Tentacles (A man, an axe and a doctor: A tale of pain and art)
One of the blog posts that I get the most emails about is this horror story from 2005. Here it is again:
Someone who was raised in Brooklyn shouldn’t own, and much less, try to use an axe.
What follows is a true tale of horror, of entropy and the second law of thermodynamics, of chaos and order, of the laws of the universe, of near death, of irony, of music, and ultimately of a new form of art. All of the characters are real, and if I could remember their names, I would name them.
The back of my house has a rather wooded large area with many trees, and it also backs into an even larger wooded common area that I share with my neighbors. I am really a big fan of warm cozy fires, and during the winter I usually light one up every night.
A while back I went around and collected a lot of wood from fallen branches and also a lot of wood from a tree that had fallen months earlier. This wood had been cut, but needed splitting, so I bought an axe to split the wood myself.
How hard could this be? After all, I remember how President Reagan, while he was in office, was so fond of being filmed splitting wood in his ranch in California. If an 80-year-old President could do it, and make it look so easy, then surely a virile 40something could do it as well.
So I went to my local hardware store and bought an axe.
Act One, Scene I
It was a day much like many other balmy December days we’ve been having this winter. There was a little chill in the air, but more like a spring day than a winter day. I had gathered quite a haul of neatly cut sections of the tree trunk, each about nine to twelve inches in diameter, and I had placed them to the side of a large tree stump, which I planned to use as the base to split the firewood.
The ground was wet and the grass was moist, as it had been raining the previous few days, but although the radio had announced that there would be rain later, I thought that I would have a couple of hours to split all the wood before it began to rain.
I would be good exercise as well.
Gloves in hand, I placed the first piece of wood on the stump, took one or two slow –motion practice tries, just to get the motion and aim right, and then took my first mighty swing of the axe.
There are some instances on this planet, when the laws of gravity seem to take a couple of nanoseconds off. Like when one is walking down a path, and a rock, as if by magic, jumps from the ground and lands inside your shoe. How does that happen? Is it evidence of magic? Time travel? Even if one considers a viable explanation, the most common of which is that the other shoe kicks the rock into the partner shoe, it takes some extraordinary physics and flight acrobatics to imagine a rock being kicked by one shoe, flying sideways through the air as you walk on and sliding into the other shoe. I prefer to believe that the rocks jump straight up and floats into the shoe.
Anyway... back to my story.
The violent action of swinging the axe to split the firewood must have caused a ripple in the time space continuum, for otherwise I cannot imagine or recreate what followed next.
For one thing, I completely missed the firewood waiting to be split and barely nicked the edge of the tree stump. But this bare touching of the tree stump must have caused a tremendous vector change in the arc of the axe swing, and to add more physics to the event, the brand new axe, (with its nice slippery handle, aided by my brand new - and even more slippery - cotton gardening gloves (I should have used leather work gloves)) slipped away from me.
And aided by the wet grass under my feet, I lost my footing and slipped towards the oncoming axe. At some point, I suspect that both the axe and I were completely airborne and approaching each other in perfect flight synchronicity.
And in some incomprehensible act of flying physics, the axe went in a perfect flight pattern back towards me and between my legs.
Act One, Scene II
The axe blade missed my family jewels – barely.
I know this because I still have balls and because the tip of the blade nicked the small of my back. But I came as close to being a eunuch as anyone in the history of mankind has come; but the blade missed.
But the top of the handle didn’t miss and it crushed my balls.
Before I describe the pain, let me tell you that I've been kicked in the balls more than once. I have been an avid student and practicioner of the martial arts since I was 13 years old, and have competed in many full contact tournaments, and have been accidentally kicked in the balls many times. I have also had my share of juvenile and drunken sailor fist fights, where someone's foot or fist has delivered a painful blow to my genitals. And it does hurt intensely!
But this axe handle crushing my privates was a new dimension in pain.
And this new pain took on a new meaning as I collapsed onto the wet, muddy ground.
It was an almost exquisite pain, with shape, form, smell and incredibly enough, fireballs of vivid color dancing to music. During this time, I had a vision of how Christ and Jimmy Hoffa truly died; in fact I learned how every fucking thing in the Universe has died, and how every living entity in this Universe and the other infinite Einsteinian numbers of Universes will die. And in all cases, their death involved or will involve an axe.
Time ceased to flow, or perhaps it simply slowed down in order to make my agony more intense, which by the way, would have been impossible, as I had already maxxed out the agony scale for mankind.
And I know this is silly, but I swear that I heard the music from Guns & Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine emanating, in perfect tune to the pain, from my brutalized gonads; especially the part where the bag pipes come in.
Thus I do not know how long I agonized on the forest floor. A wet tongue belonging to Yoda, my neighbor’s dog, whimpering as he obviously felt my pain, resuscitated me.
I opened my eyes for the first time since I fell, and looked at Yoda’s handsome face. "Yoda," I whispered between clenched teeth, "kill me." He looked at me with his intelligent eyes and licked my face again. "Please bite my neck," I begged. "Kill me now!"
Yoda twisted his head in that almost human way in which dogs do, and walked away. For a minute there I thought that the stupid beast had gone to fetch a stick to play with, as he loves to fetch sticks. Had he done this, I would have kicked him in his balls. But he just vanished from my sight and then started to bark outside my neighbor’s back door.
By now the pain had diminished to a white searing pain on a planetary scale equivalent to a thermonuclear device being exploted at the core of the Earth, so the word diminished is quite bogus in this sentence. But, I sincerely wanted to find out how much damage I had done, and since by now my pants were quite soaked from the wet ground and the mud, I needed to check to see if I was bleeding.
Act One, Scene III
So I unbuttoned my pants, lowered them in agonizing ecstasy, and reached down to feel the state of my boys.
Which is precisely the moment that my neighbor, apparently being brought to the scene by Lassie-wannabe Yoda’s barking, made her appearance, as I am feeling my bruised sacs.
My neighbor is a very nice old lady who has a remarkable likeness to Grandpa Munster, and I think that she’s originally from Sweden, and she has a lovely and thick accent, and from the expression on her face, I realized that she was slightly concerned at finding a muddy man, laying on the wet ground, pants down to his ankles and fingers probing around his privates.
So I rationalized (the brain is an incredible asset) that I'd better explain, although the last fucking thing that I wanted to do at that moment was to chat with this Grandpa Munster look-a-like. But I figured that if I didn’t explain, she’d make a bat-line to her phone and report me to the vice squad.
And being the super nice lady that she is, she tried to hide her laughter, and understood, and asked me if I wanted her to call an ambulance. "Tentacles," she said (and she did say "tentacles" instead of "testicles"), "are very fragile."
"No shit Grandpa Munster," I felt like saying, but instead I moaned to her that it was OK, and that I’d drive myself down to the hospital.
It had begun to sprinkle, so she wished me luck and went back to her house.
And then it really began to rain; hard, cold rain.
And then the act of crawling back to my house became another exercise in agony, as I discovered that (a) I couldn’t walk because of the pain and (b) I couldn’t crawl on my knees, because of the pressure on my jewels.
So I sort of "rolled" towards my house, and then developed a sort of walking on all fours, legs quite widespread and putting most of the weight on my hands, as the rain fell on me.
So I finally make it to the house, thoroughly soaked and quite covered in mud. And (of course) the day before I had cleaned my house from top to bottom, and the thought of the irony of this alignment of misfortunes dawned on me as I muddied the floor of my pristine home.
I debated whether to change clothes or not, and decided that it would be impossible for me to physically remove my shoes, as my boys had by now begun to swell to an impressive size, and any pressure on them caused me to yelp like a newborn child. So I grabbed a towel from the laundry room, crawled to my van, put the towel on the seat, and climbed in to an internal symphony of new pains.
And I began the drive to the hospital emergency room.
Act Two, Scene I
Sometimes the lights on Democracy Boulevard align in timing so that one can go all the way from Seven Locks to Old Georgetown Road without hitting a single light.
Other times, a driver hits every goddamned light on the road.
Guess which of these two cycles of light synchronicity was to be my fate on that painful day?
Yep! Stop at every light, and to make matters worse, I couldn’t really "sit down" and was actually driving while holding most of my weight on one hand pushing against the car seat in order to attempt to float me above it, all the while leaning forward, sort of the way that scary old people in Florida drive.
I eventually pulled into the parking lot of the hospital, and of course there is not one single parking spot available on the ER area, so I have to park in the lot across the street, and do my crawling on all fours routine, in the rain, across the road, which as some of you may know, is quite a busy road. However, since Yoda had failed to kill me, I was somewhat hoping that I’d get run over by a car, and mercifully have it put an end to my agony.
But no one ran me over, although several cars did slow down, but I suspect it was so that they could get a look at the idiot crawling on all fours across the road, in the rain.
But in due time, I did arrive at the entrance to the ER, and at the very last minute I almost did get run over by an ambulance, bringing in someone with a medical emergency.
And so I finally enter the ER, muddy, wet, cold and still in spectacular pain.
Act Two, Scene II
I imagine that most ER personnel have seen just about everything that humankind has to offer in terms of shock, but by the alarmed expression on the male nurse at the check-in station, it was clear that he was somewhat concerned by my appearance and by my manner of movement on all fours; I also noticed that the security guard was also somewhat alarmed (and armed).
He asked me what the problem was, and as I explained what happened, both this Gaylord Focker wannabe and the guard, who had drifted within earshot, actually had the gall to burst out laughing.
And I made a silent promise to myself that in a few weeks, if I survived this ordeal, I would hunt Nurse Focker-wannabe and kick him in the nuts.
So after the whole delay of data input and insurance verification, Nurse Focker tells me to have a seat, and wait, as the doctors (plural) are all attending the patient who had just come in via the ambulance.
"What’s his problem?" I asked, not out of concern, but thinking that there are precious few emergencies in the world that could take precedence over my distress.
And Nurse Focker explains that the patient is a 96-year-old-man who’s having a heart attack.
And I’m really close to start debating that at 96, he’s had a good life, and he's probably caused his own heart attack because of Viagra, so let this geezer go and assign me a doctor, preferably well armed with a needle full of painkiller. But I hold my tongue, and wait in my own private water puddle.
Several ice ages later, Nurse Focker says that I am to be seen, and asks me if I have a preference for a doctor. In retrospect, I think that he was asking me if I wanted a male or female doctor, but by now my social graces had completely vanished, and I told him that I’d like Dr. Kavorkian. He didn’t laugh.
I am then taken to the back, and told to undress, put one of those silly robes that show your ass, and sit on the bed and wait for the doctor. Somehow I managed to undress on my own, and laid on the bed, with my legs bent and wide open, much like a woman waiting for her gynecologist.
A little while later, the curtains open and the doctor comes in: A female doctor, of course, probably picked by Nurse Focker to make my life more miserable.
And not just any female doctor, but probably the only female doctor who had also been a body extra in Baywatch. And to my utter amazement, in the middle of this intense agony, my sick male brain still finds time to align a couple of thought patterns that whisper inside my head: "WOW, she’s hot!" before resuming sending new and novel pain patterns to my groin area.
"What have we got here?" she asks using the imperial "we" that annoying doctors like to use.
"We, doc," says I, devoid of any social skills by this point, "have a serious fucking case of smashed balls, and an even more serious need for some potent pain killer." And I begin explaining what happened.
And just like Nurse Focker and the rent-a-cop a few minutes earlier, Dr. Carmen Electra, Medicine Woman bursts out laughing while she’s probing and feeling down there, hands encased in latex gloves.
Laughter induced watery-eyes and all, she then tells me that it looks like there’s no internal injuries, but that she’ll order a scan to double check, and that I need to ice down my groin area in order to reduce the swelling. "You’ll be OK in a few days."
I thank her, and ask about a shot for the pain. To my astonishment she says that just a couple of Tylenols should do the trick. "Doc," I plead, "I am in really in some aggravating bad pain here."
"Don’t be such a baby," she responds, "You should try childbirth if you want to know what real pain is."
She’s lucky she’s a woman; otherwise I definitely would have kicked her in the balls.
Act Two, Scene III
A few days later, and things appear to be back to normal; I’ve been telling people that I have a back pain, and thus the strained walk.
And at some point, it dawns on me that the whole sequence of events, with the improbable occurrences, the diverse set of characters, and the Three Stoogian physicality of the act, is a new kind of art; a new kind of performance art that is, where really spectacular true events of common daily life assume astronomic personal presence and thus cross the border into a personal artistic quality, the like of which will never be repeated by any other soul on this planet.
So my performance piece is over: I call it Tentacles (not Testicles).
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Tentacles (A man, an axe and a doctor: A tale of pain and art)