Excerpt of Ever By My Side by Dr. Nick Trout
(Page 2 of 9)
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To fully appreciate the bond that formed between me and Cleo,
you have to understand our shared interest in swallowing inanimate
objects and to help you do so I must mention a chilling yet
formative recollection from my childhood.
Late one night, barefoot and immersed in oversized cotton pajamas,
this four-year-old boy stood alone in the kitchen having snuck
out of bed in search of a snack and a glass of milk. I have always
been partial to yogurt, methodically working my way to the bottom
of the carton, scraping every last pink glob of strawberry-colored
additives off the plastic and onto my spoon. Even now I can recall
the feel of that particular spoon, cool and smooth and small, like a
silver christening spoon, satisfyingly tinkly on my deciduous teeth
and almost weightless in my mouth. With the yogurt gone and my
mind in a dull and dreamy state, I began playing with the spoon
in the back of my mouth, appreciating the metallic sensation way
back on my tongue and how it was possible to push it a little farther
and induce gagging, a sharp and forceful contraction deep in my
belly - until somewhere just beyond this point, the reflex of actual swallowing took over, involuntary and, to my horror, completely
irreversible. I felt the tiny handle leaving my fingertips and slipping
from my grasp, and suddenly, like the yogurt, the spoon was gone,
disappearing deep inside my body.
When I felt it go there was no pain or discomfort, only the rush
of fear that I had done something very wrong and, perhaps more
important, impossible to justify. I mean you don't just swallow a spoon by accident. What was I going to tell my mum and dad? I fell
on a spoon while my mouth was open! I was so hungry I ate my
yogurt, spoon and all!
I waited for a few minutes and nothing happened. I had a drink
of milk and nothing happened. I didn't feel any different. If I jumped up and down nothing rattled inside my body, nothing tickled or poked through my skin. In the end, instead of confessing my sin to
my parents, I decided to wait and see what, if anything, happened
and besides, I was tired, so I went back to bed.
At this early stage of my life, I'm not entirely sure I could make
any connection between what went into my mouth and what came
out the other end. All I knew was that by the next morning I still
felt fine. No one seemed to have noticed there was anything missing
from the cutlery drawer and so I decided to keep my acquisition
of a foreign body a secret, comfortable with the notion that the
little spoon was lost inside me, hidden somewhere dark and warm
and safe, not causing me any harm, inert and happy to simply hang
out. It was not until I was thirteen years old, and clearly not much
wiser, that I feared my secret would be revealed.
In trying to define my early teenage stature, some might use the
word lean out of kindness. Truth be told, I was a scrawny whippet
of a boy. I was, however, blessed with a semblance of speed, a characteristic that did not go unnoticed by our school sports teacher,
"All you have to do is catch the ball and run for the line."
Sounded simple enough, but his synopsis of what would be required
of me as a winger on our school rugby team failed to do justice
to the rough and tumble of what the game meant to boys with far
more muscle, spite, and testosterone.
I like to remember the critical moment in terms of the dying
seconds of a crucial game, perhaps a grudge match against local
rivals or a match to claim a league championship title, with time
running out and one more try needed to win - me making an impossible catch, a shimmy left, a fake right, defenders falling at my feet as I charged for the line, rugby ball tucked tight and safe in my
chest as I leapt over giants and landed for my winning points just as
the final whistle blew. What actually transpired was that I caught
a ball in the middle of the field and hesitated, and in a moment of
panic half a dozen boys jumped on top of me, frozen mud on the
right side of my body, hundreds of pounds of grunting, writhing,
sweaty bodies on my left. Something had to give as a result of this
mayhem and unfortunately that something happened to be my
Excerpted from Ever By My Side
by Dr. Nick Trout. Copyright © 2011 by Dr. Nick Trout.
Excerpted by permission of Broadway Books. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.