While Strength Weekly has never aspired to the confessional the following intimate account contains a cautionary element that justifies its inclusion in a publication that has consistently concerned itself with the higher things. Two weeks ago I was standing beside a curb. I stepped off it, descending five inches to the road below it. I then broke my ankle. I did not trip. I did not stumble.
While passing the time (four hours) in A&E reading Paul Berman’s streamlined and incisive ‘Power & the Idealists’ (a higher thing) I noticed a reprobate sitting opposite me. It was clear that this was his condition because he was manacled to a police officer. To be precise, his wrists were inter-manacled with one set of cuffs and his right wrist was manacled to the officer’s left wrist with another. On his left side sat another officer, not manacled to anything. The prisoner was in his mid 50s, bespectacled and had tattoos on his neck. He seemed rather distracted, not noticing the immense pleasure he was giving the curious – all of us in A&E – who could not stop peeking at him every few minutes. He did not seem to be in pain. I noticed that the police officers’ shirts – they were jacketless – were extremely white and very nicely pressed. I wondered if they did their own ironing and how many identical shirts they had at home. The manacled officer looked irritated, possibly because every time the prisoner chose to scratch himself he obliged the officer’s arm to move through the air in an abstract way.
This episode with the prisoner has no bearing on the intimate disclosure I am about to make. I wanted to mention it though.
The bone in my left ankle was only very slightly chipped and after twelve days of crutchwork (one of my favourite bands) they cut me out yesterday and I have been treading gingerly. It was put to me that I should take certain supplements in order to forestall further chipping and snapping. I had some ‘Chewable Calcium & Vitamin D’ which, while a little powdery, has a pleasant vanilla flavour. A well wisher also gave me some quite expensive glucosamine sulphate tablets which stop your joints squeaking. These latter are the colour of pale biscuits and are long with rounded ends and a crease across the middle so that you can snap them. I must confess (untypically) that I find them quite hard to snap. A stronger person might not.
I placed the second half of the glucosamine sulphate tablet on my tongue, took some water into my mouth and swallowed. The tablet moved to the back of my mouth. I swallowed again. The tablet moved lower and stopped. Still fairly calm, I took down several large mouthsful of water. The tablet did not shift. I coughed. The tablet was too far down. I coughed harder. I could feel the tablet wedged in my pipe. I was aware that while one end of it was rounded the other was rough and spikey. I could feel the spikes in my pipe. I became less calm and started to retch. I refilled the glass and rapidly drained it. I knew that this was not as methodical as it could be: the retching should raise the tablet while the drinking should wash it downwards. Why do both?
It was time to puke the fucker. I grasped the side of the sink with both hands and began hoiking violently. Nothing. I became frightened. Was I to die in a derailed act of self-medication? A curious condition possessed my body. I wanted to hoik (to ‘chat with Roy’ as we used to say) and so did ‘the body’ (as Greco-Australian body artist Stelarc refers to it). I thought I should actively compel the body to hurl but the body just did it of its own accord. As the body bayed, barked and roared I growled, gagged and hawked. I saw my throat evulse and my lungs evert, hurtling pinkly from between my bared teeth. My stomach evaginated, my intestines prolapsed, upwards. Waves of gag racked me as the canals unfurled (younger readers should note that the author, here, is projecting his feelings onto his anatomy).
Then I heard a high, clear note. What could it be? I realised that so thoroughly wedged was the tabhalf that it had made a whistle out of my pipe. Every time I breathed in, or out, I whistled. I had become a whistle. I was really scared now. What the whistle said was that the pipe was largely blocked, to the extent that wind passing over it was squeezed to the point of shrieking.
I had to get it out. I had to get it out. I yawned the front of my head open until I had created a funnel leading from my cakehole to my anus. I breathed in, thereby connecting the two polar points. In a final all-or-nothing heave I separated the points and a Severn Bore of impulsion thundered through me.
The tabhalf, I kid you not, shot into the sink and disappeared between some plates. I fished it out. It was covered in blood. I showed it to a member of my family. “For God’s sake, I don’t want to see it. You’re sick.”
I went to bed, hoping to sink into a deep sleep. But I had got over-excited again. I stared, instead, at the ceiling.