Thursday, October 13, 2016
"My name is Mustafa. I've come to shave your legs."
"Legs? Why?", said Peter Underdog, now wearing an hospital gown that barely covered anything and lying on a stretcher in the receiving area of the surgical unit of Mass Production Hospital.
"So they can take a blood vessel for your bypass".
Peter Underdog, a part-time mathematician, even more part-time musician with Bruce and the Hi-Hats, and stealth space traveler, took his eyes off the pile of underwear, jeans, UMass t-shirt, and the Mass Aggies 1863 hat he had worn for his 5:30 am arrival at the surgical entrance at MPH.
"Dude, i'm not having a bypass. Valve replacement."
Mustafa muttered something under his breath and turned his attention to ridding our hero of what little chest hair remained after he had sizzled most of it off during a gamma ray storm on his last trip to Ganymede.
"I hope the surgeons know it's a valve not a bypass", he muttered back as Mustafa buzzed away.
After the buzzing, Mustafa spirited our hero down the hall, taking time to talk to every lady he encountered. "Baby, tell me something good" he would croon.
The next stop was a slot in what looked like a surgical assembly line, where patients were taken before they were led to slaughter, i mean surgery. "Good morning" said a happy voice. "I'm Genevieve, the head anesthesiologist. I'm going to give you something to send you to Lala Land." Is Lala Land open this early in the morning? our hero thought to himself. A few pokes and pricks later the meds were flowing and they proceeded across the hall, to the operating theater, which was lit up more like Planet Hollywood than any theater.
MPH was the site of the "Ether Dome", where more than 8,000 operations were performed between 1821 and 1868 using the newfangled technique of rendering patients insensate with ether before cutting, as opposed to inflicting horrific pain in hopes of curing. The Ether Dome is memorialized with a statue in the Public Garden.
Genevieve was joined by two assistants and other surgical staff -- a cast of thousands. By now, en route to Lala Land, all appeared to be dressed in flowing gowns of aquamarine, like angels of mercy, masked and ready to do battle with the diseased heart of the patient before them.
Through the hazy haze, a PA crackled and an announcement was made by a deep voice. "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the MPH operating theater, former home of the Ether Dome. Here's the starting lineup. Starting at perioperative nurse and batting first, Nurse Pedroia. Batting second, and on scrub, Nurse Bogaerts. Batting third and circulating, Nurse Ortiz. Batting fourth...the haze went from infrared to ultraviolet and the PA sound dwindled to a small voice and mostly crackle.
"And now, let's have a big hand for our 12-time all-star starting surgeon, Dr.....Arthur....McGill!!! (applause). A tall man, dressed like the others, but wearing a surgical light on his head and a plastic shield on his face, entered and the others cleared a path for him as he approached the operating table gushing with the confidence of a man who was thoroughly prepared for what he was about to do.
"Please rise for the national anthem" the PA crackled. A lo-fi military band played on. After home of the brave, the poem "High Flight" was read by the PA announcer, whose voice got higher and more stressed out as he read. His voice had turned into a cheap falsetto by the time he touched the face of God. Heavy eyes closed, followed by a black and white test pattern afterimage, followed by by static.
"Do you know what year it is?"
Nurse Betts strained to hear as he mumbled something about the Mass Aggies. Then he said "2013".
"Are you sure?"
"Do you know where you are?"
"Mass Professional Hospital"
He had survived surgery, passed his intellectual integrity test, and in spite of a sawed-open, now taped-up chest, felt alive.
The year, and location (approximately) had been established. The only remaining question was this:
"Who is Peter Underdog?"