A Liver’s Tale

This Is How I Might Have Done It If I Had Done It Which I Definitely Did Not Do.

Robert Masterson
9 min read
A LiverÕs Tale
(Julia Minamata juliaminamata.com)
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[Eds.’s note: Wads of words arrived in manila envelopes and soggy paperboard boxes. Thick wads of words scribbled, scrawled, scratched upon the backs of Hindi (?) prescription slips, invoices, restaurant tabs and bills from a startling array of medical supply houses based on three distinct continents. Much of the “chronology” comes from sheer editorial nerve and guesswork; we smoothed out the wads, and we tried to find or, perhaps, impose a narrative where no narrative was immediately available. But that’s okay. It’s our job.]

Based on a true story.

“I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel …”

—Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

I’m not saying I’d ever do it, but we all know that people have done it, that people do it all the time, that people are doing it right now. Or we know about people who’ve had other people do it for them. Larry Hagman. Or the famous ones that have it done to them like that guy from Masterpiece Theater, Alistair Something-Something. Or Something-Something Alistair. There’s all those straight-to-Netflix-Instant horror movies about young, amoral, taut-bodied Americans boisterously on vacation in exotic locales until they end up on the vivisectionists’ tables. It’s the fear of the Other, of course, but in this case Our struggle, you know, is more about putting pieces of the Other inside Ourselves to replace Our defective pieces. A step beyond blood transfusions, and blood transfusions still give a lot of people a hard time when they let themselves think about just exactly whose blood they get when transfused. It’s insidious reverse colonialism. Or some shit like that …

… Kidney Man is back, waggling his eyebrows while looking at me and trying to suck his drink, something green, through the swizzle stick. He’s a specialist, really, and they call him Kidney Man for a reason. Livers are a little out of his line. I still think he wants too much ($1K which seems way higher than what I remember from “Law & Order”). I mentioned the price to him the last time we talked, and he spat on the sidewalk and said, “Goddamn that man’s soul, that Mr. Dick Wolf’s horrible soul, mister.”

Couldn’t agree more. But I don’t want a kidney. I want a liver or a chunk of liver or a brace of livers or whatever the hell we call groups of livers. The Victorians must have had a word for it, a group of livers, another vestige of empire, the language of flowers, cricket, blah blah blah.

[“Ahem, Dr. Sir Wolf, where should I place this Gladstone bag filled with spirits of ammonia, laudanum and our lake of livers …”]

Still don’t want to talk to him, Kidney Man. Don’t want to be seen near him, the vulturous slime, to be thought dickering with him over pieces of human flesh, over knurls of kidneys or whatever we call a group of kidneys, like they were … um … well … you know … “meat.”

Throwing counterfeit Monopoly money on bar and fleeing. How sad is that? Fake play money …


[Eds.’s Note: this section starts mid-page; something seems to have torn or, more accurately, chewed away the top portions of some pages.]

… progress. Large hints all through dinner about my sick friend back home in the U.S.A. and the unfairness of waiting lists. After all, why should my friend have to wait for a liver just because he can afford to buy one on his own? Because he can afford to keep drinking right up to, through, and following the transplant? Because he worked hard for that money, and he’ll spend it any goddamn way he wants to … am I right?

Who’s to say? I ponder aloud. Whose life is more important? Is it my wealthy American friends’ or a person who has been unfortunate enough to be born into misery and suffering? Who’s to say? Well, I am. That’s who.

This logic is never challenged. No one has ever questioned the syllogism (A + B = C; My Friend Is Rich + My Friend’s Liver Is Shot = My Friend Should Be Allowed To Get A New Liver No Matter What). Thinking about trolling the slums, the morgues, the secret little alleyways and dark tunnels where the …

… enlisting former “clients” to recruit new “clients” who can either borrow against the future value of their organ or organs, arrange to sell an organ or organs at some agreed upon date in the future, arrange for the immediate sale of any organ or organs, or, my personal favorite, by a percentage in a lottery in which the winner is supposedly paid for not selling an organ or organs. Or, in more practical terms, the winners’ organs double in value.

I’ve decided to go all Stanislavski on this and pretend that the late Larry Hagman actually is alive and actually is my friend, my rich American friend looking for a little free-market medical freedom in a world of unfair rules and ignorant regulation. I think it might work. I’ve practiced a whole routine about watching him wash anti-rejection drugs down his gullet with great lashings of California white wine, the kind that comes in a bladder in a box.

I’ve cried, I cry, I’ve cried to see my friend reduced to such a state. Will this world offer no peace? No measure of comfort or succor? No new liver for my friend, the famous American actor Larry Hagman [Major Tony Nelson on “I Dream of Jeannie”; J.R. Ewing on “Dallas”; guest shots on “The Rockford Files” and “Night Gallery”]. It hurts. It really hurts …

… kind of sketchy. Says he can get most (?) of a liver by tomorrow, Wednesday at the latest. It still seems “pricey” to me, but I agreed to freelance for Larry so he wouldn’t have to use the brokers he used the other two (or is it three?) times he’s bought livers. Without a guide or any contacts, it’s been difficult and weird, but anything for a pal, anything for Larry …

… how much longer to wait. I’m starting to get really pissed. I mean, seriously, it’s like these guys don’t even care who Larry Hagman is. Unbelievable. They should be lining up around the block to fork over their livers to Larry Hagman. They should be grateful for the chance to give Larry Hagman their livers, so he can shoot a decent ending for the Dallas reunion TV show movie thing …

… ironic that in the U.S., where everybody knows Larry, he can’t get a liver, can’t even get on the list because he’s an unrepentant alcoholic and everybody knows it. But here, here where I’m practically stumbling over perfectly good livers just to go buy cigarettes, here where such transactions are mundane, I can’t get anyone to throw me a bone. I mean, a real bone. One with marrow in it.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I seem too eager, too overly concerned with Larry’s health, to be a good businessman. I’m too emotional …

… and it all, as Dick Wolf might say, “goes down” in broad daylight. I’m just sitting at the café drinking one of those teeny little coffees they drink. The guy comes by with the cooler, another guy swings by for the briefcase, and we’re done. Nothing “hinky” or “skeevy.” Yet.

They might not be familiar with the Hasbro favorite Monopoly, but counterfeit transcends all political and cultural borders …

… [de]cided to name it “Buddy.” So, now I have to figure out how to get “Buddy” and me back to the hotel, get my stuff, and get the hell out of here before, well, you know. It’s pretty much mission accomplished here for investigatory freelance journalism, except now I’m dragging around a human liver named “Buddy.” I need to think things through more …

… like Midnight Express or something. I don’t want to go anywhere near the airport with this liver in a box, but I can’t just leave it in my room and check out. I mean, it’s a liver. A human liver. From a person. A person who, I guess, isn’t very alive anymore. If I can find some of that dry ice, maybe I can mail it home, but do I really want to be on the receiving end of that kind of package? Patrick Bateman wondered if he could fax a liver. Maybe if I just screeched up to an emergency room and threw it out the window, they’d rush it in to ICU or something …

… just pushing it at the guy, more or less screaming, “Take it! Take it! You’ll thank me later.”

He didn’t know what to do, obviously, but he sure didn’t want to take the box. But, I figured a pharmacist would know what to do with an extra liver. I just slammed the cooler on the counter and bolted.

“Sir!” I could hear him even on the street. “Your parcel! Sir!”

Anyway, the window feels cool on my forehead and the little flight map on the TV in front of me says we’re flying over Afghanistan. My breath leaves condensation clouds on the glass and I let my finger idly trace the letter “J” and the letter “R.”

“Bye, bye,” I whisper, and my happenstance traveling companions on this flight cannot hear me through the throb of jet engines. “Good luck, Buddy. Good luck.”

April is National Donate Life Month. Anyone can be an organ donor! To learn more about organ and tissue donation and to register to become a donor call (505) 843-7672 or visit www.nmdonor.org

A LiverÕs Tale

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