A discerning person may have noticed that the boy running across the lawn that night was leaving a line of dark patches on the grass behind him. Each one a pulse of his arterial blood. His friend ran with him to the house, to the wide verandah and the lights up there. Crowded with party goers. The house was a long and low bungalow style home at the back of a line of large dunes that stretched up to Main Beach.
Boys and soft sand dunes, they go together like rum and coke.
A broken beer bottle had stabbed and slit the boy’s inner left foot all the way into the bones and tendons. Through the plantar artery. Then he ran.
Everybody came out of the house and being 1956 they bought their drinks and perfume with them, their cigarettes. This was a Surfers Paradise society event hosted by Tony McSweeney, the Sydney based horse trainer. The boy with the blood squirting out of the ragged hole in his foot was sat on the grass, a woman felt his forehead, somebody phoned for a doctor, one of the maids came out of the kitchen with a handful of clean towels. A man pressed them down onto the pulsing wound.
The boy said there was no pain, just a numbness and absolute fascination at seeing so much blood leave his body. How much more do I have, he asked. The doctor took twenty minutes to arrive. Plenty of time for a boy to bleed to death so one of the ladies came out of the kitchen with a large pepper-pot. Unscrewed. This she emptied into the pulsing lava hole before backing away, and the man pressed down again. Now there was pain.
A litter of bloody towels surrounded them, and he was paler on the grass. Quieter.
The doctor asked that they set him up on the dining table inside, after you clean it of all the silverware and china, crystal, vases with their orchids. Then all the chairs please. Then a bed-sheet on the varnished wood; the boy on the sheet. His wound hidden by another towel. Some of the party stayed in the room and watched. A little drink.
So much blood.
The doctor stitched the wound up very quickly. Eleven of them. He left the pepper in there.
The boy lived.
Two days later the doctor came around to the apartment where the family was staying and he asked to see the lad’s foot. He unwrapped the bandages and exposed the folly of his society dining-room surgery. The wound was hot, swollen and red and the first pustules of gangrene infection were visible all around the lower foot. There was the attendant smell.
He didn’t remove the stitches and clean the wound even then, this wasn’t done for another week.
So he asked for some towels and for an hour the doctor pressed and squeezed and eased and pushed all the pus he could summon out of the wound, squeezed it out through the stitches and puckered lips of the tightly closed gap. He came back and did this every day for three days.
The boy is 68 now and every time he bumps the stingray shaped scar on the inside of his foot it burns hot. A quarter of his foot remains numb.
There is a picture of this boy and his brother taken some years earlier, both of them walking towards the camera and smiling. Above them is Dr. Davies’ Caville Avenue shingle. I’m looking at the picture now.
Dr Davies: ex-Royal Navy, circa 1780 by any chance?
And is that your foot with the stingray scar, Pete?
I was the only kid allowed to wear desert boots to school .. They were the only boots that could fit over the bandages – so then we started to grow our hair long and stand on surfboards ..