Many Hands Make Light Work

planter

Two large decorative pots stood guard outside of the apartment doors like stone lions, but cheap and temporary. Inside of the pots, weeds grew tall and unchecked with cigarette butts and trash as fertilizer.   This was an embarrassing problem as a volunteer group was currently en route to check on their beautification project from last summer.

The volunteers were a group of well-meaning housewives from the very far north side of the city where they almost certainly did not use planters as an ashtray or trashcan.

“You,” I shouted, “Stop right there,”

A man wearing a pair of basketball shorts with skinny legs froze in action, he was caught red handed or in this case with the glowing cherry of a nearly finished cigarette that was about to be stubbed out in one of the pots. He looked up with wide eyes, aware of his unmistakable culpability in the situation.

“I need your help, Chicken Legs.”

It was not a question but a demand and a sentence for his crime against potted flowers and beautification projects everywhere.

“Hey, Miss Puney. It’s not what it looks like; I don’t usually leave these here but just this one time.  Sure I’ll help; anything you need.”

Walking closer and peering into the pot, there were 15 to 20 white cigarette butts haphazardly placed as though seeds strewn by a careless farmer hopeful for tiny cigarette packs to one day grow.

“Just this once, huh?”

I shook my head at the discrepancy of his words and my observations.

“It doesn’t matter now. The volunteers are on their way and we have to get these pots ready for them.”

“The volunteers?”

Chicken Legs was unfamiliar with the women who were about to descend upon us, leaving a trail of Chanel No. 5 in their wake. They would not be pleased to find a butter knife, a discarded juice pack, a tangle of weeds of an uncertain number of cigarette butts.

“Please help me to clear these pots.”

Chicken Legs heard the anxiety in my voice and nodded, “You got it.”

Together, we set out on our mission under the hot sun of late May. By the time the women arrived, we were sweating and suspiciously dirty but the pots were ready for their petunias, begonias and ivy for a fresh summer look.

I gave wink and a thumbs-up to Chicken Legs when it was all over and released him from his sentence.

Many hands do make light work.

Bones

broken

It is Wednesday morning and I am called down the hall by a man’s voice.

“Puney, Puney, down here.”

He sounds weak and hurt; the noise registers in the same place of my brain as the baby mouse caught by a sticky trap last week.

“Just come in,” he says as I raise my hand to knock on the door.

It’s eerie that he knows I am just outside of his door. I pride myself on my quiet and cat-like footsteps.  When I was a kid, for one reason or another, I thought I was actually a Native American descendent and naturally practiced the silent walk of my people through the woods, grocery store, mall and all other places a delusional 7 year old might find herself.  In spite of that intense practice, I am coming to the realization that my footsteps may not be as cat-like as I once believed.

In the next instant, I consider the possibility that this is a trap and I am about to be separated from my beloved skin, Buffalo Bill style, but quickly ignore that pesky gut feeling and push forward. I enter the room to see the man sitting on the couch, holding his arm at a peculiar angle.

Dark red drops of blood escape from multiple cuts on his arms and legs. His eyes are unable to focus and his head wobbles back and forth on his chicken neck.

“I fell,” his voice cracks and there is dried blood on his lips.

His explanation saves me precious time to determine, with a great sense of relief, this is not a trap.

His voice drops to a whisper, “I just don’t feel right.”

In front of the man is a table with his medications, inhalers and tiny brown bottle of nitroglycerin on top. He grabs the tiny bottle and tries to twist the lid off while still cradling his other arm.  He is most unsuccessful.

I start to offer to help when he holds up the arm he has been cradling and I see for the first time the real problem. On the side of his wrist, a bluish-purple mass has formed around what appears to be the end of a protruding bone.  The mass is so big and unnatural, it seems unreal, I look for strings or tacks where the mass is externally connected.   I find none.  The mass is definitely an unfortunate part of his arm.

“I think ther’ is somethin’ wrong with mah wrist.”

A strange new accent emerges, perhaps released from a past life as the pain increases. Pain does all sorts of magical things to people; it transforms their personality, encourages new behaviors and habits, and reminds us that we are of the living.  Of course, it should be noted that the transformation is not necessarily good, nor are the habits and behaviors that are often pain inspired.

“Yep, that looks pretty messed up,” I offer my unprofessional and unsolicited opinion and dial 911 against his feeble protests and promises to ice it.

Brother, I might not be a doctor, but I do know there are some things that all the ice and Ibuprofen in the world won’t fix, starting with broken bones.

How is that for taking a fierce stance?

Official Diagnosis: Pretty Messed Up Wrist, no ICD9 code available.
Fierce

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