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digious leap Nijinsky would have envied. Like fleas, squirrels dart, becoming airborne for moments at a time. I know, since immediately following the prescribed chemo-cocktail injections, I can’t walk for approximately a week to 10 days, forced to sit semi-inclined like an inert toad on the couch, staring at my rental Portland-ish yard overgrown with budding rhododendrons, stout azaleas, sky-high Douglas firs, and the squirrels pirating birdseed I specifically offer to the birds. My morning ritual used to include sipping coffee and watching pumpkin-colored thrushes show up at dawn with their brisk nips beneath the feeder. Soon flocks of rufous flanked spotted towhees and dark-eyed juncos arrive, politely taking turns at the feeder along with the Steller’s jays. Now waves of nausea rear at the very smell of coffee, so I sit, just sit and look out the window at the winsome birds. And it’s soon obvious: birds don’t represent freedom—their day involves scrounging for food and water. Feeding birds is more of a visceral occupation for me: observing the symmetry of hollow bones beneath feathers—plus they’re scions of lofty perspectives and pragmatic beak-to-grub table manners. They’re without guile. Hating squirrels gets me up and moving, enough to pitch empty bottles of Pellegrino out the kitchen window when the gourmand rodents raid the birdfeeder. So. I borrow a pellet handgun. Not that murder is my objective. I just want to patently discourage them by loading dot-sized pellets into the orange-tipped airgun, take aim out the kitchen window, and fire. Unfortunately, it’s transparent, and I can see how the dinky springs inside the under-powered gun shoot the pellets with a lyrical arch, landing soft as a butterfly kiss. I ask Santa for a BB gun. (He fails to provide.) Hate is powerful. It’s easier to curse a squirrel than to hate the nausea big as a ballroom with my body anchorless inside, or hate the exhaustion stripping my desire to live, the fear I won’t survive this cancer treatment, though I understand most do. The tango between chemo, meds, and pain claws and burns, then howls its way through skin to heart, beyond tendons, belly, spine, and marrow to a bruised pain-body inside, where sometimes I bump into bloodied puzzle parts (lost islands, some uncharted, others 50| PHOEBE 48.2


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