It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding by Hawkeye Pete Egan B.
Five of us were out on Keystone Lake in Western Pennsylvania, in a couple of canoes, rowing around, enjoying the late June day, the sunshine, and the fresh air. We lived in Pittsburgh, where you didn’t see the sun very often, between the weather and the smog. Back then, it was still very much a steel mill town, with the mills belching black smoke and soot into the air day and night, causing it to always be overcast. It never bothered me much, as I really didn’t know any better.
I did appreciate days like this where we got a break from it, and got to enjoy some nice sunshine and fresh air. I was 14 that summer, my last straight summer, still hanging with the jock crowd, still desperately trying to fit in with them, a futile effort that I would finally surrender the following year. They liked having me around, as I was their favorite scapegoat. I really wanted to be friends with them, but they just liked to put me down and beat on me, and I let them. I didn’t want to be lonely, and I was bound and determined to turn myself into an athlete. I played down to my assigned role in the group, playing the clown and the idiot, and of course, they nearly had me convinced that I was an idiot. They had kind of beat it into me for four years, and I was beginning to believe it.
All that said, I did notice that girls seemed to be becoming attracted to me more, recently. All that effort was beginning to pay off, and I was in good shape, and turning into a handsome, young man. I had no idea what to do with a girl, but it was gratifying to know that, despite what these guys were always telling me, I wasn’t a complete loser, at least not in the eyes of the girls who seemed to be starting to notice me. I could tell. These guys were totally straight, their only drug was sports, and that’s all we ever did or talked about. It was nearly a religion for us. If I recall, Richie’s dad had dropped us off at the lake, and was going to come back for us later in the day. We were pretty much on our own.
Another boat rowed by us, about 50 feet away, with some older guys, clearly having a good time, smoking and drinking beers. They waved to us, and one of them yelled, “Hey, you guys want some beer?” We waved back and said, “No, thanks”, and kept on rowing. I was manning the paddle on one side of the canoe, with my bare leg up against the metal side.
We never saw it coming, until that full, capped bottle of beer flying through the air landed right where my leg was up against the side of the canoe, and it exploded right on my left leg, leaving three very deep, long gashes from just above my knee right up to the top of my thigh, and there was suddenly blood and beer everywhere, and my right wrist also had a deep gash cutting straight across it, apparently from the top of the bottle shooting across as it exploded on my leg.
The other guys immediately started rowing furiously towards the shore, to get help for me. Meanwhile, the older guys were rowing as equally furiously in the opposite direction, towards the shore on the other side of the lake. They were beating it the hell out of there.
I was kind of in a state of shock, just staring down at my leg and my wrist, totally fascinated by the whole thing. The gashes on my leg reminded me of downtown Pittsburgh, where three rivers come together at the point, forming a triangle known as Point State Park. The three gashes on my leg looked like three rivers, running red, all coming to a point, where the bottle had first impacted my leg.
By the time we reached the shore, a total knockout of a lady, probably in her late twenties, and a body that perfectly filled her scant bikini, met us and began giving directions to the guys to carry me up to a picnic table. There, she began administering to my wounds. She was an off-duty nurse, and she took charge of the scene. I went from being in shock, to being in love.
I could not believe my good fortune, to have this total knockout all over me, and I just felt like it was all worth it for that. She kept running her hand through my hair, and telling me everything was going to be fine, and that I was truly courageous, as I didn’t seem to be too upset. What was there to be upset about?
When an ambulance arrived, she rode with me to the hospital, where we finally parted ways, but it would be a long time before I forgot this knockout of a nurse. My leg required 80 stitches to close up all three gashes, and my wrist took another 12 stitches.
The police eventually tracked down the guys who threw the beer at us, and it turned out the guy who actually did it was his high school’s starting quarterback — he was suspended for his junior year season because of this prank, and he wrote a letter of apology to me, and begged me not to press charges. I had never even considered it.
I actually kind of enjoyed the whole experience — it gave me some quality time with a real hot number, and was one of the experiences that gradually began to convince me that it was time to break away from these jocks and start making my own way in the world, where people didn’t treat me like I was some kind of a freak or loser, but just took me for who I was. That was still a year or so away, but that day, with my leg and wrist all torn up, I was in all my gory glory.
Originally published at cowbird.com.