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Fun Patrol - Big Mister Above, Smurf Tail Below

by Justin Teerlinck


I was staggering down the street in Granada, Nicaragua with my legs held tightly together. In my left hand I gripped a dirty, cloth bag that held 25,000 Córdoba. I had taken trips to four or five banks and several cash machines to rustle up that wad. I had stood in line in stuffy buildings without any air flow, squinting through salty, sweat-streaked eyes at the suspicious faces of bank tellers and middle-class Nicaraguans to get all this cash. Now, hobbling around in the 110-degree heat, it was imperative that I make sure no one take my small fortune.

   I kept to the main thoroughfare, a beautiful, clean, cobble-stoned road in a city full of beautiful cobblestones, old missions and little else. It should have been easy to remain inconspicuous, but it was difficult because, as I say, my legs were held tighter together than a bear trap. I gazed out in the direction of Lago Nicaragua, the only lake in the world where you can’t swim because of fresh water sharks.

   I did not have far to go with my money bag, just a few blocks, but traversing the distance by shuffling made it feel like miles. Up ahead, there was a gaggle of bruised, starved, unsupervised street urchins. Upon seeing my approach, they began to beg me to buy their trinkets. We had looked into their faces many times and seen the cuts, the scars, the black eyes and broken noses. That wasn’t all that was broken. These kids had parents, but they lived on the streets, selling junk and begging to get by, only to return home—wherever the hell that was—and get beat some more. We waffled over whether to give them money or not, unsure if our Yan­kee dollars were supporting them, their abusive parents, an act of mercy or a life of misery. The kids themselves were far more com­plex than any American children I’d ever met, by turns cute, amoral, vulnerable, manipulative, and way, way too street smart. They were children without childhoods. Like most other affluent Yankee tour­ists we pitied them, avoided them, sometimes were amused by them, sometimes annoyed, but ultimately found them perplexing, their intentions, their place in this world too alien from ours to understand.

   “Senior, how much money do you have?”

   “No,” I said shamefully. “No, I have no money. No money at all.” What could I do, pull out a neatly bound 5,000 Córdoba wad? It would cause a riot. No. Besides, I needed every last stinking Córdoba to get myself out of this mess. Besides that, you give those ragamuffins a centavo and they go home and get beaten for not bringing more.

Photo © Justin Teerlinck

   “But senior…my brothers have hunger?” He said this, but I saw the outlaw twinkle in his eye.

   I decided to play along for a moment. “Ohh­hhhh brothers, eh? How many?”

   I watched the gears turning. Now here was an opportunity. It seemed as though a gringo had never asked such a question before. Usually, one imagines, these urchins were accustomed only to hearing the words “go away!” which I, too, was preparing to say in another thirty seconds. Still, this scrawny little chap looked like he thought big. I was curious to see how far he would go.

   He stared at the ground thoughtfully. His fingers were moving back and forth as were his lips. “Well?” I said. “How many, kid? Do you even have brothers?” I was smiling.

   “Of course! I have…too many to count! They all have big, big hunger!”

   “Too many to count is too many to feed,” I said, and began hob­bling away.

   “No, wait…I have ocho…no, no…diez….no, no, wait…I have viente hermanos! And they are all very hungry, all viente.” Having set­tled on this number like a pint-sized auctioneer, he puffed out his chest proudly, but looked right and left, and then stared at his feet, avoiding my skeptical gaze. I suspected this was as high as the six-year-old before me could count.

   “Eight, ten, twenty brothers?” I laughed. “It seems you have more brothers with every passing minute…”

   “I do, senior. Twenty brothers,” he kept repeating the number as though trying to memorize it for future reference. “Please senior, a centavo for my many brothers and me … or maybe a Córdoba … or an—,” he hesitated, “—an … Americano dollar…” This little punk had big balls indeed.

   “I don’t have any money,” I said.

   “Please senior!”

   “Nope! Get lost, kid. Do I look rich?”


   “Goddamn it.” I reached into my money belt, making sure to keep a tight grip on the cloth sack money bag. If I lost that I was screwed. I pulled out a crumpled five Córdoba note and handed it to the kid nonchalantly. He held it up over his head with two hands and examined it like it was a gemstone. “Okay, now don’t tell all your—”

   “Look, look! Look what the rich gringo gave me!” Suddenly the whole pack came over laughing, yelling and begging. In the cacoph­ony all I heard was, “me, me, me, me, me, me, me! Please, please, please, please, please, please!”

   Finally I let out a roar and shut them all up. “This one here, he has twenty brothers with big, big hunger.”

   “No he doesn’t! Jorge has no brothers at all! He’s a lying fucking bitch!” These kids could curse even more vociferously than I could at their age.

   “Fuck all of you dog fuckers! I have twenty brothers!”

   “Do not!”

   “Well,” I shrugged. “That’s the story he told me and now he’s got the money. I have to go now. Good afternoon, children.”

   “Wait a minute,” said another one, looking at me with dead ear­nestness. “I have thirty brothers, and they have hunger too!”

   “Uh, fuck that! I have forty brothers! Forty brothers with big hunger!”

   “Fifty! I have fifty brothers and thirty sisters!” cried another.

   “Oh, your sisters are all whores anyway!” said a sassy little fel­low.

   “What? What did you say?”

   Finally, they began to make a big joke out of it, each shouting out a higher number in turn while I stood there squinting and sweat­ing. One of them yelled, “Everyone shut up! I have 100 brothers and 100 sisters, and they have the biggest hunger of all.” There was a stunned silence. Then, the filthy little tot looked me in the eye with defiance and said, softly, “So…what are you going to do about that?”

   Before I could respond, another clever, five-year-old gangster said something about how wide the kid’s mother’s pussy must be if she really gave birth to 200 children. Further, he explained using words and gestures, how the child’s father was probably able to park a car inside his mother’s vagina. “It’s not like they all came out at once, bitch!” said the first tot, cuffing the joker on the ear so hard that he fell down in a heap and began to wail. I could see others scuff­ing at one another and squabbling over how many brothers and sisters they each had and whose sisters were virgins and whose sisters were whores.

   I was beginning to feel uncomfortable with the knowledge of gross anatomy displayed by this young audience, and the violence with which they shared their collective knowledge with each other while seeming to slander every mother and sister in the universe. The little joke had gone too far.

   “Enough!” I bellowed. “Everyone shut up, or I’ll be the last rich guy you see.” When this failed to get their attention, I decided to offer them something that was a much more tangible distraction than this circular discussion of virgins and whores. I unclipped the sheath affixed to my belt and whipped out my eight-inch tactical knife, hold­ing it out, handle-first, in case any of the impulsive tots started grab­bing at it.

   “Okay? See this?” I said, waving it around slowly in front of their faces so that they could all see it. Slowly, the squabbling died down, replaced by ooohs and ahhhs. “Yes? Good. Now, who wants to play with my shiny, sharp, rich guy knife?” Immediately they began grab­bing at it, willy-nilly, blade and all.

   “Me, me, me, me, me, me!”

   I raised the knife higher. “Tut, tut, tut! One at a time! No, damn you, not like that! You can’t hold it by the blade! Were you just hatched from an egg, boy? Here, here. Like this! No, watch me. Gen­tle!!!” It was a huge risk, handing over my only knife to this mob of tiny, bored, hungry reprobates. I realized that my offer to allow these unruly children run amok with a large knife wasn’t exactly out of the latest American parenting textbook, but fuck it. This wasn’t Amer­ica. I routinely saw kids here barely twelve years old guarding the entrances to banks toting automatic weapons bigger than they were. A bunch of small children running around with just one big knife wasn’t that big of a deal. Besides, I was there supervising, even if my body and mind were in a state of ill-repair.

   My biggest concern was that they might take off with my only means of protecting myself and my fat money bag, which was key to my continued, near-term survival. I was sure any one of these little shits could tear off down the street like hell on wheels and be gone in a split-second, whooping and hollering and waving my knife around until they made it to their little hut and their glue-sniffing father would wake up just long enough to say, “Hmmm, say, that is a fine gringo blade!” The more I replayed that scenario, the less bad it seemed. After all, what a triumph it would be for the lucky kid, if he didn’t fall down and gut himself by accident on the way home first. As long as I retained my distended, bulbous money bag, I didn’t care what else happened.

   I watched as the half-naked, rag-clad mob handed the knife around like solid gold treasure from a pharaoh’s tomb. I had to smile a little at the reverence they displayed, with only a few pausing to take mock jabs at each other (fortunately, with the other participants falling down on cue without any actual bloodshed, intended or not). I was tempted to be wary, but these kids were far more jaded than I. Their whole, short lives were death, want, violence and deprivation. They knew what the knife was, how to handle it, and, fortunately for me, when to give it back. Luckily, it had the intended effect of creat­ing a sense of awe and returning the little ragamuffins to a state of baseline emotional regulation. Nothing like a show of weapons to calm agitated spirits! Such was the rule down here.

   As I resheathed the knife, the one called Jorge turned to me conspiratorially and said, “Have you ever killed a man…with that knife?”

   Now it was my turn to be the chief bullshitter. I thought long and hard about my answer—mostly because my Spanish was so lim­ited—while the tots gathered around. “I never kill a man,” I said in a whisper, “but I cut off him…him…stomach! Yes, I cut off him stom­ach, and I eat it too! Ha! What do you think of this?” I wasn’t sure what I thought of this, but “stomach” was the only organ I knew in Spanish, because the cognate was so easy to remember.

   Jorge, obviously a bullshitter himself said, “You can’t cut off a man’s stomach. It’s on the inside!”

   “Was it empty?” asked another kid.

   “Yes,” I said. “It have nothing.”

   Another wee one who had been thinking hard about it said, “…so, if you ate the man’s stomach, and his stomach was empty…did you have big hunger also?”

   The assembled crowd laughed heartily at this, as did I, and I used it as the opportunity to take my leave. “It’s been fun muchachos, but I must go away. Good afternoon.”

   Just then, Darcy and Laura showed up, and the kids’ attention turned to the strange, tall, pale, blonde and red-haired creatures before them. We were in the plaza central, and along with groups of teenagers and dreadlocked white people getting high beneath the Romanesque arches encircling the square, there was also an ice cream vendor. “How long have these kids been hassling you?” asked Laura.

   “I don’t know. Time seemed to stop when I let them play with my knife.”

   “When you what? Why the hell did you do that?”

   “They were getting too wild and cuffing each other on the head. I thought it would calm them down a bit.”

   “You…what? What kind of idiot are you? You gave a knife to kids acting wild? You’re lucky one of them didn’t stab another. We could all be in prison right now!”

   “I’m sorry?”

   The children watching this exchange couldn’t understand it, but were clearly amused at the sight of the gringo getting upbraided by his girlfriend. Just when I thought we were about to leave the subject of knives and children behind, the littlest one tugged on Laura’s blouse and said, “He cut out a man’s stomach and ate it, but it was empty, so it made his hunger even worse.” I watched as Laura’s eyes suddenly looked like an angry feline about to pounce when Darcy stepped between us, waving her long arms slowly.

   “They’re fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine,” she said. “Let’s buy these kids some ice cream. I’m bored.”

   “Did you get all the money you need?” Laura whispered in my ear as the brouhaha died down. I nodded. “Good. You better get going soon. You don’t want to risk carrying it around for too long, even here, where it’s safe. It’s only a matter of time before someone sees it.”

   “I know,” I agreed.

   After purchasing the ice cream, I was feeling ready to collapse. Despite how good it felt on my parched throat in the tropical heat, all I thought about was how much better it would feel if I stuck it in my ass. I looked around instinctively. No, too many people. And that kind of behavior would be unacceptable here, even from a weird gringo. And even if I could put the ice cream bar in my ass, it would only feel good for a moment, and then it would get all sticky, and my cheeks would seal shut like an envelope, there was no running water to wash with, only bottled water, and really, who wants to be the guy washing ice cream residue out of his ass with hot, bottled water in this fine city? Who wants to be that guy? I sure didn’t, but oh, what a delicious, wonderful few seconds it would be, just to hold it in there and feel something cooling and numbing…stop it! I was slowly driv­ing myself insane. I had to stop fantasizing and get a move on.

   After we said our second set of goodbyes, Darcy and Laura went back to the hostel while I returned to my mission with renewed sense of purpose, if not renewed vigor. I assured them I could make it by myself, and in truth, I wasn’t sure if I could, but I did not want an audience to bear witness to any more of the suffering and humiliation I would soon endure. I waddled about ten feet when I heard Jorge say, “Hey senior, what’s wrong with your ass?” I paused for a moment, but did not turn back. Sweat was cascading down my thighs and I was beginning to feel woozy and oozy. I had to get to Dr. Ortiz’s office without a second to lose.

   As soon as I was out of sight of the kids, I took out my bottle of Jamaican cough syrup I’d purchased in Belize. In addition to the dis­gusting, thick, molasses base, it contained spirits and some sort of opiate I’d never before heard of. I took an unhealthy swig of the thick, noxious liquid and moved on. Finally, after a bout of dizziness that had me clutching and feeling my way along the sides of buildings like a crab in a cave, I saw the hand-painted sign I was looking for. It read: Dr. Julio Ortiz, Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist. A moment of panic surged over me when I saw darkness from within and then I realized, most of Granada was without power and water, most of the time. As I staggered closer, the door opened, and Dr. Ortiz beck­oned me inside.

   “I think you not come,” he said in halting English.

   “I here am now,” I said in halting Spanish. “I bring fat money bag, have all moneys. You like counting?”

   “No,” he said, “not now. For the later. Everything, it be okay. My wife, she drive you to hospital. Have you any eaten?”

   “No, no eat, maybe eat Jamaican liquid drug.”

   “What? I say: no eat. Why eating?”

   “No, no eat. Drink medicine. Jamaican drug water.”

   He wagged a stern finger. “No more medicine! No more eat! Okay?”

   “Okay,” I whispered.

   He beamed from his late-middle-aged lip and the creases of his pudgy face temporarily seemed lit by the one or two gold teeth that showed when he smiled. Even though he was an ear, nose and throat man, and even though my problems went far deeper than that, I had faith that I was in good hands.

   I had first met Dr. Ortiz two days ago, when the pain and bleed­ing had gone on for several weeks already, and I was basically unable to sit down any longer. The tropical heat and humidity, coupled with the fact that there was no running water in this town, made my con­dition somewhat unbearable. I had been to the local pharmacia sev­eral times to purchase dubious quantities of dubious synthetic opioid medications which, when combined with rum punch, benzos and the Jamaican cough syrup did nothing to alleviate my suffering, but did offer a way to pass the time in an absolute stupor when my body throbbed and hummed with pain, but my mind remained oddly detached from it all.

   “You have to do something,” Laura told me. Right, but do what? I had already spent a third of our travel money on doctor visits, pills, potions, herbs, healers, shamans and Jamaican cough medicine to deal with sundry aches and pains, tropical infections, rashes and skin conditions. I was turning into a barely-functional dermatological bas­ket case, staggering and scratching and picking and itching all over Central America like a reanimated zombie missing half of its epider­mis. And now, this.

   “This,” being the hemorrhoid to end all, the bleeding, throb­bing, pulsing bane of my continued existence. I told Laura that no one goes to the doctor for a hemorrhoid. She countered that not only did I have a hemorrhoid, but it also had formed a smurf tail that was sticking out. Did people go to the doctor for a smurf tail? I asked. Yes, she said, yes they do. Why not just wait awhile, see if it goes away? Well, three weeks later it had not gone away, and soon after we arrived in Granada, my misery was compounded by the lack of run­ning water, virtually the only source of relief. I hadn’t eaten in three days. Sheer desperation drove me from my prone, flopped down resting position to find a doctor, any doctor who would fix me.

   We staggered through the parque central and I saw the doctor shingle right next to the pharmacia. It took ten minutes to hobble up to the door, and when I did, Laura and I both looked at the sign that said ear, nose, throat and shook our heads. It was the only doctor’s office we saw, and it’s not like there was a Nicaraguan Yellow Pages anywhere. “Maybe he can recommend someone else?” I suggested.

   We walked in that first time to Dr. Ortiz’s office and saw that it was dimly lit, as the electricity was out again in town. A robust, pro­fessionally dressed man was sitting behind a large desk, fanning him­self languidly. “Welcome,” he said. “Please sit.”

   “I can’t,” I said. “My anus.”

   “Anus?” he said. “Ha, ha. No. Not bun hole, not me.” He handed me his business card and pointed at each word, and then touched his ears, his nose and his throat.

   “I know, I know,” I said. “Please help me. I have sad. I have pain, very much pain. Death.”

   He laughed at this. “Death? I don’t think so.” He sighed and waved me into a smaller, private office that also served as an exam room. “Okay,” he said. “I look at your rear, but I am ears, nose and the throat. I am not bun hole doctor, okay? You understand?” I nod­ded. There was no table, so through a series of awkward gestures I was made to understand that I was to drop my drawers and bend over his large, oak desk. He shuffled some papers aside so there was more room for me to spread out on top of the desk. The posture I had assumed reminded me of a pornographic photograph I had once viewed in a naughty magazine where the model, wearing no pants, was bent over a desk to be penetrated from behind during some sort of raunchy job interview that terminated in sex. The similarity ended there, however, as the model had been wearing high heels, and did not have a smurf tail poking out of her ample behind. Additionally, she’d had a huge smile on her face, as though she’d been waiting all her life to receive the monstrously large dildo held by her inter­viewer in that most private of all places. As for myself, I could not see how anyone would feel like smiling during such an occasion. I feared only the pain of being touched by the bumbling, sausage-like fingers of the ear, nose and throat doctor as he clicked on an industrial-sized Maglite in one hand and held me open with his other, ungloved hand.

   Thankfully, mercifully, Dr. Ortiz did not touch me in there. I stood in the position for just a few moments, but it felt like an eter­nity as I waited and listened to the doctor murmuring to himself. Hmmmm, he kept muttering and mmmm, like he was coming to a conclusion about my condition. These were diagnostic, professional noises, I decided, and he was probably going to tell me it wasn’t that bad, and that I should go back to my room and drink some more Jamaican cough syrup, and maybe a few other pills that he would also prescribe, and then everything would be okay. Pills, I had decided long ago, were the answer to everything. This was wishful thinking.

   After I raised and secured my trousers, he clicked off the flash­light and sat on his desk next to me. “How bad?” I said, trying to look brave and manly.

   “I was wrong. Es very bad,” he said. “You need surgery…now. I don’t know how…you are walking. Why you waiting so long? This, this very bad. It kill you if no surgery very soon. A thing in your bun hole,” he said, “is like this.” He made a circle with thumb and forefin­ger. “See, here.” He made the circle travel from my butt up to my chest, then he made a sound like an explosion and waved his hands in the air. “Boom! You understand?”

   “Boom!” I repeated like a moron. No, I didn’t understand.


        * * *


   Dr. Ortiz’s wife was very nice. I rode shotgun and Laura was in the back of Senora Ortiz’s Geo Metro over mountain roads to the hospital in Jinotepe where Dr. Ortiz and some of his other doctor friends were going to take apart my asshole. Her English was better than his. She told me her husband actually spoke very well, but he was shy and made mistakes because he lacked her confidence with language. I could barely sit in her car for the two-hour ride, and I was stunned at the casual generosity with which she and Dr. Ortiz seemed to be caring for me and driving me around like I was their kid. We passed some beautiful waterfalls and panoramas in the coun­tryside on the way there, but my butt was glowing like a plutonium rod in an overheating nuclear reactor, severely diminishing my enjoy­ment of any sort of aesthetic experience that didn’t involve topical gels and creams with prescription-strength numbing properties.

   Finally, we arrived at the hospital in the dusty, unattractive little town of Jinotepe. Senora Ortiz hugged me and said she would come back for me when the surgery was over. Laura and I went into a pri­vate office where I finally got to unload my fat sack of Córdoba. Dr. Ortiz counted them quickly and smile. “Todo bien amigo! Let’s go fix your bun hole, okay?”


   He made me drink a clear liquid from a bottle without a label, after which I needed to run from the office to vomit and have a bowel movement. The pain was so terrific that I passed out briefly in the filthy, grossly unattended can. This process repeated several more times until there was virtually nothing left. Upon regaining my senses, I noticed the peeling paint, ancient furniture, and broken light fixtures. The hospital looked positively decrepit. There seemed to be many old and ill people in the waiting room who, in spite of my troubles, looked far worse off than I did. I beheld a shriveled, tooth­less man clad in pee-stained rags and a straw hat nursing a bloody leg stump covered by a dirty, oozing bandage. It didn’t look like a medi­cal amputation. The smell alone negated any further need for the purgative they offered me. There was a low, atonal sound coming from him which at first I took for moaning and then, after listening for several minutes realized it was a song he was moaning aloud in a sad attempt to comfort himself. It dawned on me that I was getting the first place in line, that I was getting the first class gringo treat­ment while these poor sods had to wait. The only difference between us was that a few minutes ago I turned over a fat sack stuffed with Cordoba, and they probably didn’t. Still, I would have given more than just all the Córdoba I had to get priority treatment. White priv­ilege was the furthest thing from my mind.

   I only waited another ten minutes before I was led into an exam room by a nurse dressed in nursing garb that you just don’t see any­more, a white dress on her portly body and little white cap on her head. She gestured for me to take off my clothes and put on a gown, and I did so. From there, everything is a blur. I saw Dr. Ortiz only once or twice after that. Another professionally dressed man in a white coat shook my hand. “He bun hole man,” Dr. Ortiz said by way of introduction as they both laughed. The second man, the surgeon, spoke no English at all, nor did anyone else on the operating team. My medical Spanish ended up being far less functional than I thought. The surgeon asked if I was allergic to the following medications, and then rattled off a list of medications I had never heard of.

   “Drogas? Don’t know,” was all I said. Then they asked several other questions. “Don’t know,” I kept repeating, in Spanish. “Don’t know, don’t know, don’t know.”

   We frequently heard Jesus Christ being referred to as El Grande Senior Aribe, or The Big Mister Above, and my nurse frequently crossed herself and told me, “It’s okay, the Big Mister Above is watch­ing you. The Big Mister Above protects you.” Being an atheist, I wasn’t too sure about that.

   “It’s okay,” I responded politely. “No thank you.”

   They injected me with what felt like some sort of benzodiaz­epine drug. I felt really spaced out. Laura was gone. Where…where did she go? I was being rolled onto my stomach. I was so out of it. A pinch in the middle of my back and severe, shooting pain. Then, I was paralyzed from the nipples down, completely numb and unable to move or feel a fucking thing. Crazy, I thought. They just gave me an epidural. Next, I was being lifted from the gurney to an operating table. I saw dried blood spattered all over the dressings—not my blood. I wanted to protest, but a line of drool and a low groan was all that exited my mouth. The nurse was there to mop it from my chin and again remind me that The Big Mister Above was overseeing every part of this operation, and that it was all a part of His Plan. Well, why didn’t I give Him the 25,000 Córdoba then?

   I saw them roll me on my back and put my feet in stirrups, like a woman about to give birth. It looked like they were taping my scro­tum to my legs. A curtain was pulled over my chest and I saw nothing else, but merely drifted in and out of consciousness. Someone squeezed my hand. Who? Is that you, Big Mister? No, it’s just the nurse that loves you so much. Well, thank you, whoever you are.

   The operation was over and I was alone on the gurney, my senses coming back. I was coughing, gasping. I couldn’t breathe. My lungs were shutting down. I began crappie flopping and bellowing with my remaining breaths. I needed my asthma inhaler. I didn’t have it. My ears were popping. My heart raced faster. The nurse kept giv­ing me quizzical looks. “Es normal, es normal, Big Mister Above, Big Mister Above,” she kept saying and pointing heavenward, as if the answer to my labored breathing was there.

   “No, no, no! Inhaler! Por favor! I need my fucking inhaler! Albuterol?” She hadn’t heard of this. After some additional struggle, Laura appeared. I heard her arguing with the nurse, her in English, the nurse in Spanish.

   “No!” she was saying. “Get out of my way, bitch! I have to give him his fucking inhaler. If he dies, I’ll fucking kill you too!” Some words transcend all language barriers, and the nurse crossed herself and stepped aside as Laura reached toward me with my inhaler. Two puffs and my chest relaxed, the beads of sweat cooled on my face and the veins bulging out of my forehead gradually sank back to their proper places.

   “She didn’t mean it. She doesn’t know any better,” I rasped.

   “She almost fucking killed you, stupid nurse. I’ll kill her.”

   “No…not today please.”

   “You’re always sticking up for assholes who don’t deserve it. That woman is a crazy, religious bitch and she deserves to die.”

   “Alright,” I said, closing my eyes with feverish exhaustion. “Thanks for getting my inhal…”

   I awoke some time later in a private room, moaning and groan­ing. Another doctor I didn’t recognize informed me that there was three feet of bloody gauze jammed into my poop shoot and I should be careful not to pull it all out at once. I would be on a liquid diet for a week. I was now heavier by forty stitches and lighter by a smurf tail. All at once I could feel the sweat, the swelling, the sensation of my skin crawling, itching and burning. Because of all the gauze, for a long time it seemed as though not only was the smurf tail there, but that it had grown—possibly to the size of a dingo tail or even bigger. Writhing uncomfortably in the air-conditioned but still sweltering room, I asked if they had anything for the pain.

   “Pain?” the doctor asked. “Pain is normal.”

   The nurse who changed my sheets every hour on the hour that afternoon said the same thing, and seeing my condition worsen every time I was moved, I could see Laura begin to want to kill her. “Pain isn’t normal! Look at him!” She was just trying to help, but I was relieved to know that Senora Ortiz would arrive soon to take us back to Granada in her little car. On the way back, Senora Ortiz explained what an inflatable butt donut was, and how to sit on it. She explained that I needed warm baths every night and clean water to shower with.

   “Don’t worry hon,” she said. “Your bun hole get much better very soon. You see.”

   “Okay,” I said, through a veil of man-tears.

   There was no running water dirty or clean anywhere in the beautiful city of Granada during my recovery. Instead, I hobbled to the farmer’s market even more pathetically than before and pur­chased a large, plastic bowl that the old women used to roll maize in. Darcy and Laura purchased three-dozen bottles of purified water, and every day and night Darcy would have to “go out” at certain, unspecified times of day while Laura helped me take out more of the gauze, and clean myself as best as we could using a plastic bowl and bottled water in a fanless room without air conditioning in 110-degree heat. One day, when I was a little better off, Laura and Darcy took off to tour a local volcano. My volcano had already blown. I decided to take a vacation from the pain. I drank the rest of the Jamaican cough syrup and crushed up the rest of the pain pills I had from the pharmacia.

   Somehow in spite of being heavily medicated, swollen and bloody, I managed to hobble all the way to the parque central to pur­chase some ice cream while watching the bored, downtrodden for­eign hippies selling beads and braiding each other’s beards while others managed to tap out asymmetrical rhythms on bongo drums made from empty milk jugs. I licked my ice cream bar and saw some of the usual ragamuffins gamboling about on the cobblestones, some of whom looked familiar from my earlier encounter. I was nothing to them, another gringo face, passing through.

   For the briefest moment, I again fantasized about how delicious it would feel to stick the ice cream bar into my swollen ass and wait for it to melt. Oh, the relief! Wow! Then I laughed. The Jamaican cough syrup was making me kind of goofy, and I knew it.

   “Thank you Big Mister Above, for stopping me from sticking this ice cream bar in my swollen arsehole.” I thought I had only said it in my head, but then I saw a pale-faced foreign couple turn around and stare at me as I giggled. My arms were spread wide and my gaze, heavenward, as though I was a priest performing an invocation dur­ing a special Ass Mass. It looked like they’d heard what I said, but it was just a bit too shocking to register. I don’t mind. I’m still glad I said it.