Columnist

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

These columns usually take me about three hours to write and edit. This one will take double that before it’s ready to go. I am proceeding along this sentence at a pace that’s frustratingly slow and error-ridden.

I am typing with seven fingers and two thumbs. The middle finger of my left hand is out of commission, bundled up in a wad of foam wrapped in metal wrapped in tape. That finger is sticking out like a sore thumb.

As is the case with many things in the house these days, I blame the dog. Puppy Waylon, now the size of a zoo cat, knows he’s not allowed on the white sofa in the den and yet he goes in there any chance he gets. Someone failed to latch the sliding barn door and in he went, muddy paws and all, to climb aboard the sofa and look out the window at the deer in the yard. I know, I know, who gets a white sofa when there’s a dog, but the sofa was here first (which raises the question: who gets a dog when there’s a white sofa)?

The paw prints were fresh enough to scrub off, and so I got a rough wash cloth and some soap and had at it. I must have been scrubbing hard because a push forward caused that finger to catch on the fabric of the sofa cushion with a jam that caused a sharp bit of pain.

I’d stubbed my finger. Or stoved it, whatever. The pain lasted just a few seconds and then I went on scrubbing.

It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I noticed the damage. The tip of that finger, from the top knuckle to the nail, was bending toward my palm. I couldn’t straighten it without pushing it up with my other hand. Creeped and freaked out by this new and shocking deformity, I ran to Google.

“Tip of swear-word finger is hanging there and won’t go back up and doesn’t hurt,” is what I typed into the search bar. And I got my answer. I had given myself something called mallet finger, also known as baseball finger, because it’s a common sport injury.

It was not swollen, not bruised or red or even the least bit painful. That joint just hung there. It looked like that finger was hanging its head in shame.

Doctors don’t do much for the injury, but I have to keep the finger locked in the upright position, and that requires a splint. The nice pharmacist had a look and walked me over to the finger splint aisle, where he handed me a packet of metal-and-foam-and-velcro finger-holders. As I write these words, the metal part is clicking against the E key.

When all my fingers are behaving, I type at lightning speed, once clocking myself at 65 words per minute with only a few mistakes. Now, I’m probably at less than half that, and that’s not counting all the times I have to back up and erase. Piano teachers call this “hunting and pecking” on the keyboard. I’m able to struggle slowly through a document like this; there’s no way I could play my piano now.

I’m supposed to stay off the finger for eight weeks. That puts me around Christmas before I can free my left hand and maybe play “Jingle Bells” on the piano. Until then I’ll keep a splint on the finger.

Oh, and a tarp on the sofa.

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