By Hugh Yonn
Delbert was my new cellmate, and had the damnedest scar I’d ever seen. It started in the middle of his chest, below his ribcage, and went around his right side all the way to his backbone. A red band of jagged meat that stuck out half an inch. It looked like a giant earthworm.
No, I didn’t say anything. That wasn’t the way I was raised.
“Son, you never say anything about someone else’s fucked up shit.”
My mom and dad didn’t say it like that, but that’s what they meant.
After two weeks, Delbert broke the ice.
“Hey, you ever notice this scar I got?”
“Scar? I thought that was a fucked-up tattoo.”
Delbert was a storyteller. Another fine young man in prison for an explosive’s violation. His defense: “Bustin’ dynamite without a permit. I mean, what the fuck? Why do I need a permit to blow up my own shit?”
The boy had a valid point. But back to the scar.
The beauty of his scar: it was hand carved.
Delbert, his young wife, and a few buddies had done some ‘good acid’—then gone to the carnival. It was tradition. The show came through town ‘onest a year.’” (That’s the way he said it: ‘onest’.)
“Man, we were trippin’ our brains out. I was seeing colors and shit flyin’ everywhere. The whole world was a rotatin’ ball—and I was inside of it. The ferris wheel, the crowds moving through trails. The noise was the best. The whole thing was all mixed up and beautiful. I’ve loved the fair since I was a little kid.”
All the time he’s telling me this, I’m watching the scar ripple.
“Then my wife and buddies grabbed me. They were all freaked out. They were yellin’, ‘Goddam, Delbert, that motherfucker just cut you wide open.’
At this he makes a face like, what?
“I didn’t have no idea what they were talking about. I was diggin’ on the ferris wheel, crazy people, and noise. Next thing I knowed, I was in the middle of the front seat of my buddy’s car. He was on one side drivin’…my wife ridin’ shotgun an’ huggin’ me an’ cryin’. I didn’t know what the fuck was goin’ on. That acid was some of the best I’d ever done.”
I nod and he continues, “All this stuff was kinda sketchy. The scenery changed every second. I figgered it was the LSD.”
At some point his buddy’s car stopped. Everybody bailed out and hauled ass. He didn’t have a clue. Delbert sat there by himself holding his right side together like his wife had shown him at the beginning of the ride.
“‘Hold these flaps of skin together, Baby. We gotta get you to a hospital. Oh, Lordy, help us. Hold them tight, Delbert. You’re making a mess all over the seat.’ After that, they took me to a hospital. I came back into the ‘real world’ again—I half-ass understood where I was. My next recollection, four guys in white clothes were getting me out of the car. I remember sliding across the seat towards the passenger side door. My coagulating blood on the seat looked like chunks of liver. And all I could think was, ‘Damn, that don’t look right.’ Man…that was some good acid.”
Then, he was on a table surrounded by people in more white clothes. A big ass light blinding him. Delbert was in an operating theatre. Though that’s not how he tells it.
“One guy was leaning over me. He was right in my face. He was shining a light in my eyes. I couldn’t see. He was pissing me off. Then he started to get mouthy.”
“‘Son, do you believe in a God?’ All I could think was that I was on some kind of game show. Maybe there was prize if I answered right. I asked the dude, ‘Why do you wanta know?’ He said, ‘Because if you do, make your peace with Him now. You ain’t gonna make it.’ I was what they called ‘bled out.’ I was empty. I didn’t even need a Band-Aid.”
“Shit, man,” I say. Cos there’s nothing else polite you can say.
“The reason this scar is so fucked up, they figured I was a goner. Just clamped it together with, like, paper clips. They worked. And look how it growed back. You can still see my fingerprints mashed into the scar.”
I take a closer look at where he’s pointing. He spoke the truth. You don’t see that kinda shit every day. At least, not me.
“Three days later, the doc came into my room. He was kinda humble. He said, ‘Son, you were doing some kind of drug the night you should have died. Do you mind telling me what it was?’
“I said, ‘No, Doc, not a bit. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was LSD. And I gotta say, one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. Except for the getting stabbed part.’”
Delbert never had a clue who had cut him. Or why and you could tell it really ate him up.
“It’s alright, man.” Delbert’s smiling now. Grinning at me.
“Me and the doctor bonded that day. Now, we’ve done four acid trips together in the last eight years. And every time, he apologizes for making this fucked up scar. But I always tell him, ‘Them ain’t your fingerprints, Doc.’ I knew that’s what it was. He wished he’d signed his work.”
I’d like to meet that doctor someday, I think. He told it like it was. And he saved a good man’s life.