Author Survives Slasher Attack by Fan

Things are coming along for my sister and her family, who spent yesterday going through the debris of their home and trying to find salvageable items. Apparently a restoration company has managed to repair some photos and a family Bible, and it's possible some of their other belongings might have survived, althouigh they'd be badly smoked up. Never underestimate the damaging power of heavy soot.

Thanks to everyone who showed concern, sent good wishes, and donated items and even money as Penny, Chris, and the kids struggle to put their lives back on track. Meanwhile deadlines go on, so here's the story (written before the fire) of my recent encounter with a deranged fan.

Okay, so I can type again … not as fast as usual, but I’ve regained the use of my right hand.

Why, yes, there is a story behind this.

But what story? I’ve been practicing various tales that might make me seem less … well … foolish.

Maybe I was trying so save a baby from a tiger. I bounced that idea off friends, who suggested a leopard might be more likely. A black leopard was seen wandering around the area several years ago, escaped or released by its owner – maybe it was still around? Elderly, grouchy, ready to snatch at a guy’s hand?

Another friend suggested I change it up and say I was saving a tiger from a baby. We’ve all seen that kid who the meanest predator would run in terror from.

What really happened was more … well, I already used foolish. Stupid? I used the word stupid several times that night, accompanied by a somewhat stronger word.

There’s an irony in the fact that only a week earlier I wrote a column about all the injuries that happened in the family this summer. I asked my fiancĂ©e, Emily, if I’d missed anything; her reply should have been “not yet”. I think I’ll hold that one back a bit longer. After all, summer’s not over.

To start with, I should point out that I was asleep at the time. So, there’s that excuse. Specifically, the alarm went off, and my first action on stumbling out of bed was to reach for the fan.

Those of you with weak stomachs should probably stop reading. Go donate to the Red Cross, instead; at the rate I’m going, I’ll need them before the year is over.

Ordinarily, box fans are equipped with screens, which keep morons from sticking their hands into them while the blades are moving. In addition, box fans come with handles, so you can carry them around without sticking your hands in them. It’s an elegant design. Unfortunately, this particular fan had a television fall on it.

Only in my house does a box fan get crushed by a falling TV.

I don’t like to throw away things. In fact, I still have a powerful window fan that’s so old it actually didn’t come with a screen or handle: just huge metal blades that I’m very careful with.

But it hasn’t had a TV fall on it.

Now, the housing was dented in on our little box fan and the handle torn off, but the blades seemed fine. My thinking: If I could bend the housing back so it didn’t block the blades, I could keep using the thing. Since I’m too cheap for air conditioning, I needed all the fan I could get.
This required removing the screen. Then came hammering, which was kinda fun, after which the blades did indeed turn freely. The problem was, I couldn’t get the screen back on.

But what the heck. I’d just be careful.

When I’m up during warm weather I put fans in every upstairs room, pointing outward. This sucks air into the downstairs, creating a wind tunnel effect that has been known to suck small children right up the stairway.

But when sleeping upstairs I turn the fan inward, to bring cool air into the room. That would be the side with no screen.

When the alarm went off, my subconscious mind apparently leaped to the conclusion that I had to immediately turn the fan around, to cool the downstairs. So I reached out and grabbed the fan.

For three years that fan had no screen or handle, and not once had I touched it without turning it off first. But this time it was on. Top speed.


There was an instant when I wondered what the fan was hitting, then I realized it was hitting my fingers. I pulled my hand out, turned off the fan, then – get this – turned the fan around to point outward. Only then did I think, “Gee … maybe that did some damage.”

It did.

The next thing I remember was standing at the kitchen sink, running water over my fingers and calling myself an idiot, along with a modifier that described what kind of idiot I was … suddenly I’m wondering if the kitchen window was open. I’d sliced up two fingers so badly that I didn’t even realized I’d also cut up a third finger until later. It was ugly.

It was about this time that I woke up enough to think, “I wonder if I can get a column out of this?” Writers must always have their priorities in order.

Unknown to me, Emily had concluded from what I was yelling that I’d sliced off a couple of digits, so I suppose she was pleasantly surprised not to be doing part recovery. She did a great job of first aid, and I’d like to publically apologize for what I said when she poured peroxide over the wounds.

She was also nice enough not to mention the brand new box fans we saw on clearance the day before, when I said “Nah – there’s nothing wrong with the ones we have.”

After awhile we realized I was likely to survive, although as of this writing a fingernail is still questionable. Practicality kicked in and I asked Emily to go check the bed sheets, because I’d seen a couple of drops of blood hit them and I figured they’d need washed. She came back downstairs looking as pale as I did:

“There’s blood splatter up there. It looks like a scene from CSI: Miami, except without the sunglasses.”

What do we learn from situations like this? Well, first, if you’re all stressed out and in adrenalin overload, forget the darn sheets. A couple of hours later, while going to the basement to deal with washing them, Emily fell and sprained her ankle.

The second lesson, then, is to space out your injuries, so there’s someone to take care of whoever’s hurt.

The third lesson is that anything can be turned into a column, especially if you’re on a deadline because you couldn’t type for a few days.
Finally, the most important lesson of all: If you do something really stupid, come up with a better story before anyone else finds out about it.

Oh, and I suppose fan safety is in there somewhere, too.


  1. I'd stick with the black panther who was unusually irritable after a baby lovingly poked him in the eye.

  2. Good catch title. I really thought you were being stalked by a real nutty person! Shew! I hope you heal soon.

  3. Stick with the hungry black panther you found in your backyard...heck, maybe even a deranged cow...say anything but that story. It's just too unbelievable.

    Hope you're on the mend...take care of yourself. And, for goodness sake, leave the animals alone. Let them have the babies that feel the need to poke them in the eye...Save yourself, man.

  4. Mark, play the lottery. Seriously. You'd have a larger chance of winning several million than repeating this experience.

  5. Ouchouchouchouchouchouch!!!!

    I might come up with the story of how you came between a bear and their food and you came away on the losing end of things....

    You're lucky you didn't lose fingers!

  6. William, in your case the bear story would be entirely believable!

    Mark, I love that title. It conjured up all kinds of misleading images.

  7. I can only imagine how painful. When you move to Hawaii, you won't need any fans. The wind blows every day. Get better.

  8. Hungry black panther it is, then ... and the lottery. My luck has to change someday. Around here I think the cat idea would work better than the bear idea, since large cats have actually been seen in the area; but the deranged cow tale would be most likely from a numbers standpoint.

    It's possible that I was being *just* a little misleading with that headline -- but it got people to look, didn't it?

    Overall, I'm with the Hawaii idea.

  9. OMG, I'm imagining blood and finger chunks flying everywhere! I cut one of my fingers almost to the bone with a damn soup can lid a few yrs back. Severed the main nerve, but miraculously the feeling in it eventually came back even though the doctor said it would be impossible for it to heal. Anyway, good grief! Glad you didn't lose any fingers! No more injuries allowed for you this year. And I hope things continue to get better for your family.

  10. Ha -- if only I could avoid any more injuries this year! I still have the rest of that chimney to take down. Luckily this time it was blood flying everywhere, but no chunks. Well, no major chunks.

    Soup can lids scare the crap out of me!

  11. I sliced off part of my thumb once when cutting someone else's hair. Blood dripped everywhere and I couldn't understand why until I saw the side of my thumb hanging, flesh and blood.

  12. Did you charge extra for the red hair dye?

    That kind of thing will definitely ruin a person's day ...