Working on my new book "I've Saved You a Seat", a collection of short stories of the bus-riding kind. Below? A story from a little over a year ago...
If you’re ever in the area, I insist you meet Mary and Jon.
Mary, of course, you already know. Quicker witted than the average bear, able to clean your place for a mere $15/hour, if you ever see me wiping my eyes while bent double laughing, you’ll know Mary’s near.
Jon is her boyfriend. Jon is a special man, built, it appears, just for Mary. Like many women, Mary can be driven to the edge by her boyfriend’s lackadaisical attitudes toward the dirt/snow/engine grease he tracks into the house – and Jon laughs, in the good-natured, taunting way that we reserve for those we love; and she, after sweeping up and beating him with a broom, laughs too.
And Jon and Mary tell the best stories.
You know how some people’s allusions to stories are sometimes better than the stories themselves?
This is never the case with Jon and Mary. When Mary says, “Jon, tell Pearl about the time you used a front-end loader to drop several tons of snow into the neighbor’s yard”, well, you’re going to want to turn your phone off, make sure your smokes are in reach, maybe have a towel handy for wiping your eyes.
Same applies for the home surgery story.
Oh, come on! We all know people who’ve had surgery performed at home, don’t we? I myself once removed a skin tag from under my right arm with nothing but a nail clipper and my own steely determination.
But I got nothin’ on Jon.
So sit here, won’t you, next to me, and let’s listen to Jon’s story:
“Jon!” Mary shouts from across the room. “Tell Pearl about the time you developed Zombie Leg.”
Jon frowns. “Zombie leg…” he mutters, rolling the words off his tongue, his eyes staring up and off into the distance. He is looking for a connection.
“Remember?” she prompts. “The spider bite?”
Jon laughs. “Oh, yeah! Right! The spider bite.” He smiles, lights a cigarette. An ashtray in the shape of a motorcycle engine is on the coffee table in front of him, and he lays the lighter next to it.
“So I’m washing the truck, right?” he says. “In a car wash, one of those places where you do it yourself. And there in the corner of the bay was this enormous spider’s web; so as I’m finishing and the water pressure is dying down, I give it a good spray, clean it out, right?”
He pauses. Takes a hit off his cigarette.
“And I’ll be damned if this spider doesn’t shoot out, bite me a good three, four inches above the ankle! I mean, hot damn if that didn’t hurt!”
He takes another drag from his cigarette, lays it in the ashtray.
“I’d been bit before, got bit in the neck in Florida, so I knew I was in for some trouble; but at first it wasn’t that bad.”
He picks up his cigarette. “At first.”
“At first? Why, the very next day,” Mary jumps in, “he’s getting out of the tub, comes into the living room, and says to me “Does this look funny to you?” And there, where the spider had bit him, is a lump the size of a golf ball, right on top of his shin!”
Jon nods, inhales. “A golf ball,” he repeats. “A big ol’ lump. So I let it go a couple weeks –“
“Wait,” I say. “You let it go? It’s already the size of a golf ball?”
“We don’t have medical insurance,” Mary interjects.
“SO I LET IT GO A COUPLE WEEKS,” Jon says, giving us both the Evil Eye, “and the damn leg really starts to hurt. I mean, it’s turning colors.”
“It did,” Mary whispers, “it really did.”
Jon looks at her sideways but continues. “So Dan – the neighbor Dan? – his wife’s a doctor. Yeah, a real doctor. I mean, Dan’s not, but he comes over, takes one look at my leg and says, Man, you are going to die.”
I look at Mary, who pulls an imaginary zipper across her lips.
“So I go to the pharmacy, right? I mean, they have to have something that will clear this up, right? So I walk in there, pull my pant leg up to show the pharmacist and this old guy gets mad! Tells me, Get out of here!” Jon laughs. “I mean, I’ve been thrown out of places, but never a pharmacy!”
“It looked like a zombie leg,” Mary whispers. I look over at Jon, who winks at me. I look back to Mary. “Seriously. He even dragged the thing around, it hurt so bad.” She shakes her head, lights her own cigarette. “A zombie leg.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Jon says, winking at me. “A zombie leg. ANYway, the leg’s color is all wrong by this time. It goes from green to blue to purple, finally turning black. By now, it’s all the way down to my foot and I can barely walk on the thing.” Jon takes a long drink from the Fresca in front of him, lays his cigarette back into the ashtray. “I give Dan a call, who gets his wife’s medical bag, and he comes over.”
I shoot a look at Mary, who nods, bright-eyed, eyebrows raised.
Jon is silent.
“Well?!” I shout. “What happened?”
Jon arches his back, rolls his head from one shoulder to the other.
“I died,” he says.
“Shut up,” Mary says. “You did not.” She turns to me. “They cut it open. Right there in the kitchen. Dan pulls out a scalpel and goes, You hold his leg down, and I’m like, Oh, no you don’t!" Mary shudders visibly. "I left."
Jon laughs. “Mary couldn’t take the heat. She had to get out of the kitchen.”
“Wait, now,” I say. “What happened?”
Jon picks up his cigarette. “Dan cut it open,” he says. He pulls on the cigarette, exhales smoke toward the ceiling. “He cut it open and took out this big black ball of blood or something. I don’t know. All I know is it was pure relief.”
He laughs. “Went to a doctor a couple days later, just to make sure we got all of it. Shoulda seen his face when I told him who did the surgery. His eyes went all big and round. He tells me, stay right here, I’ll be right back. He takes off, probably going to get his doctor buddies and I just thought, aw, screw this. I left before he could get back.”
Jon takes a hit off his cigarette and smiles. “Whole leg was back to its normal color in about three weeks.”
He stands up, stretches.
“So we gonna call for pizza or what? Who wants pizza?”
1 hour ago