The scream

An indelible moment of existential panic -- and some sustenance from New Hoa Ky

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le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS This isn't a metaphor. There was an actual patty of dog barf on the off-white carpet at the foot of the bed in the master bedroom, Coach's dad's house, San Diego, California, U.S.A., Earth, my life. Coach and Cola were standing outside the room on the deck, looking down at the chicken coop. Our instructions were to kill the roosters, do what we want with the hens, and please leave the bunny rabbit and dog alone.

The bunny lived in the chicken coop.

Lucy, the dog, a cuddly, energetic Boston terrier with a sadomasochistic streak (her favorite thing in the world is to be blasted in the face with water, or a basketball), lived of course in the house.

"Coach?" I said. "Cola? Is this dog barf?"

"What? Where?" they said, coming back inside. I was looking down at it. Lucy was panting next to me, and the basketball was between us. Ever since we'd come into the house — ours for the week — and dumped our stuff, Lucy had been rolling this basketball after me. That's because a couple days before when I had first made her acquaintance, I'd spent hours kicking it in the driveway with her. In a way we were a match made in heaven, both insatiable athletes with an aptitude for taking a beating. The difference: she loves it.

For one moment, the last peaceful one I have known, we four mammals and our basketball made a perfect circle of quiet contemplation around this centerpiece of barf. In all honesty, I began to think it might be a cookie, perhaps even oatmeal raisin, and broke the silence.

"Wait a minute," I said.

And just as I bent down to get a better look, as lucklessness or canine cruelty would have it, Lucy nudged the ball with her short-bus nose.

Did you hear me scream?

I'm still screaming, in a way. And that orange-world bounce bounce will forever, in my mind, be rolling slow-motion toward, onto, and over this cookie of barf, or cookie.

It wasn't a cookie. It was puke, now half-smashed into the carpet, and sort of decaled onto the overturned underside of the ball. Why this image affected me as deeply as it did, I can't say. But I clapped my hands to my ears, wailing like a siren, and staggered backward into the bathroom, where I collapsed onto the edge of the Jacuzzi and just generally lost it.

Which overreaction my human companions found hilarious. Howling herself, but with laughter, Cola followed me into the bathroom. Anyway she had had to pee the whole way down from Oceanside. So she was laughing on the can, and I was crying on the tub, and Coach tossed the puke-tattooed basketball outside over the deck and into the great chickeny unknown, then joined us in there.

"What the hell?" she said.

I didn't know. I didn't know what the hell. You have these moments, you know, where something shifts a little inside, and you suddenly can't imagine how in the world you got where you are, or how the hell you will get back out of it.

Almost always, a bath is a good idea, so I started the tub, had a soak, got dressed, and went out for the evening with every intention of dancing.

We did not dance.

We ate. But I will spare you those details, because they're gross. Instead let me tell you about last night, back home here, with Papa and Pappy, our quarterback and center. They had just bought a lot of seeds and a big heavy bag of soil, and were taking turns lugging it the many many city blocks back to their place, inner Richmond.

So naturally we stopped for a rest (and a bowl of noodles) at the highly fluorescent New Hoa Ky right there on Geary Street. I liked my pho. Papa loved hers. But poor Pappy, she only eats us-killed meat, and — go figure — the vegetarian soup at New Hoa Ky starts with a beef broth. Therefore: new favorite restaurant!

NEW HOA KY

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