I’m not a jealous guy, but it’s not easy being married to a fine looking woman like the lovely Mrs. Milo. In the back of my mind, there’s always the nagging thought that other men are leering at her, giving my wife the old up-and-down, admiring her rack, checking out her butt.
I’ve been tense and on edge ever since I met my wife, more than 30 years ago. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since we began seeing each other. I’m plagued by nightmares. I have horrible dreams about hordes of drooling, slobbering, lust-crazed lechers, all of them scheming and plotting, hoping to get a shot at my wife.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not a jealous guy, but I’m no dumbass either. If I find my wife attractive, then I’m sure a lot of other guys feel the same way – and the rotten bastards are everywhere.
Wherever we go – supermarkets, department stores, theaters, restaurants, or just walking down the street – I notice men giving my wife the eye. Some guys are discreet, but others are blatant in their piggishness, eyes bulging, jaws dropping, panting like dogs. And it drives me fucking crazy.
When I mentioned my concerns to Dr. Gretchen, the psychiatrist I’ve been seeing once a week for the past few years, she said, “Your jealousy is fueled by guilt.”
“Your obvious inadequacies as a husband are causing you to fixate on other men who you perceive to be better husband material.”
“What the fuck….”
“You’re afraid that if your wife finds a man who doesn’t drink, smoke, abuse drugs, gamble, lie and cheat, and happens to be a good provider, she’ll dump you without thinking twice about it. And, honestly, I wouldn’t blame her a bit.”
“That’s a helluva thing to say to a guy.”
“Hey, I’m not your friend, I’m your shrink.”
As I was leaving her office, Dr. Gretchen gave me a prescription for some new medications. “Maybe these will help,” she said.
The new meds did make me feel better, especially when taken with bourbon and a little bit of weed, but they didn’t ease my mind. If anything, the meds sharpened my perception, focused my thinking. I was more alert than I had ever been, watching for any sign of trouble.
I began to notice a lot of suspicious activity on my street – cars slowing down as they passed my house, guys walking their dogs and lingering a bit too long by the tree in my front yard, more guys than usual hanging out at the corner tavern, an overabundance of meter readers in the neighborhood.
Then, a few days ago, I spotted my wife chatting with one of the neighbors, a guy named Leonard.
“What were you and Leonard talking about?” I asked when she got home.
“Did he, by any chance, get fresh with you?”
My wife gave me an odd look and said, “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Milo, Leonard’s 90 years old.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t trust the old goat.”
This past Saturday, as I was on my front porch, enjoying a cigarette with my morning whiskey, I saw the mailman approaching.
“What the fuck do you want?” I asked when he rang the doorbell.
“I’ve got a package for your wife.”
“You’ve got what?”
“A package for your wife,” he said, with a knowing look in his eye. “Special delivery.”
“You rotten motherfucker!” I shouted, then grabbed the machete I keep by the front door and went after the bastard. I chased him for half a block, but he’s a lot younger than I am and outran me.
When I realized I wouldn’t be able to catch the fucker, I went home, poured another drink, and waited for the police to show up. I figured they’d be arriving soon.
But I wasn’t too worried about the cops, because I was pretty sure when I explained everything to them, they would understand.
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I was awakened from a sound sleep, about three in the afternoon, by a phone call from Frankie “the Suit.”, the Chief Financial Officer of this scabby, talentless blogging outfit. Frankie sounded uncharacteristically agitated.
“Milo, we’ve got a problem.”
“This time it’s serious. The Third City is broke.”
“Jesus! How can that be? When you hired me you said we had hundreds of thousands of readers.”
“Well, heh, heh, I may have exaggerated a bit.”
“How many readers do we actually have?”
“31 readers! You’re shitting me!”
“Well, I’m still waiting for the numbers to come in from New Zealand. But, never mind that. The point is that we’re in a jam and the only way out is by advertising. We’ve got to sell ads on our site.”
“What kind of idiot would even consider advertising with us?”
“I’ve given it a lot of thought. See, advertising is a lot like writing. You write about things you know. In advertising, you sell ads to people you know, people you do business with on a regular basis, people whose products and services you buy.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
“Right now, Benny Jay is out on the street selling ads to all the fried chicken joints and Chinese restaurants in town.”
“Benny does like his chicken.”
“So, all you have to do is visit your favorite business establishments and sell them ads. Trust me, it’ll be a piece of cake.”
“Okay, I’ll give it a shot.”
I had spent quite a few years in the ad game, and I had hoped never to go back to it. I worked as a copywriter and creative director for several small and midsized agencies. I was a professional bullshitter, the person who comes up with catchy headlines and informative copy that are supposed to convince you that the products or services I’m writing about are things you can’t live without. I was, in essence, a salesman with a keyboard.
I’ve met a lot of interesting people in the advertising world. The industry is filled with talented, driven, ambitious people who could succeed in almost any other fields they set their minds to.
On the other hand, I’ve also met a lot of raging assholes, unscrupulous people who were either borderline psychotics or shameless thieves. Sadly, the ad game seems to attract nutcases. It is an industry driven by creativity, the almighty dollar and merciless deadlines, a combination that’s guaranteed to bring out the absolute worst in people.
Still, as much as I hated getting involved in advertising again, I owed it to Frankie and Benny Jay to help keep The Third City going. Besides, Frankie was probably right. If I stuck to soliciting business from people and companies I knew, I figured I could sell a few ads and keep this fine blog site afloat.
A phone call from Frankie woke me up the next afternoon.
“Well, how’d you do?”
“Selling ads, asshole.”
“Oh, I did real good. Sold three ads.”
“That’s great, man! I knew you could do it. Who’d you sell ad space to?”
”I sold one to Nickel Bag Bernie…”
“The pot dealer?
“Yeah, he wants to expand his business.”
“Ah, okay. How much did you get?”
“Jesus, that’s great. We can use that 50 bucks.”
“There’s one little hitch, though. Bernie got in a new shipment of fine weed from Hawaii.”
“I bought a quarter ounce for a hundred bucks.”
“Are you saying that you sold an ad and lost 50 bucks on the deal?”
“Great fucking job.”
“Thanks. After I left Nickel Bag Bernie’s I stopped by Madame LaFarge’s Whorehouse and sold her an ad for 100 bucks.”
“That’s more like it.”
“Except, there was another little hitch.”
“You see, Madame LaFarge hired a new girl, a cute little thing from Sri Lanka. She’s double jointed and does this weird thing with her hips that…”
“How fucking much?”
“250 bucks, plus a tip.”
“Let me get this straight. You sold Madame LaFarge an ad and only lost 150 bucks on the deal?”
“Plus the tip. Then I stopped at Swillagain’s and sold an ad for 25 bucks.”
“Don’t tell me.”
“Well, I had few drinks, then bought the boys a round…”
“I get the picture.”
“By the way, how did Benny Jay do selling ads to fried chicken joints and Chinese restaurants?”
“I don’t know. He’s in the hospital getting his stomach pumped.”
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This is a short chapter of an unpublished novel, tentatively titled Gonorrhea Gardens.
The great mystery on the island was its precise location. It was a question that plagued most of the sane men, and some of the crazies, too. It didn’t seem to matter as much to the blind. Their world had been reduced to a dark, mobile circle, extending an arm’s length in every direction.
The islanders had a deep-seated desire to place themselves in the world. They wanted to know where they were. Marlowe was the exception. He believed that knowledge of the island’s location might be dangerous information. If the men needed to know where they were, they would have been told.
It seemed everyone on the island had an opinion as to its location. Some opinions were well thought-out, based on observation of the climate, weather patterns and the constellations. A few opinions were based on wishful thinking. Others were products of ignorance. And several of the opinions were simply the ravings of madmen.
Abe Gilbert, for example, knew for a fact that the island was located in the middle of Lake Erie, not far from his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Before he understood how badly and how quickly Abe’s mind had deteriorated, Marlowe had tried to talk sense to him.
“Look, man, Lake Erie is in the Midwest, right? That means it’s in the temperate zone, like Chicago and Pittsburgh. You agree?”
Abe nodded his head.
“If it’s in the temperate zone that means there’s got to be four seasons. So, if there’s four seasons, how come we never have winter? How come it never snows?”
Abe stared at Marlowe blankly.
“If we were in the middle of Lake Erie, we’d know it,” Marlowe continued, “We’d see boats, people sailing and fishing. There’d be commercial traffic, too, like freighters and ore boats and trawlers.”
Abe nodded his head again. “Come on, I want to show you something.”
Marlowe humored Abe and followed him to the beach, where they stood at the shoreline, staring out at the great, empty expanse of water.
“How do you explain that?” Abe asked, pointing to the horizon.
“The smoke stacks. That’s Cleveland, man.”
Shaking his head, Marlowe said, “Yeah, Abe, I see the smoke stacks.”
Preacher Cunningham’s opinion on the island’s location, as he told his seven-man congregation, was divinely inspired. It seemed that Jesus had come to him one night and personally explained the islanders’ predicament. Every man on the island had transgressed, broken God’s own Commandments on lust, adultery and fornication, and as a result had been sent directly to Hell. They were paying the ultimate price for their sins, and would continue to suffer through all eternity.
The main problem in pinpointing the island’s location was the relative ignorance of the island’s population. Most of the living islanders were from the Vietnam War era. All of the WW2 vets had died off years earlier and the few Korean War vets still clinging to life were on their last legs, blind, crazed, rotting from within. The Vietnam era islanders were still young men. They were in their late teens or very early 20s when they arrived.
These young men were not stupid, they were simply inexperienced. Their knowledge of the world was restricted to their hometowns, neighboring towns, and parts of South Vietnam. Trying to figure out where a speck of land was located on the great expanse of the earth’s seas was beyond their abilities.
Marlowe, Kline and Vukovic were playing cards in Druliner’s hootch and sipping on Druliner’s dwindling supply of coconut brew, when the subject of the island’s location came up.
“I think I can figure out where we are,” Kline said, offhandedly.
The statement stopped the card game in mid-hand.
“You want to repeat that,” Marlowe said. If anyone else had made that statement Marlowe would have just laughed it off. There were so many wild theories floating around that he paid little attention to any of them. But in Marlowe’s mind Kline had some credibility on the subject. He was a bit older than the others and had gone to college for two years.
Kline put his cards down. “I said, I know a way to figure out where we are. It’s so simple I should have thought of it a long time ago.”
“Bullshit,” Druliner said, grumpily. “You’re getting as crazy as everybody else around here.”
“Let him talk,“ Vukovic said.
“Yeah, go ahead, “Marlowe agreed, wondering what crazy theory Kline had concocted.
“We couldn’t exist here without the cooperation of a friendly government. And it has to be a country that’s real tight with the USA.”
“That’s not exactly the latest news,” Druliner said.
“If we’re in the South Pacific, then there can only be a few other countries involved.”
“You’re just assuming we’re in the South Pacific,” Vukovic said. “We could be in the South Atlantic for all you know.”
“Same principle applies. There’s got to be a limit to how many countries would be involved in something like this. I mean, there’s Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines…”
“What about Taiwan?” Marlowe interrupted. “Or Japan or South Korea or Singapore? We’re talking about a lot of territory here.”
“That’s if we’re not in the South Atlantic,” Vukovic repeated.
“Even if we’re in the South Atlantic, there still has to be another party involved, maybe a friendly Arab country or South Africa.”
“Well, that’s real high quality thinking, Einstein,” Druliner said. “You’ve just narrowed it down to half the countries in the world.”
“I can do better than that. I think we can eliminate Australia and New Zealand.”
“But what if we’re in the South Atlantic?” Vukovic said. He hated to see his pet theory dispelled.
“Then we can eliminate South Africa and the Arab countries, too.”
“Why?” Marlowe asked. He was becoming intrigued. “Why are you eliminating those countries?”
“Because the people are too big.”
There was a moment of silence, then, Druliner threw his cards on the table in disgust. “Jesus Christ! You’re not making any sense. What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
Kline ignored Druliner’s outburst. “Just listen for a minute. What’s the one thing we’ve noticed about the supply helicopters?”
“The only thing I’ve noticed is that they’re arriving later and later,” Marlowe said.
“I’m talking about the helicopter crews. Think about it.”
“What’s there to notice?” Marlowe asked. “The crews are completely covered up with, like, radiation suits or something and they wear masks. There’s nothing to notice.”
“I notice that the bastards keep that big M-60 pointed at us,” Druliner said.
“And they make us stand at least 50 yards away from the landing zone,” Vukovic added. “How can you notice anything?”
“You guys are fucking dense,” Kline said, amiably. “Dumber than shit.”
Marlowe tried to picture what happened when the supply helicopter arrived. It was always a large cargo chopper, manned by a crew of eight or nine. He replayed the unloading sequence in his mind. The islanders were supposed to stay at least 50 yards from the Huey. A door gunner, manning a belt-fed M-60 machine gun, made sure that none of the islanders breached that imaginary line.
The helicopter was on the ground less than 10 minutes. In that short period, dozens of pallets were unloaded, food, first aid supplies, clothing, everything the islanders needed to survive until the next delivery.
The helicopter crew, protected by coveralls, gloves and masks, scrambled over the pallets, attaching and disengaging cables, rolling the huge, clumsy crates out of the cargo bay. They worked as quickly as they could. The small men were as active as schoolboys on a playground Jungle Jim, almost frenzied in their haste to unload and take off. The small men were everywhere…small men….
“They’re little guys,” Marlowe blurted out. “They’re all little guys.”
Kline smiled broadly. “You got it, buddy boy.”
“So fucking what?” Druliner said, dismissively. “Little guys, big guys, what’s the difference?”
“They’re Asians, man,” Marlowe answered. “They can’t be anything else but Asians.”
“Big deal,” Druliner said. “That still covers a lot of ground. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, it’s all Asia. You’ve just narrowed our location down to about half the world.”
“I can narrow it down even more.”
“How are you going to do that?” Marlowe asked.
“You’ll have to wait and see.”
“Come on, man, what have you got in mind?”
“I’ll know more when the next supply chopper comes in.”
“That’s the best you can do, leave us hanging like that?”
“That’s it. You’ll just have to sit tight and wait.”
“I bet they’ve got Asians in the South Atlantic, too,” Vukovic said.
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Several weeks ago, some feral cats moved into the neighborhood and started hanging out by the dumpster in the alley behind the bar and grill on the corner of Rockwell and Eastwood. They were a rough-looking crew, really shady tomcats, tattered and scarred, with broken teeth and chewed-up ears. As soon as I spotted them, I knew they were nothing but trouble.
I mentioned my concern to the lovely Mrs. Milo. “Sweetie, have you, by any chance, seen those thuggish-looking cats hanging around on the corner?”
“There’s a gang of them and they’re real brutes. I can tell they’re up to no good. I’m going to keep a close eye on them.”
“Milo, have you been drinking already?”
“I may have had a smidgen of red wine with my breakfast burrito.”
As usual, my intuition proved to be correct. Shortly after the feral cats appeared, there was a sharp rise in criminal activity in the neighborhood. Most of the crimes were small-time, petty theft, vandalism, weird cat graffiti, but I was sure things would get worse.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Otis, the rotten bastard of an alley cat, who’s made my life a living hell ever since weaseling his way into my home, more than 14 years ago, was hanging out with the feral cats.
I wasn’t surprised to see Otis consorting with cats of questionable character. He is, after all, a low-life character himself. His greatest pleasures in life are killing helpless little creatures and getting high on catnip. If it wasn’t for the fact that my wife and daughters are inexplicably fond of him, I would’ve gotten rid of the mangy fucker a long time ago.
That said, I didn’t like the idea of Otis spending time with a gang of criminally inclined cats. Nothing good could come of it. Otis is weak-minded and easily led. He was sure to get in trouble, the sort of trouble that brings cops to the door. And I’m allergic to cops coming to my door.
I decided to explain a few things to Otis, the same sort of things that were explained to me, many years ago, when I was young and reckless, running with the wrong crowd, and getting into trouble.
“Hey, dumbass!” I said to the cat. “You’re going to get in serious trouble if you keep hanging out with those losers down by the dumpster. You’ll probably end up in jail and, trust me, jail is no place for a tomcat. You’ve got a sweet deal here, two square meals a day, both dry food and canned, and a warm place to sleep. Don’t be an idiot and fuck up a good thing just for some cheap thrills. Wise up before it’s too late.”
Otis didn’t pay attention to a word I said. He continued associating with his nefarious feline friends. He’d leave the house early and come home very late. I had no idea what sort of mischief he and the feral cats were up to, but I expected the worst.
Then, yesterday morning, I got a pretty good idea of what Otis and his pals had been doing. I found Otis passed out on the kitchen floor, next to a bag that contained at least a pound and a half of catnip.
I was trying to figure out how the fucker could have gotten his paws on such a large stash of catnip, when I was interrupted by a loud knock on the door. It was the cops.
“Yes, officers, what can I do for you?”
“Late last night, a gang of cats broke into the Pet Palace in Lincoln Square and burglarized the place. We’ve rounded up most of the suspects, but one of your neighbors informed us that you have a cat that’s part of this gang.”
Here was my chance, the opportunity I had been waiting for to finally get rid of Otis. All I had to do was lead the cops into the kitchen, point out the stolen catnip, and watch as they slapped the cuffs on the cat and hauled his ass away. With luck, I’d never see Otis again.
But then I thought about my wife and daughters. They love the cat. There would be Hell to pay if they found out I turned Otis over to the police. They’d probably never speak to me again. I’d be sleeping on the couch for years. In the end, I didn’t have the guts to rat the cat out.
So I lied. “I doubt the cat is acquainted with those ruffians. He’s a nerdy cat, rarely leaves the house. He was home with me last night. We were watching the Housewives of Altoona on the Bravo network. He loves that show.”
When the cops left, I went back into the kitchen and saw that Otis was still passed out. I nudged him with my foot until he woke up.
“Hey, dumbass,” I said. “You got real lucky this time. But if you ever pull any shit like this again, I’ll personally take you down to 26th and California and turn your ass in.”
Otis stared at me for a moment, yawned, licked his nuts, and went back to sleep.
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I was once the proud owner of a chainsaw, until some rotten bastard broke into my garage and stole it.
I was heartbroken. That chainsaw was important to me. It was more than just a power tool — it was a symbol of masculinity, a totem to testosterone. When I cranked up my chainsaw and heard it roar, it sent a charge rocketing through my body that went directly to my groin.
Over the decades and centuries, symbols and rituals of manhood have gradually been erased from society. Trophy scalps are frowned upon. High noon shootouts are illegal in many municipalities. Dueling scars are relics of a more genteel era. Detroit hasn’t made a decent piece of rolling iron since the GTO. Tattoos, once the province of sailors, circus freaks and South Sea islanders, are now as common as dental braces at Wilmette High School.
In my opinion, the last remaining symbols of masculinity are power tools. And the unrivaled king of power tools is the almighty chainsaw.
When the thief made off with my chainsaw, he also stole a piece of my soul. I felt empty inside, as if some vital, manly essence had been drained from my body.
After months of moping around, drinking too much, and feeling sorry for myself, the realization dawned on me that I was entirely to blame for my predicament. If I hadn’t bought the chainsaw in the first place, nobody would have been tempted someone to steal it.
I vowed, then and there, never to buy another chainsaw. I was done with power tools. I simply couldn’t stand the pain of losing them.
A few years passed and I found that I was perfectly happy not owning a chainsaw or a workshop full of power tools. Let the other handy men of the world cut down trees, make bookcases, fix leaky faucets, and rout out sewer lines. I’ve got better things to do.
Then, about two weeks ago, as I was out on the back porch, enjoying a cigarette with my morning whiskey, I noticed a large cardboard box in the yard.
When I asked the lovely Mrs. Milo about the box, she said, “It’s a snow blower.”
“Ah, shit. You shouldn’t have wasted the money.”
“Well, you’re getting older and shouldn’t be shoveling snow. All of your bad habits make you an excellent candidate for a heart attack. I don’t care for you that much anymore, but the children are still fond of you. They’d like to have you around for a few more years.”
“I still wish you hadn’t bought the damned thing.”
“I’ve got my reasons.”
There were actually two reasons why I didn’t want the snow blower. For one thing, I knew that as soon as I started using the snow blower, I’d like it. It would become important to me. I’d grow attached to it, just like I did with my chainsaw.
Secondly, there was no doubt in my mind that eventually some rotten fucker would break into my garage and steal the damned thing. And I didn’t want to go through the heartbreak and misery again of losing something that was important to me.
I slept poorly for the first few days after I got the snow blower. I woke up three or four times a night and went out to the garage, just to make sure the door was locked. I’d check out the alley to see if there were any suspicious characters lurking around. I started carrying a flashlight, pepper spray, and machete, just in case.
Then, I had a great idea. I decided to sleep in the garage. That way, I’d be prepared for any eventuality. If someone tried to break in, they’d find a nasty surprise waiting for them.
After spending a few nights in the garage, I was confronted by my daughters.
“Dad, you’re acting weird. Mom is making an appointment with a psychiatrist.”
“Why would she do something like that?”
“You’re carrying weapons and sleeping in a garage.”
“Mom says normal people don’t arm themselves and sleep in garages.”
“Yeah, well, that’s her opinion.”
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The other day, the lovely Mrs. Milo and I had one of our rare civil conversations. During this friendly little chat, my wife happened to mention the name of one of her girlfriends, a woman I’ve known for many years.
The woman, who shall remain nameless, is a devoted wife, loving mother, and successful businesswoman. She is a pillar of the community. Her reputation is impeccable.
And yet, when my wife mentioned her name, I made a crude, totally inappropriate comment about her.
My wife shook her head in disgust. “Do you always have to be such a wiseass?”
“You knew I was a wiseass when you married me.”
“I thought it was just a phase you were going through. I was hoping you’d grow out of it.”
“Well, I didn’t.”
Being a wiseass is a mixed blessing. The joys are many, but the downsides can get ugly. I should know. I’ve been a wiseass all my life.
Sure, there’s nothing better than disrupting a classroom of high school students with a well-timed vulgar remark, but it’s hardly worth spending a week in detention hall.
Farting in church is always a crowd-pleaser, if you’re willing to risk burning in hell for eternity.
Introducing yourself as the guy who used to frolic with the bride, at her wedding reception, is usually good for a laugh, but you can kiss your friendship with the newlyweds goodbye.
Like most wiseasses, I discovered the pleasures of irreverence at an early age. By the time I reached adulthood, I had mastered the arts of the snide remark, smart aleck retort, nasty innuendo, and swinish comment.
Sadly, not everyone appreciates a wiseass. I have learned, through bitter experience, that there are some people who have no room in the lives for sarcasm, ridicule, derision or contempt. They have zero tolerance for wiseasses. That’s why I avoid drill sergeants, cops and judges like the plague.
There are two industries, however, where a wiseass is welcomed with open arms, where his unique skills are needed, valued and well-compensated. After all, when you need to sell a product or an idea that nobody needs, at a price nobody wants to pay, who better to do the job than a wiseass — a cynical, calculating, flippant bastard who’ll say anything to make an impression or achieve his goals.
The two industries are, of course, advertising and politics.
I’m glad I chose the ad business. I’m pretty sure I would have been a rotten politician.
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I had heart surgery about four years ago, at Hines V.A. Hospital. A team of surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, carpenters, pipefitters, sleight-of-hand artists and candy stripers cracked me open like a lobster. They took out my heart, replaced a faulty valve and fixed an aneurism, all while keeping me alive by means of a mechanical heart that had been rented that morning from the local Ace Hardware.
About an hour before the surgery, I was pacing around my room, trying to figure out a way to sneak out for a smoke, when I glanced out of the window and saw my doctor pull into the parking lot. As I watched him get out of his car, a late model Trans Am, I saw him toss away a beer can, then stop to smoke a joint with the parking lot guys.
A few minutes later he was in my room. “How’s it going, dude?” he asked.
“Pretty good. How about you?”
“Me? I feel fine. Matter of fact, I feel extra fine. Let’s get this thing started. I’m kind of in a hurry. I’ve got a horse running in the 8th race at Arlington and don’t want to miss it.”
“Sure, no problem.”
The next 20 minutes passed in a flurry of activity. They gave me drugs to relax me. They stuck catheters and IVs in every available vein and artery. A sweet young thing shaved my chest. The last thing I remember before fading into unconsciousness was the good doctor gleefully clapping his hands and saying, “It’s showtime!”
I woke up about eight hours later, surrounded by family and loved ones — at least that’s what they told me. I could have been surrounded by zombies, man-eating snakes and the spawn of Satan and wouldn’t have known the difference.
I was too far gone, way deep into the mystic, hiding in the place where the badly wounded go to either recover or die.
It was another 24 hours before I came to realize where I was — the Intensive Care Unit — and what had happened to me. Once I came to my senses, I knew I was in for a waiting game. Yes, it would be an ordeal. There would be pain and discomfort. Then would be small steps forward and small steps back. But, unless something went terribly wrong, I would improve every day. And in seven days, if my doctors weren’t bullshitting me, I would go home, hopefully well on the way to recovery.
I figured I could stand anything for seven days. I was tough. I could handle the Spanish Inquisition for seven days. Besides, the V.A. hospital system was very generous with drugs, especially opiates. Not only would I be pretty much free of pain, I would also be pretty much free of my wits, good sense and sobriety, which suited me just fine.
In the meantime, I had plenty of visitors, friends and family. The lovely Mrs. Milo came by every day, spending hours at my bedside. My children visited regularly. My mother and sister stopped by every other day. Even my good friend, Bruce Diksas, dropped in to check on me. I suspect he was worried about the 20 dollars I owed him and wanted to make sure I didn’t do something underhanded, like die, to avoid paying him back.
The doctors were right on the money. There were no complications. The recovery went according to plan.
On the seventh day (hmmm, catchy phrase) I went home.
One of my favorite visitors at the hospital was Rabbi Norm Lewison, a chaplain at the Hines V.A. Hospital. He stopped by every day and spent a few minutes chatting with me. The normal practice for someone with a Serbian background would have been to have a Eastern Orthodox priest come to visit. But there were no Orthodox priests at the facility, so, for some reason, they decided to send a rabbi.
Rabbi Lewison was a sweet man, friendly, open and full of good cheer. I looked forward to his visits. We had some nice conversations and every time he left he said he would pray for my full recovery. Let’s face it, if you’re in a tough spot it doesn’t hurt to have the God of Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Bob Dylan and Sammy Davis, Junior on your side.