“Well, Ranger looks great,” I said to his owner, straightening up and brushing off my pants. “His pyoderma is completely cleared up.”
“Great,” said the owner, an older guy- maybe a few years into retirement. “Hey doc, since you’re here-” he held up his hand- “do you think this is blood poisoning?”
I peered at his finger and reflexively gave the stock answer I am required to provide when asked for human medical advice. “I don’t know. You should ask your doctor.” I looked more closely at the ugly purple bruise on the knuckle and the swelling on the whole finger. “What happened?”
He shrugged. “I got stung by a bee yesterday.” We both stared at the finger. “It itches a little.”
“That looks awful,” I said. It looked like a black eye, coagulated and violet with little red splotches radiating from it. “It’s swollen like a sausage! You need to get that seen.”
“Well of course it’s swollen,” he replied, irritated. “It was stung yesterday.”
“I’ve never seen a sting like that,” I said. “That worries me.”
“Eh,” he said, waving his sausage-like fist in my direction. He decided to go the macho route. “You’re just a pansy.”
“I sure am,” I said, affronted. “You asked my opinion, right? I don’t take chances with big swollen fingers. Not with MRSA floating around.”
“What’s MRSA?” the owner said, stroking his dog who had just recovered from a staph infection.
“The flesh eating staph,” I replied, washing my hands.
“I bet you go running to the doctor every time you get a little bump,” he taunted. It brought back fond memories of my navy veteran dad tormenting me as a pre-teen, calling me a wimp every time I sought medical treatment for broken bones, bleeding extremities, severe sprains.
OK, those memories weren’t fond at all. When I was 16, I found him trying to siphon battery acid out of a car battery with a hose and his mouth. “Must be hot today,” he said, patting his chest. “That’s not the weather,” I said. “You just inhaled hydrochloric acid fumes into your lungs. Don’t you have asthma?”
“Your father is usually pretty smart,” Mom said later on when they returned from the ER. “But he’s a man. They do stuff like this.” With that in mind, I decided there was not much I could do for this guy except let him demonstrate his bravado at my expense.
“Yes,” I said, “I’m a pansy. I make my living with my hands and I like them with all 10 fingers attached and well. Good luck with that septic knuckle!” He waved a stiff goodbye, unable to bend his fingers.