Tuesday, 20 May 2008


I could tell something was wrong immediately. Keith had been particularly spiky on the phone, but that was half-normal. What gave it away was the expression on his face when I answered my front door. There was something unpleasant in his eyes. Apart from the sleep-bogeys. I was pretty sure he was going to say, ‘I don’t think we should live together’, so it was – weirdly – almost something of a relief when he said: ‘I’ve got a brain tumour.’

‘Come in,’ I said.

He stomped through to the living room and sat down. ‘I’ve got a brain tumour,’ he repeated.

I just looked, waiting for the smirk. It didn’t come. ‘Don’t be silly,’ I said.

‘I have,’ he said. ‘I understand you don’t want to hear it, and I appreciate that – thank you. But you hiding your head in the sand won’t make my tumour go away.’

‘Please tell me you’re joking now, Keith,’ I replied. My heart had begun to move about in my chest.

He didn’t speak. Just shook his head.

I started shaking my head too. Vigorously. Until my neck hurt. And tears actually began to form somewhere behind my eyes before Keith finally forced a supercilious smirk and said, ‘Nah, not really.’

Then, when he saw my wrecked face twist to anger in a single second, his own face fell. ‘I have got a congenital cerebral aneurysm though,’ he said, ‘if that’s any consolation.’

I smiled gratefully.

It was.


So Keith’s got a ballooning blood vessel up there in his brain. A medical man told him that it’s inoperable. Which I guess means that if they try to remove it, he might wake up and never walk again, never speak again, never move or even think again; or he might wake up and imagine he’s Jewish or Jamaican, or like Preston Sturges’ father, he might start laughing when he’s sad or crying when he’s happy. Or of course he might not wake up at all. The brain is a funny old stick.

The medical man also said that, if the aneurysm ruptures, as it could potentially at any moment, then Keith could be dead within seconds. But he also said it might just as easily never happen.

So in reality, having no clue how long he’s got left, he’s really no different from the rest of us. But I suppose in the Book of Grisly Demises he’s just got one more tick box than most of us to worry about. But then who’s to say that I don’t have a blueberry time bomb in my brain too? Or you. Perish the thought obviously. But you never know.

‘Do you think you should be smoking weed on top of it?’ I asked.

He grabbed the joint off me.

‘I’m just saying,’ I said. ‘The last thing you want is a psychotic aneurysm.’

‘No,’ Keith replied, his brain full of smoke, ‘the last thing I want is to start living my life like a terrified weakling, not doing the things I would ordinarily do just because something that will probably never happen is hanging vaguely over my head.’

‘Like the Blueberry of Damocles,’ I said.

‘It’s more like a raspberry,’ he said. ‘Which could of course one day be horribly appropriate.’

I tutted and shook my head. Then I put this song on for him and joined in with the chorus.

We smiled.

OK, I smiled. Keith just rolled his eyes.

‘You’re like Nate Fisher,’ I said.

He shook his head and looked at me blankly like a dirty great ignoramus. I sighed. For anyone else unfortunate enough not to know, Nate Fisher is the dirty sexy funeral director who in the second series of Six Feet Under is diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, which he’s told could flare up and kill him at any time or else just sit there in his head, inspiring murderous, God-hating thoughts, but otherwise doing absolutely nothing at all. Just like Paris Hilton.

‘Does Nate Fisher die?’ said Keith.

‘We all die, Keith. Come on, grow up. It’s not all about you, you know.

‘But I’ve got a fucking blood clot in my brain, man!’

‘Bloodclaaaaaaaaaat!’ I said. That shut him up.

‘Don’t,’ he said.


‘Please don’t,’ Keith repeated. ‘My brain could pop at any moment. One wrong word from you, and….’

‘And what, Keith? Eh? And what?’ It was time for some tough, stoned love. ‘So it goes pop. What happens then? You die, do you? Is that what happens?’

‘Probably, yeah. No one knows. It wouldn’t be pretty though. We know that much.’

‘Do we? Do we really…’ – I wiggled my apostrophe fingers – ‘…know that much. Or – and I’m just throwing this out here – maybe we should start looking on the bright side here, eh? Eh? What do you think of that? Let’s give that a go, shall we? So – with that in mind – as well as you dying a horrible death, what else might just as equally happen?’

Keith nodded his head, slowly, as if coming round to my way of thinking. He handed me the end of the first joint of the evening. ‘Well, I suppose,’ he said, ‘best case scenario, there’s just as much chance that I might actually be immortal.’

I sighed, nodded my head. ‘Thank you,’ I said, pleased that he was on my wavelength. ‘Exactly. And at least,’ I added. ‘At least it’s not a tumour.’

‘It’s not a tumour,’ repeated Keith, in his best Detective John Kimble voice.

I joined in. ‘It’s not a tumour.’

Keith had another go. ‘It’s not a tumour.’

We actually went on for some time, till I said, ‘you see, there are a number of very definite bright sides to be considered here. Fuck it. Come on, it’s all good.’

Keith nodded. ‘I’m Mr Brightside,’ he said. Then he said it again, this time as Detective John Kimble. Then via Sparticus and Life of Brian, I suddenly had a delirious Arnie yelling at me, ‘No, I am Mr Brightside and so is my wife!’

‘Come on,’ I said, trying to calm the situation down and hide my fear. ‘Group hug.’

We put our arms around one another and squeezed, then Keith pulled away suddenly and clasped at his forehead. ‘Shit,’ he said.

‘What’s wrong?’ I said.

He looked me in the eyes.

‘I think I felt it rupture,’ he said.

And so on.

If Friday night was anything to go by, Keith is going to be dining out on this bloomin' aneurysm for the rest of his life.


I wish I had an aneurysm.

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The Monkeyman said...

I want one as well :-(


Selena said...

All I have to say, is that your friendship is beautiful. Long live Stan and "not Keith", blueberries, raspberries, marijuana cigarettes, cartoon Boris's, bags full of elbows, and most of all... Detective John Kimble!
Played by the highly esteemed Governor of my beloved state of California, Conan the Barbarian

As to being immortal, well we all know that, "there can be only one." With that in mind Not-Keith would do well to get acquainted with swordplay.

Alex Andronov said...

Igor go fetch Brrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaainnnnssss...

Yes master.

Anonymous said...

Long. Live. Keith!
Oh...and you too...obviously!

Annie Rhiannon said...

Does this post contain spoilers? I couldn't read the second half of it, not after I saw Nate's name. I still haven't seen the last series of Six Feet! I only saw up to the bit where he watched the guy shoot himself in the head and then went home to Brenda and said "let's get married and make a baby".

Oh. Sorry for anyone who hasn't seen the fourth series.

Clare Sudbery said...

My gran had an aneurysm go pop when she was about 40. It just made her a bit... odd. But by all accounts she was pretty odd already anyway. As are most of my relatives.

Clare Sudbery said...

P.S. Whenever I get one of my hypochondriac oh-my-God-I'm-going-to-die-in-really-dramatic-and-interesting-fashion health scares, I'm always slightly disappointed when it turns out to be bollocks.

Ms Baroque said...

No you don't.

having my cake said...

I hope Keith doesnt let it affect him too much. As you said, none of us knows the exact time of our death but it must still be a bummer to have it sitting there. I loved Six Feet Under and Nate Fisher (I love Peter Krause in Dirty Sexy Money too)

La Bête said...

Monkeyman :: I think you might already have one. And I think it might already have gone pop. This at least would explain your singularly peculiar behaviour. Monkey skulls indeed.

Selena :: NotKeith is already well-acquainted with swordplay. Apparently. If you know what I mean. Or so they say.

Alex :: Quite.

Penelope :: I’m sure Keith will be fine. It’s always the ones with the blueberries in their brains that live forever.

Annie Rhiannon :: I’m in exactly the same situation as you. I’ve seen everything except the last season. Which is lucky for you. If you’d spoilt the 4th season for me, I would have been furious. Furious!

Clare :: Thanks for the story of your gran. That’s very encouraging.

Ms Baroque :: no, I don’t really.

Cake :: I stopped watching DSM after half of the second episode. Was I wrong to?

BenefitScroungingScum said...

I will never be able to find the reference, but I remember reading a piece about research being done in Spain (toledo university I think) which was about how cannabis could potentially benefit in end stage brain tumours. Apparently the research showed that certain cannabinoids actually starve the damaged area of brain of oxygenated blood therefore theoretically slowing growth. Other areas of the brain didn't seem to be affected, it was damage specific.

More seriously, always, always get a second opinion, particularly as 'inoperable' can sometimes mean 'only in the UK'
Raised reefer to you both, Bendy Girl x

Ariel said...

Er... the only thing I know about aneurysm is the sudden one which killed my uncle when I was a little kid. He left 3 little kids of his own behind, and a wife. They all had a hard life, but they made it through. Now the kids have kids themselves. And so it goes.

La Bête said...

Bendy Girl :: Thanks for that, but remember, it's not a tumour. Thanks anyway.

Ariel :: Thanks for that too. Particularly the Vonneguttian (Vonnegutsy?) overtones.

Dandelion said...

Congratulations! This post has been voted Post of The Week. How does it feel to be a winner?