Did I have any serious accidents as a child? Oh boy, did I!
Let’s see…it all started on a Thursday (was it a Thursday? I don’t know. I think it was and since Thursdays are a thing with me, I’ll hold to that truth) when I was 9 years old. We were living on Monticello, having moved back to Vegas for the second and final time. This is before we bought the house on Fenway, much nearer to Diskin Elementary, my school.
Anyway, that particular Thursday I was playing in the backyard and jumped off the fence, as 9-year-old boys are wont to do. Except this time, when I landed, the rusty nail which was sticking up from a discarded board had impaled itself through my sneaker and into the bottom of my foot. This meant that when I lifted my foot, the board came with it. So, I stepped on the board, pulling the nail out. That’s when the pain started.
I don’t recall how I ended up in the house, crying and explaining what had happened, but in short order, I was bundled off to the emergency room (Valley Hospital?), where, yes, they knew us by name – not sure if that was prior to this incident or not, but, as you’ll see, it made sense with what was coming next. I was looked at, given a massive tetanus shot, told to take it easy, and sent home.
For the next week, I was hobbling around, wearing a knitted slipper instead of a shoe (it was “too painful” to wear shoes) and garnering as much sympathy as possible. “Milking it” I believe is the term.
It would take a mere 7 days for me to find out that comeuppance is a real thing and that once should never mock the fates because it can always get worse.
Exactly one week later, I was playing outside with a neighbor kid (I don’t think his name was Alan, I think that was the 4th grader I looked up to when I lived in Albuquerque, but for argument’s sake, Alan it is). Anyway, there had been a dirt lot across the street and we had discovered these little strips of explosives used in nail guns, the kind to shoot a nail into concrete. These were yellow plastic strips with ten blank cartridges apiece. The ones we found were all exploded, leaving ten crenelated pieces of metal which were great for nailing boards together.
And then Alan found one which hadn’t been exploded.
It was his suggestion that we hit it with a hammer.
It was my stupidity to agree to it. And then do it.
The explosion was massive, rattling the windows of the nearby houses. I couldn’t hear anything for a few minutes, but I could feel something in my mouth, so I reached in and pulled it out. It was a round, flat piece of metal, the back end of the charge we had just set off. When I pulled my finger out of my mouth, though, with that piece of metal, it was covered with blood. My thought was that I had bit my tongue or cheek. I certainly didn’t feel anything like pain.
But I did, dutifully, go into the house to get cleaned up. I must have looked a sight, though, as my mom started freaking out. She immediately started cleaning my face and then said the words which would cause me to freak out, too:
“You’ve got a hole in your mouth!”
Now it started to hurt. I was instructed to go wait in the car as it seemed yet another trip to the emergency room was in store. I put on my shoes, which miraculously didn’t hurt my punctured foot anymore, and waited in the car, sobbing, holding a cloth on my face, and thinking that I didn’t want a hole in my mouth.
Off we went to the hospital where I thankfully didn’t have to have another tetanus shot, but I did have to have stitches. However, before the stitches, it’s generally a good idea to numb the area where a needle will be going in and out. And that Novocain shot hurt like a bastard. The doctor numbed me up good, shooting into several areas to make sure I was completely covered. However, not knowing the procedure, I endured this with the requisite stoicism and when he was done, I asked if I “could go home now?”
“Not yet,” he responded. “We haven’t put the stitches in yet.”
What?? This hurt so much I couldn’t even imagine what kind of pain I was in store for. Thankfully, it only took a few minutes for the Novocain to start working and I realized I wouldn’t actually feel anything except pressure when the doc was stitching me up.
He started the procedure, pulling the needle with the suture material through my skin. As he got to the end, he would pull a little bit to make sure it was tight. And as I say, while I couldn’t feel the pain, I could feel the pressure. So when he yanked, my head would turn. He would get frustrated and turn my head back straight. This happened a second time and he returned my head to the correct position. When it happened a third time, he very calmly said “if you move your head again, I’ll sew your lips together.”
I was a freaking statue from that point on.
Now, this doctor was quite good and compassionate in that he could easily have given me just a couple of stitches and sent me on my way, but he didn’t. In the very corner of my mouth, where the metal cap of the explosive had gone through, he put in 11 stitches, creating a seal so tight and close that to this day, I have no visible scar and I don’t even remember on which side of my mouth it happened.
So there ya go, an eventful week in the life of me as a fourth grader. Sure, there were other incidents as I got older, like the time AAron and I took apart a movie projector and I let the fan blade slice through my knee (that one has a pretty impressive scar) or when Thom and I were filming stunts and I “got hit by a car” and broke my finger, but overall, I’d say this Thursday to Thursday adventure in 1976 was the pinnacle of my childhood accidents.
Of course, now as a dad myself, I can’t even imagine what my folks were going through when I did this and I hope that Monki inherited her brains from her mother and not me!