fire in the hole!!!

Or, “How I Spent My Vacation”

Warning: unpleasantness follows, as well as an exploration of my propensity for sharing too much personal information.

The battlefield was a rank and muddy pit that emptied into a sewer lined with the churning machinery of war. Day and night in endless darkness, the blind and stinking machines ground into pulp anything that came within reach. At the end of their deadly production line, the Sentinel stood in readiness, watching over the outer gates. Each arriving package from the front was fully examined, classified, regulated. The machinery of the sewers was deaf, dumb and blind, but the Sentinel had its own way of sizing up danger. It never slept; it never missed.

Down the sluices came a gurgling mess, heading straight for the gates. The Sentinel seized up, its fist clenched tight.


At all other times, this message was enough: the machinery would pause, the gates locked tight. The Sentinel would set aside the most dangerous material until receiving final release orders, passing through the gates only those noxious vapors produced by the machinery of war. But not this time.

“NONE SHALL PASS!” The fist clenched tight, the gates shut—but immediately alarm klaxons howled and air raid sirens blasted at full bore throughout the entire battlefield. “FIRE IN THE HOLE!! FIRE IN THE HOLE!!!”

And I awoke with a cry that, translated from the Groanish, was this:


* * * * *

Sharon K. had a similar surgery, and succinctly previewed it for me over the phone:

“You’ll be fine. It’s…okay.”

“Really?” I felt a brief glimmer, a tiny forlorn little hope beam, which Sharon promptly extinguished.

“Umm, no. Not really. I’m lying. I’d rather have five more children than go through that again.”

So now I’m sitting in bed, with a pain in my fundament that is apparently on par with giving birth to six children. Where’s my damn epidural? Pass the Vicodin, please. Gimme that Oxycodone. 

* * * * *

My brother, Greg, says that now that I’ve got less of an asshole, perhaps I’ll be less of…but I don’t think it works that way. People with enlarged hearts don’t become more generous, do they?

Here’s how it works, medically speaking. And I’m a doctor*, so I should know:

The Sentinel, or Anal Sphincter, is a ring of muscle around the butthole (a non-technical term for a largely unidirectional passageway) whose primary function is to regulate Outflow. (Other directional uses are beyond this discussion.) The Sphincter is an Intelligent, or Magical Muscle, able to distinguish between solids, liquids and gas. Thank goodness.

*Ok, I’m not a doctor. I know several doctors, but let them write their own damn blogs. Or at least comment on mine, the lazy bastards.


As an aside—in a blog posting that’s nothing but asides—or is that butt asides?—I have a vision from my third grade past: Ben K., Tom D. and I were carefully researching the naughtiest terms we knew. Greenhill School had an enormous dictionary, hard-bound in fabric-covered board dyed a blandly institutional beige, so large and heavy it required its own wooden pedestal taller than ourselves, like some religious lectern for the world’s most alphabetical sermon. We balanced atop a stool to look up “fart,” and I shall never forget the precise dictionary definition printed therein:

A small explosion from between the legs.

The Sphincter is connected to a section of brain tissue known as the Posterior Posterior Lobe, which is found in the buttocks. The Posterior Posterior Lobe is generally used for Lower functions, though in some people, notably Radio Personalities, Bloggers and YouTube commentators, this Secondary Brain regulates written and verbal speech.

This Sphincter forms a part of the Autonomic Nervous Under-System (or ANUS), and has no connection to the olfactory or auditory systems of the Higher Brain. Thus the Anal Sphincter allows flatus at inopportune moments: alone on high-rise elevators just before being joined by a group of swimwear models, or during a loud and energetic group conversation whose sudden and inexplicable lull is broken by an ill-timed thunderclap. 

* * * * *

Day Two, post Hemorrhoidectomy:

Let’s all share intimate details, shall we? Removal of internal and external hemorrhoids. Thank goodness for general anesthesia, but Yowsa! That’s some impressive discomfort! Somebody hook the IV back up, already. Did you know that you clench your sphincter muscle in your sleep? I never knew that before. Found out last night, about every hour or so. It’s like having a pineapple covered in hot sauce shoved up your rear with a rubber mallet. Hey, don’t pretend you’ve never done it. 

Not looking forward to having to void my bowels. Hopefully that can wait, oh, say a week or two. Maybe three.

Ok, back to the Percocet*. Maximum dose every four hours takes the edge off—but only barely. Frankly, I can’t see why people would abuse this stuff. Maybe it has more of an effect if you’re not already in pain.

* Just kidding. Been on a maximum dose the whole time I’ve been writing this post. Can you tell?

But to end on a serious note: my wife has had cancer twice. Several friends have had it, and some have it now. As an adult, there’s a huge difference between painful and scary. I’ll take painful any day over scary.

the memory of persistence, part two

Someday I’ll write My Lesion Of Honor. In the meantime, file this one under More Stories About Surgery.

As I recall, our firstborn was a few years old, and very curious. That is to say, he was filled with curiosity, in addition to being strange and unusual. The two of us were outdoors at a family Sukkot celebration, and the then-little guy was asking questions like, “Where is God?”

And I was answering in your standard “God is everywhere” form, because that’s what you do. Benny would point to various places and ask if that’s where God was, and I’d say, “You betcha. God’s there, too. Yes, God is behind those bushes. Yep, those bushes, too. And in that car. Sky? Sure thing. In the building? Sure.”

He pointed to his head. “Is God in here?”

“Uh, yeah. God’s in there as well.” Apparently my answers were incomplete, as he later concluded that if God was everywhere, God may as well be nowhere, and in that case why was I making him go to Sunday school? Anyway, about this time I started feeling pain in my abdomen, which intensified to the point at which I was smiling at friends through my gritted teeth and heading to the car. I rationalized it away as an allergy to questions about God. Either that, or God was also in my abdomen and really, really wanted out.

When we got home, I remember Marci opening the door for us. I remember the look on her face as she saw me get out of the car slowly, as bent over as a pipe cleaner in a hurricane. She was instantly concerned. “Are you okay?”

“No.” Notice the monosyllable there? It’s not particularly characteristic of me.

“Do you need to go to the hospital?”

Now, I should point out that this is not something that Marci normally says, and of course its not something that I would normally answer in the affirmative. So it’s quite revealing of my level of discomfort when I answered, “I might.”

While I moaned in bed she was able to reach the good Dr. B, who asked me several questions and made the quite correct diagnosis of acute appendicitis. Shortly thereafter I was in the operating room, having my appendix out laparoscopically, which means that the doctor stuck three oversized soda straws into my belly and sucked the inflamed organ out without having to slice me open. This is, of course, much preferable to the old method, which was to cut the patient in half laterally with a band saw, remove the swollen appendix with a Hoover vacuum and a pair of tin snips, stuff the wound with straw and then collect the deceased’s insurance.

So the appendix was retrieved just before it burst open like a microwaved hot dog. We had the useless and swollen sac bronzed, and now I use it as a bludgeon against opponents twice my age and half my size. Or: we buried it in the back yard and it grew into a tree that blooms clusters of Addendums every spring. Actually, I donated it to the Masai, who turned it into a coin purse and sold it to the Smithsonian as a cultural artifact.

The surgery was on Monday morning. I spent a few days unable to straighten from the fetal position, rigid and semi-colonic (in the punctuation sense. Not sure what other sense semi-colonic could be, other than nonsense). Then I took off Friday with Marci, Sharon and Ben to go camping in the Ouachita Mountains between Oklahoma and Arkansas.

“Wha??” you say. And well you migh. Makes no sense, but there you have it. Surgery on Monday, tent camping on Friday. To be fair, my companions had to do the heavy lifting and set up the gear, but by Sunday we were hiking through the wooded hills of western Arkansas. I was no longer comma-shaped, and, if not upright as an inverted Mexican exclamation point, at least I stood straighter than a parenthesis.