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“Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G.

Chapter 4: Ooh, That’s a Big One.

To save you the trouble of looking it up online, the encephalitis did not kill me. Although there were times I wished for death, like during the torture. Oops, I mean during what the healthcare community describes as “a procedure.”

One of the medical techniques involved something called a spinal puncture. Yup, that’s what is commonly known as a spinal tap. Unfortunately, this has nothing whatever to do with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, or any one of the wonderful succession of exploding drummers in the film “This is Spinal Tap” (which, if you haven’t seen it, should be on your Must See list).

No, a spinal puncture is waaaaaay different from that very cool movie. Again, the relatives let cute little buck-toothed Cousin Betty recite from one of her daddy’s medical books:

“Spinal Puncture,” she read aloud, pausing as if waiting for the sound of her voice to echo back to her from the parlor walls. “The spinal cavity is penetrated with a needle to extract fluid for diagnostic purposes,” she added.

“So it’s like a shot?” asked Aunt Sue.

“Yes, ma’am, but with a bigger needle.”

Oh man, needles. Look, I don’t know about you, but needles are not my thing. So let’s just skip quietly over this part and move on to–

“A much, much bigger needle,” little Cousin Betty explained. “One of the biggest needles for one of the biggest shots ever.”

Okay, that’s enough of that. Let’s turn our attention to–

“Because after all, the needle has got to go through the skin, the fat, the muscle, the gristle, and into the bones of the spine. Imagine how long and strong it has to be. Yes, that is one big needle.”

You know what, Betty? You can stop now and–

“But it has to be sharp, too,” she added, then resumed reading from the medical tome: “The procedure may remove spinal fluid in order to inject other fluids such as radio-opaque substances. Failure of the procedure might lead to inadvertent paralysis of vital centers of the brain.”

Hey, Betty, shut the hell up!

Time Shift

Yes, I realize that I wasn’t there for her parlor presentation. Since I was across town in the hospital actually receiving the spinal tap, my protests here are meaningless. Just like my screaming, which I’m told was quite noisy and a bit distracting to many of the other patients, prompting inquiries like “What are you doing to that little boy?” “What in heaven’s name is going on?” and that sort of thing.

Just thought I’d warn you that questions like that do not go over very well with doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators. Mainly because they don’t want to have to give a direct answer like “Oh nothing, just brutalizing an annoying kid who is putting his insurance company through some economic hardship while we increase our profits at everyone else’s expense.” Okay, I’m paraphrasing a little here, but you grasp the basic concept.

And there is no getting around the fact that this was perhaps the first time in history that an insurance company had to pay off on the Ten Dreaded Diseases clause. And boy oh boy did they pay off! I really did have everything the salesman had promised. Healthcare teams for: Consultations. Testing. Analysis. Plus, there were professional hand-wringers and a keening choir out in the hallway by the door to my room. (Well, perhaps I was hallucinating a bit.)

When I woke up one afternoon, the room was lined with bouquets of sweet-smelling flowers. Of course, that was because the doctors had informed my parents that I was going to die, and I guess it is Western custom to send cut flowers (which will rapidly die) to the soon-to-be-departed.

The flowers were a nice touch. Although it might have been nicer to be able to see my mom and dad. But no, because I was under quarantine since officials were scared witless about their town containing a still-living host for one of the WTDD (world’s ten dreaded diseases).

Onward and Sideward

Inside my body, the disease was under attack. One cell became fortified with protein or vitamins or kelp mulch or whatever it was they were feeding me, and that powerful-as-Popeye-after-eating-spinach cell led a cadre of other cells to eat from the same stuff and they formed a posse. The posse began pushing the encephalitis cells around. Other innocent put-upon cells watched this and said, “Hey guys, can we join up to fight back against the oppression of the horse disease cells?”

“Sure, c’mon over and eat this magic potion and grow strong and take the blood oath.”

“Cool! Wait, what?”

“Just kidding. Eat up and let’s go kick some ass.”

And so one mob of microbes successfully eradicated another mob of microbes. (“Mob,” is that right? It’s a school of fish, a herd of cows, a pride of lions, a murder of crows, a gaggle of geese, a lynch of bigots, a graft of politicians. . . but maybe I’m making up the microbe appellation.)

The thing is that after a while, my body began rejecting the disease. No one really knew why. But to the intense relief of my parents and the insurance company, eventually the day came when they wheeled me out of the hospital and took me home.

At first, there was still a lot of bed rest, but at least the bathroom was down the hall where it belonged rather than right there in the bed with me like it was in the hospital. (Just as an aside: from that day forward, my mom would always refer to a hospital as a “horsepistol.”)

Anyway, slowly, I got better. Whereupon I was rewarded. Here’s a list of everything I received:

> Big hugs from mom.

> A firm handshake from dad.

> Dozens of greeting cards stuffed with one- and five-dollar bills from relatives.

> And re-enrollment in school.



School was always a lot of fun, in an Inquisition sort of way. But things were ever-so-much more intense for me now. . .

“C’mon everybody, let’s use the weakling for a punching bag!”

Have you ever noticed that many of the most odious people in the world resort to muscular action instead of mental? You never hear “C’mon everybody, let’s use the weakling as the subject of scatological Elizabethan sonnets!”

Sure, you may grin about it, but you probably know that using any kind of intellectual humor on cretins only makes them madder. For it is a law of the jungle or schoolyard or America that beasts must attack what they do not understand.

“Hey, sickboy, after school today I’m turnin’ you into pus.”

Pain and Retribution

There was a bit of suffering as I slowly re-acclimated to Indoctrination Camp (read “school”). Before the WTDD, handling the Neanderthals in my class was a matter of direct action, but for a year or so I didn’t have the strength for that. I had to fight back on the sly. I used a five-step process:

> Catch insects from lawn in front of school.

> Take creepy-crawlies to cloakroom.

> Locate lunch bags of imbeciles.

> Push bugs into sandwiches.

> Wait until lunchtime to watch the fun.

“Hey, look, I got raisin bread today!”

Evil? Sure. But payback? Yup. Funny thing is that every once in a while, the numbskulls would actually have raisin bread in their lunches, which made my job a lot easier. I mean, you really had to grind up the arachnids if someone had, say, a PB&J on bleached white bread.

Then, one day, I was back at full strength. And things got ugly. Or perhaps I should say they got uglier. Have a peek at a conversation between teacher and me:

“John Scott, I have a report from the schoolyard monitors that you tied Danny Mattonsen to the flagpole.”

“That’s not true.”

“The custodian says they’re cutting him down even as we speak.”

“He’s not tied to the flagpole. He’s trapped in a big wad of electrical tape. I bet him that he couldn’t run through it. He lost. Friction helped me win the bet, by the way. Friction was our science class subject for this week.”

“Never mind that! So, you tricked him into getting stuck in the tape and then you ran him to the top of the flagpole?”

“Well, a lot of people were pulling on the rope. I may have shouted some encouragement.”

“However many students you egged on, whatever caused you to do such a thing?”

“Because he’s a bully.”

“That has been dealt with.”

“Not very well.”

“Young man, I said that issue has been dealt with!”

“And I said ‘Not very well’.”

“That is not for you to judge!”

“Look, the guy keeps trying to bite Shirley Pelock’s foot off.”

“What? Oh, I am sure that just isn’t true.”

“You haven’t noticed how she’s always limping?”

“Now you listen to me, young man. You will be sent to the Boy’s Vice Principal’s office. You have to learn that two wrongs don’t make a right.”

“What do three wrongs make?”

And so on. I was often in trouble with the dim-witted instructors. The smart teachers didn’t bother me and I didn’t bother them. Anybody who could keep us interested in something was okay in my book. The ones who were just going through the motions received my contempt and were made to suffer some of my wrath. This made me a bit of a hero in some classes.

Okay, “hero” is going too far. But when you overhear students talking amongst themselves and saying wonderful things like “John Scott got Miss Pruneface to turn bright red!” or “JS made Mr. Dumpwad’s toupee fall off!” it just was so funny! (Note: teacher names have been changed to reflect a Bigger Truth.)

Looking back, graduation was some sort of miracle. But let’s leave the early years behind for right now. Anyone who feels they cannot exist until next week without delving into oodles of stories about these conflicts can go to the library and read the remarkably similar adventures in Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” (My role would probably be Lise Bolkonskaya. Except, y’know, without the whole dying during childbirth thing.)


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“Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G, is Copr. © 2011 by JSG, all rights reserved under U.S. and international copyright conventions. Commercial use in any form is forbidden without express written permission of the author. Originally published on with permission. Credits: Book cover design: Phil Hatten; Author photo: Phil Hatten.