Just Desserts

February 2011 Feature Ted A. Thompson

It was a beautiful day for a houseboat party. The weather was gorgeous. Good friends aboard. The food looked terrific. We were having cheeseburgers, pizza, and for dessert, chocolate layer cake topped with homemade vanilla ice cream. Everything seemed perfect.

I sat at the table on the bow of The Phoenix. The pizza and cheeseburger disappeared quickly. All I remember is the cake, such a wonderful thing to behold-moist devil's food in three layers, covered with rich, creamy, chocolate icing. I put two slices on my plate, and dug right in. Mmm.

Looks can be deceiving. For such a beautiful cake, it was surprisingly unsatisfying. It didn't even taste sweet. Ugh!  Who made this cake? Was this some kind of trick?

I shoved another forkful into my mouth, but there was still no joy. Unbelievable!  The cake left me feeling unfulfilled, disappointed, and more than a little annoyed-something chocolate has never done before, not in MY life. The stupid, tasteless cake was ruining the whole party. I wiped icing off my chin, opened one eye, and looked at the bedside clock.

3 a.m. 

3 a.m? Bedside clock?

I really hate dieting.

This all started with a trip to the joint specialist a few weeks ago. Referring to my knees as "The Gruesome Twosome," the doctor said I had lived in pain long enough. In mid January, I am having both knees replaced. The surgeon assures me I will feel much better afterwards, with these artificial parts. Like the six million dollar man, I suppose. Less my deductible.

The doctor was pleased that I am going into this as a non-smoker, and suggested that it wouldn't hurt to lose ten pounds before the surgery. "Do you mean me or you, Doc?" I felt we should be clear on that.  

"I mean you," he clarified. "And make it thirty pounds," he added, clarifying further. (That was punitive, I'm convinced.)

I had other questions besides. "We'd like to go houseboating this spring. I'm hoping to be recovered by the time the weather turns nice. See any problem with that, Doc?"

He stroked his chin to enhance his considerations and replied, "Hmm. Well, that depends."

"On what?" I asked. I can sometimes be so full of innocence, among other things.

"Depends on if you have a houseboat."

I hold the firm opinion that medical school should not have a class clown, and fervently hoped I had not drawn the wild card joker from the doctor deck. These are my knees, after all, the so-called "Gruesome Twosome." I lost my sense of humor about them a long time ago. There's nothing funny about any of this. I didn't even ask if I'd be able to play the piano after surgery.

"I can help with the diet!" Roxanne told me when I gave her the news. "Great," I replied, "but do you have to be so cheerful about it?" She's always far too encouraging when it comes to my improvement. 

As I write this, "After Thanksgiving" has arrived with an echoing thud, as it always does for serious dieters. Most will get a temporary reprieve by invoking the After Christmas Promissory Ploy, or the ever-popular New Year's Resolution Gambit. These maneuvers preserve weight loss commitments, without imposing unpleasant dietary restrictions. Not me. I must stick to the original schedule, but I am not required to be gracious about it. I'm convinced that suffering in silence is plain foolishness. Any two-year-old will back me up.

"Want to watch the Discovery Channel?" Roxanne asked one evening. "They're showing a knee replacement operation."

"No. I do not. Want to watch." I said. With excessive periods. For emphasis.

"Don't you want to see what they'll be doing?"

"I already know what they'll be doing. The last thing I want to think about before going under is bone sawing and bloodletting and gristle rending."

"So we're watching?" she asked.

"What did I just say? Didn't you listen?" I asked, annoyed.

"Yes, I listened to what you said. Did you?"

"I said `The last thing I want to think about.'

Her point registered. "Oh. OK, the last thing I DON'T want to think about before surgery is whatever nightmare they're planning to show on the Discovery Channel tonight. Which we won't be watching." Roxanne sniffed. I think she called me chicken.

"But there is one thing I'd like to know." I added, thoughtfully.

"What?" asked Roxanne. She can also be full of innocence. Among other things.

"Would you make a cake? I was thinking Devil's Food."  

I already knew the answer.

See you on the other side, folks. Believe I'll walk over.

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