Emergency – Denis Johnson – from the collection: Jesus’ Son

18 Feb
photo by Russell J. Smith

photo by Russell J. Smith

One of the days I will have to work the night shift in a hospital. It seems that’s the best place to get drugs. Quality drugs too, not like the ones you can get on Church Street from a transsexual called Beatrix.

In the story Emergency, a man, known only by the name ‘Fuckhead’ is working the night shift along with his friend Georgie. That night they have both been stealing and taking drugs, though Georgie seems to have taken far more than Fuckhead. It seems to be a quiet night, that is, until a man comes in with a hunting knife buried to the hilt in his eye. It seems his wife put it there, though the man doesn’t want to press charges against her unless he actually dies from the injury.

The doctor on duty freaks out. He doesn’t want to touch the injury until he has an eye surgeon, a brain surgeon and a top class anaesthetist come in to help. While fuckhead places a call to the specialists, the drugged out Georgie takes the patient off to prep him for surgery. Half an hour later, Georgie returns carrying the hunting knife in his hand.

Through a miracle, the patient doesn’t die. The next day, on their day off, Fuckhead and Georgie go to a carnival, drive around lost for hours, hit a jack rabbit, and go to a drive-in movie during the middle of a blizzard just to watch the lights.

When the pair return to work, Georgie can’t even recognise the patient he pulled the knife out of, and wonders why the man is thanking him.

I really enjoyed this story. It was written in pretty straight forward language, but had a Hunter S. Thompson – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, type of feel, where actions have no consequences. There seems to be no moral lessons to be learned from Emergency, it just contains descriptions of stuff that happened. It has a light, rootless type of feel, but all the same, you certainly get a kick in your guts when Georgie appears carrying the hunting knife in his hand and you have no idea  whether he has just killed the man by removing it.

1 Comment

Posted by on February 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


One response to “Emergency – Denis Johnson – from the collection: Jesus’ Son

  1. Chris

    February 18, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Denis Johnson rules. Have you seen the film?


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