Friday, March 25, 2011

A Confluence of Rivers

 The Ghost of Mark Twain and the Ohio River receding, Portsmouth, March 17, 2011

A Confluence of Rivers

After a week of heavy rain,
The rivers rose like clogged toilets.

Before they settled down again,
They left a trail of forget-me-nots:
Styrofoam coolers, plastic bottles, polyester sweatpants,
And yes even old-fashioned chamber pots,
And a variety of balls from scrappy games—
Baseball, basketball, football, soccer—
And tongue-tied sneakers trumpeting the names
Of millionaires from a poor kid’s locker.

Rivers of Prozac, PCB’s, and tumors,
Rivers of my occluded muse,
Rivers of maxed consumers,
Rivers of Mountain Dews,
Rivers of buoys that lost their mooring,
Rivers of addicted girls a-whoring,
Rivers of a drowned rat at my feet:
Rivers of twain—they always meet.

                                                                            Robert Forrey 

A poor drowned rat on the banks of the Ohio, March 19, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Just Say No to the Income Tax Increase!

I should begin by saying that public employees are not the cause of the financial crisis the country is currently in. The police, firefighters, teachers, sanitation workers and the unions who represent them have not caused the crisis. Greedy Wall Street speculators caused the crisis, but instead of being blamed and punished for wrecking the economy, the speculators are back at it again, making billions, while millions of Americans still cannot find jobs and many thousands have lost their homes.   
But if public employee unions did not cause the countrys financial crisis, Portsmouth’s  public employee unions contributed to our citys crisis by colluding with our corrupt city officials. In return for the political support of public employees, corrupt officials “negotiated” contracts with those employees that the city and the taxpayers could not afford. With our city auditor cooking the books and juggling accounts, and with the mayor regularly  increasing water rates, the city government hid the fact that it was operating at a deficit.  But it became clearer as the Great Recession deepened that the city  could not afford the contracts with its public employee unions, particularly the contracts  with the police and fire departments. Increasing water and sewer revenues were no longer enough to pay the piper, so now the Portsmouth city government, on behalf of the public employees unions and the police and fire departments in particular, is asking voters in the May primary to agree to a six-tenth of one percent increase in the city income tax.
The city is calling the proposed income tax increase a “Safety Levy” so that they can accuse those who vote against it of  jeopardizing the safety of the city’s residents. The city government is  resorting to scare tactics, hoping  Portsmouth residents  will be panicked into voting for the levy.  But a more accurate name for the proposed income tax increase  would be the Bailout Levy, for what the city government is trying to do is bail itself out of the financial mess it has got itself by providing contracts  that it couldn’t afford. Safety is not the issue, the fiscal irresponsibility of the city government is. The city has been  increasing water revenues for about ten years. Since the city can increase water  rates without voter approval, it did so repeatedly, using the Water Department like an addicted gambler might an ATM in the lobby of a Las Vegas casino. Only it is not the gambler who is depositing the money in the ATM: it is the taxpayer. According to Austin Leedom, Mayor Bauer raised water rates five times in the six years he was in office, and Mayor Kalb raised them five times in the five years he was in office. One of the first acts of Mayor-unelect David Malone was to to  increase water rates by 18%, which may  be the largest percentage increase in water rates in the history of the city.
The Bailout Levy
 As long as we have water,” Leedom wrote on the Sentinel website, “the City Officials, employees and their friends have an abundance of money.   Just raise the water fees, transfer the money collected into other funds such as Street Maintenance, Flood Defense, Parks and Recreations, Service, Police, Fire, Health, and so on.  The only trouble with this type of financing, transferring and spending improperly, is that it is illegal and someone may go to the prison for a long vacation.” The state auditor found Portsmouth’s financial report for 2009 deficient in ten different ways, including the following: “The Ohio Revised Code Section 5705.10 (H) states that money that is paid into a fund must be used only for the purpose for which such fund has been established. As a result, a negative fund balance indicates that money from one fund was used to cover expenses of another fund.”
The biggest water rat is City Auditor Trent Williams, whose official title should be City Enabler. Williams has used a bookkeeping system that could be called Borrowing from the Taxpayer to Pay the Rats. Following the path of the previous auditor, Tom Bihl, who was indicted for the misuse of public funds, Williams has taken  funds from the Water and Sewer Departments to help pay the  salaries and operation expenses of city government, which Austin Leedom claims violates state law.  Williams is borrowing from the Water and Sewer Departments to help pay his own salary and to help pay for the new city SUV that he drives. How in the world can a city auditor justify having a new city vehicle, especially during a Great Recession? I can’t imagine what he needs it for, except perhaps to drive around in the sewers of Portsmouth to meet with his prime constituency—those water rats!  Williams is not a workaholic, he’s a waterholic who can’t leave the stuff alone. His favorite watering hole  is not Dickens Pub but the Lawson Run Sewer.
Williams has deceived the public about the size of the deficit, and even denied that there was a deficit in the past two years. If the state auditors determine that there were deficits in 2009 and 2010, and if the 2011 budget also shows a deficit, which Williams has publicly admitted it will, then state law requires that a municipality with three consecutive deficits be put on Fiscal Emergency, which requires state surveillance and supervision.  Scioto County has already been declared in Fiscal Emergency, so it would not  be a surprise if Portsmouth, the county seat, is also. If the city is placed on  Fiscal Emergency, the poster child should be City Auditor Trent Williams, the best friend the water rats ever had.

The Hidden Costs

Governments at all levels, in Ohio and throughout the country, are in a financial crisis, and the costs connected with public employees are being scrutinized. The cost of Portsmouth’s public employees are larger than the public might be aware. On her informative blog on 7 Feb. 2011( click here: WeGotTroubleRightHereInRiverCity),   Jane Murray pointed out that it is not the salaries of city employees that are blowing holes in the city budget, it’s the benefits; in other words, it’s not the obvious but the hidden costs that is the straw that is breaking the taxpayer’s back. Murray used as her example an unnamed captain on the Portsmouth police force. His 2009 base salary was $33, 988, but when she added up the benefits and other hidden costs, the captain cost taxpayers over $90,000 for that one year. The captain may be well worth the $90,000 plus, but it is not just what an employee is worth but also what the city can afford to pay him that needs to be taken into account.
Murray could have used as an example somebody on the force making twice what the captain made,  but choosing the captain provided her with an approximation of the average of the force as a whole. Murray calculated that  the captain cost the taxpayers $92,670, at a minimum, but I will be even more conservative, ignoring some of the other minor expenses connected with him,  such as sick leave, funeral leave, education expenses, etc. By my conservative estimate, the captain cost the taxpayers  just a little over $90,000 in 2009. Using that conservative figure, I made the following pie chart to illustrate the breakdown in percentages of the cost of the captain to the city. His base salary, it should be noted, represented only about one  third of his complete cost to the taxpayers. His pension and health insurance combined made up about  another third. And the third third consists of overtime, vacation, etc. (A similar chart should be made for the full cost to the taxpayers of members of city council.)

  What one police captain cost the city of Portsmouth in 2009: $90,000+

Until Mayor Malone and the Portsmouth City Council begin to reduce the hidden costs of public employees to Portsmouth taxpayers, voters should not increase taxes by a dime. A case can be made that the city must increase taxes to help balance the budget,  but only if the city government also makes painful cuts in city expenses, which Mayor Un-elect Malone is not prepared to do. Passing the buck as usual, the city council asked Mayor Malone to submit a 2011 budget that reduces the cost of city government by 20%. By the Council’s calculation, that was the reduction needed to balance the budget. But Malone came up about 3% short of the figure, which translates into at the very least a $1.4 million dollar deficit. ((Malone is notoriously mathematically challenged, so we will have to wait and see if it is just $1.4 million. Those are  not the kind of figures he’s good at.)  Malone said he would  not furlough or discharge anybody in the police or fire department because of his “concern for public safety.” The city of Camden, New Jersey, which has among highest crime rates in the country, discharged half of its police force, but Dana Redd, was not recalled. Having since got a handle on Camden's budget, she recently rehired some of the police and fire personnel.
     Murray’s first act as mayor was to discharge not half the police force, but three department heads. Malone’s first act as mayor was to rehire the controversial Rick Duncan whom Murray fired for incompetence. She was concerned about the safety and well being of residents who repeatedly got sewage in their homes, and she fast-tracked a basement protection program in a matter of months.  Though he had been in government for more than 10 years, Duncan had done nothing to help these same residents. We might  ask, why did he circulate recall petitions when he reportedly had a high paying job at the USEC site in Piketon? Maybe it had to do with the fact that, according to a reliable source, nowhere in the private sector (nor in most other public sector entities) does an employer pay 24% toward an employee’s retirement and all the health insurance benefits. Not in this day and age. But that is exactly what Duncan had received. The city’s annual contribution to his pension is around $12,000. He contributes nothing. And he reportedly never paid any part of his insurance premium until 2009 when he began paying $50/month for a family plan.
  I don’t think Malone rehired Duncan because of  safety concerns. He rehired him for political reasons and at a cost to the taxpayers of more than $90,000.  Why did Malone do that? Because if  Malone has any chance of being  elected in the next mayoral campaign,   he  knows he cannot alienate public employees, especially members  of the police and fire departments. Malone cares more about staying on the public payroll than he does about public safety. Malone doesn’t want the police and fire unions campaigning against him. He would rather risk the city being put on Fiscal Emergency than jeopardize his chances of continuing as mayor of Portsmouth. He doesn’t want to go back to having his wife, who is also on the public payroll,  being his chief means of support. The problem is the losers of Portsmouth who gravitate to politics get elected with the help of the rich white trash who control the city. The losers then do everything to stay in office, including  becoming the lapdogs of the rich white trash. Instead of  negotiating with public employee unions, the politicians throw money at them. The money they throw is the public’s, of course,  not their own, which is why they throw so much of it.

Contrast of  City and University Contracts

As an officer of the Shawnee Education Association, I was involved in a number of negotiations between faculty and Shawnee State University. Unlike the city employees, the faculty had to negotiate with administrators whose jobs did not depend on whether or not the faculty liked or voted for them. The administrators were not voted into their jobs by the faculty. The faculty might have a representative on a search committee, and might even have a vote, along with half a dozen other committee members, but the recommendation  of a search committee about whom to hire was just that—a recommendation.  Decisions were always subject to the approval of the trustees. The trustees had the final say in everything, including hiring and firing. They were very tough to negotiate with, and much  bitterness developed between the two sides in negotiations, with frequent threats of strikes and on two occasions  bitter strikes. The trustees were often business and professional people who had succeeded and made their money not by being philanthropists and saints.  Nobody would have ever mistaken trustee and local business woman Kay Reynolds for Mother Teresa,
Contrast the situation at the university with the situation in city government. Too often the chief executive officer in city government, namely the mayor, is someone who, not to mince words, was a failure in the private sector. In Portsmouth,  politics is the last refuge of failures. Mayor  Bauer was a failure as a small businessman, Kalb was a failure as a grocery clerk, Trent Williams, who ran for mayor, was a failure as a music teacher; and  if Malone was not a failure, it was  because he never tried to succeed.  Malone early on apparently  decided working was not the path to success. He believed praying (or preying, as Wayne Allen might say) was the way to prosperity. He actually proposed such a preposterous theology!  If Malone deserves an honorary doctorate in anything, it is not in philosophy but in philandering. But he had the support of the crooks who run the city, who knew they could count on him to do nothing in public office that would interfere with their economic and political control of the city. He  might be an embarrassment because of his philandering, but the kept media prostitutes, like Frank Lewis, could be counted on to keep the public from knowing about him. But count on Lewis and the Daily Times to be critical of those who don’t play ball. On those infrequent occasions when honest and very able people are elected, the whole system is programmed, including the public employees unions, to drive them out of office, if not out of their mind.
So voters in the May primary should just  say no to the politicians, just  say no to the water rats, just say no to the unelected  mayor, just say no to the drone who is the city auditor; and above all just say no to the income tax levy, because it will probably perpetuate rather than put an end to Portsmouth’s  budget crisis, making the city even less safe for democracy than it already is.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

For My Father, on St. Patrick's Day

My father posing as a Hells Angel

For My Father, Patrick, on St. Patricks Day, 2011

Had  you not died in 1993
You’d be on this St. Patrick’s day 111.
Whatever gods may be,
Your mother—how she believed in heaven!
But your father, well, not necessarily.

You sat, drinking, on the fence.
You never told me how you felt.
On the seat of your pants, 
You waited for the last card to be dealt.

Between Catholicism and alcoholism,
The poor Irish never had a chance.
They see not through a glass, darkly, but through a prism,
A kaleidoscope of fool’s gold and Riverdance.

                                                Robert Forrey

Saturday, March 12, 2011

On Hatcher Field

On Hatcher Field

On Hatcher Field, addicted hookers blow
Between the crack houses row on row
Which on John Street did lie,
Where ladies of the night their trade did ply,
Like certain mayors we know:
Bauer, Kalb, Malone—whichever  hoe
Was used, we saw the deficits grow,
One, two, three million—deficits so high
They nearly touch the sky.
But somehow the money was found
To build a baseball field on this ground
And to pay, to the master of the art of swindling,
Two million for the Marting building  

Tell me, bro,  tell me this field ain’t so,
Tell me this ain’t the field of who you know;
Tell me this ain’t  the field of domained  property,
Tell me this ain’t the field where Hatcher’s mall would be;
Tell me this ain’t the field of outrageous schemes,
Tell me this ain’t  the field of broken dreams;
Tell me this ain’t the field where abatements were mailed out,
Tell me this ain’t the field where Hatcher was bailed out;
Tell me this ain’t the field where Lewis and Hayes lie,
Tell me this ain’t the field where addicts die;
Tell me this ain’t the field where competition’s nixed,
Tell me this ain’t the field where the games fixed;
Tell me this ain’t the field where umps are cowed,
Tell me this ain’t the field where cheatings allowed;
Tell me this ain’t the field where water rates relentlessly rise,
Tell me this ain’t the field where flooded Grandview cries;
Tell me this ain’t the field where money, not bases, get stolen,
Tell me this ain’t the field where bank accounts, not averages, get swollen;
Tell me this ain’t the field where politicians play games,
Tell me this ain’t the field where Mearan hits on dames.

Tell me this ain’t the field where taxpayers are put through the wringer,
Tell me this ain’t the field where Hatcher gives us the finger;
Tell me this ain’t the field where sewers overflow,
Tell me this ain’t the field where deficits grow and grow and grow:
Tell me this ain’t the field where it ain’t over till the fat lady sings,
Tell me this ain’t the field where the devil’s running things.

                                       Robert Forrey

Thursday, March 03, 2011

3: Oxy & Contin Meet Barbie

Barbie knelt over the dozing Oxy and Contin, her pigtails almost touching their heads.

Shortly before noon Barbie, walked into McDonald’s. Barbie was the fourteen-year-old daughter of the Freedom from Pain Clinic manager. She placed a takeout order for two Big Mac box lunches for her mother and Dr. Gudenoff, whom Barbie had never seen. On the previous Saturdays he had always been in his office, writing prescriptions. Barbie suspected there was something about the doctor her mother wasn’t telling her, something she didn’t want to talk about. The doctor was a man of mystery as far as Barbie was concerned, and so to some degree was her mother.
Waiting for the box lunches to be prepared, Barbie blushed when she noticed that two scruffy dudes in a booth eyeing her.  She was tall and well developed for fourteen, and the pigtails were her mother’s attempt to make her look prepubescent.  What her mother didn’t know was that pigtails made Barbie more appealing, not less, at least to men whose sexual ideal were thirteen-year-old girls. If her mother had  known  how much pigtail pornography there was on the internet, and how prostitutes sometimes  wore  pigtails to cater to  pedophiles, she would have cut Barbie’s long hair or at least stopped putting it up in pigtails.     
 “Hey, baby doll,” one of the dudes in the booth said.  “You want to join us?”
To get away from the dudes, Barbie walked to the front window and stared at the traffic flowing by on Main Street. Because most illegal drugs came in to the city on Main Street, it was known as Highway to Heaven. But for many it was the Expressway to Hell. The police station was located on Main Street, directly across from McDonald’s. It was said that drug trafficking took place in McDonald’s, right under the cops’ noses, and it was said also that the police chief’s son was among those dealing drugs there. The chief’s son didn’t suffer from a lack of customers.  River City had the reputation of being the most addicted city in the state, if not the country. There’s a remote village in Afghanistan where everybody is rumored to be addicted to opium, even the mice. In River City, it was kittens who were addicted, but to Oxycontin, not opium.
Barbie arrived at the clinic shortly after noon with the boxed lunches. The line was nearly as long as it had been early that morning.   Because Saturday was the busiest day of the week, Barbie’s mother and Dr. Gudenoff, instead of taking a lunch break, took bites between prescriptions. When Barbie delivered the box lunches on Saturdays, her mother wouldn’t let her linger a minute at the clinic, which only made Barbie that much more curious about the clinic and the odd people that stood in a line that stretched down the street. The reason her mother gave Barbie for wanting her not to linger around the clinic was that it wasn’t safe. River City's crime rate was, per capita,  among the highest in the state, and much of it was drug-related. Barbie's mother kept a gun in the drawer of her desk and an aluminum baseball bat behind the file cabinet. Her value to the doctor was that she was not a Jack but a Jill of all trades—secretary, bookkeeper, nurse, and bouncer.
“Oh, look at the poor little kitties in the cold,” Barbie said when she saw Oxy and Contin napping in the sun near the front door of the clinic. When Barbie leaned over them, her pigtails almost touched their tiny heads. When he caught scent of the fast food, Oxy opened one eye but then closed it again. He wasn’t interested in fast food. Occasionally people in line tried to share their fast food and snacks with him, at least a French fry or a potato chip, but he didn’t like it. Though humans couldn’t seem to stop eating fast food, he had never eaten anything that tasted worse. The amount of salt on one potato chip was enough to make his tongue sore. Unlike children, who have easy access to junk food in school vending machines, kittens don’t get an opportunity to become addicted to the three key ingredients of the American diet—salt, sugar, and fat. Nor since they were kittens would they as they got older become addicted, as many American teenagers do, to the two most widely used psychoactive drugs in the world, caffeine and nicotine. Being kittens, Oxy and Contin’s only addiction was to Oxycontin. Although no one knew it, not even  Barbie or Dr. Gudenoff,  Barbie’s mother was addicted to Oxycontin also.
Barbie got down on one knee and began petting Oxy, who lazily opened one eye.  When he licked the hand that was petting which was petting him, Oxy could detect no trace of Oxycontin.
 Squinting into the high sun with his opened eye, all Oxy could see was a red ribbon at the end of one of Barbie’s pigtails.  If he had been an unaddicted kitten, Oxy might have playfully poked at one of the ribbons, doing what came natural to a kitten, because playfulness is the way nature keeps kittens and other young animals, including young humans, physically active and mentally curious. But Oxy was exhausted from licking fingers and scratching for fleas, so he closed his eyes and resumed his catnap. 
Barbie stood up, walked over, and opened the clinic door part way. Her mother, a tall, strong, but somewhat stoop-shouldered forty-year-old woman, was seated at a desk near the door, interviewing a burly middle-aged man in jeans and cowboy boots. Across his brow were tattooed Ohio's state motto: With god anything is possible. 
 “Mommy, did you see the cute kittens?” Barbie asked through the opened door. She spoke softly so she wouldn’t disturb the kittens.
Her mother made no reply. 
Sounding exasperated, her mother answered, “Yes, I saw them. They’ve been around for a couple days.”
“Don’t they have a mommy?”
“I don’t know, but they have fleas.”  Barbie’s mother had a phobia about  fleas. When Barbie's mother had been in grade school,  there had been periodic epidemics of head lice. When there was an epidemic, the principal Miss Boyle called all the students into the auditorium where she gave not a fire-and-brimstone but a flea-and-plague sermon, describing how millions of people had died horrible deaths in the Dark Ages as the result of fleas of which head lice, she claimed, were close cousins. Barbie's mother, who heard the sermon three times  while she was in grade school, never forgot the principal's warning about fleas and made sure she checked Barbie's head at bedtime during week days to make sure she hadn't picked any up from the poor white classmates who had probably picked them up from their mangy pets.  At the mention of fleas, Contin, her eyes still closed, began scratching vigorously behind an ear.
As an only child, Barbie had longed for a dog or cat, but her mother had said absolutely no pets. Barbie said, looking out the door at the kittens, “Even if they don’t have a mother, at least they have each other.” Sighing in disgust, her mother got up and came to the door, looking down at Contin, who with his extraordinary olfactory powers had detected the scent of Oxycontin inside. He wanted to enter, but Barbie’s mother stood there like a redwood.
 “They’re infested with fleas,” Barbie’s mother said sternly. “They and the other hundred million cats in America.” The number didn’t mean much to Barbie. Cats, dollars, stars—it was hard for her to imagine how much a million of anything would be.
“Yes, a hundred million,” her mother repeated, taking the McDonald  lunches from Barbie.
Barbie had been eight when she first asked her mother for a kitten. Her mother had said no, telling her that in addition to fleas there was also the expense a cat would be. She could have added, now that Barbie was fourteen,  that in the previous year  Americans had spent over $45 billion dollars on pets,  with about $15 billion of that going for cats. Americans in  the previous year had spent on average about $1200 dollars per cat.  As a substitute  for a pet or a sibling,  Barbie’s mother  gave her a Nurse Barbie doll for her ninth birthday. 
“Now, run along home, Barbie,” her mother told her. 
“But what about the kittens?”
“Not another word about the kittens,” her mother said sharply.
The people in  the line in front of the clinic had idly watched what was going on, but all they cared about was when it would be their turn to walk through the door and get a prescription.
Her mother turned to deliver the doctor’s lunch, giving the  door a nudge with her elbow, but before the door closed, Barbie deftly inserted her foot, preventing it from closing all the way. Then with the same foot she pushed it open enough to see her mother’s back as she disappeared into the doctor’s office.
The kittens, which were awake now, saw what Barbie had done. They saw that the door was ajar.  Cats are curious, and kittens even more so. When Barbie’s mother came out of the doctor’s office seconds later, she saw that the front door was still open and that Barbie was still standing outside looking in.
"Shut that door and go home," her glowering mother told her   
 Barbie reached out to take the knob to pull the door shut.  When he saw Barbie reach out for the  door knob, Oxy knew he had to  make dash for the opening if he wanted to get inside, which he  did, startling Barbie and  freezing her for  a few seconds, like a piece of ice sculpture. Those few seconds were just enough time for Contin, not wanting to be left out in the cold, to dash inside. 
Once inside, both kittens froze in their tracks when they saw Barbie’s mother, attired in her white starched uniform, towering over them. With her size 14 white shoes wide apart and her long arms outstretched, from the kitten’s perspective she looked like an amazon. But her posture reflected her determination to not let the kittens go any further, and especially not into the doctor’s office.  Oxy and Contin were apparently no more welcome in there than Barbie. Oxy backed up, looking with one eye at the partly open front door and with the other at the amazon. He was about to dash out the door as fast as he had dashed in, but Barbie chose that exact moment to enter and, looking guiltily at her mother, close the door behind her. With the front door shut, Oxy and Contin looked at each other in alarm.  Oxy considered scooting under the desk near the front door, but the man with the shaved head sat in the chair in front of it with a look of perplexity that Oxy misinterpreted as menacing. Poorly heated, the interior of the clinic on cold days like this was downright chilly, and to Oxy the man seemed to be exhaling smoke, like a dragon.
Undaunted by Barbie’s mother, Oxy scuttled between her  wide-spread feet,  making a beeline for the  only avenue  of escape he could see, the  doctor’s open office door. Barbie’s mother shrieked. Hearing the shriek, the doctor called out in a voice that seemed more curious than alarmed
Madelyn turned around just in time to see Oxy’s little tail disappearing inside the doctor’s office. She turned and strode angrily toward the doctor’s office. Dying to see what would happen;   Barbie picked up Contin in her arms, and carried her quickly to the doorway of the doctor’s office. But, remembering all her mother’s warnings to stay out of the doctor’s office, she didn’t dare cross the doorway.   The man with the shaved head followed her. What Contin, Barbie, and the man looking over her shoulder saw was her mother in a crouch, like an NFL defensive end, like a Lawrence Taylor, trying to see where Oxy might be hiding under or between the office furniture.  The wide-eyed doctor sat behind his desk; in the chair next to his desk sat a hollowed-eyed young woman he had been writing out a prescription for. Meanwhile, having quickly discovered that there was not a trace of Oxycontin on Barbie’s fingers; Contin was thrashing about in Barbie’s arms like a hooked fish, trying to get free. When Barbie wouldn’t let Contin down, the kitten scratched the palm of her hand.
“Ouch!” Barbie cried, dropping Contin to the floor, just inside the office. Barbie’s mother looked up at her daughter, who was holding her bleeding hand out as though looking for pity from her mother. Her mother looked down at Contin, who was surveying the office anxiously for a place to take cover. But before Contin could make a move, Barbie’s mother grabbed her and angrily tossed her out of the office, literally on her ear, but not before Contin managed to scratch her hand too. The astonished doctor looked on all this like a Mormon missionary dreaming he had a ring-side seat at a tag team wrestling match
When Contin landed painfully on her ear outside the doctor’s office, injuring her hind leg, she realized that the hand she had scratched seconds before reeked of Oxycontin. Contin only had to lick the paw she had used to scratch the palm of Barbie’s mother to taste traces of the drug she craved. The doctor didn’t know it, and neither did Barbie, but her mother was an Oxycontin addict. Even more than the money the doctor generously paid her for being secretary-bookkeeper-nurse-bouncer, what she valued most as his employee was how easy it was to forge a prescription her whenever she needed to.
Though she was in pain, Contin limped back to the doctor’s office. If she was picked up and hurled out again, it would be worth it if she could just once lick the hand that hurled her. When she got as far as the doorway, she heard Barbie’s mother growling, “Come out from there you little varmint.” Barbie’s mother had found Oxy’s hiding place. Picking him up, she tossed him out of the office. But it was not Oxy sailing over her head that made Contin stop in the doorway. What stopped her was a very disturbing odor in the office that she hadn’t noticed before. She smelled a rat.