Scott McClanahan



That’s what Sarah thought that morning when she saw the giant balls. She’d seen balls before but she had never seen balls like these. It was a guy with a congestive heart problem and the body was full of fluid. Sarah walked by the room that morning and Becca asked for some help with the man and the giant balls. “He has so much fluid inside of him it has nowhere to go but his nut sack.” So Sarah lifted up the left ball. It was as big as a magic eight ball.  Becca put a pillow beneath it.  The patient moaned, “O my balls.” Then Becca lifted up the right ball and Sarah put a pillow beneath it. The patient moaned, “O my balls.” Then Becca took a small pin and poked both of them.  She told Sarah that the doctor said we needed to drain these balls. Fifteen minutes later Sarah heard Becca ask the man: “Are your balls feeling better now?” The water was still running out of them.  The balls were weeping. “Yes, my balls are feeling much better now. Thank you.”


Sometimes Sarah went in and sat with her patients like Miss K. Sarah knew Miss K. had been married but she didn’t know for how long.  She asked Miss K. what the key to a successful marriage was. Miss K. thought for a moment and then she said, “Two things.  The first thing. Keep your damn mouth shut.” And what’s the second thing Miss K? Miss K. said, “Fucking, fucking and more fucking.” Sarah blushed hearing these words come out of an 80 year old woman. Miss K. said, “If you can fit together when you fuck–then you’ll have a lifetime of happiness.”


But it was stressful at work now. One of the doctors had left a pair of forceps in a patient after a gall bladder surgery.  And now the hospital was being sued.  The patient kept complaining about pain in her side like someone was stabbing her. Oh you’re fine. They finally gave her an X-Ray and yep. Something was poking her in the side. Someone had left a pair of forceps inside of her.


And there was also another lawsuit from a patient who was having a tumor removed from his stomach. He was suing because the anesthesiologist had made a mistake and the patient was left conscious on the operating table. The only anesthesia that was administered was a dose that simply paralyzed the face and the body.  So the patient was conscious through the whole surgery but couldn’t move. He could just scream inside his mind, “I’m awake. I’m awake.” He could just scream, “Holy Shit, you’re cutting me open.”  He heard them joking about his fatty liver and he could feel the scalpel slice. So Sarah thought about all of us at the moment of our death being trapped inside our own body. She thought about being awake and trapped inside your pain and unable to do anything about it–unable to escape from the giant hospital of your flesh.


Sarah couldn’t do anything about it now.  She decided to check on Miss K. again and see if she needed her hair done, but she had a visitor. It was a man in his 60s with gray hair. Sarah went to check on her after that and there was another man there now. He already had her sitting up on the potty chair and he already had her hair fixed. Later that evening Sarah noticed a different man. He was filing her fingernails. Sarah noticed yet another different man on the final visiting hour and he was reading to her. What? A book of fairy tales. Miss K. had been a schoolteacher. “You sure do have a lot of visitors,” Sarah said. Miss K. smiled. “Yep those are my boys.” Sarah thought about having a whole room full of sons. Then Miss K. asked, “Did you and your husband do some fucking last night.”

“No we didn’t” Sarah told her.

“Ah that relationship is doomed,” Miss K. said. She meant it.


But Sarah couldn’t worry about marriage and the state of her family now. She had to worry about dentures. Dentures?

“Goddamn we’ve mixed them up,” Mindy said.


“The dentures.”

How? The night before three patients were brought in at roughly the same time who all had top and bottom dentures. The nurses were so busy with getting the patients hooked up to IVs and put on vents that that they simply set all the fake teeth to the side in the patient storage lockers. Somehow the teeth were moved and now they were fucked. There was only one thing to do. Sarah went from patient to patient and made them try out the dentures until they got their own set of teeth. “Hey these aren’t mine,” one of the old men said. “Why are you making me try out all these dentures? These teeth aren’t mine. That’s fucking GROSS.”


But now she had to worry about the OD kid who was in the other room screaming his face off. The OD kid was this young, good looking guy who always wound up in the hospital every month or two because of drug overdoses.  He even packed a suitcase one day before he came. Sometimes Sarah thought his overdoses were just an excuse to get real drugs.  “I don’t do well on Tylenol. I’m allergic.”  He knew what he wanted. Sarah knew what this meant. If he said this than he could get OXY. “Sir, the doctor will make the decision what you will have or not have.” The OD kid had a wife and she was here now too telling the whole story. She told Sarah that when she came home that evening he was in the kitchen and cooking like he always did. “But you know what?” The wife said. “He never lets me know what he’s cooking. He always says it’s a secret recipe.” Sarah wrote this down in the chart. Then the retarded wife said she woke up in the middle of the night because of this banging. She went into the kitchen and he was banging on something against the floor. “He’s always banging like that and working on home improvement projects,” the wife said. Sarah didn’t tell her that he was using the hammer to crush up pills and then get the big rush.  Sarah did ask her if she was aware that her husband had been brought in because of a drug overdose. “You don’t think someone would have snuck in and drugged him do you?” The wife asked.


But now the OD kid was screaming.  He kept ripping off the name tag they made the patients wear. The nametag said, “Hello Friend. My name is…” The OD kid didn’t care about being friends and just kept screaming, “Get me the fuck out of here.” They finally threatened to restrain him. This sent him off on another rant about how he hated all of them and then he pulled his penis out and started pissing in the nurse’s direction. After he was done all three of the nurses came over and put the arm restraints on him. He kicked and screamed and kicked his legs. In the meantime it was Sarah’s job to go through his things and make sure he hadn’t smuggled in any drugs. But he did. She found three Oxys in the crease of his pants and two Vicodins in a bottle of tums his wife bought for him. There were fentanyl patches in his pillow case. He always brought his pillow from home and there was always drugs in it. “Don’t you go through all of my shit or I’ll beat you down. I’m not afraid to hit a woman. I’ve hit plenty of em in my time and have had my ass beat by one or two of them as well.” Sarah told him she was going to call security if he didn’t quiet down.  He quieted down. Sarah asked him another question but he didn’t answer. It was like he was holding something in his mouth. “Sir what do you have in your mouth?” She finally pried his mouth open and Sarah said, “Mother fucker.” It was two more fentanyl patches he’d somehow put in the back of his mouth and was sucking on it. He shouted “Don’t you dare take my medicine.  You have no right to take my medicine.” Sarah bent down to make sure there wasn’t anything else.  The OD kid hawked up a loogie. He spit. The spit hit Sarah in the face


That night the OD kid was still raising hell. He was screaming and cussing and flailing around until the bed rails bent. “Motherfucker get me out of here.” They finally had to put leg restraints on him. By the next morning he was quiet again. Sarah went into his room and looked at him and he was just lying there all quiet and peaceful.  So she tiptoed to his bed and patted his leg. He was still breathing quiet and so she went around to the side of the bed and kneeled. “There you go.  You finally decided to stop fighting and just relax.” The OD kid said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Sarah didn’t hear him really so she leaned in closer. The OD kid grinned and that’s when he did it. He vomited a projectile stream of yellow and orange and green and black right into Sarah’s face. Sarah stood up. Sarah wiped the projectile vomit off her face and tried to spit out what got into her mouth.  Then Sarah remembered that the OD kid was HIV positive.

The next morning as a precautionary measure Sarah took her first AIDS test. It came back negative. The other nurses all clapped when Sarah came back into the unit. It was like she had just returned from a faraway land and she was safe. She was alive.  Finally. Just like YOU. They all patted her on the back and said, “Yay. You passed your first AIDS test.” Then the nurses cheered some more. Yay for AIDS tests and not having AIDS.  Yay Aids.


So Sarah had to sit down.  She went into Miss K’s room and sat down. K. was sleeping. Sarah watched her sleep.  Then she saw that Miss K. had a visitor and the visitor was sleeping. The gray haired man was startled and woke up. “Oh I’m sorry,” Sarah said. “I was just checking on her.” Sarah got up out of the chair and started to leave. “No stay,” the gray haired man said.  He must have been only 50 or so. “She likes you and she hardly likes anyone.” Then the man took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “I was dreaming we were at the beach and it was years ago. It was before everything got so messed up.  I took a picture of her on the balcony of our hotel and she looked beautiful. We sat on that beach and looked out at the ocean and all that rolling water and the moon.  You’d think they would have exchanged the moon by now and got a new one, but it’s the same moon.  The same one. Then we made love.”

Sarah was confused. Sarah thought that this man was one of Miss K’s sons. He looked so young. Then he told her he was one of her ex-husbands. Sarah said, “Oh well, I wasn’t sure she’d been married before. I knew she had sons.” The man stopped and told her no. She never had any children.  The men who had been coming to visit her and take care of her were all her ex-husbands.  The man smiled and told Sarah that Miss K. had been married seven times. FUCKING.


“She must have been an amazing woman,” Sarah said.  The man just shook his head. “Yes, she was. And she still is.” So that night Sarah walked to her car and looked up at the moon.  It was the same moon from 10 thousand years ago.  It was the same moon everyone looked at. It was the same moon Caesar saw and emperor’s and it is the same moon we see tonight. So open your eyes. There’s a soft light to lead in the dark and we’re all wearing name tags that say: Hello Friend. My name is. I’m a visitor.

Aren’t we ALL?


But Miss K. never made it to the beach. A week passed and then two weeks passed and then a month and then two months. She was on the vent the last week of her life. Sarah told me she died the strangest death she’d ever witnessed. I asked her why it was so strange and she told me it was because it was so sad and touching and wonderful and strong. Sarah said most deaths are so weak. She said all the husbands who were still living stood by her bed. They gathered around the bedside and then one by one they stopped and told her goodbye. Some were crying and some whispered I love you and held her and touched her forehead and kissed her cheek. Goodbye. And then Miss K. who had not moved in weeks looked as if she was smiling. The men all held hands around her bed and sang her favorite song.

What type of song?

What the fuck else? A love song.

They held hands and swayed and the former husband who had been a preacher shouted hallelujah. It was not a day of sorry. But it was a day of joy. Then he broke up and said. “Go away sweetheart, where we are all young.” Then Miss K. raised her arms into the air and Sarah wished for a thousand husbands. Then she wished for ten thousand husbands, and they were all singing love songs for her.

Then the preacher reminded them that it is told there will be no marriages in heaven. Even the ones who were married to us will be no more to us than the ones we have known before. We will know one another for what we have been, but we will also know one another for who we are…children.

So Sarah went back into the supply room and cried and for some reason she started thinking about the OD kid. She realized she hadn’t seen him in a while. Another month passed and then another month passed and then a year passed. Then one day Sarah was filling out a chart at the nurse’s station and a man walked up to her. He told her hello and then he told her he didn’t know if she remembered him.

But Sarah knew who it was. She realized she didn’t know his real name. She only knew his nickname. She only called him the OD kid. He told her his name was David and he wanted to tell her he was sorry. He knew he called her a “bitch” once and he knew he had spit in her face and he knew he had intentionally vomited in her face. They both chuckled. He said he’d like to say he did that because he was on drugs. He wanted to say the drugs made him an asshole but that wasn’t true. He had been an asshole before the drugs and the drugs just allowed him to be the asshole he was always meant to be.  Then he reached into his bag and pulled out a box of doughnuts. He told her he knew it wasn’t much but he was trying to get back up on his feet. Sarah smiled and said thank you. Then she ate a doughnut and the OD kid ate a doughnut too. Then they both grinned because they had absolutely nothing to fucking talk about. And it was okay. This wasn’t a woman called bitch by a drugged up patient. This was a woman named Sarah. And this wasn’t a man called the OD kid. This was a man whose name was David. And someone was saying they were sorry.

We should all be saying we are sorry. Even right now. And this was someone who was saying I forgive you. And they were eating doughnuts.


Aren’t doughnuts amazing?


The next week Sarah heard a story about Miss K’s ex-husbands. She heard they were all living in her house together. There were only five of them but they were all there. They were together. They were all taking care of one another. It made them feel close to her just to be around one another.  It felt nice to be around the things she loved.