The board was attached to my foot. It wasn’t supposed to be.
Look, I would love to lie to you about how exciting this story is. It’s not. I would also love to lie to you about all the things that you would gain from reading this story. I can’t. What I can do is tell you that it’s funny (looking back at it), entertaining (for someone else), and I get hurt (nope, that’s on me). It is also one of the only stories that involves Erich—and he was never even there.
There was a point when my buddy, Erich, did not have a telephone. I am not referring to a cellular phone or a smartphone that every three-year-old seems to have nowadays. I am referring to an older LAN line telephone that plugs into the wall, has a cord, and limits your movement to the room it is set up in. And, if you think that’s crazy, well, you probably weren’t born yet. It wasn’t all that uncommon for people to not have a telephone in their home. Granted, it was becoming less and less common, but, my point is that it wasn’t unheard of.
So, that previous rant was to establish why I was where I was when I was and why I was… Wait. I already mentioned that, right? Why I was where I was when I was… Right? Yes, okay. So, for the first year or so of our friendship, if Erich and I wanted to hang out, one of us would have to walk to the other person’s home. Sometimes, it would be in vain. Like this one time, in winter, I headed to his house by the back roads. Erich went to my house, via Main Street. I got to his house to find out he wasn’t home because he had headed to mine. He got to mine to discover I had left for his… Figuring he took the route I did not, I took the path he trod.
Along the way back to my house I would look glance down each side street to see if I might spot Erich. I didn’t—except maybe at one street. I saw a figure disappear behind a house and thought it might be my friend. The problem was that he was two blocks away and by the time I would catch up to the possible person, they might be long gone. The way I figured it, I had one option.
The chilled air carried my voice loud and clear. It also allowed it to repeat a few times. A few moments passed. The figure did not return. I must have been mistaken. Suddenly, like that famous scene out of Risky Business (1983) where Tom Cruise comes sliding into the room on his socks, the figure that vanished came sliding into the middle of that icy intersection. He called out my name, we met up, and then did something. I think we went to my house and watched a movie. I honestly don’t recall the details of the afternoon as much as I do of that crossed-path meeting.
My short point made long is that I couldn’t just call Erich up to see if he was at home before I headed over. That’s why I walked the three-quarter-mile distance to his house without knowing if he was home. I wouldn’t feel bad or upset if he wasn’t. I enjoyed the walk. I walked everywhere. This time, however, I met a mutual friend.
“Hey, Sam. What’re you doing here?”
“Same as you. I came by to see if Erich was home.” We simultaneously discovered that Erich was indeed not home. Nobody was. Sam and I talked for a few minutes. (this is another one of those fuzzy-memory moments) Whatever it was that Sam and I were discussing, it led us to the barn in the backyard.
I want to say it was about the secret panel that Erich and I had made. I am pretty sure that’s what it was. Because I have no other idea why we would go back there. It would make no sense. I think I might be mentally rambling. But not type-rambling. So, like, I might be having thoughts just going and going in my head, but my fingers aren’t typing them. I know, this isn’t useful. Let’s just say that Sam and I were talking about the barn and the secret panel. Whatever we were actually discussing, we ended up back at the barn.
As we walked about, I tried to show Sam the panel by encouraging him to guess it by trying to spot it. My thought would have been that if he could spot it, it wasn’t a good secret panel. It was a good secret panel. Sam didn’t spot it. In my efforts to move over to the spot, I heard and felt something awkward. Something wrong. I can’t describe it. On more than one occasion I have tried to describe the sound. I have never come across anything like it. It’s almost like the first split-second of the sound that comes from popping a balloon. That burst, but not the boom—only much, much quieter. And squelchier.
I heard the sound and looked down to see what I had stepped on. It was the end of an old board. I lifted my right foot to place it on sure, solid ground. The board came with. The board was sticking to my foot as if I had chewing gum on my shoe. There was no chewing gum. There was, however, a nail. Years ago, it had been hammered into that board. Through that board. And now, with one step… It was through my shoe, my sock, and my foot. There was a rusty three-inch nail driven up, into my heel. Now, there was hurt.
“Um, I think I’ve stepped on a nail. A little help here.” As I moved about, in an attempt to pull my foot off the oxidized spike, the pain just got worse. In retrospect, I could have just sucked it up, stepped on the board with my left foot—after twisting the nail around inside my foot, and then lifted my foot off (doing who knows how much minor extra damage). Thankfully, I had someone there to provide some assistance: Sam.
Sam rushed over to hold the board while I lifted. It still wouldn’t come off. Sam had to pull down, hard. The nail was not only rusty, it was also a little bent. Now, it was also bloody. My bloody.
“Does it hurt?” Sam was reasonably concerned.
“I need to wash it out. Let’s see if one of the doors are unlocked.” I was concerned about infection. I reasoned that if I could wash it out quickly, there would be less concern about it. If I couldn’t, and had to walk home, then, well… I might just pump bacteria and who knows what else deeper into my bloodstream.
Sam helped me up to the house where we gained entry through the back door. We made our way to the bathroom where I took off my shoe and sock, then proceeded to squeeze excess blood from the wound—to help clean it out. I washed, soaped, and bled. As the water ran, so did my life. Right down the drain. In my attempts to not leave blood in the tub, I would try to rinse the red stuff away. The hole in my foot would leak. Blood would get in the tub. I would turn the water on to wash it away. It would splash the new blood about the tub. Repeat.
Just think about it. You’re out for the day. Doing your errands, or whatever. You come home. Go to bed. Get up the next day to shower and find blood all over your tub. That might be a little confusing. I was more than a little frustrated. I was desperately trying to not leave a bloody mess in their house, but, I was hurting and needed to go to the doctor. Eventually, the blood falling out my new foot-hole slowed enough that I could get my sock and shoe back on. The tub was clean. Sam and I could now leave without a trace.
Except, there was a blood trail.
“I got it.” Sam grabbed some toilet paper and wiped the dribbles from the floor as I gingerly stepped out. Once outside, I was now ready to receive some assistance to my house—three-quarters of a mile away. That same kind of generous help I had just been given from the barn to the inside of Erich’s home.
“Well, see ya later.” And Sam walked off—back to his house (two blocks away).
I was alone. Left to hobble myself back home—three-quarters of a mile away. Poop…
As I hop-shuffled along, I realized a few things. 1) If Erich had been home, this probably wouldn’t have happened. 2) Erich would not have let me hop my way home, alone. 3) I had a hole in the bottom of my trademark blue Reebok (the right shoe). And, yes. I had a trademark set of footwear. Every year I would always buy the same style of blue Reebok high-top sneakers. I loved ‘em. Now, the right one had an extra hole. Which, it turns out was acceptable. See, without it, all the blood that was coming out of my foot—with every step—would just have pooled inside the shoe and then pumped out of the toe-hole vents, with each step. With the hole in the heel, the blood could drip out. Like a drain. Yay! It still pumped out of the toe-hole vents (a little).
Also, I realized one other thing: If Erich had had a phone, I could have just called my parents to come and pick me up to take me to the hospital. Wait. WAIT! If Erich had had a phone I could have called to find out if he was even home. Then, this never would have happened. Ugh…
So, one more thing I realized. And another one: A hole in your heel sucks. With every squishy step I would think about how it must have felt when Erich had the blood pool into his shoe from the snake bite, and how did that nail go so deep into my foot without hitting a bone?
Eventually, I reached home. “Mom. I stepped on a nail. It was rusty. I’m bleeding.”
We went to the local clinic (I knew the way all too well—repeat customer) where Dr. Armstrong gave me a shot, some meds, and friendly advice, “Next time, don’t step on the nail.”
I had to laugh, “Thanks, doc.” He was a good guy.
The next week was spent laying on the sofa with my foot up and the television on. Which would not have been so bad, had we had a remote control. Look, if not everyone had a telephone, not every t.v. had a remote or was in color. Fortunately, we had color. I, however, was held hostage by the pain of standing up to change the channel.
Knock. Knock. There was a knock at the door. It was Erich, “Wanna hang out?” I had to explain that I was laid up for the week due to the puncture. He informed me of his mutant healing powers and how when this happened to him, he was up and running about the next day. I informed him that just standing there—the blood rushing down to my foot, causing it to swell—made my whole foot feel as though it were about to explode and I needed to lay back down. He looked confused and then left.
Board one day, bored the rest of the week. I don’t recommend it.