Dirty Laundry

My laundry room usually looks like the bargain bin at Ross Dress-For-Less. There are always huge mounds of dirty clothes all over the floor, but recently it got so bad that there was just a narrow trail through the middle of the room. I decided it was time for a clean start; I was going to wash everything… And I mean everything. I had the kids strip their beds of all sheets and blankets, collect all the towels, gather everything in their closets that wasn’t hanging, dug clothes out of hampers, un-rolled sleeping bags, rescued stray socks from between the sofa cushions, I literally got EVERYTHING in the entire house that could possibly be washed and dumped it all on the floor of the laundry room. I spent over an hour sorting the mass of fabric by color, and then ambitiously filled my washing machine with the first load of whites. After pouring a cap full of Tide into the detergent drawer thingy, I hit the start button.

Rather than the customary single beep, followed by the sound of water filling the machine, I heard six beeps and no water. I pushed the pause/cancel button, double checked to make sure that the door was properly closed, then tried to re-start the machine. Again, I got the six beeps and nothing else. Another four or five failed attempts to start the machine led me to try unplugging it in the hope that the controls would somehow reset themselves. Needless to say, that didn’t work either. I was left with no other option than to consult the troubleshooting guide in the Owner’s Manual to find out what the six beeps meant. I knew what the beeps indicated even before I found the problem in the booklet; the machine was telling me, “you’re fucked and you’re getting ready to spend an assload of money to get me fixed!” As I feared, the Owner’s Manual said that six beeps was an indication of “control panel failure.”

So there I was, looking at a scale replica of the Himalayan mountain range made of dirty laundry and I had a broken washing machine. As much as I hated to admit it, I was left with no other option... I was headed for a place that I hadn’t been to since my college days; and I’m not talking about the Oui Lounge. I was headed to the washateria.

I was already beaten-down by the whole broken washer episode, and needless to say, I was less-than-excited about having to leave the house to do the friggin wash. In anticipation of another beating, I took some preventative measures to keep the trip to the laundromat from completely whipping my ass. I used more than a dozen garbage bags to sack each load separately. I thought individual sacks would make it easier to get the stuff in and out of the wash once I got there. Then, before I left the house, I made sure that I had a full bottle of detergent, dry bleach, fabric softener, even a bottle of Shout to pre-treat dirty baseball pants and whatnot. I even stopped at the bank on the way there and bought two rolls of quarters, just in case there was not a change machine available. I tried to cover all my bases and made sure that I had all the provisions necessary to get the job done correctly and in the most expedient manner possible. After all my preparation and organization, I began to think that the whole washateria trip might not be that bad after all…

The band of Mexicans drinking beer and listening to mariachi music in the parking lot led me to believe that my original assessment of the situation was probably more accurate.

As I carried the first load of plastic bags through the handprint smeared glass of the front door, I was struck by the intense heat and humidity of the place. It was stifling. I broke a sweat within the first ten seconds that I was inside. No wonder the Mexicans were sitting out front drinking beer; they were probably dehydrated from sorting clothes in the sweltering heat. Despite the oppressive conditions, the laundromat was crowded with people. Through the suffocating stillness of the torrid air, I located a row of washing machines whose lids were in the open position and began to stake my claim. It took me several trips to get it all inside, but I set each bag of laundry on top of an un-occupied washing machine. By the time I was done, I damn near monopolized the entire back row. After I pumped each of the 17 machines full of clothes, soap and quarters, I was free to really soak in the ambiance of the place.

The interior of the laundromat was painted a light, depressing and faded out pea green color that reminded me both of Gerber baby food in a jar and Gerber baby food in a diaper. The wall adjacent to the dollar bill changer was plastered with home-made advertisements (some in English, some en Espanol) for in-home day care, small engine repair, income tax preparation and God only knows what else. The concrete floor was unfinished, yet almost shiny thanks to years of dirt build-up from foot traffic and condensation caused by the ever-present moisture in the air. It looked like it would be slick, but it was actually kind of sticky and you could hear rubber-soled shoes squeak as people walked to and from. Several metal laundry hampers on wheels that were similar to grocery carts were positioned randomly throughout the area. There were paper signs sporadically taped on machines throughout the room indicating that they were out of order and trash littered the ground. Empty detergent containers, discarded wire clothes hangers, broken plastic laundry baskets and forgotten articles of clothing were haphazardly strewn all over the place. Newspaper circulars blew across the dull cement floor like tumbleweeds through the Old West prairie each time that the doors were opened. A row of fiberglass benches were bolted to the floor around the perimeter of the room against the dingy storefront glass. As I sat down on the bench nearest to my row of washing machines, I quickly realized that I was the only patron of Anglo-Saxon heritage.

In addition to the truckload of drunken day laborers in the parking lot, there were about a dozen Hispanic women feverishly folding basket-upon-basket of clothing atop a row of plastic tables located in front of the dryers. They worked with the efficiency of an assembly line and the coordination of a domestic drill team; shaking, smoothing, folding and stacking, all in perfect rhythm. They were like the Kilgore Rangerettes of the washateria… Minus the hairspray… And the fancy costumes… And the weight restrictions… And the ability to speak English…

Apparently, the Rangerettes had not seen the ads for day care and baby sitters because they brought their children with them. There were probably a dozen kids running loose inside the laundromat, ranging in age from infants to 12-year olds. Most of them were either seated on the benches minding their own business or were assisting the Rangerettes as apprentice folders. However, there was one group of kids who were there for one reason and one reason only; jackassery. Five of them commandeered a pair of laundry carts and were pretending they were running in the Spray-N-Wash 500 Demolition Derby at the Texas Motor Speedway. It was a battle of the sexes, as the three boys in the rusty cart with the bad wheel were engaged in a race for pink slips against the two girls in the white cart with the missing hanging bar. With absolutely no parental supervision whatsoever, the grudge match between Pinky and Leather Tuscadero vs. The Malachi Brothers roared up and down the isles of the washateria. The boys had the size and straight-away speed advantage, but were equally matched by the maneuverability and rapid acceleration of the girls. After no less than 50 action-packed laps on the twisting and turning road course, the contest was finally settled in dramatic fashion. Coming out of turn number 3 on the final lap, the two carts were bumping and trading paint before the boys executed the infamous “Malachi Crunch” pit maneuver and rammed the girls into a trash can. The girls survived the crash since one was seated in the cart while the other pushed, but the boys weren’t quite as lucky. The high center of gravity created by the dual-cockpit configuration (one seated, the one standing in the basket while the third pushed) caused the boys cart to flip end-over-end. The cascade of ESL students and laundromat refuse brought the race to its conclusion, as both teams of racers left the track and ran out the front door laughing in Spanish.

After transferring all 17 loads of laundry from the row of washing machines to the wall of dryers, I found that my seat in the corner of the room had been hi-jacked by a rather stylishly dressed, white business man in his mid fifties. The man’s impressive beer belly was accentuated by both a shoulder-length mullet and an elegant wife-beater t-shirt that showcased his over-abundance of back hair and faded prison tattoos. His dapper ensemble was rounded out by a timeless pair of cut-off blue jean shorts, white over-the-calf tube socks and a trendy pair of black, generic, Velcro-strapped tennis shoes. The wardrobe really gave it away, but I could tell that he was an important business man and was obviously conducting some important business because he was wearing a Bluetooth ear-piece and was steadily poking away at the keys of a laptop computer. Since I didn’t want to interrupt this Captain of Industry while he worked, I found seat at the other end of the bench. I spent the next 20 minutes or so imagining what kind of top secret, high finance deal that he must have been working on. Maybe he was controlling a hedge fund, orchestrating a corporate merger, going over quarterly profit and loss statements, or maybe he was just a douchebag playing on-line poker and surfing the internet for barely legal teen porn. Either way, I didn’t want to interrupt…

Soon enough, the dryers stopped spinning, my clothes were dry and I was free to get the hell out of there. I loaded everything back into my truck and retreated to the relative peace and quiet of my house full of teenage kids. After spending the entire afternoon and most of the evening folding and putting away all the clothes, bed linens and assorted other textiles, I came to a conclusion. I realized that my broken washer would be in the repair shop for a while and that I’d end up having to do another power-wash in the interim. Rather than make another trip to the God-forsaken laundromat, I’d put my collegiate education and experience to good use. Just as I did in college, next time I’d just take my bags of dirty laundry to my mother and get her to do them for me.

Man vs. Wild...

Patiently waiting… Silent and still, concealed by dark shadows and engaged in an epic and timeless battle of wills between man and nature. Armed only with a flashlight, a machete and a loaded 20 ga. shotgun, my vision was blurred from the intense focus and concentration; staring blindly into the dark abyss for the slightest hint of movement. Ever vigilant, I was not only prepared, but looking forward to the opportunity to unleash God’s mighty wrath at the first sign of the intruder. My resolve was unwavering, my senses were keen and my aim would be true. The price of victory might be high, but I would be triumphant. It was my destiny. One shot, one kill…

It all started the one night when I came home from dinner. I walked in the front door and noticed the all-to-familiar and pungent odor of stale garbage emanating from the kitchen. As I suspected, the can was overflowing with Dr. Pepper cans and fast food wrappers; it had not been emptied in some time. I quickly removed foul smelling garbage bag, carried it outside and deposited it in the trash barrel. After adding a few small tree limbs for fuel and a splash of diesel for ignition, I lit the trash on fire and returned to the house. The sour smell of garbage was still present in the air, so I decided to mask the odor with a few shots of Fabreeze air freshener. I store household goods of this nature on the shelves of my utility closet, so I walked across the kitchen and reached for the door handle. As the door swung open, exposing the shelves stocked with light bulbs, batteries, bug spray, cleaning goods and whatnot, something on the floor caught the corner of my eye. It was dark in the closet, so I moved forward to flip the light switch and illuminate the mysterious form on the ground next to the water heater. I turned on the light, and then I saw it… In the split second that it took for the electricity to reach the light bulb and for my brain to process the information that my eyes were relaying, I realized that there was a giant King Cobra coiled up in the drain pan of the hot water heater, ready to strike.

Sheer unmitigated terror overwhelmed every cell in my body and an involuntary muscular reaction launched me backwards through the air. I can’t be sure, but I believe my head struck the ceiling as my trajectory carried me upward and back, away from certain death and in the general direction of the butcher block in the center of the kitchen. As my upper body hurled backwards through the air, my legs trailed at a lower altitude and ricocheted off the top of the butcher block. The mid-air collision of my legs and the heavy wooden pedestal caused my body to flip completely upside-down. I continued the rest of the flight across the kitchen inverted with my feet above my head. My shoulders and back were the first to impact the floor, closely followed by a large glass bowl full of apples and bananas that I had inadvertently kicked when my legs toppled over my waist. The reverse momentum of my trans-kitchen Triple Lindy caused me to slide across the hardwood floor until my head plowed into the refrigerator door and I came to an abrupt stop.

Even though the crash landing knocked the breath out of me and there was broken glass and fresh produce scattered all over the floor, I instantly scrambled to my feet before the giant Anaconda could mount an offensive. I was acting on pure instinct when I grabbed a long-handled metal barbecue spatula out of the drawer and assumed a defensive posture. As I paused for a split second to weigh my options, I realized that I was in a great deal of pain, could not breathe and was quite possibly suffering from a massive heart attack. Rather than launch a retaliatory counter-strike, I opted to slam the utility closet door closed and run like a bitch...

You see, I have an irrational fear of snakes. Ever since I was a little kid snakes have completely freaked me the fuck out. Any snake I see I try to kill, no matter if it’s a little green garden snake or a big-ass water moccasin; I want it dead. I don’t watch snake shows on TV, I avoid looking at pictures of them and I damn sure couldn’t deal with the fact that there was one coiled up somewhere in the dark recesses of my utility closet. As soon as I caught my breath and checked myself for blood, I began to formulate a plan. Since I ran out of the house and was already outside, I went to the barn and got a flashlight and a machete. I figured I’d pull the Boa Constrictor out of the closet and chop the son of a bitch in half.

I held the machete in my left hand and the flashlight in my right as I approached the closet door. You’d have thought Freddie Krueger was hiding in there from the way I prepared myself. I made sure that I had a good grip on the blade, checked to make sure that my escape route was clear, bent my knees and got into an athletic position from which I could strike (much like a linebacker’s stance, except I had a machete), and finally reached for the door handle.

I flung the door completely open and aimed the light in the general direction of the last known location of the snake. As the flashlight lit the closet floor, I caught a glimpse of the serpent’s tail as it fled to relative safety and darkness under the hot water heater platform. After a cursory check of the closet, I backed up a step or two and knelt on the kitchen floor to see if I could get a view of the snake’s secret hideout. He was either very well camouflaged, or had gone into the corner of the small room where he could not be seen. Since the water heater took up most of the space in the closet, I realized that I’d have to draw him out into the open to get a clean hack at him. I decided to lull him into a false sense of security, and then ambush the slimy bastard as he made his escape. So I stood there… Waiting… And waiting. The longer I remained perfectly still and silent; the snake remained perfectly still and silent. I soon realized that this was going to be a war of attrition.

Since there was no way I was going to allow this venomous vermin to remain in my house for a second longer than I had to, I decided to lay siege to the closet. I dragged a loveseat from the den into the kitchen, loaded a shotgun, collected other necessary tools and provisions, then began what was to be an all night stake-out. Apparently, this snake took after his biblical ancestor and was a crafty little fucker, because he didn’t make a move. I sat there all night and never saw a damn thing.

By the time the sun came up I was completely exhausted, both mentally and physically. The snake never tried to escape and was still lurking, laying in wait somewhere in my utility closet. I’d invested over 10 hours in the stalemate and was not about to give up just because I was tired. I decided to close the door and blocked the crack at the bottom with a 2X4, thereby imprisoning the intruder in his own private herpiterium. I figured he’d be more likely to show himself after spending the day locked up, so I planned on obliterating his ass later that afternoon.

Attempt number two of my quest to slay the bastard reptile was as fruitless as my previous effort. After several more hours of motionless vigilance, I began to wonder if the son of a bitch was even still in there. I was pretty sure he hadn’t escaped while I was gone, which left me thinking that he was hibernating somewhere behind the water heater. My mind was racing, most likely hallucinating, and I imagined that I was stalking the Osama Bin Laden of snakes. Much like the US military, I had all the firepower in the world at my disposal but just couldn’t manage to pin the slimy mutherfucker down and kill him. I had not slept in over 36 hours and I needed to change my tactics, so I nailed the closet shut for the second time and tried to get some rest.

The score after two rounds; Snake-2 – Dave-0.

Sometime during a night of sleepless tossing and turning, I had an epiphany. Through a fog of paranoia, total exhaustion and lack of sleep, I awoke and heard a mysterious voice whispering to me…

“If you build it, he will come…”

Well, not so much “build it,” more like take it apart. Since I couldn’t see the snake’s hiding place behind the hot water heater I did what any logical snake-hunter would do. I spent the entire next morning removing the water heater.

I brought a water hose in from the yard, screwed it onto the drain fitting and opened the tank. Then after unhooking the electrical wiring and disconnecting the water pipes, I dragged that heavy son of a bitch out of the closet. Once the area was empty I could see everything clearly, including a small gap in the baseboards that exposed a possible means of serpentine ingress and egress. Since the utility closet backs up to the stairs, I surmised that the snake hauled-ass through the gap and was now hiding under the staircase to the second floor.

So after two hours of deconstruction, I had no hot water downstairs, a big-ass mess in my kitchen, two more hours of plumbing work ahead of me to put it all back together, and the snake still remained AWOL. But on the bright side, at least I was sure that the little fucker wasn’t in the closet anymore. I filled the gap in the baseboards full of spray foam, and then went to work re-installing the hot water heater. By the time I was done with my little remodeling project, it was well after lunchtime; I was pissed, tired and hungry so I ate a little lunch and tried to take a power nap.

About the time I hit the sofa and closed my eyes, I heard the whispering “Field of Dreams” voice again…

“Ease his pain… Go the distance.”

I wasn’t sure what the voice was telling me to do until I really examined the instructions. “Ease his pain…Go the distance?” Then it hit me; I got off the sofa, grabbed my crowbar and Sawzall from the barn and went to work in the hall. I decided that giving the snake an easy escape route would ease his pain, and that tearing a hole in the wall to provide an exit would be going the distance. The hallway wall backs up to the other side of the stairs, so I decided to cut a hole in it, rather than tearing off a bunch of oak wainscoting and trim from the face of the staircase in the living room. I managed to pop the baseboard off the bottom of the wall without ruining it, and then cut a hole in the sheetrock to breech the encapsulated space under the stairs. I shined the flashlight under there, but still couldn’t see shit. I knew that all of the noise, banging and sawing from tearing a hole in the wall had probably spooked the reptilian recluse and that things would have to calm down before he made his escape, so I decided to make camp and prepare for the ambush. I dragged the sofa to the end of the hall, collected all my weapons and began the stake-out.

An hour or so went by, and then my son got home from school. Jacob came thru the back door to find me camped out on a sofa at the end of the hall, wielding a shotgun, machete and flashlight, waiting on a snake to appear from a hole that had been cut in the wall. Needless to say, he was impressed.

Another hour went by, then two. Daylight turned into night… Mentally, I was 100% committed to the siege, but my body began to betray me. The lack of food and sleep began to take its toll and I was fighting to keep my focus. My eyes have never been that heavy and I soon found myself involuntarily drifting in and out of consciousness. I was fighting sleep with every fiber of my being, but I was completely spent. It was a loosing battle. I’m not sure what happened next or how much time had gone by, but an internal alarm must have gone off because suddenly, I sat bolt upright on the sofa. Damnit! I’d been asleep at my post.

As the haze of slumber began to lift, I pushed my glasses back up the bridge of my nose and struggled to focus my vision. It was then that I noticed the shadow on the floor, about 15 feet away at the opposite end of the hall. The lights were off and it was dark, so I carefully reached for my flashlight. Moving ever-so slowly as to not make a sound, I palmed my trusty MagLite and aimed it in the general direction of the shadow. My heart was now racing uncontrollably and every hair on my body was standing on end. I could actually hear the surge of adrenaline coursing through my veins as I moved my thumb over the rubber button on the flashlight that would illuminate the truth. I took a final, shallow breath, exhaled, and then pressed down.


And there it was…

The next second or two were a blur, but pure survival instinct must have taken over. I realized what was happening at the instant before I swung the shotgun to my hip and pulled the trigger.

The deafening explosion, blinding flash of light and sudden recoil of the 20 gauge stunned my senses. Splinters of red oak flooring and the smoky smell of gunpowder filled the air as I racked the pump action on the gun with one hand and fumbled for the light switch on the wall with the other. The lights came on and I could see that my shot in the darkness had missed the mark, hitting the ground about six inches behind the Black Mamba, and blowing a fist-sized hole in the hardwood floor. Even though the shot missed, apparently the concussion from the blast rolled the bastard serpent into a ball against the baseboard at the end of the hallway. As the snake struggled to regain its bearings and make a run for it, I raised the stock of my trusty Browning BPS to my shoulder, leveled the barrel, took aim and fired shot number two.

The snake, baseboard and wood flooring exploded into a pink mist of sawdust and vaporized viper. I sprang from the sofa in victory, ejected the spent shell from the shotgun and started yelling at the top of my lungs in celebration!

B-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-T-C-H!!! ”

About that time I turned around and saw my son standing there with his eyes as big as saucers and his mouth wide open, staring at me with a look of both utter shock and sheer amazement.

“What the hell, Dad? Are you friggin crazy? It’s 1:00 in the morning? What are you doing? Look at what the hell you just did?” he protested.

Still yelling and raising my clenched fists in glory, I proclaimed, “ I GOT THAT MUTHERFUCKER!!!   I NAILED HIS ASS!!!   I began beating my chest and again yelled, “ THIS IS MY HOUSE!!!   THIS IS MY HOUSE!!!   MY HOUSE!!! “

After confirming that the snake was indeed dead and that the gun was unloaded, my son and I surveyed the battlefield carnage. The snake’s body, although truncated, was almost two feet long. It looked to have been a common Rat Snake that probably found its way into the house in search of water. The house looked and smelled like a drive-by shooting crime scene. There were two baseball-sized, jagged gunshot holes in the wood flooring and baseboard, and then there was the missing section of baseboard and hole in the sheetrock wall that I cut so that the snake could get out in the first place. Splinters of oak flooring and tiny drops of blood splattered the walls, furniture was out of place, a gun and a machete were leaning against the sofa and spent shotgun shells littered the ground. The entire house reeked of gunpowder and hallway looked like an old west saloon after a gunfight. I threw the snake’s lifeless carcass into the woods that night, but was too tired to clean-up the rest of the mess before getting some sleep.

I was moving the sofa back into the living room when my son came downstairs to leave for school the next morning. As he was gathering up his things, he offered me this assessment of the state of affairs in our household.

“Dad… I really like the fact that we live in a bachelor pad and don’t have anyone around to bitch and whine about us pissing in the front yard, taking a dump with the door open or drinking milk straight from the carton. It’s even cool that we haven’t cooked a meal here in almost a year and that you throw away dishes when they get dirty and buy new ones instead of just washing them. I really dig the fact that we can do pretty much whatever we want without some woman raising hell with us, but last night changed my mind about a few things...”

He paused for a moment, and then he continued.

“Look, Dude… I think you need to consider the idea of having a woman around here every once in a while. Not necessarily to cook or clean or anything like that; just to keep you from doing shit like shooting guns in the house…”

The Meaning of Life?

Throughout the course of my adulthood, I have often pondered the meaning of my existence and the role that I play in the lives of others. Conversely, how are the lives of the people with which I am intertwined affecting the essence of my being? Is my presence truly a significant determinant in the biorhythm of my companions and of all those whom I amalgamate, or am I merely a nugatory pawn in the chess game of someone else’s subsistence? If the antipode is the case, are those who compose the aggregate of my reality nothing more than elaborate props in a theatrical narrative, or do their actions cogently influence my existence? Moreover, are my deeds and those of my consanguinity part of a predetermined script; do I have any measure of authority over my destiny or is life merely a random circumstance of serendipity and contretemps?

Screw it, I think I’ll drink another beer and update my Facebook status…

No matter what they think, crazy people can't fly.

I’ve seen some seriously bizarre things in my lifetime, but what I witnessed on Saturday afternoon took the cake…

I was coming home from a baseball game, driving west down I-30 near Ridgmar Mall in Fort Worth. As I approached the Ridgmar Boulevard exit, I saw something out of the corner of my eye that captured my attention. There was a multi-car wreck happening in the eastbound lane about 200 yards up the freeway. It looked like a half-assed NASCAR pileup; there were cars skidding sideways, parts and shit flying through the air, cars dodging other cars and smoke was everywhere. Luckily, I was in the westbound lane so I was safe, but I immediately hit the brakes and swerved into the right hand lane as a big Ford F-250 slammed into the concrete divider about 50 yards in front of me. The truck was a mangled mess and it was obvious that whoever was driving it would be a mess too. I pulled over to the right-hand shoulder, stopped and called 911 to report the accident. When the smoke cleared, it looked like there were quite a few other cars involved in the wreck as well. It was, no doubt, a major friggin accident and people would undoubtedly be hurt.

As I was giving the information to the 911 operator, the driver of the truck somehow got out and started screaming and beating on the side of the wreck with his fists. By this time, there were a bunch of people who had stopped on the other side of the freeway to check out the wreck and to see if anyone was hurt. A good Samaritan ran toward the dude beating on the truck, but before he could get to the guy, the truck beater hopped over the center concrete divider and charged out into the oncoming westbound traffic. Luckily, everyone passing the scene on my side of the freeway was going slowly so the guy wasn’t plastered by a speeding 18 wheeler. The guy was oblivious to the cars whizzing by and honking at him, he just started walking across the freeway and never looked up.

There was obviously something wrong with him because he was staggering and walking all stiff-legged, kind of like Herman Munster or Frankenstein. I could see that he was barefooted, bleeding from the bridge of his nose and had either spilled a drink in his lap or pissed all over himself. As he got a little closer I noticed that there was something wrong with his eyes, something really wrong. They were bulging out of his head like they had been popped out of the sockets. He literally looked like a cartoon character. Seriously, this dude made Marty Feldman look like Renee Zellweger. His eyes were probably poked out of his head a half inch or so… It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen.

The guy’s entire body was shaking as he got near my truck; his fists were clenched, he was mumbling something and staring intently off into space. I couldn’t tell if he was seriously hurt, mentally ill or if he was on PCP or some shit… Whatever it was, he was some kind of jacked up. His eyes were like nothing I’d ever seen before and the son of a bitch never blinked. I stared at him in amazement as he walked past the passenger side of my truck and continued walking along the shoulder of the highway. Honestly, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I must have hit the lottery of weirdness, because it’s not often that you see a big wreck and a crazy guy with bug eyes stumbling along down the side of a freeway. But that’s when things went from weird to completely fucking bizarre…

As soon as the guy walked past me, I noticed the good Samaritan from the other side of the freeway running along next to the concrete divider in the center of the highway. He was yelling something at the bug-eyed guy and was trying to get his attention, so I rolled down my window to see if I could hear what he was saying. The good Samaritan was yelling, waving his arms and trying to get Captain Insano to stop and sit down. It’s not like the guy had a whole lot of luck leftover to be throwing around; the dumbass had already been in a serious accident, crossed three lanes of freeway traffic barefooted and was now staggering down the side of the highway. Surely the law of averages was about to catch up with him. The good Samaritan was 100% right, the dude needed to stop and have a seat before his luck ran out. I have no idea what the hell I was thinking or why I decided to get out of the truck and go after the guy, but I did.

“Hey Chief, hold up a minute! You’re hurt! You need to stop and sit down! You’re gonna get run over out here, man!”

My plea fell upon deaf ears as the crazy looking guy completely ignored me and kept walking away. Other passing cars started to pull over, partly to avoid hitting the guy as he staggered along and partly to stare at him in disbelief; he looked that strange… The guy was about 50 feet ahead of me when he finally turned around and acknowledged that someone was trying to get his attention. He looked at me, then turned and looked at the good Samaritan on the other side of the freeway who was still running along waving and yelling for him to stop. I could see it in his eyes, those crazy fucking eyes. It was at that instant, a mere split second before he made his move, that I realized what was about to happen…

The man took another two or three steps, and then dove headfirst off the overpass bridge on which we were standing.

The thud of the man’s body hitting the concrete roadway some 40 feet below was easily heard above the noise and confusion of the freeway. The sound reminded me of dropping a bag of Sackcrete on hard ground; a flat, heavy thump. I looked over the concrete barrier and saw the man lying face down in a pool of blood on the asphalt roadway below. He was motionless…

I stood there for what felt like minutes, frozen by the shock of what I’d just witnessed. People were running from all directions, some with cell phones to their ears frantically describing the scene to 911 operators, others with the same horrified look of shock and disbelief on their faces that I had on mine. And all I could do was stand there…

The scene was frozen in time by a strange mix of adrenaline and revulsion. After what must have been two or three minutes, I heard the first sirens from the police and fire department responding to the accident. Two fire trucks pulled up on the other side of the freeway near the wreckage of the truck and I could see the people pointing toward the bridge. Traffic had come to a complete stop on both sides of the freeway and more and more people were getting out of their cars. The people around me were asking if I knew what had happened and if I’d actually seen the guy jump. There was speculation amongst the bystanders that the man might have been some sort of mental patient. Others thought that he may have been in shock or had some kind of head injury and not realized what he was doing. A few even suggested that he may have been grief stricken and just couldn’t live with the consequences of the wreck. After getting a close-up look at the guy and seeing those eyes, I didn’t know what to think.

Soon, an ambulance appeared under the bridge and a team of paramedics and firemen went to work on the still motionless man lying in the road below. They surrounded him while they worked so I couldn’t really see what was going on, but he was apparently alive when they took him away because you could hear him moaning when they strapped his body to the backboard and placed him on the stretcher. The paramedics wheeled him to the awaiting ambulance and they sped away from the scene.

I stood on the bridge for another few moments, dumbfounded and horrified by what I had just witnessed. People were milling around and comparing their versions of what had just occurred. I wanted to talk about it with the man who stopped his car behind mine, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. My thoughts were too erratic to process and nothing about what I had seen made any sense. The words to describe it just weren’t there. As I walked back to my truck, I wondered if I should find a policeman and give some sort of statement about what I saw, but I didn’t. I just got in my truck and left as quickly as I could. There were plenty of people around who saw the same thing that I did and were dying to talk to someone about it. Me, I just wanted to go home.

Like I said, I’ve seen some fucked up shit before, but nothing will top the fuckedupedness of the shit I saw on Saturday. At least I hope nothing ever will…

The Prodigal Dog Returns

One morning last May, a female Black Lab wandered up to the house and started hanging around. Although she wasn’t wearing a collar, she was fat, well-kept, house-trained and obviously belonged to someone. She was a good dog and I knew her owner would be looking for her, so I decided to let her stay until we could reunite her with her people. Over the next few days, the kids and I made countless “Lost Dog” signs and flyers that we plastered on every tree, stop sign, telephone pole and convenience store window within a five-mile radius of the house. After more than a month without a single phone call, it appeared that “Fat Black” was going to be the newest addition to the herd at the Heavy D Ranch. Her true owners weren’t looking for her, which really surprised me. She was sweet, gentle, got along in with the other dogs and just loved playing with the kids. I didn’t really want another 100 lb. dog to feed, but there was no way I was going to take her to the pound.

Summer came and summer went, but Fat Black remained. She lived with me until one day in September when some friends were at the house visiting. Tommy, Gina and their two kids couldn’t believe that such a good dog had just wondered up, and then commented on how they’d always wanted a Lab. Since they liked the dog and would give her a good home, I asked if they wanted to keep her. I told them that if things didn't work out, they could always bring her back. After a myriad of promises from the kids and a short discussion between the parents, they agreed to take her home. We loaded Fat Black into their truck and off she went to her new, permanent home…

Everyone was living happily ever after, or so I thought, until about a month ago when I ran into Gina and asked how Fat Black was doing. She shook her head, started laughing and proceeded to tell me that the dog was driving them crazy. Gina said that Fat Black had started keeping them up all night barking, wouldn’t behave in the house and was constantly trying to dig her way out of their backyard. She jokingly said that Tommy was fed up with the dog and was ready to get rid of her. I’d never had any trouble with Fat Black and was surprised that she was giving them a hard time. Again, Gina jokingly said that I shouldn’t be surprised if I heard some barking one night and Fat Black miraculously appeared at my door.

The next afternoon I got a call from Tommy. When I saw his number on the caller ID, I decided to prick him around a bit. I answered the phone using my best generic female operator's voice and said, “Parker County Animal Shelter – how may I direct your call?”

“I need to speak to the euthanasia department please…” he said.

I started laughing, but soon realized that Tommy wasn’t. He proceeded to tell me that he was done with Fat Black and was going to take her to the pound and see if they could find her a new home. Unlike his wife a day earlier, there was no joking tone in his voice; he was dead serious. He said that the dog wouldn’t shut up at night, she had become completely unruly wouldn’t behave in the house, had broken down the stockade fence in their backyard, chewed up their patio furniture and torn all the window screens and the screen door off the back of their house. Tommy was genuinely pissed off and said that he just couldn’t deal with Fat Black’s bullshit anymore.

Well, you guessed it... Rather than let him take the dog to the pound, I told him to bring her back to me and that I’d keep her.

When Fat Black arrived that evening, there were no long, emotional goodbyes, no tears and Tommy and Gina never looked back as they jumped in the truck and sped down the caliche road away from the house. Through the cloud of dust they left behind, I swear that I saw them high-five and heard them laughing as they hauled ass away. It was as if they had taken Fat Black on the proverbial “long ride out into the country”, only there was no guilt attached when they let her out and drove away. I just didn’t get it; maybe they didn’t play with her, maybe they just kept her caged up in the yard and she was miserable, or maybe they never really wanted the dog in the first place… Whatever the reason, Fat Black was obviously glad to be “home” and I was glad to have her back.

Fat Black and my other three dogs were all out in the yard getting re-acquainted, so I decided to go back in the house and get a drink. At the very instant I cracked open the front door, I was steamrolled by a runaway black freight train from hell. Fat Black violently rammed her head against the partially open door, knocking it out of my hand, and ran at a dead sprint through the living room towards the kitchen. After almost being knocked to the ground by the speeding 100-pound behemoth, I regained my balance just in time to see her launch herself through the air and execute a perfect form-tackle on the garbage can in the middle of the kitchen. I doubt that Fat Black could hear my yelling over the clanging of empty Dr. Pepper cans as they bounced across the floor, but she knew I was pissed. She tucked her tail between her legs, cowered down and crept over toward me in a feeble attempt to make amends for her transgression. I scolded the dog and made her sit in the corner of the kitchen while I picked up the mess she had made, then put her back outside. I then moved the location of the trashcan from underneath the butcher block in the center of the kitchen into the pantry, thereby removing Fat Black’s temptation to dumpster-dive. That worked for a couple of days, until the morning when it was raining and I left to take Walker and T.R. to school.

I let Fat Black outside to take care of her business shortly after I woke up around 6:00AM. Since it was raining that morning and she doesn’t like the rain, she was scratching at the door for me to let her back inside in no time. I don’t normally leave the dogs in the house when I’m not home, so I called for Tonto and Fat Black to follow me outside when the girls were ready to leave for school. Tonto came running, but Fat Black was hunkered down in her bed and didn’t want any part of the rain; she wasn’t moving. We were running late and I didn’t have time to drag her big ass outside, so I decided to leave both dogs in the house while I made the twenty-minute trip to school and back.

When I arrived back home and walked in the door, the first thought that crossed through my mind was that a garbage truck had been car-bombed in my living room. There was chewed up shit everywhere; fast food wrappers, cans, tin foil, pizza boxes, orange peels, paper plates, she even dragged the black plastic bag out of the can and chewed it up. All of the trash had been completely shredded and evenly disbursed over the entire area. If you’ve ever accidentally run over a newspaper with a lawnmower and blown a million bits of paper all over the lawn, you have an idea of what my living room and kitchen looked like... Except it was trash... And there was a fat, black dog rolling around in the middle of it with a Styrofoam take-out container in her mouth. The devious bitch had played possum until I left, then figured out how to open the door to the pantry and had herself a big party. She actually looked surprised when I started screaming, throwing shit at her and chasing her out of the house. As an encore to that performance, Fat Black apparently went across the pasture to my neighbor’s house, brought an entire bag of their trash back and proceeded to redecorate my yard to match the interior of the house.

Fat Black has a few other “issues” beyond her insatiable taste for trash. She thinks that my bed is actually her bed; I’m constantly battling to keep her big, hairy, shedding ass out of my room and off of my bed. I thought I had the problem solved by shutting the door any time I entered or exited my bedroom, but I learned the hard way that Fat Black was the MacGyver of dogs. She figured out how to jump up, put her feet on the handle and push down to open a door. I discovered her new trick one morning I got out of the shower and found that she had climbed onto the kitchen counter, stolen an un-opened box of Coco Puffs and eaten the entire thing. I suspected this was the case when I saw the empty box and plastic liner torn to shreds and lying on the floor in the middle of the hall. My suspicions were confirmed when I entered my bedroom through the door that she’d opened and found a giant mound of semi-digested chocolate breakfast cereal, covered in a milky-white foam, laying in the middle of my bed. She’d opened the door, got in the bed and left a massive pile of dog puke in the middle of it. I began to think she was intentionally fucking with me because that was the trifecta of insults…

In addition to vomiting in the middle of my bed, she found another creative way fuck me over again last week. As I was sitting on the sofa with my laptop screwing around on Facebook, I heard a loud crash against the door of the house. I looked up just in time to see the front door fly open and a soaking wet and muddy black dog make her triumphant entrance. It appeared as though Fat Black had gone for an evening swim in the stock tank below the house, and then followed up the swim with a relaxing and soothing roll in mud. I yelled at her to stop and get the hell out, but it was too late; she ran directly to my bedroom door and jumped on the handle. I gave chase and found the dog sprawled out on her back with all four legs in the air, joyfully rolling around in the middle of my bed. By the time I grabbed her ass and dragged her back outside, my bed looked like it had been used by Bigfoot and a grizzly bear as a mud wrestling pit.

I’ve had lots of dogs in my lifetime and have never had this much trouble training any of them. It’s not like she’s retarded or anything; in fact, she’s really smart. How many dogs do you know that can open doors? I’ve read a book on dog psychology and tried everything short of beating her ass with a golf club to curb her bad behavior, but nothing I've tried seems to phase her. My house has become a battleground in the war of wills between Fat Black and me. It’s nothing less than an epic struggle between good and the diabolical forces of evil. My last resort may be to e-mail the TV show “The Dog Whisperer” and beg for Cesar Milan to come to Weatherford and perform a canine exorcism. I keep waiting on Fat Black to sprout another two heads and assume her true identity as Cerberus the three headed demon dog.

If the old adage that “dogs are like kids” is true, then I’m afraid I've adopted a Dylan Klebold-hound.

The Chronicles of Back Surgery - Part I: A Perineum is not a type of flower...

“Sunday, December 7th, a day that shall live in infamy.” The words of Franklin D. Roosevelt will forever be etched into my memory, but for a different reason than most. Sixty-seven years to the day that the Nips pulled their sneak attack on battleship row, a bolt of lightening came down from the clouds and struck me square in the ass.

While bending over to zip up a bag of luggage I’d packed for a trip to Houston the next morning, something akin to a pit bull reached up and bit me on the left butt-cheek. The pain was hot, sharp and very, very intense. A shot of boiling acid must have been injected into my ass, because the back of my leg was obviously on fire. I immediately sat down and tried get into a comfortable position to alleviate the pain. I tried to sit, stand, lay flat on my back, my stomach, anything to ease the flow of flaming napalm running down my leg. But much to my dismay, nothing worked. It was getting late, so I decided to self-medicate by taking a couple of Vicodin and drinking three fingers of bourbon, then went straight to my room and got into bed.

When I awoke on Monday morning, there were hot coals in my ass and my leg was still smoldering. There was absolutely no way I was going out of town in that condition, so I cancelled my trip and called my primary care doctor for an appointment. After an examination, my doctor’s 12 years of medical training and 20 some-odd years of experience as a physician lead him to the sage prognosis that I had pinched a nerve in my lower back. He prescribed more Vicodin, a muscle relaxant and told me to lay flat for a few days. He said I should be better within about a week, but to call him back if my condition didn’t change or got significantly worse. I laid out a $25 co-pay, spent $50 at Walgreen’s for prescriptions, then headed back home where I retreated to my bed.

Over the next three days I lived like Elvis. I would stay awake only long enough to take more drugs, eat and piss. The drugs helped and the pain was getting better, but I noticed that my feet were beginning to get numb. At first, it felt like my toes were going to sleep or were really cold, but by nightfall, both feet were entirely numb. The feeling reminded my of being in the training room after football practice to soak my ankles in 5 gallon buckets full of ice, rock salt and water; cold, numbing and painful.

Over the next three days the numbness slowly spread from my feet, to my calves, to my hamstrings and to my ass. I began to have a hard time walking to and from the bathroom, but I wasn’t sure if it was the numbness in my legs or the fact that I was popping Vicodin and muscle relaxers like they were Tic Tacs. It still hurt like hell to stand up and move around, but because of the copious amounts of narcotics in my system, I just didn’t care.

When I awoke on Thursday morning I got scared that something was seriously wrong. In addition to my legs and ass-cheeks, my taint and nuts were now numb. The mere thought of a paralyzed dingus would strike fear into the hearts of the most courageous of men, and I was no different. I frantically called Dr. Feelgood and reported the change in my condition. After explaining what a “taint” is to a 60-year old doctor, then being informed that the proper term for it is “perineum”, I was told to immediately go to the emergency room for an MRI.

The wife and kids were already gone to school, so rather than call for assistance I decided to cowboy-up and take myself on in. I downed a handful of Vicodin to quell the pain, waited a half-hour for it to take affect, and then got myself dressed. I literally couldn’t keep my balance to walk, plus the burning pain was getting worse. I grabbed a chair and used it like a walker to help stabilize myself and began to hobble out to my truck. With every step the pain grew worse and it took me about 45 minutes to traverse the 30 feet of sidewalk that separate my house from the carport. The pain was becoming more and more unbearable and I began to realize that the decision to drive myself to the hospital might be a big mistake.

As I finally got to the door of the truck, I could no longer hold myself up with my legs and was using the chair to support the full weight of my body. I got the door opened and tried to climb in the truck, but the pain was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. It literally took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. I can’t imagine that being set on fire would be any worse than what I was enduring. I stood there feeling like I was waist-deep in a pool of acid, unable to get in my own truck or make it back to the house. At that point, I admitted to myself that I was in real trouble and needed help. I managed to get the phone out of my pocket without falling over, called 911 and begged for an ambulance come pick me up.

It seemed like forever, but the paramedics actually arrived within about 10 minutes of the call. After listening to my list of symptoms and my apology for being such a pussy that I had to call them for a “hurt back”, they tried to figure out how they were going to get my big ass on the stretcher. We all debated for a while, but couldn’t come up with an easy plan. With no forklift or hydraulic crane at my disposal, we came to the consensus that the only way to get on the stretcher was for me to nut-up and climb my ass up there. They lowered the stretcher to a little below waist high, set a backboard on top of the pad and pushed it right up against me. All I had to do was sit down, lay back and swing my legs up. The paramedics even helped me by holding my shoulders and trying to lift my legs up as gently as possible, but the pain was indescribable.

I screamed in a high-pitched voice like an 8-year-old girl who just got a pony for Christmas. A horrific symphony of falsetto obscenities spewed from my lungs and I begged God to make the pain stop, but he wasn’t listening. Tears were streaming down my face and I had to force myself to inhale. I was in such pain that I think it even scared the paramedics a little bit. Mercifully, they slid the backboard over a bit, centering my body on the stretcher. As one paramedic began to strap me down, another radioed the hospital to let them know we were coming. They took my vital signs and talked to the hospital a little more before wheeling me around to the back of the ambulance and loading me inside.

I’d been meaning to have a few truckloads of caliche brought in to re-surface my road, but just hadn’t got around to it. The ambulance ride sure made me wish I had, because every pothole we hit in that sumbitch made me scream. The ride to the hospital took about 15 minutes and the guy in the back with me was monitoring my vital signs and talking to the hospital. He hooked up an IV in my arm and gave me a shot for the pain, but it didn’t do any good. I asked him for a rig of heroin or if I could smoke some opium or some shit, but my request was denied. I’d have to wait until I got to the hospital to get anything stronger.

The Chronicles of Back Surgery - Part II: Every man wants to hear "you're too big!"

After the longest 15 minute ride of my life, the paramedics wheeled me into the emergency room and handed me off to the ER docs. The people in the ER asked me a bunch of questions, took more vital signs and finally got around to getting me something to dull the pain. They injected a cocktail of pain medication and Valium into my IV and told me that I’d soon be heading upstairs to have an MRI. After a few more minutes of excruciating pain, the drugs began to effect and take the edge off. I was still in a helluva lot of pain, but at least I could breathe without screaming.

A procession of doctors, nurses and admissions people paraded through the examination room before the MRI Tech got there to haul me upstairs. He took one look at me, shook his head and said that I was too big to fit in their machine. Now, I realize, even embrace the fact that I’m a big, fat, overgrown cow-bellied bastard, but what the hell? I wouldn’t fit in the machine? When I asked him about what kind of half-assed MRI starter kit they had, he informed me that he didn’t think my chest and shoulders would fit through the opening in the tube. About that time, a doctor walked in. The two of them discussed sending me to Ft. Worth to a larger MRI and whether or not a CT Scan would work. They ignored me as they talked, as if I was merely a piece of furniture in the room and I couldn’t hear a word they were saying.

I think I pissed them off when I suggested, “How ‘bout you find a fucking tape measure, get some dimensions and figure out if my fat ass will fit in the machine you’ve got here?”

They both left the room, and then the MRI guy came back with a plastic ruler. He made a half-hearted attempt at measuring the width of my shoulders, and then went upstairs to measure the opening of his machine. Forty-five minutes later I was headed upstairs to get the MRI.

Normally, the patient would be inserted into the machine head first, but because I was a square peg being fit into a round hole, the rocket scientists on duty in the MRI lab were going to do it differently. They loaded me onto the conveyor table feet first and ran me into the machine until my shoulders hit the sides of the opening. The MRI guy told me to lay still while he left the room to see if enough of my back was in the tube to get a good picture. Once he was satisfied that it would work, he fired up the machine and we got started. The MRI took about 30 minutes to complete, then he backed me out of the hole and helped me get into the wheelchair so I could go back down to the ER. I asked him when the doctor would be able to look at the film and was told that it had already been e-mailed to the on-call surgeon for review.

By the time I got back to the ER, the pain shot had worn off and I was hurting pretty bad again. The nurse gave me another injection to ease the pain and said that they’d be moving me upstairs to a room pretty quickly. The Valium relaxed me, but for some reason the pain medication didn’t seem to work as well this time. I was still in a great deal of pain an hour later when they came to take me upstairs to my room.

As luck would have it, Weatherford Regional Medical Center is undergoing a big expansion project and the whole place is torn up with the ongoing construction. The nurse told me that, due to the construction, there was a shortage of private rooms. I would be placed in a semi-private room with another patient until a private room was available. At that point, I could give a shit less where they put me, as long as I could get another shot to extinguish the molten lava running down my legs. When I got to my room, I met the nurse, Crystal, and asked her to give me another shot for pain. This time, the shot did absolutely nothing. Before, the Valium at least relaxed me a bit but this time; nothing… I waited about an hour and called Crystal back down to my room to tell her that the shot didn’t work. She said that I was under a different doctor’s orders now and that he hadn’t prescribed Valium and was giving me a different pain killer. The doctor was on the floor making rounds, so she said that she’d talk to him about increasing my medication. About 20 minutes later, Crystal came back with a syringe full of heaven…

Dilaudid is like synthetic morphine, and the good doctor prescribed me a healthy friggin dose. He also prescribed double the amount of Valium that I was getting in the emergency room. Relief was on the way! Crystal injected the syringe into my IV, then “pushed” it with some saline. No sooner than she took the saline syringe out of the IV, a warm, peaceful wave of sweet relief rolled throughout my entire body. I was blanketed in a fluffy, warm comfort that I can only describe by comparing it with what junkies on TV look like when they shoot heroin. Just like when a junkie sticks that spike in his vein and releases the rubber band strapped around his arm, my eyes rolled back into my head and I drifted off into blissful euphoria. Also like a junkie, I slept so hard that I didn’t even realize that I’d pissed all over myself.

The Chronicles of Back Surgery - Part III: The Greatness of Donnie

Room 313 was a semi-private room. I was in bed “A” and a dude named Donnie was in bed “B”. Donnie was sleeping when they brought me into the room, so I didn’t say anything to him. He was a white guy who looked to be in his mid-thirties and was clean cut. I was surprised, because with my luck, I’d figured I’d be matched up with some homeless Mexican and get spend the weekend fighting with him over whether we were going to watch football on ESPN or Sabado Gigante on Univision. I suppose it didn’t really matter; I was looking forward to mainlining my way back to ecstasy every four hours anyway. Soon enough, a nurse came in the room and woke Donnie up to check his blood pressure. She asked him some questions, but he didn’t say much. I assumed that he was still sleepy and might even have been a little pissed that she woke him up. Then Donnie started talking…

A deep voice began “speaking” in some guttural, stuttering tongue that was unrecognizable as any language I’d ever heard before. The sudden realization that I was sharing a room with a fucking retard hit my like a baseball bat square in the forehead. Donnie sounded like a combination of Warren from “Something About Mary”, Porky Pig and Helen Keller on steroids. I dreaded the moment when Donnie would turn his attention to me and begin the verbal assault. Sure as shit, as soon as the nurse left the room Donnie began to carpet-bomb me with a painful, stuttering Q & A session.

"Whaa yheu naam? Whaa w..w..w..wonngh wiff yheu?" I kept waiting for him to ask me if I’d seen his baseball… I did my best to avoid as much verbal interaction as I could, but Donnie was a talker.

Donnie was also a call button pusher. The nurses had to hate him because he was constantly summoning them with the call button for absolutely nothing. Everything from, “I’m cold.” to “What’s for dinner?” to “I just peed.” Sometimes the nurse would leave the room and he’d hit the call button again before she’d even have time to get back to the nurse’s station. Donnie was a very demanding retard.

While he was out of the room having some tests done, I got the whole story on Donnie from one of the nurses. Donnie had been in a car accident about six or seven years earlier that seriously fucked him up. He was jogging early one morning when he was hit by a car and suffered severe head trauma. Donnie had a Master’s degree and was a CPA before his accident. Now, he could hardly talk, couldn’t walk, and couldn’t wipe his own ass. The nurse said that Donnie had been living with his parents, but they were forced to move him into an assisted living center because he needed more care than they could provide. He was in the hospital because he had a blood clot in his leg and the doctors were afraid it would break loose and cause him to have a stroke. After learning all of this, my feelings toward Donnie changed a bit. He was still an annoying pain in the ass, but at least he wasn’t a retard.

Beyond brain damage, a life-threatening blood clot and an affinity for The Hallmark Channel, Donnie had another major affliction that commanded my attention. The poor bastard was constantly puking. He’d eat something, and then puke. He’d drink a few sips of water, then puke. The nurses would spend 20 minutes cleaning him up and changing his clothes, then he’d hurl all over himself again before they could get to the end of the hall. He vomited so much on Friday, that I began keeping a record of the eruptions. At 6:12 AM, Donnie had his first reversal of the day. He blew beets again at 8:22 AM, 9:51 AM and 11:05 AM. Donnie then decided to throw everyone a curveball by shitting all over himself at 12:15 PM. Even though they had taken the preventative measure of putting a diaper on him, the clean-up took the nurses forever and funked up the room something fierce. Thank God we had already eaten lunch. After he dropped the deuce, I quit recording the times he puked. Shitting the bed just kind of made throwing up all over himself not as interesting anymore.

The Chronicles of Back Surgery - Part IV: This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs...

Nicole was my daytime nurse on Friday. She came in and introduced herself, then asked me how I was doing and wanted to know if I was comfortable. I quickly explained to Nicole that my entire goal in life for that day was to say absolutely as medicated as possible in order to avoid the realization of what a shitty situation I was in. I asked her if she knew what the results of my MRI showed, but she had no idea. Nicole did say that that a surgeon named Dr. Largent was supposed to be coming by to see me and talk about what my MRI had shown. Knowing that the doctor would be there relatively soon, I decided to put off getting another fix of hospital heroin. For some odd reason, I felt like I would need a clear head to understand exactly what he was going to tell me. By the time he got there, I was wishing that I’d gone ahead and taken that shot.

Dr. Largent finally showed up around 8:30 AM just as the fire in my legs re-ignited. The good doctor told me that my MRI revealed two ruptured disks and one herniated disk in my lower back. The ruptured disks were pressing on the nerves in my spinal column and were causing the pain and numbness in the lower half of my body. Doc Largent said that he was referring me to a specialist for further evaluation and treatment. The specialist would decide what type of surgical procedure would be necessary to correct the problem. I was told that the spinal specialist, Dr. Brown, would be coming by later that day to examine me and go over the procedure. The only ray of sunshine in the dark cloud of this conversation was that Doc Largent increased my pain medication frequency from once every four hours to once every two hours. The good doctor wasn’t even out of the doorway before I was hitting the nurse call button. Within a few minutes, Nicole showed up with my fix. As she injected the sweet, merciful nectar of the Gods into my bloodstream, she said that she was surprised that the doctor had increased my dosage. Drifting off into peaceful nirvana, all I could utter in response was, “I’ll see you in two hours…”

I succeeded in my goal of staying high all day on Friday. Nicole came by about every two and a half hours with my cocktail of body-numbing serum and kept me in a constant state of Shangri-La. Every time she would come in I would ask her if she had seen Dr. Brown, but he was AWOL. As daytime blended into night, Nicole left and Sherri came in. She said that Dr. Brown had called and added some additional medications to my daily ration of narcotics. I was to receive a muscle relaxant shot twice daily and a steroid shot once per day. Neither of them seemed to add to, or detract from my high, so I wasn’t really concerned. I was kind of confused and wondered why Dr Brown hadn’t made it by to check me out. Dr. Largent acted as if they would be looking to operate pretty quickly. I wasn’t sure if Brown’s absence was a good thing or not. Maybe I wasn’t all that bad if he wasn’t concerned enough to examine me on Friday? Surely he’d seen my MRI and knew what was wrong. Just as well, I was so screwed up on the synthetic black tar heroin that I probably wouldn’t have understood anything he was coming to tell me anyway.

Friday night was little more than a dark, hazy blur. I slept really hard for the first time in a week or so. I guess I had so much smack in my system that I finally just fell out. I slept clean through from about 11:00 that night until a little before 6:00AM Saturday morning. When I woke up I was beginning to hurt again. My legs were starting to burn and my feet were as cold as ice. I realized that I’d slept through my last two pharmaceutical pit-stops and must have been running on fumes. I hit the nurse call button and asked for another pain shot, then waited for the Angel of Mercy to come to my rescue. Five minutes went by… Then ten… Then twenty minutes. I didn’t want to piss the nurses off like Donnie and keep hitting the call button so I gave it some more time. After an hour had gone by, my legs were fully engulfed in flames. At that point I didn’t care if it hair-lipped the Pope; I hit the button again. The voice on the other end said that someone would be there right away to give me my shot.

Again, I waited. Ten minutes… Twenty minutes… Time seemed to drag on and on... Finally at ten minutes after 8:00 AM, my new nurse, Tiffany, showed up with my rig. As politely and respectfully as I could muster, I inquired as to why the fuck it took so long for a fucking nurse to do their fucking job and walk 30 fucking feet down the hall to give me the fucking medicine that was keeping me the fuck alive. She said that the night crew worked 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM and started preparing for shift change at about 6:00 AM; doing paperwork and somesuch. Then the day crew came on at 7:00 AM and worked until 3:00 PM. It takes every new crew about an hour to get up to speed on all of the patients’ charts before they hit the floor. Tiffany advised me to call about an hour and a half before shift change if I was going to need a shot while the crews were working on their handoff. That’s when I made a mental note to self: Try not to go into cardiac arrest or have any sort of life threatening crisis during shift change; you might have trouble getting a Band Aid…

The Chronicles of Back Surgery - Part V: What "NOT" to say to a nurse...

On Saturday, I had either a real intellectual breakthrough, or a catastrophic mental collapse, depending on you look at it. I became conversationally proficient in the native tongue of the brain damaged retard. I began to understand Donnie’s mumblings and started interpreting his complaints and directives to the nurses. This was particularly entertaining in the afternoon when Shaunte’, the 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM nurse, started her shift.

Shaunte’ was a black woman of considerable size, in her mid thirties, who for lack of a better description had no internal governor. Although she was very pleasant and personable, she lacked either the tact or non-confrontational nature of the other nurses that had been charged with Donnie’s care. When other nurses were in the room and Donnie started in on them with his stuttering bullshit, they all smiled and politely acknowledged him, then got away as quickly as they could. But not Shaunte’…

Donnie started in on her with a barrage of, “T-t-t-tha doctuer s-s-sed I’m gunna git tew go h-h-h-h-home Sh-Sh-Shundey.” Shaunte’s head swiveled around on her neck in alarm like a hood sista’ getting ready to fire off a “No you didint!”, took a look at me and said, “What in the hell is this mans talkin’ about?” She looked back at Donnie and, in a slow, deliberate, louder voice as if Donnie were hard of hearing and said, “Sir, I can’t understand a word you’s sayin. What you need?” Donnie fired of another round of thick-tongued broken English and got the same response from the dumbfounded nurse.

After three or four failed attempts at communication between the two, I stepped in to act as an interpreter. “He says the doctor told him that he might get to go home on Sunday.” She cocked her head to the side, looked at me with squinted eyes and said, “How you get that from what he said?” I told her I’d been rooming with Big Don since Thursday and I had heard him talk enough to know what he was trying to say. Shaunte’ looked back at Donnie, and again in a loud, slow voice said, “That’s real good Sir. I hope you get to go home real soon.”

She finished up what she was doing, turned to leave the room, then stopped and looked at me as she passed my bed. She smiled, put her hand up to the side of her face blocking her mouth from Donnie’s view, and whispered, “If you can understand that mans, you been up in here with him w-a-y too long…”

Donnie and Shaunte’ had quite a number of dust-ups throughout the afternoon, but the mother of all confrontations occurred shortly after dinner. As usual, Donnie ate… And then Donnie puked. The curtain between our beds was extended about half-way so I couldn’t see how bad it was, but it sounded like he projectile vomited all over his side of the room.

When the eruption subsided and he caught his breath, Donnie hit the call button and exclaimed, “I-I-I-Ayeee juss thew up.”

Within minutes Shaunte’ showed up to see what the problem was. I could see the look of defeat and disgust on her face as she stood at the foot of his bed and assessed the situation. I heard Donnie’s nurse call button go off again, but this time it was Shaunte’ calling the desk for back-up. I guess when faced with the gastrointestinal carnage of a grown man lying in a bed full of his own vomit, no one nurse could hope to rescue her patient alone. Another nurse arrived with a cart full of bed sheets, blankets, pillows and cleaning supplies. The two nurses dawned their personal protective equipment, discussed the mission objective and then attacked Donnie’s vomit-covered bed and body with the deliberate, swift precision of a Green Beret team clearing a mud hut full of Iraqi insurgents.

Since the curtain was half-way drawn I could not see the tactics that they employed, but it was amazing how quickly the soiled linens were removed and Donnie’s personal hygiene was restored. All the while, Donnie was letting them know that he “thew up” and that he was feeling better now. I took the opportunity to brief Shaunte’ on the fact that Donnie was a chronic vomiteer and that he puked four or five times a day on average. In hindsight, I should have kept my mouth shut, because I had no idea that the little bit of intel I passed along would lead to such a full-scale firefight.

Shaunte’ went to the cart and grabbed a plastic bucket. Again, as if she were talking to someone who was half-way deaf, she began to tell Donnie to puke in the bucket rather than to just let if fly on his chest. Donnie started mumbling and stammering in his own native tongue, then I heard him rummaging around in his bed-side table. Well, this time I didn’t have to interpret for Shaunte’; she heard everything he said loud and clear.

Donnie said, “That’s too big. I use this.”, then he apparently produced a plastic urinal bottle half full of partially digested hospital food, fresh from his latest episode. I thought Shaunte’ was going to have an aneurism right there on the spot.

“Goooooood lord in heaven! You not s’possed to be up-chuckin in that! That a urinal! That for urine!” Shaunte’ took a step back from behind the curtain and with her hand on her hip,cocked her head, looked at me and held up the urinal bottle full of vomit. Then, in a stern and accusatory tone, asked me if I had known that he had been trying to hurl in urinal. I wanted no part of Shaunte’s wrath, so I denied all knowledge of anything that had ever occurred on the other side of the curtain. She turned her attention back to Donnie and began brow beating him with specific instructions on what receptacle was to be used for piss and what receptacle was for puke. For some reason, Donnie must have felt that it was his constitutional right to puke in a piss bottle, so he vehemently stuttered and argued in an increasingly hostile voice. Donnie continued barking some angry, unintelligible shit as Shaunte’ was leaving the room. About the time she was half-way out the door, the stars and moon must have been in perfect alignment because Donnie’s voice and diction became perfectly clear and understandable. For one brief and fleeting instant, Donnie was as articulate as anyone I’d ever heard. One, single word echoed throughout the room in slow motion…

N-*-*-*-* r. (the dreaded "N" word)

Complete, utter silence… Dead, deafening silence filled Room 313; in fact, the entire hospital went silent. The earth must have stopped spinning and time stood still. I swear I could hear my heart beating. I sat paralyzed by shock and fear wondering if she had heard him, praying that she hadn’t. I quickly got the answer to my question. I swear that someone in the hallway began softly whistling the theme music from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” as the door slowly swung open. There, silhouetted by the bright light of the hallway behind her, stood the dark, menacing form of Shaunte’. No longer was she the pleasant, personable nurse who I had known only moments before. Fueled by the fire of racism and bigotry, she had morphed into nothing short of a pissed off Ving Rhames in drag. She moved through the doorway as if she were in slow motion. Every footstep she took on the cold tile floor echoed throughout the vast emptiness of the room. As she slowly exited the darkness, the fluorescent light of the room illuminated her face, revealing a fear-inspiring scowl the likes of which I had never before seen. With anger and hatred burning inside her like a volcano on the verge of eruption, she stepped into the room and toward the side of my bed. Her fists were clenched and her jaw flared as her bloodshot eyes stared into mine. Then, with veins popping out on her forehead and her teeth clenched tightly, she spoke to me.

“Did that mans say what I think he said?”

I sat motionless, paralyzed by fear, afraid to lie but also afraid to tell the truth. What would be my response? If I told her what I thought I had heard, Donnie would surely never see the light of day again. If I lied, she might twist off and go all Black Panther on me. I quickly determined that my only option was plausible deniability.

“Huh… I was watching the news… What did he say?”

Again silence…There were several awkward moments of nothingness where I held my breath as she stared at me before responding. It was like she was testing me or trying to see if I would crack under the pressure. The silence was pure torture… Finally, she un-clenched her fists, relaxed her jaw and blinked.

“Oh nothing… Nevermind. I thought I heard him say… something… Nevermind.”

I capped off my evening of racial tension and potential violence with another pain shot and a nap. I dared not summon Shaunte’ to the room and warned Donnie that he was liable to get us both killed if he even thought about dropping another “N-bomb”. I guess God watches out for retards too, because Big Don didn’t have any issues requiring nursing care until well after shift change, and thankfully, the new nurse was a middle-aged white woman. Our new keeper must have had the Lord on her side as well because Donnie slept the entire night. Not one single nurse call. Thank God…

The Chronicles of Back Surgery - Part VI: Losing My Virginity

Saturday faded into Sunday and night into day. I was hungry as hell when they brought the breakfast tray in at about 7:15 AM Sunday morning. I inhaled the powdered eggs, microwave sausage patty and some type of bread that I think was intended to be French toast. I asked the nurse about the possibility of Dr. Brown showing up on a Sunday and was told that if, and only if he were to make an appearance, it would be sometime after lunch.

With a cow belly full of bland hospital food and an IV full of elephant tranquilizer, I settled in for an entertaining day of ESPN and watching Donnie annoy the nurses. And Donnie could work that call button like a champion. He got hot, so they brought him a fan. He got cold, so they brought him a blanket. He couldn’t see the TV because of the glare from the window, so he had them close the blinds. He peed, he puked in the urinal bottle, he needed a drink, and of course, he wanted to go home.

I’d been lying in a hospital bed for over three days without getting up and desperately wanted a shower. There was no way I was capable of getting this done in a conventional manner, so the nurses told me that the next best thing was to give myself a sponge bath. They got me a bucket of warm water, a bottle of some bullshit soap/shampoo that didn’t require rinsing, some wash rags and a towel. They drew the curtain around my bed to provide a little privacy and I went to work. I was going commando in basketball shorts, so stripping down was easy. I used one wash rag to scrub my pits, another to scrub the family jewels and the remainder for my head, face, etc.

About the time I was getting done, I heard the door to the room creaking, then the curtain at the foot of my bed flew wide open. I was butt-ass naked and some 40+ year-old grey-haired douchebag was standing at the foot of the bed staring at me with a puzzled look on his face. I looked at him for a second and then said, “No thanks man. If I needed any help I’d have asked for a hot young nurse to come down here… not a dude.”“Good afternoon, I’m Dr. Brown...”

The friggin surgeon had finally showed up. I’d been waiting on this asshole since Thursday afternoon and he finally shows up at 2:30 PM on Sunday while I’m bare-ass naked, scrubbing my nuts with a wash rag. I guess no one bothered to coordinate his golf schedule and my bath time. I politely asked him to give me a moment while I dried off and got dressed. He agreed, pulled the curtain back and began asking me questions. I told him the whole story and went down my list of ailments. He then asked if I’d had an MRI. “Yeah, I had one on Thursday. I’ve been sitting here ever since waiting on you to decide what to do with me. Have you not seen it yet?” He hadn’t, so he left the room to go retrieve my records.

Moments later he re-appeared and asked more questions, specifically whether I was having trouble urinating or defecating. I explained that I couldn’t feel my bladder and had no idea when I needed to piss. About every three hours, I’d kind of roll over onto my side, stick my hang-down in the bottle and push on my stomach to make myself piss. He then asked about defecation. I explained that defecating had not been a problem because I hadn’t cut a load of timber since Monday of the previous week. That was when things went from embarrassing to full on humiliation. The doctor walked to the sink, got a pair of rubber gloves and asked me to drop my shorts. The first thing he did was poke my feet with an ink pen. I felt nothing. I was asked to wiggle my toes, which I could barely do. Then he told me to roll over onto my side… I should have known something bad was about to happen… He grabbed my ass-cheek with one hand, pulled it up and placed his finger against the rim of my asshole. He then removed his hand from my butt-cheek and then gave me a reach-around. He cradled my sack in one hand and had the finger of his other hand pressed up against my balloon-knot.

That’s when it happened… He fisted me.

Dr. Brown stuck his finger up my ass all the way to the knuckle. I could tell he was cramming his entire hand up my butt, but surprisingly enough it didn’t hurt. All I was really feeling was the pressure. I started to look back at him and make a comment about feeling like I was on the Sopranos when Janice shoved a dildo up Ralphie’s ass, but decided against it. He readjusted his hand on my rig, squeezed my cods a couple of times and then gave me the shocker again. Dr. Brown’s finger was so far up my ass that I was sure I’d have an imprint of his wedding ring on my taint. He told me to “try and resist” by tightening my sphincter muscles.

I then looked back at him and said, “Don’t you think I’d be all seized up if I could. I mean, I’ve only got a strange man whom I just met fingering me like I’m some kind of high school prom date.” I don’t think he was amused.

I guess the doctor had an affinity for prison rape and liked it rough; I must not have put up enough of a fight for his tastes because he quit double-donging me and took off his gloves. He announced that I needed surgery to relieve the pressure that the ruptured discs were placing on my nerves. Dr. Brown also said that he was leaving that afternoon for a conference in San Diego. He told me that he had to get to the airport, but that he’d call the nurses and let them know what was going to happen. So within a time span of no more than 5 minutes, I’d met my surgeon, been cornholed, was told I needed surgery and was again sitting in the hospital waiting for someone to tell me what the hell was going on.

The Chronicles of Back Surgery - Part VII: Surgery, Self Medication and Socialism

So the rest of the afternoon I sat waiting. Every time a nurse would come in I’d ask if Dr. Brown had called, but no one knew anything. All they could tell me was that Dr. Brown was either going to have one of his associates perform the procedure, or have me wait until he got back from California and take care of it himself. I wasn’t sure when I’d be having the surgery, or even who would be performing it. After a few hours passed, a strange thing happened…

Dr. Brown and walked back into my room. He said that he had called the other surgeons in his practice, a few in Ft. Worth and even one in Dallas to see if anyone could operate on me that evening. By the time he found out that there were no available surgeons on a Sunday night, he was already on the plane. Dr. Brown actually got off of a plane at DFW and drove back to Weatherford. He said that he didn’t think the surgery could wait until he got back from San Diego, so he had to cancel his trip and come back to work on me. He was afraid that if I waited any longer, the nerve damage in my lower body could become permanent.

As soon as he finished describing the procedure itself, a couple of nurses came in and started wheeling me off to the operating room. Everything happened so fast that I had no time to prepare myself. I was thinking of question after question that I wanted to ask him. I got the nurses to stop and get me a pen and a piece of paper so I could write my questions down. How many of these procedures have you performed? What is the success rate for 100% recovery? How long is the recovery period? How much work will I have to miss? The list went on and on…

Soon enough, I arrived at the operating room where I saw Dr. Brown and the anesthesiologist. I asked my list of questions, answered a few of his, and then was rolled into the operating room. As with every other surgical procedure I’ve ever had, there were people milling around, getting everything prepared and whatnot. Then the infamous mask was placed over my face and I was told to breathe deeply…

I awoke four hours later in the recovery room. Dr. Brown was talking to me, telling me to wake up and tell him how I felt. That was easy, “Like shit.” He said that everything had gone according to Hoyle and that I should be good as new in no time. I had one disc removed completely, another repaired and my L4 and L5 vertebrae had been fused together. I was a new man! Well, almost…

I went to a different room after the surgery, so I have no idea what became of Donnie. Just as well, he would have whipped my ass with a million questions and I wasn’t really up for an in-depth discussion at that time. I went to another semi-private room, but this time I had no roommate. I was looking forward to getting a shot of the Valium and Heroin cocktail that I had grown so fond of, but quickly found that the well had run dry. I was now “self-medicating.” There was a big syringe full of pain medication on some kind of pump that was hooked into my IV that I could control by pushing a button. The nurse told me I could push the button once every six minutes and receive a small amount of the medication. Much like socialism, it was a great theory that didn’t work out so well in practice. I firmly believe that one of two things occurred:

1) the button was broken… or
2) I received a syringe full of watered-down liquid aspirin.

I pushed and pushed and pushed that damn button and all I got out of it was a sore thumb. I came to the stark realization that the whole “self-medication” concept was a crock of shit. I was up and down the entire night and didn’t get much sleep. My back was hurting from the incision and my legs were numb and cold. Without a super-sized shot of pain reliever I just wasn’t going to be able to get comfortable.

Having missed dinner the night before due to the surgery, I was beyond hungry when my breakfast tray arrived. Powdered eggs and microwave sausage links never tasted so good! I think I inhaled everything on the tray in less than thirty seconds flat. So with breakfast out of the way and no possibility of scoring a shot of the good stuff, I began to focus my attention on step one of getting out of the hospital, taking a leak. Not that I was ready to jump up and go home, but as slowly as things in that hospital moved I figured I’d better start working on the list of dismissal prerequisites if I had any chance of getting home by Christmas.

Believe it or not, taking a leak was the biggest hurdle to cross in my quest to be dismissed from the hospital. Since my body was basically asleep from the waist down, the doctors were concerned that I might experience a problem with bladder function and control. If I couldn’t whiz on my own, they would be forced to catheterize me and keep me for a few more days. The last thing I wanted was another radiator hose shoved up my dingus, so I set my mind to completing the task at hand. It took several attempts over an hour or two, but I finally managed to squeeze enough out to satisfy the nurse. She told me that she’d let the doctor know that my plumbing was still functional and see what she could do about getting me out of there.

I spent the next couple of hours pushing the pain medication button every six minutes; not really because I needed it for the pain, more because I knew I was going to end up paying for the whole cartridge and wanted to make sure I got my money’s worth. I wasn’t about to waste a single drop.

The Chronicles of Back Surgery - Part VIII: The Road to Recovery

Right before lunchtime, the nurse finally came in with all of the discharge paperwork. She went over the forms and gave me instructions on how to change the bandages covering my incision. Dr. Brown then stopped by and said that he’d need me to make an appointment with his office before Christmas to check my progress and talk about starting physical therapy. He also told me that I was not to do any bending, stooping or lift anything over 10 lbs. for the next 30 days. I let him know that I had long since abandoned my dream of becoming the world’s first 300-pound ninja, and that I was confident I could carry out his safety instructions without a problem. I still couldn’t feel my legs and couldn’t walk; therefore I was issued a shiny new, metallic candy-apple-red walker. It must have been the Corvette of walkers because every 70 year-old in that hospital turned green with envy when the nurse had me take it out for a test drive in the hall.

With my shit packed up, my race-walker in tow and my ass firmly planted in a wheelchair, the nurse rolled me toward the lobby. Life as I knew it had changed during my short time in the hospital. I knew the road to recovery went through physical therapy, but never realized it would take me all the way to a mid-life crisis. I always envisioned my mid-life crisis taking place in Vegas surrounded by silicone-breasted, blond strippers and sports cars. Instead, I got a trip to the hospital, a vomit-covered retard and a walker… As I lay here in bed doing exercises to regain the feeling in my legs, I often wonder how things went so terribly wrong. I keep waiting for the neon light at the end of the tunnel.

Sometimes life is a cruel, cruel bitch…