*Featured Image: “No You Can’t Bring Your Monster” by Elizabeth Cassidy
Who Doesn’t Blame Their Mother?
By Stacey O’Connor
It always seems like there are an army of women working at my local CVS pharmacy. Big burly lesbians with half shaved heads and purple streaks in their hair. Slim, multi-ethnic ballerina types with stylish earrings. Dowdy plain-Janes with awkwardly applied blue eyeshadow. Their names are Tina or Gina or something stripper-y like Angel. They always seem to be controlled and bossed around by a balding, old man: the pharmacist. He always seems so uptight. He doesn’t look up from his computer screen as he barks out orders to his female army. He is angry and curt. Maybe he’s mad he can’t have lesbian sex, or multi-ethnic sex. He’d probably settle for dowdy sex with a single member of his battalion.
I’m in line. I’m watching Cindy help the customer in front of me, an elderly woman with a puff of white hair haloing her tiny head. Cindy is as pleasant as she can be. I feign fascination with the candy bars and the Us Weekly while Cindy yells over her shoulder to Mr. Scrooge on the computer because the nice lady in front of me is “G-Darn mad that her prescription is $120.55! With insurance!” I’m not even upset that this is going to take a while because I’m nervous about the two prescriptions I’m here to pick up.
I have a very anxious dog at home. He has very active eyebrows that move up and down, up and down, up and down because his beady brown eyes never stop darting around the room. He doesn’t relax. He paces around the apartment, and when my husband and I are gone, he eats the books from the bookshelves. Ellison’s work quickly became invisible in our home. My Beloved Morrison, ripped to shreds. All that is left of McCourt, the ashes of book pages and binding. And he ate all the Shakespeare! But let’s be honest, that was just for show. Recently, in addition to his skittish, inability to relax and function like a normal dog, he has taken to lunging at people on our walks. It’s like he senses their happiness and is offended. He doesn’t understand why he can’t be relaxed, and walk along, like these simple folk, without a care in the world. So he tries to bite them. My vet says it could be because he was taken from his mother too early. It all stems from the mother doesn’t it?
My husband and I have pushed the limits of our whiteness with the treatments we’ve gotten for this dog. Jake, the dog, is a proud of owner of what is called a “thunder shirt.” It’s like a straight jacket that is made to hug the anxiety out of you. He also wears a turquoise collar that releases pheromones that are supposed to replicate the mother dog’s smell. I take him on long vigorous walks, and we even run up to ten miles a week together. I have called and spoken to three different dog trainers, but I glaze over as soon as they say their starting rate is seven hundred dollars. For a dog trainer. A trainer of dogs. Seven hundred dollars. The price of my rent. Half the price of my car. So we have resorted to Prozac. For dogs.
After last week’s vet appointment, I went home and talked to Jake the dog for awhile about the decision. I can tell he feels bad about it. He feels like, somehow, he has failed. He is weak. His eyebrows are bouncing all over the damn place. I pet him and tell him that there isn’t anything wrong with him. I remind him that it’s just an illness, like anything else. I pointed to our other big brown dog, Max, snoozing like a fat warthog on the other side of the bed. I remind Jake the dog that Max the dog has Addison’s disease (even though we were all told that mutts are much healthier than purebreds) and he has to take a pill everyday too. This is just like that. I pet him and tell him not to feel bad. Change your mindset, I urge him, taking his wrinkly muzzle in my hands and kissing him. It’s not a weakness, it’s not something you can overcome on your own. I tried to help him not be too mad at his mother, even though she was the one who started all of this. “She did as good as she could,” I whisper to him. While I’m nestled over Jake the dog, my husband comes in and tells me that I’m personifying the dogs again. They hate when I do that, I tell myself.
The elderly woman in front of me is finally through with Cindy. I place the Us Weekly back on the rack and step up.
“Picking up two prescriptions,” I say.
“Well one is for my dog. His name is Jake.”
Cindy doesn’t even look up at me. “Last name?”
“O’Connor. Jake O’Connor.” It’s weird that dogs have last names. It seems like their last name should be their species. Jake the Dog. Polly the Cat. Marve the Pony.
She types in Jake’s information, rummages through the bin of white, paper prescription sacks and flops down his medicine. “It’s going to be seventy-two dollars,” she says, apologetically. I shrug. Why else did I get that master’s degree if not to afford anti-anxiety meds for rescue mutts? But then I remembered my second prescription.
“Oh, Cindy?” I say while she’s in the middle of ringing me up, “there’s one more, too. Last name O’Connor. First name Stacey.”
She turns around again and when she’s back at the counter, she’s confused. She compares the two sacks, looking quickly from one to the next. She pulls them closer to her face and carefully reads the labels on the bags. “And this one, is for a….” she raises her eyebrows and looks at me, “a dog, too?”
“Nope.” I take both bags from her and hold them, suspended between the two of us. Luckily a young, thin twenty something who probably doesn’t even know the concept clinical depression has gotten in line behind me, and then an older, sexy, salt and pepper professor type has gotten in line behind her. “This one,” I say shaking the 10 MG, seventy-two dollar, uninsured Prozac, “is for my dog Jake. And this one,” I shake the 20 MG, five dollar insured Prozac, “Is for me.”
Cindy doesn’t skip a beat, “You guys both must have had shitty childhoods.”
And she finishes ringing me up.