“Thank you all from the pit of my burning nauseous stomach”
So said Kurt Cobain unto idiots in black hoodies and tatty Converse who probably dug Stone Temple Pilots hard.
There are few if any similarities between me and Kurt Cobain. Much as my mother may beg to differ, I was never The Voice of a GenerationTM. My wife can be pretty punchy but no Courtney is she. I reckon I made a couple of good records but none of ‘em were ‘In Utero’.
The one thing I had in common with the bloke, the thread between my childhood hero and I, is our horrific painful guts.
For as long as I can remember my stomach just doesn’t play fair. It’s always been a sucker punching, vicious, sadistic, bile-spitting, stone cold nasty bastard. On bad days, a mere sip of water could unleash such tidal waves of hissing pain that I would double over like a pensioner walking in a hurricane. On better days it was merely an irritant griping away to itself.
There was never any understandable reason for it. I stopped smoking, the Gut-Lord rained fire down. I laid off the booze; napalm belly. I put down the bread and the grains like someone in a half-remembered Bible tale; Satan himself toasted his pitchfork in my foul bowels.
I accepted that much as I am expected to cart around this weird red and round face, these guts were mine for keeps. I necked Rennies like I was trying to build a scale model of the Cliffs Of Dover in my stomach and did my best to ignore it.
Then I ate some fish.
That night I awoke with Davy Jones trying to escape his locker via my throat. A briny bile felt like it was streaming from my mouth, out through my eyes and nose. A horrendous paradoxical torrent of sea and flame had me hanging over the edge of the bed crying like a baby.
“It’s Davy Jones! He’s choking me!” I croaked to my dozing wife.
“The Monkee? What?” Replied my uncomprehending bride.
“The devil pirate!”
I swear this was my first explanation. The fictitious sailor’s own devil, the ghost of Jonah was trying to kill me as I slept. As I finally caught my breath, a less ridiculous mind prevailed. I would finally go and see the Doc.
The Doc looked at my tramp chic attire and asked if I was on drugs and/or an alky. Then, looking disapprovingly at my weird red and round face, if I ate a lot of fast-food. I informed him that no drugs, some booze and only the finest culinary masterpieces passed my lips, and the very occasional McChicken Sandwich.
He gave me a mail-order breath-test pack. In the box were two tubes I had to blow into having just drunk a glass of orange juice. I would post it off and the results would tell me whether or not I had a “Scorpion” living in my tummy.
“What do you mean ‘a scorpion’?” I asked.
He drew a crude image of a human with a scorpion lurking in the body. The scorpion filled the entire chest cavity. I rifled my brain for holidays to dangerous locations where this terrible parasite could have set up shop in me. I had never been to the Amazon, or any other alien infested jungle-style shithole. If I had been in ‘Predator‘ I would have been far more terrified of the spiders and the scorpions than the dreadlocked bug-faced loony with the laser.
No way I got a poisonous passenger in Dorset. Axminster is full of dead people and River Cottage tourists looking for Nettle Soup and home baked lentil bread.
“It’s a good illustration” Doc said.
I wasn’t convinced that imagery, poetic license and dumb sketches of abominable bugs had any place in sensible medical diagnostics. All this metaphor fun was explained by the Doc as representing an “amour-plated” virus which “cannot be destroyed” but can be controlled with some tablets taken daily.
I was fed up with the drawing which lay malignant and mean between us on his desk and freaked out by the way he was talking like a movie trailer voiceover. I did like the sound of these magic pills though. He wrote a prescription and handed me the breath tubes.
I did the test and sent it off. No scorpion. Sweet deal.
I took a magic pill every day and for the first time in twenty years, no gut hell. I ate a fish; no Davy Jones. I gulped a tall glass of orange juice; no rolling boil.
The pills were life changing. I’m not over stating “My Suffering”. In the long list of awful afflictions people have to put up with, mine was super-minor I know. It did suck though and the tablets kicked it to the kerb.
I ran out of tablets so went back for a re-up.
Different Doc said he didn’t want to re-prescribe without me having an endoscopy.
“I did the breath-test thing already though. There’s no scorpion!” I pleaded.
“Scorpion? You do not take illegal drugs no?” Doc Two said.
I didn’t bother to argue. He was determined I get a camera down my neck. By his stern look I assumed that he assumed they would see a big pile of smack and acid festering down there.
In conversation, my father-in-law seemed to think that down the throat was much better than up the arse. I didn’t really want to get into a discussion with my father-in-law about the relative merits of anything up any arse but I did ponder on it. I didn’t want to come out in strong support of things up my arse in front of my father-in-law especially as he was so anti things up the arse. In pondering I decided that arse was actually preferable to throat. People put stuff up their arse for fun, no one puts anything all the way down their throats for fun. Excepting sword swallowers, who are basically circus folk, so basically high-end jugglers, so basically idiots. Arse was not on the table though, it was all throat. I was to be medical Lovelace not medical Gyllenhaal from ‘Brokeback Mountain’. I wasn’t going to explain my thinking to my father-in-law. Some things are better left unsaid.
I waited for my turn on the choking camera game. Me and a bunch of old dudes. I was the coolest dude there. Rarely is this true in a room full of anyone. I was called into an office. The lady asked whether I wanted to be knocked out or just have a local anesthetic. I manned up and called local. She said the procedure wasn’t that bad. She’d had three herself. Three of this nonsense and I would definitely have begged for something up the arse, just for varieties sake. She said they would spray the back of my throat with a numbing spray that tasted of hot bananas and then get to it. I signed away my throat virginity and prepared to get done.
I fucking loathe bananas. There is little I don’t eat, but monkey meals are it. Grim yellow bastards. The nurse sprayed my throat with the hot banana tincture. Hot banana bile flavour roasting my adenoids. I nearly threw up and I was close to tears in seconds. Chimp treats are bad enough but this gaggy bile sauce made the flavour the most foul I have ever tasted. Then I’m lying on my side and it feels like there is a golf ball stuck in my neck. Then this sinister black hose is getting uncoiled and its in my mouth and the other nurse is telling me to relax and breathe. I would imagine every person at this point in the game is thinking:
“YOU TRY FUCKING BREATHING WITH A RUBBER ANACONDA DOWN YOUR THROAT!”
They start telling me to swallow but I can’t feel my throat so I’m just trying to remember how. With all that numbing, it’s like someone has snipped the wires of communication between your brain and your muscles. The numbing spray is River Phoenix and Robert Redford and my swallowing mechanics are bald Ben Kingsley and the whole scene is the awesome flick ‘Sneakers’ but with throats and guts and entirely unawesome.
I think I’m swallowing loads but actually I’m just drooling banana gob all over my face and over the pillow. I’ve never wanted something up my arse more.
So I’m lying there, dying. Then this prodding starts up at the lowest depths of my guts. It is followed by an instant bloat where I imagine my stomach as a gut-skin hot-air balloon straining against it’s tethers in some crappy Terry Gilliam flick. A blimp of veiny translucent gut flesh chafing against rough twine ropes. You know what I mean.
I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink for eight hours before this nonsense so they have to inflate my wizened stomach with a burst of air to get a good look at the scorpion or the drug stash.
The black hose’s terrible work is done. The nurse pulls out with all the grace and care of a client at the climax of a hooker visit. On the computer screen the thumbnail photos look like old glass slides of heinous disease cultures.
“Nothing there. All fine. Just take what you’ve been taking”
I stagger out into the bright white light of the waiting room. The waiting crowd all turn to look. My eyes are bright red and teary. There is yellow dribble down my jawline. They all start calling for the nurse.
“Knock me out!”
“Please knock me out”
I have to wait an hour for the numbing to wear off before I can drink anything. If you go too early, you can just pour whatever you are drinking directly into your lungs. I take a tiny sip of water, eyes shut, terrified I’m about to drown in a kitchen.
As the water slips down I look out the window into the garden and I’m sure I see the pond at my father in law’s house ripple. The wind isn’t blowing, there are no fish to disturb the surface…..it’s him!
“Davy Jones!” I shout.
“I love the Monkees!” Says my father in law.