We were somewhere around Swissvale on the edge of Frick Park when the vitamin B12 began to take hold. Whereas most days the Squirrel Hill Tunnel constituted nothing more than an inconvenience thanks in part to the perpetual traffic jam, it had become a snarling jackal that swallowed vehicles whole and shit them out towards Pittsburgh. We were already on the intestinal tract, but I drove onward.
Dr. Stratos’ eyes nearly bolted from his skull when the creature’s gaping black lungs reflected in his irises. (Dr. Stratos is the fictional name of the doctor who diagnosed my case of Vitiligo, and mentioned its unpredictable progress. “You are quite healthy, Matt. It’s only a cosmetic problem.") “Are you suicidal?” the doctor screamed. “Think about the negative equity you have in your prefab home. Your sobbing widow won’t forgive the financial burden. Pull this wagon over.”
“Hold on to your snatch whackers,” I said, mashing the brakes. The tires locked; the tiny claws of the asphalt peeled away layers of rubber as the sidewalk shreds a toddler's knees amid a tricycle wreck. Then I heard the menace of a tommy gun as bullets diced the back windshield. “For criminy’s sakes, those reckless patients of yours are shooting at us, doctor. I told you to smile and wink when you said you had The Treatment. The hyenas are salivating.”
“Them ain’t bullets, you scatterbrained twit. Those are your many thousands of tablets of folic acid shifting in their bottles. Your mind is too drenched with substances that have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. Your bats have overrun your belfry.”
I had realized my flagrant miscalculation when the fender of my 03’ Ford Focus battered the guard rail. By the grace of divine inaction, or simple blind luck as the natives say, I managed to subdue the steering wheel. My Focus skidded against the corroded beam that separated me and the pale-crotched doctor from a forty foot drop unto an oblivious jogger who was likely listening to an ipod crammed with Nickleback and fantasizing about the spry sorority tits he’ll never taste. (I later learned that the jogger was indeed a fraternity pledge, at Krappa Delta Rho, in fact. Apparently, his pledge name was Dolt. That’s it, just plain old Dolt. He majored in passing out on dust bunnies and minored in puking in his own chest hairs.) My psyche gasped as the Focus halted. The bottles of folic acid tumbled onto the floor mats. “My treatments!” I yelled. I flung open the car door, which nearly clipped one of those new “green” quasi-cars that was being powered by an ornate windmill bolted atop the sunroof. The car's bumper sticker proclaimed “LOVE: THE ONLY FUEL WORTH GUZZLING” adorned the car’s back bumper.
“Screw you too,” I spit back at the driver.
“Screw you too,” I spit back at the driver.
Then I met the doctor at my trunk. He looked a wreck; every pore on his body was yawning and sweat was gushing from them like broken inner city fire hydrants.
“Get a hold of yourself you vitamin freak,” he said as he belted me in the kidneys. “The B5 is kicking in. Wait until the B7 and E3 blitz your brain, too.”
“You sunk my battleship, doc.”
“This is no time for your buffoonery. Open this trunk.”
Right then, Dr. Stratos looked like a hideous fiend, a pusher of the most heinous sort. I knew the pills he prescribed wouldn’t overcome the white blotches on my face. “I am a firefly in a jar to you. I'm a daddy-long-leg with pulled off legs. I outta’ hogtie you with your own intestines, doctor.”
Dr. Stratos smiled and winked and said The Treatment was in the trunk. He patted my forearm. His fingers felt freezing cold. I imagined slurping a cherry snow cone amid a nuclear detonation. What I mean to say is I felt okay, although my whole skin was melting from my bones.
I yanked open the trunk with the ferocity of a medieval dentist extracting a dragon's fang. Bottles of vitamins, herbs and other taunted tropical weeds from third world counties were scattered about. A health nut, the kind who guzzles smoothies from a beer bong, would have creamed his spandex bike skivvies: gingko biloba, moringa oleifera, zinc, rose hips, vitamin c, pantothenic acid, copper, high potency vitamin b complex, daily multi-vitamin, and not to mention steroid crème and a host of lesser doses of whatever other vile remedies one might find traces of in Dr. Oz’s urine.
“Consume. Consume,” the doctor stressed. ‘The Treatment is prescribed. Time to overrun Vitligo and display the war booty above the fireplace. Tell your grandchild you…were….there.”
I thrust my hand in the hole in my spare tire and scooped up what I could. Then I gobbled the pills and tablets and capsules until the stitching in my stomach began to unravel and an all-out abdominal eruption was imminent. Visions comsumed me. Within twenty seconds I was watching the Big Bang on a 3-D television; I was ducking as the particles of creation careened toward me; I saw everything in high definition from the cramped crawlspaces of god’s fallout shelter. The Big Bang had reversed. No one survived.
Eventually I came to. The B12 had coursed through my veins like putrid rainwater rushing down a city street after a downpour. Dr. Stratos was at the wheel of the Focus, awaiting my arrival back to the actuality of Facebook and Fox News and some blithering dunce peddling some sort of robotic vacuum cleaner on channel 13 at 4 o’clock in the morning.
The white blotches remained. I rejoined Dr. Stratos in the Focus. We pulled back onto the intestinal tract of the Squirrel Hill Beast. Despite the traffic jam, I was going to be shit out toward the city.