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The Essay
Show #268
Swallowing an Idea
David Gunn

Rollo woke up from a fitful sleep with a breathtakingly brilliant idea in his mouth. It was the answer to a question so profound he had never even dared to articulate it. As he rolled his tongue over the idea, wondrous nuances briefly materialized, then tantalizingly evanesced. In his semi-wakeful state, it was a very pleasant experience, knowing he was in possession of so remarkable an idea but not being responsible for it. But then a directive from his quotidian subconscious intruded, demanding that he seize the idea, examine it, control it. Rollo twitched and opened his eyes. Reality intervened. His mouth was suddenly dry. He swallowed.

The idea fell down his throat, past Klondike's windpipe valve, and into the upper esophagus. It caught briefly on a cartilaginous larynx tendril, but then freed itself and continued its exacerbatingly slow decent into the nether regions of the digestive tract. Rollo had the merest wispy memory of the idea, recognized true genius, and knew he couldnít bear to lose it. He flung himself onto the bedpost, attempting a Heimlich maneuver on himself. As he squeezed the fluted wooden column into his belly, compressing his abdomen, the idea did in fact reverse direction. Another snippet of its essence briefly regurgitated into his mouth and he tasted the promise of intellect and insight as far removed from the mundane as were vegans from venison. But there were so many facets to it! He tried to retain gists by assigning mnemonics to them -- "Trachea" for Transcendental Rationalism and Causal Humanism's Empirical Animus, for example. But as the idea reached its apogee near the Whartonís duct and resumed its downward trek, Rollo began to have difficulty remembering the reminders.

Frantic, he raced into the lavatory, grabbed the bottle of Roswell Brand ipecac bitters from the medicine cabinet, and gulped the contents. Halfway through the bottle, he gagged, but he kept swallowing till he had quaffed all 18 ounces of the perverse tonic. A shudder erupted from deep within him and, by habit, he steadied himself over the toilet to await the inevitable. His breathing came in deep disquieting rasps now, but he was nevertheless cognizant of a faint intellectual flicker from the idea. Gradually, the lining of his stomach began to buckle and pull away from the duodenal spleenatorium. In a frenzy, Rollo tore off four wads of baby wipes and stuck one each in his otic and nosal apertures. Then he strapped a spittle cup tightly to his chin and adjusted the angle. When that idea headed back up, he meant to offer it only one escape route.

A gush of emotions filled his craw, followed rapidly by a stream of gastrointestinal juices. His abdomen shook as if it were possessed by a fandango dance troupe and his tonsils began to vibrate like a camel in a car wash. As his salivary secretions mixed with two days worth of imprudent luncheon selections, his pharynx dove for cover and his soft palate rolled up its welcome mat. Rollo uttered a low, distraught wail, not that it did any good.

Briefly, he was aware of the idea sticking to his gums, and he tried with all of his might to concentrate on it. Again he was aware of quintessentially perfect reason, and for a moment he was so dazzled that, in spite of his torment, he grinned.

The idea dislodged from his gums and caromed off of his involuntarily puckered lips. Its trajectory altered, it missed the spittle cup entirely and landed with frothy accompaniment in the murky eau de toilet.

Rollo plunged his hands into the funky swill, attempting to retrieve the idea. He still felt its intensely creative vigor but, before he could grasp it, a second feeling enveloped him, one of overwhelming queasiness, and he had an ancillary bout of porcelain bus driving. By the time this subsequent episode was over -- and Iím not referring here to this 268th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, though I wouldn't be surprised if some of our programs effected similar responses in certain listeners, but thatís not our problem, because we just show up to do our show for which, not to belabor the issue, we are not remunerated, much as we would like and, we think, deserve to be, but ... ahh, I seem to have lost my train of thought.

No, here it is. By the time this subsequent episode was over, his body was dehydrated and numb from his abdomen on up, and his face mirrored the pallor of Mesopotamian sheetrock. He removed his hands from the bubbly brown broth and, conditioned by previous attacks of gastritis, absentmindedly grabbed the little silver lever on the formerly white tank in front of him. He pulled; the toilet flushed. So distracted was he by his lingering nausea that it took him a moment to comprehend what he had done.

Again, he dived into the fetid spume, but this time he had to battle 1.6 gallons of cold low-flow water rushing at him with an equivalent dynamic force of 30,000 cfs. But miraculously, he felt the idea nudging at his fingertips. He lunged deeper into the nasty foaming nectar and at last grabbed hold of his prize. Instantly, his mind was flooded with scintillating intellectual awarenesses, one of which was that while he had gained the idea, he had also lost his purchase. Indeed, his feet had gone out from under him, and he felt himself slipping wholly into the toilet bowl. Unwilling to let go of the idea, Rollo became caught in the anticlockwise vortex of water and was summarily sucked down into the exit pipe of his house's waste expulsion system, never to be seen again. His idea, though, is still out there.

Thereís a moral to this cautionary tale, but I wonít touch it with a ten-foot ipecac root. I will, however, forward the idea to our own cautionary Heimlichician, Kalvos.