My fingers had every reason to think I hated them. I cut more chunks out of them than I did any actual wood when whittling surfer style “tiki god” pendants for my friends (“Dear Mitch, please carve away from us, not towards us!” ~Sincerely, Your Fingers). And then there was the night Dad accidentally slammed and locked the car door on my rude (a.k.a. middle) finger!
But the worst calamity that ever befell my phalanges was at a so-called Fun House. Dad had rewarded his top newspaper solicitors with an outing (I don’t mean to brag, but I was number one), and I’d brought along my cousin Frankie. The Pike was a grubby pre-World War I era amusement park known for two things: 1) The Cyclone Racer (one of America’s great roller coasters) and, 2) Ladies offering to go on “dates” with sailors.
Frankie and I had just left the sideshow, having viewed The Astonishing Woman-Who-Has-Nothing-but-a-Red-Light-Bulb-for-a-Head, and were ready to tackle the Fun House, with its jiggling floors and joggling doorways. I ran ahead, and was alone when I entered an empty hall with a rubber walkway. I stepped onto it. Nothing.
“Is something supposed to happen?” I asked an acne-festooned carny on a stool at the end of the hallway. Without looking up from his girly mag, he flicked a wall switch. The walkway jerked backward, causing me to tumble.
The carny sneered as I landed on my butt. I laughed self-consciously, as though I were in on the joke. I wasn’t. 12-year-olds are never in on the joke.
I also wasn’t in on the fact that the moving walkway was sliding under a metal lip. The rubber wanted to take my hand with it, but the metal lip kept it from doing so. Nevertheless, it refused to surrender my hand, instead slicing away layer after layer of skin from my fingers. I screamed.
The carny yelled, “Well, get up, baby!”
“I can’t!” I shrieked as I watched the metal plane away the final layers of epidermis and begin scraping the bones. The carny flicked the power off, sauntered over, and then, seeing my fresh-ground-beef hand for the first time, remarked, “Oh, crap.”
Oh, crap indeed. He took me to a living stereotype, a scruffy, pot-bellied, booze-soaked fellow called “Doc.” When I finally found my frantic father, Frankie and the other boys, it was with a freshly-aspirined stomach and an “all fixed up” Bactine-sprayed, gauze-bundled hand.
I underwent five months of skin grafts and hand movement therapy (yes, Momandad sued the Pike). I was even able to take guitar lessons the following year. Because if there’s anything cooler than scarred hands, it’s guitar playing hands. And by eighth grade I had both, so, um…