March 26, 1963

They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.

I don’t see how anything lamb like can happen for us by the end of this month.

My cousin Maxwell was bitten by a raccoon, the kind that came out in daylight, the kind everyone knows is rabid. It happened first thing this morning.  I wasn’t around, so I’m not sure exactly what or how it happened.

I do know he’s too small and rebellious to do anything anyone tells him. He thinks he can talk to animals, he’s always telling our cats what to do.  The only thing I saw was his hand bloodied and bitten.

Aunt Drucie ran out to help him and bring him back into the house when she saw the black and gray animal up on its toes, arched with all of its hair spiked. She said its mouth was covered in foam. 

Dr. Creighton was called immediately.  He still lives across the street.  I think this coming summer will be the last time I babysit his daughters, they’re getting big enough to manage on their own.

Last Christmas he asked me to help decorate the tree with them.  The lights were filled with liquid, and we had to be especially careful because if they broke they weren’t replaceable.  They were so beautiful, watching the liquid move around, light up, and burn through the tiny pieces of glass. 

None of that has anything to do with what happened today, I just wanted to write something on your pages to remember something less terrible than what happened to Maxwell today.

No one wants to talk about what we have to do for him, certainly not my uncle, even though he’s done the best he can to make sure he is kept safe and comfortable.

Dr. Creighton recommended keeping him from the rest of the family.  He said he’d be by daily to provide his next shot, one each day for the next fourteen days.

“Until he recovers, he needs to be kept separately from the rest of the family Thurman.”  That was no easy thing for my uncle to hear.  Maxwell is his brave baby boy, and my uncle finds himself at the mercy of medicine, not something he is used to.

There was only one place to make this accommodation, the attic.  It’s at the top of the curved banister-less staircase.  Horsehair plaster is exposed in the cracks leading up to the landing. 

At the top of the stairs, everything in the attic is open.  A single window lets in enough light to keep it from feeling depressing, dust is everyplace.

Really journal, it’s where I fill most of your pages.  No one ever goes up there.  It’s my, I mean our quiet space.  Don’t tell anyone, but I break off pieces of the plaster and pull the horsehair out.  The way it crumbles is strange.  I feel sad for all those horses.  How many died to make this house?

“Keep the door locked while he’s up there, but sleep in the room just below it, that’s your new base. Anything he needs, you put it at the top of the stairs, come back down and lock the door. He’s going to be treated, but there’s no guarantee.” That’s the last thing Dr. Creighton said, while he was packing up his case.

Aunt Drucie is beside herself.  She took her apron off after scrubbing everything in the attic and started crying. She’s a thick woman, made of sound stock, her hair today is wound in a practical bun and her brow is covered in beads of sweat. 

My heart had sad butterflies fluttering in it, seeing her shed tears like that.  Trying to console her didn’t work, not that I expected it to.  It was one of those moments that caught everyone up in it, there wasn’t a single person in the house today, including the tough men who had eyes that weren’t wet.

We moved an old trunk into the attic and turned it into a table for him.  It used to hold costumes for a ballet company, it’s covered in travel stamps.  They made sure it was locked so he isn’t tempted to climb in. 
There’s also a cot with a hand-crocheted blanket on his bed.  It’s from when grandmother made one for each of us, it’s his favorite blanket, the least we could do was give him that. They filled a canteen with water and left him a bucket for him to do his business in. 

Aunt Drucie made him a ham sandwich on freshly baked bread.  He asked for extra mustard and a pickle, that’s his favorite. Knowing him he’s up there now with mustard stains on his mouth and hands.  Probably wiped his hands down his overhauls, like he always does, so they’ll also be covered in stains.

How did this day get so disturbingly sad?

I didn’t go to school today.  I was waiting for the bus when all this started happening. No one gave me a hard time about skipping, that’s been the only good part of this I guess.

Living in the same house with all this going on is scary.  I’m afraid for Maxwell, afraid for my Aunt Drucie and my Uncle Thurman.  I keep thinking, “what if it happened to me?” God, that is just frightening.

My mother made supper tonight, you could tell it was her anxiety cooking.  She made fried pork chops, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, and biscuits.  For the first time in a long time, we joined hands before our meal and prayed together.

We prayed for Maxwell’s protection.  My father asked for the good Lord to send one of his guardian angels while he is alone in the attic for the next fourteen nights and until he is well.

I dropped a dish tonight, during my turn to dry.  Normally gets me in trouble, but it didn’t this time.  It was one of those moments where my mind slipped away from me, thinking about the raccoon attacking him, what it must have been like.

My sister and brother helped pick up the pieces.  Everyone is nervously walking on eggshells, we’re all sleeping downstairs on the couches if you’re an adult or in sleeping bags if you’re one of the kids like me. All the parents decided it’s not safe to have anyone on the second floor in case Maxwell gets out.

My Father and my Uncle will take turns staying up in shifts in the room leading to the attic until Dr. Creighton says it’s all clear. They brought whiskey and a first aid kit up with them, they’ve locked the door on Maxwell and placed a chair firmly underneath the knob. Poor little cousin, there’s no way he’s getting out.

No one’s going to sleep tonight.  No one is going to be alright.  I’m writing this on your pages, under the covers I’ve layered onto my sleeping bag with our camping light.

I’m shaking thinking about Maxwell.  Fourteen days of shots are going to be a nightmare.  No matter how many times he’s pinched me, he doesn’t deserve this.  Aunt Drucie and Uncle Thurman don’t deserve this.  The raccoon that got sick didn’t deserve this.
 
The attic is scary, everyone knows this.  Being alone in the dark is scary for little kids.  I’m thirteen and still get scared, you precious journal and best friend know this.

Weezie Jenkins, the lady with the Appaloosa horse that lives at the edge of town, found that raccoon. She had her shotgun with her, just like she always does, a good thing, because she was able to put the poor creature down.

Almost forgot to write the weather in.  It started off cold today, it was 33, then it warmed up to the mid-50s.

Maybe I’ll distract myself with thoughts of Ricky Flannagan until I fall asleep.  I hope that’s not disrespectful.  It’s not, is it journal?  I hope no one finds this – ever.  They wouldn’t understand.

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