Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Finger in Name Only

Two posts ago, when people actually left comments, unlike the private chat room that section proved to be yesterday...a polite reader feigned interest in the tale of THE FAT RED PINKY FINGER. Not one to disappoint my vast readership, I present this account of what happens when septuagenarians ignore their body's cry for help. And take in relatives to provide shelter in a storm.

During the big ice storm of ought-six, our power vanished overnight. I had no desire to sit in my all-electric mansion with no heat, no light, no means of cooking, no water, no flushing, and no way to entertain two boys. Hick selflessly volunteered to call in late to work so he could drive us to my mom’s house twelve miles away, our storm oasis, a tiny island of power surrounded by an ocean of blackout.

Genius, then eleven, and The Pony, eight, took over Grandma’s TV and computer as soon as we arrived. I read the paper and chatted with her while she bustled about gathering snacks for the kids. The Pony was the first to notice something amiss. “Grandma, I don’t like it when you’re like this. You look depressed.” Mom set down a bowl of macaroni. She sucked in her breath, and grimaced.

“Are you all right?”

“Oh, I just bumped my finger. It’s been a little sore.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“I had a hangnail that was bothering me. I tried to fix it with a needle, but it’s not getting better.”

“You can’t go poking at it with a needle!”

“I dipped the needle in alcohol, and used cotton balls soaked in Bactine. It only hurts when I hit it on something.”

“Let me see.”

“Do you think I should put some antibiotic ointment on it?”

That pinky finger was bright red, and swelled up big as a bratwurst. “Boys, get your shoes on. We’re going to the emergency room.”

The emergency room only had two patients. That tends to happen when the roads are coated with ice. The nurse took one look at that fat red pinky finger and hustled Mom back to an exam room. During her ninety-minute stay, various staff popped into the waiting room to ask if we were with somebody. “We’re with the finger.” They knew exactly what I meant. The doctor soaked Mom’s finger for twenty minutes, wrapped it in gauze, told her she had paronychia, gave her a penicillin pill, and told her to fill the prescription when the pharmacy opened the next day. [WARNING: DO NOT search for pictures of paronychia!]

Back at home after her soaking, Mom seemed in better spirits. The boys and I hoped she was on the mend. We’re the kind of freeloaders who need to be waited on hand, pinky finger, and foot. Hick went back to protect the homestead, armed with a kerosene heater and flashlight. We had eighty-five homes without electricity on our line, and no estimated repair time. It would turn out to be five days. Five days of the fat red pinky finger. The boys and I stayed with Mom. Hick worked by day, came to sit a spell with us in the evening, and then went back to sleep at home in the cold. I picked up Mom's antibiotics and made sure she took them on schedule.

Genius organized a team Scrabble game. He picked the teams and the names. His own team with The Pony and Grandma was called Geniuses. Funny how he named the team of Hick and me the Morons. I could not stand for that, and renamed us the Genius-Slapping Morons. To which The Pony declared we were the Dum-Dum Genius-Slapping Morons. Whatever. We spanked them. Not literally. Not that I’m averse to spanking kids when they need it. No, what I mean is that we beat them. Not literally. What I’m trying to say is that the score was 316 to 142, in favor of the Dum-Dum Genius-Slapping Morons. Our last play of forty-two points, adding the word “wove” in the lower left corner of the board, on the triple word score square, demoralized the competition. The Geniuses forfeited with only twelve letters left in the game. Woo Hoo! I beat an 8-year-old, an 11-year-old, and a little old lady with a systemic staph infection! Oh. I had a partner. Hick was the letter-drawer. He done good.

I think Mom might might have been ready for me to go home. In a power struggle over who got the long couch for a nap, she seemed to side with Genius. She gave him the best pillows and the soft blanket. I got one square pillow made of Berber carpet’s pillow-cover cousin, who was good at soaking up drool but left a relief map of the moon on my cheek, and a brown horse blanket. That thing could have been used as industrial-grade sandpaper. And Mom left my right foot out every time I asked her to cover me again.

The Pony walked around like a hunchbacked septuagenarian, clutching his sacroiliac with his right hand. According to him, “Grandma’s couch has a bar in it that hurts my back.” He spent four nights on the hide-a-bed, while Genius made the couch cushions into a bed on the floor. I took a bed upstairs. We were fast wearing out our welcome. Luckily the power was restored the night before school started up again. Hick bought a generator and two fake fireplaces to make sure that predicament would not befall us again.

The fat red pinky finger defied antibiotic intervention. Mom’s doctor referred her to an infection specialist after four rounds of antibiotics. The infection specialist referred her to an osteopathic orthopedic surgeon, who gave her a week to make a decision on his recommendation of amputation. “Well, I don’t guess I would miss it that much. I don’t use it for anything but cross-stitch.”

I put a stop to that talk and took Mom to a different orthopedic specialist, who performed surgery to scrape the bone. She still has her pinky-finger, though it’s a bit stiff.

We’ve had more ice storms, less severe, and weathered the power outages with our new generator and fake fireplaces. I can still whip children and old ladies at Scrabble. And nobody has lost any digits.


  1. When we in Ghettoland (a small off-shoot of BigCityLand) had that ice storm, we were lucky enough to have a gas stove and gas water heater. Hot showers, a huge soup pot full of boiling water on our bedside table, extra clothes. We kept warm enough.

    It proved more pleasant than the power problem during the summer, which lasted for 9 days. There is only so much clothing I can take off before everyone shrieks "Enough already."

  2. Good for you to save grandma's pinky!

  3. Chop it off doc must have been a whacko.

  4. Sioux,
    We now have a generator to run our electric fireplaces. It's like a column A/column B thing. Two TVs, one computer, one lamp, refrigerator, well pump. Or, if you need the oven, the refrigerator and a TV have to go. Something like that. Hick holds the key to the electrical rationing.

    Our summer outage was not that long. I retreated to the basement. Hick and the boys had the pool. You and Hick might have had a competitive contest of "Put it back ON!"

    Yes, I'm a real-life superhero with the motto: "Septuagenarians shall lose no digits before their time."

    He was an osteopath. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But as Mom said, "If your dad was alive, he'd let me die before he'd let an osteopath operate on me." Which, perhaps, says more about my dad than about osteopathic medicine.