If I Only Had A Brain

By: Rolf Luchs

Yeah, I’m a brain surgeon. Go ahead, laugh — laugh, you human jackal!
Everyone else does. Sure, I dive through people’s think tanks. Why not? It’s a living. So maybe it’s not the world’s most respectable occupation. Maybe I never get invited to the best parties. Who cares? I’m not missing much, if the ones I go to are any guide.

Just the other day I was at a party, sucking a bottle of single-malt whisky and minding my own business, when some goon asked me what I did. I could’ve said anything — garbage man, malpractice lawyer, male prostitute — any lie would’ve been OK. But oh no, that would’ve been too easy. A stray streak of honesty was lurking in my alcoholic haze, like a mugger in a dark alley.

“Brain surgeon,” I said quietly, so only that one idiot would hear. But he broke out in a belly laugh that drew everyone’s attention. Naturally he had to bray to them about it, and they all hooted as if it were the funniest thing since World War II. I just sat there, wearing a good-humored expression and wishing it weren’t so far to the .45 in my glove compartment.

As always, some sadist stepped out of the crowd, pointed to his head and said, “Hey, old man, I don’t want to put you to any trouble, but I’ve got this terrible headache just here …” Of course I knew what was coming. I suppose at that point I should’ve throttled him, or jumped through the
window, or faked a heart attack. But I never do. The fatalist in me makes me wait until it’s too late. The next thing I know, a table is cleared off, my
patient is lying there, and a crowd has gathered to gawk. It’s no good
trying to refuse: “Aw c’mon, don’t be a spoilsport!” they jeer.

Let me tell you, it’s no holiday in Waikiki to perform brain surgery, even in a modern and fully equipped hospital with the best professional help available. But it’s a whole new ballgame to do it in someone’s dim,
smoke-filled living room, with drunken forklift drivers and secretaries as
your assistants, and standard household items the only surgical instruments at hand.

How, for instance, do you remove a chunk of skull in those conditions? Unless your host happens to have a precision tungsten high-speed circular saw lying around, you have to improvise. You might need to use a rusty hacksaw, or a hammer and chisel (to crack the cranium open like a walnut), or to just pick up an ax and chop away like a lumberjack. It’s a tricky business, however you do it.

Once inside, though, it’s clearer sailing: you simply remove the unwanted gray matter with an ice-cream scoop and fill the empty space with champagne corks or old newspapers. OK, sometimes I’ll get carried away and take out a little bit too much, maybe even from spite. I’ve never noticed that it makes a big difference. Anyway, no one’s thought to complain yet.

Afterward you probably have to reattach the missing piece of skull, unless you can somehow distract everyone’s attention and just cover the hole with a baseball cap. But if I’m really set on doing a good job, I try to avoid superglue, which doesn’t hold that well on bone. I find that a couple of finishing nails usually work a treat, or else good old duct tape.

Sounds peachy, right? Not so hard? Wrong. Because everyone, it seems, always wants to join in the fun. Rarely will I perform fewer than a dozen such impromptu operations in a single alcohol-fueled evening. Why, some people enjoy it so much they even stand in line twice (if they can still stand). No matter how tired and drunk I am they keep coming at me, tittering and taunting and insisting that I do just one more.

I guess I’ve said enough. Though I try to see the bright side of my occupation, I can’t help looking back bitterly on all those wasted years at
medical school. How could I have been such a fool? Well, maybe the sordid story of my life can serve as an example for others to avoid. As for me, my bed was made long ago — now I have to lie in it. While wearing a facemask pumping general anesthetic, if possible.


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