Danny and I are lying on the living room floor while Echo chases a week-old ball of paper around the table. I’m sipping coffee — a mistake, as I’ll be up until 2 am for sure — and Danny is propped on one elbow with a heat pack pressed against his side.
“I think it’s kind of awesome,” I say. “Perhaps it’s the source of all your powers.”
“It means I’m asymmetrical. Humans are meant to be symmetrical.”
“No one is completely symmetrical.”
“Well, some things are symmetrical. Two lungs, two kidneys, two eyes.”
Danny, apparently, has three ureters. One of his kidneys has two instead of one. A spare. Of course, Danny’s dual ureters aren’t doing him any good; the only reason we even know he has three is because he was back at the VA hospital this week, getting a CT scan to trace the slow and thorny passage of a few kidney stones.
Danny is what you call a stone farmer, which means, essentially, that his body can’t process things like calcium and instead transforms them into terrible terrible instruments of kidney torture.
Apparently being a stone farmer is painful. Witness Danny with heat pack and a prescription for oxycodone. But in a just world, being a stone farmer would live up to its name. It sounds poetic — the agriculture of granite, the suggestion that even the most infertile land can grow something, even if it’s only reproducing rock. Being a stone farmer shouldn’t be a renal problem but instead some marker of perseverance and grit (or maybe gravel!).
When the valley dried into a dust bowl, Danny turned his back on the lush orchard and made do with the rocks. He became a stone farmer.
Funds were low and stakes were high, but Danny managed. He’s a stone farmer.