Except, of course, that the uncle and the grandmother were not immediately available. She (the niece) called the grandmother, who agreed to take her to school, and then, in a fit of economy (my mother has fits of economy in which the psychic need to save something, anything, overwhelms, overtakes, and in general swamps the boat of her otherwise good sense; these fits are somewhat akin to the grand mal seizures of some epileptics, only somewhat less controllable with medication) my mother called me at 10:15 to get out of bed and take the child to school by eleven o’clock. I have not as yet ascertained what was so important about getting there by eleven, only that it was and that this need was the driving force behind the subsequent disaster. Now, before you start wondering why I am still in bed at 10:15 a.m., I should point out that on Wednesdays I work 12 to 8 here at the egregious mold pit; I am not, despite what my mother says, being lazy; I am simply taking advantage of the peculiarities of my schedule to get some extra sleep. I do not want to leave a slothful impression here.
My mother arrived on my doorstep with the niece in tow, shrieking rise and shine, rise and shine just as I was stumbling out of bed. Listening to anyone shrieking rise and shine just after you’ve gotten up is bad enough; listening to Mom shrieking rise and shine over and over again gives a whole new meaning to the word hellish. I love my mother, make no mistake about it, but if she ever does this to me again I’m calling the immigration people and shipping her back where she came from; I mean, who needs this aggravation? So now, I must listen to her hound me through some things I have to do every day, hounded me at breakfast, and hounded me to hurry up in the shower as well. I didn’t even wash my hair in order to comply with her wish that the child get to school by eleven, something that gave me a feeling of griminess all day long; I hate the feeling of not being clean. She even hounded me while I was shaving, and this was the immediate cause of the whole catastrophe.
I was in the middle of an angry retort to her latest demand that I hurry my morning routine up when I violently inhaled a large gob of shaving cream up through my nose, and then just as violently sneezed it all out again, smearing the bathroom mirror with soap, saliva, and mucus. This, in itself, would have been enough to ruin anyone’s day, since not only was I extra grimy yesterday, I spend the day smelling nothing but menthol; I can still smell it a little every time I inhale; but the situation, as these situations are wont to do, immediately went from bad to worse. I’d been shaving my sideburns at the time of my proposed smartass retort and the propulsive power of the sneeze, combined with some odd application of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, forced my head forwards and back just as my razor was going in the opposite direction, a neat maneuver which immediately sliced open my earlobe, a harmless and hitherto unthought-of of part of my anatomy that is usually just along for the ride in the ongoing disaster that is my life. Now it took center stage as I stared at the three, yes, that’s right, three—I use a Mach III razor—slash marks across the lobe and the blood swelling forth in great globules from the rents in my flesh and dripping down the side of my head.
I responded to the sudden appearance of my O Negative life’s blood on my face with the same calm, dispassionate savoir faire that I deal with all of life’s emergencies: I screamed bloody murder, or rather, I screamed a four letter word denoting the reproductive act that I would not ordinarily use within earshot of my mother. To say I bled profusely is something of an understatement, I think; the only other way I’d ever see so much of my own blood in one place is if I severed a major artery with a carving knife. I had to pop back into the shower simply to clear the blood off my face and neck.
Given these circumstances, I think that most reasonable people would agree that driving the niece to school was not possible as long as the flow of blood remained unstaunched. Reasonable, however, does not describe my mother when she wants to save something. She loudly proclaimed that I’d deliberately inflicted these wounds upon myself as part of her children’s latest plot to drive her to financial wrack and ruin. My attempts at reasonableness fell on deaf ears, lest they interrupt the oceanic flow of declamatory and defamatory rhetoric. There was no telling her that it was an accident brought on by my rushing and that I would be the last person on earth to deliberately injure himself in this way; I have a low tolerance for pain of any kind; or that the school was only five miles away and she could take the kid there herself. No, I was a bum and a leech and a not very good son at all, exposing her to the bloodsucking leeches at the local gas station (actually a very nice couple from a town just outside of Bombay) who would rob her blind when she tried to buy some gas, and any attempt to tell her that she bought her last tank of gas when it still cost $1.45 a gallon and she still had half a tank left only made her angrier. She continued in this vein until she stormed out of the house, the niece in tow still, the niece’s green black orange purple hair flowing in the near tornado strength breeze.
I staunched the bleeding at long last, using up the better part of a roll of toilet paper to do so, and then I bandaged the ear up. I went to work wearing black pants, figuring if I sprang a leak no one would notice the blood on the trousers, and an ugly brown shirt that made me look like a junior deputy assistant gauleiter in a tenth rate German tank town circa 1936. If blood got on the shirt, who cares, right? I never liked the shirt to begin with and if there’s blood on the damn thing, the colors would coordinate and I might get a medal for taking a hit for Der Vaterland. What is not true, however, despite the best efforts of my co-workers to make this whole sorry mess more romantic that it really is, are the stories that I pulled a Vincent Van Gogh here. No, I did not try to cut my ear off and no, I did not FedEx the newly liberated lobe to an Arlesienne prostitute the way that Vinnie did. The ear is merely sliced, not diced or julienned, and I expect to have the full use of the ear, including the injured lobe, just as soon as the bandage comes off, thank you very much. So much for those stories.