One year. 100 articles. So we're having a Reader's Party. Come along to Upsidecrown.
Cut and Paste
26 March 2001
It always makes me think of footballers. When you hear on the news how, after the hideous studs-up audible cracking sound day in court punitive damages tackle that left them half a footballer, which is to say one-legged and thus no good to anyone except as a goalpost, Dave Victim had 23 operations on his knee in a heroic fight back to fitness. At which point he plays 14 minutes, somebody finally plucks up the courage to tackle him, and his entire lower leg explodes like a claymore mine of bone and gristle. From never better to never pretty in a moment.
And the question you always ask yourself is 23?. Surely there's a point where there just isn't enough space in the knee - not, lest we forget, the largest of body parts. Pretty soon it must just be a tennis ball of scar tissue served on a saucer of bone.
And, even if it's clinically conceivable, three and twenty invasions of plastic and metal, putting bits in, taking bits out, straightening the bits twisted by the last insertion or removal...just think about it. By the end, the doctor would know the inside of your knee better than he knew his wife. Better than you knew his wife. And that's not even counting the physiotherapy, the parallel bars, the Douglas Bader story -
Fuck that. I say it now and simply. After the fourth, maybe after the fifth cut and stitch, surely one could reasonably say:
Doc, thanks for your help, but it strikes me that, before we move on to operation number six, the draining of the infected, viscous fluid around the patella which has grown around the swab left in the joint during this, operation number five, we should have a little talk.
It occurs furthermore, saving your presence, that medical science is a wonderful thing, but it does have its limits. To wit, I will be in a minority of professional footballers with the better part of a Lego Mindstorms kit shoved between their menisci. So, unless you are going to perform this very same operation, and the four before, and the eighteen to come, on every other footballer in my league, I fear I am always going to be at a disadvantage. Will you do that single, simple thing for me? Make the devil's techno-ravioli out of the anterior cruciate ligament of every ball-hoofer and ball-hogger in the Premiership? I thought not.
So, in short, fuck this and fuck you. Weld the floaty bits until I don't walk funny, then piss off and take your Marathon Man bag of pain with you. I'll take up golf and keep the radio off on Saturdays. No worries.
The other path is heroic, but cretinous. Still, at least they have a choice. And, in the end, they are rewarded for their heroism. Things could be a lot worse.
I was the subject of fourteen operations on my brain during childhood. Ironically, this was the result of a complete absence of faults. The theory was that, starting from a blank slate, you can do so much more. Most brains are pretty unprepossessing things, randomly wrinkled as a septuagenarian's scrotum. Any attempt at invasive surgery is drawing a map in molasses.
Not so the taut perfection of my grey matter. Dressed like that, it was asking for it.
The plan was to amp me up. To develop my blushing, virgin mind in new and exciting ways. To be honest, I'm not entirely clear about the logic myself. Or the ethics.
But, in its own way it worked. Which is not necessarily to say that the desired results were achieved, only that changes were wrought. And I, young and in the centre of things, will never be sure how great those changes were.
If the knives had never been applied, would I now be the healthy, happy child playing out there in the yard? A fifteen-year-old with a reading age of fifteen? Or maybe fourteen, but a real trier? One of the bluff, athletic innocents without bald patches at the crown of their skull?
Probably not. If government scientists decide to operate on your brain, you are almost certainly a less than lovable infant to start off with.
However, it was one hell of a ride. And now my thoughts are as clean and sharp as....well, this hunting knife, actually. Which brings me to the subject of my show and tell today.
I'll be showing how to improvise the effects of surgery using only high-impact projectile weapons. Jimmy, the first bullet will crease your skull, drawing blood and sending you into a mild disorientation, which will incapacitate you until the second shot goes in through your left eye, causing massive disruption to your brain tissue and some fairly serious repainting requirements for this classroom. Susan, just forget it. One in the back of the head as you're running for the door. Miss Smith, you'll be gutshot, but later I'll come back with the knife and tidy up. John, Carrie - you both take head hits, nice and clean. Die instantly. No such luck for Steve, whose carotid artery is severed by a wild shot when he tries to jump me. I get sprayed pretty much from head to toe - very primal. The twins I'm hoping to get with a single bullet, but I have to say that things get a little stochastic around that point. A lot of blood. Blood and brains. Think of it as a very large-scale metaphor.
Right then. Shall we begin?