I always find it fascinating how interconnected our bodily systems and functions are, and when the slightest thing goes awry, it impacts everything.


The other morning, after a few days of lengthy writing interludes, I woke up with a stiff baby finger. Thinking I had slept on it “funny,” or had just spent too much time hammering away on the keyboard, I didn’t think much of it. By the time I went to bed that night, the wretched little digit was throbbing. What’s more, the finger was swollen at the first joint, and the skin stretched and bloated. Every time I moved my hand, I would wake with a gasp. After passing a pathetic night in this fashion, I reluctantly called the doctor’s office.

“Good morning, doctors’ office.”

“Yes…this is Corrina Austin calling. I have this problem and it’s going to sound kind of stupid….(How many times a day do they hear that?)…but there’s something wrong with my baby finger.”

“Can you come in at 11:15?”

“Yes, thank you.”

I drove to the doctor’s office with both hands on the wheel, the left pinky raised as though I were at tea with the Queen of England, and yelping every time the signal wand brushed against it. I checked in with the receptionist and told her my name.

“Oh. You’re the one with the pinky problem…” she said, quickly smothering a smirk.

“Yes, that would be me. Aren’t you surprised to find that I am not the ninety-year-old woman you were expecting?” I said, flushing and making my way to a chair. I thumbed through an old Parents magazine, my left pinky still raised delicately in the air.

My name was called and I went back into the examining area. “Which pinky is it?” the nurse asked, and I immediately recognized the same breed of smirk I had seen on the receptionist’s face. I am sure the staff had a few laughs after they got off the phone with me.

“The left,” I mumbled. “It really does hurt.”

“What’s the problem?” asked the doctor, breezing into the examination room. I imagined the other things he must have been doing that morning–seeing how amputation stumps were healing, calling someone in to tell her she had a week to live, performing CPR on an accident victim….

“My pinky hurts,” I said.

“Hold up both your pinkies,” he told me. I did. “Oh, this one is quite swollen,” he said, giving it a squeeze. I screeched. “Oh, it hurts,” he observed.

“Yes,” I agreed, with a mixture of gratitude and fury.

“It’s infected,” he said, and wrote a prescription for oral and topical antibiotics.

I spent the next two days popping advils. The thing throbbed miserably. I could not go for a walk. I could not hang laundry on the clothesline. My emails were one-handed exercises. I could not work on my novel. Practicing piano was an exercise in futility. Plunk, plunkity, plunk plunk–OW! Plunk OW! Plunkity OW! I realized how crucial that left pinky was for pianists. It’s the anchor finger! What a revelation.

Today, I can bend it a little. The piano still makes me whimper when I look at it.

I’ll need a few more days for a full recovery. But I think I will just forget to book that follow-up visit…maybe someone with a hang nail will need that appointment more than I do.