FUNNY WOMEN #92: How to Almost Probably Not Die of Rabies


Probably you will not get rabies if your dog licks your face, and you remember afterwards that the previous morning he may or may not have bitten a shrew.

Probably you should not have let him lick your face in that way, the way that gets on and maybe even slightly in your mouth.

Probably you should not Google things like “do shrews get rabies,” “rabies mucus membranes,” “rabies transfer mouth,” “how long can rabies live outside the body,” “how long can rabies live in your dog’s mouth,” “rabies death,” “rabies chance of death,” “baby shrews rabies mouth dog blood mucus membranes.”

“Rabies survival rate” is probably not a good query, either.

Probably you should not attempt to calculate the odds of infection, given that you never actually took statistics in college like all of your friends did. Probably you should have not gotten a degree in visual arts, but it is probably too late for that now.

Probably you should not go on Probably you should not spend four hours on reading stories about people who also worry about how they might have rabies because a fox possibly licked a doorknob where they placed their hand that contained a hangnail.

Probably you should look up the definition of cyberchondria.

Probably you should not burst into tears in the Oakland emergency room when the admitting nurse asks you why you’re there, and probably, when she asks you if you’re a danger to yourself or others, you shouldn’t clutch at the chair and, in a keening falsetto, proclaim that you are there because, in fact, you want to live. Probably you should listen to the doctor when he assures you that such a rabies transfer is exceedingly rare, and there hasn’t been a case of rabies in the Bay Area in decades. Probably you should not tell him that you can’t die before your book, which you have not yet written, is published. With accolades. Probably you should not cry quietly over the discharge papers and their accompanying brochures in front of the parking garage and wipe your nose with the one labeled “Living with Your Anxiety.”

Probably you should give that literature a good hard read.

Probably you should stop referring to yourself as “Old Yeller” in conversations with your worried roommates. Probably you should also stop pantomiming handing them a shotgun.

Probably you should not interpret the stinging from kicking a doorframe as the distinctive tingling sensation, so carefully outlined on WebMD, that precedes the onset of fatal rabies symptoms. Probably you should not wonder if the malaise you feel is not, in fact, the result of six days of lying near-comatose with terror in your own bed, but rather the arrival of rabies’ characteristic disorientation. The tiny blonde child in a tutu clutching half a loaf of French bread, the one that is pirouetting across your line of vision just beyond the windowpane, is probably the neighbor’s granddaughter in town for a visit, and not a rabies-induced hallucination. Probably you should not stare at the glass of water on your nightstand, trying to determine if you are afraid of it yet.

Probably you should consider how good it’s all been. Probably you should come to grips with the fact that if you died soon, your life would be tragically short, but still meaningful. Your funeral will probably be well-attended. Probably, this will be the defining moment in your life when you faced death with steely eyes and heart palpitations, and lived. Lived in spite of an obscure and remote chain of events that, if they did result in your death, would be akin to a medical miracle, except the opposite of a miracle. If you do die of rabies, they will probably write about you in science journals or the CDC newsletter or WebMD.

If after those six days are up, and in the stale air of your bedroom you have not yet died, probably you should take a shower and rejoin the living.

Probably, if you go running down the street screaming “I EMBRACE MY OWN MORTALITY,” your well-meaning neighbors will not call the police.

Almost definitely probably.


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Carmen Maria Machado is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. She is a fiction writer and essayist whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Unstuck, Indiana Review, Five Chapters, Opium Magazine, Best Women's Erotica 2012, The Paris Review Daily, The Hairpin, Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Rumpus. She can be found at or on Twitter: @carmenmmachado. More from this author →