Choice

Caelyn woke up at four in the morning to the sound of a cat vomiting over her head. When she turned the light on, she saw Lunabella, standing up next to the pillow, vomiting green chunks of half-digested meat all over the sheet. Caelyn felt her face. It was wet.

She went into the hallway to get a towel. Then she went into the bathroom, to wash her face without looking at it. When she came back, Lunabella was eating the vomit. Caelyn shooed the cat away and sopped up as much vomit as she could, then stripped the sheets from the bed.

It was no use going back to sleep. The washing machine would keep her up, and then the dryer would keep her up after that. She could only use electricity at night, anyways. An adjunct professor could not even think about paying the day rates.

Maybe Mary, the woman who lived in the apartment next door, could take her and Lunabella to the vet tomorrow. Maybe Mary could take her to the doctor’s office on Wednesday, too. If not, she’d have to cancel her 10AM class twice in one week, or maybe take a taxi on her credit card.

If her benefits came through, Caelyn could afford to hire an assistant once a week. She could finally buy the medication that would dissolve the clots in her legs. The prescription was still displayed on her refrigerator, held up by a magnet that Professor Barnes had given her, three cities and six universities ago. Under a drawing of a laughing, white-bearded man, the magnet read, “How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.”

It was funny at the time.

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Story Based on an Overheard Conversation

You should never cut a sandwich with a hunting knife. Not in a car going 80 miles an hour down the freeway. Cat imagined the lectures Dad would give her when she came home. There was no way to hide an injury like this.  She held her arm up over her head, just like Marcus had told her to.

She closed her eyes against the light. Imagine working here every day, she thought. I’d go crazy.

“Does it still hurt?” Marcus asked. Cat nodded and fiddled with the end of the tube tied around her armpit. Marcus batted her hand away.

“Don’t do that,” he said. A man in scrubs passed by the open door. Someone moaned down the hall.

A woman came in and asked a series of questions about the injury. She wrote on a clipboard while Marcus answered. Her nametag read “Rita Nguyen – Licensed Vocational Nurse.” Marcus wondered what hour of her shift she was on.

“What’s taking them so long?” Cat said. “I wanna get stitched up and get outta here!”

“They’ll be here soon,” Marcus assured her. “They––stop!––they’re busy. It’s Friday night.”

She closed her eyes and smiled. “I wouldn’t mind a scar,” she said. “I could be like the Joker, but with my arm.”

“Add to your street cred?”

“Yeah. My nonexistent street cred.”

Rita Nguyen left. A man in dark blue scrubs came into the room. His name tag read “Dr. Severinghaus.” He took Marcus’s seat and began unwrapping the gauze around Cat’s arm.

“Finally,” Cat said. “I was majorly freaking out.”

“We’ll get you home soon, Cat. Don’t worry.”

“I’ll be okay though, right?”

In the room across the hall, a woman muttered something about COINTELPRO. Marcus leaned against the sink and watched Dr. Severinghaus unwrap the gauze covering Cat’s hand.