Written by sylvia kronstadt

Thursday, 3 January 2013


The story you are trying to access may cause offense, may be in poor taste, or may contain subject matter of a graphic nature. This story was written as a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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This article was written from a remote, luxury outpost in the mind-blowing principality of Percocet, with accommodations provided by the emir. He accepts no liability for its tone or substance.

Does your doctor do bedroom surgery? Maybe you should just ask for it.

When I told the secretary on the phone that I wished the orthopedist could come to my house and do my knee operation while I was in my own bed, she didn't react. She just said, "We'll see you at the surgical center first thing in the morning."

I went to sleep with a knot in my stomach. Going out into the world overwhelms me. Going out into the medical world is worst of all. Heaps of forms to fill out, interminable waiting. And the legitimate fear that my knee will never be the same.

I was awakened when all of my bedroom lights came on. Standing around me were the surgeon, smiling broadly, his PA, an anesthesiologist and two nurses. My dear Joe stood there shaking his head, as usual, at what I am able to get away with.

"Bedroom surgery, as requested," Dr. Lancome beamed. He was handsome, and he knew it, and he was inflated with such Master of the Universe pride (common among surgeons) that he always insisted on making an appearance in an elegant suit and large Baccarat cufflinks before slipping into the same proletarian, aqua-colored scrubs that everyone else was wearing. He had a fake tan, which looked OK, and there were amber highlights in his thick, swept-back hair.

My own hair was a tortured mass of waves with nowhere to crash.


"I don't have anything on under here," I objected, clutching the sheets around me.

The room seemed to billow with testosteronus vapor.

"I don't mean Marilyn-Monroe nude, you guys," I said irritably. "I mean almost-senior-citizen naked. It's not pretty!"

But Dr. Lancome had already pulled my comforter down a couple of inches to assess me. "Formidable pecs," he said solemly. "And traps, too -- a bit much actually. Those delts, how many lobes do yours have, anyway? It's certainly more than the allotted three."

I had already been criticized about my trapezius by a Harley dude.

The physician's assistant, Donovan -- whom I regarded as a complex, conniving, Rasputin-like character, even though he had been nice to me -- called out from the foot of the bed, "Come see this gastrocnemius, sir, and the hamstrings and quads. Outstanding mass and definition."

"I'll see everything down there once we get this show on the road," Dr. Lancome replied, patting my shoulder (oh, great!).

"Yummy toes as well," Donovan added.

"Please put my covers back!" I cried. "God, they aren't even toes anymore, after the thousands of miles they've been squished through. They look like they belong on some Medieval beast that never even existed."


"How do you justify this wetness on your chest?" the good doctor asked with earnest curiosity.

It's wet? Yikes. I had purchased several boxes of herbal teas on sale at Big Lots the previous week. One of them was called "Nursing Mother" tea, and it supposedly "promotes lactation." The ingredients seemed both harmless and tasty: fennel, fenugreek and lavender.

"I didn't think it could really work, even though the brand is 'Yogi Tea,' which sounds so honorable," I told Dr. Lancome. I felt myself flushing with discomfiture.

"Sweet cheeks," he said, pinching one of them.

I wonder if someone told him I have a blog, and he's trying to get on my good side. People either run away or put on a show if they think you might write about them.

"I think the wetness is a coincidence, don't you?" I said to the nurses.

"It's hard to know, when yogis are involved," one of them responded, a bit furtively. "We can't really say which side they're on, the up or the, you know, devil." She had a pleasantly Amish appearance, which had been reassuring until she mentioned the devil.

(If I had really wanted to "promote lactation," I would have gotten a snort of oxytocin, not a cup of tea!)


But I had other priorities right now:

"Dr. Lancome, we need to start over and do this right -- I haven't even brushed my teeth," I said shamefully, as he was about to go to the other end of my bed.

He leaned down until his face was just a couple of inches from mine. He inhaled deeply.

"All I can smell is the fragrance of perfect health," he said. "Even in the tumult of the bedclothes, you're a feast for the eyes."

"And I need to get up to pee," I added.

"Not really -- you're peeing as we speak," Donovan smiled beatifically, after pulling his head out from under my quilt. "I've just put the catheter in."

I could hear the rumble of equipment being hauled upstairs.

"You brought all this stuff in your Lamborghini?" I asked.

"I finally had an excuse to dust off the Escalade," Dr. Lancome grinned. "That baby's a monster."

"You feel like you're in the presidential motorcade -- bulletproof and everything," the non-Amish nurse gushed.


I had just met Dr. Lancome a few days ago. Joe insisted that I see a doctor about my knee, after weeks of stabbing pain. I told him I wasn't up to it. I wanted to stay in my bathrobe.

"Then go in your bathrobe," he pressed. "They'll just think you're eccentric, like 'The Big Lebowski'."

I own several long, handsome, cozy men's robes that I've received as gifts over the years. One is a full-length navy-blue tweed wool smoking jacket that a retired seaman from Estonia gave me in the 1970s. They're really quite glamorous, if your sunglasses are big enough.

To his credit, Dr. Lancome's only reference to my odd public attire was, "I believe your dressing gown is by Yves Saint Laurent, is it not?"

It was, indeed. My lawyer, who handles all civil and criminal cases against me, had given it to me for my birthday. (The only compensation he accepts for all his great work is a supply of collard greens and Tuscan kale during the gardening season. What a guy!)


"You really must consider one of the new cashmeres by Neiman Marcus," the doctor said. "Now that's luxury. I own the charcoal grey. It would become you." (Just $995 at your neighborhood Neiman Marcus).

Dr. Lancome's eyes twinkled, even when he wasn't thinking about cashmere. People's eyes rarely twinkle anymore, have you noticed? I wondered if he saves his twinkles for paying customers, or if he does it for everyone.

My former boss at the newspaper had twinkly eyes. He died just recently. Thank you for everything, Dale Bain. We loved you. Your twinkles helped make things bearable in that hellhole.


It was amazing that the esteemed Dr. Lancome, this leading man of the surgical theater, was now striding about my bedroom magesterially, his hands clasped behind his back, as if he were a Shakespearean hero on the stage.

It was hard to imagine what he must be like when he was out of the insular fiefdom that he had created for himself, in which he had the role of forceful, noble protagonist every day, surrounded by admiring handmaidens and footmen who followed his orders quietly and skillfully.

"Thou shalt quake and change thy colour in the service of my vision!" I could imagine him proclaiming.

It seemed that he had a "wonderful life," at least during business hours, and that he deserved it. He worked hard for the money. So hard for it, honey.

I wondered if he deflated into a regular person after the curtain went down, or if he comically roamed the real world as if he were still king of the castle.

I was thinking he probably had a huge bed, heaped with satiny pillows, and a state-of-the-art home gym, and a bar. And maybe a sexy young wife.

He was the kind of man who "sires" children, rather than "having" them. Probably with the first wife, who worked to put him through medical school.

Why do I have these thoughts? Is it bizarre and pathetic, or is it acceptable curiosity?

I wonder what he eats.


"Move this here, and that there," he ordered his staff in an efficient but congenial way. "Let's raise the screen, so Sylvia can watch the magic."

The nurses had put a shower cap on me -- the same kind they all wore -- and now they were rubbing iodine into my legs. We did that in high school to simulate a tan, when we got too busy to sunbathe, and I'd forgotten how good it looks.

"Sorry to keep you waiting -- we have to get our props in place," the doctor smiled at me. "We've never done bedroom surgery before, so we're all in this together, learning as we go."

I wasn't waiting. I was still in shock, totally embarrassed. All this extra effort on my behalf! It made me feel ashamed.

"I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but this is crazy," I told the doctor. "I was just joking when I mentioned the whole bedroom thing to your receptionist."

"My people are smart enough to find the kernel of truth in every remark a patient makes," Dr. Lancome said. "It was the least we could do for someone who has sacrificed everything in order to ease the suffering of the world. Such a devoted and generous person deserves tender loving care."


What??? Who did he think I was? (Maybe he thought I was Elderly Girl, rather than her spokesperson.) I had spent most of the past 20 years under the covers, hiding from what's known as "modern life."

True, I fantasized a lot about easing the suffering of the world, but all I ever did was sign online petitions and give a bit of money now and then. Pretty much any random person on the street was more deserving of "tender loving care" than I was.

"Your modesty is attractive, but hardly convincing, Sylvia. We've seen the file on you. Let's stop this pointless banter and get down to the business of restoring that knee of yours."

"What file?" I asked, uneasily.

"From the 'Make A Wish Foundation,' of course," he laughed. "Who else would finance such a crazy stunt as this?"

"That group does things for children who are dying!" I flared. "Why would they use their resources on me? This is bad! Their donors will be pissed off, and they ought to be. I'm sorry, but I'm going to investigate." (Investigation is my thing, preferably not undercover. I did my share of that already.)


"Don't you think it's their free will if they want to help a worthy adult?" Donovan whispered conspiratorily, his breath smelling of root-beer lifesavers.

That was Donovan's style. He had insinuated himself into Dr. Lancome's practice such that both the doctor and the patients confided in him, feeling that he was quietly, gently on their side. In fact, he was having one huge ego trip playing games with all of us -- at least that was my latest theory. I had been seduced by his manner immediately, I must admit, and had told him that his presence was "comforting." (I hate it when I'm so gullible! I must find a way to retaliate.) (Maybe this story will suffice.)

Donovan was inscrutable, like Rasputin. Was he evil, or sweet?

"Maybe they should be able to help adults if their bylaws permit, but I'm not dying," I whispered back, in answer to Donovan's question.

"Oh, right," Donovan said, glancing up at the doctor anxiously and conspiratorily. "She's not dying, is she, Montgomery?"

So that was Lancome's first name. Or was the whole thing a stage name?

"Well certainly not as far as her knee is concerned," he replied heartily.


"The 'Make a Wish' thing is too ridiculous," I said. "Just charge this to my insurance, and let's get it over with before the TV crews show up. They always make such a big tears-and-heartstrings deal about these stories."

"Oh, they're already downstairs, all four channels," one of the nurses said. "I made coffee for them. That's OK, right? They complained though -- they said it tastes 'cheap.' Your boyfriend is serving them biscotti and dried figs and mortadella on bruschetta."

(Poor Joe! He is such a gracious Italian gentleman that he can't help being the perfect host, even when the guests are unwanted. Moreover: the coffee is cheap. That's why I buy it. Why didn't they bring their own coffee? I could hardly wait for them to find out that the mortadella sausage is ground-up, seasoned horse meat. One of Joe's relatives in Rome sent it for Christmas, not realizing that we are vegetarians (not to mention being opposed to horse slaughter) -- or that USDA regulations forbid its importation. We wouldn't even keep it in our refrigerator, it made us so sick. It had been out in the garden room until we could figure out what to do with it.)

"Can't somebody get them out of here?" I sputtered. "Reporters are so obnoxious! They'll try to turn me into a hero, an inspiration, a role model, for JOGGING until I tore my MENISCUS! They'll say a recuperation fund has been set up for me at some bank! Keep them out of here. I will not speak to them."


"Their cameras and lighting are already in place," the nurse whispered. "The makeup girl needs to slip in to put face powder and lip gloss on you. Some eyeliner wouldn't hurt."

"The journalists will just romanticize you all the more for spurning their interest," Dr. Lancome said. "They'll call you 'elusive and reclusive.' They'll dub you 'the Garbo of Sorensen Street'. But at least -- when they turn to me for a comment about your prognosis -- their viewers will finally learn about the meniscus, which is the most under-appreciated little gem in the human anatomy."

The Greta of Garbo Street.


Which leads us to a brief tutorial. What is the meniscus? I was surprised that I had never heard of it, since I passed an exhaustive anatomy exam during a manic phase in which I decided to become a massage therapist. What a misguided adventure that was. The massage-school ads on TV make it look like such a graceful and profound interaction. I had no aptitude for it whatsoever. It was one of those "gorilla in a tutu" situations.

Why they didn't teach us about the meniscus I'll never fathom. It is a rather primitively designed but quite effective apparatus.

The meniscus is the cartilage formation inside your knee, behind the kneecap and between your thigh and shin bones (the fibula and tibia, for those who remember 8th-grade physiology). If it gets torn when you're young, it can sometimes be repaired. Once you're older, the best they can do is cut out the damaged part and "clean things up in there," which was Dr. Lancome's plan.

"Do you know the derivation of 'meniscus'?" I asked him, as he was changing into scrubs inside my closet.

"I didn't go to Harvard Medical School to be a crossword-puzzle whiz!" he yelled out at me. "I learned to give people a new life after a devastating injury. Isn't that enough, for God's sake?"


"It comes from the Greek, meniskos, meaning 'lunar crescent' -- isn't that cute?" I said. "The word is still used in reference to a crescent moon."

"Kindly don't exhaust me before we even get started," he said. He emerged in his scrubs and shower cap, rubbing his eyes but looking just as virile as before, and sat down next to me. "Any concerns going forward?" he asked. (Will everyone please stop saying "going forward"?)

"Do you think I'll be able to keep jogging?" I asked him. I was choking up -- how embarrassing. Running means so much to me. I had only damaged my knee once before, within weeks after I began pounding the pavement in 1980. I learned how to take care of my joints, and I hadn't had any knee injuries in the intervening years. Meanwhile, pretty much every jogger I knew had to give it up because of chronic knee problems.

"We are honor-bound to save that knee -- it's a beauty. You've seen the X-rays, right?" the dashing doctor replied, blowing a strand of hair off my face (more root-beer lifesaver breath). I would later learn that he and Donovan were addicted.

"Positively pristine. The MRI reveals to us a joint that has been used with exquisite balance and passion for many years. Your ligaments and tendons are fabulous. The supporting musculature is truly a miracle in a 'woman of a certain age'."

He added: "If you want someone to restore this treasure of Creation, you've come to the right man."


When I first met him, several days earlier, Dr. Lancome's aura of self-satisfaction was the first thing I noticed.

I couldn't help liking him anyway. For one thing, he actually looked at me. In my experience, doctors don't do that anymore -- they're staring at a computer screen.

Dr. Lancome took me in as if I were a never-before-seen landscape. He was interested. He seemed bemused, but that was OK. He appeared willing to respect what I had to say, within bounds. He wanted me to feel like a "person," which was awfully nice of him, even though he saw himself as being a sort of God. He made grand gestures -- almost balletic ("Where are my damn tights, people?").

He was a hands-on guy -- another rarity in today's medical milieu. He grasped my leg to examine it. He patted my clenched hands, and said, "Relax." He poked me playfully in the ribs as he left the examination room. I got a kick out of him.


Amid all the hubbub going on in my bedroom, the lean young anesthesiologist had kept to himself in the corner, reviewing my file, preparing his protocol and fussing with his instruments.

He had transformed the blandness of his scrubs outfit by tossing a dark blue sweater -- which perfectly matched his cool designer eyeglasses -- over his shoulders. I loved his posture. His name was Gwilim, he had told me earlier, and his forbears were from Wales. He looked like he could have been a marathon runner or a monk. He had an ascetic air about him: disciplined, focused, solemn, respectful and centered. His face was intelligent. Actually, I find that most people are intelligent, if you give them the opportunity, but I rarely perceive intelligence in a face.

Or was it melancholia? Or was he just hugely calculating? For some reason, I wondered if he has a fireplace. Does he burn wood, polluting our air for his own pleasure, or is he too principled?


Plus: Why would anyone choose to be an anesthesiologist (aside from the huge paycheck, which didn't seem like Gwilim's thing)? I wish I had asked him. I bet he sees some kind of music in it -- and he's the DJ, running the turntable -- or some kind of Higher Order, like being immersed in pure physics, or like fractals, or supernatural code that choreographs the brain.

The body is a wonderland. The brain is a never-forever land.

He'll probably hoot when he sees this, and yell, "It's the money, stupid!"

I called out to him while the uproar in my bedroom continued, as all sorts of monitors, gauges, tanks, consoles and instruments were being put into place.

"Gwilim, didn't they tell you I don't want general anesthesia?" I asked him. (I have read that it causes cognitive decline, and I'm declining enough already.)

"I'm setting up, just in case you can't handle the pain," he said. "I remembered a strategy last night that might help you get through it. I do think you've grossly underestimated what an assault this procedure can be on the body." He maintained excellent eye contact with me. That was refreshing.


"I already watched the surgery on YouTube," I scoffed. "It took one minute and fifty-eight seconds! How painful can it be? If I had long enough instruments and better vision, I could take care of the damn thing myself."

In the video, the doctor just reached in and snipped off the torn part of the meniscus. It looked like the ocean in there, except that it was dirtier and less colorful. Then he used a tiny suction tool to draw the remnants -- which he likened to lumps of crab meat -- out of the synovial fluid.

"It was a breeze," I said.

"It's not that easy, believe me," Gwilim said. "But there's an ancient Welsh curative that we can try: I'll sing you folk ditties from the bog, to lull you into a state of distracted relaxation. If we can take you 'away,' the local anesthetic might be enough. The first song I chose is 'The Little Saucepan,'or 'Sospan Fach.' It just seemed right."

"Little Saucepan" -- this was totally hilarious! (I shouldn't say that ... he was so sincere.) It was very sweet of Gwilim to bring his heritage into the service of my well-being, and I was anxious to see how it would work.


At last, everything was in place. I was partially propped up so I could see the screen, which would provide interior images to guide the doctor's labyrinthine maneuvers. Gwilim was on a stool, at my head, and there was a nurse on each side of me.

"Now, don't be alarmed, Sylvia, but we're going to blow your knee up until it looks like a big, pink, birthday-party balloon," the doctor announced cheerfully.

That was a bit charitable, it turned out. My knee looked like the pale, bald, lumpy skull of a malnourished old man. Not very festive! The injection of sterile solution would clear away any cloudy fluid in there, making everything more visible, and it would be easier to navigate through the inflated space.

The sight of my hugely swollen joint created a wave of nausea through me. My fingers tingled.

Dr. Lancome proceeded to make three small incisions around my kneecap. One would be for the insertion of a tiny camera, the others for repair tools.

Panic, claustrophobia and PAIN descended upon me.

"Pain," I informed Gwilim.


Instantly, he began singing "The Little Saucepan" softly into my ear, creating a warm, moist echo throughout my skull:

Sleep child mine, there's nothing here,

While in slumber at my breast,

Angels smiling, have no fear,

Holy angels guard your rest.

I closed my eyes, as the scene around me blurred and pulsed. I breathed with relief, and soon I found myself running -- running! -- through a hilly, emerald-green Welsh meadow. My knees felt nothing but pleasure. Painlessly, I bounded through the hills and dales of Wales.

Gwilim continued:

Huna blentyn yn fy mynwes,
Clyd a chynnes ydyw hon;
Breichiau mam sy'n dyn am danat,
Cariad mam sy dan fy mron;
Ni cha dim amharu'th gyntun,
Ni wna undyn รข thi gam;
Huna'n dawel, anwyl blentyn,
Huna'n fwyn ar fron dy fam....


I was roused from my inner-ear anesthesia by an intrusive order from Dr. Lancome, just as he was withdrawing his instruments.

"Sylvia! Open your eyes, for God's sake! Get a look at this view of your kneecap -- it's surreal! I've never seen such a patina on a patella. You've polished it to a sheen with your insane jogging fetish!" He looked unkempt and flustered. This was a side of himself he hadn't shown before.

My kneecap really was beautiful, if I may say so, and otherworldly as well. "It looks like Mars to me, only prettier," I said, yawning.

"And that's my cue," said a voice from the doorway.

Oh My God, oh my god, OMG: It was my adopted "Save the Children" son, the adorable pop star Bruno Mars, whom I have so publicly yearned to meet for the past two years. How I adore that boy!


But I didn't want to meet him unwashed, lying down with a shower cap on and with my feet in stirrups. That is the worst imaginable condition, don't you ladies agree?

"I'm such a mess!" I moaned.

No one could possibly have devised a crueler trick. I'm thinking that the "Make a Wish" file must have come from the FBI. Those sinister "defenders of our freedom" probably think if they humiliate me enough, I'll stop fomenting class warfare.

They misunderestimate me, to use George W. Bush's much-misunderappreciated term.

But I admit that I was virtually fainting with embarrassment.

Bruno smiled like an angel as he approached my bed, and took my hands into his.

"I'm honored to meet you, ma'am," he said soberly. The scent of mango-tango laundry detergent wafted toward me. And then he quoted from his first hit song, in an effort to ease my discomfort:

"When I see your face,

there's not a single thing I would change,

'cause you're amazing, just the way you are."


My eyes welled with tears. He is a beautiful, talented young man. The voice is earnest and true. He does everything with stunning grace and ease. He sings with such ardency that the tendons in his neck stand out. I love him with an excruciating anguish that most people outgrow when they're about 13 years old. If Joe and I had had a son, he would look just like Bruno.

I know, I know: Fame went straight to his head. He's gotten insufferably cocky and vain. He smokes now, at least when the paparazzi are around. His songs aren't about innocence and infatuation anymore. It's all sex, sex, sex: "Your sex takes me to Paradise," etc. You fool, Bruno! You little prick!

But I don't want to give up my love for him, any more than I want to give up my hate for Donnie and Marie. These strong feelings serve a purpose. So I become willfully blind.

"I can't believe it's really you! You're my baby," I blurted pathetically. "You can't imagine how many times I've fantasized about making you red beans and rice, and doing your laundry."

"Naw, I got people to take care all that shit," he said. "I'm just here to give you a kiss, and then I gots to go. The Lear's waitin' on me, in your yard. We're headed back to L.A."

"In our yard?" I said anxiously, sitting up.

"Sorry about your lawn," Donovan said. "But now you've got a serviceable landing strip out back."

"Let me lay that kiss on you, like they told me to on the 'Make A Wish' assignment sheet. It's my way of 'giving back'," Bruno said, leaning toward me.


"No, don't!" I cried, turning my head. "Bruno, don't, really. Don't! I'm serious! Get off of me! Sorry! I'm too old. Just give me a hug."

A couple of years ago, I had a dream in which I found myself as a damsel in distress on the TV show, "24." Jack Bauer rescued me of course, and then he tried to kiss me. When I fended him off, and disclosed that I was already a teenager when he was born, he looked at me with utter revulsion.

"Puke!" he spewed, and then he stormed away.

It really hurt my feelings.

You're a cruel bastard, Jack Bauer.

I didn't want Bruno to be gagging for the rest of his life when he remembered that he had locked lips with a gross old biddy.


"If I were you, Mr. Mars, I'd kiss the woman," Dr. Lancome advised, as stitched up my bruised, swollen knee. "Consider her face, her hair, her body. They aren't old. Her personality and style are really quite adolescent. I can even show you images of her insides, in which you'll detect nothing but vibrant beauty. Why let chronological age dictate your response to this heartwarming girl?"

"Kiss her," the nurses cried in unison.

"Bruno, I feel totally disgraced," I moaned, pulling the covers over my head. "Go catch your plane. I'm sorry about all of this."

Bruno stood silently for a moment. Then, he bent over and swept me into his arms, the covers still shrouding me. He gave me the hug I've been dreaming of since the first time I heard "Grenade."

"I would go through all this pain -- take a bullet right through my brain."

It was a perfect hug: muscular and heartfelt.

My boy!

Then, as if it were a rash impulse, he kissed my lips -- firmly and sweetly -- through the clean, white sheet.

"This way, I can pretend you're my mummy," he whispered.

I heard him say, "Give this to her, man," as he and his entourage left. I peeked out and saw that Donovan was holding Bruno's fedora. He sniffed it and grimaced.


I don't mind the smell of Bruno's sweat, but the hair gel is too icky. So I never wear the hat -- I just keep it on the bedpost, at a jaunty angle.

As for my knee, it's too soon to tell. The pain becomes unbearable after just a few miles on my stupid treadmill, and I can't jog -- I just walk.

I long to be outside, dashing through the snow in the dark, staring down any Evildoers who have dared to invade my territory and endanger my people.

Please, whoever you are "Up There," let me do it again. I love it so much!

If I can't, I'll try to slow down with grace, and just be grateful that the musical, theatrical, jogging part of my life had such a long run.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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