Gotcha Day

By Erika Nichols-Frazer

June 13, 2022

Gotcha Day

We adopted Nala the day my mother fell down the stairs. That wasn’t her name, but she didn’t look like a Mindy.

In the ICU waiting room, my boyfriend said, “We don’t have to look at dogs today.” I’d completely forgotten our plans. My mother lay in a narrow hospital bed, unconscious, neck in a brace, bruises everywhere. She looked impossibly small and pale, a porcelain doll.

“You should go,” my dad said, pacing the waiting room. “She’s not waking up anytime soon. A distraction would be good.”

So, we left her at the hospital and drove an hour to the shelter whose board she used to serve on. As we slowly walked past howling dogs scratching at their cages, I tried not to think about the words traumatic brain injury and wonder what that even meant. “Don’t Google it,” Dad had said. Would she walk again? Work? Remember? So many questions.

I paused at a cage that held the only dog not yipping and crying in the place. She had big bat-like ears and a nub for a tail. She was shaking, but as soon as we got her outside she perked up, eager to smell the manure from the horses next door.

“She’ll be your therapy dog,” my boyfriend said. On the way home, she sat in my lap, all 50 pounds of her, and cowered every time a car passed. I squeezed her, held her close, told her everything was going to be alright.


Erika Nichols-Frazer is the author of the forthcoming essay collection Feed Me (Moonlight Books, Sept. 2022) and the forthcoming poetry collection Staring Too Closely (Main Street Rag, 2023). Her work has appeared in Emerge Literary Journal, Bright Flash Literary Review, Idle Ink, and elsewhere. She is a smalltown newspaper reporter.


Image by Taylor Kopel courtesy of Unsplash

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