Opposable thumbs are among the characteristics separating the higher primates from other animals.

Bashable thumbs appear to be what distinguishes me from the higher primates.

Fortunately, my work requires use of thumbs for little else than manipulating the spacebar on my keyboard, and right now that is painful enough considering the nicks and bruises inflicted during the completion of a weekend project.

It should have been simple — a couple of cracks in a chair, one of six that came with a dining table my wife Mary bought last week.

Had I confined my weekend to safer pursuits, such as cliff-diving or stock-car racing, I might have been spared this incessant throbbing each time I hit the bar.

However, two days in the workshop with hammers and saws and other sharp implements took their toll.

The chair looked like an easy fix, just a few dabs of glue. But separating the seat from the back revealed four broken dowels that would require removal and replacement.

On-line furniture repair sources recommended using alcohol to soften the glue holding in the dowels, so I gave it a try.

But even after I finished the second bottle of beer, the dowels would not budge.

This is not working, I informed Mary.

Mary sighed. She gently nudged the rest of the six-pack out of reach and suggested a different approach.

You are going to drink the beer? I asked.

No, she said, her voice now tinged with a note of exasperation. You will use an eyedropper to apply isopropyl alcohol onto the glue joint, thereby weakening the glue bond.


The eyedropper, a drill and a couple of gouges worked on the dowels, but not before I gashed a deep nick in my left thumb.

I replaced the dowels, banged them home with a rubber mallet, and secured the whole thing with a couple of bar clamps. In the process I bruised my other thumb.

It hurts, I said, showing Mary the damage.

You will be fine. Just rinse it off, she said, averting her eyes. The sight of blood makes her queasy.

I am not so sure. I am always damaging my thumbs, I said. Did I ever tell you about the time ...

Wait a minute, she said. That really is a nasty cut. Let me go look for some antiseptic.

But it was too late ...

I was a young news photographer assigned to shoot a picture in a downtown Ironton business.

I parked my car at the curb and walked around to the passenger side to retrieve my camera bag.

I slung the bag over my shoulder, punched down the lock button and slammed the door. I felt a sharp pain in my right thumb and realized I could not walk away from the car.

I had slammed the door on my thumb. It was wedged tightly between the door and the jamb and already was starting to throb.

Yanking at the door handle was useless because it was locked.

Worse, the keys were snuggled deep in my right jeans pocket, forcing me to scrabble frantically with my left hand, contorting it to dig into the opposite-side pocket while at the same time attempting to keep my camera bag and cameras balanced on my shoulder.

At least it is not raining, I said to myself, an instant before the first drops fell on my head.

The rain was drumming on the car roof by the time I retrieved the key, opened the door and extricated my bleeding thumb.

And I still had a job to do. I rummaged through the car, found a paper napkin in a crumpled up hamburger bag, and wound it around the damaged digit.

The store had one of those bells over the entrance to alert the proprietor when customers entered. It turned out no bell was needed because my struggle had drawn an audience that watched in bemusement through the plate glass window.

Do you need anything? Soap and water? A bandage? they asked.

You are not going to bleed on the merchandise, are you? is what they really wanted to know. They did not ask, but I could see it in their eyes.

I will be fine, I said. I shot the photo and made my getaway with what little dignity I could muster. Which was not much.

... That must have been the most embarrassing incident in your career, Mary said.

It was pretty bad, I said. But I’ve done worse. There was that time I was shooting photos for a homes tour preview. I remember it well. It rained that day too. Puddles everywhere.

Did you forget your umbrella? Mary asked.

No. One of the homes was decorated in white on white, including the brand new carpet, I said.

I forgot to wipe my feet.

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