At the end of his dream an elephant sat down on his chest,

awakened by a smothering pain in the “chestal area,”

as Woody would say.

He wondered about “the brilliant function of pain;”

a wake-up call, a 21 gun salute or a false alarm he’d be grateful for?

He had no marker like Mark Twain’s Halley’s Comet.

He breathed slowly, deeply, savoring each breath as if it might be his last.

The ER was crowded with worried faces, crutches, crying kids

and a car crash driver in a blood soaked towel.

A sign in bold black letters warned:

“Take a number. You may lose your place for urgent cases. Abuse will not be tolerated!”

Hours later a jolly, roly-poly Doc wheeled him down a hall, huffing and puffing

told him he corralled a busy surgeon who promised to poke around and take a look.

If his pain couldn’t be pin-pointed he’d have to go home as no hospital

beds could be found.

Hooked up to a monitor he called for the nurse who looked like

Paris Hilton hoping to get her number for his son who couldn’t sleep,

agonized over a failed love affair.

Waiting on a gurney to be drawn and quartered like a pious Jew in the Spanish Inquisition or would he be split apart like a chicken by his mother on Friday night, stuffed with stents, new valves and a pacemaker instead of breadcrumbs seasoned with rosemary, parsley and pignoni.

He hoped his innards could be re-built the way he overhauled the engine

on his 47 Chevy with new rings and valves, lasting at least until

he could once again be surprised by the harbingers of Spring, the return of golden daffodils and purple crocuses, a chance to feel the furry fuzz on pussy willows and inhale the fragrance of hyacinths surrounding his garden.

The gift of one more winter would also be welcomed to see softly falling snow on his window, mesmerized by oak logs burning steadily, alive with flames leaping in wild celebration, reminding him of how good it feels to be alive.