And All The Rest

If you’re hoping for funny, anecdotal stories about being a medical examiner- this is not the post for you.

It’s a blur, an unpleasant one.

Cancer has a very good publicity manager and amazing media representation. It’s all robust women in pink shirts, walking somewhere together while people cheer and throw money.
Grandmas and Grandpas sitting in atriums…. lots of potted plants and windows everywhere. They’re beaming and talking about a miraculous recovery. Their cancer that looks about as uncomfortable as indigestion, or a sales call during dinner- as they hold each other and stare into a sunset, some guy with a voice like warm butterscotch utters a single syllable: “Love” or “Hope” or … “Fuck”

It’s all earth-toned and peacefully happy, photos of bald people smiling gratefully up at inspirational quotes
Or standing with their arms out like they’re waiting for a great big fucking hug from God.

I was just confused… the same kind of confused I would imagine one feels when they wake up to find their lover standing over them with a knife… It’s some strange betrayal that transpires under the skin- your cells passing along dirty secrets in the dark, tucked between the blankets of flesh… naughty and scared but none of them want to stop.

all this time- I remember thinking- my own body was cheating on me. Something was brewing- a plan was being made somewhere deep and hidden.

I was confused when they told me I had cancer, I’m still confused.

Picking up where my 9th radiation treatment left off and plowing clear through to where I am now:

First of all, I ended up with a pig drawn on my shoulder one day, and there was a porcupine in there somewhere… all scrawled on my chest and shoulders by the radiation oncology staff. The lower half of my face turned a bright vermillion and my nose began to feel like a hollowed out cave in the middle of a desert. Then there was the mess of side effects that all crowded in like greedy children begging for candy. I developed the oozing radiation burn on my throat that extended inward to my vocal cords and I developed what my friends referred to as my “jazz singer voice”. My doctor decided to cut short my treatments because at 11 sessions, I was showing the symptoms you would expect to see after 16 sessions. He told me that my salivary glands could shut down forever and we may have damaged my thyroid. They put me on straight oxycodone for pain- the real thing, powdered narcotics in capsules, not that crap they mix with Tylenol and pound into tablets. I spent about a week and a half as high as a kite and went on to one of those websites where you can design your own t-shirts and stickers and they’ll print it all up and send them to you… drug induced stickers arrived at our house this week- lots of them.

But perhaps the most difficult part was the sense of hopelessness and ennui, the question of what the hell was I doing with my life. I had a horrible feeling of resentment toward my friends who were all pregnant and getting new jobs and doing fascinating, exciting things while I was sitting at home watching my face change colors and wondering if pre-natal vitamins would make everything get better, faster.

The fact is, cancer is confusing and terrifying. We like to think that modern medicine has everything under control… they try to convey that image with all of their mauve commercials. But they don’t have everything under control. Most of the time, I got the distinct impression that my radiation oncologist was just as baffled as I was by some of the effects that radiation was having on my body. Moreover, he wasn’t entirely sure how this whole endeavor was going to turn out, either. I would come to my follow-up appointments and he would take a look at me and say with some hesitation, “So… how do YOU think you’re doing?”

You see, not all cancers are tumors and chemo and “remission”. Overt cancers like that are pretty straightforward. My cancer is unpleasantly rare and maddeningly permanent, it will probably be with me until I die. “Cancer” is really just the abnormal reproduction and proliferation of cells… unhealthy cells that do ugly things. My cancer is a type of lymphoma that lives in my skin and causes dis-figuring rashes. It may become systemic if it’s left to its own devices. If we wanted to try to get rid of it completely, we would have to radiate my entire body, head to toe. The goal here was more or less to beat my cancer back by radiating the areas where it has been the most active- namely, my face, neck and chest. It’s not “gone”… just caged… for the moment…. hopefully. In five to ten years it may decide to become troublesome again and I’ll have to go through this lovely process all over again… if radiation worked at taming my disease process at all in the first place- because it’s too soon to tell.

Now, people ask me how I’m doing. They want to know if I’m “clear” and I don’t really know what to say. No, I’m not clear, but that wasn’t exactly the goal to begin with. It was a hope, but a distant one. I guess now, I’m just wondering what to do with my life. This is all very… significant… right? I don’t know. My focus has been to just hurry up and become functional again so I could go back to work. I don’t think I ever really thought about my cancer much- what it meant, how I’m reacting, how other people are reacting… it was just a series of sensations- “Wow, this sucks.” “Wow, I’m really uncomfortable.” “Wow, I look awful.”

Now, I’m sitting here, thinking… What was all that? What did I just go through? Why did I do it? What happens now? Should I feel a renewed sense of purpose? Should I be invigorated? What should I do now? Should I have a baby? Do we buy a house? Should I take that trip to Japan? Should I take more time off from work? How do I feel about my friends and family and how THEY responded to this? How old am I? What does that mean? What needs to change? What CAN I change? What are my responsibilities and what ARE NOT my responsibilities? What do I want now? For what can I, realistically, hope?

More than anything I’m just kind of left with… nothing. I’m not going to get any great big, neon sign test result that says “YOU’RE IN THE CLEAR!” I don’t feel affirmed or saved. I feel exhausted and rushed- like now I have to hurry up and figure out what the rest of my life is going to look like now that I’ve done, “The Big C” and life is, reportedly, so short.

I don’t know. I’m tired… and all I can say with any confidence is I’m pretty sure I want more out of this life than Netflix and air conditioning.

I guess that’s a start.

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Fun With Law Enforcement

The other day, driving home from my latest nuclear melt-down at the radiation oncologist’s office, Husband and I happened to pass an Oswald County deputy on his motorcycle.

It hadn’t been a good day.  In fact, that day was just the latest torture-tipped taunt in a string of miseries that, had the experiences taken on a physical form, I have no doubt they would have uncannily resembled a length of barbed wire.

I was sporting a thick, papular rash all over my face which gave me the overall appearance of a medieval plague victim.  Additionally, I was sporting a fiendish, oozing radiation rash all across my neck and “decolletage”, which gave me the overall appearance of a medieval plague victim who fell through the space-time continuum and landed at Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945.  (Of course I had opted to accentuate my old-testament-style suffering by wearing a long, black dress topped off by a hooded, black leather coat… and, naturally, I kept the hood up and my head down so I could just barely be glimpsed giving the world a shifty-eyed glare from deep within my torment… I could have taught a class to teenage goths.)

Anyway, I had just howled my latest “What-the-fuck-have-you-DONE-to-me” at my terrorized doctor, who responded by throwing his hands up in a defensive block and telling me that my complaints were actually NORMAL and EXPECTED side effects in a treatment regimen such as mine.  I had responded by wiping my nose, snapping at the nursing staff and stomping out of the office with Husband apologizing in hushed tones behind me. I flung myself into the passenger seat of our car and proceeded to wallow the whole way home with such flair as is only seen in Greek tragedies and swimsuit season.

It was then that I spied my cohort, the Oswald County Sheriff’s deputy cruising along on his county issued motorbike… just going about his business… just doing his thing.

I stared, wistfully, at him for a moment and felt my outrage and discomfort dissolve into a bitter longing.

“I miss the cops.”  I found myself bemoaning to Husband.

“I REALLY miss the county deputies.”

It’s true.  I miss the Oswald County Sheriff’s deputies.  I’ve often remarked on how much I like the deputies.  But in that moment, and since then, I have to admit that I really, really miss those guys.

So in their honor, two small songs of heroism and humor that have, thus far remained unsung:

-I WAS HOPING FOR A HEAD-

I love to snoop.

I count myself extremely lucky to have landed a job in which I am paid to go through other people’s stuff.  There are some who feel as though snooping is an unforgivable offense and they will end a relationship if they find that snooping has taken place.  To those people I tend to say “snooping is only wrong if you DON’T find anything.” As evidence, I offer the fact that, by snooping, I discovered my one-time fiancee was cheating on me.  Did I feel guilty about it? Fuck no! Did he try to turn it around on me and make it seem like I was the one in the wrong for going behind his back and invading his privacy?  Of course he did.  Did I point out that he had been invading the “privacy” of his alleged EX-GIRLFRIEND roughly 3 times a week since we had gotten engaged? At the top of my lungs, I did.

Anyway, these days, I get to go through everyone’s stuff because it’s an integral part of understanding who they were, and therefore, why they’re dead.  It’s also lots of fun… except for when it’s dangerous… then it’s downright exciting.

I had been called to a scene in which the deceased was found flat on his back in his bedroom with a large supply of methamphetamine nearby.  The Sheriff’s deputies knew it was methamphetamine, in part, because they had one of those little drug-testing kits in their car.  They also knew it was methamphetamine because both our dead guy and his brother looked like they had just walked out of a concentration camp.  Meth tends to inflict a very specific array of symptoms on its users.  They tend to be extremely thin with dull, flaking, pock-marked skin.  The eyes are shrunken and recessed back in the orbits. The cheekbones are sharply pronounced with folds of soft tissue hanging limply from their crests.  Most notably, the teeth look like shriveled up crisped-rice cereal.  This dude and his sibling (who was standing on the front porch with a cigarette and forcefully disavowing ANY knowledge of his brother’s drug use) the two of them were like the freaking “Doublemeth” twins.  The only symptom they DIDN’T have in common was the fact that one of them wasn’t dead.

Anyway, the deputies and I were busy tossing the house for any other illicit substances when we noticed the dead guy had a small mini-fridge placed next to his dresser in the corner of his bedroom.

The mini-fridge had a pad-lock on it…

a BIG one.

Now, if there’s a heaven for law enforcement and investigative professionals, then that heaven is a magical place- full of rusty safes and suspicious lock-boxes.  Every corner of this paradise is crammed thick with file cabinets of questionable character and glove compartments of ill-repute.  When such an inquiring saint enters the into this happy hunting ground, they are greeted at the gates, not by Saint Peter, but by Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost items.  Saint Anthony hands each of these souls a bright shiny pair of golden bolt-cutters or a chrome crowbar and whispers into their ear: “Gooooo…. FIND IT!”

It makes my heart hurt a little, just thinking about it.

Anyway, when we spied the little fridge, squatting there with an impish little smirk on its face, both the deputy and I caught our breath a little. We glanced surreptitiously at each other for a moment.

“Do you think we should open it?” the officer asked, only partially joking.
“Oh, you bet your shiny black pistol we’re opening that thing.” I crowed.

None of the police at the scene had a pair of bolt-cutters and so we raised the fire department on dispatch and had them roll over in their truck with the required equipment. When the hose-haulers showed up, they were followed by no less than 3 other local police officers who had heard the call for bolt-cutters go out on the radio. It seemed our pad-locked mini-fridge was the hottest thing going that night… and everyone wanted to see what was inside.

Since the bolt cutters were the property of the fire department, it was generally assumed that they would be the ones doing the honors. And with much acclaim, the ranking lieutenant stepped into the bedroom brandishing the massive tool as though he was carrying a sacrificial knife up a Mayan pyramid or something. It was at that moment that suddenly, my survival instincts kicked in. Drug addicts tend to be… unpredictably unpredictable. On one hand, you can pretty much count on them to chase their particular fix with a mindless, dogged drive. But that’s really the only generalization that can be made. Some drug addicts can be woefully dull creatures of habit, or, sometimes they can do some really crazy shit- and there’s not really any way to predict what could be coming. In that moment, as the fireman knelt in front of the mini-fridge, a tiny little flare of alarm shot off in my head.

If this guy was careful and industrious enough to keep something in a locked refrigerator, who’s to say he WASNT paranoid enough to also booby-trap that refrigerator?

I’ll admit it, this was kind of a silly thought. But all the same, I’ve seen some pretty wacky shit as both a paramedic and a medical examiner…. so in the split second as the fireman positioned the clips around that pad-lock, I vaulted over the futon that was in the middle of the guy’s room, leapt over the dead body and dove behind the fireman who appeared to have the most body mass and would therefore make the best human shield.

(What was even stranger than my sudden outburst, was the fact that no one in the room seemed at all surprised or taken aback. I figure either they all had the same nagging fear and I was the only one who acted on it…. or nothing I do or say shocks these people anymore.)

There was no explosion, obviously, and the lock gave way with a loud “SNAP”.

The fireman looked around at the gathered company with a grin and swung open the little door to reveal….

… a six-pack of Canada Dry Ginger Ale.

In less than 5 minutes, I was once again alone in the apartment with the dead guy and the original deputy who had discovered the existence of the offending mini-fridge with me.

I was finishing up my photos and already had a funeral home on the way to transport the body, while the officer was investigating each soda can to make sure that none of them was one of those novelty decoy cans with the un-screwable bottom so you could further conceal your loot.

“Man, what a disappointment…”he grumbled as he scowled repeatedly at the dead guy on the floor, who was probably having a really good laugh at us… wherever he was.

“Yeah,” I agreed, “I totally thought there was gonna be a head in there or something.”

“Me too,” the deputy pouted, “or at least…. a chemistry set… or a cat… or something.”

“Well, they can’t all be Freezer-Frank.” I said, in reference to a gentleman who had been found, dismembered, in a freezer chest in his garage last year.

The deputy sighed again and glanced at the ginger ale in the ‘fridge, then he looked at the floor. Undoubtedly, he was mulling over the rest of his night, and how nothing fun or interesting had happened and, now, probably wouldn’t. He glanced back at the dead guy, gazed back into the ‘fridge and then I heard him mumble, “Man…. fuck this guy.”

Then he proceeded to remove every can of soda from the fridge, shake each of them up as hard as he could, then put them back.

-Strike A Pose-

I was going to die,

I was pretty sure.

I don’t even mean in a sudden, crazy “what-if-the-mini-fridge-is-booby-trapped” kind of way, or “Oh-my-God-I-have-cancer” kind of way.

I had put some serious, rational thought into it and came to the conclusion that I could actually be driving to the scene of my own death.

I had gotten a call from the local city police force (NOT the county deputies) and they had asked me to do a death notification for them. Now, this might not seem like an unusual request, seeing as how I’m the Oswald county medical examiner, except for the fact that Lincolnville police officers always did death notifications themselves. What’s more… the death notification that had to be done was IN Lincolnville so it’s not like they had to go out of their way to get it taken care of.

Confused? So was I. The call I received went something like this:

“Hey this is the medical examiner returning a page.”

“Um… yeah, this is the Lincolnville P. D. staff sergeant. I was wondering if you could do a favor for us.”

“Sure, man, what do you need?”

“Well… did you know about that officer-involved shooting we had last night?”

Although I had not been working, I had heard about it during shift change. A car-full of guys had been pulled over and when the Licolnville P.D. started making moves towards searching the vehicle and running the identities of the occupants for warrants, some dude in the backseat burst out into the street with guns blazing.  The Lincolnville officers put him down in a matter of moments and that had been that.  Except for the fact that, apparently, the dead guy’s family had not, yet been officially notified of his death.  It was entirely possible and even likely that they already knew…. but that didn’t change the fact that someone official had to look them in the eye and deliver the news.

Apparently that “someone official” was going to be me.

“You see, the thing is….”  the staff sergeant stuttered uncomfortably as he revealed the situation, “we don’t think Lincolnville P.D. should be the ones to notify since… well… even BEFORE this happened, we kind of have a bad history with this family…  We think they would react with a lot of hostility if a Lincolnville officer came to the door….”

I couldn’t believe it.  “So wait…” I stopped him, mid-sentence. “YOU guys killed this dude in a shootout…”

“Well… yeah…”

“But even before that, Lincolnville P.D. had history with this guy and his family.”

“Yeah.”

“But you want ME to walk up to their front door and tell them that their boy was killed in a fire-fight with Lincolnville P.D. …”

“Yeah…”

“… because you guys are afraid of what they’ll do TO YOU…”

“You should take a chaplain along,” the sergeant continued as though there was nothing at all unreasonable about this request.  “And maybe a county deputy or two.”

So THAT’S how I found myself on my way to my own death.  I had arranged for a sheriff’s chaplain and the recommended “couple of deputies” to meet me in a parking lot near the family’s house so we could all touch base and figure out how best to minimize casualties.  And a few minutes after everyone’s arrival, I couldn’t help but notice that I was the only one without a bullet-proof vest. Admittedly, I had driven by the house in question on my way to the rendezvous point just to check and see if there was an active wake taking place at the locale- complete with drunken mourners shooting guns in the air and everything.  Our decedent’s family home had been dark and quiet…. but that could have been because they were in the basement, plotting t blow up city hall.

“Ummm… so….” I announced as I approached the deputies.  “As I understand it, we’re all about to die.”

“Yeah!” shouted deputy Scheller.  “Talk about getting thrown under the bus!”  -and THAT’S how I knew it wasn’t just my own suspicion and it actually WAS total and complete bullshit that Lincolnville had chickened out like that.

“I don’t suppose you guys have another vest in your trunk or anything, do you? I’m feeling a little…” I shrugged, “… left out.”

The other deputy, Dobber, shrugged.

“I have one, but it’s a tactical vest… it’s for SWAT.  I doubt it’ll fit you, but maybe you can cover it with your coat.”

The tactical-grade vest was marched out and the deputy strapped it on me.  I went from “business casual” to “storming the gates” in about 15 seconds.  The vest itself was massive, easily doubling the circumference of my torso.  Furthermore, I had wrist restraints, flares, tear-gas cannisters and extra ammo all hanging off the front of my chest.  I definitely looked less, “I’m-here-to-convey-the-county’s-regrets” and more, “I’m-here-to-escort-your-convoy-to-Falluja.”

“Uh…” I grunted as I tried in vain to look downward at my whole…. situation, I realized I strongly resembled the character of “Randy” from the movie “A Christmas Story” in that I was so packed into my armor that I couldn’t quite put my arms down.  “I think this might send the wrong message…”

I glanced up at the deputies and the chaplain, all of whom were valiantly trying not to laugh out loud.

“Would you mind taking a picture for my mom?” I asked them.

And the next thing I knew, all four of us were doubled over, laughing our assess off.  Dobber pulled out his cell-phone and , obligingly, took about a dozen photos of me doing my best “America’s Next Top Shooting Victim” as I used Scheller and the chaplain as props.

In the end, I doffed the vest and opted to stand behind everyone else as we knocked on the dead guy’s door to deliver our unfortunate news.  It turned out okay.  The house was, in fact, the residence of our dead guy’s ex-wife and she was able to give us the location of the decedent’s actual blood relations…. all of whom lived out of state, so we got to pass the buck on to another law enforcement agency.  Therefore, we all got to live to see another day…

… more importantly, I got to live to see the email appear in my inbox- the email which opened to reveal the fruits of my very first, on-the-job photo shoot.  And when I look at those photos, I can still hear the hoots of laughter and the shouted coaching from my “artistic director”, Deputy Dobber:

“Okay… now show me ANGRY!  YES! That’s it… You’re ANGRY that you have to do this notification… okay now cheat your face to the left a little…. PERFECT!”

Another Brief History of Radiation Therapy

-Day 8-

Toady there is a new nurse in radiation therapy. Normally I have two female nurses, Wendy and Susan, but Susan is gone this week and she has been replaced by Don. 

As a result, Wendy makes a big show of attempting to protect my privacy… which means to say she tosses a pillow-case over my breasts. 

This strikes me as odd… since no less than 11 complete strangers, (both men and women) have seen me topless on the radiation table over the course of the last two weeks. But rather than point out the inconsistency of her concern, I simply say: 

” Woman, please.  I’ve been to Burning Man.” 

As I’m being prepped for my treatment, Don’s ID badge keeps swinging close to my face as he leans over me. The picture features him with a big-ass cheesy grin on his face…. the kind where the photographer has almost psychotic enthusiasm as they tell you to “smile”… so you just kind of flash a maniacal grin at them. 

The picture makes me kind of like Don.

As Don and Wendy begin with marking up my shoulders and chest, I ask Don if he will draw a little unicorn galloping across my clavicle. 

“Ummmmm….” he stutters a bit. Making me think this is the first time anyone has ever 

asked him to do such a thing…. which makes me all but certain that Don and Wendy have and even more depressing job than I do. 

“Come on, man! Do it!” I tell him.

“Okay… I’ll try.”

Don doesn’t sound too confident. But as he’s outlining my fields, I can feel him doodling something on my right clavicle. He squints at it critically for a moment and then shrugs.

“Is it a unicorn?” I ask him.

“Kinda…” he says hesitantly.

“Fuck yeah!” I hoot.

Wendy walks over to take a look at it and declares that the drawing doesn’t look a thing like a unicorn. So a few minutes later, while I’m face-down and the two of them are mapping out my back fields, I notice that Wendy takes some extra time on my left shoulder.

 Don walks over and takes a look.

 Yeah, that’s pretty good.” he says.

There’s a small cat on my shoulder

Otherwise… 

I notice that my sense of taste has continued to deteriorate. Everything tastes like I have a dirty penny hidden under my tongue.

 That night… or rather the following morning at about 4 a.m…. I awake coughing uncontrollably.  My throat feels as though there is a knife jammed into it.  It’s all so dry that I can barely swallow.  Radiation damages the salivary glands and now my mouth and throat parch out while I’m sleeping due to the lack of lubrication.  But there’s something more… I can feel something viscous and salty in my mouth.

 I stumble over to the bathroom sink to find that I have a raging nosebleed.  Apparently radiation dries out the nasal mucosa too…

 …fun.

-DAY 9- 

I’m developing painful sores in my mouth.  It appears this results from the cell damage that is both the target goal and a side effect of radiation therapy. On the upside, radiation kills the cancer cells, which is great… those little bastards have been squatting in my skin for over 5 years now… leaving their trash everywhere and tagging the walls.  On the downside, the cells in your mouth can’t replenish themselves as quickly as usual, which means that sores form and won’t go away until after radiation is over… long over

 The real-life implications are nothing less than hell made flesh.

 It hurts to eat.  Every bite of food I take feels like sandpaper inside of my mouth.

 The morning of my 9th session, it takes me half an hour to eat 3 slices of apple.

 Don and Wendy are their usual selves, all polite distance and professional courtesy, the sterility of which I find truly disturbing.

 So while Don is marking out my fields, I ask him to try his hand at a dolphin.

 Don looks at me like I just asked him to pull my fingernails out with pliers.  But he shrugs and  I feel an outline being scrawled out on my right clavicle again.

 Wendy wanders over and laughs.

 “That doesn’t look ANYTHING like a dolphin!” she giggles.

 Don grins and they carry on until later, when I once again am laying face-down and I can feel Wendy scrawling away on my left shoulder.  Don leans over and states authoritatively.

“THAT is DEFINITELY a walrus!”

Then we all laugh.

 … and for a minute, it wasn’t so bad anymore.

 Forever, let the 9th day of treatment be known as “Dueling Dolphin Day”


-Supplemental-

In between day 8 and 9, I throw a serious hissy fit… I mean class-A, unadulterated temper tamtrum.  The phrase “kicking and screaming” is not a euphemism here.  I actually shut myself up in my bathroom and proceeded to beat the shit out of the door, the toilet, the walls… all the while, I cuss like Yosemite Sam on meth.   

What is the cause of my tizzy, you may be asking?

 Well, in truth I was horrifically pissed off about frozen yogurt.

 So, NOW i bet you’re asking how someone can be so upset by frozen yogurt?

 First of all, I’d like to point out that people are driven insane at fast-food drive through windows all the damn time.  I’ve seen security camera footage in which a McDonald’s customer is flipping out because they couldn’t get a chicken sandwich before 11 a.m.  It happens.  We Americans take our culinary vices very seriously.

 I had stopped by at one of my favorite self-serve frozen yogurt places with the intention of buying a bowl of yummy-treat-ness for both my husband and myself.  I selected the salted caramel flavor for me and opted to get husband a heaping bowl of cheesecake flavored fro-yo.  Unfortunately, in the bowl, these two flavors looked exactly alike- they’re both white.  So when I went to the front counter to heap toppings on my two bowls of yogurt, I couldn’t remember which one was which.

 Normally the remedy for such a situation would be to taste one of the yogurts and thereby determine the identity of each, and I attempted to do just that…. Alas, to no avail.

In the last few days I noticed that all my food had started tasting very much the same.  Oh, sure… some basic flavors were uninterrupted, things like salty or sour.  But, overwhelmingly, all of my food had tasted…. off.  Everything had a markedly metallic flavor.  And when I attempted to taste my yogurts, they both tasted exactly the same to me.  They tasted like cold, sweet…. rust.

I stood in the middle of the yogurt shop in confusion for a moment, staring down at the bowls in my hands.  I tasted them again… and again.  Nothing…. absolutely no difference.  I felt myself tearing up.  I couldn’t put the wrong toppings on them…. Butterfinger pieces on cheesecake instead of caramel might taste fine… but the raspberries had to go on the cheesecake flavor… they HAD to, that’s the way husband liked it.  And what kind of shitty, disabled, malfunctioning wife was I if I couldn’t get this right? Jesus! How sick was I?  What the hell was radiation DOING to me!?! 

“I’m not gonna cry over my yogurt.”  I silently seethed at myself.  “I am NOT going to CRY over YOGURT!” 

I stepped up to the counter.

“Hey…um… I’m wondering if you could help me out…” I smiled as winningly as I could at the hollow-eyed teenage girl behind the counter.  She visibly flinched at the radiation burns on my face as she looked me over and then met my eyes with a guarded stare.  Her expression made it clear that she suspected I was either going to ask her to participate in a scientific experiment or I was going to try and lure her out to my kidnapper van.

“Look, I forgotten which of these is which and they taste the same to me… could you tell me which one is caramel and which one is cheesecake?  I offered her the two bowls.

She cautiously leaned forward and smelled one of them without taking it from my hand.  She plucked a plastic spoon out of a jar on the counter and scooped a dainty sliver of yogurt out for herself, then she carefully licked it… as though I had somehow managed to sprinkle the yogurt with roofies or something.

“That’s cheesecake.”  she said, matter-of-factly. 

I thanked her, spooned out the toppings, paid for the yogurt, went home… and after stuffing the yogurt in the freezer, proceeded to the bathroom where I completely lost my shit.  I had barely said anything to husband on my way in and who knew what he thought was going on.  I slammed my fists into the walls, kicked the toilet, the door, the bathtub, all while screaming profanity at the top of my lungs.  I was at it for a good 5 minutes or so (which is no small feat- let me tell you- screaming for 5 solid minutes is not for ametures… that’s why so many metal-core songs are only 3 minutes long)

By the time I exhausted myself, my hands ached from the repeated impact and there were several black scuff-marks decorating the bathroom at about knee-height.  Unfortunately, as I surveyed the damage, I also noted that the bathroom door was hanging a bit askew and when I tried to open it, it stuck fast.  In my fury I had managed to jam the door so completely into the door-frame that, now, it wouldn’t budge.  In humiliated outrage, I yelled for husband who had chosen to remain in the living room and let the storm blow itself out.  It took him a few minutes, but after some solid shoulder-heaves, he managed to free me from the prison of my rage.  When he finally did get the door open, I smiled sheepishly at him and said

“I brought you some frozen yogurt…”