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The Woods: Part 5

In The 70's on August 20, 2012 at 10:59 am

As soon as my mother left (and even way before!) I knew I was at the mercy of whatever this doctor had up his giant sleeve. He asked me how I got hurt  and I told him ‘running through the woods and tripping on a log’ to which he gave me a quizzical look, tilted his head-and asked: ‘Who were you running from?” and I got strangely nervous, imagining he knew the whole pot story (but how?)-and I went straight into my ridiculous split second theories: he knew Dack, or the story was circulating around town-which of course didn’t make any sense but when it came to a guilty conscience, I was willing to believe anything-if only for a split second.  When I lied, I felt like my head was made of glass and everyone could see the truth inside, flashing like a neon sign. Because of all of the Catholic guilt that had been installed in me as a child, I knew unequivocally that I deserved to be caught for lying. (Though technically- this was more a situation of ‘leaving things out’- than lying) So, when the doctor started laughing hysterically-indicating he’d been kidding- I felt a wave of relief. Also, I was glad I hadn’t spilled the beans, as I was about to do.

He continued smiling as he reached up and pulled his long hair back, securing it sloppily with a hair tie he pulled from his white lab coat(I spent the next few minutes imagining myself brushing his hair, pulling it back tight, and securing it properly. How much better it would look brushed!) He grabbed a pair of thick glasses off of the counter and put them on, low on the nose, then sat on a (presumably) sturdy stool, which had wheels on it’s bottom and rolled himself clumsily over to my mangled toe.

What EXACTLY were you doing in those woods, Mister?

“Let’s see what we’ve got here!” he said, clearing his throat and getting up close to my foot, now under the spotlight like a star. He leaned his head back, adjusted the lights, looking down his nose through the lenses of the glasses, his face twisting up for a moment- which I noticed, and which confirmed this wasn’t the kind of thing he saw every day- or maybe ever. He said ‘hmmm’ in a way that was the opposite of comforting, then stared for a solid minute before he rolled himself with some force away from my foot and let out a long, slow whistle.

“That’s quite a beut, you’ve got there!” he said. Up till then, I thought only my Dad used the word beut. He used it to describe big bluefish, an amazing NFL catch, or someone’s epic injury. My Dad hadn’t seen my toe, as he was presently in the Florida Keys at an insurance seminar, something my mom told me, holding both hands up in quotation marks around the words ‘insurance seminar’.  Now that they were divorced, lots of stuff went under the bridge, and it no longer seemed odd that there were important things- both good and bad, happening without my Dad around.  I knew there was supposed to be something deeply sad about that, but the actual feeling of hurt was still way out at sea- like a sad note in a bottle that would someday wash ashore without warning, its words breaking my heart, mostly for the girl I used be, and the ‘original’ family I once had.

The doctor stood up with a groan, and began re-adjusting lights and rifling through trays of instruments. He talked to me, matter -of- fact style- describing what was going to happen next: “I’m going to have to remove the nail completely. I’ll numb your foot with a shot first, so you won’t feel anything. Afterwards you’ll be in a bandage for two weeks. You can’t get it wet, and this is important: you can’t play sports, either” Oh no!, I thought wryly- please don’t take sports playing away! Other than being forced to throw spirals to my brothers with the family football, sports was something I watched, not played. Even then, it was strictly NFL football, absent in the summer. I wondered if the next time my brother turned on channel 11 to watch a Mets game, I could say-on a technicality- “Doctor said no sports‘ and make him watch something better. The doctor continued: “The nail should grow back…… eventually” he added, not sounding at all sure of it. He then stood up and  put on latex gloves, while the nurse walked in with a hypodermic needle.

“Okay” I murmured- I mean, what choice did I have? I was about to become a freak with no toenail! Could I just paint a fake one on with nail polish, or would I be forever self conscious in sandals, at the beach, in the shower? I didn’t even want to have to look at it- and it was my toe! The doctor came at me with the needle at this point, and I quickly clenched my butt in the seat, sitting up straighter, bracing myself for the shot. I looked up at the white pockmarked ceiling, and held my breath. The needle shot through the thin skin of my foot, which stung like a wasp, but I said nothing, flinching almost imperceptibly.  In less than a minute, it felt like my foot had disappeared from the ankle down. I decided not to look at what was going on, and closed my eyes as the doctor and nurse huddled around my toe. I could feel the weight of my leg being shifted as my foot was being worked on, but eerily, nothing from the foot or toe itself. I wondered if this was how it felt to be partially paralyzed. About five minutes in, I heard the doctor huffing, and telling the nurse impatiently to get another tool. I briefly glanced down, and was shocked to see that there was enough spilled blood to write ‘Helter Skelter’ on the walls- not just the title- the book! I felt sick to my stomach. The site of blood is so alarming …perhaps even more so when it’s spilling out of you! The nurse scurried out of the door, and for a second the doctor met my frightened eyes with his own.

“It’s okay!…..Really….it is!” he said, but he looked pale and unsure of himself. He walked away from my foot, one of his latex gloves completely red, glistening with blood. I heard him shuffling stuff around behind me. My toe looked like stomped red grapes. He walked back over and set a white cloth screen in front of my foot, completely blocking my view. It was like a temporary fence built around a construction site, and my curiosity piqued because of it. Obviously, much like the Mafia, he did not want me to see what was going on in his ‘construction business’, and this ratcheted up my nerves. The nurse scuttled back and forth, handing the doctor a new metal tool-something that looked like it would be used to ‘cleave’. I closed my eyes again, my heart skipping beats and tried to silently force myself to recite the lyrics to favorite songs in my mind….unable to stop thinking of ‘Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath’, Trey’s black-light Jaguar poster and that hipster doofus, Bingy. Inevitably, I opened my eyes for a split second, and to this day I can recall what I saw: A giant man, his face twisted into a grimace, his hairline beaded with sweat, long strands of wet brown hair sticking to his shoulders and neck, pulling with all of his weight and every ounce of strength he had, on my busted toenail…which obviously preferred to be left where it was. It was gory, it was disgusting, and I decided that I was really (not kidding!) going to punch Dack right in his stomach with all of my might the next time I saw him. 

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