FIC editorial comment

There is nothing more captivating than pain. Other people’s pain. I’d be happy to tell you why, but the guy at the next table is explaining the time he drilled a hole in his palm.

Shh.

I’m not talking about the big stuff. I’m talking about fishhook-in-the-ear, hatchet-through-the-toe, eyebrow-singeing pain. The things that cause people to shake heads and cover mouths; not in shock, but to hide that nasty, lip-curling grin creeping over their face. They don’t ask it to; it just does.

Three weeks back, I stepped on what felt like the longest, sharpest piece of metal ever machined. It struck unseen, a ten-penny ninja. What it was doing in my carpet, I don’t know. Perhaps it was resting after the journey from the fiery cauldrons of Hades that spawned it.

The girlfriend came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel.

“Did someone kill a cat?”

“That was me.”

You can actually see respect vanish right before your eyes. I made a mental note to do something manly in the near future.

After a brief interpretive dance titled “Ow, Mommy, it hurts,” I hobbled to the couch, collapsing in wounded-warrior fashion. The girlfriend came closer.

“Does it hurt?”

“What do you think?”

“Don’t bleed on the cushions.” It’s not a new relationship.

During the National Installation Competition at Surfaces 2000, a competitor nearly separated himself from one of his fingers. The clock was ticking, so he did what any installer would do; wrapped it, taped it, and got on with the job.

I’ve shaken the hands, noticed the limps, observed the scars; there’s no segment of the floor covering industry more demanding than installation. This isn’t the nick-and-cut set; think punctured kneecaps, torn ligaments, arthroscopic surgeries, bulging discs, swimming cartilage. A tougher, more dedicated group you will never meet.

Between whimpers, I watched her scrutinize the floor, then reach down and pluck something up from between the fibers, frowning.

I sat up, mentally filing suit against the boat captain who had misplaced his harpoon.

“Whale spike?”

“Thumbtack.”

“Ah.”

She tossed the offending fastener onto the coffee table and walked back to the kitchen. I leaned back against the pillows, lacing my fingers behind my head, nodding slightly. Thumbtack.

Perhaps I’ll invest in slippers.