The Transplant

31 Mar

The Transplant

(or, The Hair of the Dog That Bit You)

by L. Stewart Marsden

Caution: this story contains mature content

Part I: Desperate times call for desperate measures

Rom drew the can close to his face and put the magnifying glass against it, moving it back and forth from the can until he could read the tiny print. The glass was inherited from his grandmother, Gommy, who had collected stamps and coins for years. She used it to make out coin inscriptions and stamp details, which were hard to see with the naked eye.

The magnifier was a rectangular glass with a stainless metal frame holding it in place. There was a grooved columnar handle protruding from one of the corners. The handle was covered with a black rubber grip.

“Ingredients: sufficient water for processing,” the first ingredient. Mainly water, he thought. That’s what makes it so squishy.

“Meat By-products, Chicken, Beef, Liver,” the next ingredients. Yum. By-products. He knew hot dogs were beef and pork by-products, but never seriously considered which by the by were. It was better not to know. Except Calyssa would want to know. Well, not really. Calyssa would go three aisles out of the way to bypass the luncheon meat coolers in the grocery store.

“Brewers rice.” Ah, at last a redeeming ingredient.

As he read through the various other stuff, sodium tripolyphosphate, carrageenan, potassium, chloride, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate — he wondered how any dog could thrive on this concoction.

The detail section of the label said the can was “packed with meaty goodness for a hearty, delicious meal.”

How long had this can been on the shelf? Meaty goodness? Delicious? Who the hell determines that?

He had read that there were actually jobs for animal food tasters. Yech! He began to choke back bile just thinking about it.

His dog Peabody sat patiently on the floor beseeching Rom with big brown eyes.

“Not gonna work, Peabody. Not today.”

He pulled the key tab on the lid of the dog food and peeled the lid back slowly. The smell of meaty goodness and deliciousness wafted to his nose. Grabbing a large soup spoon out of the silverware drawer, Rom scooped out a rounded glop of dog food and held it up.

“Cheers!” he said to Peabody, who was by now salivating onto the kitchen floor.

He grabbed and pinched his nose with his left hand, and guided the spooned food into his mouth with his right, choking down the dog food.”

“Ahhh!” he rasped, grabbing a tall glass of water pre-poured for this moment. He chugged down the water, his eyes nearly squirting lacrimal tears.

“God! Peabody! So this is what you live for every day!”

Peabody’s chestnut tail fanned the floor like a windshield wiper.

He gripped the can tighter, and scooped out more of the dog food, and repeated his initial action. He did this until the spoon stirred in the can without dredging up any dog food.

“Okay,” he wheezed at his very disappointed dog. “One down — ten more to go.”

As he slowly progressed over the next hour through cans lined up in front of him, Rom’s disgust waned. In fact, on the fifth can he actually began to discern some of the finer nuances of taste and texture.

Peabody eventually sulked out of the kitchen and lay down under the dining room table, his head nestled between his front paws. He only looked up and over at his owner whenever he heard the poof of air when Rom opened another can.

His cell phone tinkled.

“Hey. Almost through the first batch.”

“How is it?”

“According to the label, it’s meaty goodness and a hearty delicious meal.”

“How many cans?”

“I thought I’d start with 10. The feeding guide says four and a quarter to seven and a half cans for dogs up to 150 pounds.”

“You’re a bit above that, Rom.”

“So — it’s my first feast — and I added three more cans.”

“Tell me — how is it?”

“At first I thought I was going to spew. Then, believe it or not, I got used to it.”

“It’s going to work, you know.”

“So you say. It’s a helluva lot cheaper than rib eyes.”

“There’s that — but the homeopathic effect.”

“You know I love you, right?”

“But . . . ?”

“If this doesn’t work, what then?”

“I don’t know! I hadn’t thought beyond this part!”

“Chill, Cal! I’m not blaming you! It’s not your fault.”

“Yes it is. At least partly. If I hadn’t suggested the transplant.”

“You didn’t know, Cal. Who could have known?”

“Still . . . ”


Part II: On Top of Old Smokey, all covered with hair . . .

My dad told me two lies when I was growing up: that I would never have to worry about my weight, and that I would always have my thick, curly brown hair.

Dad was hirsute on every part of his body except his head. And he had been that way since he was in his twenties.

He always thought his baldness was the result of serving in the South Pacific in the Navy during the war, and having to wear his officer’s hat nearly all the time.

“Hell, the heat and the lack of sun killed the heck out of my hair,” he said.

Mom didn’t seem to particularly care, cause he made up for it in other ways — like being a more than successful business man.

He also said “Grass doesn’t grow on a busy street,” which is what I said to “Dr.” Timberwolf on my first visit to his hair club.

“Well in your case, then,” chuckled Timberwolf as he rubbed his latex-covered fingers across my slick dome, “there’s a traffic jam!”

I had pretty much heard all the bald jokes, which were as stale as could be to me.

“So, what kind of hair did your maternal and paternal grandfathers have?” he asked during the intake, which I couldn’t answer.

My dad’s dad had died in the great flu epidemic in the winter of 1918, and Dad was born that next spring. He never knew his father, and there were hardly any photographs of the man.

Mom’s dad died of a stroke two months before I was born. He was in his fifties, and seemed to have enough coverage in the pictures there were of him.

I always thought I probably killed my hair when the afro craze hit. Even though I was white, dozens of friends had their hair permed and brillowed up. A lot of the stars — Art Garfunkel, John McEnroe, Billy Crystal — were doing it, too.

I read in the Autobiography of Malcolm X that a lot of blacks killed their hair by using really harsh chemicals to straighten their hair.

It was ironic that way. It was a fad. No one wanted to look like they looked.

“Well, I don’t think that a few months of perming your hair would damage the hair roots that extensively,” said Timberwolf.

So he took a few skin samples from my crown and said that it looked like the river bed was dry as a bone. He was referring to my scalp.

“So, what’re my options?” I asked, knowing that the floodgate of expensive and miraculous solutions was about to wash me away.

“You could do what men have done for years, which is to let your side hair grow out long and extend it over your head with some hair gel to keep it in place.

“You could wear a rug, and I’d be happy to refer you to some good carpet cutters in the area.

“We could tie in real hair into your scalp.

“I could put you on a regimen of various prescription drugs, which are expensive, and tend to produce more down than hair.”

“It sounds pretty dismal,” I said. “I’ll need a note from you that I can give to my girlfriend. She suggested this in the first place.”

“Ah. The girlfriend. You might consider getting a new girlfriend — one who accepts you the way you are.”

“They don’t exist. If it weren’t my hair, it would be something else.”

“I agree. There is one more possibility for you.”

Here it comes.

“It’s still in the early developmental stages, and I cannot guarantee that the results will be to your liking. Oh, never mind, I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

Can you say put the lure in the water and then jerk it back out when a fish starts to nibble?

“But you did bring it up. So, you may as well spill the beans. I won’t tell you that money is no option, but I suppose I need to rule out everything before I tell Cal there is no hope.”

“Money would not be the consideration. I’m involved in something — experimentations — that have the backing of venture capitalists. You wouldn’t have to pay me anything.”

“So, what’s the catch?”

“The catch is that if my experiments were to work on you, you would become my poster boy. Like Jared became for Subway.”

“Okay.” I leaned in with interest.

“You would be a beta participant.”

“Not alpha?” I kidded.

“You would join a group of men with similar conditions as yours, where heredity factors or others mean a healthy head of thick hair is not in the cards,” he continued, ignoring my remark.

As he paced about the room, I sensed his excitement growing.

“You need to know that I plan to do this scientifically — meaning that it would be a blind study, and not all participants would receive the same treatment.”

“To validate the experiment,” I added, letting him know I knew what a blind study was.

“And you’re okay with that?”

“I haven’t left,” I answered.

“It’s not without discomfort,” he said, looking at me with curiosity.

“Well, weaving hair plugs, or planting hair follicles isn’t painless,” I said. Then I uncovered my forearm by unbuttoning my sleeve and rolling it back, revealing a multi-colored tattoo that reached from my wrist to beyond my elbow.

“It will be a little more painful than your tattoo was, Rom,” he responded.

When he sensed I was ripe for the kill, he called in his office assistant, who entered the exam room armed with a large folder of forms, waivers, and other documents I was responsible to fill out, plus a request for medical records.

It all seemed on the up and up.

And when Calyssa and I discussed it over a bottle of chardonnay, it seemed the right thing to do at the time.

Funny how those things go.


Next week: The Transplant, Part III:

Signs, signs, everywhere signs . . .


Copyright  © by L. Stewart Marsden, 31 March, 2014



One Response to “The Transplant”

  1. skipmars April 1, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    Reblogged this on Writing Odds n Ends and commented:

    I said the next part of the story would be posted next week, but I’ve completed the fifth and final part and really want to go ahead and post the story in its complete form.

    But, I need my readers’ input on this. What shall I do? Tell me.

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