Premature Advice, A Spooky Tale

Dyed and Almost Dead

First insulin, then dye pushed through my veins. Poked, prodded, ray-gunned and otherwise humiliated.  Dark clouds hanging in the sky outside this medical building, there to mock and match the dark and weary mood that lurks and creeps inside my deteriorating body.

“But you can’t put dye inside me, not with insulin in my soul,” I say to Doctor Golfcourse.

“If it were me with death running through me, I’d take the dye.”

“All right then, what the hell. One man’s advice is as worthless as that of another. And your golf outfit looks quite attractive on you. Or rather I meant to say that you look quite pretty tucked into your woolen slacks. And ain’t the autumn clouds so full of promise? Fuck your golf habit, and fuck your advice. Go ahead, plug me up with dye, and thanks for the effort, and here’s my check for twenty percent of your exorbitant price for the use of your machines.”

“Take off your shoes, your socks — when’s the last time you clipped your yellow toenails, old man? — and strip down to your jockey shorts, put on one of these flannel gowns that tie in the back so you can’t reach the string. Now don’t you feel like a naked worm? Good, that’s where we want you.”

“Yep, I’m ready, Dr. Golfcourse. Lay me down and scan me through this doughnut hole. I’m an artist, don’t you know? I’ll write this up after the procedure — and why these days the euphemistic term “procedure” when invasion serves sufficient purpose? — and my article will make you furious and famous.”

“All done! Now you can piss in this tiny bucket, wait a week, carry the disc that holds images of your premature demise to your next doctor’s appointment — who is your terminalnewsologist? — yes, Doctor Holeinone, and if you live long enough to see me again, I’ll be more than willing to cut you open, withstand the stink under your skin, and charge you more to stitch up your chrysalis for the undertaker.”

“Gosh, thanks, Dr. Golfcourse.”

Wiggly, wobbly, drained of the energy a more youthful version of myself possessed. I make my way to my blue pickup truck. As I approach the promise of her engine’s roar, I feel so damned masculine. Can’t handle a hammer. Can’t drive a nail straight in. Don’t know an overhead cam from an underhand oil pan, but a truck, oh fuck, a truck, not a wimpy automobile.

And so off I go to seek a different kind of advice, that of artists seeking friends to criticize, well not you, you know, it’s the work we’re talking about, and anyway, we all own tough skin, especially when we’re giving advice to someone else who looks almost dead.

“No, no, no, never say ‘His blood coagulated on his fucking lips as he lay dying on the operating table.’ Instead, cut it up into two sentences, without the cuss word, because dead lips can’t fuck, like this: ‘His blood coagulated on his lips. He lay dying on the operating table.’ Or better yet, like this: ‘He lay dying on the operating table. Blood coagulated on his lips. Guess I won’t be kissing anyone in the near future, he thought.'”

“See what I mean? The order and the number of discrete sentences involved in your description will make all the difference in the world to your readers. Believe me, because I know. I’ve been published. Well, no, not in any magazine you’d recognize, but your words haven’t yet seen print. So listen to me. And listen to Dr. Golfcourse. And for God’s sake pay attention to every word that Dr. Holeinone breathes in your direction. We, all of us, are experts.”

“But Stephen King writes the word ‘fuck’ all the time in his stories. And he makes frequent use of parenthetical phrases that begin with the word ‘as’, and he’s published, and even more than that, people actually want to read what he publishes.”

“It’s obvious, Anthony V. We need to pass your corpse through the doughnut hole another time around the bend. You’re not convinced, and before a man dies, it’s important that he feel convinced.

“By the way, want to enter your story, the one for which you as yet own no idea, in a contest? Spooky, Halloween tales, that’s the ticket. You probably won’t win, or rather and of course, your story won’t win — because we never speak of *you* but just of your work, your work, your work — but the experience will stay with you beyond the grave. Get it? Grave. Your condition is grave. A grave is spooky, like Halloween. And don’t you want to leave behind evidence, written evidence, that you existed in an accidental way? Yes, sure you want that. Now let’s work on rewriting your as yet unwritten tale to include several discrete sentences and absolutely no parenthetical phrases that begin with the word, ‘as.’ And while we’re at taking my precious advice, please forget fucking Stephen King. Remember, you want to be remembered as a highbrow and literary writer.”

“Well sure enough, Dr. Inkspot. Once upon a lifetime, there lived a man who during the season that includes the holiday known as — no strike that word ‘as’ — Halloween, found himself naked as a worm and passed through a doughnut machine.”

“But there’s no conflict in that story, Anthony. Where the fuck’s your conflict?”

“Well, see, he paid too damned much for the privilege of allowing Dr. Golfcourse to push his corpse through a mechanical doughnut hole, and this fact pissed him off, right before he pissed into a cup. He pissed blood because he was so damned angry. And then he strangled Dr. Golfcourse with the man’s own stethoscope . . .”

“Yes, I can feel the tension building, Anthony, but a corpse can’t strangle anyone, because a corpse can’t move on its own.”

“That’s the entire point. This is a tale of the supernatural. And a futuristic tale, as well, one wherein mechanical doughnuts rule the world and scan all their victims before they murder them, just so they can save the test results on plastic discs.”

“On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t enter your Halloween story in the contest. Maybe instead you should just mail it off to Stephen King.”

“Well sure enough, Dr. Inkspot. Screw your advice. Now here’s your gown. Give me back my clothes.”