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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Saturday, October 25


On Thursday, I took my wife to the hospital for a colonoscopy, for what she and I hoped would be the very last of such procedures for her. I had my last one a few years ago, and now that I’m over eighty, I won’t be having any more. I guess that once we oldsters hit the eighty mark, a little colorectal cancer doesn’t need to be detected since we’re about to bite the bullet from one thing or another anyway. The procedure itself isn’t awful; it’s the need to drink that ten or so gallons of stuff the night before that’s awful. I keep thinking that modern medicine should have by now found an easier way to clean out our intestines. But that’s like saying medicine should have found a better hospital gown than that old style first used about three hundred years ago.

We arrived at 9:00, thirty minutes ahead of her scheduled time. Got to be sure to be there on time because heaven forbid they should give her time to someone else. They sat us in a small waiting room with five or six other people, some of whom were other colonoscopy patients and others were their designated drivers. One very large fellow could hardly wait for his audience to pay attention to his repertoire of jokes, and he seemed to have an endless supply. He was almost bouncing and humming with joy as he told them. I simply shoved my ear buds in tighter and turned the music on my iPad up higher. Nothing worse than someone who finds a captive audience for his really tired jokes and then pins them all to his conversational wall. Finally, after half an hour, they came to get Rosalie and told me I could come sit with her until she was prepped. And then the really slow process of the prep. It seemed to take longer than I remembered from my previous colonoscopies. One of the prep nurses, Doogie Dugan, regaled us with a story about her hearing problems and how she found a really cheap item in the drug store she could hardly wait to try, only forty bucks instead of the several thousand for hearing aids. The story went on for way too many minutes. Then the countless questions about medication and allergies and surgeries and ailments. And then the anesthetist came in to ask the same questions. Then the surgical nurse to ask the same questions. A good example of bureaucratic redundancy. After all the questions and answers and the taking of blood pressure and temperature and insertion of iv needle, Doogie came in to tell us that they were backed up a little in the operating room and that Rosalie might not get in for another hour or so. Meanwhile, both of us are freezing in the frigid air. I guess the hospital didn't want anyone to feel feverish. Doogie, noticing our blue complexions, brought us each a warm blanket. Rosalie's procedural appointment was for 10:30 and they finally wheeled her in at noon. I found my way back to the waiting room and discovered that the large joke teller was no longer there. Good. I had the room essentially to myself. I thought about colonoscopies and the oddity of the procedure. A bunch of years ago I had a sigmoidoscopy during an office visit to my doctor. It was called a “rigid” sigmoidoscopy, and I shudder to remember the rigidity of the instrument. It required a laxative followed by an enema some time before the appointment. Then the left-side lying, then the inserting, an exam that took only about twenty minutes. I learned that this procedure was primarily for checking the rectum for signs of cancer or excessive hemorrhoidal bleeding and that it didn’t go in the rectum very far. A “flexible” sigmoidoscopy allows the instrument to go in further, then take a peek or two right and left in the alleyways just off the main drag. And a colonoscopy allows the doctor to look all the way up to your tonsils. Just before my last colonoscopy, someone sent me a funny item by Dave Barry, and I just had to share it with my nurses. And now I’d like to share it with my readers:

“I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis. Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner. I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, 'HE'S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BEHIND!' I left Andy's office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called 'MoviPrep,' which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven.
I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America's enemies. I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous. Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation. In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavor. Then, in the evening , I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-liter plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons). Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes—and here I am being kind—like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon. The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, ‘a loose, watery bowel movement may result.’ This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground. MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.

After an action-packed evening, I finally got to sleep. The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, 'What if I spurt on Andy?' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough. At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts; the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked. Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep. At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house.

When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point. Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand. There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, 'Dancing Queen' had to be the least appropriate. 'You want me to turn it up?' said Andy, from somewhere behind me. 'Ha ha,' I said. And then it was time; the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.

I have no idea! Really! I slept through it! One moment, ABBA was yelling, 'Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine,' and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood. Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that it was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colors. I have never been prouder of an internal organ.”

Dave Barry, one very funny fellow.

At 1:00 they called me back to the recovery cubicle where a drowsy Rosalie was just coming back from colonoscopy heaven. Dr. Gordon explained to us what he’d found, what he’d done, and what she needed to do for the next few days before resuming normal activity. And then finally, finally, we got out of there at 1:30, almost five hours after our arrival. Both of us are hoping that’s the last that either of us have to go through this procedure.
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