The Take.

April 12th, 2008

Strident, dissonant chords played by a string quartet. They grow in intensity and the tempo increases.

A twenty year-old boy enters the practice room. He beholds the signs of a mighty struggle — sheet music, rosin, broken cellos, violas, and violins litter the floor.

String quartet music stops abruptly.

His gaze falls beneath the 1934 Welte-Mignon studio grand piano. There lies his sweetheart, strangled by the hairs of her violin bow.

Does he rush to her, kneel, and take her head in his hands? Does he rair back and curse the gods through the skylight?. Does he rend his clothes? Does he even break down in tears? No, he rushes into the hallway and vomits.

The vomit take — or Vomit Take, as I call it — is to movie cliche as tooth loss is to meth. (My use of an unlikely and probably inept simile underlines my hatred of cliches).

My own research on vomit inducers reveals these, in descending order: overdrinking, flu, and food poisoning. It goes no deeper.

I knew a guy named Tony who died skydiving in Florida. It was a night jump. He’s drunk and he just doesn’t pull. The pins are still in place in his backpack. A likely suicide.

Tony’s body isn’t discovered until next morning. The news gets around the drop zone early and a bunch of us make the trek trhough low dry brush to check out the scene. Not a soul vomits. Not even the girls. This is forty years ago and Hollywood obviously hasn’t produced enough Vomit Takes to shape our behavior.

The morgue people arrive and take the body away. The depression becomes know as Tony’s Hole. A darkly humorous response to death. Not so nice, but realer than any upchuck.

I wouldn’t be so fired up about this issue except that early in the wonderful book, “Water for Elephants”, the hero, Jacob, as a young man, has to identify his parents who die when their car is forced off a bridge.

The undertaker pulls the sheet away and Jacob vomits.

Okay, now I have to reevaluate. Sara Gruen is a terrific writer. If she thinks a 23 year-old boy is going to turn away and vomit into a tin kidney dish, she’s probably got a great reason.

But dammit, again on page 320, near the otherwise satisfying ending, Jacob witnesses the circus roustabouts as they unroll a tarp. The body of the universally hated circus owner flops into view. He’s been garroted with his whip. Why do they not jump for joy? Because their delicate guts can’t take it. Not just one, but many of these dirt and beast-hardened workers blow lunch.

It didn’t really mar the book, but it’’s a convention, like the 555 phone numbers in movies, that can peel back a brilliantly crafted reality and show you the writer or director behind it.

Possibly my real-life research has been haphazard, irresponsible, and just plain stupid. If you have a different take on the vomit take, please let me know. Spare nothing.

Make me feel bad enough to spew.

4 Responses to “The Take.”

  1. how to download free mp3 music Says:

    [...] fwickham wrote an interesting post today on The Take.Here’s a quick excerptHe beholds the signs of a mighty struggle — sheet music, rosin, broken cellos, violas, and violins litter the floor. String quartet music stops abruptly. His gaze falls beneath the 1934 Welte-Mignon studio grand piano. … [...]

  2. kate Says:

    Fred: I think the hurling scenes have become over done. But I just watched again, via NetFlix, Wajda’s 1974 masterpiece “The Promised Land” about the coming of the industrial revolution to Poland, and it had one of the early vomit scenes. A man sticks his hand down the throat of a drunken friend in an effort to sober him up quicker. He vomits and the thing should be over, but no, the drunk sticks his own hand down his gullet two more times with inevitable results which we get to watch. Enough already!!! K

  3. tony pierce Says:

    I’d never really thought of this as an emerging cliche until now. You’re absolutely right: it’s become shorthand for sudden emotional distress, and it’s utter crap.

    On the other hand, I have to praise real vomiting. I’m one of the few people I know who actually doesn’t mind a hurl now and then. Not that I do it recreationally, but when I’ve had too much to drink, or gotten a tainted plate of something, or caught a bug, and I puke, I think to myself: “Thank God! The system works!”

  4. Bob Gilbert Says:

    Fred, If vomiting is a cliche and cliches make you vomit, then you should avoid them like the syrup of ipecac.

    (Syrup of ipecac should no longer be used routinely as a poison treatment intervention in the home.
    Pediatricians and other professionals who care for children should advise parents to safely dispose of the syrup of ipecac currently in their homes.
    The first action for a caregiver of a child who may have ingested a toxic substance should be to consult with the local poison control center for help by telephoning (800) 222-1222.)

    from: the American Academy of Pediatrics:;112/5/1182

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