Closet cleaning is boring, but I have to do it at least every two months or my mother flips out. She just doesn't understand that the things I find at the beach are important specimens for my collection. All she sees are boxes of junk. I don't think she was ever nine years old.
Mom and my sister are out shopping, Uncle Jake is out with his girlfriend. Dad is reading the newspaper in his favourite chair with his feet up.
As I sort through the clothes and line them up like Mom likes them, I get a cramp in my belly. Too much ice cream, too many raisin cookies. Another cramp comes and makes me double over in pain, way too many raisins! I run for the bathroom.
My body has broken out in a cold clammy sweat, I'm doubled over in pain, I notice I've messed up my underwear.
"Oh, God, it's not poo, it's blood," I say to myself.
I start wiping myself and see more blood on my legs, the toilet is full of blood. I'm dying. It's cancer of the colon like my great uncle had. Nine year olds aren't supposed to get cancer of the colon. I start crying, then I scream.
"Daddy! Come quick! I think I'm dying, Daddy!"
He flings the bathroom door open, the newspaper still in his hand, his face turns white as he takes in the scene before him. His little girl half naked covered in blood, blood on the floor, the bloody toilet.
"Poppi, what the hell happened?", he grabs a towel and starts wiping me down trying to figure out where all this blood is coming from, "did you leave your pocketknife open, sit on scissors, another damn fish hook?"
"No, Daddy, I think it's colon cancer, I'm in a lot of pain."
Dad always carries a pocket flashlight, he looks around for a stab wound, shining the light around my legs, up my bum, in my pee hole. Blood is pouring out on his hands. Tears are leaking out of the corner of his eyes.
"I can't tell where you're hurt, Poppi, there's too much blood!"
"IT"S CANCER, DADDY, HEMO- RAGE-EEE-A-CALOL CANCER!"
"POPPI, SHUT UP! Don't even think that word!"
He shoves a towel between my legs and tells me to squeeze like I'm riding a horse bareback.
"Don't move a muscle I'll be right back, stay just like that."
I hear him open the tool box in the kitchen, then he rushes back in the bathroom with a big roll of gray tape and starts winding it around my hips and legs. I look like half a gray mummy. Daddy looks like a murderer all bloodied on his hands and shirt. Streaks of blood on his face where he tried to wipe away his tears.
"It's a pressure dressing, to stop the bleeding, you have so much junk in your closet, who knows what you stabbed yourself with, rusted longline hooks, rebar, you're a little pack rat, kid. This is not the first time you've sat on something, nails, tacks, bees. " says Dad as he wraps me up in my robe and a blanket and carries me out to the truck.
Jake and his girlfriend are walking up the path.
"What the hell did she do now?" Jake calls out running over to the truck.
"She sat on something and stabbed herself again, the bathroom looks like a crime scene."
"I'll take care of it," says Jake shaking his head.
Daddy carries me into the emergency department yelling for help. A nurse comes over with a gurney and wheels me into the back asking Daddy all kinds of questions about my shots, are they up to date. She peels back the blanket, unties my robe and starts screaming at my Dad.
"Why is this child wrapped up in shipping tape? This is insane! This is child abuse, you barbarian!"
"It's a pressure dressing, I think she hit an artery this time, you should see our bathroom, looks like a murder scene out of a movie."
"You cannot wrap your child up in tape.There are child cruelty laws you know."
" There's also laws against letting a child bleed to death in the hospital! It's not just tape, there's a towel underneath to catch the blood, now quit bitching at me and get the damn doctor!"
"I have to take this tape off, it's hurting her."
"Don't touch that damn tape, nurse! That tape is the only thing stopping her from bleeding to death, GET THE DAMN DOCTOR!" Dad yells at her.
"I'm okay, I look like a mummy it's kind of cool, and I'm not bleeding anymore, Dad did a good job. I have cancer of the colon, just like great uncle, lots of poo and blood and pain."
The nurse storms off muttering under her breath about barbarians.
The doctor comes in to check me. I know him well. He took a big nail out of my foot last month. Uncle Jake told him I was playing Jesus and tried to crucify myself. I was trying to make a bird house.
"Hi, Poppi, you know, you can just stop in to say hi, you don't have to stab yourself to see me. Very nice pressure dressing. I'm going to leave that on while I start an IV in your arm and check your blood type, then we'll take an xray,okay?
He hooks me up to the IV as I explain what happened, the cramps and everything. The doctor takes me to the xray room himself and tells the man to look for anything unusual. The xray man laughs and calls me the radioactive kid.
We go back to the cubicle with the green curtains. The doctor says I am metal free, no nails or fishhooks. He says something to Dad about my hips having growth plates and my height. Then very slowly he unwraps Dad's mummy dressing. A different nurses helps and washes me off as the doctor checks me over. Dad sits by my head and holds my hand. He looks better now that he's washed all the blood off and he's wearing a doctor shirt. The doctor says he has to put swabs inside to check for more blood. Then he asks Dad if Mom has had a talk with me about the "Monthly Periods". Dad tells him I'm too young for that.
The doctor finishes his exam and says:
"Good news, Poppi, you didn't stab yourself in the butt again and you don't have colon cancer. You are menstruating. It's a little early, but it's perfectly natural, nothing to be alarmed about. It's something your body will do every month to prepare for child birth when you grow up."
"I'm going to bleed to death and get wrapped up in tape every month, forget it, I don't want it, make it go away. I don't want kids, I want an elephant, an airplane and I want to go to Tibet. Stitch it up or something."
"Nurse Elisabeth will explain it all to you, it won't be as dramatic as this time. You're Dad was overwhelmed because you're so young and you do have a history of needing stitches. I was actually surprised when we xrayed you and didn't see a fish hook in your hip or thigh or a severed femoral artery. You'll be fine."
Nurse Elisabeth gives me a lesson on the FACTS OF MENSTRUATION which includes a book with pictures of guts, some pads and a calender. She shows me how to mark the calender to keep track of the days of THE PERIOD. I ask if it's the same as the curse, she laughs and says yes, but it's not a curse a fairy godmother can remove. She shows me where the femoral artery is and how scary it is if it's cut, she says my Dad's pretty smart at bandages. I agree with her, he is very smart.
Dad's quiet on the way home. He's making his thinking face.
"I'm sorry,Poppi, you had to go through all that. Your Mom and I never figured this would happen at nine, it's more of a teenager thing."
"It's okay, Daddy, now I know who to go to if my femoral artery gets severed. This period stuff is gross, I want it all taken out, like they take out appendixes. The doctor was pretty impressed with your bandage."
"You want anything from the store? Besides a hysterectomy?"he asks pulling into the market.
"Yeah, but I can't go in like this, Daddy. The nice nurse says these are the good kind of pads, they have pink flowers on the box, and I have to eat chocolate ice cream and candy, she says it's very important and I have to take a half of one of those period pills they come in a pink box too. You don't mind, Daddy, it's girly stuff?" I hand him the note the nice nurse wrote on pretty blue paper.
"I don't mind, Poppi, it's part of the Dad job description"