William C. Blome writes short fiction and poetry. He lives wedged between Baltimore and Washington, DC, and he once grabbed a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars while the getting was good. His work has previously seen the light of day in such fine little mags as Scarlet Leaf Review, Amarillo Bay, PRISM International, Fiction Southeast, Roanoke Review, Salted Feathers and The California Quarterly.
Okay, so here’s another procedure down the pipe, nothing else is scheduled for today, and my new Billy Casper putter (yeah, I snared it from a Goodwill store, but it’s new to my ass anyway) impatiently waits in the bag just to show me the good luck and skill I know is in it for dropping long putts all over the swiss-cheese surface of the practice green, and so I’m ready as rain to get the hell out of here after I finagle a canoe needle and a figure 8 stitch to suture up this bastard as tight and smooth as the day he slid out of his momma, when, wow, there’s a loud cry from near the autoclave, and all of us still huddled around the patient naturally want to know what’s up. Then one of the two young busty techs in purple scrubs comes galloping back to tell us her rider’s gone invisible! [Oh don’t believe that, I’m only joshing, ‘just trying to be a tad funny with my words, me and my fucking comic relief!]
But this fine, fine purple tech is now saying—and she’s shaken up to the point where she’s starting to pant and heave those tits—that all four bins of instruments she placed in the autoclave and just finished sterilizing have actually changed their texture and shape, and that as much as she can discern in the shock of sudden discovery, “Some have gone leathery, some have crumbled like graham crackers, some have become plumes and feathers, and a few turned into concrete-hard pieces of strung-out taffy. I’ve never seen anything like this before.” And the little sexpot adds, “But the funny thing is, everything stayed all silvery and shiny.”
Well, now say what you will, if what I’ve just heard is substantially correct (and please understand, I can’t pad back there to investigate until I finish trussing up this turkey in front of me), my first thought is that there are lots of odd things that can be believable near or within this particular surgical suite, simply because this is one of the few left anywhere with large bare windows still in the outer walls of several of its operating rooms. How the hospital dodges being forced to get rid of these ancient fixtures in a modern surgical environment (when they’re certainly observed and written up during every certification audit) beats the heck out of me, but here I am once more, in this hospital’s OR, and working inside a see-through arena of strange shit. Because, of course, this is not my first time witnessing some looney tunes in this place.
No, the first time was about six years ago, and I was in the midst of an appendectomy then, and I looked through the window and saw several farmers outside attacking one another with hoes; they were really battling at the edge of an adjacent cornfield, whacking the daylights out of each other, and I can still picture their bright blood spattering all over the pale green leaves, and I kept watching until each of the crazy farmers eventually hobbled off in a different direction.
Then the last time I was here during a weird incident was a little less than two years back, when a surgical nurse grabbed one of the boom boxes we keep in this OR and tried to pitch it through the window while the rest of us were scrubbing up pre-op. Luckily, the window didn’t break or shatter, we didn’t have to re-schedule anything, and our CD-player stayed intact through hitting the glass and crashing onto the floor, and it ably played out a pounding Carmina Burana throughout yet-another appendectomy.
FAUX FABLE: THE ONLY TIMES ANDREW WAS EVER CALLED ANDY
Andrew was never called Andy except by a totem pole in Washington state, and respectfully, that first happened when Andrew was standing off by himself while the other tourists lined up at a water fountain or queued inside to buy bags of aromatic, crushed mint leaves. “Andy,” the totem pole snorted, “can you take your thumbnail and scrape off the moss that’s bearding my middlemost face, and would you mind giving the beak of my lowermost crow a couple of sharp strikes with your finger to clear my nostrils? Just two little charities are all I ask before you pile back on the bus and continue to Walla Walla.”
Andrew grudgingly did what he was asked before boarding the bus for Walla Walla. But clear as a goddamn bell, just after Andrew and the other tourists finally got off the bus and entered their motel in Walla Walla, the totem pole’s voice was in his ear again. “Andy,” it said, “you did one helluva job cleaning my face and helping me breathe better, and I appreciate it, lad, I appreciate it, but that fucking lower beak keeps closing up on me. Could you please find it in your heart to do whatever you have to do and come back here right now? I need you to kick the daylights out of my protruding schnozz. From where I stand, it would be worth a couple of charities. Yeah, let’s see: that would tally charity three and charity four I’ll owe you.”
It didn’t take long for Andrew to comprehend that this time, to do what he’d been requested, he was going to have to get rid of the quarrelsome-and-refusing bus driver and then drive the empty bus back alone to where he’d been, but somehow, for the sake of achieving charities three and four, he did what he thought was best. He knifed the nasty driver, swiped his ring of keys, and then motored back to the totem pole.
Once there beside the painted post, Andrew’s two swift and angry kicks to the wooden beak were all it took for the pole to proclaim, “’Feels great, Andy, ‘feels great! Now I’m breathing like a champ, and I owe it all to you, killer, I owe it all to you. Once more I’m in your debt.”
This time, apprehensive Andrew was not all that anxious to be on his way, and so he stood his ground, waiting for whatever was to come next from the pole, like another plea and another charity opportunity, or maybe simply further thanks. However, nothing additional was uttered. Andrew knew he couldn’t go back to Walla Walla, but with nighttime fast approaching, he decided simply to stretch out and rest inside the bus across a pair of seats. But what with all the day’s excitement, he just couldn’t fall asleep. He kept shifting about uncomfortably, and the day’s fatigue kept refusing to complete its work. It was then that the totem pole’s voice sounded: “Andy, won’t you please quit being so restless? You’re forcing me now to make good on my first favor: Take some of those sacks of mint your travel-mates left on the bus, and use them as pillows, dumb-dumb, and I think I can guarantee that in no time, you’ll be sleeping like a baby.”
Moral: Informal charity will now-and-again be odorous.
I often have a sexy guest named June in my apartment, and June wanders about and lounges at will in every room except the den. She believes that if she attempts to sit on or drape herself over the sofa there, tan thimbles will rapidly pop out and cover the sofa’s cushions, even those already beneath her body.
For what it’s worth, this sofa does have a light brown hue June tells me she associates with Namibia’s coastline, the South Atlantic place that June calls home and where she once lost a fair amount of her clothing. That was about four years back.
Before I knew about June’s Namibia, I naturally thought her recoil at going in the den was based on the hard and uncomfortable texture thimbles would present to anyone who might care to slouch all over such a surface or plunk down bare-assed on it, for apart from the sofa, there is no other seating in the room save for my old desk chair, which, somewhat and completely coincidentally, was upholstered years and years ago in a pebbly green naugahyde I’ve always thought (and been told by several other guests) is redolent of many, many very small (and even microscopic) thimbles.
Andrew’s little Burmese seldom showed herself to strangers, but then again, Andrew seldom had visitors. The little cat, probably in no way redolent of the cymbal-clinking, gong-banging, angular-dancing stereotype we all have of the denizens of her far-away, genetic homeland, loved to fall prone upon Andrew’s outstretched legs as he sat night after night at the counter beneath his living room windows, patiently dialing for foreign broadcasts on his shortwave radio. Some nights even monster stations like Radio Netherlands or the BBC played hard to get; other nights (though rarely) low-powered obscurities like the Guyana Broadcasting Service or Radio Mozambique popped up loud and clear, even if for no longer than, say, ten minutes at a clip. Through it all, the little Burmese would stay cuddled and dozing on Andrew’s ankles.
But when Andrew spur-of-the-moment decided to sell his radio and use the proceeds to help finance a flight to Amsterdam, he didn’t give a thought about what he was going to do with his cat while he was gone. It wasn’t until the morning Andrew was actually in a taxicab and nearing the airport that he suddenly remembered Taboo, and how in the world was she going to survive the next several weeks without him? He reluctantly ordered the cabbie to turn around and go back.
Andrew’s first dilemma was he had no means to afford boarding the cat with a veterinarian; this pending trip to Europe was digging very deep into Andrew’s savings. His second dilemma was he had no relatives nearby, no family he might contact and turn to for help. And then a third dilemma was that though he had good friends here like you and me, and though we both readily agreed and promised when Andrew nervously phoned us that morning that, sure, we would take turns looking in on Taboo each day until Andrew got back, neither you nor I was in the least dependable. (I know we’re not really all-that honest, either). However, our promise to him on the phone that morning was all Andrew needed to stay on target and go through with his trip.
Now for my own part, after only a couple of visits to Andrew’s place to see how Taboo was doing (and of course she was always somewhere in hiding), I said to myself the hell with this, coming over here every other day is inconvenient as shit, and so on one of my visits, I intentionally allowed Andrew’s side door to remain wide open, both while I was there and after I left. I’m willing to bet all the tea in China that on your days (or day) that week, you did much the same thing with the back door. All I know for sure is that I shrank my promise and duty down to a Friday-only sojourn, and by the time my next Friday rolled around, I beheld that the bowl of Taboo’s food and the pan of her water had not been touched. After a detailed search, I became satisfied Taboo herself was gone. I became satisfied Taboo had realized her freedom, and that step by step, mile by mile, she was out there treading and threading her way back to Myanmar and the essence and glory of her hereditary homeland.
Sad to say, however, in Taboo’s place within Andrew’s world there are now a ton of what I think are properly called green bottle and blue bottle flies buzzing about. Fuck, I’m no entomologist, but in every room they seem to be zipping in straight lines back and forth through the air, and they frequently collide head-on with one another or against the window panes. What with our open door policy, I can only hope more flies leave than come in, and that in time, all might fan out and appreciably dissipate or disappear before Andrew (or even you) comes back to this house again.