She sits outside, waiting for me to comb her out. I keep a lighter ready. Whenever a flea is caught in the comb, I quickly light the small bit of undercoat caught in the teeth and the flea stops moving. All you really have to do is burn their legs off and seal their mouth.
Some days it seems as if they know what I’m doing. They feel better after I comb them. I wish I could just put a spot on them but it no longer works. Evolution.
The day is hot, and long — and lonely. I struggle to deal with how it started — how my wife refused again to go to dialysis. The screaming that woke up my son. The memory of her locking me out of the house last night as I, covered in gas, hiked my way home from a car that had cut its fuel line, and she, blaming me for being late and refusing to let me inside.
I remember how tired I was walking around through the gate in the stone wall to the workshop in the back, filling up a backpack with tools and walking back to the car, fixing it with a piece of old aquarium hose.
I remember waking up at six, with her walking across the kitchen, mobile phone in hand. She was telling the dialysis clinic she could not go. I told her I’d fixed the car, and I could take her. Then I turned on my phone, having been charged overnight off — and found that my taking my son to dinner and a movie had been rewarded with 19 angry texts demanding where I was, and one confused friend whom she had called. I remember being afraid that her skipping dialysis again, would mean she won’t be eligible for a transplant. And I tried to convince her to go. That’s when she began screaming. She told me I was cheating on her. She called me Count Olaf, after the film “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. My son woke, crying — and begged her to go. She yelled at me for making him cry. I was in the other room. Nothing I could say or do would convince her to go.
The Dialysis Clinic called, wondering where she is — she will be very sick if she does not go. I told her about how my fuel line had been cut, and that I had fixed it and I could take her. But she refused to go. I feel a dark grey shadow cast upon me like dogs come running.. I know I will have to lie to them later. I know they will not give her the transplant from me if she does not keep her schedule.
Then comes the free form worrying. It’s the middle of the day now, and she’ll sleep. She gets tired, now. The failed organs within her gradually poisoning her until she can no longer move. She won’t tell me if she has completed the paperwork so that I can give her one of my organs. She spends her time looking around to make sure I haven’t bought a beer. I can only drink one in my home, but she will throw it away if I put it in the refrigerator. She was Hindu, but now she is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I desperately want the beer.
I try to help her make it to the clinic one last time. My worry increases. And then another. 3 hours pass, and she still refuses to go. I hear her call me any number of profane and obscene things. I walk away.
My son knows she has chosen to die like this. In the hot moments of the day, while I am outside, fixing the fuel line — it comes to me again. The shame . The helplessness. Seeing my son awakened by my wife’s angry accusations. Hearing the soft sobs of his crying, pleading her to go.
But she has the internet now, and it tells her that she can become healthy again. And she learns about strange diets and half muttered ideas that collect and cloud up like fleas on a dog near a cut by its tail.
They lay black eggs to hatch upon the thousands. I comb them out one by one, burning them as I go.
I scatter their black bodies on a white piece of paper and then put it in her compost heap in the backyard and burn it. The corn husks catch fire and burn out against the ground in the summer sun.