I love milkfish; I haven't had it in years. So when my sister-in-law stewed some for dinner, I couldn't resist; the delicately flavored meat, the chunks of rich belly fat (actually good for you, cardiologically speaking) on steamed white rice.
Would that I resisted--halfway through devouring the fish's meat, I felt something stab at the soft flesh of my throat. "Uh-oh," I said. Yep, it was a fishbone. I swallowed, hoping it'd go down. Nope. It was stuck, and from what I could tell at a painful angle. "Not good," I said.
Everyone gave advice; a glass of water, a banana (presumably the chunks of fruit would force it down ). Nothing worked. I didn't mind the pain too much--it was more irritating than agonizing. What I was really worried about was that it would infect and start swelling (no, I'm not being paranoid; happened to me once and it hurt like a motherwhatever). The missus told me she's had worse--that she'd had one stuck for a month. Very reassuring.
Anyway, after dinner, we took the U-Haul truck to the self-storage space to unload in the dark, with no working lightbulb (the self storage facility was brand new), and all the time I was lugging boxes and furnitures from truck to storeroom, every time I swallowed it was like a little hook tugging in my larynx. Sometimes I'd forget all about it (the work was that hard), then I'd swallow tenatively to check; yep, still painful. Sometimes it wouldn't hurt, and I'd feel an irrational rush of joy, and swallow again--and then get that familiar barbed sting (it would actually shift, from one side of the throat to the other).
At one point, I asked what might happen if we had to go to the emergency room; I was told that they'd have to put me out with general anesthesia, to keep me from gagging--a lot of trouble, in effect, and expensive to boot. Besides, fishbones soften, and often slip away without much further ado; sometimes in an hour, sometimes the next day. I pointed out that the missus had one for a month; she shrugged and said sometimes it takes time.
We got home with an empty U Haul truck at two in the morning, dead tired; I didn't even care all that much anymore about that damned fishbone. Everyone just flopped down to sleep. For some reason I couldn't--well, for a specific reason, actually; I couldn't swallow my own saliva, and my throat was parched (not to mention I kept thinking--rightly or wrongly--that it was starting to swell).
So I stuck a finger down my throat. I'd done that before, and all the reaction I got from everyone was "That won't work; have another banana (I never ate so much of the fruit in my life as that night)." It didn't help that I kept gagging, and that the gagging just kept sending that fishbone jabbing deeper into my by-now very tender gullet.
For the upteenth time I passed my finger down my throat in a futile attempt to try dislodge it, when I realized--hey, that wiry thing touching the tip of my finger: that's not bone. At least, that's not my bone, I mean a bone that belonged in my throat; I just belatedly realized that throats shouldn't have bones, at least none that you can feel with your fingers from the inside going in. It was the fish bone! I could just brush one end of it with my fingertips.
I wondered--could I actually do it? I stuck two fingers down my throat, felt the tips pinch the very end of the thorn, pulled my fingers out. And found myself staring at what look like a half-inch of fine wire, with frayed ends like that of a copper cable, or a cat-o-nine tails (the better to hook you with, my dear). I swallowed. It was gone. I'd pulled a fishbone out of my own throat.