Music of my Life

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Waver

Like most surgeons, Paul Murphy had a steady hand. Take your hand, flex it, hold it taut and horizontal in front of your eyes. After almost no time at all, you'll feel what surgeons call "the Waver." It is the moment when muscle disobeys command, despite even the most copious of efforts. It is a slip, but in surgery, there are no slips. "The Waver" is the reason you are not a surgeon.

He had built an empire beneath him. Chief surgeon of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, he had a reputation for being the best. Like most surgeons, Paul Murphy had a steady hand, but Paul Murphy's hand was perpetually unfaltering--a redwood among palms.

Paul Murphy had a family he loved. They were his world, besides the hospital that is. Martha was his wife of 27 years, and she had blessed him with 3 children, two bright young boys, Jason, 14, Kyle, 17 and what he believed to be a literal angel, his 19 year old daughter Lillian.

At the hospital, in the community, he was respected. When you think of the greatest man in your life, he likely lies in the shadow of all that is Paul Murphy.

Tonight, Paul was at the hospital. Most nights, Paul was at the hospital. His position, his status demanded an enormous amount of work, and more than anything, his presence. Many of the regulars were off tonight, a fresh batch of interns meandered the sterile halls. Gurneys and EMT's rushed around, en route to point B. It was a busy night, but most were. In his office, Paul was reading a medical report.

Over the intercom, a woman's voice spoke, interrupting his focus, "Paul Murphy to the OR, Paul Murphy to the OR."

Paul drew in a deep breath, as he always did, preparing himself for the coming task. His name was called only when no other surgeon could handle an operation. He stood, he walked, while his mind, his body, they dialed in to the same frequency. A certain trance washed over Paul, as it always did, when he went into surgery.

At the OR, the Operating Room, Paul was greeted by a grim-faced intern.

"I'm sorry sir, no one else was available. This is urgent."

"Right, well what do we have?"

"Female, probably mid 20's, she was mugged downtown, shot twice--a graze wound to the shoulder, and one shot just above her heart. Plus trauma to the head and back including lacerations on her neck and torso. She came in about 5 minutes ago. The bullet is still lodged in her chest doctor. You're going to have to try and get it out while there's still time."

Paul washed his hands methodically and applied his mask, everything he did a picture of composure. He was the epitome of collected, he was after all, the best.

In the OR, several nurses were attending to the victim's various cuts. She was splayed out on the table, a light focused on her chest, her head and lower body hidden from view.

Paul began to work. He worked patiently, deliberately, as he always did. His hand was constant, unshaken. His tools made their way to the bullet that had lodged itself so precariously in the faceless woman's chest. 45 minutes into the operation, he had made significant progress, he was close. Pausing for a moment, he stepped back from the woman. A plastic bag, with the woman's jewelry, caught his eye. Paul was not easily distracted, but he thought for a moment he recognized something. He looked closer, too closely perhaps. In the bag was a necklace and on the necklace was a pendant, engraved with eloquent cursive writing, three letters:


In a frenzy, he grasped at the anesthetic mask covering the woman's face. Her eyes were closed in a medically induced slumber. As he pulled the mask away, his worst fears were confirmed.

The woman, his daughter, his angel. Lillian.

Paul Murphy lost his mind for a few minutes. Or he left it. I guess it doesn't really matter which, in the end.

He forfeited control of his body. He shouldn't have scrambled to get the bullet out. He had never let the situation control him, until then. His hands clutched tools, but not with confidence, they became foreign objects. Despite this, the tools pressed back into the incision, back towards the bullet.

The human artery system is a fragile one.

Paul Murphy's hands betrayed him. Paul Murphy's hands made one mistake in their career. Paul Murphy's hands, they wavered.

The Aorta is the largest artery in the human body. In their haste, Paul Murphy's hands slipped, as they never had.

Sharp metal, meet Aorta.

A cut, an accident. much blood.

Paul Murphy was the best. Paul Murphy isn't the best. People speak using the past tense these days, when describing Paul Murphy's prowess.

Take your hand, flex it, hold it taut and horizontal in front of your eyes. Is it shaking yet?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


His name was Nate. Or it was Jon. Or it was Dustin, or it was Collin. His name was just like all the others, copies of copies of copies. Titles passed down, becoming part of a new generation.

Call him what you want, it really doesn't matter. I'll call him Nate.

Nate used to drive out into the desert and get high. Super high.

He loved that. Just him and the desert. A cactus or two, sure. Mostly just land and sky and stars like you wouldn't believe. Unless you'd seen them.

One night, he was driving around. He did that a lot. Letting the marijuana smoke pour out of his mouth, he'd cruise the uncultivated dirt. It made him feel special. Like he mattered.

Nate was a genius. Sort of. His memory was more accurate than a camera's. His head had more storage space than a computer, than a hundred computers.

He used to drive around and recite Pi to himself. He loved the beginning. The 3, then the decimal. "Three point one four one five nine two six." A lot of people know Pi that far. He kept going though.

He saw things differently, especially when he smoked. He could see numbers. His thoughts turned into vivid screenplays, elaborate dramas, projected right between his eyes.

He was driving around the desert, smoking, letting the stars shoot without being fired. In his mind, Pi flashed across the screen.

Π =3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 582097 49445 92307 81640 62862 08998 62803 48253

He would close his eyes, he never hit anything. He would hold the wheel steady and drive by feel, letting Pi consume his mind greedily.



Nate used to drive out into the desert and get high. Super high.

Tonight he was really elevated. Pi breezed past his tightly shut eyes. Numbers whirred and his foot pressed down on the accelerator, urging his '99 Nissan Maxima down loosely defined paths.

Nate never came to the end of Pi, because it didn't end. It never repeated. He used to think he was like Pi, special, unique, never repeating. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. That doesn't really matter now, because tonight, he was really elevated. Even with his eyes closed the stars were fucking beautiful. He painted masterpieces, celestial landscapes in his mind. All the while numbers, Pi, zipped through his brain, through his camera brain, through his computer mind, through his genius.



Nate used to drive out into the desert and get high. Super high.

Tonight, Pi ended. It stopped when it shouldn't have.
The numbers, they just ran out. For Nate, they had always continued if he wanted. Now though, he couldn't get them to scroll across his machine vision.

His eyes snapped open with a jolt of adrenalin. He was so surprised, he didn't react.

He no longer saw numbers, he no longer saw Pi. He only saw a man walking in his path. His Maxima tried in vain to avoid the inescapable.

Car and creature connected.

It was a simple math equation. A vehicle weighing over 4,000 Lbs. traveling 25 mph leaves Arizona at 11:37 P.M. 20 minutes later it strikes a man, now going 74 mph, and weighing the same.

Maxima = Vehicle Velocity x Total Weight
Vehicle Velocity (74) x Total Weight (4,000) = Steel Death.
Maxima = Steel Death
Steel Death + Man = Death
Maxima + Man = Death
Death > Man

As the car came sliding to a stop, a dust cloud kicked up by the tires enveloped the scene. The man had flown forward and lay motionless, illuminated by a broken headlight and a waning moon.

Nate tried desperately to make the numbers distract his mind. He couldn't do it. He...couldn't...