Danse Macabre

The Chief of Surgery, standing alongside the Head of Pathology and the Director of Resident Training in the surgical theater, scowls. The surgeon, scalpel poised, looks up, sees the scowl, takes a deep breath and makes the primary incision. The patient is strapped to the table, and cannot move. Minimum local anesthesia has been applied to the scalp where it is to be peeled back from the skull. Drills stand nearby, ready.

There is, after the initial outpouring, very little blood.

Eleven small holes are drilled in two concentric circles. By the time this part of the procedure is completed, the Chief of Surgery has left the theater. The surgeon has noted this fact, and breathes a little more easily. On the insertion of the probes, the patient’s pupils alternately dilate and constrict. He complains of cold. He sings a dirty little song he learned in his childhood—a song he thought he’d long ago forgotten.

His pupils dilate, constrict, then dilate again.
Mama?” he asks.
The surgeon tells him he’s doing fine.
Ellie,” he tells the surgeon; “My dad called her Ellie.”
“I bet you used to dance with her in the kitchen.”

Despite the extensive restraints, his left foot twitches, almost imperceptively.


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