Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Under My Skin

A few weeks ago I was excited to see that a girl I adored in the 4th grade is on Facebook. I thought she was the bee's knees back when we were 10, especially so after a playdate at her house where I disovered she had one of those wicker chairs you hang from the ceiling and you see cheesy 1970's Senior pictures taken in them with the edges of the picture blurred and their name and graduating year inscribed in the corner. Yeah, she was cool. She was only at Wyandotte a year and I was devastated that she and her wicker swinging chair were gone from my life. Well, now apparently she and I are cousins because her momma is my stepdaddy's sister. My family tree now resembles a giant sequoyah.

She and I chatted on Facebook one afternoon and she made the comment that the one thing she remembered about me from her year at Wyandotte was The Giant Splinter. Of all things! That was the year I got the Little Orphan Annie perm! That was the year the chubbiness began! That was also the year that I discovered crying hysterically over anything got me sent out in the hall to "calm down" which was just free time sitting against the wall doodling in my Trapper Keeper. So WHY The Giant Splinter???

Because it's bizarre and now, 26 years later freaking hilarious.

In elementary school we had PE every day and we had it in the Old Gym. The Old Gym was dark and damp and always smelled of mold. It still does today. The bleachers were painted wood and we spent a lot of time chipping at the blue paint with our fingernails or maybe a contraband pocket knife back when pocket knives in the pockets of redneck children weren't considered weapons but a necessity of life and a rite of passage.

I believe it was Coach Phillips who was in the gym that fated day. He was a pretty no-nonsense kinda guy who smelled like coffee and cigarettes. I liked the heck outta him and he liked me, too, but he had me pegged as a drama queen.

I'm pretty sure it was a free day in PE that day because there were a lot of us just roaming around in the bleachers, or gathered in the back corner of the gym (where I'm pretty sure they said dirty words), or just wandering around aimlessly. Kristy Fink was sitting on the first row of the bleachers, watching whatever was going on on the floor. I decided to go sit by her, so I took off in kind of a fat girl run (jiggling trot would probably be more accurate) and when I got close to her I plopped onto the bleacher seat and was going to slide into her like the uber cool person I thought I was. Hey, sliding across surfaces was good enough for the Dukes so why couldn't I?

Except for the fact that in all the years of wear and tear and mold and mildew and kids with pocket knives, the edges of those bleachers were rough in spots, peeled back in others and in some places, downright jagged. As I slid towards Kristy my leg was placed directly in the path of a splintered-back edge and the velocity of my chubby Jordache jeans covered thigh plus jagged wood was all just one big recipe for imminent doom. Instead of being all cool as I bumped into my friend I found myself suddenly in severe thigh pain as I jumped up, started clawing at the back of my leg and screaming, "I'VE GOT A SPLINTER! I'VE GOT A SPLINTER!" Kristy looked at me like I was a total dork and she was totally justified. Coach Phillips saw me doing some kind of freaky dance and came over. Kristy, who was never much of one for excitement and drama anyway, looked at him blankly and said, "Uhmm.....she has a splinter?"

He wasn't quite sure what to do because obviously the problem was in my pants so he said, "Fink, take her to Mrs. Gatewood." Mrs. Gatewood, the school secretary, was really good at handing out bandaids and spraying that aerosol stuff on skinned knees that invariably left our skinned stained yellow for days. Mrs. Gatewood could fix anything. I felt hope.

I followed Kristy, limping and sobbing and honestly believing my life's blood was dripping down the back of my leg. We made it the 47 acres (okay, like 100 feet) to the office and into Mrs. Gatewood's little cubby hole. Kristy said again, "Uhmm....she has a splinter?" Mrs. Gatewood said I was going to have to pull down my pants so she could see, so she pulled the blinds on her window, shut the door and I de-pantsed. And as I was bent over to give them both a clear view of my thigh I watched as my very, very Native American companion turned as white as well, me. I heard Mrs. Gatewood gasp. I fuh-reaked. She sent Kristy back to the gym and picked up the phone to call my mom, my stay-at-home mom WHO WAS NOT AT HOME THAT DAY. What I would've given for a cell phone that day. Where was the Delorian and Doc Brown when I needed them??? Okay, so I didn't need to time travel, but maybe they could've driven my mom to the school really fast?

She didn't want me to pull my pants back up because she was afraid that splinter would do something freaky while it was covered or something, as rouge splinters are wont to do. It was obvious I couldn't sit down what with it being on the back of my leg, so the only logical thing for me to do was lie face-down on the principal's couch. Now keep in mind, at this point I still had no earthly idea what was embedded in the back of my leg, had no idea what was going on, other than it hurt like all get out. All I knew was Mrs. Gatewood gasped and Mrs. Gatewood was a pro at elementary school wounds. To make her gasp, well, I was convinced my leg bone was sticking right out the back of my chunky thigh.

Mr. Nichols, the principal, had an awful textured, faux-leather couch in his office where bad boys and girls sat when they were getting lectured. Mrs. Gatewood directed me to the couch that still to this day makes me think of black trash bags and told me to lie on my stomach. I shook my head because I had no desire whatsoever to lie there with my booty shining in the air while my mom got back from Outer Mongolia or wherever the heck she was. For all I knew, Mom was on safari in Africa; my mom was ALWAYS at home! Mrs. Gatewood said she'd get something to cover my hiney and grabbed Mr. Nichols' Wyandotte Bears jacket from the back of his chair, draped it over my backside and went back to her cubby hole to repeatedly re-dial our home phone number because this was 1983, we didn't have one of those fancy answering machines. And Doc Brown might as well have Caller ID hog-tied in his Delorian because that sure didn't exist. Heck, we still had a party line!

Mr. Nichols came in - probably from smoking in the boiler room with Coach Phillips - and of course, had to witness the abomination on the back of my leg himself. Then sat down at his desk to do some paperwork. He tried to make conversation at first, but all I could do was sob so he gave up. Some kid a few grades below me came in for swats. I cried twice as hard after that because even though the kid had just gotten his butt busted for cussing I was lying on the couch with my pants around my ankles and a vinyl jacket draped over my hind end. Oh yeah, forgot to tell you that no one thought to actually remove my jeans, they just left them wadded around my ankles, atop my Winner's Choice tennies.

FINALLY Mrs. Gatewood got hold of my mom who had been cavorting aimlessly at Consumer's or Walmart and told her I needed to be picked up. Mom said that when Mrs. Gatwood said I had a splinter her initial response was "So?" but then she said, "It's a REALLY big splinter. She's going to need to go to the hospital." I bet Mom put the pedal to the metal in the Nova to get to the school. Of course, when I saw Mom the tears began anew and after my butt was unveiled once more to show off the log impaling me, she asked Mr. Nichols if he could carry me to the car. They stood me up so I could wrap my arms around Mr. Nichols' neck, Mrs. Gatewood snapped the jacket around my waist while Mom pulled the car to the front doors and then the only thing missing would've been a guide truck with flashing lights and maybe a "WIDE LOAD" sign.

Here I was, dangling from the principal's neck, jeans still wadded around my ankles, a vinyl jacket with a giant snarling bear positioned right on my butt wrapped around my waist and a splinter the size of a telephone pole sucking my will to live in my thigh. AND just as we entered the lobby on the, what I'd hoped would be low-key, trek to the car, the 3rd graders entered the double doors coming in from PE. I will never forget Brandon Hutchings, who rode my bus, looking absolutely horrified and all but tackling Mr. Nichols to find out exactly what was wrong with me. Bless his heart.

Finally I slid into the backseat of the car, Mom sped off toward the house, where I was then moved to the couch by my dad, while Mom called the pediatrician to find out exactly what needed to be done. Now, my dad thought all of the world's problems could be solved with a pair of needle-nose pliers and offered to just remove the splinter himself, but my shrieks and screams nipped that quick. Upon hearing my screams, Dr. Lases said to bring me to the ER room at the clinic, they would be waiting.

One more dangling trek, via my dad's neck, to the exam bed in the clinic's ER room, then the doctor got his own needle-nose pliers to remove the splinter, but alas, it started to splinter back as he tried to pull it out. It was just under the skin, certainly not deep, but the grain only goes one way in wood usually. He ended up cutting the skin at the front end of the splinter and had to pull it out the way it went in. I didn't even need stitches, just some antibiotics. The splinter was roughly as big around as a toothpick and about 2 1/2 inches long. Certainly not something you want in the back of your thigh, perilously close to your hiney.

In the end....

Nah, there's no better way to finish this story than that.



Robin said...

so funny...only becuz you're not scarred for life over it.

Well maybe you have one.

Shannon said...

OMG Kristin! That is hilarious! Memories, gotta love them.

Anonymous said...

I did the same thing, only sliding on my stomach. Yeah, big'ol shard of wood in the gut. However, I knew that not only would I get in trouble(having been told not to slide on the bleachers), But I'd then get in trouble at home for inconveniencing the faculty with my stupidity. So, I just pulled it out and packed the hole with T.P until it stopped bleeding. Ah, precious water-colored memoriiiiiiies....

CRUSTY MOM-E said...


but I LOVED THOSE CHAIRS! My aunt had one and I still wish I could find one of those wicker barrels, I'd soo hang it up in my bedroom!

Glad your hiney survived ...

Unknown said...

That is too funny! It does sound like one of those scarred for life moments - both mentally and physically!

Laura Marchant said...

lol, I was expecting something much bigger (that's what she said!)

Okie Rednecks said...

I was thinking about Mr. Nicholsgoing downstairs to smoke!!! And Mrs. Gatewood was the best at helping with scratches and scrapes. I remember her calling my mom and she had to come and get me. I had slid into the wooden bottom chair that had a jagged end while playing football with the guys. I still have the scars today!!!

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Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...