The night was cold and dark and I had only been home for a couple of hours after an all day’s trip with Frannie to the big city when the phone rang. It was Frannie. “I’ve broken my arm,” she said. After she got home, her little Shih Tzu Poochie wouldn’t go out to potty but had pooped in the living room. Frannie was trying to clean the mess up when Poochie decided to eat it. Poochie is nothing if not determined. Frannie, tired and frazzled and very irritated, kicked at Poochie and fell. Her arm was definitely broken, so crooked I couldn’t stand to look at it after I arrived to take her to emergency room, where Frannie told her story to each of the many professionals who provided her treatment that night. The story met with the same results. The doctor or nurse or whoever would ask her what happened, and she would dutifully report the incident, and when she got to the kicking part, the professional’s mouth would twist, and he or she would mumble something about how was the dog, and patiently suggest she might not want to try that again. Frannie is a singular woman, and never noticed that the people she was talking to might not think kicking your dog was legal, much less a socially acceptable thing to do. I was with her for most of the interviews, and every time I would get tickled, because I knew Frannie and I knew Poochie, and as my husband described the incident later, Frannie was going to discipline Poochie and Poochie took her down. We always knew that in any Frannie/Poochie confrontation, Poochie would be top dog. I finally suggested to Frannie she might not want to give all the story to everyone, and somewhere in the many doctor’s visits I noticed her story took on a variation, and the kicking part was usually omitted.
In the ex-rays they took to make sure Frannie was in shape to undergo surgery to set her arm, it was discovered she had cancer, so not only did she have to deal with a broken arm, she was in for the long haul of chemo, though she realized if not for the fall and the break her cancer might not have been discovered until it was too far gone for treatment to help. Over the past year she has done remarkably well, as has Poochie.
I talk to Frannie at least twice a day, morning and night, just a check-in call to make sure she hasn’t fallen and can’t get up. Yesterday morning I was regaling her with tales of DeMonica the cat who rides my hip at night like a California surfer when I’m sleeping on my side, and when I lay flat on my back, she sleeps on my chest, her butt so tight against my neck, I’ve dreamed I couldn’t breath and explain to my dream companions I can’t talk, I have a cat on my throat.
“I love cats, and all the cute things they do,” Frannie said.
Like try to smother you is what I thought, but what I said is “Cats are bad to trip you.”
“I never tripped over my cats,” she answered.
“I guess you never tried to kick your cats.”
“I never tried to kick Poochie,” Frannie said.
“When did your story change from last year?” I said.
“She got under my feet and I tried to avoid her, to my own detriment, and not hers.” Frannie sounded perturbed.
I weakened. I couldn’t goad an almost eighty-year-old woman who had been battling cancer for year. “I believe you,” I lied.
“I don’t care if you believe me,” she said. “I don’t care if anybody believes me. I know what happened. That’s all that matters. People will believe what they want to believe.”
And that, my friends, is the absolute truth.