Denis Lehane: My left had been doing its best but...

“If you can’t cure it, cut it off,” I demanded of the doctor, as he examined me. Yerra, I was sick and tired of the ugly thing, and it there stiff as a poker for the past four weeks.

“Cut it off!” I repeated, “tis doing me no good.”

And finally, his examination complete, the mild mannered doctor spoke. “Well, Mr Lehane,” says he, “the good news is, we won’t have to cut it off. Your broken hand has mended nicely. The cast can be taken off immediately.”

Well honestly, I couldn’t believe my ears. So last Monday morning, in a Cork city hospital, a doctor took hold of the scissors and cut away the cast that had imprisoned my poor old right hand for the past four weeks. Its time of confinement was at an end. My hand was free, free at last.

How I had managed to farm without the proper use of my right hand was an achievement in itself. My left hand had been doing its best but, between you and me, my left hand is only a poor imitation of my right.

“Now,” says the doctor, “I’ll be making an appointment for you to see a physiotherapist.”

“A what?” says I, and I putting on my coat preparing to leave the premises.

“A physiotherapist,” says he, “will suggest exercises to get your hand working.”

Well, I had to laugh.

“Exercise?” I chuckled. “Do you not know what I am?” I asked, “in the name of God man, do you think I’ll be idle in bed with my hand for the next fortnight? I’m a busy progressive farmer,” I declared “and ’tis three hands I need.”

“I have bull calves that need castrating, and three bullocks with horns the length of your arm.”

“Well, that’s very impressive,” says the doctor.

“It is,” says I, “and I don’t care if you have a physiotherapist, psychotherapist or Baptist Minister lined up. I won’t be darkening their door.

I don’t have the time to scratch myself.”

And so, I went on to tell the good doctor, and a few nurses that had gathered, about the hardships that exist on Irish farms today, concluding with the story of how a kick from a wild bullock had broken my hand in the first place.

“Oh God,” says a nurse with tears in her eyes, “but I never knew life on the land was so difficult.”

“Sure, how could you know, pet?” I said putting a consoling arm around her shoulder, “and you stuck here in this old hospital.”

“But tell me,” said a young surgeon who had joined us, “how did you manage on the farm with your hand out of action. Did you hire in the farm relief?”

“I did in my backside,” I responded, “sure they would cost me an arm and a leg, and I already down a hand. No, I simply covered the old cast with an AI glove, and carried on regardless.”

“And what about insurance?” someone else piped up, “was the hand insured?”

“No,” says I, “I didn’t realise that you could.”

“Of course you can,” said this old man with had arrived with a bucket and mop “Many important people have their bits and bobs insured. Michael Flatley has his feet insured for 40 million dollars.”

“Well, that’s ridiculous,” I declared. “Sure when will he ever get a kick from a bullock?”

And with that, I bid the medical profession a fond farewell, and headed back to the farm.


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