Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
So it is no longer surprising to me that I might spend a day sitting outside the Wake County jail. With a purpose, no less.
It was a sunny, warm Thursday. Perfect, really, as it started out cool and inviting--the kind of late-summer day in North Carolina that hints at the autumnal delights soon to come. But by mid-morning, I was tanning a line into my arms where my sleeves were, sweat was beading on my neck, and I sought the shade of a scraggly tree at the sidewalk’s edge. I sat there for three hours.
When I had first walked up, I saw the adorable girl approach the frat-boy-looking guy at the next bench. He was barefoot and held his belt in his hands. He looked about 20, in baggy shorts and t-shirt, looking every bit like one of the eight gazillion college kids streaming about the Triangle every fall. She too appeared about 20, and was every inch of adorable, thin, blonde. Her natural-fiber wedges showed off her adorable feet, and her cropped pants and tank top had her looking like a youthful beauty who looked perfect at every occasion. She even looked perfect in front the jail at 9 a.m.
“How long were you in?” she asked our beltless friend. I noticed her wallet and papers in a large ziplock bag next to her. How does she get out of JAIL and still look better dressed than I on my best day?
“I wrecked my car last night. They brought me here.”
Silence as the pieces didn’t add up, and Pretty had to think about it. Beltless seemed to realize it wouldn’t fly. “I got a DUI.”
I passed them both, just as she got up to share his bench, and I wondered who you have to be to be that cute and pick up the barefoot wonder, hungover and dazed, the day after his DUI. I sat at the bench further down the sidewalk. I texted a description of the scene to my friend. He wrote back, “Even Hitler had a girlfriend.”
I read my book for a few minutes while the sun grew stronger, and eventually became aware that Beltless was gone, and Pretty was left alone on her bench. She leaned to her left, where she’d been sitting originally, and started chatting with a stringy guy who had his shoes and belt, but no front teeth. They talked for a while, and he moved over next to her, and I became aware they were exchanging stories of headline-grabbing murders that had happened in town. “Did you hear about those teenagers in Apex who all got together and killed that guy?”
I updated my friend on Pretty being abandoned by Beltless and now talking murder with Stringy, and that they seemed to be hitting it off. He responded, “Love in the ruins.”
They chatted a while, and suddenly I became aware of a loud, insistent honking across the street. A driver, alone at the intersection, leaning on his horn, his purpose unclear since he had no one in front of him except the red light. Pretty, interrupted in her analysis of local brutality, looked up. “DADDY!” she screamed as she leapt to her feet, arms over her head like a gymnast nailing the landing. In seconds she had gathered her things and run across the street. Before she would have finished the sentence she had started, she was in the sedan and they were driving off.
Stringy turned to me, “That girl does NOT belong in jail.” He told me the story of her getting out in 15 days--half of her sentence for multiple DUIs. Stringy, on the other hand, had not been in jail, but had been talking to the clerk of court about a mistake on his driving record. He turned out to be the most functional in the cast of the common-man drama I had just witnessed.
I texted my friend how lucky I am to witness this slice of life. He wrote, “Faulkneresque. If your own family won't have ya then who will?”
And then, “What a world, Jen. What a world.”
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
I held him close to me and looked into his eyes. They were deeply sunken in, if it's possible for something so small to be deeply anything. They watched me, though, curious, and seemingly oblivious to their own sunken-in state.
He is 10-1496. My first turtle.
Well, the family had a "pet" turtle when I was a kid. I think he was just a turtle who happened to live in our yard, and I would hang out with him when I was out there. In kid time, it seemed like we had him forever, but it was probably just a few days.
And then there was Floyd. I awoke from a nap to stare into the suspended face of Floydtheturtle staring back at me, Ismail standing behind him, "Can I keep him?" We bought him all the necessary accouterment, according to the PetSmart people, but we kept finding him upside down, limbs limp and hanging out, neck bent back... We would right him, and he would perk up a bit and hang out, but in a couple of days he had died. We assume he was dying when we got him because he had not hibernated appropriately that year.
But this was my first legit turtle. 10-1496. And he was dehydrated.
Hence began my first shift at the Triangle Wildlife Rescue Clinic. In the coming months, over 1,000 baby birds will find their way here, having been rescued from cut-down trees, unfortunate falls from the nest, and a myriad other fates that bring birds to the attention of their human cohabitants, and the babies will come through here needing to be fed every 15 minutes for 20 hours of the day. They start in little "nests" made of plastic baskets lined with paper towels, and then graduate to fledgling cages, pre-flight cages, flight cages, and eventual release as close as possible to where they came from.
But on this day, it was too early in the season for the birds, and so here I was, caring for the ten turtles who have been rehabbing here since last year. Turtle shells regenerate, and significant shell injuries can heal over time, but they grow slowly and need a long recovery period. And even once they are healed and nature-ready, timing is important: we can't release them when they should be hibernating, so they convalesce for months at the TWRC.
The senior volunteer training me showed me the turtle medical records, in green folders (as opposed to purple for mammals and yellow for birds), and went over the "turtle protocol" with me. These are turtles, people--the medical records are WET. I smile as I realize that no matter where I go, I can't get away from documentation requirements. Ask any social worker you know--we're ALL behind on our notes!!
But like all good medical records, this one has a mini mental status exam on it. The senior volunteer says, in all honesty, "Mark here whether the turtle is bright, alert, and responsive, or lethargic and depressed." I think of the countless turtles I've moved from their suicide treks to the yellow line, and how they tuck in as soon as I touch them. I look at the volunteer. "I obviously have a lot to learn about turtles if you are telling me we can assess such a thing..." She laughed. "Oh yeah. You'll see."
And sure enough, as soon as she pulls 10-1496 from his cage, he pops his head out, stares intently, looks completely in tune with what's going on. His eyes are sunken in, which is a sign of dehydration, but not unusual. I am struck by his papery skin, which she says is typical. We weigh him, and then place him in a second box which we've filled with an inch of water, that is carefully poured to make sure it's between 75 and 80 degrees. He's meant to soak in there for 20 minutes every day, since turtles don't get their hydration from drinking--they get it soaking. This turtle came with a shell injury and is marked "Cannot be released" because he is also missing a leg.
And so I began my rhythm of taking the turtles out of their cages, placing them in their soaking bins, and cleaning their primary cages, which means changing newspaper, replacing water dishes, replacing food dishes. On my first visit, it was not yet spring, and the turtle boxes sat on heating pads. Today, as we prepare them for post-hibernation release, the heating pads have been removed. They were also much more active today.
Last time, I met my favorite, "Wild Red," the red guy who, once I replaced him in his primary cage, began climbing on his hide box so he could ssssssllliiiiiiide down it--over and over. Today he was flipping himself over, swimming aggressively in the water, climbing on everything he could to get out of the box. Throughout today's cage cleanings, there were sounds of scritching, climbing, flipping, pushing, nudging, bumping, and insistent escape plans being formed.
Someone called about a goose who'd been found limping on a busy Raleigh road. They brought her in, and I got to help with the initial exam. As long as by "help" you mean sit in silence and watch, trying hard not to get in the way. I was really thrilled that they let me sit in--I had assumed they would leave that work to the experts, but they were totally cool about letting me "help." The goose was obviously stressed and might have a broken hip. We gave her fluids, anti-inflammatories, and pain meds. They we put her in the ICU until the NC goose experts could come and get her.
When I first got in today, I thought I would get straight to work on the turtles, but I was also let in to the ICU where we had a pileated woodpecker (huge and gorgeous) in a large cage, and the mocking bird brought in yesterday by Becky, the volunteer I was working with today. The mocking bird was "young and stupid," we're guessing, because Becky and her boyfriend were trying hard NOT to hit him with their car, but he was just hellbent on hitting that grate and they had to delay their grocery shopping to bring him to the clinic. Silly birds. But he was gorgeous and full of attitude and looked every bit like the mom in the "Are you my mother?" book, but without the scarf and purse.
I also peaked in on the black racer snake who has nearly fully recovered from his injuries and thought of the green guy I found (healthy and well) in my living room the other day.
The morning shifts also include preparing the turtle food dishes--little servings of tomato, squash, zucchini, scrambled egg, berries, kale, parrot food (soaked first in water to soften it) and omnivore diet (also soaked). At the end of the shift, everything is carefully scrubbed and soaked in kennesol, a strong veterinary-grade disinfectant. As I forced myself to think carefully about every surface I touched (or more often, didn't touch), and to think so hard about cross-contamination, and as I cut the food into little teeny tiny squares, I thought of the delightful contrast between here and Carolina Tiger Rescue. Going from some of the largest, most aggressive creatures on the planet, to the tiniest, most vulnerable... From the wildest animals native to the literal jungles of Asia and the planes of Africa, to the fellow city-dwellers who hang out in my backyard. I thought about the blocks of ice popped out of the tiger water dishes every winter morning, to the 78-degree mark on the thermometer of the turtle water pitchers. I thought about the feeding sticks at Carolina Tiger Rescue, which we use over and over, with the raw chicken and pork juices on the end, and the 50 different times I scrubbed my hands with sanitizer in one shift at the clinic. And I thought about the efforts being made to save the birds at the clinic while remembering the story of Romeo snatching a snack as it flew by.
I guess eventually all the little pieces of my life make up some unified puzzle. Or maybe it really is just a mishmash of crazy things.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
|I lay awake at about 3:30 this morning, an unfortunately frequent occurrence. I was in the bed in the dark, thinking middleofthenight kinds of thoughts, and slowly it dawned on me that my stomach hurt. I wasn't totally aware of it at first, but there it was. A distinctly uncomfortable state squirming its way into my consciousness.|
"Why does my stomach hurt?" I tuned in to my belly. "What is that feeling?" hmmm...
Oh!! It's HUNGER! I'm HUNGRY!! Of COURSE I am!! I had a tiny dinner. Like eight hours ago. Hhhuuunnnngggeerrrrr.
I got up. Padded to the kitchen. In the 25-foot trek I thought of the Crunch Berries. Remember them? Captain Crunch, all square and mouth-tearing, and sweet deliciousness. Comingled with the sweet sweet sugar-bombs, round and pink and berrylike. Mmmmm...
One of the many nice things about living with a 43-year-old teenager is that I get to rediscover the simple things.
Like Captain Crunch and his berries.
I took down the box. Got out the bowl. Poured the milk.
The first bite took me straight to the past. Not childhood, for sure, because my mother would never have allowed Captain Crunch. But some feeling of summer vacation, probably college, when sweet cereals meant a carefree weekend for some reason, when all reason and adult decision-making was cast aside to make room for the "vitamin fortified" fluff of junk cereal.
They're different now. The berries are all sorts of colors, and the berry-to-square ratio is much higher. Ah, they always spoil a good thing.
I headed back to the bedroom, and was nearly through the living room when I saw him. He stood in the doorway, hidden, mostly, by the shadow falling diagonally across his body. The darkness and strange shadows hid most of his face. I screamed and jumped back, nearly spilling the crunch.
"You scared me!!!"
Eddie sat between us, his body a tense torpedo, his claws gripping the ground. His eyes, which I couldn't see in the light but imagined, looked from him to me, waiting for the answer. Tense seconds past. I could barely make out his frown in the shadows.
I took a bite, but hesitated to chew.
His eyes settled on me. Pure fury.
"You stole my Crunch."
Meh. We'll get more. And I crunch crunch CRUNCHED myself to happiness.
Although he mentioned it again this evening. Apparently, this is serious business.