Posts Tagged ‘sickness’

As near as I can tell, The Longest Salmon is now defunct. That being the case, I am republishing Mud Man here. This one means a lot to me. Please feel at liberty to share your thoughts and criticism.

MUD MAN

There was once a man who lived
in a deep hole beneath the ground.
For a time he did not question his station in life,
preferring instead to hide his eyes from the changing sky.
This man would wake to the jostlings
and happenings of the world above him
and shake his brow and be glad to be free in his hole
where the dirt was cool and close and the stale air familiar.

In his quieter moments the man would grope
for his own beginnings and his mystery heritage.
He would whisper to himself that some day long since past
a queen must have walked over his hole
and in that instant given birth
and passed on,
for he knew himself to be noble and strong
else how could he have thrived?
Surely few others could live his way.

Curiosity and hope stirred in him.
In wilder moments he convinced himself
his strength was such that he could leap out of his hole.
He would climb until his caked fingernails grasped grass
and would hang there,
waiting for his eyes to adjust to the light and the speed
and for other eyes to notice him.

He made contact this way
occasionally with a passerby
a child at play
or a woman who wished closeness.
In the endings his hole proved too small
or it would rain
and he would assist his departing love,
sinking his feet into the mud under her weight
and, lifting her,
give to her the freedom of open space and breezes.
He would not climb again for years.

The man grew old in spirit.
His mind shrank to stubbornness
and his heart to mistrusting all above him.
Jealousy infirmed,
and injustice steeled and destroyed the life-long low
so that all his action became rebellion.

This bravely resentful man shunned all but his hole
and whispered in his heart that it was his,
only his!
to defend against compassion or attack,
neither of which can come when hidden in a hole,
no matter how much he craved it.

Conversation is necessary to life
and lacking in lonely holes
save for the worms, who are dreadful dinner guests.
The man would fester restless
and rail and shriek to himself about ideas
like fairness
and potential
and walls of mud which give and demand strength,
all the while hitting and pushing and thrashing against his hole
through private night
and dreadful noon.

Until at last
the world above grew tired of the protestations
of the wild soul in the hole,
and drew up busy plans and brought in heavy machines
and filled in the man,
and his hole,
with Rebar and concrete
in order to support the central column
of a monument to freedom.

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This essay won first place in the fiction category of the 2007 Eastern Oklahoma Writers Contest

 

 

“Oh spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.”

-Psalm 39:13

The beginning of the end. Waking up is hard to do. Sleep is peaceful, its one validating quality. Artificial sleep – chemical sleep – is not peaceful. It is disconnected, confusing. Illusory. You wake up, but you’re not really awake. You are someone else. You are a prisoner to the molecules flowing through your blood and the numbness clutching your brain. You are an addict, and your monkey has four paws around your spine. Dance, marionette!

When you wake up, you wish you hadn’t. You can’t see. Something is crawling up your nose. Something else has plunged down your throat. Someone’s hand has three fingers stuck inside your gut. Someone corked a stopper on your ______. Monkeys. People appear and disappear, but never when you want them to. Your mouth is a southern Arkansas cotton field. Your taste buds are Nebraska corn, five weeks past harvest. Breath you can chew.

Whee!

You’re alive! You might be happy about that. The Loved Ones are. Being Loved Ones, they have obligingly ceased to float in and out of existence. They come bearing questions. Answer wisely, you’ll hear about it later. Oh, they love you so much!

Then you hit a wall. Alertness. Some kind soul turned the TV on to stimulate you. Fox News. Hurricane Katrina. Sharks in the water and AKs in the street. A rectangular box that sounds like a fish tank is sucking poison and rot from your chest cavity. You dream about swimming in Hawaii. You’ve been stimulated witless.

To the informed, the stalwart AK-47 Kalishnakov assault rifle – and all its myriad knock offs – are referred to as the AK. The news media loves this rifle because it is easy to vilify. The poor militant loves this rifle because it is cheap, sturdy, and available in bulk. The American thug loves this rifle for its image, which is usually seen on the news in the hands of poor militants. Now you know.

I digress. I’ve earned the right. Life is one big fat digression after another after another. So is reading this.

They extubate you. Cherish it while it lasts. You won’t remember it later. You have to be an old pro to think you remember it. I’ve been extubated at least eleven times. But I don’t want to brag.

The nursing staff is glad to see that spark in your eyes. They hope now you’ll stop trying to pull your tubes out. On the other hand, they just lost control of the television. Monkeys. They’re perfectly willing to talk to you as if you were cutting teeth and filling your diaper. They’ll make you swallow suicide capsules. They’ll shove slimy bubble gum flavored nerf-on-a-toothpick around your gums. And they will absolutely, positively, under no circumstances give you water after midnight.

Monkeys in pastel hearts and LSD inspired animal prints. They are some of the best people in the world.

“^ Apo-ca-lypse / e’pakelips / n 1. [c] revelation, esp. about the future of the world. 2 the apocalypse [sing] the last book of the Bible, recording the revelation of St. John about the end of the world. 3. [sing] event of great significance or violence similar to events in the Apocalypse.” -Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, Fourth Edition.

Or so they say.

Fast forward. The Doctors officially declare you graced with a new heart. Born again. Someone died, mostly. Then they cut out your heart. You submitted to this willingly. In the back of your mind this DEATH + DEATH = LIFE equation doesn’t make sense, but you go with it anyway.

Whee!

Cough, Doctor’s orders. Now suck on a tube. What is the medical profession’s obsession with tubes, anyway? Got a headache? Here’s a tube. Infected toenail? Have three tubes. Got a spare inch of skin? Ram a tube through it! Constipated? Guess what…? I think that modern medicine is a front for the tube industry.

Now they command you to walk. This is so they can snicker like Dr. Frankenstein, slapping each other on the back and giggling, “Its alive!” They’ve earned their joy. Your feet sting when they touch the floor. Suddenly you are drunk and don’t remember the party.

Ah, walking. An exercise in pain. It tires you. It keeps you awake. You look for a distraction and discover your neighbors. Kids getting their first intravenous. Death in the form of a three-year-old woman waiting on a heart, accessorized with mommy and IV pole in tow. Some of the cutest little babies polka-dotted with electrodes. Always a fresh supply. You go back to your room.

The word Apocalypse is not found in the Bible. At least not in mine.

On the subject of my donor and that individual’s family, my words fail me. Silence is used the world over to show respect.

I hate crack heads. They are a lowbrow, punk, worthless class of subhuman. There once was this little guy, we’ll call him Ian – although that was the name of our nurse. Ian was premature. Born addicted. You are reading his legacy. He coded while I was searching for a urinal. An AK for every crack head. Two for every crack head mother. No quarter. Unworthy organ donors, every one.

One of the worst things you can be in this world is innocent. In the next it’s a prerequisite. That is irony. I digress.

They transfer you from CVICU to Step down. There is no physical drop in altitude.

The medical profession holds great reverence for its acronyms. It’s a secret language. CHF, CVICU, ECMO, MUGA. Why speak English when you can bill more for just the initials?

They bring you pills. Tubes, Pills, and Acronyms. The Hippocratic Trinity. Pills to make your head spin and stop spinning. Pills governed by the ticks of the clock. My pills keep me safe from rejection. I have a hard time with rejection. I prefer acceptance. In exchange, my pills give me:

Hot flashes. Nausea. Headaches.

Inability to sleep. Hair growth. Diabetes.

Overgrown gums. Fast heart rate at rest. High blood pressure.

Hair loss. Acne. Weak joints.

Slow heart rate with activity. Anxiety. Mood swings.

Low white blood count. Tremors. Delusions of grandeur.

This is my deal with the devil.

Eighty percent of heart transplant recipients live for a full year. Twenty percent do not. I myself have lived three days shy of a month. I hope to take online classes in the spring.

Post-transplant, your body steps out of its mind. Prednisone gives you a full torso rash. You develop what science refers to as a moon face, but what in actuality is the surgical implantation via chemicals of a large biker mama’s boob under your jaw. This will make reading difficult, eating obscene, and snoozing with your chin on your chest surprisingly comfortable. For the longest time your nose, fingers and toes tingle and hum as oxygenated blood forces its way into unexplored territory.

Apocalypse means revelation.

Your biggest enemy in a hospital is boredom. Boredom will emphasize your every pain. Your bed wears thin after a week. You feel each bar and spring. You anticipate your meals overmuch and are disappointed when they finally arrive. The television becomes a hated necessity. There will be nothing on, but silence will magnify your discomfort. When something interesting does come on it will be time to leave the room for a test. You are lucky to have such problems. Late night music video channels can be pretty distracting in combination with morphine, valium, and hydrocodone. Good luck staying awake.

In Step Down you meet a new neighbor. Apathy in the fortunate (read: physically normal) is something you are used to. Apathy in the initiated is inconceivable. Your new neighbor’s name is Mr. Three Hearts. Born with one and transplanted twice, this guy can’t figure it out. He’s gotta have a motorcycle, gotta swim in creeks, gotta eat like there’s no tomorrow. Two people have already died to contribute to his “gotta’s.” He’s waiting on a third. Sure, he’s only 16 and his parents are absent at best, but damn you were never that young. Everybody has to come from somewhere. You start thinking about where Ian came from. You think about where the three year old beyond her years across the hall is going. You think about what beats in your chest. You get angry. Anger can help keep you alive in the short term, but does harm in the long run. You don’t care. You got a little bit of something inside you that ain’t you. Something from someone that won’t be seen here again, and maybe they’d be a little angry too. You go back to your room. Blame it on the meds and survivor’s guilt. Mr. Three Hearts goes wherever he goes.

Every trial can be burned into the fight. You believe this. It’s your war cry. You gotta have one.

I digress. I recommend digression as a form of therapy. A one-track mind is incapable of entertaining. If your mind can’t entertain you, you’re dead. Med Students should not digress. Focus focus focus! We’re people, not tube reliquaries. Do good. We like you; you’re as scared as we are. To us in our beds, you look like buzzards. What does that make the Doctor you follow? Your future.

Twelve days after the transplant they kick you loose. “Into the open air and sunshine with you!” Into the hepatitis. Into the bird flu sharpening its talons. Into the punk spitting on your burger. Wash your veggies. Stay at home for a year. Go to the Doctor once a week. Have a heart cath every two weeks. Pill salad for breakfast and supper. Live three months. Live six. Live a year and the yoke loosens. Live ten and all bets are off. This is your fight. Remember the past, it’s your best weapon. Forget the past, it doesn’t matter. Fight like hell. Live.

Whee!

“See then that ye walk…as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

-Ephesians 5:15,16.

This is my apocalypse. It is all I’ve ever known. All I’ll ever know. It has made me what I am. Others have been dealt worse. I don’t doubt that I have a purpose, whatever that may be. In that, I have been blessed. I hope I never acclimate to feeling this good. I don’t want to lose my edge. I believe in a Something greater than myself. Something more than life or death. My whole life has pointed to the existence of God. I’ve lived miracles. I’ve seen children and surgeons fight alongside angels. I’ve seen enough. And in that I am blessed as well. To you I say life comes in many forms, most of which you won’t find occasion to consider. Living is the important thing. The only thing. This is my apocalypse. This is my tale.

Take from it what you will.

 

Copyright 2007 held by Christopher Floyd.