Near Hafford, Saskatchewan, 1997
Jay Griffin’s thigh tingled under the heavy, reeking poultice. He could not recall feeling this precise sensation before, despite having succumbed to his mother’s ministrations countless times during his reckless boyhood.
Bumps, bruises and broken bones. Cuts, scrapes and bloody gaping gashes. He couldn’t possibly count the number of times he had fallen off his bike, out of trees or onto the playground tarmac at school. Even he was amazed at being alive and more or less in one piece.
No matter the injury, Mom had a cure. Well, perhaps that was taking it a bit far: the busted arm and cracked rib required trips to the hospital for casting and taping. Usually, though, Mom whipped up some infection-killing, pain-reducing, fast-healing potion that actually worked. Immediately or fairly quickly, depending on the severity of his injury, he’d feel better.
Inevitably, he’d find another way to open his skin bag.
The tinctures and teas his mother forced him to ingest tasted like shit mixed with mould and a little sugar: unbelievably disgusting. Without fail, though, once he gagged them back, he would fall into a deep sleep and awaken energized, not to mention pain-free.
Her arsenal against Jay’s accidental owies also included these stinking, stinging poultices. She’d tuck him up in front of the television — or, if he’d also been bad, in bed — and apply the revolting things. There he was exhorted to stay until she declared the ordeal over.
This time was different. Oh, the poultice still stunk and stung, but this tingling thing — this was new. What the hell had she put in the bag this time? Was it safe? Was it melting the flesh from his bones?
Jay, for the very first time, peeked. Had she known, his mom would have killed him. She gave strict orders never to remove or even lift the poultice until it had completed its healing process. But Jay was fifteen now, and the realization that his mother was no ordinary human began to filter into his maturing brain. That said, he was also slightly less terrified of her. Being a teenager changes one’s capacity for following instructions.
It had also occurred to Jay that it might be time to modify the risk-taking behaviour. Maybe wearing a helmet while bike-riding wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Leaping off the roof could possibly be abandoned as an activity. Swinging from the backyard’s massive elm trees, tethered only by his sister’s cheap skipping rope, may not have been his best idea. Neither, possibly, was diving into the shallow slough out in the pasture.
And so, his brain beginning its struggle toward manhood, curiosity won over incurring the wrath of his mother.
The slash in his thigh this time came from a farming accident, not a wild desire to fly with the birds or swim with the fishes. A massive hook in the barn had swung down and across his leg, leaving a deep and profusely bleeding gash.
Which no longer gushed and was starting to close, just a little. Just an hour later.
Jay replaced the poultice and threw his head back onto the pillow. My mother, he thought, is either a witch or a fucking genius.
©J.C. Paulson February 2020 All rights reserved