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Wednesday, July 26, 2006


by Rochelle Ratner

It's nothing to worry about. He's sixty-seven years old and
has had headaches for as long as he can remember. Two
Advil, sometimes four, or the new Advil Migraine, and it's
pretty much unnoticeable. The problem is, he's developed
an ulcer. Newly retired, and he develops an ulcer. Kiss
Advil goodbye. Say hello to headaches almost every
afternoon. The strongest over the counter drug he can take
is Tylenol. Doesn't do a damn thing. Finally he lets his wife
convince him to see a doctor. The doctor starts him on a
low dose of Elavil. When that doesn't help, they decide to
take x-rays, just in case there's a problem. The doctor's
office calls and makes another appointment. He walks in to
find two other doctors sitting there, one a neuro-surgeon,
the other a psychologist. They show him an x-ray with
three needles embedded in his brain. They say they've read
about cases such as his before: needles inserted in the soft
spots of an infant's head to stop his crying. Usually fatal.
Usually undetectable. Then they ask him to tell them
about his parents. He begins, of course, by saying how
much they loved him.

Rochelle Ratner's books include two novels: Bobby's Girl (Coffee House Press, 1986) and The Lion's Share (Coffee House Press, 1991) and sixteen poetry books, including House and Home (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003) and Beggars at the Wall (Ikon, October 2005). More information and links to her writing on the Internet can be found on her homepage: