The plaid suit jacket was purple and blue. It was wool with polyester lining, and it was four sizes too big for me. It was sort of David Byrnesque. You remember the Talking Heads video Once in a Lifetime, right?
That was way back in the eighties when we all thought video had killed the radio star.
Mtv used to only show videos back then. Really. I’m not making it up. It was cool.
Anyway, my big jacket had a No. 2 pencil in the side pocket. This is an important detail. Keep it in mind.
We weren’t drinking nor were we high. Not that we were above drinking or getting high, it just happened that we weren’t doing either on that night.
It was mid-October at about 1 a.m. and I was with my sister, Michelle, and two good friends named Jeff and Chris.
We decided to go to the park just to walk around and talk. We’re walking along next to a hill when somebody gets the bright idea that we should all roll down it.
Why? Well, why not? I wait for Michelle to get about half way down the hill so that I won’t land on her, and then I start rolling too.
Then I stop suddenly and for no apparent reason. I immediately try to push myself off again, but I’m wedged against something.
I stand up as I am beginning to recognize a very dull pain in my back at this point.
I put my hand on my back, and I’m shocked to discover a stick of some sort protruding from my skin.
Great. Now I have a kick-stand.
I notify the rest of the team that I am in some distress and lead me under a street lamp so they can get a better view of my injury.
Turns out, it’s not a stick in my back after all. It’s the yellow No. 2 pencil that I kept in my pocket “for emergencies”.
I don’t remember if each of them got a turn at trying to pull it out of me or not. But, I do recall this solution being attempted to no avail. I started to get worried I was going to bleed to death if they did manage to jerk it out, and was more than a little relieved when they finally gave up that endeavor.
Since the pencil obviously had to come out, we had no choice but to head for the hospital.
So, after a quick stop for Solarcaine and cigarettes, we were all off to the emergency room.
Let me explain this as it was explained to me. Being a non-smoker, I didn’t understand the relative importance of buying cigarettes at a convenience store as opposed to, say, buying them from a vending machine at or near the hospital. But, you see, smokers know that vending machines are way more expensive and do not always carry your brand. So, the cigarette stop was unavoidable.
I’m pretty sure the Solarcaine was just an afterthought on Jeff’s part. He felt a little guilty about stopping for smokes, so he made a point of throwing some antiseptic at me when he got back into the car with the cigs.
Chivalrous? You bet your ass.
We finally got to the emergency room where I had to explain to no less than four different people how I got a pencil stuck in my back. I cannot possibly express to you how very humbling that was.
It was like a bad dream where I kept repeating the words, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
The doctor who removed the pencil said it was in there pretty deep.
She numbed the area and used something that resembled an Exacto knife to cut out the offending writing implement, and she told me that she could not “get the lead out.” She said it with a straight face, too.
Then, she stitched me up and sent me home.
Fifteen years later, I have a lead mark on my
back that time will not erase. It’s a great ice breaker. “Hey, wanna see my pencil scar?”
It’s just a tad bit classier than dropping trou and saying, “Look where the horse bit me.”
But, with age comes caution.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d still roll down a hill with little provocation, but now I know to check my pockets first.