Haute Dish The Arts & Literature Magazine of Metropolitan State University Icicles
Spring 2005

 


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drey's dilemma
By Margaret Pribel

“He’s how much younger than you?”

“You haven’t even tasted your flan.”

“A cowboy’s job is to wrangle cows.”

“Justin, being gay doesn’t mean you’re an asshole.”

“Florkity-flork, I think it was, or something like that.”

Random pieces of conversations floated in Drey’s head like dust particles. Each comment getting no more recognition than a dust particle would. The neurons in her brain firing around the question she was not ready to handle.

“If you really love him you’ll do it,” she heard the echo of her best friend Mary.

“Go away, I don’t want to deal with you now,” Drey commanded her thoughts.

She nearly walked into an elderly lady and knocked the woman’s bags from her hand.

“I’m sorry, are you all right?” the elderly woman asked looking concerned.

“Damn malls during the day with these old people, I took off of work for this?” Drey thought to herself. “No, everything’s all right, I’m fine,” she said to the woman, stopping herself from being self-absorbed. “Are you ok?” she asked, stooping down modestly in her mini-skirt to pick up the lady’s bags.

“Yes, I still have good reflexes, thank God.”

“Lord, another holy roller just what I need today,” Drey thought. “I think something is broken in one of your bags, do you want to check?” She cringed, hoping she wouldn’t have to pay for an expensive replacement.

“Oh, that’s probably just a wind chime I picked up for my niece; her Feng Shui needs fixing in her wealth corner,” the old woman said. “How nice of you to be concerned.”

“Ok so she’s a spirituality nut,” Drey thought.

“Let’s go over to that bench by the fountain and take a look at it,” said the lady.

“Ok,” Drey agreed limply, internally kicking herself for having brought it up.

“This lady’s a brisk walker and in good shape for an old bird,” Drey noticed. She thought about asking how old she was, but decided it would be in bad form. When they got to the bench she asked, “Do you live around here?” She smoothed her skirt over her hips as she lowered to the bench and crossed her legs.

“Yes, I walk over here all the time. I haven’t seen your face around here before, I’m Tilly, my given name is Matilda of course,” she extended her hand to shake.

Drey took her hand gingerly, remembering that her grandmother’s arthritis made it painful to shake hands, “I’m Drey.”

“Drey? What does that mean?” Tilly leaned in.

“It’s short for Audrey but they call me Drey because my twin brother’s nickname is Drew. So, it’s Andrew and Audrey or Drew and Drey. Some people like to think I'm named after a gangsta rapper, and I do not like that. Other people want to call me Andrea,” she explained.

“Oh, Audrey, Drey that’s a different nickname. I like it. Don’t be afraid to break me, Drey, I can take a handshake.” Tilly gave her hand a squeeze before their hands parted.

“I’m sorry it’s just that my Grandmother had arthritis; I’m careful with shaking hands. All us Grands, I mean Grandchildren, learned to be careful-my mom made us practice.”

“Your Grand, huh? I have Huns.”

“Huns? What does that mean?”

“I’m a vain woman,” Tilly said.

Drey tilted her head a smidge, weighing the possibility that this ordinary-looking woman could be vain. “What a ballsy thing to say about yourself,” she thought.

“I don’t want my children’s children calling me Grandma. That is like being called old, and I just don’t like the image that comes to mind with Grandma. I have never knitted in a rocking chair in my life, and I do not intend to start now. It’s not who I am, or part of my reality, and I love my Hun-children very much, so I came up with the term Hun-ma.”

“That seems warmer, more like a nickname.” Drey mused.

“Uh-huh, that was the idea.”

“How many Hun-children do you have?” Drey looked at the creases in her face, as if to gain some clues.

“Thirty.”

“What!” Drey was surprised, “How many kids do you have?” she looked a little closer at Tilly’s face.

“Thirteen all together.” Tilly beamed with pride, letting every wrinkle tell their story.

Drey figured quickly, “You were pregnant for like ten years!”

“Oh, I didn’t give birth to them all, I just loved ‘em all. My husband and I adopted seven of them; I only gave birth six times. What about you, do you have any children?”

Drey sighed, “No, not any kids, a cat and he’s sick, kidney failure and some other problems.”

Tilly touched her hand, “Is that what’s got you all bunched up?”

Drey took offense to the question, then, in the next moment, conceded to the truth, “Yeah, I guess it does. The vet’s office is waiting for me to decide what to do. They don’t think Marvin’s going to make it either way, but he’s all I’ve got-and I’ve had him since I was twelve.”

“How old is Marvin now?” Tilly asked carefully.

“He’s fifteen, but some cats live into their twenties.” Drey’s defenses were apparent.

“Well, not many cats live to be twenty no matter how healthy. You say he’s all you’ve got?”

The skin on her neck showed red blotches of emotion as Drey explained, “Marvin and I moved here for my job 2 years ago, I haven’t met many people outside of work and they’re all married with kids,”

Tilly asked, “Drey, do you mind if I tell you how I was raised with animals on the farm?”

Drey picked at a hangnail on her index finger, “People on farms are cruel to the animals,”

“Yes,” Tilly said softly, “Some people are, but others will fall in love with every mouse-catching cat on their farm, like I did. I named them all funny names. One day, a part Siamese, part tiger-striped cat I called Impetuous got kicked by a cow and probably had a punctured lung along with a bunch of broken bones. I watched him fly across the milking house and land like a sock full of manure. I asked my daddy to take Impetuous to the vet, but he refused.” Tilly looked at Drey’s face and continued, “My daddy said, ‘Tilly, if an animal can’t live healthy on it’s own, it’s suffering and would prefer to be out of misery. Humans don’t need to impose their beliefs in medicine on creatures that can’t comprehend the benefit. An animal will kill itself trying to get away from the pain. It’s just plain cruel to prolong their suffering.’”

Drey thought for a moment and said slowly, “You know I just got the picture of how animals will burrow if they’re sick. They want to be alone. I know when I am sick, I want to be left alone.” She paused, “But are you saying that we shouldn’t be giving any medicine to animals?” Drey countered.

“Not in all cases. There’s a difference between an animal that needs help healing and medicine that goes too far.” Tilly paused and went on, “Like when humans are kept alive on life support machines, I don’t know what your belief is on that, but I think there’s a line. When that line is crossed, it goes into cruelty. People are supposed to die, it’s natural.” Tilly explained.

Drey said, “I haven’t had to think about having to take someone off life support and now I’ve got a cat that’s kind of in that position.”

“Unfortunately, the older you get the more opportunities you get to deal with the issue of life support. You know, I believe the after-life is a good place, I don’t believe in any hell. I think the after-life is a reward for having gone through living.”

“Do you think cats go to heaven?” Drey asked.

“I think all creatures go to heaven,” Tilly assured her.

“I like that,” Drey sighed, “Now I know what to do. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t ready to tell the vet’s office what to do. I needed to hear what you had to say, maybe like this meeting was meant to be,” Drey glowed with the insight.

“You make bumping into a stranger sound so spiritual.” Tilly teased.

“Oh, I was thinking it was fate. Is that spiritual? Hey, we didn’t check your wind chime.”

“It’s made of metal and wood, and I’m sure it’s not broken.” Tilly smiled into Drey’s eyes; “I thought you could use a little company today.”

“You say you’re here often?” Drey asked, and broke into a smile.

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