The Cast: Dr. Armstrong (Medical-man Extraordinaire), Erich (able to count to nine on his hands), Myself (hardly hurt at all—not at all actually).
We pounded at the door, we bellowed for aide. We could hear the vacuum cleaner running, we knew someone was in there. Erich was losing lots of blood, quickly. We needed someone to hear us. Someone must hear us! Standing there with blood running down Erich’s arm, I was certain Erich was going to lose his thumb.
As I’ve grown older I have become fascinated by the simple turn of events that allow people to cross paths. What leads individuals into and out of our lives. How they affect us. What unique situations they then find themselves in. That sort of thing.
My mother owned and operated a ballet studio and, after a few years in operation, decided to attempt to put on The Nutcracker. Tryouts were held and assignments given. I had the privilege of being the Nutcracker Prince. However, this also meant that everything, everything, had to be built from scratch. Including the head for the Nutcracker. So I grabbed a box, and a friend (Erich), penciled out the design and made preparations to construct for myself an alternate head (how often do you get to say that for yourself).
Marks were made and assignments given. I had planned on altering a simple four-sided box into an octagon. Just remove triangular sections from the corners of the top. Cut along the corner edges of the box and then fold along the dotted lines. Instant octagon! Erich was more than willing to assist in this endeavor. That was really nice of him. A good friend. So we gathered up a couple of box cutters, fresh razor blades, and began.
I handed Erich a box cutter, turned around to pick mine up—this took maybe an entire half of a second, and before I could turn back around there was a clatter of the knife hitting the floor and Erich’s calm voice, “I think I cut myself.” As I completed my rotation back around—along with that other half of a second—Erich’s hand was bloody and the blood was flowing freely where his left thumb was supposed to be.
“OHMANOHMANOHMANOHMANOHMAN! I just handed you that razor blade a second ago! Are you alright?!? What happened?” I was trying to maintain calm but all I could see was blood and an end to my life as Erich’s mother just might kill me over something as trivial as the loss of her son’s thumb.
“It slipped.” Erich began to explain, as I ran about looking for something to shore up the bleeding. “I just placed my hand down on the box. Put the razor blade in the box, and then began to cut… and then the knife just… slipped. I guess.”
“You put your hand on the wrong side of the cut?”
“So it seems.”
I had grabbed a giant wad of paper towels and the two of us were wrapping the gushing wound. We needed medical help and not the I-can-fix-this-with-just-a-Band-Aid-and-Neosporin kind of medical help. Real medical help. Fortunately for us, well Erich really, there was a medical clinic next door with a highly competent doctor. As we began to exit the basement of my mother’s ballet studio to render the much-needed aid to Erich’s hand, I quickly prioritized what we must do in order to make it out of this alright. “Do not get blood on my mother’s carriage! We won’t be able to get the blood out.” Sure, Erich’s thumb was about to fall off, but drops of blood on my mother’s carriage? That’s life and death. Priorities!
The carriage was an old, very fancy prop that we would have to pass on the way out, and I knew my mother would kill us if we got blood on it. I know that seems silly, petty and selfish, but the human mind does crazy things when a crisis hits.
Anyway, the two of us got out the back door and ran across the lawn that separated us from the clinic that would save the thumb. Lucky for us on that day it was about 5:00 and so the clinic might still be open. It wasn’t. We pounded at the door, we bellowed for aide. We could hear the vacuum cleaner running, we knew someone was in there. Erich was losing lots of blood, quickly. We needed someone to hear us. Someone must hear us! Standing there with blood running down Erich’s arm, I was certain Erich was going to lose his thumb.
Finally, some female assistant of some sort arrived at the door. She had been the one vacuuming, she brought it with her. “We’re closed.” She informed us.
Erich just held up his hands and with one simple motion informed the young lady the severity of the situation. Erich, with his hands held high, let go of the paper towels and the massive bloody mess fell to the sidewalk with a soggy ‘splorch’ sound, along with a simple waterfall of blood. Additionally, the lady almost passed out from the simple gesture. An event that would not have helped anyone.
The doctor quickly arrived, ushered us in, and then stitched the gaping slice in Erich’s hand shut. The doc was kind, and in his typical good-natured method, teased us about Erich almost cutting off his left thumb. Oddly enough, Dr. Armstrong had sewn up every single cut, gash, wound, you name it, that Erich suffered during his 16 years of walking this earth. Starting with the time when Erich was much younger, living in a different city, and had lacerated his legs with the shattered glass of an aquarium that he accidentally pulled over onto himself.
This cut had been between Erich’s thumb and index finger. You know, that meaty, fleshy part. It had been only about an inch, maybe two, long and not as deep as we had first thought, it was deeper. Fortunately for Erich, he has always handled being sliced open with all the style and grace of the X-Men’s Wolverine, because it happens all too often. The very minor surgery went well and Erich’s thumb was never actually cut off. However, we are positive he severed a nerve, as to this day he still can’t feel anything with that thumb.
Add this one to our growing list of adventures*. Still, it wasn’t nearly as heart pounding as when Erich was almost killed by that python.
*Remember, an “adventure” occurs once there is blood.