rip and tear
David, dave – he took the job. He took the two days a week at the local nursery shifting mounds of earth and mulch from one place to another using the baby tractor with a little dozer front blade adapted for carrying. There was the one pedal for acceleration, another for braking. A two click gearstick, one for going forward, the other for going back, top speed 7 mph. Another stick for the hydraulic lift that governed the blade, forward for up, backward for down.
The ground was deeply rutted, the ride uneven, and there was only a small front foot-guard in front of the pedals for dave to brace himself as he waddled the machine across the corrugated lot, fully loaded, blade coming down ready to dump. Then two things happened very quickly.
(1) The machine hit a deep rut. (2) dave’s foot slipped over the guard and into the path of the descending hydraulic arm that governed the blade. The blade loaded with gravel. Heavy. Unstoppable.
He watched, he said later, as the blade carried on down with its load and caught his foot and just kind of tore it away. Tore it away in slow motion he said. First the gradually opening flesh as the load bore his foot down and away from his ankle, then the welling up of deeply sourced blood; the seductive glint of exposed tendons and finally a hint of ruptured bone amidst the scarlet carnage.
Down it went, and up he stood trying to negate the damage – It crackled he said, and I could hear the flesh tearing. Good old dave, always one for histrionics when faced with an immediate dismemberment.
Dave lived and spent six weeks in the local hospital while his foot got to know his ankle again – We visited him often, us and his pals from Narrabeen and his football team from the same notorious suburb, The Narrabeen Tigers. A disreputable bunch of knuckle-nosed brawlers, surfers and heavy drinkers to a man. We would stand around his bed, draw the curtains, open the beers, light the smokes – and there we were back in the bar of the Antler just like magic. There were some nights when a heavy veil of spent smoke fogged up the entire ward and anyone who could get out of bed and join us from anywhere else in the ward was always welcome.
No one complained and the ward sister, an erect little woman with just a hint of humour in her eyes, would glare at us as we exited her kingdom well away on it and shouting farewells to good old dave the gimp – who didn’t mind a beer or five either. Known for it in fact.
She stopped me one night as I followed the others out and asked me aside for a minute, ‘ Would you mind not dumping your empty bottles in the ward waste bins please,’ she said, ‘ and tell your friends that there are plenty of garbage bins outside the hospital.’ A steely look, a half-smile, and then she was gone on her rounds.
About a year later I was visiting a friend and on the way out of the ward we met again – and I asked her why she had been so accommodating with our liberties when we visited dave, who by now was back on deck and being a nuisance in the water again – She gave me a tough little look and said that the only way the old lad would ever get back onto his feet again was to decide to do it himself. The injuries were so severe he was in danger of losing his lower foot entirely. Physiotherapy was not enough.
‘ He was drinking two bottles of beer every night you boys visited him you know, ‘ she said, ‘ and being the blockhead he was there was no way he was ever going to use the bedpan, too proud, so he had to get out of bed and struggle to the bathroom about six times a night. We would watch him through the curtains just in case he fell over. You didn’t know it but you saved his foot.’
The last time I had a few beers with dave he insisted on showing me a slide show of his foot as it healed – he had taken pics of the wound from day one to the end.
They were disgusting, and he was well pleased.