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The Secret Life of AbbyQ

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Dark clouds were simmering in the west, blocking out the last light of the setting sun. The small plane tossed and turned in a sudden broadside assault of wind. I glanced behind me. Nestled in the tiny cargo area behind the pilot and copilot’s seat was a mid-sized black bear, sedated, with his muzzle taped shut- just in case. It was a good thing, too. He was showing the first signs of waking. Turning back and checking the instruments, I looked at my partner next to me.


“I’m going to give him more tranquilizers. You’ve got the con.” He chuckled at my use of what he called “big ship” language, but nodded and took over the controls. I clumsily clambered into the back, nearly landing in my partner’s lap when we hit some turbulence.


“Whoa there!” he said, chuckling again. “To think- you can perform surgery on a half-ton moose, and you can’t even get into the back of a plane.”


“Shut it,” I growled, smirking, and dislodged my boot from between our seats. Moving with more caution, I knelt down next to the unconscious bear. Taking out my medical kit, I uncapped the needle of a tranquilizer. The sharp tip slipped easily through his skin and the clear liquid emptied into his bloodstream. I checked the small row of stitches in his flank where I had inserted a tracking chip several hours before.


“That should keep him out ‘til we get there,” I said, climbing back into the compact cockpit. The storm head, boiling violently, was moving towards us. The snarl of thunder rolled across the sky with a grumble-rumble-grrr. I took over the controls again as a new onslaught of turbulence hit us.


“We’d better get there quick,” my partner said, watching the clouds.


“We’ll make it.” I said this confidently, but sent up a prayer, too.


History class drags on. The hands of the clock seem to move slower every minute. The teacher drones on in the monotonous tone one imagines when reading Leviticus. Slide after slide of solid text is projected up on the white board. My pencil attempts to take notes, but instead slips, making squiggly lines on my paper as I nod off, sorely tempted to join half my classmates in slumber.


“Abby?” My head jerks up. “Abby, what do you think?” My teacher looks at me expectantly. Honestly, the only thing I’m thinking of right now is getting out of this bloody classroom and going for a hike. And then going to bed.


“Um. Um, could you repeat the question please?” Robert here next to me is snoring so loud that I can’t hear you.


“I said, do you think the policy of mercantilism would work better with a total monarchy or a parliamentary monarchy?”


“Well…” let me tell you all about my extensive experience with mercantilism. I talk for a few minutes, until the teacher seems satisfied and continues his monologue. Grumble-rumble-grrr says my stomach, reprimanding me for skipping lunch in favor of finishing Chemistry homework. Shut up, I tell my abdomen. I want to get out of here just as much as you do. The boy next to me drools on his desk, lost in sleep, as the teacher carries on with his lecture on the pros and cons of mercantilism.


“Scalpel,” I ordered, holing my hand out without turning away from my patient. The metal instrument was placed in my hand and I immediately began cutting away the tissue holding the small tumor to the dog’s heart. Bright red blood covered my tight latex gloves, and a starch white overcoat protected my clothes. The tumor was small and benign, which was a relief. It just needed to be removed from the heart to avoid complications with the circulatory system.


The air filtering in through my surgical mask was dry and smelled like paper. The bright lights glared down on the metal table, illuminating the poor pup laying there. A grumble-rumble-grrr dripped from the dog’s muzzle. “Anesthesia must be wearing off,” I said to the biotech behind me, never pausing in my careful incisions. “Give ‘er a little more. Not quite finished.” The biotech punched a few buttons on a whirling machine connected to the dog’s throat with a long thin tube. The animal quieted down again, and I continued my precise work.


The sound of the bell ringing is like a glorious symphony to my ears. I blink as I pull into the crowded hallways, my eyes accustomed to the semi-darkness of the last 80 minutes in history. I maneuver through the sea of people like a car on the freeway during rush hour. I finally reach my hideous yellow locker, and it clanks and rattles as I open it. One more class to go, still. I grab my purple chemistry binder and the black-white spotted comp book. One more to go. Turning around, I run into a boy who was walking past. “Sorry,” I grumble, and stalk down the hallway to the science wing. Weaving and dodging between the endless elbows and feet, I blindly make my way through the all-too-familiar pandemonium.


The furious northern winds jerked and tore at the tent in my freezing hands. “Jules! I need those stakes!” My voice was nearly lost in the winds, but a moment later, a figure stumbled up beside me, driving tent stakes into the snow. I presumed it was my fellow biologist, Jules, but she could have been replaced by a manatee under all that snow gear, as far as I knew. The tiny thermometer keychain on my parka zipper had bottomed out. It was far colder than 20 below, not even considering wind chill. We had to get this tent up and get the stove going inside of it, or we were going to become hypothermic. Finally, the thick expedition-weight tent seemed sufficiently tied down. We clambered inside, teeth chattering and shivering as if shaken by an earthquake. I clumsily set up the small gas heater, desperate for warmth. Fumbling and unable to feel my fingers, I lit a match and touched it to the burner of the stove. A blue flame (which matched the color of my fingertips) jumped into life, and we both sighed in relief.


“Herd moved about 60 miles today, I’d say. Maybe less. They got slowed down a little by that whiteout.”


“Mm. We’re going to need to find a town with a gas pump sometime soon. We only have 10 gallons left. Enough for two days, tops.”


I pulled out my GPS and compared it to a map. “Alright. We’re pretty close to Noorvik. Unless the herd takes a huge deviation from their present course, we should be able to stop there tomorrow.”


After a quick Mountain House dinner and world record cot set up, we hit the sack. The wind made a grumble-rumble-grr outside of our tent, battering our little island of shelter….


My chemistry teacher has worked himself up into a particularly fine froth today. He gets very enthusiastic sometimes, which makes the class a little more interesting, but history has already fulfilled my quota for lecture attention. He’s saying something about carbon tetrafloride now, but I’m not sure what. My eyes have drifted to the window, where the sun highlights the snow piled on a stand of spruce trees, which are silhouetted against the criminally blue sky. 63 more minutes of imprisonment. More slides pass before my glassy eyes, these full of chemical formulas and notes on double-replacement bonds instead of the perks of mercantilism. My pencil makes more falling-asleep squiggles as I fight the heavy curtain falling over my vision. Just 47 more minutes. So close, and yet so very, very far away.


I pulled my faded blue Ford into the driveway and smiled as my pack of vicious labs ran out to greet me. Inside, my husband was chopping onions and soup was simmering on the range.
“Good man,” I said, smiling as I gave him a quick hug. “Thanks for making dinner, hon.”


“No problem,” he replied, dropping the onions in and splashing broth all over the counter. I knew I’d have to clean that up later. All well. At least I didn’t have to cook.


I dumped my bag at the foot of the stairs and crept into the living room. My three-year-old sat there, coloring a picture of Rapunzel. “Grumble-rumble-grrr!!!” I cried, jumping out from behind the wall and scooping her up.


“Mommy!” she squealed in delight.


The doorbell rang. “Oh shoot! I forgot they were coming over tonight!” I hastily set my curly-haired cutie on the floor and rushed over to the door. “Hey guys! Come on in!” Two of my best friends- Kiera and Katie- walked in. After them came their husbands. Kiera’s hubby, John, was carrying a pan of his wife’s favorite macaroni and cheese, and Katie’s man, Alfonso, held a basket of Pillsbury biscuits.


“We’re just the Sherpas,” John said.


“Sherpas are welcome, too,” I replied. “Especially Sherpas with food.” They chuckled and handed over their dishes. I smiled, blissfully content, as my little girl laughed behind me.


When the bell rings this time, it sounds like the voice of God, calling me to Heaven. Sweeping my books off the desk, I spit out a hasty goodbye to my teacher, and once again enter the hallways of death. Narrowly avoiding several head-on collisions, a few t-bones, and a fender-bender or two, I navigate back to my locker, shoulders tense with claustrophobia. I throw books and folders pell-mell into my backpack, desperate to get outside. 17 minutes in the car, a quick snack and then it’s on with the snow pants, then the big boots, and the down coat. Finally, I don my rust-orange hat and black face mask, and the over-sized mittens my dad got me. Finally, I’m outside, basking in the dazzling light of el luz. But it is not enough. Accompanied by three wagging tails and panting tongues, I hike into the woods behind my house. Just a little farther, around this tree, move these branches, and… ah. A field- my field- sprawls out in front of me, no trace of human touch visible save for my well-packed trail. I set off, soaking up the silence, and contemplating the wonders that my future holds.



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