A Cautionary Tale for the Fair-Skinned

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

As we head into another hot Aussie summer, this is a cautionary and hopefully mildly amusing tale about a young man's health concerns.

It was 1981. A typically hot Aussie summer's day in the Western Suburbs of Sydney.
 
I was 14. Short, slim, pimply and, as today, fair-skinned or perhaps more accurately, “pasty”.
 
And this is my cautionary tale.
 
************** 
 
I remember it was a Saturday. I woke and lay in bed for a while, as teenagers do. 
 
I eventually emerged, stumbled to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Then looked closer. A brown spot. Right in the middle of my nose. Small but noticeable. Not a pimple or a freckle. I’d had enough of those to know the difference. This was something else.
 
A few months before this particular Saturday, one of my older sisters, fair-skinned like me, had a spot. Went to get it checked out. Was in hospital the next day having it cut from her face, leaving her with a significant 5cm graft. My Dad had also had a history of skin problems.
 
Time for caution.
 
I was instantly concerned, anxious, so I did what all confident, independent young men do in times of trouble. I called for my Mum.
 
“You’d best go see Dr Parker” she said. “She should be open now”.
 
I pushed down a bit of breakfast, grabbed my scooter and hot-footed it around the corner to her office, which was in the front room of her house.
 
Now let me tell you, Dr Parker was one weird lady. Wacky we used to say. But we had a large family and somehow we didn’t have to pay anything when we went there, so she was always our first choice for medical services.
 
Dr Parker was about 40 years of age at the time. Single and on her own as far as I could tell. Regardless, she was working and living in what seemed to be a full brick mansion to us local kids, at least compared to the single-level fibro homes that made up the rest of our known universe. 
 
But the mansion was incomplete, as if she’d run out of money or energy to keep it going, or she’d all of a sudden realised she didn’t need all that space. It had a half-built third floor, with concrete stairs leading nowhere, rooms with walls and doors missing, and a brick fence enclosing just half of the yard.
 
Time for caution.
 
I took a seat in the sparse waiting room. A few chairs, a couple of tacky art prints, the obligatory 10 year old magazines. There was no receptionist on duty and no other patients. 
 
I was alone, anxious, fidgeting, with more questions than answers. What was this brown spot upon my nose? What would happen? Should I be prepared for the worst? A life to be tragically cut short? Or worse… a nose to be cut off?
 
Dr Parker called me in. I tentatively pointed to the offending spot. She stared at me in that disarming way she always did. She came closer, examining every pore of my nose. Poking, prodding, asking questions.
 
“Wait here” she said, before exiting the room, leaving the door halfway open. I could see her in the hall, through the gap in the door. She grabbed an enormous book off a shelf. She flicked through it, pausing, then flicked through again. Finally, selecting a page and resting with hand on her chin, thoughtful.
 
After what seemed an eternity, she returned. She sat down, looked right into my 14 year old eyes. “You’ve got cancer”, she said.
 
My mind turned to mush. She said more, but the only other thing I heard was “Come back in 3 weeks”.
 
I didn’t know what to do. I picked up my scooter, pushed my way home in a fog of tears.
 
I raced inside to Mum, standing at her usual post in the kitchen. “I’ve got cancer”, I blurted and blathered.
 
She held me close, calmed and settled me down. “I’ll get you in to see Dr Scott” she said. He was another local doctor, expensive, but more experienced than Wacky Dr Parker and he’d helped Dad with his skin issues.
 
Time for caution
 
Dr Scott managed to find a gap in his schedule. He poked at my nose, he prodded, then he nodded. I took comfort in the fact that he didn’t feel the need to consult any books.
 
“We can sort that out for you” he said, explaining that he’d burn the spot off with dry ice “and that would be that”. I know that Dad had had it done plenty of times and he’d survived, so while nervous and anxious I was at least happy that it appeared I was going to escape with my life and nose more-or-less intact.
 
“It will sting a bit” he said, “and you’ll get a blister but it will heal in a few weeks”.
 
He cradled my chin, and using a sort of gun-shaped instrument, burned the offending spot. 
 
BZZZZT BZZZZT
 
It did indeed sting, A LOT. "But I’m getting rid of the cancer” I told myself, and pushed through the pain.
 
I got home and went straight to the mirror. I looked closely, then closer again. While I could see most of it had been burnt off, I could still see a bit of the spot creeping beyond the burnt edge.
 
“I’ve still got cancer!” I said to myself. I had to get rid of it. I just couldn’t deal with the uncertainty of it. I needed it resolved today.
 
Time for caution
 
Mum somehow managed to get me one of Dr Scott’s last appointments for the day. 
 
“What’s the problem this time!?” asked Dr Scott, surprised to see me again so soon, and clearly irritated and impatient after a long day.
 
I looked at him, then pointed to my nose. “I think you missed a bit”, I said.
 
I look back at it know, and with the benefit of hindsight, realise this was not the right thing to say. 
 
Here I was, all of 14 years old, wearing thongs, a t-shirt and stubbies shorts, and using a scooter as my main form of transport, telling this eminent doctor with 40 plus years of experience that he’d missed a bit.
 
He moved quickly, grabbing the nitrogen gun, virtually lifting me out of my chair and pushing me against the wall. He fired up the gun, moved it quickly and forcefully toward my nose.
 
BZZZT BZZZZZT BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZT
 
He released me from his grip. I was shocked, bewildered, my nose on fire. A blister the size of Uluru was forming before my tear-filled eyes. 
 
“That should do it” he said, as he quickly ushered me out of the room.
 
I’m sure a saw a wry grin on his face as he shut the door behind me.
 
******************* 
 
So that, my friends is my story. A cautionary tale, particularly for the fair-skinned, as we head into another hot Aussie summer. 
 
Slip slop slap. 
 
Keep an eye out for spots. 
 
Get them checked out and, above all, be sure to choose your doctor wisely.


Submitted: October 17, 2021

© Copyright 2021 GregM28. All rights reserved.

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