Monday, August 8, 2016

"The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko"

Scott Stambach lives in San Diego where he teaches physics and astronomy at Grossmont and Mesa colleges. He also collaborates with Science for Monks, a group of educators and monastics working to establish science programs in Tibetan Monasteries throughout India. He has written about his experiences working with monks of Sera Jey monastery and has published short fiction in several literary journals including Ecclectica, Stirring, and Convergence.

Stambach applied the Page 69 Test to The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, his debut novel, and reported the following:
I fully admit that while Ivan Isaenko may be my hero, I do believe he’s an irresistible one. He is one of those voices so complex, so full of defenses, so endearing, insecure, irreverent, mischievous, and unintentionally hilarious that you can’t help but wonder if the entire human experience isn’t locked up inside of a single human life.

His whole world exists inside the walls of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children, and consequently, he has had to become a master of his small domain. He is a prankster who manipulates situations for his amusement. He turns everything into a game. He categorizes and classifies the elements of his surroundings. And all of it helps him maintain some sense of control over his chaotic world. When we get to page 69, we see a perfect example of Ivan’s Modus Operandi. A long time ago, Ivan noticed that there were two classes of patients at the hospital: The 3-monthers and the 6-monthers. In his own words:
This is because medications are prescribed either in 6 or 3-month supplies. For the vast majority of us, 6-month supplies are prescribed since they are cheaper and require fewer prescriptions. We are, of course, the 6-monthers. However, when a doctor deems that there is little chance that a child will make it more than a couple months, one final 3-month supply is ordered to cut down on costs. When you live in a place where nothing changes, even morbid change is entertaining. Thus, one of my favorite activities is guessing 3-monthers before med day. One of the few things I pride myself on is how good I am at this game. In fact, until a month ago I had correctly called every new 3-monther over the last fifty months.
Ivan goes on to explain how he created a diagnostic system for guessing 3-monthers. On page 69, Ivan is in the middle of sharing his classification system. Without further ado, here he goes with his irreverent charm:
A thyroid kid is a 3-monther if he/she exhibits four of the following five symptoms:

1) His/her neck swells up so big it looks like the kid swallowed a rabbit, which then became lodged in his throat.

2) It takes him/her thirty minutes or more to get through a single bite of food.

3) When he/she asks for an injection of Aloxi and it sounds like their vocal cords have been replaced by an Apple Computer style voice generator.

4) He/she keeps the entire hospital up all night coughing.

5) His/her ordinary breathing sounds like a fat kid after walking ten flights of stairs.

A Leukemia kid is a 3-monther if he/she exhibits any five of the following six symptoms:

1) His/her smile looks like he/she flossed with barbed wire.

2) Every one of his/her standard white hospital t-shirt is stained with blood from daily nose and eye bleeds.

3) His/her bones ache too much to walk.

4) He/she begins to resemble Olive Oyl from famed American cartoon Popeye.

5) He/she stops showing up to breakfast hour, lunch hour, and dinner hour.

6) He/she begins sleeping through his/her favorite Russian TV shows.

A Marfan Syndrome kid is a 3-monther (more like 3-dayer) if any of the following events take place:

1) He/she is blind.

2) His/her heart stops, he/she has a heart attack, or if his/her heart otherwise explodes.
Visit Scott Stambach's website.

--Marshal Zeringue