by John Sheirer

Yes, the orthopedic surgeon is kind of young Gary thought as he lay on the operating table, settling in for the procedure that would repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament and eventually allow him rejoin his friends for their Tuesday-evening "old guy" basketball games at the health club. Yes, I am old enough to be his father Gary thought, but the kid did graduate from medical school, and he must have observed dozens of ACL reconstructions, and then assisted in dozens more with experienced surgeons. The nurse had laughed when she gave him the pen and asked him to write "NO" in big letters on his left knee, the one that had always been strong and healthy, had always managed to compensate for the weak and balky right one, to make sure that the surgeon operated on the right knee, the correct one. I'll be okay Gary thought, just as the anesthesiologist said, "Count backward from 100," and Gary barely made it to 97 before the ceiling lights began to swirl and darkness closed around him. When Gary awoke in the recovery room, he was surprised to see several doctors, nurses, and people in business suits so formal that they could be lawyers arguing before the Supreme Court gathered around his bed, each with a very concerned expression, so he asked, just before the pain pounded into his knee through the fading affects of the anesthesia, "What happened?" "From certain angles," the young orthopedic surgeon said, stepping out from his hiding place behind his elders and barely managing to look Gary in the eye, "the word 'NO' looks a lot like the word 'ON.'"


John Sheirer teaches English and Communications at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut. He is the author of the memoir "Growing Up Mostly Normal in the Middle of Nowhere" and the forthcoming "Loop Year: 365 Days on the Trail," an account of hiking the same nature trail every day for a year. Check him out here.