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James R. Stout

Evil Meets Jerry, Karl, and Jimmy

            It was the first week of summer vacation 1971. I was 15-years-old and I was looking forward to a great summer. My oldest sister invited me to come and stay with her and her husband in Huntsville, Texas that week. I knew that starting the second week of June I would be taking driver’s education classes everyday for 3 weeks and that I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere during that time period. So, I was happy to go stay with them. I think my mother was happy as well because she was getting ready for my other sister’s wedding that was coming up in August. Apparently, there is a lot of planning and preparation for such things and to have me out of the way for a week was likely a relief. I must admit I wasn’t in the least bit hurt by this. I knew that I would get away with a ton of stuff at my sister’s that I would never get away with at home!

            The week started out pretty well. I hung out with Barbara, 6 years older than me, and she let me drive her car around the neighborhood with her sitting in the front passenger seat. That was cool. They were both still in college and living in a mobile home near the Sam Houston State University campus. They didn’t have a washer or dryer, so I would go along and be her beast of burden. We watched a couple of movies at a nearby drive-in and we generally just hung out. They came and picked me up on a Sunday afternoon and the plan was for them to bring me back home the following Sunday.

            On Friday morning I woke up and felt weird. I was dizzy and I kept walking into things. I didn’t tell Barbara about it until that afternoon. She figured it was just some minor little thing and that I would be fine the next day. Then that night I had a nose bleed. And I do mean a NOSE BLEED. I laid on the couch with a wet washcloth to my nose and waited and waited and waited for it to stop. Finally, it did stop.

            Now, you would think given those events my brother-in-law would not even consider the two of us going and doing something that would jostle you around a lot. You would think. But the next morning he said he had a surprise for me. So, we got in his car and drove to a nearby go-cart track. I had never ridden a go-cart, but even with my dizziness I was more than willing to give it a try. What transpired over the next 30 minutes was nothing short of an outtake from a Jerry Lewis movie. Felix paid for our tickets and then our turn to go came. The track ran through a bunch of woods and through a field and the entire track was roped off with poles set into old tires and between the poles those multi-colored plastic flags were strung. Felix was ahead of me. I was already very dizzy and then taking off on that go-cart just sent me into a full-blown spastic wonder. I ended up taking out (as in running over and demolishing) about half the poles, tearing the flags off and somehow getting them snagged up in the rear wheels of my go-cart causing them to trail behind me, whipping the air with mad abandon, and came to a screaming halt after nearly running over several stunned bystanders. Then, as I sat there turning red from embarrassment, I realized that I couldn’t get out of the go-cart any other way than to fall out onto my knees and it was only through the kindness of a stranger who helped me to stand up, weaving like a drunk sailor. I looked around for Felix and finally saw him walking away towards the car shaking his head and mumbling. He didn’t speak a word to me all the way to their home.

            When we got to their home I stumbled inside, and Barbara asked how it went. Felix just shook his head and said he was going to get something at the store. I collapsed on the couch. That’s when my nose started to bleed again. After about an hour it finally stopped, but I felt like it could start again at any moment. I was still dizzy and by this time Barbara started to get worried. So, she called Mom and Dad and they said that they would come up and get me. I laid on the couch and slept until they got there around 5 p.m.

            We got my suitcase and I got into the back of the 1967 Ford Galaxie 500 and laid down. I could hear Mom and Dad talking, but I was really feeling completely out of it. About half of the way home I was laying there, and I suddenly screamed which made Dad swerve the car which made Mom scream. Dad pulled over and ask me what on Earth was the problem. All I could tell them was there had been a loud noise in my head that sounded like when you dropped a guitar amplifier that has a spring reverb unit in it, and it twangs loudly. Looking back on it now, they must have thought I was losing my mind.

            Well, we got home, and I went straight to bed. I ended up having several nosebleeds during the night, but short in duration. The next morning, I thought I was feeling better. I didn’t feel quite as dizzy, but my ear hurt. Then around noon the big gusher came. Old Spindletop would have been proud. It was a nosebleed of epic proportions. Mom was worried and told Dad to take me to the emergency room. We got to the ER and after waiting a few minutes I was taken into an examining room and a doctor came in to check me out. What we found out was that there were two things, not related to each other, that had happened. First, a vein in my nose had ruptured for no apparent reason. Second, I had a really bad ear infection. He gave me a shot of penicillin for the ear infection and then he said that he could only do a temporary fix on the vein in my nose and that I would need to go to my regular doctor the next day and have the vein cauterized. The temporary solution was probably the worst part of the entire ordeal. I kid you not.

            Like most 15-year-old boys I was sensitive to how I looked. I was still at the tail end of my “awkward” stage. Little did I know that there would be an “awkward” stage when I got into my 60’s, but that’s another story. The temporary fix? He took a roll of gauze and started to stuff it up inside the offending nostril. He was applying what I think was Vaseline as he stuffed my nose. It was quite possibly the most disgusting thing that I can recall ever having crammed inside my nose. Crayons didn’t come close. Not even snot. When he finished. I looked in the mirror in the examining room and nearly started to cry. I felt like I could have given the actor Karl Malden a run for the money in “The Ugliest Nose In History” contest. I seriously wanted a bag to wear over my head to go home.

            That afternoon I was inconsolable. I stayed in my room and didn’t come out until I finally got hungry enough to get something to eat in the kitchen. I tiptoed down the hallway, hoping I wouldn’t be seen by my other sister Debbie because that could only mean laughter at my pathetic appearance, and just as I walked into the kitchen who should be standing there? No, not Debbie. But instead it was her really good-looking friend Brenda, who I had a crush on, looking at me with what I have all these years felt must have been the way Beauty looked at the Beast (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). That’s when I did the only thing that I could do. The only thing that my personality has ever been able to do. I made a joke out of the situation. I looked at her, with those big blue eyes looking back at me, and I turned my head slightly to one side and scrunched up my proboscis and while doing my best Jimmy Durante impression I said, “Ha-chi-chi-cha”! She laughed, I laughed, and then she gave me a big hug. It was all worth it.

            The next day Dad took me to the doctor’s office and the poor nurse had to extract that role of gooey gauze from my nose. The doctor came in and had some little instrument that he stuck up my nose and for about a second it hurt and then it didn’t. I worried for a week that my nose would stay misshapen, but such was not the case. I can’t tell you that I have always made the best of everything, but I did that time and I learned that it’s really the best way to handle things. You might say that there’s just no use in getting your nose out of joint.

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