Fiction — 15 April 2012

by

Daniel Hurren

Editors note:  Congratulations to Daniel Hurren on winning this year’s South American Short Story contest.  Honorable mention goes to Mike Schake and Evan Guilford-Blake.  Daniel’s story is a truly original work written in the David Foster Wallace stream-of-consciousness whatever-you-want-to-call-it meandering style which we like.  Below you see his bio and picture below.  Thanks to the many other writers who submitted some excellent works of fictions.  Now here is Daniel’s story:

 

Wearing it on the Inside

 

I went to the doctor’s the other day… Yeah I wasn’t feeling well. It was my guts, I don’t know, they were just feeling funny. But I wasn’t laughing, I can tell you that… I’d vomit every now and then, sometimes with a little blood, sometimes not and I’d also get these dull pains just above the belly button, I think I might have lost a little weight as well and I couldn’t eat as much as I used to. There’d also be this terrible indigestion. I just thought that maybe it was just a stomach ulcer. So I didn’t worry about it and just kept away from the chili and drank brandy after dinner instead of beer, to try and kill whatever is in there with something a little stronger. Anyway, it got to be too much, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I made an appointment at the doctors.

Dr. Morgans, he’s a strange guy, German I think, and he says to me “What’s the trouble?” so I tell him about the symptoms and he thinks about it for a bit and asks a few follow up questions and then he does the usual, doctor thing, you know the heart pressure with that balloon thing around your bicep and the stethoscope and the paddle pop stick on the tongue and down the throat that always makes you gag just a little. I wonder if that’s a quick test of the gag reflexes—you know, to see if it’s working.

So he carries on like he’s Sherlock Holmes or something deducing and observing and thinking, then he asks about anti-inflammatories, which I hadn’t been taking. And then he asks if I’d been taking any illicit drugs–imagine me a hop head –and to not worry because he isn’t the police and to just tell him, but you know me it’s just the beer after dinner until this stomach thing came along and I switched to brandy. Naturally I tell him this and he tells me to stop drinking entirely, but you know doctors, they’ll tell you something and expect you not to do it, so I kept taking my medicine after dinner.

He doesn’t say anything for a few moments, thinking about all the scenarios in his head, I guess. He just sits there nodding to himself as though he’s privy to something I’m not. Finally he says that maybe it could be an ulcer, but he wanted to rule out stomach cancer. Just like that he brings up cancer! I couldn’t Adam and Eve it! So now I’m a little worried, and Morgans isn’t reassuring or any kind of help at all. It was as though he was making a point not to comfort or appease my fears of the big “C”. So he makes an appointment for me, for the endoscopy or EGD, he tells me that there will be other tests on the day as well, X-ray more than likely and I couldn’t remember the other tests he mentioned. Keep in mind it could potentially be cancer and I get an appointment that’s two weeks away! So for two weeks I’m thinking up the worse case scenarios and what’s going to happen when I’m dead and how I’ve wasted my life and what song I will be playing at my funeral, which I decided would be Cold Chisel’s “Khe Sanh” or maybe something classy, like something by Meatloaf or The Beatles… I also picked out a suitor for the trouble and strife; I know it’s all very melodramatic but you have to be prepared for the worst. And she will move on after me, I know I would. The kids are grown-ups now so she’d be in that house all by herself. I couldn’t stand her just wandering around frightened of every little noise, you know how she gets, her imagination runs wild sometimes… So I secretly organised my will and last testament and designated who got what of what I own, which isn’t that much it turns out. Then I made my list of dumb things to do before I kick off, you know the usual, leave a flaming bag of dog shit on the boss’s front porch and then ring the bell and run away to hide in the bushes to watch him stomp out the flames. But then after that little bit of revenge fantasy I realised something: there wasn’t much else I wanted to do, except maybe some of those things that are impossible, you know like fly, or walk through walls or be invisible for a day.  I guess I just haven’t got much of an imagination when it comes to those kinds of things.

I also thought that I’d quit my job… Yeah just flat out quit the bakery but I realised that that’s all I’ve ever done, I wouldn’t know what else to do during the day. If the doctor laid it straight down the line and said, “You’ve got five weeks left, mate.” I’d probably get roaring drunk, maybe take a sick day for the hang over and then just keep on working until the end. It just seems like a waste of time sitting there waiting to die… Yeah, yeah, I guess. I probably might be too sick to work, but I imagine I’d be able to go in for at least a week or two…

So I have my appointment and for two weeks I wait, silently freaking out, because I’m not gonna tell Charlene about it, or the kids, because what if it’s nothing… I know it’s something, but no point worrying them all about it if it isn’t cancer… Yeah, right. So I turn up to the EGD and they put me to sleep and they put that little camera up my nose and it’s fed down my throat and into the guts and take a Captain Cook around in the old lunch box and then decide what it is. And like Morgans said, there was an X-ray, but it was after the ultrasound… You know the ultrasound, like what they give pregnant women to look at the baby they’ve got in there. That jelly is really cold; looking at that screen, though, I couldn’t make anything out and the doctor performing the ultrasound wasn’t particularly helpful and I’m very groggy from the sleep.

So I’m in the waiting room and they come in and see me and they don’t tell me what’s the matter, they’re just a little weird, at least they seem that way because of the anaesthesia, so I’m a little groggy and to me everyone is a little weird. They must notice that I’m not ready for any kind of diagnosis so they make an appointment for me with Morgans and they don’t seem as though it’s bad news but they seem to be acting very strangely toward me. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s as though they’re a little uncomfortable, nervous or something. Now I’m not particularly astute, but something was up. They definitely knew something that I didn’t… Yeah, yeah I wouldn’t have put it past them. So this time it seems as though it’s a bit more urgent, I can tell right, ‘cause they schedule my appointment for the next day. I know it must mean something, but the bizarre thing was it didn’t seem particularly ominous, not like the original consultation with Morgans. These guys were a lot more reassuring and adamant that there was nothing particularly wrong and not to worry and that they couldn’t tell me anything because they weren’t my doctors, but they did very loosely hint that it wasn’t cancer and that it was somehow a little bit exciting for them… Yeah I was, I was completely stumped. At least it was another day I could have off from work… She was a bit more worried than I was, when I told her. I was fine with it and knew that nothing was wrong, so I had to tell Charlene where I’d been all day. So I tried to explain to her why I hadn’t told her and she was understanding with that, but then she was worried about the nurses and doctors at the hospital… well, I’m not much of a communicator at the best of times, so my trying to explain to her the mood and hints and nuances and the general mise en scene of the waiting room confrontation–ha, that word just came to me, I didn’t think I knew any French, I used it correctly right?–yeah, anyway she just began panicking and worrying with “What are we going to do” and “How will we tell the kids you have cancer, they’ll be devastated” speaking as though she didn’t hear a single word I had just said. So I said, “Look Charlene, it’s not cancer! We’ll find out tomorrow. Just try and calm down, don’t dig my grave just yet.” She tried to calm down a little and she shed a few tears… Yeah, she’s great, I guess I love her even if she does get a bit crazy at times. But now I’m a little disconcerted about the appointment with Morgans. The rest of the day was a little tense; Charlene being extra nice and giving me the last bit of chicken and an extra large glass of Brandy… the funny thing was that my guts weren’t so bad that night. It was like I’d alleviated a little bit of the discomfort by being treated by medical professionals. It was like I was half cured already.

The next day in the waiting room, the secretary was her usual cold and sarcastic self, which was a little reassuring, to think everything just carries on while you’re not around… I’ve seen her with other patients and she is exactly the same. At first I hated her rude disposition, but she is just being herself and it’s funny how as parents we tell our kids this, for them to just be themselves, it’s in the manual you know? You say it and don’t think about it and then your kid turns out to be someone you don’t particularly get along with or like and then you’re annoyed, but you pretty much told them to be like that, didn’t you? So this kid, Morgans’ secretary, she’s just being honest, I assume and hope. So I set them up for her I ask her stupid questions like, “Is he in?” and she’ll answer with personal brand of sarcasm, completely drenched in ennui, “Nope, well he is but he told me to tell you he wasn’t…” ha, she’s a card.  Anyway I’m waiting there in the waiting room flicking through an old edition of some magazine that’s missing the front cover, you know the ones in waiting rooms, they’re usually about celebrities and insinuating drug abuse or eating disorders or pregnancies, but when you read the article it’s all speculation and fiction, no facts or quotes or any real substance. It’s all cobbled together, these magazines with innuendo old photographs and shocking headlines. So I’m reading this article about some young lady, an heiress who has just released a single called “A$$ Picnic” and they actually spelled “ass” with two dollar signs and there’s this woman who’s no more than twenty with her “ass” hanging out of her dress and opening the door of her pink Lamborghini while she’s on her mobile phone and the whole article is about her frivolous wasting of the family fortune and her amazing music career, which just sounded stupid to me, I mean what the hell is an “A$$ Picnic” with dollar signs? Or without, ‘em for that matter? The article mentions her Internet sex video and her string of celebrity boyfriends and her tattoo on her hand, of a unicorn and what it means and how her father is dead and just as well, because if he wasn’t he surely would have died from shame. So I see her and then I look at the secretary… That’s right, I wonder about how different these two women are and will be, and also how different their worlds are to mine. My world of sitting in the waiting room waiting on whatever news it is and how I would never trade all my worries and doubts and this weird condition that I have, to be that heiress. From the article it seemed like there was too much ephemera to worry about, even though having that much money should mean that there couldn’t possibly be anything to worry about, but I guess if you have to attend “A$$ Picnics”, with dollar signs, it could be a little hectic… ha, ha. What the heck is that? We never had song titles like that when I was growing up, no wonder the planet is in the state it is… I guess it’s supposed to be ironic, but I don’t get it.

I wonder if there was a bet by some manager, who made a bet with a record producer. The record producer says to the heiress’ manager, “I bet we can make a million bucks with the most ridiculous song, we’ll just get that heiress to sing it. The teenyboppers’ will eat it up without even listening to it. We’ll just use autotune and they’ll buy a trillion of ‘em. Just think of all that baby sitting money. We’ll be even richer… I’ll bet you twenty bucks…” and that’s how a song called “A$$ Picnic” gets made.

I’m finally called in to see Dr. Morgans and he’s a little more pleased to see me this time, I’m a little nervous, I don’t mind telling you. I sit down and he looks at his computer as though he’s reading my file and thinking about what to say next. “Oh yes” he says as though it’s just occurred to him; he gets me to come and see him and it’s something so trivial that he has to read a computer screen to remember what he drags me in there for. So he finally says without any kind of preamble or prior explanation of what the heck in a handbag he’s talking about, he just says this thing as though we’re picking up a conversation we left hanging during our last encounter… “You have an extra internal organ.” At first I’m not sure what he’s saying, an internal organ… “What do you mean?” and he replies to this with some babble about not knowing what it is, because it’s never been seen before. I thought he was going to start spitting or something, he was very excited. “You’ve got an extra internal organ and we have no idea what its function is or what it is even doing there.” He says all this, he explains to me that it could be some long lost organ that maybe prehistoric man had, you know some species of primitive man before we all became Homo Sapien, and somehow my DNA has activated this dormant part of my DNA sequence, or something. He tried to explain it, but I barely got through high school and never passed biology. But, he also explained it might not be and it could be due to some genetic mutation in my DNA. So I’m a freak apparently… Nah, I didn’t know what he was saying, but he did say that this was more than likely the cause of my discomfort and that if I wanted they could take it out for me. Because it is a reasonable assumption, according to Morgans, that if nobody else has it then I don’t really need it and should give it to him and the rest of the medical community so they could study it and see what it is. So I asked him, “If nobody else has one of these things then maybe it is far more important to my living than you think?” Morgans disagreed, but I couldn’t help but think that his disagreeing was somehow connected with his weird sense of medical curiosity and that the research he was hoping to conduct with my extra kidney or whatever the freaking thing is, had a lot to do with him getting his name in the papers rather than my well-being. So I said “No thanks, I think I’ll keep it where it is.” He wasn’t happy; he said something about letting the whole of humanity down and being selfish, but then mentioned something about my signing consent forms for the organ to be harvested when I finally passed on to the world beyond, so I did, mainly to help me feel a little better.

I have to admit, I was feeling a little guilty for not donating it, but who knew what would happen? Morgans didn’t, that was for sure. So I apologised to him again and I just told him that I’d have to put up with the discomfort and just get on with life with the extra weight… Yeah, I said this as though my discomfort might in some way give him some kind of satisfaction. Anyway that’s what happened, and just as easily as the first time I wandered into Morgans’ office I walked out again. And it’s been three weeks, I have still been vomiting every now and again, but it seems to be getting better. I don’t have the pain above my naval anymore and I haven’t lost any more weight. I’ve plateaued, it would seem… Maybe the organ is making me smarter… I am feeling a lot better, really. I wonder what the thing does in there… Yeah, I guess it doesn’t matter. Well, lift your drink because here’s to extra organs and to other Morgans… Cheers.

Daniel is a Melbourne based writer. He is slowly getting together a collection of published short stories and is currently writing a novel.

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(3) Readers Comments

  1. Great title. Great writing. Congratulations Daniel Hurren. Couldn’t stop reading from start to end. Excellent. Loved it. Thank you. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  2. Great story, loved the style of writing, could have read more!

  3. Hey Daniel, it’s Sara email me.
    Just read your story and its fantastic. So happy to see achieving so much!

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