Recently I broke my left index finger during a company softball game. I caught a pop-fly to left field very, very sloppily, and God I wish this story was cooler. Anyhow, the thing swelled up over night and by morning it looked like I had a big, purple grape on the tip of my finger in terms of size, shape and color - my pointer-turned-fruity-finger-berry.
So I went to urgent care for X-rays and a splint, and was then referred to a hand specialist. The hand specialist took even more X-rays and made me a custom splint, one molded to fit and snugly encase my finger. Then they moved me to their physical-therapy ward. Physical therapy. For a finger! I went on my way and over the next few weeks diligently practiced the circuit of finger exercises the four women had taught me as they braced various parts of my hand and forearm and repeated statements of encouragement like, "You can do it, Dave!" and "One more. One more! Come on, push it."
Now, apparently I was supposed to take off the splint daily to clean and air out my finger. Either they forgot to tell me that part or I was not paying any attention when they explained it, because by the time my next appointment rolled around some 20 days later I hadn't removed the thing since they strapped it to my busted phalange. The implications of this didn't fully dawn on me until an (alarmingly) attractive hand specialist who was definitely not there the previous time was asking me to ditch the splint so she could check and see how my skin was healing, all in a tone one might use to get a madman to surrender a loaded weapon.
As I started unraveling the tape I got a small whiff of something big, something awful, and knew things were about to get pretty embarrassing for me. With each strand I removed the smell permeated higher and deeper into the small room we were sitting in, both of us staring at my crooked digit with expressions of profound curiosity. "How could this have gotten so disgustingly bad?" we asked ourselves. We both knew the answer. The odor had soul, breathing and growing like a healthy, living organism or ecosystem of sorts. It was a stench entity - its presence staggering, its weight a heavy one - and for some reason she kept getting closer to my finger and scrunching her nose, with the kind of fascination and caution paleontologists probably use while unearthing fossils. This made me even more nervous.
By the time the splint was off the entire room stunk like old tacos, or like I had unwrapped leftover Indian food I'd forgotten about in the back of my refrigerator for months. Woof freaking woof. My skin was warm and pigmentless and steaming, and at one point I thought I heard it hiss. All I could say was, "Jesus," and then started apologizing to her. I half asked, half asserted that surely she'd seen and smelled worse from patients, and she half asked herself the same question, half lied to me that she probably (probably!) had, with an unsettling question-mark-type-tone at the end. Not good. My finger didn't even look like it belonged to a living thing. It looked more like that of a zombie, or like I'd been hanging out in a graveyard and dug up a freshly buried body to de-finger out of spite. It was gray and sort of transparent-ish, and there was still plenty of purple in there, my good ol' grapes gettin' nice and ripe.
My next appointment is in two days. This time around I've cleaned my finger every single day, but over the weekend a bartender told me I was cute and "have good hair" and said he'd like to do a shot with me free of charge if I let him sign my splint. So it has the name Perry on it now.