The Abbot of the Week peers out gloomily. Centuries away from the end of human belief in gods and devils, a tiny human remnant strung out in chains of carefully salvaged and lovingly maintained technology, a greenly self renewing planet, and what do we get? Fish falling from the sky every Friday. Believers would know what to do with this, but we are researchers, scientists, we don’t theorize ahead of the data. After a resigned sigh, he picks up his pail and notepad, recites his ichthyology mnemonics, and heads out to the field with the rest.
by Zhoen of One Word
“Nice lady, but she was not easy. No neck at all.” He tapes the tube securely to her mouth, squeezes the black bag to inflate her lungs, closes her eyes with clear tape.
“Not so easy to find her cricoid either.” The nurse exposes the round belly, and screws up her face. “Belly button clamp, please m’dear.” She reaches out, palm wide open. “Probably for the prep too, but I need to get the top layers.”
A man at the opposite end of the room, working at a covered table of instruments, dark green gown, gloved, masked, blue paper hat, brings to her outstretched hand a 6″ long instrument from his set. “You heard Grace wanted me to translate. I tell her, no, I speak Kurdish, Arabic, some French, but no Bulgarian. She says, ‘They are the same aren’t they?'”
“She didn’t.” The surgeon says, then sees the look from Kamil. “Oh, wait, you said Grace.” He chuckles. He is standing, sterile gloves on, by the prep solutions on a small sterile table.
“This is going to be a doozie, Dr. F.” She pulls lint from the umbilicus. “It’s not just a little bit. She’s got her full 68 years worth in here.”
“Oh, don’t tell me that.”
“Well, the top is black. And, oh, there is more, and more… and more yet.”
She continues cleaning out the incision site. There is quiet in the room, some shuffling around, as she pulls out more organic material. “Aha!”
“What? A Volkswagon?”
“Nearly. An umbilicolith.”
Soft laughter. “Good one. Now, I’m afraid of how many gall stones I’m going to find when we get in there, and you already found one in her belly button.”
“Can I get paid for an umbilicolithectomy?” asks the nurse.
“Not unless you are a Nurse Practitioner, sorry,” says Fishman.
“Can’t you make the incision somewhere else? Isn’t that going to get infected?” asks the scrub tech.
“We can, and with her now, I’ll certainly go above a bit. But especially with her, I gotta know where the anatomy is. That is our safe landmark.”
“And so grandma’s advice to wear clean underwear in case you get into an accident is useless. The ER will cut that off and not notice. What you really got to do is keep your belly button clean, in case they need to do a lap appy, or gall bladder,”the nurse says, crinkling up her nose. “I’m down to the earliest archaeology, and it’s starting to smell.”
“Stop, you’re making us all sick,” says the surgeon.
“Hey, I have an immaculate umbilicus. I’m just telling you what I’m finding in this poor woman.”
“Here, let me do the rest with the prep. Maybe give her some antibiotics. We can’t take an hour just cleaning that out.” He takes over, pouring the pink soap across her abdomen. “I think I am seeing blue sheet. You really weren’t kidding, were you?”
“I never kid about belly buttons. This one, I am going to tell for the rest of my life.
Written by Zhoen of One Word.
I called the barracks home when I was in Basic Training. The other women hooted at me for using the word home so. But I figured, bed + warm + my stuff was there + good plumbing = home enough. My standards for the word home were minimal, physical. Taken down to bedrock, my home of the homeless. I had attachments, or told myself I did; I was supposedly happily married. I kept perfunctory contact with parents and brothers. Dimly, I was beginning to see that I had no emotional home.
I grew up in stable poverty. A small, old, house—mortgage paid for before I was born. Food on the table, it was cheap, but it was enough. Mom sewed clothes, ensuring there was always sufficiency, if nothing extra. We were poor, but without the recompense of love, or family feeling. I was the last, the unexpected child, the idea of daughter my mother wanted—but more in the tomboy variety that she did not understand. Certainly, I was not the Daddy’s Girl my father wanted. I was a much played with new toy, an experiment, to my much older brothers. I felt there had been a family, once, but I was not part of it. I was too late. I was not turning out to be the person they hoped for. I did not belong, but I had nowhere else to go. Home was physical, nothing else—a place to go at night to sleep. Roof over my head, clothes on my back, food on the table, this was the motto in this house.
The homes I made for myself for the next decade were much the same, spare, sufficient, lacking a safe for my heart. I had to guess at what home was, just as I had to take a stab in the dark at what love might be. I guessed wrong.
Perversely, I learned about what home could mean in the context of the Army. The foothills appeared in people who often shared emotional backgrounds that resonated with mine. In the military, the ‘Art of Conversation’ lives—if somewhat profanely—and, man, we talked all the time. I found myself never more alone than I wanted to be. At 0200, suppose I was feeling lonely, I could jaw with the CQ sergeant at the desk, at the very least. No taboo subjects, no need to hide my thoughts or ideas, no stringent standards or religious sensibilities to pander to, no word unsayable. For the first time in my life, I could be utterly myself, and be liked, accepted.
In this world not obvious for its warmth, waiting to be sent off to a war, on a high mountain military post, I found a completely genuine human being. Much to my dismay, he loved me. More, I grew to love him. And one cold bright day, with a nasty sinus infection—healing thanks to his intervention (getting some of our docs to write a prescription and getting my sergeant to take him to get it filled)—I laid my head on his knee, warming in the low winter sun on the parade ground bleachers, and fell asleep. I knew, at that moment, what home really was, and it wasn’t a house, or plumbing, or stuff. It was being safe, being treated lovingly, being myself utterly, and, well, yes, having a place to rest my head.
Home is where the heart rests.
Written by Zhoen of One Word