I am walking now but it all started Friday afternoon at the Neiman’s makeup counter. Or, I guess, you could say it all started Thursday when I ate the imaginary oyster—I am violently allergic to oysters even imaginary ones. Or maybe it started last weekend when I noticed that my right index finger was swelling and turning into a plastic baby doll finger. Then I accidently ripped half the nail off on the washing machine door and tried to have it fixed at the salon with a French manicure where it ended up looking like a short fat chef with an oversized hat. Anyway on Friday I was at the makeup counter for a free facial. Isabel and I were having a last minute Christmas Happy Hour for a few friends of all faiths and I wanted that youthful dewy look which has been successfully dodging me all season. As I waited and looked nonchalant instead of desperate, I felt a sharp pain in my head followed by an impolite rumbley wave in my stomach, which seemed to herald an unpleasant outcome.  So I hurried home with my cheese, dips, and crackers, popped three Advil, a half a glass of white wine and welcomed my guests.

Things were just lovely and my good friend the doctor was there so I presented my fat, plastic baby doll finger to her, explaining that it had been peeling and cracking for quite some time—well before I ate the imaginary oyster—and now a new shiny coating had formed over most of it. So I wondered, out loud, if I had scleroderma or gout. She seemed a little skeptical, maybe scoff-ish, at my narrow choices but examined it closely and agreed with my plastic baby doll description, although she couldn’t be sure what that meant. I stuck with my gut instinct and pretty much settled on scleroderma.  Meanwhile my stomach symptoms were rearing back up. After just a little while I wrenched the glass of wine from my own hand and decided to wait out the storm with a plastic baby doll look on my face. The happy hour continued a couple of hours past happy hour and by the time the last happy guest left, I crawled to the sofa and cried. Not a sentimental isn’t-it-a-wonderful-life-cry. No it was more of a death wail; a soft death wail with real tears. My bamboozled husband tried to get out of me what was wrong, but all I could do was moan, blubber, wail and squirm into my pink pajamas. Then I remembered the contacts and had to compose myself long enough to snag those off my eyeballs and slosh them into liquid acid or whatever they live in. After that, I got in bed intending to sleep or will away the pain, but it was just damn uncooperative. My husband demanded to take me to the emergency room, but I felt too bad to go, and hell I wasn’t dressed to go out anyway. After an hour of arguing I went to the bathroom and said ok, I will go because I must really be sick. About that time I did something I haven’t done in ten years –I threw up and I mean really threw up. I was careful to control the splatter, but it was a real shockeroo and a near death experience for me. Clearly this was not the work of an imaginary oyster or a bad baby doll. Something more sinister was happening.

We were pulling out of the driveway when Analise arrived in her chariot with a dozen fire-breathing stallions… no that isn’t true, but she jumped in the backseat with a profound determination that her mother would make it through the night. When we got to the emergency clinic, I started to shiver uncontrollably, and there wasn’t a nurse or doctor in sight, so she took her ninety pound self to the nurse’s station and demanded—a la Shirley Maclaine (Terms of Endearment)—that they bring her mother another pillow, blanket, party favors, and a stuffed dinosaur right damn now.

The obedient doctor said that I most likely had a little spell of diverticulitus (which is a middle-aged person’s disease) and that he would have to do a CT scan. They put an IV in and gave me something for pain and nausea, since I had more than my share of both. I spent the next hour drinking some rot-gut, nasty-ass secret solution so that my colon would shine brightly on some screen in some late night video arcade.  By one or two the doctor returned to pronounce me youthful enough to have appendicitis. Cheers for me! He would arrange for me to be transported by ambulance (what fun, siren?) and then to have my pussy little appendix removed (pus-y as in infected, not pussy as in…whatever).

This was very good news to me. Not only was I young enough to get a young person’s sickness, I could still make it to the Memorial High School football playoff game in San Antonio on Saturday afternoon. This is how I figured it: I would pull into the hospital, a team would be waiting, they’d whisk me off to the OR, give me a bikini wax, yank out the offending little demon through my belly button (that’s what it’s there for), then fluff my pillow in recovery and I’d be on the road by noon.

Only that isn’t what happened. When I got to the hospital they gave me antibiotics, more pain medicine and told me that the surgery would be first thing in the morning after the surgeon had his Starbucks and read the New York Times. Then nurse asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 1 -10 with ten being the highest. I may have been drugged but I knew that ten was the highest without being told. I thought about it and decided that numbers were too hard, so I’d use analogies. I told her that my pain was somewhere between dropping a cinder block on your big toe, childbirth, and a battle field amputation. She decided my current pain experience rated about a seven. I could have used the smiley face scale on the bulletin board to describe what I was feeling. But it was confusing, too. The man in the drawing was so ugly and contorted that I couldn’t possibly express myself in those terms. No, the analogies would have to do.

I went into surgery sometime between 8:00 and 8:01. I woke up around eleven and was back in my room #1555. Still groggy I pulled up my hospital gown to see what had gone on down there only to discover that the most ginormous amorphous alien had been implanted into my stomach. I couldn’t believe I was still earthbound with this much gas pumped into my gut. I grabbed rails of the hospital bed and called for help. They explained that the surgery went well but that one of the protocols for being released from the hospital was that I would have to “pass this gas.” They couldn’t be serious. Hell if I passed that creature anytime soon it would blows the doors off of the courthouse. Well I would have to just be patient, they said. Clearly the only way I would be on the River Walk in San Antonio that day was in a kingsize Mexican moo-moo wearing a belly holster powered along by my own gas. But that didn’t matter since I spent the rest of Saturday trying to “manage my pain.” I must say that my biggest disappointment in the hospital—besides my room’s lack of feng shui—was how ineffective morphine is. I had high expectations of morphine, but sad to say that I think diet sprite would have done a better job. It wasn’t until they juiced the IV a bit with vicodin that I began to feel like wrestling the gaseous beast with me and then taking a nap. And as they say when it rains, it pees, which is the other hospital care management mystery—that they pump saline solution into you constantly thereby forcing drugged, partially comatose patients to haul themselves, their newly acquired alien bellies, a tangle of plastic tubing attached to a metal tree to the bathroom with them only to find that they have to aim for a small measuring cup (from the kitchen) and then leave it there for some nurse’s aid to observe and take notes on.  By Saturday night I had had enough and began spitefully rearranging my room to bring order to the chaos and demanding that the entire hall be quiet dammit so I could sleep.  And I wanted a new phone and a new thingamajig for my bed and a new pair of sox in a fall color and a robe that covered my backside and I wanted to go home. By Sunday morning they had agreed to all my demands and I marched triumphantly into my own den swaddled in my own clothes and carrying enough antibiotics and pain pills to keep me holed up for days.

So today I am walking, glad to be shuffling along holding up that antibaby, antimatter, antichrist still trapped inside my belly. Before long he’ll be gone, leaving behind three little scars, and life will be back to its own version of normal. Thank goodness.