So Much Salami

by Peter H. Conners


Over two thousand rectums. I figured it out one time. I average over two thousand rectal examinations yearly. But I'm not complaining. It could just as easily have been Podiatry or Dermatology or something. Urology. But thirty years ago I chose Proctology and that's where I've been ever since. I've had a late start in everything I've ever done except Proctology. Now sphincters, intestines, any sort of colorectal issues make perfect sense to me. The mystery begins when I get home. My apple tree bears wormy fruit. Has for twenty years and nothing I try ever helps. I have never once enjoyed the fruit or that tree. I avert my eyes as I pull into the driveway. My house always contains people. Not just my daughter, son, and wife, but other people. Both my kids dress in black. If I get home and find a teenage kid dressed in black in my refrigerator, things are okay. That kid is mine or was invited by mine. But sometimes the people aren't as easy to explain. My salami arrives once a month via UPS. I won a lifetime supply on the Price Is Right when I was twenty-two years old - my second year of med school - but the UPS guy is still around too often. Sometimes I find him in the garage or on the patio smoking cigarettes with my daughter or son. He looks anxious. Last weekend I went down to the basement refrigerator for salami and found the UPS guy sitting in a green bean bag chair beneath the cellar stairs. He asked me to turn off the light. I asked him what he was doing and he said the light, the light, like that. My kids were of no help either. When I went upstairs to ask them what the UPS guy was doing in the basement they had Stuckey the cat wrapped in a dishtowel with a mirror pushed up to his nose. There were white lines on the mirror and small pills on the kitchen table. My daughter had a straw in her mouth. They were giving the cat his medicine they said, do it all the time. My son squeezed the cat's ribs and when Stuckey gasped for breath my youngest blew the powder up his nose. Who suggested this? I asked, forgetting the UPS guy in the basement. Mom they said, the cat struggling to get free. And where is mom? The attic they said, pinning the cat down to the table. Stuckey gets infections. On my way upstairs there were three more kids in the living room dressed in black clothes watching an action movie on tv. I passed a gray terrier on the landing. It leapt onto a kid's lap and dropped a yellow hair curler. The boy scratched his nose ring and flung the curler into the dining room. The dog scurried against the hardwood floors to catch it. My wife spends too much time in the attic. It is not remodeled like the basement. It is bare beams and insulation, boxes and old clothes. She has been reorganizing it for seven years, steady. I opened the door in the closet and crawled inside. My wife was not there. I closed the door and sat alone inside the attic. Why not? When I sat still I heard all the sounds drifting up to the attic: an action movie, teenagers, a dog, a cat, a deliveryman, my wife, somewhere. My house was pregnant with them. I put my ear close to the floor. The apple tree slapped the gutter in the wind. I bent even closer, ultimately stretching out lengthwise to feel the vibrations and the slaps through the insulation. I settled in and pushed one finger into the pink insulation - it sunk straight through. I inserted another one and settled down even deeper. My fingers felt sounds better than my ears heard them. I was plugged in. Time passed. At some point the UPS truck started outside and drove off up the street. My wife and the teenagers were arguing on the lawn. So much salami, I thought drifting away to sleep. Too much salami to imagine. And then I began to imagine it anyway.