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Creative Writing

by Edward Chupack

Memory Loss, Lemon Jell-O and Economics

The doctor told me that I would recall nothing of the procedure because of the sedation that she was administering to me, and she was true to her word. I have no recollection of the procedure and only unhappy memories of the prep, when I was repeatedly pierced by needles and viciously smacked by a frustrated medical staff that was upset by the small circumference of my veins.

The doctor also told me that I would not recall events for some time — likely several hours — after the procedure because of the sedation. That sounded like a challenge, and I immediately decided to write an essay while in a twilight state about the temporary loss of memory. Obstinacy brings me much comfort, and I was in an obstinate mood after the medical staff had disparaged my circulatory system.

I was "out" for almost an hour and was released after an additional half hour. I planned my essay while my wife drove me home, and did not write notes on a pad of paper during the 15-minute trip home. That would have been cheating, as I could have referred to my notes while writing the essay.

I was not supposed to work or make decisions of any kind, but to only rest. I wrote, typing intensely on my home office computer, for approximately three hours before nearly nodding off. I walked the floor and looked out the window. I resumed typing. I wrote the essay in four hours, reading each paragraph after I had completed it to make sure that I was pleased with my work.

One effect of my disobedience remains:  I typed so vigorously that a subcutaneous nerve in my index finger, one of the many places where I was pricked by a needle, is still numb six weeks after the procedure.

I am not supposed to drive, operate heavy machinery, drink alcohol, work out, make important decisions or go near a computer today because I have had anesthesia. I have been stabbed eight times by nurses and doctors in vain attempts to find a suitable vein. They finally found it and although I am unsure of everything that the best medical care in the world did to me, I do know that I am bruised, mutilated and — according to my wife who drove me home — spoke at length about lemon Jell-O. I remember nothing, but apparently I was unkind to Jell-O. This was rather mean-spirited of me considering that Jell-O is such a benign body of food that it doesn't even require chewing. And it quivers.

I disobeyed my doctor's orders as soon as my wife left home. I began typing this essay on my computer as an experiment on the effects of anesthesia on my memory. I will not change a word of what I have written, and if I write a sentence in the passive instead of the active tense or end a sentence in a preposition, then let the keystrokes fall where they may.

Call me a rebel.

Perversity runs in my family. My sister pulled out all of the tubes in her arm on more than one occasion when she was hospitalized. Maybe the sisters of mercy fed her lemon Jell-O.

The sadists.

I have total recall as far as I know because no one is here to tell me what I have forgotten.

I have always had a tendency to wander when I write, not sticking with a subject, which is an admirable trait in an explorer, but not commendable in someone trying to string coherent thoughts together. I am likely to wander about the page while writing this essay, but presume that I will write coherently.

I can't just type however. I am not a Dadaist. I need a topic, and as the last news that I read before slipping on the hospital gown were the stories in the Wall Street Journal about this country's economic collapse, my topic will be said collapse.

I will not use the stock market, key market indicators or pork bellies as examples of the financial crisis. Those items are meaningless measures, misleading statistics that inform us what has happened rather than predict what is likely to happen to our lovely little capitalist system that we celebrate with song, sparkling lights, consumer spending and soup kitchens.

 … A moment if you please while I attend to other work and disregard another medical admonition. The work is for a non-profit organization, so how bad a mistake can I make if I am indeed impaired? It's not like the organization is making money. They just take it and spend it.

If I say something to the president of the organization that offends him I will let him know that I am not feeling at my best, and am fending off a raccoon that has crept into my house.

It does sound like there is a raccoon in my house, although it might be the garage door opening and closing. Maybe it is stuck on something.

Nobody likes raccoons. Not really. People might say that they are cute but raccoons are not cute. Raccoons are demented. When I shout and wave my hands at them they do not move. I did that to my neighbor when his tree fell in my yard during a rainstorm, the tree that I had warned him would likely fall in my yard during a rainstorm, and he immediately moved away from me.

He, my neighbor, has a poodle that I do not like because it is a poodle. Poodles have no redeeming characteristics. They make me sick.

Why couldn't that tree have fallen on my neighbor's poodle?

The president of the non-profit organization is waiting for an answer while I engage in my experiment and type this essay, and wants to know how a raccoon got into my house.

I am explaining how the garage door was open and my neighbor's poodle chased the raccoon into the garage, and how when I opened the inside door to the garage, the raccoon dashed into my house, and how I have killed the raccoon, strangled the beast, with the cord from my telephone, but the president is no longer on the phone as I pulled out the telephone cord in my reenactment of the scene. I will call him back tomorrow and polish the story so that it gleams. No one can resist a tale about the strangulation of a feral creature that came from the woods, suddenly, to terrorize an otherwise temperate person, in this case a man fresh from the hospital who had just had an equally gruesome encounter with a bowl of Jell-O.

Lemon Jell-O.

I shall return to the topic now, having dispensed with that non-profit organization, its president and the raccoon.

The poodle is barking. It knows. It knows about the raccoon and that it is next.

We don't learn our lessons.

We expect to come out of the financial crisis shortly. Look deep into your soul or wallet, as is your predilection, and ask if you truly believe that we are done and that the crisis is over or will soon end, that we will — with all haste — return to our entrepreneur garden where enterprises grow nigh the sky with but a modicum of manure. The fertilizer will not be purchased at Home Depot, Lowes or your local garden center, if they remain in business, but will be dispensed by the U.S. Treasury in the form of Dollars.

Dollars will be delivered to your door.

There is no need to rise from the couch, your easy chair or the gutter. Hold out your hand, and for goodness sake hold onto your kidney if you were thinking of selling it, because prosperity is coming your way. Right?

Sort of.

We have seen this movie before and it starred Henry Fonda and was called The Grapes Of Wrath, a Darryl Y. Zanuck production, where the dust blew through the American Dream so fiercely that it almost obliterated it. These days, movies have lots of producers. Our economic illness has a surfeit of producers too, although unlike in times of old, no one deserves sole credit for this disaster. We have assorted presidents and treasury secretaries, senators, members of Congress, Federal Reserve Chairmen, captains of industry, mortgage companies, consumers and creatures great and small, who deserve credit for our loss of credit.

Call me a cockeyed monetarist, but we are doomed.

Bark, poodle. Your time is coming.

It is one matter for us to spend too much and to spend poorly, as so many of us have done, and another matter for those that guard the public trust to spend too much and to spend poorly as they have done. If we purchase a pink polka dot blouse or a triple-pleated pair of pants, we may have to answer for it in this life. If our public servants purchase deeply discounted derivatives, and we all suffer from their profligacy and poor taste, they must surely suffer for it in the next life. Or there is no devil.

I intended to type all day, or at least until my wife returned from work and yanked me from my chair, but needed to take a break. I am aware that this break may skew the results of my medical experiment, but surely Gabriel Fahrenheit, Louis Pasteur, and Wilhelm Roentgen took breaks. We still have the thermometer, pasteurization and x-rays.

I read the business section of the Chicago Tribune and discovered that one of the companies that used to employ me may go under. The founding family has lost billions of dollars. One of the reasons that I left the company was because I was concerned about the amount of debt that the company carried and believed that the company would not be able to repay it. I was wrong for over ten years. Now, I am right. What changed? The lenders were anesthetized by greed, buttocks up on the conference table, their suit coats open in the back with silly grins on their faces. Now the lenders see the company with clarity of vision that only the loss of lots and lots of money can bring.

The company's and the lenders' designated driver will be the government, and I can't help but worry about all of the good people in that company and those that work for the lenders that will dissolve into the streets as statistics.

Who drives them home?

I so wanted my essay to have a lighter tone.

I tried.

Let me look out the window for inspiration and try one more time.

My neighbor is chasing his dog around the yard with a stick. What is my neighbor doing home so early in the day? I just remembered that he is a financial planner. Man and dog are both barking.

The stewards of our country are repeating the mistakes that were made in the Great Depression. Their memories of the seminars that they took and lectures that they heard, their recollection of the tomes that they read and notes that they scribbled are faulty. Banks did not have money during the Great Depression because of a crisis in confidence and the resulting run on the banks, and so they needed money from Uncle Sam. The savants running the country raised interest rates and reduced the money supply. That exceptionally stupid act turned a recession into the calamity that we call the Great Depression.

This is the same illness. We have a crisis in confidence because banks, insurance companies, private equity groups, hedge funds and other establishments and associations do not know how many bad assets they have on and off their books, however the latter day savants now running the country are giving them money. The malefactors don't need any more money. They have it and need to lend it. Our government needs to restore confidence by calculating the amount of toxins in the system so they can flush them out.

Give us the diagnosis. We are big boys and girls and will take our medicine, but please put it in the right vein.

Stop sticking us.

Don't raise our income taxes. Don't raise corporate taxes.

Countries that cut income taxes and corporate taxes prosper because consumers and companies have more money in their pockets to spend.

Consumers might save more, but that is asking a little too much from folks that have sucked on the sweet teeth of television commercials since birth. Many a television has hummed away at conception, the reddish glow of the screen washing over the naked face and body, obliterating blotches and blemishes.

I am wandering again. I really should resume my rant.

Remember Japan? Japan did a heck of a job in the '80s, and so well that we believed that it was going to buy every single company in the United States of America. Japan goofed up big time. It dropped its interest rate to zero and has still not recovered. We are dropping interest rates. The country needs liquid assets. We are dehydrated and the last thing we need is a national enema.

Perhaps the medicine that I took is having an effect on me, as I am feeling so awfully nostalgic about the '80s just now. Big hair bands. We did not yet know about global warming. We watched Dynasty and Dallas. Margaret Thatcher. Michael Jackson before his monkey. It was in so many ways an age of innocence.

Nevertheless, lest we forget there were shoulder pads in suits. Shoulder pads for goodness sake. And pantyhose. And Paul Volcker. And out of control inflation and a seemingly bottomless recession.

Paul Volcker, I bet, has not forgotten what happened the last time that we dropped interest rates into the subbasement. We got that bad dose of inflation. A killer dose that no ordinary powder or ointment could cure. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve under Presidents Carter and Reagan, this Mr. Paul Volcker, hiked interest rates higher than a bubble skirt, and rid us of inflation. We had an unemployment rate of over ten percent and it hurt, Doctor Volcker.

I fear that we require more of that foul elixir. We need to raise interest rates and not lower them, unless we want rampant inflation again. Inflation, like recession, hurts like heck.

We don't want the miracle cure sold from a stand in the halls of Congress where they specialize in tonics.

Politician heal thyself.

I fell asleep. I lost track of time. I am not sure how long I slept. The sky is overcast now.

We are on the Dollar like a junkie. Curtis Mayfield wrote:

"Another junkie plan
Pushin' dope for the man"

That is what our elected officials have given us:  a hustle. A spoon, an elastic band and a dirty needle. They are dealing, and not only to us. Pushing is a lucrative venture. All the countries are hustling now and we have a pandemic of users. Countries are buying the Dollar to pay off their debts, but sooner or later we have to come down. Hard.

My designated driver has returned, and she is deeply upset because I have been typing on my computer and who knows what damage I have done to our finances. Did I buy or sell anything? I assure her that I have been a good boy. Rested up.

Then what was I doing at the computer?



It was an experiment. A medical experiment.

Did the neighbor's dog bark all day?


What sort of medical experiment?

Memory. I tried to beat the system.

What system? There is no system.

There is a system.

If you say so, and by the way all you can eat is Jell-O for dinner.

That system.

It's for your own good.

The mail came. Bills.


The market is up today.

It is almost time for dinner.

I tore off my bandages. I am bruised. Badly.

Why did I do that?

Should she call the doctor?

No. Definitely not.

Nothing is wrong.

Absolutely nothing.

The doctor called. I may now drive, drink, work heavy machinery, do everything that I was told not to do.

I have not lost my memory, any of it, and contrary to what the doctor told me.


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Articles in this Issue

The Farm, by Frank Womble
This was the Promise, by James Scott
The Crime Scene Cleaner, by Alan Emmins
The Inheritance, by Abby Frucht
Creative Writing, by Edward Chupack
History, by Clyde L. Borg
Sociology, by Thomas Sullivan
January 2009


Edward Chupack is an attorney and lives near Chicago. He is the author of Silver: My Own Tale as Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder.

Where loss is found.

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