On the top of my left hand, near the knuckle to the index finger, I carry a reminder of history.
The skin in the mark is thinner than what surrounds it. The shape is vaguely like a triangle. A faint bluish color is detectable just under the surface. If I press on it the triangle gives way; there is a crater underneath. It doesn’t hurt or feel weird. It’s just there, linking me to the past every day.
It’s my Paperboy Battle Scar.
In 1979 I delivered newspapers for the Seattle Times. My paper routes – numbers 30042 and 30032 – gave me between 80 and 100 delivery customers depending on the month and year. The Times was delivered in those days during the afternoon during the week, then mornings on Saturday and Sunday. That meant I was out very early on weekend mornings, typically after 4:00am but sometimes before.
One dark Sunday morning, probably in the Spring, I went to drop a paper on an equally dark porch…when I heard a low growl. I stopped in my tracks. There was no animal within site of the porch, yet the growl continued. Then, fast as lightening a large dog began barking and bolted out of the open front door towards me. I said one thing: “WHOA!!” while putting out my left hand instinctively as an attempt to fend off the attack. It didn’t help; the dog bit down and through my hand.
Oddly, after that, he stopped barking and sat down. I stood there shaking, while trying to talk calmly to the dog out of fear that he would jump again. There was blood everywhere, dripping down my hand and onto the sidewalk. I heard some sounds at the porch and a light came on.
“What’s going on out here?” the homeowner asked.
“Your dog bit me.”
“And who the hell are you??”
“I’m your paperboy.”
They pulled me inside and cleaned up the wound in their kitchen. I recall the woman running water over my hand for the longest time, eventually wrapping it in bandages. “He’s never done that before,” is what they said several times. I didn’t believe them. I still don’t when I think about the incident now. They eventually sent me on my way.
I don’t remember finishing the paper route that morning.
I delivered my last paper just as the world was lighting up. That weekend my Dad was out of town. I quietly walked into my parents’ bedroom and asked my Mom what I should do if a dog bit my hand. Within minutes we were on our way to the emergency room at Stevens Medical Center in Edmonds WA, where they sewed me up with three or four stitches. I recall that getting the stitches hurt more than getting bit. Some time later our general practitioner took them out.
I never saw that dog again. The homeowners canceled the paper delivery. They would not answer the door or respond to the mail when my Dad tried to present them with the ER Bill. I have no idea why their front door was open at 4:00am. Today – thirty-plus years later – I’m still skiddish around large dogs.
And I’ve had the scar ever since.