Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Shock Therapy is Good for the Writer's Soul...

Years and years ago, my parents built their dream house. During construction, the parcel next door to their 25+ acres sold to a slightly older, somewhat quirky gentleman we shall call the Neighbor Man. He and my dad became fast friends.

Over the years, the two of them would come up with some pretty outlandish schemes that never failed to entertain the rest of us. There was the time they'd thought about digging a tunnel between our two house and the time they decided to go into the business of raising emus. And, who could forget the episode with the llama?

But of all the hilarity that has ensued over the years, my favorite was also the most shocking. (Disclaimer: Kids DON'T try this at home. We weren't professionals, but the truly insane rarely are.)

As a few of you may already know from previous posts, Dad was in a terrible accident my senior year of high school. As a result, he is now disabled and has been labeled by nearly every doctor he meets as a 'medical marvel' which loosely translates to "We don't know how you survived in the first place and thus do not know how best to treat you so we'll use you as a human guinea pig."

One of said treatments came in the form of a thing called a Tenz unit (I'm sure I spelled that wrong). About the size of a pocket radio, it had one round dial numbered from 1 to 10 and a place where you plugged in those round sticky things that they put on you in the hospital to record your heart activity.

Basically, this unit was supposed to help stimulate the damaged nerve endings in Dad's leg. You simply put the round stickies on the 'site' and turned on the unit. Being a fun little toy, we'd all tried the unit out, and none of us could handle any shocks higher than a level three. Yes, we are all a bunch of pansies...well, except Dad, but considering he had little feeling in his leg, that was to be expected.

One night, we were all sitting around the dining room table playing cards (a normal occurrence for us) when the Neighbor Man came strolling into the house. He greeted us all with a "Howdy!" and plopped down in his usual spot at our table.

He then proceeded to pick up the Tenz unit, slap a sticky on either side of his head, grip the sides of the table and yell out "Give me all you got!"

Without missing a beat, Dad grabbed the unit and cranked it up.

For the most part, television displays people getting shocked pretty dead on. The Neighbor Man's head jerked to the side, angling downward. His eyes bulged out, and his grip on the table went from a firm voluntary action to the unthinking reaction of a man trapped in the throes of an electrical exorcism.

The whole episode lasted less than a minute...probably only thirty seconds, and true to our nature, we were all laughing uproariously, especially when Dad told the Neighbor Man that he hadn't gone all the way to the ten setting but stopped at five. We are nothing if not entertaining.

Life lessons I learned from this episode with the Neighbor man: 1. Think long and hard before you ask my dad to do anything. He will not stop to ask "Are you sure?" 2. Even the smallest things can make for great stories...I could write volumes just on the hijinks and shenanigans that have ensued since the Neighbor Man came into our lives. 3. In order to become a writer, you must be a little nuts, and it helps if you come from a whole tree of them.