Really honey, no pain meds? First Aid didn’t send you home with some?

Well, I winced, it didn’t hurt that much after they worked on me so I told them I wouldn’t need any pills. That the anesthetic might wear off hadn’t occurred to me.

Pain – like life – isn’t meant to be handled alone. Just Ann’s presence that night eased the hurt of my traumatized finger. A pain-consoler may not dwell under the same roof. Nearness comes often through a hand-held device in easy reach – the call or text summoning a friends voice – and the pain is hushed. Even when these are not available, we remember the ONE. Jesus – our “present help in trouble” – gets pain. With such friends, the injury’s cause – self-inflicted or other –  doesn’t matter. Mercy makes room. Comfort shows up. I was quite the doofus earlier that day.

Bounding over hardware, Francis reached me in two strides. Seizing my wrist, he squeezed evenly. The blood flow, shooting spurts of red a moment earlier, eased.

Here Jerry, do this. I’ll shut the machine down.

I took over my co-worker’s self-assigned medic role, clasping my right wrist. My work-partner, Francis, returned in seconds. Now, we want to get you to First Aid.


Reproductions department had moved me to their shop in the massive aeronautics plant. The square, open room, seasoned with inky aromas, pulsed with print-machine rhythms.  I had come to draw odd comfort from the omnipresent, clickity-clack movements of the press room.

I had wrapped up the final job order on my multilith press for the day, clearing away some stragglers of unspent paper. Standing before the unit, I dialed down the ink roller speed, then took up a rust-red work cloth and cleaning solution bottle.

Safety measures can’t be over-stressed, we’d been told. Always look out for things that might catch on moving parts, a supervisor had once warned. Like  clothing.  One machine choked a fellow when ink rollers swallowed his neck tie all the way up. Nasty.

This day clothing didn’t play a role. Still, carelessness did.

I’ll just wrap the rag around this forefinger, spray some solution, slide the cloth  slowly – forward and backward along the roller, clearing the ink. . .  I hadn’t factored the exposed gear rotating steadily near the ink rollers. Its teeth seized my cleaning rag. My finger-tip followed – yanked into the gear and bringing the cog to a halt. Less than a minute later Francis was hustling me down to First Aid.

I lay face up on a black vinyl table.  Someone positioned a right-angle extension to support my arm. My finger end was a grated mess. Head turned its direction, I caught an ink-scent off my work-shirt. The image of a nurse clicking a needle’s syringe caught my attention. I clenched my teeth. The four injections into my finger drew pain I’ve seldom known. Sweat-beads sprung to my face in the cool room.

This is to deaden the pain while treating your finger, a voice consoled.


The night at our apartment went by slowly. With some whimpering. But tolerable.

Ann was near.

©2016 Jerry Lout



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