Sack Taps

By , April 20, 2010 5:22 pm

The phone goes, and I pick it up on the first ring.

“Mark speaking.”

“Are you the AO?”

“Yep.”

“We’ve got a thirteen year old torted testis that’s just come in.  Where do you want it?”

“Ummm…”  I look at the computer screen, trying to resist the temptation for a joke.  “Cubicle 19.”

“Thanks, love.”

“No worries.  Either that, or just put it straight in the bin.  It’ll be no good to anyone.”

“Sorry?”

“No, I’m sorry.  I couldn’t resist.”

“I don’t understand.”

“A dead testicle?”  I wait for a response.

“He’s a Category 2,” the voice continues tersely, “I’ll send him through.”

I watch through the window of the fishbowl, waiting for action.  In walks a thirteen year old boy, John-Wayne-swaggering as he goes, wincing with each step.  He is followed by a woman, jeans spray-painted in place, her face showing as much concern as the botox will allow.  His younger sister, a lump of a girl, all slumped shoulders and frumpiness, lopes in behind.  Our primped mother, the swaggering boy and his kyphotic sister make quite the scene.

“Hey Joel,” I say, enter the cubicle, having given barely enough time for him to have got on the bed.

“Hey,” he says back.  He kneels, his bum in the air, trying to turn over without putting any pressure on his scrotum.  At this point, I realise that this is not an easy task.

“How’s it going?”

Mum launches straight into the story.  She tells me about Joel’s two weeks of testicular pain, and that it has worsened over the last twelve hours.  The entire time she stands there, like a window mannequin, her arm an outstretched  chicken wing, as if she is arm-in-arm with an invisible man.  Over her wing hangs a bag, a black patent leather thing, brandishing an insignia, the two interlocking C’s of Chanel.  Her jacket looks like the lovechild of a fox and a plastic bag, and crinkles like a chip wrapper when she moves.  Her jeans provide some of the explanation for her posture, that and stilettos that threaten to crack the vinyl floor.

I watch in fascination, writing as the story is told to me, trying to understand how it is that she is still able to move her lips without mumbling.  It’s like watching a ventriloquist that is so good that even the sound seems to come out of the doll.

Meantime, Joel has finally positioned himself.  He lies there, still in school uniform, with a strange look on his face.  It is a mix of bemusement, sheer terror at having to show his bits to another male, and the look of hope that, in this much pain, I can do something about it.  His sister has already buried into a magazine, earphones in place, having almost melted into herself.  She’s like a wax doll that’s been left out in the sun with an iPod.

“Doctor, you just have to see it.  It’s all red and swollen and looks really unwell,” his mother finishes.

“So is the pain still there now?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he says, in that scoffing teenage way.

“Well, let’s have a look then.”

Joel looks at the roof, at the wall, anywhere but at me.

“And it’s the right one?” I ask, looking at two perfectly normal testicles.

“Yeah,” he says, scoffing again.

I complete the examination, checking the lie of the testis, the cremasteric reflex, checking for hernias, and other explanations for the pain.  It all draws a blank.

“Well, it all looks pretty normal,” I say finally, “but the reason you were rushed in here is because of something called a torted testis.”  They all look at me in unison, even the sister.  The two kids manage to furrow their brow.  Mum only manages to look dead.

“It’s a very serious situation when the testicle twists on itself, because it cuts off the blood supply.  The reason you were hurried through here, is that if this is what it is, we need to untwist it quickly, which would be done in surgery.  Consequently, we’re going to get the surgical people to look at it.  But, I will stress, that on examination everything looks okay.  It doesn’t look like it’s twisted.  Everything looks completely normal,” I repeat.

“Oh, thank God,” says his mum, through flaccid lips.  I pause for a moment, looking at Joel.  He looks away again.

“You haven’t had any trauma to the area have you?”

“No,” he says, quickly.

“Nothing else that could explain it?  No martial arts, no fights?”  I pause.  “Nothing else?” I ask, leaving it open.

“He does Muay Thai,” he mother says.

“What’s that?”

“It a Martial art, but it’s non contact.”

“Yeah.  Non-contact,” says Joel.

“Anything else?”  The silence lays thick.

“Tellhimaboutsacktaps,” the sister finally blurts, without lifting her head.

“Shut up,” he mumbles.

“Sorry,” I say.  I turn to her, sensing a clue.  She chews a couple more times.

“Sacktaps,” she repeats, then blows a small bubble.

I turn back to Joel, “What is she saying Joel?”  He looks away, that bemused look coming onto his face again.

“This is your testicles we’re talking about here, Joel.  And I’m having trouble understanding your sister.”  She looks at me like she wants me dead.  “I get the feeling that there’s something pretty important we’re missing here, Joel.”

“Theydosacktaps,” she mumbles again.  The mother stares blankly, only her neck moving.  I can’t help but laugh.

“Help me out here Joel.  Sack taps?”

He rolls his eyes, and then sighs.  “It’s what the others do.  Sack taps.”

“Is that an explanation?”

His eyes roll again, like he’s dealing with an annoyance.  And then he shoos at me with a flick of his hand.

“What’s that?  You want me to piss off do you?”  The sister looks up, suddenly engaged.  Mum tries to focus on something and not fall over.

“Nah nah nah, man.  That’s it.”  He flicks his hand again.  “That’s a sack tap.”

I feel the pieces clunk into place.

“That’s a sack tap?  That’s something that other guys do?  They flick you in the balls?”  I hear the surprise in my own voice.

“Yeah,” he says, “every one does it.”

“Everyone flicks each other in the balls?”

“Yeah,” he repeats.

“How often?”

“Every day.”

“Where?”  My voice continues to betray disbelief, but I just can’t help it.

“Everywhere.”

“Everywhere.  Really?  In class?”

“Nah, in break.  In the hall.”

“You all flick each other in the balls in the hall.”  His sister laughs, but his mother doesn’t.

“Yeah.  Everyone does it.”

“Not in my day they didn’t.”

Hey.  I like a good testicle joke.  But respect the equipment, bro.

The equipment

* * * * *

I call the surgical registrar and tell him the story, letting him know the examination is normal.

“But there is a story of some trauma,” I say.

“Oh yeah?” he asks, marginally interested.

“The boys do something called a sack tap.”

“A what?”

“A sack tap.  It’s where they flick each other in the balls.”

“What?  Where?”

“In the balls.”

“Where though?”

“At school.”

“In class?”

“No, mainly in the hall.”

“They flick each other in the balls in the hall?”

“Yes.”

I hear the phone move away from his face, and in the distance I hear a deep laugh that goes on for about fifteen seconds.

“I’ll be down in a minute,” he eventually says.

I put the phone down and smile.  After a moment, I notice the male doctor sitting next to me.  He has a looks of disbelief, his mouth open wide.

“Who flicks who in the balls?” he asks eventually.

* * * * *

I walk back into the cubicle to find the surgical registrar, in his scrubs, his back facing me.  Now there is a crowd around him, all facing my way.  This time, the sister is paying attention, as is Mum.  An older man, presumably the father, looks on, glowering.  The surgical registrar stands there, his hand flicking back and forth.

“And you hit each other like this, yeah?”

“Yeah,” says Joel, by now bored with the story.  His Dad shakes his head, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“What!” Joel moans, “every body does it!”

“Not in my day,” says the father, warningly.  Joel lies there, fuming, staring at the roof.

“Ultrasound is clear,” I say, breaking the silence.

“So it was the sack taps,” says the surgical registrar, barely concealing a grin.  “Very good.”

He leaves, and I introduce myself to dad.

“The ultrasound is clear, which means there’s normal blood supply to the testicle.  We can’t see anything wrong with the testis, but there may be bruising, or even a little bleed.  But nothing that is really worrying.”

“Oh, thank God,” says Dad.

“But I need to impress upon you the importance of this, Joel.  Sack taps are out.”

“I get it,” he says, putting his hands to his eyes.

“No, Joel, I don’t know that you do.  I know you mightn’t care at the moment, but one day you might want kids.  And you will want to be able to have that choice.  You can choose not to, but you want to be able to choose to as well.  Get it?”

He looks at me and nods, like he’s suddenly got it.

“So I’ve written a letter, and I’ll read it out.”  I check to see everyone is watching.  They are.  “Blah, blah, blah, ‘and this pain is likely to be secondary to an adolescent behaviour called sack tapping, where Joel and his friends flick each other in the genitals with their hands.  Although this has not caused a problem this time, in future it may, and I would strongly suggest that this behaviour not continue anymore, in order to avoid any further requirement for medical attention.’ ”

I look at Joel, then at his frustrated father, and then across at his plastic mother.

“You guys do what you want with this letter.  Give it to the parents of the other kids.  Whatever.  I don’t really care, as long as it stops.”

“It’d be good if it stopped,” Joel mumbles.

I pause for a second.

“Are they picking on you?”

“Who?”

“The other kids.  Are they picking on you when they do this?”

“Nah, everyone does it to everyone.  But it’s just kind of stupid, isn’t it?”

I look around the room.  Everyone’s face matches the static stunned look of Mum.

“Excellent.  Then let’s do whatever we can to stop the sack taps, eh?”  Dad nods vigorously.

Joel slides gingerly off the bed, giving a small smile out of the corner of his mouth.

“Just one more thing,” says Mum, holding herself to my arm with one of her chicken wings.  “What can we do for the pain, doctor?” she asks, as a final question.

“Stop the fucking sack taps,” says Dad, already half way down the hall.

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