THE BIG CHILL

FIND­ING A PEA-SIZED LUMP IN­SPIRES A NAME­LESS GE­ORGE CLOONEY LOOKA­LIKE TO LEAVE NO BODY PART UN­TURNED IN HIS QUEST FOR A CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH.

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FEA­TURES Trent Dal­ton con­fronts mor­tal­ity, and some imag­i­nary Hollywood pals, when he finds a small lump.

HE wore his finest suit. He had learned long ago that most acts of tres­pass can be achieved by sim­ply wear­ing a re­spectable suit. He scur­ried un­de­tected through the empty cor­ri­dors, search­ing for a stair­case lead­ing to the build­ing’s rooftop. A smartly dressed govern­ment worker passed, eyed him sus­pi­ciously. “Can I help you?” the worker asked. “I’m try­ing to ac­cess the rooftop,” he said. “Why do you want to go up there?” He searched for an an­swer. There was only one truth­ful re­sponse. “Be­cause there’s a pea-sized lump in­side my scro­tum.”

In the in­ter­ests of di­ges­tion and vis­ual dis­so­ci­a­tion, our pa­tient in the fol­low­ing story will take the form of a man with phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics not dis­sim­i­lar to Ge­orge Clooney’s. His GP will be played by Clint East­wood, and his gen­i­tals will be played by Danny DeVito.

There’s no point pon­der­ing why this Clooney-like char­ac­ter scratched his tes­ti­cles that night. To pon­der why a man scratches his tes­ti­cles is to pon­der why day turns to night. It just hap­pens. He was re­laxed in his cot­ton py­ja­mas, lost in the se­dat­ing en­nui of evening tele­vi­sion, when three words en­tered his mind, smash­ing his mind­less reverie. “Pea-sized lump!” he whis­pered.

They were words that had long chilled his bones, like “colonic ir­ri­ga­tion” and “tax time”. He first heard them in high school, ut­tered by a nurse warn­ing a li­brary full of gig­gling stu­dents about the signs of tes­tic­u­lar can­cer. “Be­tween your fore­fin­ger and thumb you might feel a pea-sized lump,” she had said. But was such a lump nor­mal, or a sign of can­cer? He wished he’d lis­tened harder in the li­brary that day. But his thoughts had been con­sumed by Julie-Anne Ma­jor’s left calf and a pyra­mid he was mak­ing out of coloured pen­cils.

“Hmmh!” he said to him­self now. “I should tell some­one about this.” And so he told his wife, sit­ting next to him on the couch. She frowned with frus­tra­tion; they ar­gued about his lax at­ti­tude to his long-term health then, sat­is­fied he’d fi­nally done some­thing proac­tive to ad­dress the lump in his scro­tum, he brought his in­ves­ti­ga­tions to a close.

A full year passed and still he ig­nored the lump – just as he ig­nored the shoot­ing pain that ran­domly paral­ysed his lower neck; the throb­bing ache that fre­quently poked at his right armpit; the un­set­tling stom­ach bug he brought back from Nepal; the fact his left leg was a frac­tion longer than his right; and the long, tragic his­tory of can­cer in his fam­ily.

Danny DeVito’s voice first en­tered his mind in a traf­fic jam. “Where are you go­ing?” DeVito asked.

“I’m go­ing to get that lump down there checked out,” he replied.

“What? Get outta here! I got all sorts of stuff down here: lumps, stringy masses, Rus­sian space junk, Lara Bin­gle’s en­gage­ment ring . . . it’s noth­ing. You’re gonna tell some quack about it and you know what’s gonna hap­pen?” “What?” “A grown man is gonna play with your balls.” “Shut up. Don’t be so child­ish. It’s a rou­tine check-up. Hap­pens all the time.”

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