Thomas Wictor

Excised Snippet Number One

Excised Snippet Number One

After years and years of attending seminars, taking classes, and trying over and over to write fiction, I finally had the novel that became Chasing the Last Whale professionally edited. Though very expensive, it was more valuable than everything that came before it.

Editor Jason S. Sitzes went over the book line by line and told me what was wrong. He also taught me several tricks of the trade that I’ve used in everything I’ve written since. I apply them to these posts. He freed the writer within.

And yet…

There were several scenes in Invisible Idiot that I liked and still like, despite the fact that Jason convinced me to remove them. I’ve decided to publish them here, on an irregular basis. Each will be called an “Excised Snippet.”

High Blood Pressure

“You’re too young to have high blood pressure,” Dr. Larkin mumbled around his fist. It made me ashamed. There’s no mystery why people lie to their doctors: It’s because we can’t take their disappointment. Nobody can be disappointed in you like a doctor. You expect them to be objective or even supportive, but they never are. The thing is, between the sphygmomanometer and the waiting room, of course I was going to have high blood pressure. Larkin’s waiting room is always a zoo, but today was unbelievable.

There was the four-year-old frenetically dismantling everything while her teenaged parents just slumped. There was the phlegmy bundle choking nonstop because its mother had it lying on its back across her thighs. There was the truck driver sneezing as loudly as he could, lifting his knees to his ears and howling, “A rat SHOE! A rat SHOE!” without covering his mouth. There was the volcano-shaped woman spilling out of her chair next to me, her hot waist slapping against my arm as she smothered her hacking screams with a handkerchief. There were the two elderly couples comparing their disgusting operations—every incision, excision, suture, discharge, and seepage. They’d all had drains in them.

And the entire time I sat there, an old man across the room went, “Baw-baw-baw-bawwwwww. Baw-baw-baw-bawwwwww. Baw-baw-baw-bawwwwww.” He sounded like a gasoline-powered leaf blower.

With each cough or laugh or whatever it was—each sound—more and more limp, white noodles appeared on his lower lip, hanging down onto his chin. At least I think they were noodles, though they could’ve been worms of some kind, I suppose. They weren’t writhing or anything, just hanging from his lip. He was bent over with his chest almost on his thighs, but his head was up, and his ankles were crossed. If he was in pain, he was pretty relaxed about it.

His sour, middle-aged daughter or nurse wouldn’t wipe his mouth for him. She just shuddered with every baw, ground her teeth, and shot him poisonous glances while he stared at me without blinking, his tiny eyes cushioned with huge, plum-colored bags.

So I don’t necessarily agree with Dr. Larkin that my blood pressure is high. It’s a recognized fact that your blood pressure goes up in any doctor’s waiting room, and Larkin’s is enough to make your head launch right off your neck. I’ll bet my pressure is normal when I’m at home, but the only way to find out would be to buy my own sphygmomanometer and strap it on, and that would make my pressure go up again. Nobody will ever know my true blood pressure unless they sneak up on me and take it in my sleep.

Expecting Larkin to find another deformity also contributes to my high blood pressure. He’s frantic that I submit to every kind of scan so we can discover all my other birth defects. I don’t want to know about any more of them. There was a recent article about a group of children born with hydrocephaly, which used to be one of the worst fates imaginable. If you survived, a massive head and catastrophic retardation were guaranteed.

In these kids’ case, the doctors installed shunts in their skulls to get rid of the excess cerebrospinal fluid, and it worked. The kids grew up and seemed to be completely normal. Most were of above-average intelligence, but tests showed that in every single one, 90 percent of the brain was gone. They simply didn’t have any brains. Their heads were full of cerebrospinal fluid and nothing else. I wouldn’t be able to go on with my day-to-day life knowing something that horrible about myself.

Television documentaries about the human body are the worst, especially when they feed a fiber-optic camera down someone’s throat, and you see a shiny, pink tunnel that ends in a wet, yellow-gray grotto with a hole in the floor that goes off to somewhere even worse. In one show they’d rigged up a tiny camera inside a woman’s vagina and filmed her having sex with her husband. There was no sense of scale; it was like the inside of a reddish airplane hanger, with the nose of a pink jumbo jet rushing in and backing out at a fantastic speed.

Then the nose of the jumbo jet released thousands of gallons of suds that formed a lake. The narrator explained that we were about to see something for the very first time: the contractions of a woman’s cervix. As she orgasmed, it dipped down into the lake of suds, like a puckered mouth sucking up water. This was how conception occurred. It was one of the most repulsive things I’ve witnessed.

I do have, as a matter of fact, another deformity that Dr. Larkin has not yet detected. And I’m never, ever going to tell him about it.

My urethra is extremely narrow. I learned this when I developed prostatitis at the age of twenty, on a college exchange program in Spain. The Spanish doctor called it prrrrrohstahteetees. He checked my prostate using a method unknown to me at the time—the digital rectal exam—and he did it with the vigor of a matador, raising me to the tips of my toes. Then he diagnosed my urethral imperfection by inserting a glass rod into my penis and pushing it all the way in to feel for obstructions.

There were none, but he said my tract was very constricted. I’d suffer from infections the rest of my life, more so as I aged. Twenty was very young for prostatitis; I could look forward to frequent bouts with it. He gave me pills and said that if the trouble didn’t clear up in two weeks, he’d have to give me something called a “prostatic massage.”

“What’s that?” I asked numbly.

He held up his index finger and wiggled it. “Teedle-teedle-teedle-teedle. Like that.”

The prostatitis cleared up. Even if it hadn’t, I would’ve sworn on a stack of Bibles that it was gone.

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