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  April 2017
volume 14 number 1
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  Peter Barlow
  Carla Criscuolo
  Toti O'Brien
  Hattie Quinn
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Hattie Quinn
April 2017



photo by françois biajoux

    Hattie Quinn is an aspiring author and poet living in Northern Texas with her Satyr and a small menagerie of cats, snakes, turtles, a very vocal macaw, and a loyal dog.



Good Works After Bad

    No one could imagine how upsetting this simple ritual was for her, as her fingers loaded the lancet into the injector to take her blood glucose levels. They only saw her daintily prepare to test her blood sugar,with precision and intention, never imagining the pain and self-doubt it caused.    
    Four times per day, she pulled out her black carrying case, gingerly unzipped it, removed the injector, the meter, a single lancet, and a test card. She carefully loaded the lancet into the injector, twisting off the round safety nub only after it was loaded, placing it on the table before her, and reassembling the injector, cocking it for sticking, all the while remembering how she removed the orange cap from the B-D syringe she had used in her life before this one. She cringed envisioning the leather case with the soot-covered, deep, round, spoon, the scarred red lighter, a small belt, the new and used cottons, the alcohol swabs in individual packets just like the ones she used now, the worn Sooners shot glass, and the two fresh darts, ready to go.
    Where her adoring husband saw the precise movements of her perfectly manicured nails, curving ever so slightly away from that which she held, she saw the broken, dirty nails of the past, fingers shaking as she pulled the hot liquid through the filter of her nasty mentholated cigarettes. He saw her press the injector to the side of a finger on her left hand, she saw a syringe finding purchase in a throbbing blue vein of her upper forearm. She pulled the injector away, placing it delicately on the table, pressing and pumping her finger until a drop of blood welled, large enough to draw up the through the magic of capillary action onto the card sticking out of the meter. "93'" it read, blue light blinking twice to indicate it was complete. She separated the injector, pressed the top of the lancet into its round safety cap, as she used to break the point of her needles in their little plastic caps, for safe disposal. Only her paranoia about bio-hazards made her follow the directions clearly printed on the side of each syringe: "Use once and destroy." Her companions thought her eccentric. She knew she was just paranoid.
    Now, she licked her lips, body full of undue tension. Four times a day, she internally lamented, four times a day she silently tortured herself. It was not the inconvenience of measuring her blood sugar, nor the minor prick of each one of her fingers every day. It was being forced to relive the ritual of shooting up, mentally experiencing the highs and lows of it without the illusionary pay off, and the constant reminder of whom she had once been and how much she disliked that woman.
    It was just so hard to bear when thrown in her face like that. No matter how much work she had done, the years of sanding away the dirt and grime, moisturizing the tracks, replacing her teeth, styling her coif, and getting regular mani-pedis, she still felt like that dirty girl, addicted to anything she came across, and taking men, and women, for enough to cover her next fix. The years of charity work: outreach to battered women, volunteering at the needle exchange, helping to uplift her fellow man... could it all redeem her from what she had done to wreak havoc in the lives of others?
    She thought again of the junkies who had shared her trip... the man-boy with his winning smile that ended up with hepatitis C. The redneck couple full of jokes and lies. The mini-Trent Reznor who thought he had lost the ability to experience pleasure from doing too much ecstasy. The 5/4 of red-headed trouble who ran the scams with her... who had been by her side on and off for months, who ultimately led to her quitting, when she awoke form her drug-addled delusion and realized the young spitfire was nine months pregnant, all the while she was banging meth with her. The middle aged man who called her Ice Queen because she had ice in her veins. He killed himself when she told him it was over. That he had sunk three-thousand dollars into her veins because he was a fool who meant nothing to her. Sometimes her past callousness gave her nightmares and she awoke in a cold sweat. He would hold her then and tell her it would all be okay. He was there.
    Two hours after each meal, it began again. The alarm went off at 3pm playing soothing chimes, and she took a deep breath, and stopped whatever she was doing to test her glucose levels again. Holding in the revulsion, the urge to follow the descent of mood that came from reflecting on her prior tendencies for self-destruction. She tried to focus on the positive. They would be home from soccer soon, husband and son, and then they were going to plant vegetables for winter in the back garden. How she loved her menfolk. Her handsome husband that supported her decision to stay home and care for their boy when he was born, to raise him and educate him with honesty and compassion, and to find extracurricular activities to give him the socialization he needed. Her brilliant son who soaked up everything she taught him and looked at her with adoring eyes just like his father.
    Yes, they would be home soon. Maybe she did not deserve it, but she could be normal for them.

copyright 2017 Hattie Quinn