Weekly Update

Stomach Ball

Here is another writing assignment from my class: sharing a childhood memory. Enjoy!

I clearly remember the first time I performed brain surgery. The patient had thick blonde hair, but it only grew around the perimeter of her head, leaving an open patch of her scalp. This meant that no shaving was required before the operation. Convenient, because my mom didn’t let me borrow her razor, and the sharpest tool I owned was safety scissors.

My patient, Sally, required no sedatives. Her blue eyes were wide open with fixed pupils; typically an ominous sign, but not when your patient is a Cabbage Patch Doll.

I’m sure you have questions about a five-year-old brain surgeon.

  1. No, I wasn’t allowed to have a scalpel, so I used a red pen instead. It was handy because it left a red trail of blood.
  2. My knowledge of the brain was essentially nothing, but I did have a great “Body Atlas” book that I referenced during operations. And yes, this is the same book that inspired me to draw anatomically correct naked bodies on our driveway in chalk. While my dad seemed impressed by the detail, he hosed them off the driveway immediately.
  3. Finally, to answer your burning question: the head of a Cabbage Patch Doll was too hard to cut through with my red pen scalpel, so there was a lot of imagination involved in these operations.

I finished up operating just in time to say goodbye to my oldest sister, Rachel, who was off to the Science Museum for a birthday trip with no siblings.

Was I jealous? Maybe, but there were other important things to be done: collecting acorns, drawing brain tumors, snooping.

The afternoon passed and Rachel returned home, toting in a little white bag, her gift shop purchase. Inside? Stomach ball.

I was enraptured, but of course, I was simply a peon in her rule of the house. I would not be allowed to touch this precious object.

Hold up, you don’t know what stomach balls are?

I’m sorry. I thought everyone knew.

The stomach ball was about the size of a baseball, and squishy, like a stress ball. It was clear, and inside were the stomach and intestines, bathed in green goop. It made a lovely noise whenever it was squeezed, the same gurgle you might hear from your stomach right before encountering explosive diarrhea.

When Rachel was not around, I would find it and squeeze it between my fingers, organs oozing out between my thumb and forefinger. I was intrigued by the intestines. What were they made of? How were they so squishy? I wondered what they felt like.

They looked lonely. No one wants to be stuck in a clear ball. Except for hamsters, hamsters do seem to enjoy it.

How, I wondered, could this problem be solved?

Red pen scalpel poked me through my pocket.

My brain ticked. Neurons fired. A lightbulb appeared.

My brain surgeries on Sally had never gotten far because her skull was too hard. Also because my parents didn’t give me a scalpel. But stomach ball? Oh, stomach ball was teeming with opportunity.

My fingers itched. While Rachel was practicing piano, a mandatory 30 minutes, I snuck into her bedroom and snatched stomach ball from the shelf.

I pulled out my scalpel and attempted to make an incision. But the ball was too squishy and morphed around the pen, unwilling to pop.

Dang, these red pen scalpels. Worthless. The wheels in my brain turned.

A kitchen knife? No, I couldn’t reach them.

The saw in the garage? Too violent. I did not want to maim the intestines in the process of extracting them. This was not “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

I needed something heavy.

I happened to know that beds are heavy because when I tried to run away, Rachel had helped me tie mine up so I could bring it with me. She was a kind one, that Rachel.

I lifted the mattress and slid stomach ball underneath, planting my 40-pound self on top, envisioning the ball bursting open, intestines oozing out.

I peeked under the mattress. Nothing. Stomach ball remained intact.

I found my sister Amelia and explained I needed help. This was a risk. Amelia was holy. She liked to play “nun.” I was not sure if she could be tempted.  

But it turns out Amelia is the kind of sister who is there when you need to pop stomach balls. She agreed; I needed more weight on the mattress. We both hopped atop the bed.

I remember laughing as we bounced, wicked grins plastered across our faces, sure our evil plan would work.

For a minute, we forgot about stomach ball and gleefully jumped on the bed. But I couldn’t be distracted for long; this was, after all, a pivotal moment in my life.

Carefully, we lifted the mattress. I pulled out stomach ball and examined it.

Sure enough, our plan had worked. There was a hole. I squeezed some of the green goo out and prepared to extract the intestines.

I was caught in the glory of the moment and hadn’t heard the kitchen buzzer go off, marking the end of piano practice.

Suddenly, the door barged open. Rachel stood in the doorway. Her steely eyes darted around the room. Scalpel. Stomach ball. Wicked grins.




Rachel ratted on us and our mom threw the stomach ball away. Rachel was devastated at the loss of stomach ball; I was devastated that I never found out what the intestines felt like.

Thirteen years later I went to college, and learned that skulls aren’t opened with scalpels; they are opened with saws. I got to touch real intestines; though the formaldehyde was overpowering and it was an anticlimactic moment.

Medicine, as it turns out, was a lot more fun when I was a kid.