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Archive for July, 2008

Liquor Stores and Dead Rabbits

My co-worker and I pulled into the roadside liquor store along the side of the Richardson Highway, Milepost 183, outside of Glennallen, Alaska.

“Oh my fucking god, what does that dog have?” he exclaimed. I cast a glance sideways at the black lab in the gravel parking lot. It was carrying around something. Oh, just a leg of something. Something’s leg. It was awfully stiff already, it looked old, but was severed off of whatever it was it came from. Oh, a rabbit. It just looked bigger, because the damn thing was all stretched out in rigamortis.

We went into the store, a little hole-in-the-wall kind of place. Outside, the siding was plastered with posters of bikini clad women posing with beer, seductively. From the looks of it, you’d think they were selling women instead of liquor. I mean, if I came over from Japan with no English and no idea what was going on, I just might think I could obtain a hooker beyond that door threshold. With that kind of advertising, the heavyset, sixty-ish, toothless wonder behind the counter was a bit of a contrast. An additional shocking contrast came from the fact that the women on the outside of the building were bikini clad, whereas the current climate conditions in Glennallen, Alaska in mid-July where pouring down rain and a balmy 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Your dog’s got a leg in it’s mouth.” I decide to inform her, as we set our $15.99 12 pack of Miller Lite on the counter. She grinned wildly.

“Oh, she’s just been such a puppy since the knee surgery!” she exclaimed, showing me her toothless grin again. At this point, as she punches in the $15.99 into the cash register, I snap into some mode of mine where I feel like making small talk. I don’t know why it happens, perhaps to flex my muscle of sociability, perhaps to glean some small bit of information that amuses me, perhaps to make some sort of connection with another human being that spans cultural separation, perhaps to make me more accessible and less of a random nameless Miller Lite drinker in a remote corner of a forgotten place.

“Wow, knee surgery!” this new mode of me makes me exclaim.

“Yes! She had the first knee done six weeks ago, and the other knee is getting done on Tuesday. It’s changed everything. You know, they always tell you with these old dogs that it’s the hips, but don’t believe them. That’s right, don’t believe them. It could be the knees.”

“How old is she?” I remark. The new mode of me is running strong, but I have to admit, the heart strings are tugged a bit. I have an old mutt too. She’s at home, I am currently missing her a bit, and my boyfriend had just called to say she hadn’t felt like eating that day.

“Oh, she’s just 10. Cost a fortune, it did, but it’s darn well worth it. $1300 a knee, can you just believe it. Had I gone to Anchorage, it woulda been seven grand!”

The heart strings are no longer tugged. Instead, as I fork over a crumpled twenty dollar bill in order to procure my Miller Lite, I am attempting to grasp forking over 2600 dollars on knee surgery for a ten year old dog. And, if I may be so bold, this proprietress of a run down liquor store on Milepost 183 looks as if she could’ve used the money in other places. Still, I can’t shut down the new mode once it’s started, at least for ten minutes.

“Oh, I totally understand,” I lie. “I have a 12 year old mutt.” While I do have a 12 year old mutt, I don’t comprehend the knee surgery part. She grins again as my change is dealt to me.

“Ha! If it was my son, I’d probably just shoot ’em! Ha!” she snorts. The new mode of me laughs, but is wavering on being the real me now. I can’t tell. Could the new mode and the real me be one and the same in this instant?

“I hear ya!” I yell, as I head out of the store, Miller Lite protectively under my arm. The black lab saunters across the parking lot, stiff old rabbit leg extended haphazardly. Because I have an old mutt, I know that the dog wants me to see that she has a leg. She wants me to want the leg too, but I can’t have the leg, because it’s her leg. I know this, so I make a few faltering moves towards the leg, and her tail wags faintly as she trots off on her new knee.

Today is Tuesday, and for some insane reason I am stuck in my cabin, wondering how the old knee surgery went. Both the new mode and the real me are wondering together, as in I am wondering.

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