I suppose I ought to be proud to have had my very own personal Bocks Car training its bombsight on me every afternoon at one PM these past several weeks, making a miniature Nagasaki of me, joining me in history with Hiroshima, Eniwetok, Bikini, and only a few other scattered targets on the face of the earth chosen for molecular rearrangement. Not that my dedicated version of the aircraft carrying Fat Man looks much like the original. It doesn’t fly very far, or high, or fast, has no wings, no jaunty cartoon painted on its nose, no brave crew in leather jackets with shearling collars. Indeed, the thing is more UFO than B-29, a frosted-glass disk about the size of a manhole cover, mounted on an articulated arm of flesh-colored metal. (NB: By flesh-colored I mean, as all Anglo European manufacturers do, caucasian flesh, the sad, wan, chewing-gum pinkish beige of Band-Aids. Does that pass for flesh-colored in Hong Kong too, and Nairobi, and Ulan Bator? Does no one notice the dreadful presumption?)
Anyway, my Bocks Car hovers above me — I am lying on my back, in a fitted trough, so that I cannot throw the all-important aim off by so much as a centimeter in any direction — banks to the left, sinks out of my peripheral sight on that side, then returns to high-noon position to perform the same maneuvers on the right, making a not-unfriendly mechanical bumble-bee sound every time it moves. As I say, it is unmanned, or, rather, in the best modern mode, remotely operated, drone-style, by an off-site pilot, a technician in an anteroom cockpit clogged with computers. Whenever it is in the right position (signaled by a cessation of the bumble-bee sound) it seems to go more still than still, profoundly still, reverently still, beatifically still like a little god about to bestow a blessing, and then, for eight or nine or ten seconds at a time, makes a sort of angry wind-up toy sound, a zzzirrr, after which, just before it is nudged along to its next stop, it does one last little thing it cannot actually be doing, given how clamped and confined and totally controlled it is: It seems to shiver, as if recovering from a very great effort. And, hell, it is a great effort: To turn a death-dealing blast into a life-giving nudge requires unbloodybelieveable self-control.
Consider. There is no mushroom cloud, no flesh-peeling atomic wind, no eardrum- and eyeball-melting furnace blast, no sheet-lightning transformation of day into night back into day all in a millisecond’s time, no world-deafening whirlwind scream. There is only zzzirrrr, five times ten seconds of it, fifty seconds of zzzirrr.
Talk about sharpshooting. Imagine a howitzer powerful enough, enormous enough, to fire a diesel-locomotive-sized shell across a continent, but able so to be constrained, so to be focused, that it can tune that power down and down and down and down into a stab of energy fine enough to drill a bitty hole in a caraway seed, without doing any damage (or so it is hoped) to the rest of the seed itself. Unthinkable. Unimaginable. Perhaps also impossible. That remains to be seen.
Of course you know the famous Sistine Ceiling panel in which big, beefy, bearded God ever-so-lightly and carefully touches the tip of one finger to the outstretched finger of an awestruck Adam. I used to think that this was a very good illustration of Michelangelo’s idea of the power of the deity: All it takes is just one little divine dab to animate a human being. And it is that, sure. But I see now that it is more. It represents also an amazing understanding that there could not possibly be any more contact than that. What would a hearty handshake from God do to a man, or a clap on the back, or a slap of a heavenly locker-room towel? Anything more than the merest feathery brush, anything almost undetectably beyond an actual touch at all, anything more than not-quite-a kiss, would fry a guy instantly, would turn him into a black wire wisp of smoke that may never have been there in the first place. This is the case also with my hovering glass manhole cover of a B29: Anything more than zzzirrr, zzzirrr, zzzirr, zzzirrr, zzzirrr, and I’d be a never-was.
I am glad to report that, though I am barechested through this process, I am permitted to wear pants, shoes and socks. Glad to report this because I know that conventional and x-ray pictures are taken too, from above, and the thought of what I’d look like, so stretched out in bony supplication, is too much for me. A stick-figure version of Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man, is what I’d look like, a praying mantiss splayed on a slide, more a topographical map than a satellite photo.
And as for the cost: So what if I am left with the locomotive power of a stain on the floor? Small price to pay (and temporary, too, I am assured) for being invited to be part of such an enterprise.
I thought, back in the months I was billeted in Chemo County, that the doings there were amazingly fine-tuned. I see now how coarse it all was. Holy crap: Tubes an ant could comfortably crawl through, visible drops of liquid, potions set loose on their own recognizance to wander my systems at will, in completely undirected and unsupervised search of villainous cells, crude mercenaries on a shoot-at-will mission taking down the innocent as well as the guilty. A bleedin’ Atari video game, is what is was, Pac Man with a one-button joystick. Laughable! Laughable!
Here, in Geiger Gulch, among the roentgens, rads and rems, I understand at last what fine tuning really is. I am permanently marked about my person with black targeting smudges, on which green lasers are trained before Bocks Car is deployed, so that the screwing-down of its payload to a microns-wide point is always exact and always exactly the same, rendering the villainy inside me (however tiny in reality it may actually be) big as a barndoor by comparison, and a turkey-shoot therefore. Those fat, stupid, misshapen olives of malignancy, such a great challenge to the Chemo Pac Men Marauders, are child’s-play for the Atomic Avengers released by Bocks Car.
Or so we all hope.
Tomrrow: Cancerland Notions of Hope