Let me imitate the New York Times’s propensity for little articles on how to, say, get the most out of your cats. In this case, I offer valuable advice on the best way to communicate with your kidneys. And I refer to them in the singular since I suspect they are working together in a, at first glance, female conspiracy.
She is not finished with me yet, my kidney. Only this morning I received a note from her, saying, “For all your ills, I counsel laughter. — Rabelais.”
She wrote this in Morse Code.
It is unlikely, I’m thinking, that she would be reading a 16th Century writer. Except that he was also a physician. One I suspect over-prescribed leeches and cupping. The latter sealed with fermented goat urine.
I had no way of replying, except by resorting to this same code, one I had fortunately learned while stationed off Bangladesh on the aircraft carrier Ticonderoga during the Vietnam War. My bunk was in the bow near a porthole, so you always heard the bow wave thundering like Niagra Falls.
I suppose you’re wondering how it’s done, this encrypted kidney-talk? Well it’s done with densities, that is, by shades of Mexican herbs used to treat any number of illnesses. Tail of Horse (Cola de Caballo), Stick of Blue (Palo Azul) and, most recently, Tea of Sapo. The plant, not the toad himself.
Of these, Palo Azul, left in water long enough, assumes a gloomy orange. While Tea of Sapo soaks to a lighter hew only a little darker than the belly of the above-mentioned creature.
Rather than tap a telegraph key, you click teaspoons as you pick them up and set them down on your dyed cement counter or, as in this case, the rim of the bathtub.
It goes like this. Dip out a teaspoon of Cola de Caballo and pour it down your throat. That would be a “dah.” Then a teaspoon of Sapo. That would be a “dit.” The number of spoonfuls of each will depend on the code pattern. For example, S.O.S., the international distress call, would be dit, dit, dit. Dah, dah, dah. Dit, dit, dit. Or: Sapo, Sapo, Sapo, Co-la, Co-la, Co-la, Sapo, Sapo, Sapo.
Perhaps because of my sensitivity about my kidney’s intentions, whether kind or not – the bit about laughter – I began with a little innocent chatting.
“I read before sleep,” I wrote. “Usually about my dilemma.”
I pause while she filtered my message.
I spread my legs and backed up a little on the toilet seat. I know that’s graphic, but where else would you think I would be able to read her notes?
She replied in discreet spurts of turbid and less turbid, easily read.
“What dilemma?” she wrote.
I clicked back, “Whether to go allopathic or homeopathic. That is to say die by folk swindle or by the side effects of government-approved poisons. What do you counsel?”
My telegraph path hung silent, expectant. A little chilled by the proximity to whirlpools.
Sensing advantage, as an aspiring dominant male, with such a clever question, I continued.
“It appears that government-approved treacles turn resistant when they reach you. Suggesting – you know – the matter of loyalty. That is to say your willingness to apply them, hence undermining the host system. By which I mean me.
I flushed the toilet and waited, relishing the idea that I might have dealt a blow.
The squirts began again, and she wrote, “You understand the part about the host?
That I am one? In fact, to millions.”
“To hostiles,” I wrote back. “Aliens, who must be stopped. Bacteriae hostiles.”
My fingers were tired from clicking spoons.
I flushed, waiting for her reply, warmed above the waistline with male glee. My bit of Latin.
Finally – a wave of slow pulses through my urethra. “You must consult my cousin Señor Próstata.” A pause in the transmission. Then, “Do you have his address?”
It took my breath away, the cruelty of it. As you know, I cannot bring that name across my lips – even in a whisper.
I flushed again, assailed by porcelain drafts.
A series of slow, passive-aggressive turbidities followed.
They said, “I counsel selfies, perhaps a sonogram of Señor Próstata. Perhaps one of me and my friends. And one of where my messages are stored – a sort of womb. Then we can talk some more. To open the conversation, enter the code word – ‘Rebelais’. Followed by ‘Girls rule, boys drool.’ ”