Book of Pain

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Author’s Note

On a night in November 2017 my piss suddenly and mysteriously came out the exact same shade as Coca-Cola. It was the beginning of a roughly 28 month ordeal with what eventually turned out to be kidney stones, a common but staggeringly painful condition, which seems like it should’ve been easy to identify and fix.

“Kid Knees Tone”

I have a grownup age but kid toys
My age exactly matches the percentage of my apartment taken up by
The Big Box of Stuffed Animals
I sit on my knees, reach in, and grab something fun


I’m in pain.

So I went to get rid of it at Acupunture-on-Solstice.

Where they stick tiny needles in your flesh while the sun takes the longest time to set.

“Brad the Manager”

Brad the Manager, brrrgged thru the door, clutching his side and squinting tightly.

“What’s wrong with him?” I asked one of the other servers.

“Kidney stone,” they told me. “What a trooper!”

I didn’t like the way ‘trooper’ sounded.

“It’s Harder to Diagnose When Multiple Things Are Going On”

“Where’s the pain?” the Doctor asked.

I pointed to my right abdomen.

“And when does it hurt?” he asked.

“Whenever I walk for any period of time,” I said, “also when I listen to the Counting Crows “Hanginaround,” or sometimes for no reason at all.”

“Counting Crows, eh?” the Doctor raised his brow.

“Dresden Firestorm/Sticking Things Up Penis”

I thought about the 1945 Allied firebombing of Dresden as the Doctor told me about my next procedure.

Fire tornadoes sucked babies from their mother’s arms. People dove into ponds hoping to find relief but actually got boiled alive. In one bomb shelter they thought they were safe but ended up melting like ice cream.

“Pain Scale”

“Pain now?” the Nurse checked back in later.

“Maybe 3 or 4,” I said.


“Thank you for asking, by the way.”

“It’s my job to.”

“Well, this is a good system. I’ve always felt people don’t care about my pain as much as they should.”

“Two Old Doctors Reminisce”

In the my-own part of my life I never speak to doctors except to solve medical problems for $30 a pop.

“My kidney stone is killing me every single day,” I tell them.

“Well, it shouldn’t be,” they tell me.

“Ohhhkay,” I sigh and think, man, what authority! What an unflinching barrier between us! It’s like they’re from another more important world.

And then I go down to Arizona where my retired doctor dad lives and realize, “oh yeah,” I actually grew up around that world.

Recently I was there, and his old partner was visiting. I overheard them exchanging old stories about their former colleagues.

“The Success of This Surgery Depends On…”

“The success of this surgery depends on your ability to take a perfect photograph of a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet,” the Doctor told me at our pre-op appointment.

“Those Surgical Masks Really Brought Out Their Eyes”

I went to the hospital on a day when no one else was wearing masks quite yet.

They’d cancelled almost all routine surgeries, and I was pretty much the only patient in there.

Everyone else was medical staff with their faces half covered. Light blue-green fabric over their noses and mouths, elastic band looped behind the ears.

You could hear them breathing underneath it and could imagine each droplet of spittle getting caught behind the barrier no matter what microbes it contained.

I appreciated that nothing could fly out of their face and contaminate my body, but even more so I realized how much the masks really brought out their eyes…

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