FROM MY REVIEW…
“Can’t say enough wonderful things about Dr Armen Ghookasian, the pathologist who just performed a flawless & truly memorable autopsy on me. He was discerning, meticulous and also able to ‘think outside the body bag’, as it were. That’s how he came to find the microscopic injection site hidden in a mole/freckle on the top of my left foot near my 3rd metatarsal, wherein an overdose of one of the 3 antipsychotics I am prescribed (long story) had been injected.
“He’s also the only Heath Care Professional who has ever gotten my brain weight and penis length right: 39.2213 grams and 19.441 cm, respectively.
Dr. Armen Ghookasian
“Love my new Y-shaped scar which extends inward from either collar bone meeting at my sternum and descending down to my mons pubis. Wish I could saunter down the beach in Antibes sporting this ’to die for’ body art!!!
“Also a BIG shout out to the Morgue Staff /Pathology Techs Stephanie and Max who gave me that little bit extra T.L.C. which made all the difference during my stay here. The refrigeration temp was perfect!!! And Max’s mix tape rocked! I still have ‘Dancing With Myself’ running thru my head!
“At night they played Dead Can Dance- all the albums!
“Each refrigeration unit at St. John’s Morgue is equipped with great speakers as well as an L.E.D. screen on the ceiling, so I’ve been able to keep up with my favorite series on Netflix. A CCTV camera allows attendants to check on guests while they are doing lab work.
“‘Comfy?’ asks Steph from the lab office. “How’s it hangin’, dawg?” Asks Max.
” ‘Just Chillin’, I reply. I’m sure they’ve heard that one before.
“I met with Hank Lipmann of Lipmann Family Funeral Home a few minutes ago. He will eventually handle my entombment (after what is certain to be a lengthy inquest featuring endless forensic challenges). Hank assures me that future exhumations will be made easier due to The Pre-Need Plan I signed off on ages ago re: casket, seals, level of embalming, etc.
“So… I’ll be back!
Stephanie “Steph” Roberts
“And guess what? Hank and I both went to Hillsdale High School, in San Mateo! Two decades apart, true, but we both had Mr. Jankowitz for International Relations! And I’m the 6th alumnus he has buried and/or cremated!
“The only downside here at St. John’s Pathology/Morgue- and I hear this is a pretty standard complaint in most morgues- the visiting hours are like non-existent.
Culver City, CA
“P.S. Whoa! The guy who killed me just broke in, overpowered and then tasered Stephanie (Max is on a cappuccino run). With remarkable focus and calm efficiency, he has removed me from Reefer Unit 9. I had expected this to be my home for few more weeks awaiting inquests, etc., so I’m feeling a bit discomfited and apprehensive about this new course of events. He is now wheeling me out thru the basement & across the loading dock and propelling me into the back an unmarked, refrigerated van. I’m just along for the ride, people. Don’t pay me no never-mind.
“So… I have to add that St John’s could do with an exhaustive Security Audit/Overhaul. Sadly, this amounts to another small blemish on their immaculate stainless steel finish.
“Now Mr. X is pulling out of of the parking at a leisurely speed as to draw no attention to either of us (not that I, in the back of the van and covered by a sheet- would attract any attention. Ever again. Sigh.)
“But wait!!! Hold the goddamned phone, y’all!!!
“Steph has just burst through the basement doors, disoriented and breathing hard. She places her hand on the dock-railing, to steady herself. She’s gone all postal! She sees us, leaps off the dock like a puma, lands on the asphalt mid-stride, and…. OMG!!! She isn’t wearing underwear beneath her lab coat!!!
“Which compels this reviewer to fearlessly re-commit to a Five Star rating for my stay here at St. John’s Hospital/Medical Center Morgue!!!
“P.P.S. If you were in the back of the van with me right now? You could not help but notice that the smile Dr. Ghookasian lovingly molded onto my face (as the finishing touch for a flawless Post Mortem) seems to be spreading a little wider.
“Steph’ s on a Mission! Her fierce desire to protect her client (me!) has warmed my heart.
“Not literally. But still…!
My New “Body Art”
Jacek. Prior to Arriving
in the U.S. of A.
Steph hit the ground running in a valiant attempt to catch up with us, but we were already turning east onto Arizona Ave, ignoring the stop sign at 24th. I’m trying to remain calm and think this thing through, but I would appear to be in a bit of a pickled imbroglio+clusterfuck.
Story of My Afterlife.
A minute later, we climb the on-ramp to the 10 East. My up-until-now-silent, personal Charon, turns on the sound system. A Rachmaninoff Prelude softly fills the van. My abductor/murderer looks in the rearview mirror… and smiles.
“Well, now… That is exciting for you, yes?” he asks.
Yes. A bit.
“Are you okay there? I am to inform you, we are driving for maybe one hour, yes? You need something?”
His voice is a subtle mélange of Baltic and Central/Eastern European. If I had to guess, I’d say he is Hungarian, maybe Ukrainian, via Talinn. And he certainly looks slavic. With high cheekbones, a prominent brow and a soupçon of Tatar around the eyes.
I also notice he missing his left index finger.
“Don’t ask. It’s a long story. Small misunderstanding.”
Now he smiles to himself. Why?
“My name Jacek, okay? My mother is Estonian and my papa- may he rest in peace- was from Kiev.”
Sometimes I scare myself. I’m always right.
“And I did not want to kill you, okay?”
Well, now I definitely feel a whole lot better about all this… this little wrinkle in my former lifeline. He didn’t want to kill me. Everything is A.O. Just peachy.
“You starting to understand, right? You are of course hating me now. And is right to think sarcastic about Jacek, what Jacek did to you”.
He nods to himself. He’s pondered this and anticipated from me a wee dram of misgiving.
Jacek drives without paying the slightest attention to the road, yet seems to avoid any and all collisions with even the most aggressively stupid and self-involved drivers. All while carefully studying my reaction in the mirror. He is not finished explaining himself.
“You believe Jacek? They had me against wall, okay? You know… ‘Blindfold you want? Or…one last cigarette maybe? Okay. This gonna hurt.’ That was situation. Kill you. Or else? First they gonna rape and behead my sons. Then they gonna kill me. Nice, slow. So, then… what is Jacek going to do? You tell me please.“
I say nothing. It’s good he’s talking. Confessing. I’ll let him continue. I am very interested in what this has all been about. And why it has been about boring ol’ me. Besides, there is something vibrating under my right buttock. Insistently. That, too, makes me curious.
“I also know, see, that He planned to… how you say… ‘bring you back’. Which He can do! Yes! You don’t have to believe poor Jacek now. You will see for yourself very soon. You will meet Him. He is calling himself, ‘THE REVIVER“. You don’t want to no how much power he has. Really. You also now meet many ‘revenants’, okay? People like you. Who were dead. But not anymore! All are okay guys now. This is the truth. And women too. You will see.”
He? Him? Revenants? THE REVIVER?
Yay! I’m about to become become one of The Undead!
I’d actually read- deep, deep down in the Dark Dark Net- that they (we?) actually do exist. And that they (we?) perform… services. That others find ‘distasteful’. Their work had been well reviewed on the revived Silk Road. So, maybe I’ll soon be contracted out to dispatch Antonin Scalia. Or Tom Cruise! I could with live that.
In a manner of speaking.
I just hoped I wouldn’t smell like rotting chorizo (Query to Self: Does chorizo rot? Can it?). Or that pieces of decaying anatomy didn’t fall off me as I waited to go through airport security. I hate when that happens.
Jacek smiles at that.
“Rachmaninoff still okay? I also have Prokoviev, Smetana and Hip Hop! From Odessa. Music by my friends! My homies! You name it, you got it, tovarich.
Rachmaninoff was fine. It fit my mood. And…?
And suddenly I realized what the vibrations were. The ones under my butt.
Last night after Max had dimmed the lights and then left for the evening, Steph made her rounds to check on the six of us currently under her care. When she got to my unit, she opened the square metal door and slid my tray out. She stood over me, staring down, smiling and shaking her head sadly. She was….
“So. What are we going to do with you? I know you are in there.”
She did? I was? In there (here)? How? How did she know?
“Because I can hear you, maestro. Don’t be obtuse!”
Well, I thought… I am, you know… dead?
“Yeah. It’s a real problem. But let’s just take one thing at a time, shall we? ‘Til we come up with a more permanent solution.”
I wanted to nod, but.. you know. Sometimes I kinda freeze up when people are paying too much attention to me. Especially when my core temperature descends to the 32 degrees (.55 Celsius} region. She seemed to get this. And besides… who am I to argue? In my delicate condition?
She stared at me a moment longer. Then ruffled my hair.
“Well, okay then. First item on our to-do list is keeping you tip top, right? No atrophying or decaying on my watch! There’s muscle tone and arterial-venal pliability to think about. And pesky little endocrine issues to deal with. Let’s say we get to work?”
Yes. Why not? Let’s!
Here I was, deceased. Life-challenged. Dead. Past sell-by date. And yet??? I hadn’t fallen so in love, so hard, so fast, in a long, long time. Funny ol’ Life.
I was now her project. Her cause célebre. For the next two hours Steph got to work on me. Slavering me with silicone/collagen unguents richly infused with a full spectrum of nutrients, ph stabilizers, hormones (heavy on the H.G.H. and androgens), amino acids, stem cells and so forth; a veritable bouillabaisse of micro-organic mystery solubles withs liters and liters of je ne sais quoi, massaged, injected, mashed into my necrotic flesh, organs and other bits an’ pieces. Con gusto.
And I swear… I could actually feel my tissues, cells awakening. My organs were re-knitting after Dr. Ghookasian’s aggressive, intrusive corpal strip-mining. My heart was poised and ready to beat again.
I was also… omg… tumescent!
“That happens,” grinned Steph, giving Mr. Sleepyhead a firm squeeze. “It’s natural.”
Somewhere around midnight, Steph was finishing up her ministrations and esoteric therapies with a transfusion of her own patented-applied-for ”Secret Sauce”. I had survived a very deep enema and some other fairlyy invasive work with her custom trocar. Steph was in no way squeamish; she needed to see, probe, feel all of the textures, turgidity, desiccation, lividity. Odors told her lot. Sounds too.
Fresh Out of the Autoclave
-Stephanie’s Customized Trocar-
As she labored, telling me about her Carson McCullers-inspired childhood in Alabama, and after opening her second pack of American Spirits, she got a frantic phone call from with her roommate- apparently there were three dogs to be walked and fed.
And that’s when Doctor Clarke walked in.
Doctor Avery Gerald Clarke. The Third. Who was a shockingly narcissistic- but actually brilliant- Oncologist. And Head of his Department. He looked like a dyspeptic Stephan Colbert.
He had calculated for some time now that the fetching Stephanie simply must be smitten by his own unsurpassed gloriousness, his divinity. To this Hippocratic Deity, Steph was an obvious candidate for future coital escapades: he was convinced of this- it was a certainty- and he had descended to these Stygian Depths to further his campaign to acquire her. To dictate terms and schedule assignations.
‘Total Dick’ doesn’t come near to describing this viscous glob of undulating warthog semen. (I mean this in the nicest way possible, of course).
And he was also a high octane buzz-killer. I was suddenly ever so grateful not to have died of any of the carcinomas that I had always been convinced were metastasizing gleefully from one vital organ to the next while I slept, ate, drank. (This speculation had been disproven only yesterday by the good Dr. Ghookasian). Dr. Clarke’s bedside manner would have been far more toxic than any cancer drug he might have prescribed me. Had I actually, you know, had cancer?
Steph hadn’t put out her cigarette and Dr. C’s eyes kept darting to it. He was aghast. And he was battling mightily not to show it. One did not smoke in his presence- it wasn’t even conceivable. His face twerked with virile disapproval and the strenuous restraint to keep from from expressing it.
He tried to save face by feigning abruptness.
“I’d love to spend a few minutes getting to know you better, Ms…. Ms…?
“You must surely realize I would never tell you my last name… Avery.”
He inhaled sharply thru his nose, tightened his sphincter and continued.
“Yes… well, I only came down to get a few Renal Panel results. I have a critical 32 year old male who has a very slim chance of…”
“But Doctor C. You poor, pathetic man! Might you be losing your cognitive acuity? You can access any of those panel results from your very own terminals- I think there are 26 work-stations in Oncology, and another 53 in Internal Medicine. I’m so sorry that you came down here and wasted both yours and my extremely valuable time.”
She exhaled an impressively voluminous lungful of smoke-rings and dragons in his direction and returned her laser-focus to the work at hand… me. She placed her half-finished cigarette between my lips.
I had become an ash tray!
The whirring of Doctor Homunculus’ brain cogs turned to a loud grinding and became nearly deafening. He blinked. Twice. Three times. His mouth opened, closed- open, closed- repeatedly before he could summon sufficient oxygen to his brain. Then…
He backed out of the morgue, staring at where “she” had been. He couldn’t see her now. Everything was just… wrong. And he just sort of…. faded away.
God IS Good! I saw this now. There was rightness, balance, justice in my new Universe.
Steph had started putting her instruments and various potions away. She ended her phone call, setting her iPhone next to me on the tray. Then, abruptly, she was thinking about something else. As she slid me back in my little refuge, the door edge pushed her iPhone into its current resting place- wedged under my aforementioned gluteal region- where it continued, some twelve hours later to vibrate with extreme urgency every minute. In a particularly frantic pattern that I recognized as “Find My Phone“.
Riding in the van I realized that I was connecting a lot more dots here than I had in the freezer. Although nothing could top what Dr. Ghook did to me with that 120v Bone Saw under the 10K multi-spectrum surgical lamp; THAT had been very enlightening. I had seen ALL the dots then and there. Connected, though scattered about the laboratory. And they were MY dots… specks of brain matter, skull splinters, pancreatic tissue, etc.
Jacek had opened and was guzzling down a monstrous can of energy drink, labeled in Cyrillic letters, never taking his eyes off of me.
“So, boychik, Jacek going to look out for you, okay? Show you the ropes, okay” As he made this solemn vow to me, he held up a legal pad on which he’d scrawled… this.
I pondered this and returned my stare out the tinted rear window.
And was pretty sure I saw, five or six cars back, a silver Prius with a streaked and cracked windshield being driven by one very determined-looking young woman wearing huge sunglasses and a Kansas City Royals baseball cap, visor pulled down low, following us north onto the Pasadena Freeway.
A five year old Silver Prius. Like the one Steph had said she owned.
My death was becoming one to remember.
Dr. Avery G. Clarke, Oncologist
Of Whom We Have Not Seen The Last
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