Once upon a time there was a man named Sal. He was 60 years old when, after a decade of encouragement from his wife, his doctor, his wife’s doctor, his doctor’s wife and various fellow workers at the shipyard where he worked, Sal decided to get a colonoscopy (Kol-on-OS-ko-pee).
The doctor who performed the actual colonoscopy was not Sal’s regular physician, but a specialist. Dr. Jeremy Jumper’s practice was exclusively colonoscopies. He spent all day guiding a fiber-optic tube up one large intestine after another. In addition to his role as doctor, he was a keen fan of Mark Twain. While performing a colonoscopy, he would imagine that instead of a fiber optic tube up someone’s colon, he was a barge captain steering his ship around the curves and undulations of the Mississippi, polyps and other detritus passing off to port or starboard. Nurses talked about how transfixed he would be by the monitor screen. Jumper himself called it “finding the zone.”
On the morning of his colonoscopy, Sal shook the hand of Dr. Jumper, who then touched the brim of his Greek sailor ‘s cap in a salute and said: “Welcome aboard. You won’t feel a thing.”
The next second in Sal’s consciousness he opened his eyes to find a crowd gathered around his hospital bed in the recovery room. At first he thought he had somehow landed on the set of “Scrubs.”
“You probably don’t remember anything, am I right?” Dr. Jumper asked.
“Well, Sal, let me start from the beginning,” the doctor said, jabbing the air with the stem of his unlit corncob pipe.
“The winds were calm and the current slow,” he began “ “We made our way up the descending colon to the transverse colon, where it right angles to port. Just before that I felt nurse Brogan’s hand clutch my arm.” Then he stepped besides Sal and held up a large computer printout of the inside wall of Sal’s intestine.
“What do you think?” Jumper asked.
Sal, feeling like he had to say something, said:
“Nice, I guess.”
The doctor helped Sal by pointing with the stem of his corncob pipe while he carried on with his travelogue.
Although his brain felt like a carpet remnant, Sal’s eyes followed the doctor’s pipe stem until yes, the dark pompadour, the stand up collar, even the sensuous lips.
“It’s Elvis,” he said
What followed was chaos: Television interviews, newspapers from all over the world (“Die Doppelpunkt Elvis” proclaimed Stern), the local Cancer Society chapter left one of 35 messages on their answering machine. Sal had to hire a Public Relations Specialist, to handle everything for a 15 percent cut. Weeks later, the Smithsonian called to see if it could “lease” the photo of Sal’s colon for its medical technology exhibit. Sal’s agent worked a deal that paid for a down payment on a Florida condominium Ingrid had had her eyes on.
About a year after Sal’s initial colonoscopy, Sal signed a deal for a neat million dollars to submit to a live colonoscopy on the cable program “Celebrity Surgery,” which features a live surgical procedure every week. Sal was scheduled between a Dick Cheney heart bypass and a tummy tuck for Cher.
“A million dollars,” Sal said to Ingrid. “ “Is this a great country or what?”
The hour-long, prime time broadcast of Sal’s colonoscopy broke all audience ratings for a cable channel.
Time moved swiftly, as it often does in fables, and the public’s interest in Sal’s colon diminished. At the same time, Sal and Ingrid drifted apart. She wanted to spend more time in their new condo, Sal wanted to travel. He became obsessed with the Big Picture, the meaning of life. He joined an ashram named New Paradise in India whose guru believed darkness was just a delusion. Followers were easily identified by the bruises all over their bodies. It was there Sal died after falling off a cliff one night on his way to the toilets.
MORAL: The road to Paradise is paved with good intestines.