Sow’s Ear: The Four A’s Game
by Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.
There’s a brand new product on the market. It’s a game developed by AAAA: The American Association of the Aging, the Antiquated, and the Antediluvian. Or the Four A’s, for short.
You play the game by tossing dice and moving a peg around a board that looks something like a Monopoly board. However, you don’t buy property with fake money, you don’t go to jail, you don’t ever go back to the beginning of the game. And you never get to start over.
When you, the AAAA player, lands a peg ” a tiny plastic replica of a finger bone, a knee cap, a patella, a scapula or a vertebra ” on a square, you are required to cough up real, hard-earned money, but instead of purchasing property, you sign on to have a body part replaced, removed or inserted.
Instead of going to jail, the Four A player goes to the hospital where uniformed wardens ask embarrassing questions and do mortifying things to your person in preparation for what’s going to be an ugly experience. You begin to empathize with livestock. Like working cattle or sheep through the chutes on branding day, the AAAA individual must endure a whole day of “pre-operation workup.” Cows and sheep, being merely “dumb” animals don’t know what they’re in for. You, being a cognizant being, do your best to keep panic from boiling over as you read your pre-op “worksheet.”
There’s seven highlighted steps numbered in the “order of priority.” Which means, “follow instructions, dummy.” The fun begins with a pre-lunch blood-sucking ordeal.
The blood is yours. This is not the same thing as a paper cut. No quick stick with a needle to test for cholesterol. No. It means one of the uniformed keepers is going to bleed you. In the middle ages they used to do that. (I remember ” I was there.) In those days, medics insisted that removing a cup of the ill or injured person’s blood would effect a cure. What it usually effected was an early death. Nowadays, they suck out a soup can of that red stuff that has been whizzing, undisturbed, through your veins and arteries for more than half a century and put it in a “bank.” Then, when you’re about to croak, they siphon it back into you.
After the blood-letting, you, as an AAAA player, trot ” or stagger, being weak from loss of blood ” to another office where you are sorted into a small cubicle about the size of a lambing jug. Here you undergo a “pre-surgery assessment interview” with a third-level medical person. You can interpret this to mean you’ll be asked another series of embarrassing questions and the answers put on record. Who knows, they might need them for your obituary. But then things improve. You get to be interviewed by a second-level medic and after that, a physical therapist who likes to discuss weight-lifting.
The top-level interview is done by the actual surgeon (or his sidekick) in charge of recycling your parts.
Though kind reassurances will rain upon you, don’t expect a kiss. No indeed. These final words only mean that in three weeks time, like flipping a calf on a calf table, they’ll slap you on a gurney and the surgeon guy will remove your old knee and install a new one.
AAAA players who survive are “winners” of the game. The player with the most renewed, removed or freshly installed parts is awarded a gift certificate for a future free surgery of his or her choice. Tax deductible.
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.