I’ve had this strange condition my entire life. When I was young, its diagnosis was obscured by Chicken Pox and assorted other rashes. As a teen, it was biopsied, tested, examined repeatedly; first it was Molluscum Contagiosum, then Angio Keratoma. A true name never stuck; no solution to the mystery.
Every cut I’ve ever had on my hands has laid scar. Scars that never disappear. They work and wind and weave each other into an ever-burgeoning pair of fleshy beehives. My fingers, slowly disappearing into those epidermal globes. Luckily, it took a long time to lose the ability to flip people off. It was often necessary.
I got into fights almost every week when I was near the end of middle school. Insurmountable taunting coupled with high sensitivity (who isn’t at that age?) allowed me to fly off the handle with a frequency matched only by its intensity. I can still see the scar on my right ring finger’s primary knuckle. That was where I broke Nick Styke’s cheekbone and a splinter of it gouged into my knuckle.
For a short time, as a young adult, I developed a new massage therapy technique, which relied on my bulbous hands; pounding out tension in strangers’ shoulders and necks. It was a coping mechanism. Luckily, they were still small enough to wrap in gloves. Nobody would see the gruesome detail, nor would they ask, in abject horror, what was wrong with me as they backed out the door before paying.
I worked as a cook for a number of years. That was a mistake. Do you know how often cooks cut, burn, and abrade their hands while making your duck confit? Fucking ridiculous. The shape of scabrous, scarred beehives began to take form.
Cuffs on jacket coats and sweaters and Oxford shirts had to be specially fitted by a tailor.
As I lost jobs and became less employable, I obviously lost access to help from doctors. Most of the doctors who’d examined me as a child, taken samples and scrutinized blood slides, were all dead now. My history was disappearing in the abandoned medical files of a few small town doctors. So much for patient privacy, huh?
By the age of 27, I had to seek out a welder in an autobody shop to help fashion me a hook mechanism so that I could still open doors.
When confronted with the dilemma of how to pay him for labor and materials, he suggested that I enter into a late night boxing competition. The prize purse would more than take care of his costs.
It’s been four years, now, that I’ve been fighting. A scout for the circus, making cursory rounds for his next Strong Man, or whatever, noticed me. He noticed I never lost a fight; never got knocked out. At first, however, he failed to notice that my boxing gloves were permanent.
So, for the last four years, I’ve been boxing in this circus. We travel a circuit that stays east of the Ural Mountains and vacations at the edge of the Sea of Okhostk. I am the circus’s most successful freak. People from all around pay to fight me, and if they knock me out, they win a rather hefty prize purse. Hardened fishermen and hunters, men of the land, members of Vor Zakone hiding in small Siberian towns, bears kept as pets, old women, and once even a Siberian Tiger. I’ve fought them all.
And now it appears that the condition that has always inflicted my hands, also has found my face to prey upon. Every fist that thuds and thwacks against my face layers scar tissue like riverbed sediment deposits.
I guess I can double the profits of the Circus Master, because now we have an ‘Elephant Man’ too.