Have you ever had a doctor crack one of those good-news-bad-news jokes? Years ago, I did. He called up and said, “The good news is we finally figured out what’s wrong. The bad news is you have a tumor on your spinal cord.”
“Ha ha,” I said. “Funny.”
“I know,” he said, “Sorry.”
And, after all, the guy was a diagnostician, not a stand-up comic. And he was one hell of a fine doctor.
Roo’s vet, Dr. Stokes, is not prone to silly humor, but the message of his call today was the same, in reverse. The good news is that there’s nothing wrong with La Roopka. Chigi appears to be in the pink. All her bloodwork is back. There are no anomalies at all. The tests for tick-borne illnesses was last to arrive, and they came in today, all negative. Nothing to suggest anything.
So, the good news is that Roo is healthy. The bad news is that she isn’t feeling well. Not only slow and dragging, but she doesn’t even wag her tail at the usual stuff. For example, if I go over to where she’s lying down to say hi to her, that would always get a thump on the floor. Not now. She’s just not up to it.
Dr. Stokes thinks it’s probably allergies. Poor Chigi — there’s really nothing to do. Benadryl would only knock her out, and Dr. Stokes informs me that apart from that trade-off, it’s not even that effective as anything more than a short-term fix.
All signs point to having to get back on the road. The snakes, Roo being sick. The main delay isn’t in how much stuff is broken on the camper and how long that’ll take to fix, though those are a problem. I’ll probably just leave before I can get to it all. The piece of junk is falling apart. The bigger problem is where we’re positioned in Oklahoma. We’re almost smack-dab in the middle of the country. The options are to head north to where it’s still cool enough for there to be less pollen, and possibly more comfort for Bearface, but that would put us in Kansas. Or Missouri. It would mean re-entering the Ozarks, and some of that is country more grim than I think I can bear just now. Other than in parts of Tennessee, South Carolina and Alabama, I’ve never met a bunch of people more suspicious of you. Returning to the Northeast, which I would prefer, is out of the question. The only cheap rentals up there are the ones too seedy to make it on AirBnB. There are apartments, but Junior would spend her life in fear of the sounds of TVs or someone getting up to go to the bathroom at night. If she can’t see it, she’s scared of it. I can’t do it to her.
The alternative is to head west. It’s 400 miles of upsloping flatland to the Colorado border, then another 250 miles to higher land. Lots of rattlesnakes on the way. And I don’t know why, but after our lengthy voyage in the mountains last time, I felt like if we ever went back up there dragging this crate around we’d never get out alive. It was a difficult thing. I don’t have the strength to do it again. The truck's not going to make it up the hills, the refrigerator doesn't work above 6000 feet, no cell connection, no water. I don't really think I can do it again. On the other hand, it's pretty good for Troochka.
You know the way a stick or some leaves swirl in a tidepool before they’re eventually spat out in one direction before they head downstream? That’s the way I always feel here in Oklahoma. I’ve written before about how the American West begins right here, in this exact spot. You come over the hills of the Arkansas side of the Ouichitas and spill onto the bigger, dryer pastures of the west. The dirt fades from the brown of eastern farmland to the rockier tans and a few small cactuses appear and the the barbed wire fence lines are longer. You don’t see buffalo until you get here.
But Chécho (sorry, I’m in the mood to use several of her 1000 nicknames in this post) needs to move. Too many snakes have their eye on her and if what’s slowing her down like this is allergies, then we have to try something else.
So, in a few days, we’re off. I’ll be keeping my eye out for old barns or storefronts, small out of the way houses, anything. The mission will not be to travel, but to stop traveling. Doing that in a place where Roo won’t be miserable is the challenge.
In the meantime, tonight thunderstorms and five inches of rain are coming in. It's going to be a hard one on Roo.