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Notes of nostalgia: A dull hatchet and a bright friend

<p>They didn’t think their roads would lead to the same place, but the Kellers are happy they ended up together.</p>

They didn’t think their roads would lead to the same place, but the Kellers are happy they ended up together.

Some memories are so poignant that you’re able to recall specific details of the situation long after the event has passed. This series highlights the truly memorable moments of our writers' lives, those that have stuck with them for days, months and years and now take shape as stories on the page.


Laughing on the way to the hospital is a strange feeling. 

It’s a serious matter, sustaining an injury worthy of the ER, but I couldn’t help but smile. 

Maybe it was because I was relieved the cut wasn’t worse, or because I was trying to put my friend, Sean, at ease. But more than likely it was because I wasn’t the one with the bloody stump. 

It was Sean’s thumb dangling in a make-shift paper towel wrap on the road to surgery, not mine. 

The summer after my senior year of high school taught me a lot of things, and most of those “life-lessons” have faded away with their corresponding memories. But Sean cutting his thumb, well, you could say it cut a little deeper.  

We had just gotten off the water after a day of fly fishing in northern Michigan. Cold, hungry and annoyed at the fish for refusing to be caught, we started prepping dinner. No fresh trout tonight, just some skinless Oscar Meyers because Sean didn’t like the texture of a crisp hotdog. Un-American, if you ask me. 

I chopped firewood while Sean drained the wiener juice from the package. Dinner would have been right on time had he not insisted on breaking in his new toy. 

“I brought my hatchet,” Sean said. “I can help split the kindling.”

“Alright, sounds good,” I said, not thinking anything of it.

Chop. Twang. 

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The dry wood splintered to the dirt. 

Chop. Chop.

“Uhhh…” Sean said.

I glanced over to him. He had his back to me with his right arm at his side, hatchet dangling there, useless.

“I cut myself.”

He turned to me, holding his left hand up in front of his wide blue eyes. Blood dripped down through his palm and dropped to the earth, staining the grass red. 

I could see through him. Literally through his split thumb and into his eyes. He was scared. 

Sean’s a smart guy, University of Michigan chemical engineering smart. But when you hack into your own hand, that stuff goes out the window. 

Afraid he might bleed to death from a hand injury, we piled into his Mercury Mariner and sprayed dirt across the campground as we sped toward town.

I had wrapped his thumb in an arm’s length of paper towel that seemed to be stemming the bleeding. He squeezed it tight with his good right hand, not daring to take any chances.

Halfway through the 30-minute drive to the hospital, he had calmed down enough to talk about it. He said things like, “I’m such an idiot,” and I said things like, “It could have happened to anyone.”

He was going to be fine, we both knew that now. 

“It’s kinda funny,” I said.

“Yeah, maybe for you,” he said. But he was smiling.

“Lemme see it,” I said.

He showed me.

The cut was clean through his fingernail but not the entire digit. The tip of his thumb jutted out at an unnatural angle, clinging to his hand by the fingerprint alone.

“Damn, you’re an idiot,” I said. “But at least you still got the tip.”

We laughed. It’s a good thing that hatchet wasn’t too sharp.