The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Spring 2016 Results

Bum Joke

Copyright © Karen Lethlean 2016

A few months ago I was referred to see a proctologist to check out what was going on inside my butt. All those ads on TV make reference to the list of symptoms that make me sure I’ve had irritable bowel syndrome for years…bloating, constipation, wind, (hmm do they refer to wind?) digestive problems; Tick that’s me. And I put up with a lot of discomfort. "Oh come on Jack, you’re a victim of advertising," says the loving wife. But what if, I do have a problem, down there?

So along I went to an appointment with the specialist to be greeted by a stern looking old man dressed in a drab suit sitting behind his large, wooden desk. Over in the corner were models of various parts of the human anatomy that made me feel likewise dis-joined. The medico asked me a series of questions; what shape, consistency, colour and exits did my ‘motions’ have? All in a very matter-of-fact way and then decided that I should have a colonoscopy.

I tried to joke with him about my problems with flatulence but he simply ignored me. Hell that’s familiar, because on the frequent letting out of air which seems to be out of my control, anyone downwind reacts the same. Unless of course the aroma is particularly stink ridden then depending on the nature of my relationship with bystanders responses are somewhere on a scale between a death stare and, ‘Fuck, you stink!’ Not so long ago Anna and I lightened the problem by nominating awards for the smelliest emittances. Best ever goes to one that still lingers between the cheeses and juices in Coles Supermarket. So rank that we no longer shop there. Wasn’t even me, that honour belongs to Anna.

“If farting was a national sport, you’re a walk up start for the team.” One of Anna’s favourite retorts.

Back when we first got together there were wonderful giggly moments early in the morning. A time when emittances from that orifice are rife.

“Watch out, the call of a rare brown tunnel frog.”

“So sad, it is alone, desires a mate…”

“You just wish you had your own.”

Rare, brown tunnel frogs could take more time than the Sunday papers, or pre-football brunches.

The doctor, specialist, proctologist, gastroenterologist, egad there are too many prefixes on that word, booked me in for day surgery-colonoscopy, in a month’s time and gave me a list of instructions on how to prepare. I’m home thinking, well can’t be anything too serious, up in my rear end or he’d have told me to present A & E pretty damn quickly. So I don’t have a case of fartus-maximus colon cancer.

Preparation for this invasion of my butt involved a few days of avoiding certain foods, then avoiding solid food and then avoiding food altogether. All those instructions were written down for me, no problem. It was inconvenient, especially as I’d be the one who had to pick up thinks like jelly (do they even sell that these days) and clear chicken broth, oh and in exactly which aisle?

I also had to drink a powdered drink, which was bloody awful, tasted like a combination of a sports drink and gutter water. This was designed to flush me out. It made me go to the toilet a lot, not with diarrhoea but instead with jets of liquid that would pour out of my arse like someone had turned the tap on full bore and also stretched out the opening. Unfortunate for the rare brown tunnel frog it’s swampy habitat is being drained.

Three days of no real food and having to vomit liquid out of my butthole had made me feel almost delirious drunk.

When my mother was in what she called, her ‘declining years’, an outing meant searching for a toilet, being hyper-aware that at any minute she would require these facilities, and no, she couldn’t wait until we got home. No comparison, my butt on pump-out function was way worse.

When I got to the hospital I changed into one of those nighties that always seem just a little too short. Luckily my penis and balls were so frightened they shrunk up into my body, decreasing to zero the chances of exposing myself. I lay down on the bed and was wheeled into the room where the examination would take place. It was there that I was told I would have to wait about an hour for the doctor to arrive before they could begin. Apparently he’d been called away with some sort of emergency that had pushed my ‘procedure’ down the priority list. There I am about to pass out from the pressures of an empty bowel sucking my butt cheeks together, not sure it that feeling down there is a fart brewing or another one of those liquid, preparation evoked implosions. You know perhaps they could sell that drink in the workplace, then when you say, ‘He gives me the shits!’ Slip a dab of the powder into the espresso machine capsule and rescind the whole motion… don’t laugh Jack, you’ll shit yourself.

There I was left with nothing to entertain myself, other than a full repertoire of bum jokes. Normally my life is full of constant exciting online distractions but now I was alone, dressed in a nightie, waiting for my butt to be probed.

My mind went to some strange places. On the wall was a diagram of the inner workings of a human being’s bowel and butt. It was riddled with every possible disease. I don’t know who would benefit from this diagram, surely the doctor knows what this stuff looks like and doesn’t constantly have to refer to it? I stared at that poster for what seemed like hours, trying to decide which horrible problem I would prefer. Anal fissures? Polyps, Gastroenterocolitis? Volvolvus? Could this be the result of bum on Volvo leather seats? Rapunzel Syndrome? I was pretty sure I didn’t have Rapunzel Syndrome as that occurs in people who eat their own hair, but what if every takeaway meal I had even eaten had a couple of pieces of hair in it and all that hair had been storing up in my guts for years!? STRANGERS’ HAIR! Long, thick black ones, like the Japanese girl at my favourite sushi bar. Short curly ones? The thought made me feel increasingly sick. With nothing to take my mind off a mess of strangers’ hair clogging up my anus I was left to go slowly insane.

Finally the doctor arrived. I was allowed to see the long camera that was going to be inserted into my butt. It was a lot thicker than I had imagined. What happened to all this micro-technology I keep hearing about? This thing was just like a really long windy fat semi-rigid rope with a camera at the end. As if, having done the site preparation work, a developer is now to build a sky-scraper tower right where the rare brown tunnel frog used to live. Surely multi-stories up my butt is going to feel uncomfortable? Luckily I’d be given some sort of anaesthetic that wouldn’t knock me out completely, ‘Soft anaesthesia,’ the man in charge of the gas mask told me. But this would be enough to make me unaware of what was going on. They rolled me onto my side to ensure easy access to my rear opening and shot me up with the drugs. There I assume I basically went to sleep because I have no memory of anything besides one moment: I am not sure how far into the procedure we were, but I woke up facing a TV screen which was showing a live shot of the inside of my butt. Fascinated by what I was seeing, I immediately started asking questions. “Whereabouts is that? What part of my body are you in? Is THAT normal?” Then I suddenly became aware of the long camera inside me and it was very uncomfortable. I started to shout. “OKAY I CAN FEEL IT NOW. THIS IS PRETTY HORRIBLE. YOURE GONNA HAVE TO TAKE THAT OUT OF ME.” Someone quickly pumped me full of some more drugs and I drifted off again, blissfully unaware.

I awoke sometime later in another room to a nurse asking me how I felt. I told her felt fine and thought I was ready to go home. I tried to get up but then realised everything was moving from side to side like I had been secretly moved onto a boat while I was knocked out. Had I been shipped off to international waters so they could sell my anus videos on the black market? Butt-porn, should be buyers for that, right? Anything could have happened because I felt as if there was a dark abyss back there that smacks of “dead sleep” status. Strangely refreshing yet repulsive, I wanted more sleep like that, at the same time oddly annoying that someone could give you chemicals to take away all your worldly awareness! When you are slumbering at home, the tiniest tinkle, a tap, a garden leaf, even an insect can bring you awake, in day surgery nothing would be able to penetrate your sleep. I lay back down and napped for a bit longer until I was sure that I was on dry land and no one was going to put anything more into my veins.

The sandwich – never was I so overjoyed to be confronted with a neat row of quarter cut mixed sandwiches. The big chunky whole grains smiled up in welcome like the sight of dry land to a sailor lost on an ocean of ‘low fibre’ for the past three days. Tomato, cheese, ham, tuna and celery, oh joy all my Christmases have come at once. I blamed the spinning of my head, and a slight pain behind my temples on the euphoria inherit in being given real food.

Afterwards the nurse helped me to get dressed, which was more a case of hovering outside the curtains and asking, ‘Are you managing, Jack?’

Well no, not really darl. I’d like you to come in here and assist the old man with bending over, reaching down for my trouser legs, because someone seems to have shifted my centre of gravity while I was dealing with big black camera-tube and the likelihood of a hair stuck somewhere in my alimentary canal.

Nurse and I walked to the waiting room. She loved me only as much so as to supervise this shuffle.

I sat next to another man who had just had the same procedure. He was telling the nurse that he had not been properly knocked out and was awake for the entire thing. She was nodding politely but basically ignoring him. I wanted to tell him how I sort of woke up but I felt too dizzy. Plus I’m not sure if my screaming at the butt image was all imagined because a ‘can’t remember’ aura, way worse than as a result of any Friday night drinking session, has settled. I didn’t feel any real bond with this man other than that we had both had long tubes inside both our butts very recently. It’s not like drinks with my army pals.

Eventually the doctor walked into the room and grinned when he saw me. Getting a grin from someone who has just seen inside your butt is a strange new experience I hope not to repeat. I have dim recall of him bending over my prone form wearing regalia that looked like skiing masks. He hands me a page with colour print out of pictures from my lower bowel. At first I can’t shake the feeling that this is like Instagram shots taken while he was in there. Special mementoes of that big black camera up my butt, look-out shots from the top of the semi-rigid tower that was erected inside there. Indisputable proof that this doctor has been into the realm of the rare brown tunnel frog. Then I latch onto words like, normal…no evidence of polyps…Nope, still feels weird looking at my caecum, ileo-caecal valve and appendiceal orifice. The pinkish images look more as if they should be used for special effects in a sci-fi film, something to do with glistening growths on caves in another planet. The circle of my poor distressed rectum reminds of a scar left behind following emergence of an alien life form, like in that film with Sigourney Weaver.

Breaking into my efforts to recognize parts of my own anatomy, albeit from angles I have never seen, the doctor spoke to the man who was next to me: “We didn’t find anything wrong with you, you’re all fine.” Then he looked over at me and suddenly corrected himself: “No, wait, Jack, you are all fine.” He turned back to the other man: “You have haemorrhoids.” Pysch! What a prankster.

My bum-job comrade doesn’t mention anything being awake. Guess he thought it wasn’t worth taking this experience further up the hospital hierarchy. Anyway that’s the anaesthetist’s job, you never see them afterwards. Those merchants of gas only come in to introduce themselves before they smash you unconscious.

“We have injected your haemorrhoids,” I hear the quack say. Can’t really avoid overhearing such personal information, being they are right there. Part of me feels a pang on this man’s behalf.

“You are going to be a bit sore for a few days,” continued the doctor. “Suggest not planning to riding a bicycle, or trying to earn some pocket money at the wall in Paddington.”

The man seemed quite annoyed but I didn’t listen to his complaints to the doctor. I was too busy enjoying the wave of relief that I didn’t have cancer or a fistful of strangers’ hair tangling around inside me. Plus I was caught up with the notion that this medico fancies himself as a stand-up comic, specialising in bum humour. Weird when he was so dead-pan in his consulting rooms. Maybe he thinks this is lightening the baggage of his camera and our having suffered invasion by said apparatus.

I can’t help considering at what point of their extensive studies does a medico-in-training make the decision to venture into bum doctor expertise? Do they have some sort of selection test or criteria which indicates talent with rear ends? What about having to admit – in my job I deal with shit!? But wait after the prep-purge there can’t actually be anything left up there. These pictures sure show squeaky clean, no poo brown. In fact I may never pass wind again, going to take days, at least, and am wondering if the rare brown tunnel frog is now an extinct species.