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aisle that contained candles, noticing the security cameras that were positioned for a view down each aisle. I knew that they were rarely monitored, but as a practical joke I made a show of grabbing a handful of candles and putting them inside the flap of my black trenchcoat, all the while mugging for the camera. My brother laughed at the joke and I made a show of removing them from inside my jacket. They had actually never left my grip.

We grabbed a few other junk food Ďnecessitiesí and as we headed for the checkout stand we realized that we still needed to grab a couple bundles of firewood, which were stacked outside the store, against its front. We both stepped through the sliding door and moved toward the firewood.

Suddenly two hundred pounds impacted into my back, and I went down to the cement sidewalk, candles scattering and others breaking beneath me. I could feel my ribs crack beneath the blow. I struggled to regain my feet, but someone was on top of me raining punches down on my undefended back and neck.

Keef was as surprised by the attack as I was, but seeing my assailant pounding on me, launched himself at the thug and succeeded in getting him off my back. Despite his Roseiant efforts, he was overmatched by my attacker; who resembled a college football player in age, and stature.

My health had never fully recovered since my last visit to the hospital, and my breath came in jagged, cough punctuated, rasps as I came to my feet and felt for the canister in my pocket. I got the manís attention by hitting him in the arm with my left hand. It was a weak and ineffectual blow, but it worked exactly as I had hoped.

He stopped pounding on Keef and looked straight at me, a gaping sneer on his face as he contemplated breaking a few more bones in my body. That was when I unloaded a can of Mace into his eyes. The stuff worked. He immediately went to his knees, clutching at his eyes in pain.

I cocked a foot back, preparing to break a few of his ribs, in return, with my steel toed Doc Martens.

"Help me! Somebody please help me!" he cried out. "Iím Store security. Someone please help me!" he pleaded.

I was more than a little surprised to find out that he was store security. He hadnít bothered identifying himself until now, and I thought he was just some guy who didnít like scrawny fellows with cystic fibrosis, and had a personal vendetta against me; either that or a mugger. Chagrined, I refrained from kicking the crap out of him.

He later claimed that we were shoplifting and he was stopping us. However, the whole situation could have been avoided if he had identified himself and asked us if we planned to pay for the merchandise we had collected. Sure, if we were thieves that would have given us a little extra chance to run off, but the point was that we werenít.

This little incident landed me back in the hospital. The extra damage that had been done to my body aggravated my cystic fibrosis, and I underwent surgery to have a pick line permanently imbedded in my chest. This pick line left a long visible scar between my pectorals and an odd shaped lump where the tube emerged from my chest; the entry way for medicines to be pumped directly into my heart, enabling quick distribution to the rest of my body.

Some recent medical thought indicates that cystic fibrosis is a disorder that affects the cells and glands that produce mucous, tears, sweat, and digestive acids. Normally these secretions are thin, but in us lucky cystic fibrosis carriers they are thicker and stickier, due to extra DNA that gets secreted with it. This gunk plugs up tubes, ducts, and all kinds of important organs in the human body. Primarily it screws with the pancreas and lungs. The doctors broached the idea of performing a lung and pancreas transplant on me. This would give me fresh, unobstructed organs to work with. There were quite a few problems with this course of treatment, though.

There is a long waiting list for organs. You have to wait for some other unfortunate fellow to die before you get a shot at having fresh transplant parts. Having multiple organ transplants is sure to be a less than thrilling experience, and even if everything goes well I would be forced to add several anti-rejection drugs to the long list of medications that I am already taking.

The last and most compelling reason is that the transplants arenít a cure. Chances are I would feel quite a bit better for a while, but I would still have cystic fibrosis and eventually my new organs would become clogged up and begin malfunctioning just like my current organs do.

It was something that I considered long and hard, but ultimately I couldnít see taking away an organ from somebody that could actually be cured long term with the replacement of that body part. For me, it would merely be delaying the inevitable. Perhaps it would be better to work with what I had.

My brother, fortunately, survived the incident with bumps and bruises, which healed quickly. He provided a wonderful witness for the lawyer that I retained. My counsel argued that the act of leaving the store could not be construed as an act of thievery, since merchandise was also openly displayed outside of the store. He was highly effective, and after the storeís lawyers looked at the long list of medical bills related to the unprovoked attack, they decided to settle it out of court.

They cut me a six-figure check, which I actually got to see a small

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