All right, boys and girls, here’s a nice little Christmas story for you all — and it’s true, too!
When we lived in France my wife befriended a couple from her church. An Englishman and a Canadian, they had lived in the south of France for many years following his retirement from some executive post within the then-nascent EU. It’s been about a year since he died of complications of surgery on his leg, a procedure that was meant to improve circulation but that resulted in amputation and sepsis that would prove fatal. She is afflicted with a variety of infirmities that eventually beset us all, but at 89 she lives alone in her apartment on the Cap d’Antibes.
Anne called her today to wish her a merry Christmas. Her voice sounded a bit raspy over the phone, and she acknowledged that lately she has been finding it increasingly difficult to swallow. After performing a thorough examination her doctor assured her that it wasn’t cancer or any other lethal condition, but that there seemed to be a buildup of tissue inside her throat. The doctor was puzzled: Can you think of anything that might have caused scarring down there? And then she remembered.
Long ago, when she was very young, she had suffered from a severe sore throat. You may stay home from school today, her mother told her when the child awakened from a fretful sleep. Stay in bed and rest. It had been only a few minutes since her mother left her bedside when, opening her eyes, the girl thought she saw two ghostly giants standing beside her bed. Tall and dressed all in white, wearing masks over their mouths, these two spectral figures suddenly grabbed her in her bed. One of them placed an odd-smelling cloth over her nose and mouth, from which she struggled mightily to escape. The two giants grabbed the little girl and hauled her bodily down the stairs. They laid her on the kitchen table, cloaked, like the giants, all in white. A third white-clad giant approached. As the other two forcibly held the thrashing girl on the table, the third giant pried open her screaming mouth with one hand. In the other hand he held a knife…
Without anesthetizing his terrified young patient, the surgeon began performing the tonsillectomy. She flailed and shrieked as he carved off slices of the inflamed tissue. At some point in the operation the doctor lost his grip on the scalpel, and it fell, blade first, down the young girl’s throat. He tried but failed to get a grip on the implement, slick with spit and blood. Finally he pulled it loose, blood gushing across his white surgical garb, the girl’s nightgown, the white tablecloth. He stopped the operation then, leaving shreds of the ravaged tonsils still in place.
That would explain the scarring, her doctor told her.