Ping-Pong Over the Abyss

Ping-Pong Over the Abyss

“Peaches and cream. You see, dear heart of hearts, everything will be peaches and cream.” She holds up a spoonful. “A toast — I propose a toast! To peaches, cows, and the freezing point of milk.” We tap-tap plastic tips together. I scrape my finger across the spoon-skin dugout part of my head. I drop the spoon, no sound to speak of unless I was a little dust mite or a needling meddler-fly pausing to throw up on an infinitesimal universe.

“Pooky — it’s gone,” I say to her, suddenly out of my mind.

“Well, just ask for some more, silly goob. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with you!” She spot-swipes a tiny piece of sex-starved peach from her chinny-chin-chin; oh yeah, she knows how to do just that but she doesn’t know how I could care less. And scrolls her eyes, her slow motion slot-machine eyes until two peaches rest for a moment, barely off the mark from each other, glow-glower-ing.

“Pooky-pooh — it’s gone.”

“Now what’s gone, ’cause it’s not the creamy-cream-cream I can see that now can’t I?” She fakes a paused grin then looks serious, then pauses, then seriously grins.

Grasping her hand I paint it along the back of my head over the concave lack-of-a-knob. “Well do you feel anything? The growth — do you feel it?”

And she gets to be astonished. For once in her life she gets to witness a miracle, a tap-tap-tap into something that isn’t sponsored by the next commercial after an evening’s corn-fed dinner-sofa diet. “Well, what does this mean?”

This does not make sense. I had a tumor there, a funny little sonofabitch thing that crumpled my curses up like newspaper (the obituary section) as I obsessed over how fast it takes rigor mortis to set in, all the while sucking pity from her and the whole family, me (me!), the attention-getter and newly sanctioned medicator, cramming in night-light walks along Kalimdor Road with no regard for splinters, bones, bears, cats, disease or losing myself in some fuzzy logic.

But I can feel the color returning to my face already, I don’t get off that easily. So I straighten, take stock of the room — the fine fakety-fake oak counter, the fuzzy green pool table (I wonder if felt dust mites are green), the sudden lack of ping-pong ball pops and the squelch of old video games, the fluorescent ceiling-tube flicker now swinging slow-mo like a cape around my neck, man, like a swoosh–

“Excuse me — well, I thought so!” A tasteless, familiar voice, behind me. Pivoting around in my seat (I still have motion balance, you know), it’s a surprise, it’s him. “Doctor? The thing, in my head! It’s gone!”

“Now that’s just not funny, I’m not here on business. My son and I are trying out the new ping-pong tables. He’s a student here, you know.” The doctor is animated and that’s odd, really odd but he cheshire-cats his words. He’s wearing a university sweatshirt and shorts. He beams, then contorts for a second and beams again. “Serendipitous, I tell you!”

“But, Doctor, Doc — Pooky, tell him. Tell him what’s happened. I’m the miracle man, not the dead man — not the endpoint.”

“Now, now, I’m not on call.”

She scrolls her eyes again, but sideways this time and I’m thinking, I should be concerned about that. “He’s off duty, give me a break, what do you want him to do, cut you open right here on cheap formica? Besides, I’d like to propose another toast — to the doctor, and–” She raises her spoon again and this time I can clearly see the raised plastic ridge from the factory mold on it. Her voice trails off to a murmur and a lactose hiccup.

“Look, son,” the doctor interjects, still grinning as if nothing happened, no miracle, no anomaly, an endpoint, back in the middle. “I came over here to see if you could help me and my boy out. I’m afraid we, well, actually, I did it. I hit the ball so hard it just–” He leans in,  “Well, anyway, we still have a game to finish.”

“What?” I said I’m a miracle, an anomaly, not an endpoint, back in the middle.

“A smashed ball. It’s not exactly the first time, but — don’t know my own strength. Anyway, when I saw you over here I thought, ‘there’s my answer’, basta. I can’t exactly return it, but I expect that’s okay with you.”

“Return what?” I’m cold, I shouldn’t be — but it kicks in. Almost shivering.

“Why, the tumor, of course.”

“What?”

“In your head — you know, the little ball in your head
It’s the perfect size
Lucky I have my instruments with me
We can use one of the tables in the lounge
It’ll only take a few minutes, and you’ll be doing me a great favor
I don’t want to quit
I’m winning the game right now — ah, yes, here it is, my saw!
Funny I had it with me, and no need for anesthetic
Pooky-pooh can hold your hand, that always works in the movies
Actually I’d call it a miracle that you’re right here, right now
I’d call it a miracle–“