“GET SOME ICE!!!!!!”
“Huh?” I said. I was dazed. I couldn’t feel my hand. I looked at it and I couldn’t really see it either. It was very hard to think. “I’m okay,” I said.
“I don’t think so, Elsa. Jesus, get some ice.”
“I don’t need any ice, it’s okay.”
He grabbed me by my other arm and took me into the store, yelling for ice. The store was packed with people, it was lunch hour.
“Crap,” I thought. The store was one of my accounts and he was making a scene. The manager of this store was cranky as it was and it was important not to make waves.
The Capricorn pushed people out of the way saying it was an emergency and I felt embarrassed. He grabbed a cup from the fountain and I thought double crap because I knew they inventoried the cups and I needed to pay $1.38 or else.
I looked over and saw the manager glaring. Oh brother, what a piece of work. 3 years I’d done right by her and she was still waiting for me to be revealed as a lowlife you can’t turn your back on. I felt embarrassed for her, and also for myself. I really didn’t think there was a big problem. I didn’t want to be a problem and now look.
I grabbed the cup of ice but it was not so good to get my hand into so he added water and I dunked my hand into the cup. I told him again that I was okay. I knew he had to get back to work, and for that matter so did I. Since he was the only person that saw what happened, if figured if I could get rid of him, I’d be free to go. I was just a little deluded.
I reached into the pocket of my jeans with the fingers of my left hand and pay for the cup. The Capricorn was incredulous. He knew this was my store and they knew me. This is where I’d met him as a matter of fact. I was telling jokes in the store one day at lunch time, he was in there buying his Doritios, I made him laugh and we started to chat.
“They’re going to charge you for ice?” he asked.
“They have to, this is their cup. I said. “It’s how they inventory,” I added.
“But you’re hurt.”
I shook my head and laughed. They don’t care about that. They need $1.38 for the cup, believe me.
Very calm, my hand plunged into my paid for cup of ice water, we walked back outside and I assured the Capricorn that I was okay.
“I don’t know Elsa. I think you should go to the hospital. I’ll take you right now. That’s a bad burn, a serious burn.”
“It’s okay. It’s not that bad. Thanks though.”
“You really need someone to look at it.”
“I will, I will,” I lied.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go to the hospital? Do you know how hot that was?”
“It was hot. I’m okay. Thanks.”
“How long did you touch it?” he asked.
“Not long. I’m okay.”
He argued some more but I stood firm and he left. He said he’d call me later and make sure I was okay. “Keep ice on that.”
I reassured I was fine and watched him drive off.
Now. What to do?
I pulled my hand out of the cup to inspect it. The palm of my hand was dry and yellowish and rough. It had grooves on it. Deep grooves. It looks like a burn. Yeah. It looked just like a burn. Hmmm. I could feel it and it hurt some but not horribly bad. Should I really go to a hospital? Was he serious? I was deep in denial.
I thought about it and opted not. I thought it was overkill and besides that I had work to do. I didn’t think I had time to indulge myself. I decided to go back in the store, get a handful of ice and drive to my next store. By then it will probably be better, right? I hoped so. If not, I’d get some more ice. This is my plan.
I was in and out of the store and back in my truck with a fistful of ice. The cup was gone, it had fallen apart. The cup was flimsy and did do not hold up with a big hand being shoved in it but oh well. The burn was on my palm so holding ice in my hand worked. I climbed into my truck.
Right hand compromised, there was a problem shifting the standard transmission. I almost gave up this idea, but decided I didn’t give a damn about problems and I wrestled the thing into 2nd gear with my left hand, wheeled around in a wide arc and got back on the highway.
It wasn’t easy. In fact, it is remarkably difficult. I had an over-sized truck. 21 foot, as I recall, with no power steering. I’d never noticed before how hard it was to turn the wheel, but so what. I was rolling now. I held the wheel with my right elbow, shifted with my left hand and made it into 4th gear. The next store was only 6 miles away but things very swiftly went bleak and from there they plummeted.
The ice melted in two blinks, and my hand began to throb. The level of pain escalated rapidly. That’s an understatement. Fire and alarm are two words that belong together. It was alarming, the fire in my hand, and that is exactly what it felt like now that I could feel it. The pain was out of this world. It was so damned bad it boggled my mind. I couldn’t believe it was real. I still didn’t exactly know that I needed a doctor, but I did know I needed some ice, NOW.
I hadn’t gotten very far. Back to Circle K was shorter than heading for the store ahead, but guess what? I didn’t think I could turn the truck around on the rural highway with one hand. It was two lane highway, and there was not much of a shoulder before it dropped off. Two hands, I could do it, but with just my left I was afraid to try. I could see myself stuck sideways on the highway, and by the way the pain in my hand was getting worse and worse and worse and worse.
Crying now, I mean sobbing, left hand on the wheel, I extended my burned hand away from my body, and shook it as hard as I could. I shook it with immense force. To dissociate?
If my hand is over —–> there, it doesn’t hurt as bad.
Is this right?
Why shake it?
I didn’t know.
Maybe I thought it would cool it off or send blood. Best case scenario, my hand would fly off the end of my arm because I’m not kidding, it hurt that bad.
The accelerator was to the floor. I was hyperventilating and I screamed for the release. I mean, I really screamed. The scream felt better in my ears than the pain that was exploding in my head. I’d never felt such intensely focused pain in my life. I didn’t know that anything could hurt this bad, that was my conscious thought.
By the time I pulled into the dirt parking lot of the store, I was nothing less than crazed. The truck stopped with a jolt, I killed the engine in 4th gear, to hell with that shifting routine. I flew off the truck, and tore in through the front door. I remember hearing the bells attached to the top of the door ring, signaling to the owner that someone was in the store.
With my mind on ice, and knowing there was an ice machine in the storeroom in the back of the store, I made a beeline there with my head down, colliding with the owner of the store coming out from the back to see who’d come in. The top of my head hit him square in the chest. I almost knocked him over and I saw him flare. He almost hit me out of reflex, and I ducked back, out of same. Our eyes locked and I could see he was a Vietnam vet. This knowledge came into my head and startled me because I didn’t know how I knew that, but I put it out of my mind and went barreling past him for the ice, holding my breath and unable to talk.
I pulled up the lid of the ice machine up, lay my arm down on top the ice inside of it and quickly bury it with my left hand. I was sobbing, heaving and totally hysterical. Arm covered in ice, I turned around to see the store owner standing in the doorway. He had no idea what to do and that’s okay, either did I.
Skip to Part 4 – The Corner Store