Monday, November 10, 2008

Flashback 1995: The Stone Makers

From waaaaaaaaaaaaay back when my family was smaller (both individually and in number), I present - with mixed feelings - a sample of the drivel I sent to Features Page editors and syndicates in hope of landing a cushy column in a newspaper.

I choose to believe my failure to land one of these jobs (although the Sacramento Bee did offer me a job covering state politics) is due only to the fact that newspapers, even eighteen years ago, were dying and nobody wanted me to help them die quicker.

Anyway: The Stone Makers.

      It is the opinion of the Medical Establishment that "Some People are Stone Makers".

      Yes, the stoic and solemn Stone Makers are among the few enlightened members of society who possess the fortitude necessary to create, in the innards of their very own bodies, the miracle we call in hushed tones The Kidney Stone.

      It is not without great personal sacrifice that these modern-day marvel-makers work their miracle.  No, for not only must they endure crippling abdominal pain ("Intense Discomfort," says the medical establishment), but they also must endure the naked envy of their peers.

      "Hey, Big Mel," their peers say with undisguised awe, "I hear you're done studying for the kidney stone now-- I hear you PASSED IT!!!" whereupon they dissolve into covetous guffaws.  It is then up to the Stone Maker to wearily say, "Hey Peer-- why don't you go (insert graphic and bizarre sexual act) with (an obscure animal or close blood relation)?"

      Perhaps, once upon a time, I might have counted myself among the uncultured ruffians and engaged in a bit of devil-may-care mockery toward a Stone Maker, asking them if they were passing out cigars after the blessed event, and when could I see the Lil' Fella.

      This was, of course, before last Thursday, when I lay whimpering on the bathroom floor wondering when exactly my left side would erupt like a Hamas suicide VW Bus hurtling toward a US Embassy.

      This was before I lay shuddering and quaking on an emergency-room gurney clad only in my lobster-print boxers and some Lilliputian-reject hospital gown that did its uninterested best to cover only my left nipple; before I clawed my way over to the on-duty nurse and demanded with the righteousness of a dying man that I be shot in the rump again with enough narcotic to make me forget that I was bipedal.

      Oh yes, that was waaaaaaaaay before then.

      Now I know better than to make fun.  Now I know how much respect we all should have for Stone Makers.

      It is we Stone Makers who have looked our doctors straight in the eye amidst great pain and said "Ouch.  This hurts a lot.  Give me drugs."  Well, at least that's what I meant to say.  What I really said was, "Hrrrnniiih!" 

      "Yes," said my particular doctor, "I understand you're in some discomfort."  I looked at the doctor again, with greater scrutiny.  I suddenly became aware that he didn't really know I had a kidney stone-- he thought I had some other problem, like a hangnail, or appendicitis!  Panicked, I looked to my wife to tell her to go get my real doctor, the one who knew my diagnosis.

      "Blagggh," I said.  She squeezed my hand.

      "Nnnnghh!" I said, more urgently.

      "Doctor, how does one get a kidney stone at such a young age?" my wife asked, apparently sidetracked from the naked truth that I was GOING TO DIE.

      "Nobody really knows," said the doctor slowly, ponderously, while I lay sweating blood from my eyes, "We suspect it's caused by diet.  Some people are just Stone Makers."

      There it was.  The truth at last.  I had been brutally incapacitated because I was part of an elite.  I was chosen by the strength of my character to bear this pain. 

      "We see nine or ten of these cases a week," said the doctor, smiling slightly at me, "But I have to admit, it's unusual to treat a patient with such. . ."

      Fortitude, I whispered to him in my mind.  Courage.  Perseverance. 

      ". . .interesting boxer shorts."

       I am Lobster-Print Reddoch.  And I am a Stone Maker.