Friday, January 04, 2002

November Spawned A Monster

Regular readers of this blog who also frequent the Underground (and if you're a regular reader who doesn't frequent the Underground, then who the hell are you?) will know that I spent much of November caught up in, and most of December recovering from, the glorious folly of NaNoWriMo. I did not complete my 50,000 words in the thirty days allotted, but I did get 28K, a headful of strange people, and a rough outline pointing me towards a conclusion.

I haven't dared to look at any of it since I abandoned the project—but now, from the remove of a month, I thought it might be fun to run some excerpts...

Pin the Tale is the story of an unusual young man called Crispin Blake, How unusual? Here's a passage from early in the book, wherein Crispin relates the circumstances surrounding his birth...

I have lived my life under a curse.

The doctor cursed when I was born, twenty-four years ago; oh, all right, he wasn’t cursing me, exactly, or even cursing at me: but still. My father used to tell the story—he was in the delivery room, which wasn’t so common in those days, not so long ago—that when I poinged first my head and then the rest of me out of my mother (“You shot out like a champagne cork,” he would guffaw), the attending doctor caught my bloodied form, held me up to the light, and exclaimed, “Sweet mother of fuck!” in probable violation of his Hippocratic oath. One of the nurses began to laugh nervously at this, which annoyed the doctor: he took his anger out on me, slapping me harder than was strictly necessary until I filled my lungs and began to wail.

“Eleven. Son of a bitch,” muttered the doctor, and my father, who had been holding my mother’s hand while she labored without anesthesia (not so common in those days, either), gratefully extricated himself from her now-limp grip, stood up (shaking his wrist to try to stimulate blood flow to his hand, which was white and stiff) and asked, “Eleven pounds?”

The doctor half-turned and snorted, and it was then that my father saw that I was nowhere near a scale: I’d been laid in a bassinet, and the medical team was standing in horseshoe formation around it, goggling downwards. The doctor then grabbed my right wrist and held up my little right hand, its six fingers groping blindly.

“Oh,” said my father, and stepped closer to where I lay, kicking and squirming in the cold and the bright, the room too bright for any shadows and cold steel beneath me. “He’s a—lively little fellow, isn’t he—?” said my father, managing to finish the sentence but somehow seeming not to, as he looked down on his son and heir, legs paddling the air, arms pinwheeling, six-inch tail flicking randomly.

. . .

For two days my parents consulted doctors and psychiatrists and clergy: they read, they discussed, they prayed. There was no medical reason to amputate—but no medical reason not to do so, either; my errant finger was not a vestigial digit, but rather, perfectly formed and fully functional. Likewise, X-rays revealed that, although my vertebrae continued into my tail, no autonomic function would be disrupted if it were severed. Doctors were at a loss to explain what they called my “deformity”; theories of a partially absorbed Siamese twin were floated, along with mutterings of random mutation, the deleterious effects of microwave ovens (which were then quite new on the market), and even whispers that my mother had been frightened by (or, as some suggested, seduced by) a spider monkey. A course of sedatives was ordered for my mother, who refused them; her only concern was for my health, and she had not a tremble about holding me as any mother holds her child. A vasectomy was quietly suggested for my father, who quietly agreed and made arrangements to have the surgery done within the next month.

In the end, after all their prayer and consultation, my parents eventually decided to leave me as God made me: they resigned themselves to a certain level of difficulty with diapering, and my mother resolved to take up crochet, so that I should never lack for warm gloves when the time came I should need them.

They did, however, have me circumcised. Go figure.

More excerpts to follow in the coming days.

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