That's a table napkin he's hanging himself with there. And before anyone says that this was an unreasonable standard to hold an eleven-year-old to, and yes I just ended a clause with a preposition, do you want to make something out of it, I should say that he'd earlier gotten it right in reference to a different putative hanging. Not that we discuss hanging all the time, but it did come up twice, and this is the kind of thing I mean when I say that my nephew and I understand each other in a way that my sister and his sister sometimes do not. Though my sister is the one who introduced the topic of how often it's normal to move one's bowels. This led to the ensuing conversation while the four of us were in the car:
Eyeteeth: You know, the guy with the biggest colon ever only went once a month.
My Sister: Come on, that's not true.
Eyeteeth: It is! I SAW THE COLON IN A MUSEUM.
My Sister: What'd he die of, something, uh, related?
Eyeteeth: Yeah. So you're flippant about it now, but irregularity can have serious consequences!
Seven-Year-Old Luna: What's a colon?
My Sister: Boy, I love this conversation.
--The colon belonged to a man known as "the Balloon Man" and "the Human Windbag" when he exhibited his horrifyingly swollen abdomen in a sideshow. You too would have a horrifyingly swollen abdomen if your colon were about seven feet long and thirty inches around -- big enough to displace the other organs -- as opposed to a more usual five feet long and maybe three inches around. This uncomfortable condition was the result of Hirschsprung's disease, a congenital affliction whereby part of the colon lacks the proper nerves and can't pass waste through. Well, it must be able to pass some, because the Balloon Man (of whose real name I can find only the initials J. W.) lived to his late twenties despite that his bowel difficulties were first noted by his mother when he was an infant. I guess the rest of the colon eventually works to force matter out of the body, but in the meanwhile Hirschsprung's results in the pragmatically named megacolon. And you can buy one of your own from (of course) the Mütter Museum, which houses J. W.'s. I don't know how I feel about that, actually; it's kind of funny, but we are talking about a condition that plagued poor J. W. his whole life and eventually killed him. Still, that he was willing to exhibit himself in a sideshow suggests that he might be OK with this. I hope he would be OK with my gazing on his gut in a glass case, because I sure as heck did.
I'm happy to say that these days Hirschsprung's is generally easy to fix: as soon as it's diagnosed, usually in early childhood, a surgeon removes the malfunctioning portion of the bowel and stitches the free ends together. In most cases that's all that's needed to effect a full recovery. This is the sort of thing I try to keep in mind when feeling anxious: bad stuff is just more obvious than good stuff. When's the last time you thought, "Wow, I'm sure glad they can fix Hirschsprung's disease now, and none of my friends or family will literally lose a child to constipation, which used to be a thing"? I only just had that thought right now. And it'll still be true even if Trump wins. WHICH HE WON'T OK