A thin line of blood and drool connected my mouth to the floor as I sat on the desk in Doctor Redekop’s office. The doctor leaned forward in his chair, his prodigious belly resting on his knees, straining the buttons of his white lab coat. Stubbing out a cigarette in an overflowing ashtray, he said, “It’s not too bad, Billy. You won’t need stitches.”
I tried to block the pain by replaying in my head the circumstances which brought me to Doctor Redekop’s office one winter morning of my tenth year. It was recess, and the schoolyard was a frigid expanse of asphalt. The recent snowfall had melted, collecting in shallow pools. Flash-frozen overnight, these pools became zamboni-quality ice sheets. Children took turns running on asphalt, then leaping to the ice for long, two-footed slides. The end of the slide required a casual hop onto the asphalt, like stepping off of a speeding escalator. An orderly, if crooked line snaked through the schoolyard as each child waited his chance on the longest of the ice sheets.
Running at supersonic speed, I landed my Kodiak winter boots on the ice and careened along the glassy expanse. Without warning, I became victim to slide-us interruptus when an unidentified, snowsuited leg blocked my path (I have always expected Johnny Constantino, but this has never been verified and since Johnny turned out such a likeable adult, I feel it’s not worth investigating 48 years after the fact). Airborne, I didn’t have time to think, “boy, this is going to hurt,” when I splatted face first onto the ice, my teeth slicing through my bottom lip. Crying, covered in blood, I stood and took my crimson mitten from my mouth. No longer held in place, my almost completely severed lip swung free like the head of Nearly Headless Nick. This was the lip Doctor Redekop felt would heal without stitches. I have always been self-conscious of, and carry to this day a large bump and scar on my bottom lip. Something to remember Doctor Redekop by.
Not learning my lesson, I went again to Doctor Redekop when I was 14. Like many teenage boys, I had embarrassing, painful, non-chick-digging acne across my back and shoulders. “Go in your backyard, take off your shirt and get the worst sunburn you can possibly stand,” advised Doctor Redekop with 1968 sensibility. “That’ll dry it up and you’ll be fine.” What followed were a painful couple of days, but my acne took years to clear. I’m still waiting to see what the legacy of Doctor Redekop’s advice will be. You know, like skin cancer.