Monday, May 19, 2008

here's some tussin

Jeff and I present you the next installment in the sprawling epic that is 'hospital.' Why don't you come in for a check-up (of course that jokes lame, but what can I say, I watched I am Legend last night)?


The morning was too hot. The latest gift from the streets was a cadaver, not too damaged, that had promised its organs to science in the case of an untimely drunk driving accident. The young surgeon watched the body being hollowed. The heart, the lungs, kidneys too, dumped carefully in ice, in plastic, in foam. He thought about the makings of a great song, something about black lights and human hands. He thought about his girlfriend at home, just waking, rustling the cat. He thought about his father’s recording studio and the time of the torn guitar strings, the snapping piano chords, the hop hip drum spring. The surgeon walked away from the observation window and paced into the ethereal white. This was a morning made of rain and nurses with sweated brows and their tennis shoes squeaking. He rolled his hand over his face and headed back into the OR supply room. He knew his shift had just begun, but he wanted to see if Jessie was working, slapping together the day’s order forms. Her blonde creature skin was a curious kind followed closely with sharp shoulders draped in green smock and smitten. She also had a gorgeous smile and a kind pair of knees. The surgeon fancied her, but only inasmuch as he wanted to jump through a stained glass window.

The supply room was empty. The bed in the corner was inviting. He imagined a tall glass of thick beer foam dumping atop his head and wandered in his drowsiness. The cobwebs of the morning appealed to him. Hurry, no appointments yet, just a quick nap, a dip into the ethereal. He glanced over the empty cool metallic shelves and thought of early childhood days spent in doctor’s offices, breathing in and out. He hated the wooden tongue depressors. He hated the ear scopes and the rough palms of elderly aides. And giving blood, that was nearly antithetical to the surgeon’s way of life. He had become such a doctor so that he could take, not give.

He removed his paper hat and flopped atop the bed. A twenty minute nap was not much, but in the reflectance of the coming day, it bred loyalty. A spring blossomed in his chest; maybe his phone would ring, maybe his name would ring over the PA system. Maybe Jessie would come in and undress her frame and reveal her soft nakedness and descend. The surgeon flushed his face into the dismal pillow and fell asleep with his feet dangling over the edge.


A white tiger purred. The sun was as bright as he had ever seen it.
The desert sand baked. He was still, eyes staring at the tiger. He looked down
at his pants. They were ripped. He wore nothing else. The tiger came toward
him. He mounted the tiger like a cowboy in a movie about the old west mounts a
horse and rode off. They were in a pool of blood. They were in a giant
library. The tiger talked, but he couldn't understand the language. The tiger
died. He was next to his girlfriend. She was singing to another man and
strumming his guitar unstrung. He cut both his wrists with what looked to him
like a jellyfish. Colored lights pulsed.


He awoke smoky with no other reason except the sheer fact of awakening. He heard the shuffle of papers in the distance. Jessie was sat at a counter, back to the sleeping room. The surgeon shuffled up to her and whispered, “Hey stranger.”

“Jesus!” she jumped, swiveling in her chair with snaps and clicks. She felt a tingle of lightning and saw the face of the surgeon large and bearded. The time he had brought his guitar to work and played that song, the way of his fingers plucking, the strings, the progression of rhythm and tone, the words. She giggled. “You fucker, you nearly gave me a heart attack.”

“Well, that’s alright. I think I’m trained for that sort of thing.”

“Oh yeah? What would you do?”

“Well, first,” he scanned the room then dove back into her eyes, “I’d scream.
Then I’d check your wallet to see if you had any money and go treat myself to a sundae down in the cafeteria. Next I’d take you car keys and go for a joyride. Then, after going home and getting some rest, I’d come back and arrange a rope and pulley system a la ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ and make you dance for me.”

“Charming,” she said, smile slipping, swiveling back around.

“So how’s that cadaver,” Jessie asked, eyes scanning files and orders and needle numbers and platinum screw specs.

“Nearly emptied, I think. I don’t know. I took a quick nap. Suppose I should get back out there and check on my boys.” He glanced back at the white sleeping room; it was holy in its emptiness.

“Well don’t let me stop you,” Jessie said, shuffling papers further and further.

“Indeed, don’t,” the surgeon joked and patted Jess on the back. He glanced over her shimmering hair and waded out through the door.

Music filled his head that moment, a melody he hadn’t thought of in years. He heard the trumpet of gurneys flaring in the distance, wheels rolling as cymbals could crash. The swish of a nurse’s pants became the high falsetto of a flute and her decisive cough was the reverb of a violin. The surgeon would be a conductor, especially in the operating room. The place was coming to life, the morning hospital now had a reason to move and jostle. Patients, patients, there was blood somewhere on the floor, wild notes loosened into the atmosphere, a scalpel for a xylophone, a face mask for a saxophone mouthpiece. The surgeon put the song in the back of his mind and waded down the hall towards the excavation. He thought of his dream, flushing his eyes closed and indulging in momentary sleepy abandon.


A puppet mouthed words on a tiny stage on the corner of a downtown
street. The puppeteer was a mustachioed man dressed head to toe in black. He
laughed madly. The sky became dark with clouds and the wind was picking up. A
ghostly pale man without eyes, naked, carried the limp body of a red headed
woman. She was gorgeous. Her tits were exposed. The surgeon felt himself
rising to arousal. He watched the pale man carry the lifeless body of the
woman up and down the city streets. Slowly crowds gathered and he lost sight
of the couple. The puppet show was a hit. The crowd started clapping. A near
riot broke out. The surgeon was swallowed up in a mass of strangers.


The early morning had ceased, soon to become noon, and it was easy enough. The cadaver had been exhumed, all use now piled up in a freezer until tomorrow when it would be shipped on a truck or housed in a large freezer. Jessie had gone to lunch, waving with car keys in her hand. An operation had been performed. A young child with a small tumor was put under; the black thing of nothing and space was removed from behind her eye. It was difficult, the surgeon knew, but he went about the work with method and determination. He became clockwork, and he was sad for that. He needed a challenge, but what? In what form?

The sun hung above, center of a pendulum. By now his girl would be at lunch and the cat would be stirring still in circles of blankets or warm carpet. The house would be resting ordinarily. The fish tank would be bubbling. The surgeon was on until a little after five. The order of his sleep was determined, a kiss from his girlfriend tonight, and some stiff sheets. Tomorrow saw his next shift revolve in timely fashion, but half of it was going to be taken by another surgeon. He could rest then, or drive down the coast, or go to that coffee shop he’d been meaning, ask about the playing in the corner. He hummed a tune he’d recently written and passed the locker room. It was unnatural to see the graveyard of the regular clothes. Men were in their dressing themselves even now. The surgeon imagined a slow steady beat. To hold on oboe, oh to sauce the sousaphone, to jump in the small spaces of the day and discover the grand ordinary. He was a humanitarian, after all. He was a healer. The surgeon flexed his hands and smelled the stale, artificial air. Best not to forget any of this, he decided, and walked about the random halls the remainder of his shift.

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