The Return of the Šaš and the Subtle Art of Research

2009 san diego comic-con: slave leia haremAs with every visit to The Šaš (my physician), we are discussing Thai women. The Šaš is holding an Otoscope into my ear and offering sage advice on what I should do as a young man in this world.

“Go to Thailand, perhaps Bangkok, and open a language institute that caters to high-class Thai prostitutes,” he says.

“You mean open my own harem?”

He removes the Otoscope. “Sure,” he says. “They need English.”

“I need to buy a whole lot of pillows, then?” I ask

“Your ears are fine,” he says. Then adds, in the same Marlon Brando meets Kermit the Frog drawl, “No pillows, rubber sheets and coconut oil.”

“Just like on the internet?” I ask.

“Just like on the internet,” he says

While Thai women are mentioned in every appointment, the rubber sheets are an addition. However, I need to steer the conversation away from our favorite subject and lead it to my real reason for the visit.

“So, that clavicle’s an interesting bone, huh? Mine hurts sometimes. Um, if a clavicle snaps is it certain to sever the Brachial Plexus or Supra Clavicular nerves?”

The Šaš, understandably, adopts a look of concern.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing is the unusual world of research one is forced to visit from time to time. This is due to the extreme desire and necessity to create an authentic world. If the reader doesn’t believe your narrator, your story doesn’t work. So, I have read about tarantulas, penis amputation, anosmia, toe cleavage and World War II tank drivers. I have jumped out of an airplane, snorted mustard, licked doorknobs and lightbulbs, stuck a bullet in my nostril and bitten my cat’s tail.

All to attain authenticity.

Today, injuries sustained by a character in my current writing project have brought me to The Šaš. Well, that, a mild earache and a thirst to discuss Thai prostitutes. Subtly, as evidenced by my introduction to the subject, is not one of my strengths.

“Do you think you have broken your clavicle?” he asks.

“Nah, just wondering…saw something on TV.”

The Šaš treats me to a disturbingly detailed lecture on clavicle trauma.

“OK, so my ears look fine?” I ask.

“Yeah, the atmospheric pressure has changed recently. It always wreaks havoc on your ears.”

“Should I take anything for it?” I ask

“Ibuprofen if your head starts hurting.”

“Great, thank you.” I stand and feign a remembered point. “Oh yes, one more question. If someone were hit really hard in the back of the head with a shovel, is it possible their eyes could fly out?”

The Šaš makes no move, but wears the look one gives as they mind-dial the police. When he finally speaks, his Kermit-Brando drawl comes out in a deliberate, yet stalling effort. “It would be highly unlikely.” He taps his desktop. “Are you OK?”

“Oh yes,” I say. I decide to hold my questions about severed digits and brain clots. “So I’ll go get those rubber sheets today.”

The Šaš’s laugh comes out in one short burst that sounds like a dying siren. “Get the oil first. Remember, Ibuprofen if your head hurts.”

“Sure, thank you.” And I leave. As I do so, tentative details for a short story that takes place in a Thai harem invade my thoughts and mind.

I’ll have to make another appointment next week.

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