35. Wear a Cast, Get a Story

by H. W. Moss

I recently broke a bone in my foot, a metatarsal, and I did this by dropping a 20 pound weight on it while exercising at the gym.

Actually, I didn’t drop the thing so much as let go one end with my right hand while holding on with the left at about chest height. The end of the pole I let go of swung downward in an arc and collided with the top of the foot. It was really quite amazing. I mean, know how you stub your toe and look at the place you hit and make an instant observation that, yes, that’s going to hurt, but no, it ain’t all that bad? Not in this case.

I hit the top right side of the right foot with the full force of a swinging hammer. And I am not talking about your regular ol’ household claw hammer, but the bigger parent, a carpenter’s hammer. Bam!

Apart from the instant reaction of a sudden flow of blood beneath the skin and then a puffy spreading swelling that ultimately culminated in the inability to place any pressure on the foot without causing instant excruciating pain that made me say, “Think I’ll cut my exercises short,” a series of events transpired over the course of the next twenty seconds that made me confront my own mortality as my brain focused on the astounding knowledge that I had just done this to myself.

I could not believe I had been so stupid.

The doctor issued a large knee high black boot with a Paul Bunyan sole. The boot is strapped on with five Velcro strips. I still insist on going to the gym and doing a limited work out. My reward is the sauna. The guy sitting next to me in the dry heat the other day did not even begin by asking how I managed to get my injury.

“I burned my hand real bad once,” he said holding his right arm out toward me palm down. Now remember, I did not know this man. We had never met before and I have not seen him since, but here he was opening up to me with a somewhat personal account of just how stupid he had been.

His hand was apparently 100 percent healed because I could see nothing out of the ordinary. But the scars were clear to him. He pointed to the top on one side and said, “See the white streaks? That’s where hot oil dripped down. I didn’t have any insurance. My method of cure was to sleep with a bucket of ice next to the bed and change the bandages a lot.”

There, I could make out two whitish drip-looking marks on the skin near the base of the pinkie. Plus, I had bought into his story this far so I figured I had to buy the rest of his line of talk. I asked how the accident had come about. He said he was cooking sausages while drunk, “A midnight snack.”

I’ve heard of Chinese Drunken Chicken, but this was American Drunken Cook.

I limped into the exercise room where a doctor friend who works for an HMO was riding a Stair Master. Hey, don’t knock Kirk for finding a secure position in the medical industry. He took one look at my leg and said that for several years he worked the emergency room and one day a middle-aged woman came in with a broken arm.

“How’d this whole thing happen?” he innocently asked her.

“Well, doc. It all started when I was three years old.”

On a strict HMO schedule, Kirk did not have time, nor did he want to hear the story. But he had opened the can and the worms were crawling out.

A few days later I was at my locker strapping the boot on when Glenn got in a conversation with me. He asked what happened, so I told him, and he launched into the story of how he was exercising, “Doing dumbbell flys,” he called the routine. Basically, you lie on your back and lift hand held weights, small dumbbells, above your chest, bring your hands together, lower them to your sides, bring your hands together, lower them to your sides. He said he had two sets of different weights and while one pair was in use, the other lay on the floor next to him.

“I brought the weight down and the fingertip of my index finger got caught between the weight on the floor and the one in my hand,” he told me. “I didn’t think much of it, just a pinched finger, and lifted the weight again only my hand was gushing blood.”

Glenn made an immediate visit to the emergency room where it was determined he had neatly nipped the tip off which dangled like a piece of meat from the end of his finger. He stuck the healed digit out to show me and, sure enough, there was a thin white scar and a dent like a divot where someone took a slice out of it. The nail never did grow back straight.

“Funny thing was,” he continued, “I bumped into my old coach who took one look at the finger in a splint and a big band aid and he said, ‘Dumbbell flys. You did that doing dumbbell flys, didn’t you?’ Now, how could he possibly know that?”

The coach said he had done the exact same thing himself once and held out his index finger to prove it.

These stories all came from the guys inside my gym. I haven’t even begun to tell the tales I got from outside.