When my life rolls along untroubled — like the brookie-rich meander of the Upper Taylor River back when I was a kid, before hordes from the lowlands swarmed Colorado to destroy Taylor Park and nearly everything else of value located a mile or more above sea level — I am resolutely agnostic.
When life surges disturbed — tumbling dirty and chaotic, a flash flood in a New Mexico arroyo — I quickly pivot to Episcopalian, of a sort.
When I pivot, I find myself in good and familiar company, and quickly set aside my hypocrisy.
I’ve heard it said that members of the Church of England are snotty and aloof. In my experience, this is not so, even though my maternal grandmother, Minnie, a staunch Episcopalian, was somewhat stern. My feather-light, chirpy Aunt Hazel, every bit as committed to the tradition, was not. And, she taught me to cook.
No, the Anglicans are fine, if a bit restrained; all in all they’re my kind of people, if and when I’m compelled to cozy up to members of a cult.
When I was trucked to a hospital eight years ago for a major surgical adventure, the folks at St. Patrick’s in Siberia With a View gave me a prayer quilt fashioned by members of the congregation, each knot said to symbolize a prayer for my improved health and well being. It warmed me. I still use the quilt to keep warm in the basement when I watch Cops, English Premier League matches, and programs on Netflix. I spasmed when Harry Kane scored against Chelsea two seasons ago with a magnificent bicycle kick, and I spilled a bit of Cyprus Cuvee Cotes du Rhone on a corner of the quilt, but the stain is no distraction.
I was given the quilt even though I never attended a regular service at St. Patrick’s. Excluding funerals and weddings, I haven’t attended a church service since I was christened at St. Paul’s, in Central City (the oldest Episcopal church in Colorado) when I was a helpless sprout, unable to bolt and run.
Absent an emergency, the bond hasn’t held.
I’m reminded of my standard aversion to organized religion during a visit with my physician pal, Wanda. A bubble of a basal cell carcinoma bulges at the right of my upper lip, and it must go.
I am not thrilled by the prospect. Wanda’s skill as a surgeon is undeniable, but I fear the scar will alter my winning, gap-toothed smile, dashing any hope I have of making a fortune as an elderly male model. There is a growing call for decrepit, grinning models these days — in AARP and Viagra commercials, for example — given so many of us feebs selfishly extend our lives, playing pickleball, doing tai chi, sipping pink crap from cans, wearing diapers, shuffling around in shoes closed with Velcro tabs, depleting the national treasury, riding scooters at the supermarket, forgetting our names and those of our pets, the names of the members of our families, and significant details concerning our pasts.
Forgetting the past is a desirable thing; I remember far too much of my past to sleep well at night. I need to amp up my intake of intoxicants in order to accelerate erosion of the faculty. I own and use a number of aluminum pans in order to hasten the decline. It can’t happen soon enough. I need the rest.
As I wait at Wanda’s office for my introduction to what is called “the procedure room,” where the hacking takes place, I scan the items pinned to the exam room walls. This crap is standard in nearly every physician’s office: posters display illustrations of various organs and skeletal highlights of the human body, all potential targets for disastrous disorder. Pick an organ, a bone, or a particular hunk of connective tissue — it can go wrong, in dispiriting fashion.
On the wall of this exam room, however, I am unexpectedly confronted by a token of religion (according to Wanda, the doing of a nurse dismissed for insubordination). Next to a full color rendering of the human digestive tract is a small, purple pennant hanging on a golden cord, a cord with tassels at its tips.
I read the nonsense printed on the pennant, some of it tautological, the rest so unfocused as to be absent pragmatic value — assertions such as “We have smaller families, but larger houses,” and “We have become long on quantity, but short on quality.”
Were this an ordinary day, to include several cocktails and other entertainments by mid afternoon, I wouldn’t be affected by what I read on the pennant. But since she knows me well, Wanda asks me to come to the surgery unpolluted. I do as I’m asked. As a result, I’m agitated as I scan the banner.
The title printed at the top of the pennant is “The Paradox of Our Age,” and below it are ten or so insipid quotes.
The author’s name follows.
It’s the fucking Dalai Lama.
I know folks who flip atwitter at the mention of this guy; their eyes roll back in their heads, mouths drop open as they’re struck senseless by the sight of his photo. A life’s goal for these devotees is to attend an event at which DL is present; they worship the old but surprisingly wrinkle-free bozo, his body said to be a transient abode for an enduring being every bit as goofy in this incarnation as it was in the last. And the one before that, etc.
Reincarnation? Sure, why not? Donald Trump was elected as our president, so what’s so crazy about the idea of reincarnation? As a result, I was once Sappho, or was it Xantippe? Must have been Xantippe; I’m not much of a poet, but I am an incredibly accomplished nag.
Or, better yet, I was Escoffier, gouty and swollen by daily overexposure to butter, cream, confit, and a lobe or two of goose liver, hustling to transcribe my recipes before a coronary artery or three close, and I expire in the arms of a weeping sous chef from Avignon.
I dislike idol worship, unless it takes place at an Anglican service, conducted during a siege of great personal stress, or an otherwise witless art critic aims it at Chaim Soutine or Egon Schiele. So, I’m suspicious of this grizzled Himalayan huckster. Granted, DL’s nowhere near as odious as the well-coiffed cons who collect enormous salaries at Happy Churches, running their games on GED-level MAGA folk and heartsick widows, but the Chinese government doesn’t appreciate the Dalai Lama, so why would I? The Chinese will soon be our masters, and I intend to be in the groove when they arrive: obedient, with a failing memory.
The second stumbling block for me (or is it the third?) is my near certainty there is something sinister going on with the boys who reside at the monastery. I don’t buy the claim that any practice with roots in ancient Tibet is acceptable simply because it’s old and it comes from Tibet. Kid diddling is as reprehensible in Lhasa as it is in Baltimore; it seems that wherever there’s a chicken, there’s someone eager to pluck it. In many cases, that someone is ordained.
Think about the damage a catholic priest in Pittsburgh inflicts in short order on an altar boy or three. Do the math: there are how many pubescent novice monks at the monastery? A hundred? More? At an exclusively male enclave? And the little, bald love bunnies wear robes! Any clue what waits beneath a robe? Look up the word “pubescent,” and you’ll discover that one of its original Middle French meanings was “downy.”
Chew on “downy” for a moment, if you will, but make sure you ingest a tablespoon of tuna-flavored Laxatone when you do — a hairball is a demanding companion.
I chew on it as I wait for Wanda to carve on me. Then, with my ADD in high gear due to a lack of gin, I jump to the fact that Wanda will cut off something that, while a cancer, is nothing compared to the cancer I’ve carried for more than a decade, one that’s slowly gaining ground with no chemistry, scalpel, crazy ray, or prayer available to produce a sure remedy. I move quickly from contemplation of Tibetan Buddhist pedophiles to consideration of an impending death scenario. And to members of another “faith” — New Age know-it-alls, spawn of the miserable union of conspiracy theory, Ayurveda, and the Church of the First Born, many also serving socio-politically as a goofball balance to the Alt-Right.
Medical evidence suggests a clear picture of my situation, and I accept it: there are some cancers, at some stages, that portend doom. I’ve got one of them. I had a cancerous prostate gouged out, but the disease had escaped the capsule of the gland prior to my mutilation, and corrupt cells were well on their way to roost and flourish in other parts of my body. The process is metastasis, and the process ain’t a happy one.
But, this is not heavy enough because, according to quite a few New Age nitwits, I’m stupid, and the cancer is my fault.
These chuckleheads cleave to their own form of quasi-religious dogma and dish out baseless debris as silly as any served up by the average Jehovah’s Witness. According to them, I have the cancer because I trust members of the medical community, and naively accept evidence collected by physicians and researchers, corroborated again and again over a long period of time. In other words, I am a fool who believes in science. According to them, as is the case with many true believers, science is a sham, if not a manifestation of evil.
Counter to evidence offered by members of the scientific community, it seems there are cancer cures out there, hidden from needy patients. I don’t have to ask in order to hear about these cures because the New Age wizards, like other fanatics, are driven to preach. The sermon is an assault many cancer sufferers endure, possibly quite a few times, before their rogue cells capture the flag.
The chance I will hear about the miraculous options hidden by incompetent, jealous, avaricious doctors, (in league with drug companies operated by members of the Trilateral Commission), is one of the many reasons why I stay in the basement.
I’ve spent most of my time in the basement since I left the newspaper biz five years ago, abandoning a role that began as a hack reporter, then improved somewhat to include columnist and, finally — “to the peak, Sir Edmund! — ascended to editor. It was an occupation that brought me into contact with enough residents of the human zoo to convince me to become a hermit.
For years, I was exposed to a full spectrum of human noise, nonsense, and tragedy. I endured exposure to plane crashes, mutilated bodies, deadly motor vehicle accidents, fires, suicide and murder victims, angry mobs of retirees, and country line dancers. I sat through lengthy courtroom dramas. I watched as ego-rich and marginally literate elected officials behaved like chipmunks trapped in a bucket. I reported on Republican Party meetings featuring chair pads that reeked of ammonia, and suffered the doddering blockheads who attended property owner association meetings.
I received and read letters to the editor for too many years, the witless and self-assured authors spewing their meager insights and plentiful bile, occasionally promising violence of one sort or another to me or anyone else who countered them. I entertained visits from camo-clad militia members, their greasy, dog-eared copies of the Constitution holstered on their hips next to their Glock 9s, their brains the size of a walnut.
I dealt with noxious, ass-kissing clowns, i.e. politicians at all levels, with violent criminals, real estate jockeys convinced they were the most advanced beings on the planet, aromatherapists, smug “elites” with more money than anyone needs and no taste to accompany it, condescending progressives yearning to guide the untutored masses, gossips, lawyers, members of the Republican Party Central Committee, drum circle enthusiasts, fans of bluegrass music, and the like.
Plus, there were more than a few run-ins with avid believers of the classic ‘Murican kind.
One instance stands out as typical of what keeps me in the basement and anchors my agnostic foundation: a run-in with a guy making a cross-country pilgrimage, toting a large wooden cross which, though it was constructed of 6×6 pressure-treated posts, was billed as being “exactly like the one on which our lord, Jesus Christ, was crucified.”
After he staggers into town bearing his burden of redwood, the Nike-shod martyr holds a confab in the parking lot at the elementary school in order to deliver his pitch. A good number of local evangelicals attend; several are gripped by spastic fervor, a couple of them talk in tongues, others dampen their drawers, set akimbo by the bliss of it all.
As I interview the goof, I notice that his cross has a wheel fixed to its tail end. When I ask him if the Jewish guy had a wheel on his cross, the sojourner calls me a blasphemer, and a chorus of Baptists grumble. I hear one of them say of me: “His name ends in ‘berg.’ The Jews killed our savior.” Little does he know: I’m an Episcopalian … if necessary.
I also discover that once the suffering pilgrim wakes from his afternoon nap following a lunch of Vienna sausages and store-bought potato salad provided by local donors to his “charity,” he casts a glance skyward, begs his god for strength, shoulders the cross, carts it past the town boundary just out of sight of his admirers, and stows it in the back of an aged Econoline van, to be transported to the outskirts of the next village, where the wheel-blessed crusader will struggle with considerable drama to the town center to milk another group of faith-struck zealots.
I follow the crusader, observe his shtick, and ask him a couple questions about the moral character of his enterprise as he crams the cross into the van. He calls me an atheist asshole — I correct him, noting I am agnostic, and occasionally Anglican — and he assures me he will crouch at the feet of his lord and laugh along with Jesus as they watch me suffer eternal torment in the pit of Hell. As he does so, a bit of dried Vienna sausage falls from the corner of his mouth, and he establishes himself as yet another loving disciple, in service to an all-knowing and loving god.
He confirms my conviction that people captured by dogma — religious, political, and otherwise, commit the worst offenses. Dogma is the great analgesic for too any people, allowing their faults, frustrations, confusion, and fears to be set aside, permitting their escape from the torrent in the arroyo as their responsibility for choices and actions otherwise haunted by doubt and guilt are shed like a burning garment.
There is a flip side. At the same time I meet a ton of crapballs during my years in the news biz, I encounter many wonderful people — old ladies who provide canned soup-based casseroles and tamales for post-funeral meals and fundraisers for veterans at the Legion post; people working the counters at gas stations and waiting tables at cafes; sackers at the supermarket, the employees at liquor stores; the ink-saturated pressmen who print the paper; non-violent criminals; high country outfitters and wranglers; pot growers; drunks who arrive at the bar next to the newspaper office at 9 a.m.; confused goth kids, surly skateboarders, and heavy metal wannabes, all with bruised, tender hearts and sad tattoos.
And I take note of a number of uplifting events, a favorite being the escorted procession provided to members of local high school sports teams when they venture to the big city for a state athletic tournament, their bus led from town by fire trucks, ambulances, and police vehicles, sirens blaring, horns honking, lights flashing. The theory: give the kids a parade to celebrate their qualification and departure, since their chances of winning and earning a parade upon their return are slim to none. For some of the youngsters, this gift will be the highlight of their life. It is the only time strangers will wave at them, and smile.
But, good folks and positive practices seldom bring enough muscle to the game when matched against the heavy hitters crouched on the negative side of the line, no matter what neo-Peale Toastmaster types urge us to believe. As the game goes on, the jerkoff faction too often wears down an amiable opposition and secures the victory. If you need proof, check out Iraq and Afghanistan, the salaries of Wall Street execs, or the fact the current Secretary of Education is the current Secretary of Education.
The jerkoffs wear on me after a couple of decades, so I quit and retreat to the basement, where I keep my studio and office. I paint, I write, I rarely answer the phone, I venture out of the house to go to the market. I climb the stairs to the kitchen in order to cook, to shower now and then, to sleep at night.
Prompted by a threat from my wife, I occasionally emerge from the depths, change into decent clothing, go public, and interact. I do so last week after I fortify myself with a couple G and Ts, a blast or three of powerful WiFi OG, and a dropper full of my friend Joe’s special elixir. Kathy drives.
As I anticipate and fear, once at our destination I’m unable to avoid a believer, and I’m told “the truth about cancer.”
“Oooh,” says the woman standing in the lobby of the theater prior to a performance of Legally Blonde, a wet spot on her Kokopelli blouse where she dribbled a bit of boxed white wine, “I heard you have cancer.” She tilts her head to the side and purses her lips, indicating compassion and an enlightened grasp of my situation.
“I’m sure you’ve been to doctors,” she says, “so tell me, are you doing OK? Huh? Aren’t you angry because they hide the truth?”
For fuck’s sake, I think, what kind of moron says something like this? The answer: someone who drinks boxed Chardonnay, and pins an eagle feather in her thinning hair. The woman’s name is Charlotte Gray Wolf. I know this because she was a regular visitor to my office when I worked as the editor of the newspaper. She delivered at least two missives per month, hinting at the locations of nearby vortices that act as beacons for extraterrestrial craft, and spelling out rules for correct behavior once advanced beings (again) walk among us.
Yes, I think, I’ve seen plenty of doctors, and they agree this cells-run-amok extravaganza is going kill me in ugly fashion if I’m not lucky enough to suffer a massive heart attack as I stroll the aisles at my favorite liquor store, I pitch face down in a pile of duck fat frites at a favorite restaurant, or I’m killed in a spectacular accident involving my 1993 Chevy pickup and a speeding, fully loaded cement truck. If things pan out well, the fatal accident occurs while I’m on my way to my favorite liquor store (no need for someone to deal with shattered gin bottles), or on the way home from a restaurant that serves duck fat frites.
The woman continues to fling New Age mindpoop through the bars of her cage. Kathy knows what’s coming, and I feel her elbow dig into my arm. It’s her way of letting me know she can quickly eliminate any need for a fatal heart attack or motor vehicle accident. Her elbow tells me, “Keep your mouth shut, or your ass is in the grinder and I’m turning the crank. I’m here for the musical, not a brawl.”
So I reply, “Oh, I’m fine.”
But, the swill-slurping asswipe ignores my clear signal and does something certain to prompt an eruption: she gives me advice.
She can’t help herself, she’s a patchouli-scented expert who goes online for hours each day to visit sites operated by mooncalves in Sedona, and exchanges info with fellow oracles as they sip chai and rate the latest self-help books.
The woman is an uber-healer without a degree, a sage dispensing higher knowledge delivered via vibrations to her, a few other “evolved” humans, and several breeds of goat. She reads something and understands it, so it must be true! People of her ilk are poster children for confirmation bias; a complex and often perplexing universe dissolves as they affirm what they claim to know, any uncertainty washed away by a current of comfortable, unverifiable faith and self-esteem. In relaying what she knows, solicited or not, she becomes important.
“You know, there are alternative remedies that will cure your cancer,” she says in an authoritative tone. “The criminals in the medical profession and the drug companies don’t want you to know about these things. They’re so cynical and greedy that they let people like you die, rather than tell you there is a way to save your life without their help: alternative medicines. They’re organic and they come from plants — from plants! Combined with chiropractic adjustments, copper bracelets, and magnet therapy, they work miracles. There’s the most wonderful chiropractor here in town who invented a footbath that draws cancer out of your body, and he’s willing to set up payment plans for retired people on fixed incomes. He’s a saint. After an hour with your feet in the bath, you see cancer cells floating in the basin.
“Of course, if you had begun treating your cancer homeopathically back when you first sensed it was ready to grow inside you, the cancer would not have developed. Let this be a lesson: you should never ignore your intuition.”
Sensed that cancer was ready to grow inside me? My intuition?
The woman shoots me a practiced, earnest look, her eyes the windows open to a vacant space. The clumsy, fake turquoise amulet resting on her freckled chest quivers as she takes a dramatic, deep breath, and sighs loudly. She reaches out and strokes my arm, a gesture she copied from Deepak Chopra or Andrew Weil. She projects utterly stupid sincerity — the kind you see on the face of a Hereford as it gazes at you through the rails of the corral just outside the entry to the abattoir.
Her friend arrives with a full glass of white, and Charlotte says, “Cerulea, this is Karl. Cerulea teaches Zumba classes, she’s a student of Chinese medicine, and an expert on cancer prevention. Karl has cancer, and I’ve been telling him how to cure himself. He doesn’t know.”
Cerulea nods and purses her lips. She is a “teacher,” and a chai sipper. There’s a copper bracelet on one of her wrists. She looks at me, unblinking, and tilts her head to the side, as if she’s examining an injured puppy.
“Well,” says Kathy, grabbing my arm, whirling me around, and urging me to the other side of the room, “how nice to see you again, Charlotte. Hope the chiropractor gets She To Whom the Spirits Whisper back on her feet. She’s a beautiful dog, and you’re lucky to have her as a soul mate.”
Kathy steers me to the bar in the lobby, I take a few cleansing breaths, and knock back three hits of low-grade vodka. It’s American, it’s awful, it works.
To further calm myself, I recall that I’ve taken part in meaningful conversations about cancer and mortality with intelligent people who have, or have had, some form of the disease. There is an exchange of genuine sympathy. These folks have heard the word and absorbed the blow when diagnosed; they undergo the treatments, know the drill. Some emerge from treatment free of the disease while others, like me, exhaust the options, and wait for the nastiness to occur. All cancer sufferers, I venture, know something about the wait.
I compare my situation with that of a motorist driving on a freeway during rush hour. There is plenty of stop-and-go traffic. At a point, the outside lane merges, and four lanes become three. Not long after, following another series of frustrating starts and stops, the outside lane merges again. Now, there are two lanes.
Then, there is one lane and, finally, a sign announces “Must Exit Ahead.”
There you have it.
I didn’t “sense” anything out of the ordinary when I took the on ramp to the freeway, but I know without benefit of intuition that “Must Exit” lies ahead. Without an exit, there can be no trip.
You don’t “sense” that you have cancer. In most cases, you experience symptoms, and after tests and analyses of data, a physician — not a chiropractor, acupuncturist, or Ayurvedic quack — tells you that you have a problem. They explain the nature of the cancer, discuss treatment options, disclose possible risks and odds for success, give you a chance to ask questions. They leave decisions up to you. They do not guarantee success. They do not pimp alternative cures, though many know that off-the-wall bullshit alleviates anxiety in some patients, amping up hope and delusion that temporarily keeps angst at arm’s length.
What I do clearly sense in conversation with folks like the muttonhead at the theater, is that our species is in deep trouble. The human race is well on the way to a self-propelled extinction with far too many of its members ignorant of, or opposed to science, stubbornly resistant to fact, incapable of real empathy, unhinged by ambiguity and personal fallibility, unwilling or unable to accept the reality of their limited time and the possibility that some of that time might be spent in pain. Terrified by the idea that nothing can be truly known about what, if anything, exists beyond the exit sign.
Side note: I’ll never tell the New Age wonder workers, but there is one alternative cure that would cure my cancer, were it available.
It was revealed to me by an acquaintance who undertook an expedition to the jungles of Guatemala in order to apprentice to a legendary, non-ambulatory curandero who resides with thousands of bats in a tunnel hacked into the heart of a Mayan temple by tomb raiders. The ancient curandero tells my friend the cancer cure requires three weeks of twice-daily doses of a potion, measured by pouring the sludge into an empty half shell of a small coconut, up to one forefinger’s width of the lip.
The problem: the less-than-heroic character of the young curanderos in the region. The old guy is the last of his breed and near the end of his journey, no longer able to procure ingredients for the healing brew, and the new arrivals to the curandero carnival refuse to do the work.
The old man says the potion is a 50/50 combo of the blood of Ixil virgins from Nebaj, and the yolks of Barba amarilla eggs. The neophyte curanderos can easily purchase the blood from needy families with daughters of the prescribed age and condition, but willingness to forage for the Barba amarilla eggs has dwindled to zero. The snake is aggressive and, as you probably know, dependably deadly. The eggs are small, so the potion requires approximately 150 eggs per dose. That’s 3,150 eggs per treatment, give or take a few dozen, accounting for damage and decay. That is a shitload of eggs, and collection entails major risk.
Nowadays, the young curanderos have smart phones and unlimited data plans, and they’re able to promote and conduct ayahuasca retreats for upper middle class, white Americans. Why risk anything? At $150 a head per day — lodging and meals not included — that’s decent money in the jungle. As a result: no potion, snake eggs go unfilched, and the countryside teems with menacing vipers. Each year, at least ten upper middle class, white Americans, ripped to the tits on ayahuasca, slouch from the sweat lodge disrobed and disoriented to be bitten and die a horrible death. Those of us suffering from metastasized prostate cancer are left without access to the only proven alternative cure.
Wanda’s nurse, Inge, enters the exam room and informs me it is time to be sliced. Inge has a noticeable northern European accent so, given my fear of Germans, I ask whether she might be Swiss? I’m out of luck. The gelernter Assistent shoves me down the hallway.
Wanda waits next to the chair, wearing her snappy scrubs, her hair gathered beneath a surgical cap, a high priestess in the Cult of the Blade, ready at the altar. Her cult’s dogma is of less concern to me than others, since it accommodates change when new evidence and methods surface, and nearly all of its members refuse to make promises they can’t keep.
She fires me up with a local anesthetic. While we wait, we chat about the French wines I can no longer have delivered from Kermit Lynch, since the State of Colorado began to enforce its archaic alcohol importation regulations. I make a few remarks about the loss of freedoms in what was once a land of opportunity, and mention an organic pig’s head I intend to buy at summer’s end in order to prepare a mess of headcheese. Wanda tells me her father-in-law patronized Lynch’s shop in Berkeley when she was a kid growing up in that Trotskyite enclave by the Bay, and she declines my invitation to lend a hand with the pork project. She cuts a hefty wedge of flesh from my upper lip, I bleed profusely and ruin one of my two good shirts, she stitches the gap and mops up.
As I prepare to leave, I mention that the surgery could have been avoided, since a copper nose ring can melt a nascent tumor on the lip, thus removing the need for medical intervention. I add that I was told I should have sensed there was a basal cell blob about to sprout, and hustled to a local chiropractor to have my face jammed into a footbath and kept there until cancer cells floated to the water’s surface.
Wanda smiles. Or is it a smirk?
“Didn’t they teach you anything in medical school?” I ask.
“Oh, we learned about the cures,” she says, “but we swear to never tell our patients. Our secret fraternal organization — the Brotherhood of Doctors and Drug Manufacturers, a division of the Illuminati — requires us to take an oath before we go into practice and begin to cooperate with the insurance industry to set outrageously high fees. Did you know there’s a moss from northern Latvia that, when applied to the forehead for three months, causes the pineal gland to grow into a functioning third eye, providing for perfectly fluid interaction of mind and body?”
“Wow,” I reply, “so Descartes was right! And there’s a potion found in the Guatemalan jungle that can cure metastasized prostate cancer.”
“Oh, yeah,” she says, “the one made with the blood of indigenous virgins and viper eggs. We learn about it after we become residents. It’s a shame we can’t tell anyone, and it’s too bad we can’t say anything about how you can intuit when prostate cancer is set to develop, in time for you to purchase herbal remedies and make an appointment for a footbath. If people only trusted their intuition, you know?”
“Yep,” I say. “When we don’t, what we’re left with is science, and the ineffective tools and skills brought to bear by members of your sad profession. I failed to pay heed to my intuition, and look what happened.”
“We’re all you’ve got,” she says.
“Bearers of bad news, deceitful practitioners of a flawed art,” I reply. “And, in your case, someone unwilling to help cook a pig’s head in a pot set over an open fire in my back yard.”
“True,” she says, “but I hope we got this cancer out, and that you’ll be all right.”
“Oh, I will be,” I say. “I plan to remain an Episcopalian until my wound heals, and the farmer decapitates the hog.”