Chris Wayt and I stare at backlit X-rays in SouthWest Washington Hospital’s emergency room. We’re here today because Chris thoughtlessly shot catsup all over my new red sweater.
And what? You believe you’re bleeding to death? asks Screen Five, joining the staff’s muffled laughter tickling our ears.
Chris is the young man stepping into the new sales spot at his father’s company, Cascade Controls NW. He, raw, nervous and every bit as ADHD-blessed as I, takes me – purchasing agent for the largest corporate account his dad has – to lunch so we can get to know one another better.
Conversation flows, but catsup does not.
Do you mean ketchup? asks wordsmith Three, as if somebody could see my words spelled in mid-air.
Chris thumps the bottle’s end. His final whack plasters 57 varieties across my chest. Though some of the screens offer withering comments, I run with gentle Two’s and say, “This is a new sweater, guy. Brand new.”
Chris looks like he will puke. “This is so bad!” He shakes his head in disbelief, apparently picturing his untimely passing at the hands of his father.
How’s that tied to X-rays? asks Four, confused.
I continue. “Sweater’s deep red, guy. Catsup’s gonna blend right in. So I’ll still buy from your dad’s company.”
My six screens hear his six screens sigh in relief.
“But,” I add, “you owe me.” Pause for effect. “Our soccer team needs a player.”
He perks up. Then I say, “Coed league.” His eyes lose their competitive glow. “Here’s date, time, place. Don’t miss it.”
Chris doesn’t. He plays so brilliantly and unselfishly my teammates quickly vote to remove me from the playing field.
Not totally! protests Six, proudly adding, They make you goalie.
But you block ’em time and again, affirms Two.
Until you meet The Shot, counters Five.
An opposing forward with freight-train speed uncorks from the corner of the penalty box. I dive more than half the goal length and punch away the blast, then slam into the ground. My hands throb when I hit. Still, I jump back on my feet to –
No, you don’t, corrects Three. You don’t get up. You don’t stop the second shot.
Kneeling where I landed, I painfully remove my right goalie glove as Chris runs to me. “Great dive, Black! Why didn’t you block the rebound shot?”
I wave my hand. Chris gasps, staggering backward. Already the pinky is swollen, purple, bent outward at a curious angle and turned partway ’round, nail facing downward. I say, “May be out of joint. Pull hard; pop it back in place.”
Chris refuses. Loudly. “I can’t, Black.” He grimaces. “Augh, look at that! I can’t. Don’t make me! Don’t even ask me!”
My team, now down a goal, quickly votes to remove me from the playing field. They suggest the emergency room, but my damaged right hand cannot shift my 5-speed car. In a move that further diminishes my teammates’ heart for Blackie, newly embraced player Chris drives me to the hospital.
Sign above the entrance says “Admitting” – so, I confess.
“Hurt my hand.” I flash the left pinky – or what remains of it after a log splitter grabbed it years earlier – and the nurse recoils in horror. We laugh at her and I say, “Just kidding. Here, it’s actually the right pinky.”
Wow, different pinky – same response! notes Five.
“We need Dr. Brown,” counsels the shaken nurse, now joined by a second who says, “He’ll be a moment.” Chris and I pace the 12 steps of the tiny waiting room, then stare at backlit X-rays, muffled laughter tickling our ears.
What IS so funny? wonders Two. But Five tells me to look more closely: The nurses laugh because the X-ray’s subject is female, shot sideways. See how healthy she is? Very healthy. You’re both staring. And they know it.
Why all these women? Two asks me. Are they newbie interns?
I flash the correct pinky to save time and reduce billing. Big Doc Brown, unfazed, holds my single digit carefully, gently rolling it back and forth. He scrutinizes the traumatized finger, then diagnoses it. “The angle? Oh, yeah, it’s broken. And it’s turned because the joint’s popped. In fact, if you look closely here -”
SNAP! POP! (No crackle.)
Six screens deactivate. World goes black. Thick head hits thicker “Admitting” desk. From across the universe, a voice commands, “Hold him!” Hands press against my soaked back to steady my buckled knees.
Screens reactivate; groggily, Six suggests multiple ways in which to repay the doctor’s kindness. Nurses shout, almost sing, “Dr. Brown did it again!” as if such monstrous deeds are worthy of celebration.
That’s why they all gathered, says One, not the brightest bulb in the brainbox. Those nurses knew what he was going to do.
“Had to do it,” says Big Brown. “Pull the finger, set the joint; twist the finger, re-set the break. Too many motions. When you expect ’em, you fight me.”
I pull my throbbing head off the desk to thank the doctor for letting me be “relaxed,” but he waves me off. “Not yet. Still have to check the re-set and bind you up.” He must see my eyes spell out his untimely passing at the hands of a madman, because he adds, “Worst is over.”
Using my left hand (with its mostly missing pinky) to carry my right hand (with its mostly mangled pinky) to a nearby room, I moan, sit, and glare at Chris. Through a pain-etched voice, I snarl, “This all started with catsup. You owe me.”
He avoids eye contact but asks, “Um, see any more X-rays?”
Postscript: Folks with ADHD appear to have high pain thresholds.
Whoa, there’s a generality, marvels Screen One. That’s based on what data?
Whether modern medicine ever has studied this particular combination of “active brain, inactive pain,” I do not know. I only know –
Shhh, says Five to the others. Wanna hear this.
You’re a screen, scoffs Six. Not a doctor.
So? replies Five. Maybe I’ll play one on TV. Or maybe I’ll just play a TV screen.
I only know this: Stuff hurts … “stuff” being injuries and accidents and burns and broken bones and such. But our minds are so busy, screens racing along, we don’t allow them to pay attention to the pain resulting from all that “stuff.”
Don’t allow? scoffs Four. You sound as if you control us. I laugh at your jest.