Dialysis ~ fiction by Steve Sibra

I was at the bus station.  I wasn’t going anywhere, I was just there.  A guy was standing next to me.  He had an old trumpet in his hand.  I looked at it, and when I looked up he was looking at me.

“You’ve got a trumpet,” I said, for lack of a better thing to say.

“You want it?”


“Maybe you could give me something for it.”


He shoved it into my hand.  “Take it anyway,” he said, “damn it.”  Then he walked away.

Later, at home, I looked it over.  It had dents in it.  It looked horrible.  “I never owned a musical instrument before,” I said to nobody.  “Especially one with dents in it.”

I tried to play it.  I didn’t know how.  I tried again.  I still didn’t know how.  After I tried a number of times, I started to get mad.

“God damn it,” I said.  “God damned trumpet has dents in it and I can’t play it.”

I got a hacksaw from under the bed.  I put the trumpet across my knee like a spoiled child and I proceeded to spank it back and forth with the toothy edge of the hacksaw blade.

Pretty soon I had two halves of a trumpet instead of one whole one.

I still couldn’t play it.  But I did cut a bad gash in my hand on the ragged edge of the brass neck where I had cut it off the body of the trumpet.

“God damn it.”

It bled a lot and I should have gotten stitches but I was home and it was nighttime and it was raining out.  I didn’t have any money for a taxi so I just bundled it up in old washcloths and some duct tape and I called it good.  It quit bleeding.

After a while.

A couple days later I started to not feel so good.  I was dizzy and light-headed and I had some bad cramps in my middle.  Eventually I unwrapped my hand and looked at it.  Around the wound it was real red and also some black.  It didn’t look good.  I tried to put up with it for another day but then I had to give up and go to the ER.

A nurse looked at it and frowned and asked what I cut it on.  “A decapitated trumpet,” I told her.  She frowned some more, then said, “wait here” and she left.

Eventually a lady doctor looked at it.  I told her about decapitating the trumpet and then it ripping into me.  She also frowned.

“It’s infected, for one thing.  Pretty bad.  You need some antibiotics.  But I’m more worried about this cramping and the pain in your guts.  When was the last time you urinated?”


“Urinated.  When was the last time?”

I thought about it.  “I guess it was yesterday,” I said.  “Or it might have been the night before that.”

“I’m going to admit you and we need to do some tests,” she said.

Everybody in the Emergency Room frowned a lot, I noticed.

Long story short, they kept me in the hospital for several days and they kept taking blood and doing tests and running a catheter up me.

A different doctor told me the news.  “You got a rare disease from the brass on that trumpet or something that was on it,” he said.

“I guess I should have washed it before I sawed it in half,” I replied.

“What?  Well the thing is, your kidneys are shot.  You should be feeling pretty bad about now.  Are you having any hallucinations?”

“I do feel really bad.  God damned trumpet, I feel terrible.”

Now I go to the hospital once a week for like half a day and they hook me up to a big machine, and it takes liquids out of me and cleanses them and then puts them back in.  It’s tiring as hell, I am worn out for a whole day but after that I feel good for maybe three days; then it starts getting bad again.  And sure enough, Tuesday rolls around and I am back at the hospital getting hooked up to the dialysis machine.

The machine’s name is Ron.

Not the guy operating it, the machine itself.  Name is Ron.

I know because it spoke to me.

It told me its name and it said that it is helping God; God is a big dialysis machine and I don’t have to worry as long as I attend service at the hospital each week and have my urinary sins cleansed by the God Machine.

I always feel great afterwards – well, by the next day anyway.  God is good; God is great and God is my kidney, He watches over me and He cleanses my spirit and my blood and my urine and my mind, the whole nine yards.  Life is great.

I asked once, “God, can you play a God damned trumpet?”

God said to me, “Call me Ron, and knock off with the ‘God damns’ all the time.  And no, I can’t play a God damned trumpet.  Nobody can.  It’s an impossible task, like pushing a camel through the eye of a needle.  Can’t be done.”

One day when I was leaving the hospital/church, I saw a guy on the street who I could have sworn was the guy that gave me that trumpet.  I yelled at him.

“Hey!  Hey you!  You gave me a trumpet and I couldn’t play it so I decapitated it and it made my kidneys stop working and then I got to meet God who is actually a dialysis machine and the government pays for all my religious study.”

He looked right at me and he just said, “No.”

And then he walked away.

Steve Sibra grew up on a farm near Big Sandy, Montana (pop. about 800 people) in the 1960s and 1970s.  He has spent most of his adult life as a professional dealer in the buying and selling of vintage comic books.  Steve’s literary work has appeared in numerous journals including Crab Fat Magazine, Matador Review, Jersey Devil Press, Jellyfish Review and many others.  He lives in Seattle with his wife, Stacey.

Show Steve some love via PayPal at herm2pipes(at)aol(dot)com.