by KJ Hannah Greenberg



Rudford waddled quickly out of his cage. Mr. Henry bound out of his carrier and then out the kitchen window. Withersmith, though, sniffed tentatively at the air in the living room. The six weeks that he had been sheltered at the vet had been frightening.


He had had no idea why he had been taken from his home. In fact, he had assumed that he’d never see his much-loved Dorothy, her companion, Chet, or Addison, their puppy, ever again. Inch by inch, leading with his nose, he eased out of his case.


In the interim, the therapist had made inroads with Dorothy, explaining all the while that one in seven women experience a similar level of postpartum glumness and that Dorothy was anything but a failure. With that woman’s help, Dorothy was able to shower again regularly, to reembrace, if not Chet’s macrobiotic recipes, a larger array of food choices than before, to sleep when Addison slept, and to adore rather than to resent their baby.


Meanwhile, Chet had arranged for Nancy Lynn to care for the family’s critters and had hired a weekly cleaning service. As well, he had bought costly, though “healthy” frozen dinners from the health food store.


For the first time since their baby’s birth, Chet’s wife was no longer talking about extending her maternity leave or quitting law. Rather, she had begun, tentatively, to chat to her husband about a case that had remained unresolved during the time since she had become a mother.


Chet thought about the psychologist’s caution that Dorothy would still have difficult days. So, he worked to connect her to other community moms. He wondered if Dorothy remembered how to socialize with other women. There had been many years when Dorothy had  sequestered herself to study law and then to prove her worth at a somewhat prestigious firm. He recalled how, for example, she had eventually hired out their wedding’s planning since she had been intent on passing the bar.


In the intervening time, their pets reacclimated. Chet hoped they’d forgive him their stay in veterinarian cages. It was all that he had been able to think of in lieu of sending them to be euthanized or adopted by other folks.


Chet noted that Withersmith avoided getting near his carrier and that Mr. Henry stayed in the yard for almost a week. As for Rudford, he still hadn’t left his haven behind the fridge.


Dorothy’s husband suspected that the hedgehog was sneaking out to eat kibble late at night since he hadn’t detected the pong of a decaying brute. Whenever Chet pan-fried eggplant and onions or made salads featuring chicory leaves or raw peanuts and then looked at the fridge, he told himself that the furze pig would eventually reclaim his prized foodstuffs and come back to their family.


Anyway, Dorothy and Addison joined the mommy group. Dorothy came home full of words. Although she had nothing complimentary to say about the types of diapers or the scheduled feedings employed by the group’s other moms, she enjoyed the beer and the fennel-infused cookies that were served as galactagogues.


That same day that Dorothy began socializing, Rudford crawled out from behind the refrigerator. Addison, who had been laid on the sheepskin, which Dorothy had insisted that Chet purchase, watched wide-eyed as the spiky beast approached her.


That creature was smaller than their wiener dog and slower than their cat. Unlike the two tall beings that populated her universe, the small, round thing neither tried to feed nor to otherwise comfort her. Addison opened her eyes even wider when the wee thing smelled her.


Satisfied that the hoglet on the floor was neither food nor a competitor for food, Rudford shuffled on. After finding Withersmith asleep in Mr. Henry’s favorite, sunny spot, he cuddled up next to the dachshund. At the vet, the animals had not only been in separate cages, but also in separate rooms; the doctor believed that it was traumatic for different species to be together. Unfortunately, the man had never considered that cages, too, were distressing.


Withersmith moved in his sleep. Rudford adjusted his position.


Dorothy, who had been pumping while reading the newspaper and eating sushi, smiled at her darlings. From the sofa, she had a view of most of her home. The architect who had transformed the pool house into a petite domicile had been a genius.


Chet called from the kitchen, offering a portion of mushroom-stuffed pastries. The therapist had cautioned against white flour and sugar, so after sautéing the spores, he had enfolded them in a tapioca/rice wrap.


Dorothy declined the comestibles but smiled anyway. When she had worked in the law office, Chet had worked from home. He still worked remotely. She was glad; her husband’s accessibility meant she had support no matter if she saw a frightening bug, needed him to change Addison’s diapers, or just wanted a hug.


Having Nancy Lyn take care of the cat litter, clean and fill their beloveds’ water and kibble bowls, and brush Mr. Henry had been one of Chet’s best ideas. Dorothy suspected that Addison already recognized their young neighbor—the baby almost always had a gassy smile whenever Nancy Lynn came over. It didn’t hurt, either, that the little girl’s mother sent along baked goods with each visit. Whereas Chet dutifully made nothing containing forbidden ingredients, the therapist had not cautioned the couple against accepting such goods as gifts.


Dorothy capped the bottles that she had filled—Chet would later transfer their contents into freezer bags, date the bags and then sterilize her pumping equipment. When Dorothy ate enough calories, she could express two or three bottles a day, beyond the liquid gold she was directly feeding Addison. Now that life was once more seeming appealing, the young lawyer was banking her precious milk for her return to work.


On the sheepskin, Addison had fallen asleep in what whiffed like a full diaper. Since she was a fitful sleeper, Dorothy let her be. Rather than return her daughter to her crib, the new mom eased herself off the sofa to sat near her sunbaked doxie.


Rudford, who had noticed his mistress’ proximity, uncurled from the dog. He snuffled at the woman’s extended hand and then resettled himself onto her lap. Dorothy fell asleep on the floor with that bristly organism nestled against her. The therapist had implored her to sleep whenever she could.


A few days later, when Chet was celebrating Dorothy’s decision to take a bubble bath in a candlelit bathroom, the incident happened. Chet had been rocking Addison in his arms, inhaling his daughter’s baby scent. From that chair, he noticed that Rudford had begun panting. As well, the hedgehog was intermittently sneezing and his nose had begun to run.


Gently, Chet placed Addison in her crib, turned on the monitor stationed on her dresser and lifted the family’s hedgy-boar into a shoe box. He called Nancy Lynn’s mother to watch Addison and then, after the woman had arrived, sped to the vet’s. It seemed that their little spiny dude had caught a virus.


The vet gave Chet a large bill and a plethora of instructions. Rudford was to nest on a blanket set atop of a heating pad. It was imperative that his environment be kept warm. As well, if Rudford refused kibble, he was to be fed kitten food, by syringe, if necessary. Under all circumstances, the little thing was to be hydrated, again, by syringe, if need be.


Chet sighed at his balled up companion. The barbed urchin had not liked the injection of antimicrobials that the doc had administered.


Nancy Lynn was putting tiny braids into Mr. Henry’s fur by the time that Chet returned home. Her mother was cooing at Addison. Withersmith was sitting at the mother’s feet.


As per Dorothy, for the first time since Addison had been born, she was wearing her reading glasses and was immersed in a pile of contracts. Chet ‘s questioning look was met with the declaration that Dorothy had to check the dates on those contracts’ signatures. Rather than ask about Rudford’s welfare, she remarked that, maybe, getting a babysitter for a few hours each day could suit her.


Chet looked over the domestic landscape and then hurried Rudford into the kitchen. The little guy needed a warm nest.


About ten days later, the vet declared Rudford healthy. The hedgie returned to hiding behind the refrigerator or to sleeping next to Withersmith. He had stopped sneezing and no longer had a drippy snout. To boot, his breathing had become regulated.


To celebrate, Chet began preparing a new batch of kimchi. Within minutes, the love of his life began yelping from the living room.




“It’s the fermentation. Think of all of those good probiotics that are going to go into your milk. Addison will be the healthiest infant on the block.”


“…please stop strewing those sapodillas, too. I’m going to puke. Why couldn’t you have been a normal spouse who insisted on meat, chicken, and potatoes as his mainstay?”


Chet smiled. Dorothy was feeling better.


A few days later, when she was nose deep in checking clients’ deeds, Dorothy’s perorating increased. At least, Addison slept through her mother’s rants.


“Stop it! I can hear you chewing all the way in the living room. Have pity on my incus and malleus.” Receiving no reply, Dorothy put her documents aside and strode into the kitchen.


“The milk bank, Dearest? You’ve almost enough for two weeks.” Chet opened the freezer, pointed, and beamed. “By the time you return, you’ll have a month or more of backup nutrition for our fair child.”


“Arrgh! Did anyone ever tell you that you breathe loudly?”


“Sorry, Buttercup. Would you like some more goat’s rue tea? Maybe another vitex infusion? We could set a record for milk bank deposits.”


“Why did I marry you?”


“Because of this.” Chet vined kisses from Dorothy’s shoulder to just under her ear. The monitor, which alerted them to Adisson’s squeals, interrupted.


Dorothy sighed and stepped out of the kitchen. “Just put that durian outside and try to concentrate on not crinkling the chip bag as you empty it.”


Chet walked to their kitchen’s threshold and watched his wife cross from their living room to their bedroom, where Addison had been asleep. He sighed. All was right with the world.


Well, almost…Mr. Henry jumped through the kitchen window and onto the stove, screeching as he knocked over the simmering sapodillas and the yet uncovered jars of kimchi.



a line


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