shocked that I have not received a similar email from my own father.

    I really enjoyed the story. I don’t think it was depressing at all.

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