Animal Planet (30 Stories — 23)

Marika is glued to the television. All day every day.  She has it tuned to Animal Planet.  Right now it’s highlights from a childhood favorite: Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  Jim Fowler is wrestling with an Andean condor.  Who does that, wrestle with condors 800 feet in the air?  She couldn’t look away.

All day, every day.  She sleeps with it on, turns the sound low if she has an important phone call, leaves it on when she leaves the house so that it’s there to greet her when she walks back in.

It’s almost a year now, but she still isn’t ready to face the gaping maw of dark, empty silence that waits on the other side. She knows she needs to tell her therapist about it, but she’s not willing to go there yet, to give up the cotton wool of Animal Planet.  As abnormal as her need for the channel might be, it’s helping her get back to a life that seems something like normal.  When she’d first discovered its effect, she’d been unable to enter her apartment without terror, without remembering the attack.  Now, she can let herself in with only the slightest pause, an almost unnoticeable hesitation. Progress.

When she was a child, Wild Kingdom was a Sunday night family affair.  They’d finish dinner, clean up quickly and arrange themselves — everyone with his or her favorite chair — around the living room and wait for Marlon Perkins to set up the evening’s adventure.

She’d loved everything about the show.  She and her sisters had a series of elaborate fantasies about taking over from Perkins when they grew up and filling their lives with animal adventures.

She knows she has to do something about the wall-to-wall Animal Planet.  She knows that Kim, her therapist, would applaud the fact that she’d found something to help her cope with being alone in her apartment, but would also help her get past the need for the crutch.  But not yet.

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Denied!  I thought I could use my long travel day to bang out a dozen super-short stories, but mostly I used today to sleep. The last few days of getting ready for this trip have exhausted me.  But I’m here now, and the next two weeks are all about writing, so I think I’ll keep posting these until I hit 30.

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