When the nurses in Hydrotherapy talked about pulling all the staples out of his right arm and legs, Uncle Al no longer believed that a deed this outrageous would be the bad news. Bad news was always worse. Bad news was always beyond comprehension until it plundered his mind and squeezed its calloused and clawed fist about his brain, wet red jelly oozing out his ears and nose as he felt himself sicken and writhe and listened to himself squeal. He was not to be disappointed.

Sutures are not cost effective because they are labor intensive, slow to install, capable of being improperly sewn, easy to overlook, hard to remove... and there is no way to charge multiple patients for the same provisions. The new and sexy way to hold together pieces of flesh surgically rendered asunder is the stainless steel staple. The stapler costs the patient a pretty penny, as does its ammunition, and it can be perpetually reloaded and recharged and charged in full to a fresh meat puppet. The staples shout at you from x-rays. They are easily removed by semi-skilled medical labor or a bored secretary with a staple remover (also charged to the patient and reused). They look really neat, like studded leather from Medieval armor, glinting in your arm under the overhead light.

I sat in the Hydrotherapy hot tub, freshly scraped and docile. Clink! clink! clink! Dozens of little steel splinters were pulled from my reupholstered right arm and dropped into a metal basin by a nurse with a little steel staple puller.

"What a great looking skin graft!" was echoed around the periphery of the tub. To save biological real estate, the skin that is slit and peeled from your donor sites is perforated into mesh and stretched across your receptor sites. It is up to the patient to fill in the thousands of little holes and provide sustenance for his relocated skin. Sometimes it does not work. Sometimes we go back for a second or third grafting spree. This initial result, mercifully, was much like a woven pink sweater, with lots of red seams. Uncle Al grows great meat. The visual esthetics were remarkably limited.

My legs were next, the glistening red squares where the skin of my thighs once grew also being rimmed by staples. The remains of my mind pondered this meager curiosity, wandering as it did within a forest of pain spikes as the clink! clink! clink! proceeded once again. Those two square feet of naked meat, brilliant vermilion against the ghostly white of the unaltered periphery, never exactly hurt, wet or dry. Without my glasses, I could never see how this was accomplished.

Bio-Brane is fantastic stuff. You stretch it across acres of open wound and your raw meat seizes it like the original equipment. The pain expected from such formidable tissue devastation does not really vanish. Speaking from experience, the pain absorbs into the Bio-Brane, waiting for that moment when the stuff is ripped from your sorry hide, whereupon it detonates. I was wearing more than a square foot of the stuff covering both thighs. With the staples out, the nurse grabbed the first sheet, and PULLED!

SONOFABITCH!!!!! The Los Angeles streets are thick with drug pushers. Day or night, anyone with a bit of loose cash can score riveting chemical recreation. Uppers, downers, tranks, opiates, euphoriants, hallucinogens... Any and all manner of chemical frenzy, ecstasy, or oblivion is within reach. Courtesy of Food and Drug Administration ethics and Idiot Christian morality (only drug addicts deserve drugs - they're VICITMS!) I was sitting in a frothing pool of my own human soup, SCREAMING! Onward Christian assholes. Why that magic plastic tarpaulin could not have remained in place until some skin grew beneath it is beyond me. There was still one sheet to go. I dredged up the last threads of my unraveled mind. I mentally cursed the chromosomally aberrant caricatures of coprophagic cloacal parasites that were doing this to me. I smiled a pallid smile at the nurse. I was fully aware that there was probably no good way to do pull this off, but she probably knew of dozens of incredibly worse ways, all innocently reserved for bothersome patients. SONOFABITCH!!!!! Wheel me back to the ward and bring out more wimpy drugs. I'll pass on the orgy in Colonic Irrigation this afternoon.

The adventure with the Bio-Brane exhausted their resources. If there was anything that was going to hurt worse or last longer than that double-barreled agony, it would have to be imported from an interrogation room in a CIA-funded Third World country. A few more days seeped by.

They let me go home.


Each dawn I found some way to meaningfully fall out of my waterbed with my hands, legs, face and chest creamed and gauzed and barking at the moon. Each morning I was carted back to Hydrotherapy by my significant other - another week of scraping as an outpatient. Each afternoon I was hauled back home by a solicitous friend, fed, and poured back into bed. Each evening the dearest lady I will ever know pried up the dressings, smoothed on more burn cream, and desperately held on to her own sanity as I shuddered in place.

One Sunday morning I got a shoulder stuffed with my customary 10mg of morphine sulfate, a Miracle of the Eucharist that was suddenly profound in its verifiable reality. I got high instead of pain-diminished. The end was in sight. The coming months of Physical Therapy were to be a cakewalk, even if the cake was a little stale.

I should have known better.

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