Battle at Wounded Knee

Battle at Wounded Knee

Michael Jackson survives ot wonder about Jonnie Walker
Michael Jackson

28 December 2003

Publication: Issue 36

Have you ever been sentenced to death? I have. I am happy to say the sentence was some time ago, though I do not know whether it was ever commuted. Recent events have made me wonder.I was only a few days old when the sentence was passed. I would die before the week was out, they told my mother. I was very premature, too scrawny to survive. That was the last time I made either of those mistakes. I missed my first deadline that very weekend. Dead-line; it wasn’t metaphorical.They told my mother that my twin brother John was very healthy, and not at risk. On cue, the healthy twin died, for no discernible reason. Before you state the obvious, there was not a mix-up. We were not identical in the first place. I was small and frail. John was a big hairy guy. Perhaps I stole his life. Watch out around me. To build me up, my dad gave me whisky every day, whisked with raw eggs and sugar. I am not sure when, but I suspect I was five, because I remember a huge poster proclaiming the life-enhancing properties of Johnnie Walker, opposite the school bus stop.The whisky diet worried my mother, whose father had died of drink. My dad took me to the doctor to seek an endorsement. He liked going to the doctor. Dr Zermansky had a Viennese accent. Communing with him made my dad feel like an intellectual. Dr Zermansky’s patience being exhausted, he made sure we saw his partner in the practice, Dr McGurk. He was a red-faced man with a shock of ginger hair. This was not only on his head but also about his face, in the form of eyebrows, nostril hair and moustache. He leaned over me redly, held down my tongue with a spatula and bade me to say, “Aaargh!” As he withdrew, he exhaled and I was enveloped in a vapour I would recognise years later in a whiskey warehouse under a railway arch in Dublin.Dr McGurk moonlighted as the local abortionist. He took no money for this service – which he undertook at the dictate of his own beliefs. Instead he accepted a bottle of Jameson from each grateful patient.
Being enveloped in vapour can have dramatic consequences. A young woman who was enveloped in the breath of a Kirin (a mythical creature later to become a brewer and distiller) gave birth to Confucius. After my envelopment, I suddenly grew visibly big and strong, in a process known as puberty. People stopped saying I looked pale, and asking whether I was okay. From my teens to my 50s, I scarcely saw a doctor. It is more than 30 years since I had a day off sick, but I recently found myself in hospital for a couple of weeks with a leg infection.
Reinforced by decades of drink, I did not stop work. Between being assaulted with needles of one point size and another, I wrote an article each day. This only partially satisfied my workaholic needs. I like to write on the move but, becalmed in London, could not. I missed The Pot Still Festival in The Netherlands and Whisky Magazine Live in Japan.How did it happen? My left shin seems to be my Achilles heel. I tenderised it playing Rugby League in Yorkshire; in a road accident in Amsterdam; dog-sledding in Alaska…but I think the most recent slight injury may simply have been a scrape with a case of whisky in my office. Vintage Kilmarnock, I believe. It was the subsequent infection, and the swollen knee that put me in hospital. The care was excellent, which is just as well; remember, something similar killed Jack Daniel.After that first encounter with the medical profession, I have always placed a greater faith in the water of life. Could Johnnie Walker have stopped me walking? It seems unlikely, but everything else in this account is true. Except I changed the doctors’ names. If there is
a litigious, Jameson-loving, real McGurk out there, it wasn’t him.

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