2/25/21 Workshop – Live Reading by Joy Cutler

My Beshert, or the Curse of the Stolen Potatoes (an excerpt) 

By Joy Cutler

It started on my 38th birthday. It’s raining buckets. It’s raining cats and dogs. It’s raining so hard that it’s raining buckets of cats and dogs. It’s also the day I have an appointment with a nephrologist to find out when I have to start dialysis. I might be the most pissed off person in New York City.

Coming out of the subway station I battle with my umbrella, the rain and wind join forces to attack my defenseless body, which is no way to treat the BIRTHDAY GIRL! Fuckshitgoddamnit!! My crappy black umbrella turns inside out, flips over and tries to escape down W. 66th St like a crow with a broken wing. When I catch up with it I wrestle it down to the ground and smack its pointy end on the sidewalk to teach it a lesson. Thwack! By the time I find the dialysis clinic I’m a sopping wet mess. The clinic is in the same building as the Alvin Ailey Dance Company’s rehearsal studios. As I soggily squelch my way towards the dialysis entrance I see gorgeous, young dancers smoking cigarettes while standing under a bouquet of colorful well-behaved umbrellas, their hands held in elegant poses as they talk. A dancer pliés as she smokes, her fuchsia umbrella bobbing up and down. Another dancer grabs his right foot and in one quick movement, swoosh!, lifts his leg above his head holding the pose as he exhales. They’re so damn perfect. I hope they all get emphysema.

(shouts) ”Don’t you know you’re mortal, you stupid idiots?”

No, I am not in a good mood.

I push the elevator button. When the elevator arrives an older guy in workman overalls gets on with me. He watches as I push “B” for the basement.


I can’t believe he’d ask me something so personal, but I tell him the truth, “Not yet.”

The elevator lets out an arthritic groan and continues its painfully slow descent. Silence. My elevator companion pipes up.

“Hey, I just did a plumbing job at Charlton Heston’s apartment. And you know what? He’s a very nice person.”

In a voice as flat as a flattened flatworm I say, “That’s fantastic news. (big sigh) It’s my birthday today.”

I don’t know why I tell him that.

The elevator lets out a terrifying belch and stops. The door opens. I can see tired-looking dialysis patients lying on recliners with what looks like red tubing between each person’s arm and the churning squat machine next to them. Oh. Right. The tubing isn’t red, that’s their blood flowing towards the machine. Gross.

My elevator companion waves as I step out. “Happy birthday! And good luck!”

If the door hadn’t closed right then I’d have grabbed the screwdriver off his tool belt and thrown it at his head. Happy birthday my ass. This has to be the worst birthday of my entire life. Even though my kidneys are trying really hard to keep up with all their jobs, I’m exhausted. Lab tests confirm what my body knows already– walking more than a few blocks makes it hard to breathe, I’ve got anemia because my bone marrow stopped making enough red blood cells, my brain feels fogged in, it’s hard to sleep, my blood pressure is elevated and I hardly pee anymore which is just plain weird. I would love to hate this disease for doing this to my faithful kidneys, but I just can’t. Alport Syndrome is a part of who I am and I can’t hate it without hating myself too and I have enough crap to deal with without that. Right now I want to turn around, go home and watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood where no one has dying kidneys. I want Fred Rogers to wrap me up in his cardigan and sing to me and I don’t even like Mr. Rogers. My mother’s right – this is all her fault.

Reflective writing prompt: Write about your beshert.


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