SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
November 7, 2010

The Unspeakable Bump

 

If I were to guess I’d say it started six or seven years ago, but I can’t be sure about that as I wasn’t paying close attention. Whenever it was, one day while idly feeling around up there I discovered an eyeball-sized cyst had cropped up on my skull. It was perched up there on the upper right side of my head, toward the back. Being prone to cysts and other such odd fleshy eruptions, I didn’t let it bother me much. I’d had cysts on nearly every part of my body prior to this. I’d even had others on my head before, though never anything quite this big. This one had possibilities.

            Given the size and shape, I initially presumed it really was an eyeball, right there under the skin. Undoubtedly one with perfect vision to boot. Problem was the lids remained sealed, leaving this third eyeball as blind and useless as the other two.

Another possibility was that it was my own personal manitou—the earthly reincarnation of an evil Indian deity, just waiting for the opportunity to burst out of my head and destroy the world. Seemed kind of small for a manitou, but maybe it was still in the developmental stages.

In any case, as the years passed I grew rather fond of my Bump. It was a strange and twisted comfort, having it up there. It wasn’t painful, it wasn’t growing, it caused no real trouble. It was just a big, soft extension of my head. It was King of the Bumps.

            I always got a little chuckle every time I went to get a haircut. When the barber encountered the Bump he always stopped, palpated it briefly, said nothing about it and continued on.

            It was ridiculous—I was coming to resemble a cartoon character who’d been hit with a hammer.

            Well, then a few weeks ago things started to change. My Bump began to grow a conjoined twin. Or maybe it was an arm, I’m not sure. It was in any case an extension of the Bump—smaller than the original but connected to it. Troublesome thing about Bump II was that unlike the original it was painful. I began to consider what kind of terrible medical condition this might portend. Abscesses, infections—or maybe it was just the next stage in my manitou’s evolution.

            Meanwhile, two other unnerving and unpleasant things were happening to my flesh.

            A rash of small, hard pustules erupted across the top of my chest, from shoulder to shoulder. Again they weren’t painful, they were just there and . . . odd.

            The other thing was the smell. In the midst of the heat this past summer (and me without air conditioning), I noticed a change in the nature of my sweat. It smelled different than it used to. It reminded me of celery salt if you could transfer the taste into an odor. But it was a hot summer, so I didn’t let it bother me much. We were all sweaty.

            It didn’t become a problem until these past few weeks. Even as the temperature and the humidity levels both dropped, the smell wasn’t going away. In fact it was becoming stronger. I showered twice a day and put on deodorant, but nothing helped. It wouldn’t go away. Now if I had to describe the odor, I’d say it reminded me of metallic bread. The stink was so intense it was starting to make me woozy, yet there was no escaping it. I wondered if maybe spending so much time as a shut-in was leaving me smelling like a homeless person or one of those really fat guys.

            While all this was going on, Bump II continued to grow, and continued to hurt. I had to take pains to avoid touching it. I changed my sleeping patterns , and was careful not to scrub it too hard while showering.

            Then one day the point at which Bump I and Bump II were conjoined began to leak. “Ooze” might be a more appropriate verb. That couldn’t be very good, I thought—when something that hurts starts to ooze? No, definitely not a good sign. The time had finally come, I decided. The Bump had to go.

            Doctors want money, so going to see one of those was out of the question. Besides, I’d been through a professional surgical cyst removal in the past—eight office visits, an entire day in the hospital, general anesthesia. Never again. Why bother with all that anyway, given that I was a seasoned and confident home surgeon?

Only problem was I’d promised Morgan I would stop doing such things. There’d been no infections, no ill after-effects, but she insisted I’d just been lucky.

            Up to this point home surgery wasn’t even an issue with the Bump. I liked the Bump and didn’t want anything untoward happening to it.

            These were different circumstances however, and I want to go on record stating that I did not instigate the situation. It was there already, all oozy and painful and causing problems. So without going into the sordid, yucky details, let’s just say I assisted in the completion of what was apparently a natural process.

It took about three days of assisting on my part before I was finally able to extract the core in one final victorious burst. It neither screamed nor tried to run away. After washing my hands, I swabbed out the exit wound with alcohol and antibiotics. A few days later, everything seems fine apart from the fact that I’m having trouble remembering my multiplication tables.

            Although losing the Bump has left me a little melancholy, I once again can boast an almost normally-shaped skull. For whatever that’s worth.

            Now here’s the really weird thing. By the following day all those hard pustules across my chest had vanished without a trace. They were just gone. And the day after that the awful stench had left me, too.

            It all leaves me wondering if perhaps I really had performed a late term abortion on the world’s smallest manitou, and that once he’d been dispatched back to the spirit world, he took all his extraneous evil magic with him.

            It’s the best, most logical explanation I can think of at the moment.

 

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