The Paramedics

Dad got dizzy again, Mom reports, thought it was the blood sugar so drank some O.J. but when the world still whirled like a drop-kicked gyroscope and the stiff smiles on our school portraits kept lurching across the wall until his legs went soft and she was out—P.T. for her shoulder, ringer off—and there he was on the floor, hands and knees, stuck, Dad dialed 911and once more the neighbors of forty-plus years watched the ambulance block our narrow Philly one-way lined with duplexes circa nineteen hundred, watched the paramedics slow jog on up to the house pallbearing a stretcher, push open the door with its always-broken knob to find Dad there alone because his dog is dead, Harry the retriever with a Jheri Curl we joked, for whom Dad lined the floors with Inquirers since he pissed and shit wherever he could barely walk but was loved so much there will never be another—can’t do it again, watch a dog die and die until one day you wake up having seen enough suffering and heave him into the back of the Oldsmobile, panting, hot, and try to pet with one hand, speed downtown to the vet with the other—way over the limit so you don’t lose the guts the way you have before enough of this beige wall-to-wall carpet that realtor said would increase value this will not be it, this will not be capital I.T. in my cold, small house. Who would feed the birds out back? Who would make my wife laugh in spite of herself? Maybe nobody’s daughters ever call and just text emoji strings: heart-heart-smiley face-four leaf clover-heart cause when we speak I get gruff if they prod about my drinking, smoking, digging in the knife with talk of the grandchildren, how I’m their only Pop-Pop and for them must learn to take better care. Eat my rice cakes. Lay off all the ice cream and beer, sit and let the oxygen fill my lungs, keep me here. Mom calls. Says now Dad’s sitting up eating Jell-O, flirting with the nurses, calling them hon when he calls them over to, please flip the news off—ballgame’s on.

 

Volume 12.1 - June 2019

Lauren Goodwin Slaughter is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from Sewanee Writers' Conference, and author of the poetry collection, a lesson in smallness. Her fiction and poetry have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in Image, Pleiades, BULL, 32 Poems, Sugar House Review, Nashville Review, and Kenyon Review Online. She is an assistant professor of English at The University of Alabama at Birmingham where she is Editor-in-Chief of, NELLE, a literary journal that publishes writing by women.