Saturday, December 26 2020

my stupid finger



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Trigger warning: blood & stitches

Dear Journal,

Good evening, readers. Speaking for myself, the magic of Christmas is starting to wear off. Our tree, after being cruelly thrown out into the cold, waits patiently on the curb for its destruction. Marissa is busily packing away lights and wreaths. More and more, this is just starting to feel like a regular Saturday. That's not a bad thing at all. I think there's something kind of calming about closing the final holiday chapter of the year. We've got a fresh start ahead of us, time off to recharge, and a bunch of sweet new toys to get us through the bleak tail end of quarantine winter.

Sip. How was your Saturday? I had a very exciting day. There's a story behind this thick white bandage over my index finger that's causing me to fumble over these words while I typed them. I call it "my stupid finger", and it all started when I got up off the couch to make lunch.

"So we've got some 'choni," I thought aloud over the sound of the Paw Patrol music leaking out of the TV. "But not enough for all of us, Rod will need something."

Marissa was asleep in a pile of blankets, and Ziggy was somewhere in there too. Only Rodney was conscious and ready to weigh in on our lunch plans.

"Do we have mac and cheese?" asked Rod.

"I don't think so," I said. "I can add some more to the Hy-vee order, but..." I stood and pondered for a moment. "I'll go take a look at what we have."

After lazily wandering into the kitchen staring at the pantry for a few minutes, I decided we had enough supplies to whip up some homemade mac and cheese from milk, penne noodles, and a block of cheddar cheese. I dumped some milk into the dutch oven, making a scraping sound as I pulled the heavy pan into position over the stove. I clicked on the flame. While waiting for the milk to come to a simmer, I decided to chip away at the mound of dishes.

The faucet hissed with hot water. Plates, silverware, and bowls clattered as I rinsed each clean and moved each utensil to the dishwasher. Just my big chef's knife remained, set aside on the counter. I held it under the faucet, staring at a piece of dried pizza cheese stuck to the blade. The fleck of cheese wouldn't budge.

Frustrated, I grabbed the hand brush. Holding it under the water, I swiped at the knife blade. That was when my hand slipped, and I felt the hot, clean slice through my right index finger. The pale skin flaps fell slack, opened like a de-boned chicken. It quickly began to swell with deep red blood. I dashed over to the opposite counter, hastily wadding up a roll of paper towel.

Meanwhile, to paraphrase A Christmas Story which is still fresh in my memory, I wove a tapestry of obscenities so vile that it is probably still hanging in space over lake Michigan now. It was loud enough to make Marissa shoot wide awake from her nap on the couch. She carefully peeled away the paper towel. After taking a squeamish gulp, she called Rodney into the kitchen to get his shoes on.

"What's a matter?" said Rodney.

"Nothing, honey," said Marissa. "We're just going on a little car trip to take dada to the doctor." We very calmly packed the boys in the car and drove across the street to the urgent care clinic. I greeted the receptionist, fumbled over the credit card reader, then took a seat in the waiting room. While waiting to be called, I finally had a chance to slow my breath and come out of shock, and suddenly my greatest concern was that I wasn't hurt enough to warrant a midday trip to the urgent care. I pictured the doctor pulling away my wet paper towel and saying I don't think you'll need stitches, it's not so bad. Can you imagine the shame?

I was ushered into an exam room where an assistant poured out a bowl of reddish liquid. He carefully took of my wrapping and had me dunk my hand into the bowl. He left, and for the first time I got a calm, close-up look at the cut.

2020 12 26 cut

Deep. Bloody. Scary. As I was admiring my own handy work, the soft spoken Dr. Elias slipped into the room. "Must have been a very sharp knife," he said, cradling my hand. "It's a clean cut, and very deep."

For some reason, I took his observation as a compliment. "I keep my knives very sharp," I bragged. "I use a whetstone and everything. Do you think I'll need stitches?"

"Definitely," he muttered, pacing toward the back wall. He began to tear open plastic, laying out his supplies on the table. He rolled his eyes. "We are short staffed, so I have to do all of this myself," he mumbled.

"So I've never had stitches before," I said, trying to kindle more small talk out of the silence. "First time."

Dr. Elias's cheek wrinkled behind his mask in a forced smile. "So we'll have to make it a good experience for you then." And with that, he jabbed a needle into the wound. I felt a hot burning sensation, but I put on my tough guy face. My finger grew numb and tingly.

"You should not feel this," said the doctor, jabbing my finger three more times. "Just pressure."

After laying out more gauze, the doctor proceeded to thread the sutures through the flaps of skin. My eyes were locked onto the gruesome display. I was fascinated.

"This cut is much deeper than I thought," he said. "I will have to make vertical sutures. That's when I mend the tissue deep, then shallow, and so on."

Mesmerized, I watched the doctor pinch my skin, then wind the black thread around his forceps. He moved swiftly, like he was a skilled tailor weaving together a bloody, meaty fabric.

"Do you feel pain?" he asked. Behind my mask, I winced and held my breath. As he worked outward from the local anesthetic, I gradually felt the pinching and tearing sensations again. "Yeah, I think I can get through this one, but I'm feeling it," I yelped.

"I have good news, Mr. Recker," he said bleakly. "That was the last suture. 1-2-3-4-5 in total. The nurse will clean you up."

2020 12 26 stitches

The doctor slipped out of the room, and minutes later a nurse and an assistant took his place. The assistant craned her neck over me to see my bloody finger. "Oooh," she laughed. "You guys had fun in here didn't you?"

They stood around the mess of blood, gauze, and utensils like they were unsure what to do next. "The doctor just said clean him up," griped the assistant. "He made it sound like it would be easy. Look at all this!"

After getting bandaged up, I staggered home. Marissa had a beer and a BLT from Jimmy John's waiting on the table. After I inhaled my sandwich, I regaled her and Rodney with tales of what I call my stupid finger.

"Twelve days to heal," I sighed. "I guess it's good I took a week off from work. Typing would have been a pain in the butt."

Thanks for stopping by today. Be careful with knives, and have a great rest of your Saturday.

2020 12 26 stupid finger