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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yet Another Creative Writing Exercise

This time I had to write about a character experiencing terrible pain while trying to accomplish some sort of goal...

It took two years before his wife was finally diagnosed with a rare form of cancer of the small intestine. Colonoscopies, endoscopies, CAT scans, MRIs, this test and that test – at first, nothing could be found. It’s all in your head, the doctors said. Irritable bowel syndrome said others. Eat more fiber and drink plenty of water. But this was not a case of shaken nerves. There was something wrong with his wife, with her tissue, her digestive organs. And just because it couldn’t be visualized at first didn’t mean it wasn’t there.

And indeed it was there. One day, all of a sudden, it showed up on a CAT scan. How about that, the doctors said. She was treated aggressively, but this form of cancer had a very poor prognosis. It wasn’t long before both he and his wife realized she likely did not have much more time on this planet.

They were having dinner with friends – well, he was having dinner, his wife on the other hand could barely eat any more – when the name of Master Dogen came up. He was a Zen master in Mongolia who apparently specialized in successfully treating ailments that Western medicine could not. Master Dogen charged quite the premium, however, and he and his wife were in no financial position to pay such a premium.

They tried raising the money from friends but didn’t have much luck. He considered robbing a bank and even did some preliminary research, but decided there was a low chance of success. And then it came to him. He was always excellent at trivia, after all. His wife would have to hold out for a while, but if she could he was sure he could get the money.

One year later…

The lights in the studio sharpen. Then the music, that triumphant, powerful music. Cue intro…

"This is Jeopardy! Let’s meet today’s contestants: A software engineer from St. Louis, Missouri: Wes Pierce. An electrical engineer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – oh God! It was him – Lance Alcott. And our returning champion, an Episcopal priest from East Lansing, Michigan: Kitty Carlson, whose 80 day cash winnings total 83 million, 527 thousand, 675 dollars. And now, here is the host of Jeopardy, Alex Trebek!"

The crowd bursts into thunderous applause. Trebek, that god among game show hosts, suavely enters the studio. Trebek tries speaking but is drowned out by applause. Finally, the crowd calms down and Trebek begins…

"Thank you, Johnny Gilbert. Welcome aboard, folks."

And then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he feels a sharp pain in his toe. Very sharp. Surprisingly sharp. He looks down to find a small creature - it looks like a tiny humanoid pig, no larger than a large rat – inserting some sort of contraption into his toe. He is shocked and doesn’t know what to do, but the creature looks up with a face of pure evil and shushes him.

“Lance Alcott from Pittsburgh. Says here you are hoping to use your winnings for a trip to Mongolia.”

The pain in his toe is getting worse, and he is quite disturbed by the humanoid pig, but what is he going to do? Cry out that there is a humanoid pig digging into his foot? And what effect would this have on his chance to earn money so he and his wife can get to Mongolia? Mongolia is their only hope, after all.

The other two contestants look over at him. Trebek is getting antsy. He composes himself and finally answers:

“Yes, yes, that’s right, Alex. I would like to go on a trip to Mongolia with my wife.”

Trebek senses that this is one of the “special” contestants and quickly moves on to Kitty Carlson.

At this point the pain has become excruciating. He remembers having had an ingrown toenail once that had become severely infected. He was in the podiatrist’s office, waiting to be seen, when a young boy jumped on his foot. What seemed like a Coke bottle full of blood and puss squirted out from his toe. The pain now was at least 10 times worse.

He tries to calm down. The game is about to begin. He needs to concentrate, win big, and then worry about the demonic humanoid pig. He looks down at his foot again, just to make sure the creature is still there. It is.

The categories are announced. The game begins.

“I’ll take JFK Assassination for 100, Alex,” says Wes Pierce.

“This Senator from Pennsylvania introduced the single bullet theory, or “magic bullet theory” as it is sometimes known.”

He knows it! But just then he feels another sharp pain, this time from his kneecap. He looks down.

“Who is Arlen Specter?” says Kitty Carlson.

The creature has its monkey-like feet attached to his leg and is sticking the contraption into his knee. He breaks out in a cold sweat.

“That’s right,” says Trebek. “Continue.”

“Kennedy assassination for 200,” says Kitty Carlson.

“This man, riding in the car with President Kennedy, sustained critical wounds but survived.”

He knows! He rings the buzzer. Attention is on him.

“Who is,” and then he suddenly feels as if his knee has been dislocated and he freezes in pain and terror.

His time runs out. Kitty Carlson buzzes in.

“Who is Governor Connely?”

He feels as if he is going to faint. He is sweating buckets.

“Kennedy Assassination for 300,” Kitty Carlson says.

He somehow musters the strength to lift up his leg. He grabs the creature and tries to contain it in his hand while keeping the situation hidden behind his podium. The creature starts biting him, but it hurts less than the pain inflicted by the contraption.

“This is the hospital where Kennedy was pronounced dead.”

He is first to buzz. With the creature contained in his hand, he has the focus he needs.

“What is Parkland Memorial Hospital.”

“Well done,” says Trebek. “Your move.”

“I’ll take the Kennedy Assassination for 500,” he says.

The music explodes, the screen flashes. It’s the Daily Double! Trebek explains:

“Well, my friend, you have 300, but you can wager up to 5!’

He’s feeling bold, in control, the creature has tired out a bit and isn’t struggling as much.

“500, Alex!”

Just at that moment he feels the creature slide out of his hands. Oh god. Where is it?

“The commission created by the new president, Lyndon Johnson, to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy, was headed by this man.”

Where is it? Where is it?

“Lance, I need your response.”

Oh! The question! He knows.

“Who is Earl…”

And just then he feels a horrible pain in his penis and freezes. Time is up.

He looks down and sees the creature, which has unzipped his pants and is burrowed in his underwear, with half of his body sticking out from the unzipped crotch, its thin, pink legs and monkey feet dangling.

Trebek, in his most serious voice, says “I’m sorry, you were almost there, but we needed the last name. The answer of course, is…"

He feels as if he is going to throw up. Something, it must be the contraption, is making its way up his urethra. Things start spinning. There is a sudden pain, deep inside him, and then all goes black.

Days later, after he has been released from the hospital, he is at home with his wife. The doctors, of course, claimed he was under great emotional stress and simply had a nervous collapse. He pointed out the small cuts he had on his toe and his kneecap (his dick was free of any cuts, but then there wouldn’t need to have been one). The doctors said that just because he had small cuts did not mean there was a small humanoid pig inserting instruments into his body. But it didn’t matter what they thought. His wife believed him. She had been moved back to their house and was receiving hospice care. They spent her final days together.

A few days after his wife died, he received a letter from Kitty Carlson, the Episcopal priest from East Lansing, Michigan. She had received her Jeopardy winnings and wanted to write a check for whatever amount he needed so he could go to Mongolia with his wife. He wrote back and thanked her but said it was too late, his wife was gone. On the walk back from the post office he wondered what he must have done in a previous life to deserve all this.