I Swear

October 26 - November 1, 2015

No pain

By Vic Fleming

“Boy that feels good!” I exclaimed this morning.

“What does?”

“My shoulder.”

I was reaching into the fridge—as I do every morning—to pull out the bottle of milk on the top shelf. The bottle which, about one seventh of the time, is full, an entire gallon’s worth.

I open the door with my right hand and grasp the handle of the plastic bottle with my left. In the instant that I raise the bottle off the shelf, I glory in the fact that in my left shoulder there is … no pain. It’s not that it feels great. It feels neutral. No pain.

A year ago that would not have been the case. I was seeing an orthopedic surgeon, a shoulder specialist. Everything from driving—in the car and on the golf course—to yard work to brief-case carrying involved bolts of shooting pain through my shoulder. I was prepared for the message that I would need rotator cuff surgery.

However, after an MRI, the doc surmised that an injection or two of cortisone into the bursa might serve to rid the area of inflammation. If it did so, then maybe the culprit would not return. The doc could not tell what was causing the bad stuff, but that’s okay, he said. “If I get rid of it without knowing the cause, I can sleep at night and so can you.”

And that’s what happened. The inflammation went away, over a two-month period, with two injections. I returned to the golf course, to firewood toting, and to holding a full jug of milk in my left hand.

I was telling someone today of this brain-body-part phenomenon that causes me every day to reflect on areas where once I hurt but no longer do. The knee, the wrist, the elbow where a medical procedure worked like a charm to relieve discomfort.

“So,” my friend said, “you’re feeling no pain?”

“You got it.”

“Tell me this,” he said, “why does that phrase mean intoxicated?”

“You got me,” I said. “Let’s look it up.”

Citing McGraw-Hill’s slang dictionary from 2006, one online source defines the phrase as “numbed by alcohol and feeling nothing.”

“That tells us very little,” my bud said. “And they’re not citing any authority.”

“Good point,” I said. And we came up empty-handed. Perhaps an astute reader knows and will share the answer.

Meanwhile, on October 19, my 44th New York Times crossword puzzle was published. Times puzzles get progressively harder through the week, with Monday being the easiest. A Monday, however, is the most difficult to make.The I Swear Crossword is aimed at a Tuesday difficulty factor.

Last Monday’s was a collaboration with Bruce Venzke, a retired billiards columnist from Madison, Wis. Bruce and I did a memorable Schrodinger puzzle in a Simon & Schuster book eight years ago. The theme in that one was objections raised by lawyers and ruled on by judges. The mystery of the puzzle is whether the objections were overruled or sustained.

If you want a copy of that puzzle, shoot me a request by email and I’ll get it to you.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.