I called my doctor the other evening.

I said, "Doc, my blood pressure has zoomed up over a hundred."

"Have you taken all your medicines?" he asked.

"Yes sir."

"What have you been doing in the last hour?"

"Watching Saddam Hussein on television."

"That explains it. All my patients report that after watching Saddam on TV their blood pressure goes up. Does yours go up because he looks so ugly?"

"No, because he looks so good. He looks like an English teacher I had in college. I was hoping when he appeared in court he would look worse than when we captured him."

"Everybody in America was hoping the same thing. But the Americans cleaned him up before they turned him over to the Iraqis because they didn't want the world to think we weren't abiding by the Geneva Convention."

I said: "I think when I saw him all dolled up is when my blood pressure went up. What should I do now?"

"Stop watching television."

"That's unfair. Why should I stop watching TV? Just because they keep showing that sleazeball on the air. Isn't there some horrible disease I can wish on him that will make me calm down?"

"That is a terrible thing for one person to wish on another person."

"What about syphilis? The kind he plans to give his 72 virgins, when he gets to Heaven?"

"It would not be my first choice. My first choice, if you want to see him in agony, would be a large kidney stone that he can't pass. Instead of speaking coherently he will be screaming for morphine."

"I like that," I said. "I have had kidney stones and there is no worse pain in the world."

"I take it from this conversation that you don't want Saddam to have a fair trial."

"Do you?" I asked him.

"I'm a doctor and I have taken an oath to cure people and not to find ways of torturing them."

"Can't you make an exception, particularly if all your patients are having high blood pressure?"

"No exceptions. I'm sure you will find doctors who would want him to have pain, but I don't want to start down that path."

I said: "The funny part of it is every time a news program goes to commercial it runs an ad for blood pressure pills. The drug companies know their market."

"You're going to have to let justice run its course," he said. "The Iraqis trying him know what they are doing."

"I heard the trial would take two years. Does that mean I am going to have high blood pressure all that time?"

"I guess so, unless you change your thinking. I suggest you try yoga. Sit in front of your TV screen, legs crossed, and keep saying 'monster . . . monster . . . monster.' "

"I'll try anything," I said. "Why didn't we kill him?"

"Americans are civilized people, with a few exceptions, like the prison guards at Abu Ghraib. But that doesn't mean we want Saddam to have back problems."

"Thanks for talking to me, Doc. Is hating Saddam covered under Medicare?"

(c) 2004, Tribune Media Services