by Trey Bledsoe
After eating a too-generous portion of Stilton cheese on zwieback, the Hon. Mr. DeMint slipped beneath the covers in his 2,100 square foot Arts & Crafts Tudor home in Traveler’s Rest. Upon closing his eyes, the second most prominent South Carolinian immediately awakened on a twin bed in a modest ranch home, just of I-85 in Simpsonville.
“What has happened to this place?” wondered DeMint, “This looks like that Earl show, or the Port-au-Prince Hilton.” Rising from the bed with an unfamiliar pain, the Senator did not yet understand his passage into a fairytale reality owing more to the Brothers Grimm than Walt Disney.
“That’s new,” he said, and woozy feeling came over him, “Whoah. Better get to the bathroom.”
The bloody stool he passed gave him the first of many shocks that day. “Oh…whoah. This is bad. Real bad. I better call on Nick and get seen about this.”
Dr. Nick Kastlovakis was DeMint’s physician, and a fraternity brother from his days at UT-Knoxville, but the doctor’s office did not know him. For his part, DeMint was taken aback to find the office in a woodland glade and the receptionist to be a Golem, a creature of Jewish folklore.
“Sorry sir, you do not appear as a patient in our records,” the great clay man intoned.
“Listen, I’ve been a patient of Nick’s since he passed his boards. He is my doctor…”
“This is a very boring and predictable conversation, suh.” said the Golem, “You cannot be a patient because you are not in our records.”
“Well let me make an appointment then.”
“We are not accepting new patients at this time.”
“What! I have insurance! Let me make an appointment.”
“I suggest you visit the E.R.”
“Look at my business card! It says I’m a United States Senator! And I have a bloody stool!” The Golem placed the card beneath its tongue, then inexorably rose and pressed the consternated DeMint onto the street.
“You are not who you say you are.” said the Golem, “And you do not have health insurance.”
Still bleeding rectally, the bewildered DeMint followed the concrete path away from the Office Park, through the Gentrified Neighborhood, past the Kangaroo and into the E.R. There he wander’d for many an hour, between the gurneys of the half-living and the deskjobs of the half-dead. Finally, he met Dr. Sidling Twoshifts, the dissipated young Resident Wizard and Doctor’s Apprentice.
“You are bleeding rectally,” said Twoshifts, upon observation. “You’ll have to get that looked into.”
DeMint turned to the doctor, pleading, “Can’t you admit me? I’m in great pain!”
“I’m afraid I cannot admit you,” said the doctor-in-training, “as your condition is not life threatening. But you may have this sampler of Witch Hazel.”
“Not life threatening!,” said DeMint, “How can you say that when you haven’t done any tests!”
The wrath of the E.R. doctor was terrible. “Away with you! And make an appointment with your general physician!” And bearing his clipboard before him like a stone tablet, he drove poor DeMint from the place.
“Lord, have mercy on me.” said DeMint “What will I do now? The pain alone is more than I can bear, but this rough treatment is worse.” Just then he heard someone calling. It was a swarthy pixie, bearing a nametag reading ‘Truly Purefriend’.
“Hey Yago! You better get your ass down to the warehouse or our employer, Lance Crackers, will surely fire you if you don’t show up for work today.”
DeMint was perplexed, “Yago? Lance Crackers?” and he burst into tears. “Oh, Mr. or Mrs. Purefriend, I am so sick and cannot find a doctor and I think I may be broke. Does Lance give us insurance?”
“Hey don’t cry, Yago. No, there’s no insurance from Lance. But I know they will see you down at the People’s Clinic. We can go there if we ever get a day off and they will bill you.”
With Truefriend’s help, DeMint made an appointment at the People’s Clinic. And so for the next few weeks, Jim – or Yago – drove a delivery truck for Lance Crackers in the hot sun and suffered woozily through loss of blood. He found that he had a homelife with shadowy wife and children, who seemed to number two or three, depending on the lighting. But he could not hear them over the television set and and he usually rested or slept whenever he was off work and in his ranch style home.
Finally, the day came when DeMint was welcomed into the People’s Clinic, where again he was examined – this time by Dr. Irrascible Burnout, who performed bloodwork at an expense of thousands of dollars, many more thousands than DeMint did have. “You and your shadely wife make $40,000 per annum,” said the Doctor, “so obviously, you cannot hope to qualify for Medicare. Yet, I will test you physically and financially, though I suspect you are not exactly fit in either sense.”
“I’m afraid I have some very bad news” said Dr. Burnout when the results came back, “You have colorectal cancer and have had it for some time. The cancer was not apparent until it had grown to such an extent that the bleeding became external. I’m sorry, but you’re going to go into the hospital, incur untold tens of thousands in medical expenses, and then die, no doubt.” DeMint did not take this news well, but with the comfort of Purefriend, the Reverend Onceweekly and his shadelike offspring and mate, he prepared for the hereafter.
“Oh, Lord, “prayed DeMint, “Take this burden from me, for I cannot bear it. Truly, I did not appreciate the trials of an average person suffering under the lack of health insurance. It is a circle of Hell and there is no excusing my perfidious disconcern with the millions of my fellow Americans falling into this Pit each day. Forgive me, Lord. Make me Senator Jim DeMint again and I swear to you I’ll make this right.”
Dr. Burnout was as good as his word, for in the next six-to-eight weeks, DeMint did waste away before dying and the medical bills charged to his account would have staggered King Croesus, not to mention the $6,746.39 charge that would be assessed for his funeral and not including the $147.98 cost of printing an obituary in the Greenville Daily Prophet, and without going into the fact that his wife and children were even further removed from buying their own health insurance by the cost of covering DeMint’s sickness and death, and far be it from us to belabor the hour with the tales of woe and depression, of reduced diet and compromised circumstances subsequently suffered by the family, and it would really be pushing the reader’s patience to detail how the family in the end did default and declare bankruptcy, with the cost of the care and the collections and the paperwork and salaried administration for both being displaced onto other health care recipients of the clinic, including the Golem receptionist mentioned around the beginning of this story.
To get right to the point, DeMint died, though he did not leave his body at once. He lingered, it seemed, on the slab in the morgue. As the buzzing of the circular saw came ever closer to his coconut, he willed himself to wince and flinch until, tearing his eyes open, he saw his own bed’s canopy above him and the alarm clock going off just to his right. Half falling out of bed, he dragged himself to the window and pressed his cheekbone against the glass. DeMint saw a manicured lawn, attended by an early-rising Guatemalan immigrant of pixie-like appearance.
“Oh, thank the good Lord! Thank you, Lord, that it was only a dream.” he prayed, walking and stumbling down the hall to wake his wife. Knocking on her door, he composed himself, inhaling slowly while he turned the nights events over in his mind.
“Oh, honey,” he said when she opened the door, “No more Stilton cheese in this house ever again.”