Needle and Thread

2 figures at far end of boardwalk
Keep Walking

Myrna puttered, adjusting the gas on the stove, checking the water. She got out a stack of clean towels, a box of powdered laundry soap, brought out a huge bottle of rubbing alcohol from the back of the house, a sewing basket, and a reel of thin clear fishing line. A hank of some strange dark thread, too. She washed her hands with the laundry soap, got out a bowl and put the reel of fishing line in it, and dropped a pair of scissors into the pot of boiling water. After awhile she fished the scissors out, put them steaming in the bowl away from the fishing line, and poured a lot of the alcohol over them. She pulled out a needle and seared the tip in the gas flame under the pot, swished it in the bowl of alcohol, and threaded a length of fishing line through it, with a knot at the end, dropped it in the bowl of alcohol. Then she prepared another needle with the dark thread, and another one. She got out a box of sterile cotton bandaging, and old-fashioned self-stick surgical tape. They’d used up their first box of bandages on Keisha’s hand.

Myrna smiled, pulling out a box of latex gloves. “Get all kinds of cuts and scrapes, jabbed with fish hooks, get your hands spined, when you go fishing to feed y’self all day long. Well, you saw, the laundry powder’s easier than tryin’ to lather with hand soap. That self-dissolving thread, it only holds up a little while in the straight alcohol. We be ready here all the time, except for the numbing. I’m sorry we got nothing for that hand of yours, ‘cept rum or my arthritis pills. Got no idea if we can give those to this critter, either. She’s bein’ so good.” Myrna spoke to her, murmuring nonsense words, petting her too. “We get you all cleaned up and stop it hurting, lil Peach darlin, we get you all fixed up.” Her dark eyes met Keisha’s. “How you holdin’ up there, gal?”

“Maybe some rum later,” Keisha said.

“I put you on the phone with Prosser, he’ll stay more respectful of you, bein’ a stranger an all. Remember we got us a hound dog hurt here.” Myrna started dialing as her brother Minton hurried back inside, slamming the door.

“Yessir, hold on a minute,” Keisha said into the phone. Minton was poised, the syringe ready in his fingers. Keisha put her finger down on Cat Thing’s hip, feeling for the joint, as Prosser told her. Then she ran along the line of the joint, trying to figure out where, exactly, might be halfway between the bone and the tail.

“Sir, I think I might got it, it’s like a dip in the meat there? Yessir, I don’t feel no other low spots like that… yessir, I got it.” She slid her finger onto the mound of muscle towards the spine, and nodded at Minton. Held her breath, feeling the steel slip past her nail, smoothly into Cat Thing’s flesh. Minton depressed the handle, and drew the syringe back out. Finding the same spot on the other side was easier.

“We got about fifteen minutes to wait, now,” Keisha reported. “Yesser, thank you. We’ll check if it’s numbed okay. The tailbones look.. broken up, right there. Like maybe she got shot at? It’s–” she gulped back her nausea, “–it’s all just hanging on by some.. some meat, and skin. We was thinking just cut that part off? Okay. Right.” She turned to the little family, waiting by. “He– he says we gotta make sure the verterbra that’s busted up comes off, or it could just die in there and make it worse. We got about ten minutes, he thinks.”

The clock’s tick was the loudest thing in the room.

Willie pressed on the thigh, down the hindquarters, and there was no twitch of pain that it would have got before. “Think she’s good,” he said.

Myrna’s gloved hand dipped into the rubbing alcohol to get the scissors. Snip. It was done in a second, one smooth movement of the seamstress’s hand. She rinsed the tool off under the tap water–bumped on and off again with her forearm–and put them back into the alcohol, while Minton’s gloved fingers feel their way along the raw tissue. He held up a bit of bone to the scissors, and Myrna snipped, snipped again.

“Yeah,” Minton said. His hands moved. “There, that’s the last bit of it.”

“Now we got to sew– any bleeding veins shut. Arteries.”

“Child, can you find me one of them brown threads?”

Keisha took her time, concentrating on the task, and got a dark-threaded needle out of the alcohol. Myrna’s hands moved in quick, sharp tugs, and then she cut the thread free. Another needle, a shorter series of knotting gestures; “Find me one with line on it now.” She used the fishing line to pull the skin together over everything. Keisha held the box of bandaging open, and Minton swished his gloved fingers in the alcohol just before he picked up the end and lifted it out for Myrna to cut it. Then the tape.

“How you doing, Missie?” Willie had been standing this whole time keeping his fingers moving on Cat Thing’s head. “She’s doing good, really good.”

“That’s done,” Keisha told the phone. “She’s breathing okay. Willie says her pulse is the same. Okay… She’s gonna be getting feeling in there in a while, and she still got that leg. Mister Prosser says one more shot.”

“Myrna, you go take a rest,” Willie said.

Myrna folded up suddenly into a chair, gloved hands dangling, and breathed in deep, hard breaths. “Oh, my.”

Minton stripped off his gloves, washed his hands, dried them, set aside the towel, got out another pair of gloves. “I can’t do as fine a stitch as Myrna,” he confided to Keisha.

“I’m mighty grateful to you folks,” Keisha said earnestly. She began finger-tracing the route over Cat Thing’s thigh to the place to put the shot into.

Myrna primmed her mouth, pulled herself up, swished her gloves in the alcohol, pulled up a dark-threaded needle, and stood ready over the long jagged tear in the front of Cat Thing’s thigh. “Now you ask him what we should get for her for after, to help her sleep without putting her too far down. And antibiotics, too.”

Keisha nodded, and listened through another earful. “Yeah, I heard that about ketamine, yes sir,” she said. Some vet he was, advising a client to track down cheap smuggled Mexican drugs.

But Myrna didn’t even seem surprised, when she was told. “We’ll get some from Missus Angullo, she got a large family, they always getting hurt on the shrimp trawlers. Coming home a mess, goodness knows I helped her sew up a coupla three of her boys in my time.”

“‘Sides, she can always use the money,” Minton said.

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