Lost Journal: The Sweet Relief of Cast Removal

Journal entry: November 18, 1976 (age 7) – Cast Removal

“Get this thing off of me!”

As it had been for the past seven weeks, that was my first waking thought this morning. The newly installed guardrail on my top bunk bed made a mournful sound as I absent-mindedly struck it over and over again with my right arm, which was entombed in a white plaster cast. On the fateful night I had rolled off the bunk, the rail would have come in handy. (Armey?)

I climbed down the ladder and retrieved my magic wand. It’s a knitting needle my mom gave me to reach itches down in the narrow space between my upper arm and the opening of the cast. She reluctantly gave me the knitting needle to stop me from sticking pens, forks, and steak knives into the cavern of histamine.

But today would be the end of my plaster shackling. Mom picked me up at St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary (where all my classmates had defaced my arm) and drove me to the doctor’s office. I was excited and restless as we waited in the room designated for that verb. When my name was called, I almost broke another limb as I ran towards the empty examination room. Instead of the doctor who had set my arm, a younger man came in and said that the doctor was busy. “I’m an intern, and I’ll be doing the cast removal.” Doubt flickered on my mother’s face, but she acquiesced after looking at my face, which was wordlessly screaming, “DO IT!”

After I saw the saw, I saw that it wouldn’t make sense for me to see the saw sawing. I stared at the “Fun with Food Groups” poster on the wall while the circular blade buzzed into the cast. A few minutes later, I let out a yelp of pain, which was immediately echoed by a yelp of worry from my mom. We both looked at the intern. “Oops,” he said.

“Oops?!,” my mother repeated. That was all she could muster at that point. Later, when the purple gouge near the crease of my elbow was fully exposed, she was more talkative. I was a little freaked out by the cut, too, but once I was told I would end up with a scar, I thought it was pretty cool. I pictured my teenaged brother John’s girlfriend, Kris Kenville, lightly touching my arm. “Ooh, what happened there?” “Electric saw,” I would mutter, gazing stoically into the distance. “Just one of those things. I’d rather not talk about it.”

Once the cast was completely off, my arm looked wicked weird. On the nightly news last night, John Chancellor showed some pictures from the “Treasures of Tutankhamun” exhibition, which opened in Washington, D.C. yesterday. My shriveled, discolored limb looked a lot like those of the mummified boy king. If I had gotten the cast off on Halloween a few weeks ago, I would have used my arm as the unwashed foundation for a really cool King Tut costume.

I did end up washing my arm when we got home. But on the way there, it was a lot more satisfying to just scratch and scratch and scratch. It felt similar to the sick pleasure of peeling a sunburn. I guess some of the best things in life can be kinda gross.

Tim Mollen
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