Adventures In Surgery III

Kage Baker was often asked – as all writers are – where she got her ideas. Her personal impulse was always to say, “Why the hell should I tell you?” However, in the interests of public relations, she would fall back on an old science fiction writers’ joke and tell inquiring minds that she got them from a Post Office box in New Jersey.

She herself stole the line from Roger Zelazney, though I’ve seen it attributed to half a dozen writers. Only once or twice do I recall someone actually asking for the address …

Our old friend Tom Westlake, overhearing this question once, asked in response: “Where do you not get ideas?” And his answer is, of course, right. Also the best I’ve ever heard, and Kage used it often after that. Not all writers sample the world round them for ideas, but most do – the world is simply an unending parade of beauties, horrors, weirdnesses and wisdoms and white elephants all crying out to be immortalized in deathless prose. All you have to do is pay attention and remember what you see.

To this end, Kage was a shameless people-watcher. So am I. It’s not only a thriving source of images and ideas, it’s vastly entertaining. Crowds of all sorts are endless founts of fun; sojourns in airports, bus terminals, waiting rooms and grocery stores become field expeditions. Hospitals are big on the list, too – very weird things happen there. Half the inhabitants are off their heads, and half of what’s left are busy to the point of insanity. And that’s just the staff …

By last Wednesday, I was awake and clear-headed – in fact, I was approaching paranoia from the other side of lucidity, as the Lasix Incident had left me mighty worried. I was walking around – bent like a pretzel and clinging to my IV stand, but on my feet, by God! And once you manage that, they stop watching you quite so closely … But when you are the patient, you can just lie low and observe, and speculate. I don’t know why they even bother with the television sets in rooms; the floor show is far superior. Welcome, my friends, to the Show That Never Ends

I’d already noted that my cardiologists moved in a pack and grinned All. The. Time. This turned out not to be an artifact of drugs: they really did. It was like a pack of mind-melded hyenas, or one of those jellyfish commensal lifeforms that are actually a lot of individuals welded together into a hive organism. (Yeah, those are really real, right here on Earth.) By Wednesday we were no longer on speaking terms, but they still came to the door of my room and peeked in a few times a day. It was easy to imagine the warm tides of the ward outside washing around shared transparent bodies under the white coats …

Then there were my faerie girls. Delightful youngsters (who had recently been handling my internal organs, but hey – they were children!) they were clearly by this time in the ascendent. They were already planning my move to the gynecology floor, and swept through my room in a cloud of glitter and laughter several times a day. Who could resist seeing the soap bubble wings on their shoulders in these circumstances?

I like to keep my door closed. But of course it snaps open all day and night with nurses on errands. The upside to this is one’s own private blackout show, as vignettes come and go in the doorway:

Click, and a scowling nurse is framed there. Someone behind her yells, “No, no! The prostheses cabinet!’ And she’s gone, leaving me wondering what’s escaped or is attacking or just hiding in the supplies. And do you really need a whole cabinet of prostheses?

Click, and a nurse is posed there – leaning on one shoulder, one arm akimbo, like Lily Marlene on her lamp post; had that lady ever worn scrubs with little zebras and giraffes romping on them. We stare at one another (I am very hard to weird out.) and finally she asks throatily: “How was your lunch?” “Fine,” say I cautiously, and she shrugs and is gone. I am left wondering what she’s been smoking, or if I’ve just narrowly avoided being offered some unspeakable personal service.

Click, and it’s faeries. Click, and it’s lunch. Click, and it’s the phlebotomist, who is perfectly prepared to poke yet another hole in my arm until I tell her how the hydra-port in my neck is supposed to work. She’s never seen one like it, but proves amenable to instruction, I must wonder why anyone is listening to me.

There are mysterious whistles, beeps, horns, bells and occasional shouting – one can just lie there and wonder what  is being fought out in the hall. It usually sounds more energetic than the desperate bedside battles one expects in a hospital, and more numerous of combatants, too. I drift off imagining multi-dimensional Trauma Units with portals in the walls, and aliens visiting their caseworkers from the Federal Building over in Westwood.

Click. And thank all the gods, it’s Kimberly – she’s smuggled me in a Breakfast Jack, hot and greasy, and my entire gastro-intestinal system sits up and sings Hallelujah!

Outside the shift changes, and I tell Kim to watch for the shorter of my nurses; I’m pretty sure she’s a reptiloid, and she’s wearing the cutest earrings, besides …

The Show That Never Ends, man.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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2 Responses to Adventures In Surgery III

  1. Tom says:

    Healthcare professionals fighting for their patients . . . with broadswords and morningstars. Out in the hallway. Surrounded by GynoFae and CardiHyenae.

    Only in *your* reality, Kathleen. Thanks for the inside view.

  2. Widdershins says:

    GynoFae! Almost snortled into my cereal I did!

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