Ow

I am forty three years old. I have been bless­ed­ly healthy all those years, with nary a seri­ous ill­ness, a bro­ken bone, nor a hos­pi­tal stay. But yes­ter­day, I had the plea­sure of my first CT scan.

Let me back up.

Three morn­ings ago, I had a lit­tle back pain. Then the pain shift­ed around to the front, and became abdom­i­nal pain. Then it became very strong gas/bloating pain. And then I was writhing around on the guest bed, try­ing not to wake any­one up with my mewl­ing. I was retch­ing, and twist­ing, and curs­ing and in about as much pain as I have ever been. I final­ly woke my wife up, and not being in a hazy fog of agony, she sug­gest­ed med­i­cine. I took a gas thing, and the pain went away.

The rest of the day was fine. I had some plen­ti­ful but innocu­ous gas lat­er on, and I thought all was well. Yay, flat­u­lence!

Two morn­ings ago, I woke up fine, but my stom­ach mus­cles were a lit­tle sore. From all the retch­ing, sure­ly. After all, I’d giv­en the mus­cles a real work­out when I was busy dying the pre­vi­ous morn­ing. Then the gas came back, slow­ly, but sure­ly, and soon I was gri­mac­ing and stamp­ing about. At this point we decid­ed I was clear­ly in labor. Walk­ing felt bet­ter, breath­ing made it tol­er­a­ble, squat­ting relieved the pres­sure. Yay! A new baby! We laughed about that, I took more gas stuff and painkiller, and it went away.

Yes­ter­day morn­ing, it was back. The Inter­nets had been con­sult­ed back on day one, and while abject mus­cle sur­ren­der and gas were still the num­ber one choice, appen­dici­tis start­ed to rise in the ranks of prob­a­bil­i­ty. I prac­ticed my New Year’s res­o­lu­tion to curse more vio­lent­ly, and even the dog slunk away to hide.

And final­ly I decid­ed to see my doc­tor.

Turns out, I have a kid­ney stone.

Which is a great relief. Because, you know, peo­ple die from appen­dici­tis.

But I have to tell you, I antic­i­pate that there will be moments in the near future when I will beg for a nice hos­pi­tal stay and some surgery.

Plus, there’s a cer­tain cachet to appen­dici­tis. After all, there’s infec­tion, fever, surgery, maybe even an ambu­lance. It lends a very seri­ous aura to your suf­fer­ing. That is a mys­tique that kid­ney stones just don’t have, because, you know, “Ha ha! It hurts when you pee! Har!”

For the record, the CT scan showed this wee lit­tle rock to be six mil­lime­ters in diam­e­ter. Please find your­self a ruler and check that out. I have pain drugs, and I intend to use them.

The unintended red herring

File under, “Lessons learned while writ­ing.” I have a ten­den­cy to throw details into a sto­ry that explain a prob­lem in my head, but are not meant to go fur­ther than that. But a read­er, who is not in my head, reads that detail as cru­cial, and chas­es it down the rab­bit hole until they real­ize it is just a dead end. Frus­trat­ing. And no tiny doors to climb through at the bot­tom.

For exam­ple. A new char­ac­ter shows up out of the blue, and announces that he is here to inves­ti­gate an old death that he believes is mur­der most foul. Mur­der? How unex­pect­ed! How juicy! Who died, and why? Who is this mur­der inves­ti­ga­tor? Tell me more!

But the inves­ti­ga­tor is real­ly here for some oth­er rea­son. He made up the mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion as a cov­er. I move on with his real moti­va­tion, and ignore the mur­der, because, what mur­der? Bor­ing!

But the read­er is intrigued, then con­fused, then lost, then maybe dis­ap­point­ed and angry. And when they emerge from the oth­er end of the stages of grief, they have missed all the good stuff I was doing in the mean­time.

Must avoid the unin­tend­ed red her­ring.

Blistering barnacles!

I’m not much one for New Year’s res­o­lu­tions. After all, I am resolv­ing to do things dif­fer­ent­ly bet­ter all the time, not just once a year. Last month I resolved to write more, and a few days before that, I resolved to stop beat­ing myself up about not writ­ing more.

But I know it’s a sig­nif­i­cant arbi­trary date, and a lot of peo­ple use the first of the year to set new goals. To lose weight, to work bet­ter, to be hap­pi­er. Appar­ent­ly a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple pick a word to define their hopes for a new year. “Focus,” or “Pub­lish,” or “Beardi­fy.” That seems like a lot of pres­sure for one word, on one date.

Some time ago, I hit upon a New Year’s res­o­lu­tion that seemed cheeky enough to be fun, but had a ker­nel of actu­al self-improve­ment with­in, and I have gone with that one every year since.

I resolve (once again) to curse more.

Until this year, I just meant that I should use col­or­ful lan­guage more, in con­ver­sa­tion most­ly, but also in my writ­ing. I should cuss and curse and use the full breadth that Eng­lish allows, to make my points. After all, if you don’t overuse it, curs­ing can be a very effec­tive accent to what you’re try­ing to say. Even curs­ing a blue streak has its uses.

But this year it occurred to me that real­ly, I could change it up by resolv­ing to curse more some­thing. After all, as it turns out, I’ve been resolv­ing to curse more fre­quent­ly, right?

I could also resolve to curse more elo­quent­ly. Or cre­ative­ly. I could repur­pose the non-curs­ing lex­i­con for cre­ative curs­ing, like Cap­tain Had­dock (“Blis­ter­ing bar­na­cles!”) or Sylvester (“Suf­fer­ing suc­co­tash!”). Or I could make up words that sound like bad words, like the writ­ers of Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca did with the not-so-pop­u­lar-any­more “Frack!”

And then of course, there’s the actu­al curs­ing. Hex­ing. Spit­ing. Eye of newt. I could do some of that. There are a lot of very cre­ative and fun ways to actu­al­ly curse peo­ple, though I’d rec­om­mend stick­ing to wordy curs­es, and keep­ing the hair gath­er­ing to a min­i­mum. The trick to wordy curs­ing (and bad-word curs­ing, too) is to do it in the flow of cir­cum­stance, not five min­utes lat­er, when nobody but your mom­ma cares. Years ago I con­cep­tu­al­ized a con­text-aware device I called the Portable Noel Cow­ard that would spit out time­ly rejoin­ders right when you need­ed them. Curs­ing might need a sim­i­lar thing.

Or I might just need prac­tice. Like a cross­word puz­zle reg­i­men for my wit.

So. I resolve to exer­cise my mind, to leave my com­fort zone, to push myself. I resolve to curse more, and may your warts grow warts if you don’t like it.