Posts tagged: teenagers

Sack Taps 101

By , June 18, 2010 10:02 am

It seems that Sack Taps aren’t confined to Melbourne.  Thank you to Clare for alerting me to the story reported by news.com.au just over a week ago, following a teenager who had his testicle amputated after playing sack taps with his friends.

Urban Dictionary explains that a sack tap is:

1. A trick played on a fellow athlete where the open hand smacks the target’s testicles with the knuckles in a sharp, wrist flicking motion.

“Dude, I sack tapped Brandon, and now he has the whole team trying to sack tap me.”

2. A Skateboarding Move:

a) Ollie out of a transition or a lip or even off the ground if you got enough hops.

b) Grab the board and pull it away from your feet.

c) Slam the board into your nuts…well you don’t have to slam it.

d) Pull the board back and put it under your feet.

This is, of course, to be differentiated from sack tacs, sack tack, and sack taffy, all of which, while equally disturbing, are far less dangerous.

On YouTube, there are any number of entries glorifying sack tapping – it seems, mainly by teenage boys and the military.  In fact, there are more video posts by military personnel than by school boys.

Studies have shown that the average mental age of a sack tapper is usually between the ages of 6 and 8, unless they are a member of the armed forces.

In that cohort, the number is likely to be lower.

Click here to read about how stupid kids can be…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH_WoiIOX0k

Plaster Master

By , May 20, 2010 6:29 pm

“Zeb?” I yell into the waiting room.

I stand and wait, while fifteen heads look at me, frozen.  This is my favourite part – being stared at.  The patient you call is never within sight, they’re always round a corner, taking years to get their things together.  While everybody else stares at you.  It’s the best bit.

“Zeb?”  I call again.  This time I hear a faint shuffle, and then movement.  And then the rattle of plastic bags.  Promising.  Very promising.

One of the staring people looks away, staring at something else.  Hopefully, staring at Zeb.

And with that, from around the corner, Zeb bounds.  All perky, and…green.  Fluoro green.

“How’s it going?” he asks in an Australian drawl.

“Good mate,” I return, and he giggles delightedly.  His mother rolls her eyes, and grandma tries the same thing.  “Nice colour, Zeb.”

“Yeah.  I like green.”

“This way,” I say.  “First door on the right.”

He walks off down the corridor ahead of us, and into the plaster room.  We follow him, waiting for grandma, who eventually places herself down on a stool.  The plastic bags fall to the ground in a heap.

“Can I get a different colour this time?  Sure, I like green, but this time I want red.  Or yellow.  Or, yeah, pink maybe?  Hang on, maybe not.”  It’s difficult to tell who he’s talking to.  Possibly no one.  “Yeah pink.  Can I, can I, can I?  Huh, huh, huh?”

I look at Mum.  She looks tired, but not as tired as you might expect.  Grandma is the one who looks beat.

“I think you’ll be getting white, mate.  I don’t think we’ll be getting out the fresh colours here.”

“Oh,” he whines, “why not?”

“Because I’m only a doctor.  I only do plaster.  It’s the plaster techs who do fibreglass.  That’s where the colours come into it.”

“Yeah, right, I get it,” he starts.  “Well, there’s a plaster under here.  From the start.  From, like, when this all happened.”  He nods, and his mother and grandma do too.  “And then we went back to the GP, like – I don’t know – like two days later, and it was only up to my elbow, right?  So he, like, sent me to the Children’s Hospital, and there the guy was like, ‘Dude, I don’t think it’s quite right, but I don’t want to re-break it for like a third time…’ ”

“…Third time?” I interject.  I get that interjection is the only way with Zeb.

“When he broke it was once, and when it was straightened made a second time,” Mum manages to say.

“…And so, re-setting it would make a third time,” completes Zeb, “and he was like, ‘That would be no good, man’.  So we were all, like, ‘Yeah, cool,’ and he was like, ‘Do you like fluoro?” and I was like, ‘Uh, duh, who doesn’t like fluoro?’…”

“You like fluoro?”

“Uh, duh!” says Zeb predictably.  We, the adults, laugh.   “And then he was all, ‘You can have any fluoro you want, and we can, like, cover up the whole white mess, if you want, dude.’  And so I went all, ‘Sure.  Do you have green?’  So he’s like, ‘Yeah, we got green’, so we, like, totally got it.”

He stops.  We all take a breath.

“That is a really amazing story, Zeb.”  He nods his head vigorously.  “But why are you here?”

“Yeah right,” he says, taking a breath.  I sit down, readying myself for a story.  “I got a pen lid stuck down there.”

He stops dead.  I do a double take.

“Is that it?  No story to go with it?”

“Nah, it’s, like, pretty boring.”

“So there’s a pen lid down your cast?”

“Yep.”

“Where exactly?”  He taps at his elbow.   “So pretty much half way down.  The furthest distance from either end.”  He nods again, like it’s a bore.  “And how did it get there?”

“I was, like, scratching myself.”

“With a pen lid.”

“Well, yeah.”

“You do realise, that you’re a goose?”

“Yup.”  He looks at his mum, raising his eyes.  “I’m a goose.”  We all laugh.

“This is a good story, Zeb.  Tell me, how did it get down there?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like, dude, like, tell me how it, like, got down there?”

“Is he making fun of me?” Zeb asks mother.

“Yes, he is.”  Grandma laughs some more.

“Well,” he says, cocking his head, “I was scratching, and, it, like, came off.”

“Oh, so it was on the end of a pen?”

“Dude!  I wouldn’t just stick a pen lid down there.  It might get lost.”  We all look at him raising our eyebrows in unison.  He ignores it.

“So, anyway, it came off the end of a pen?”

“Yup.”

“So then what happened?”

“I got some chopsticks out.”  We all laugh some more.

“This is great,” I say.

“Nah, nah, nah, I was really close.  I had it up to here!”  He points to the top of the cast.  “But I didn’t have enough hands left to grab it.”

“Why didn’t you ask for help?” asks grandma.

“Because I was embarrassed,” he says quietly.  It’s the first time I’ve seen him contrite.

“Lucky you managed to avoid embarrassment, eh?”

He raises his eyebrows, knowingly.

“So what now?  Do I get a different colour?”

“Not so fast, buddy.  Firstly, we need to get the lid out, right?”  He nods.  “So we’ll have to cut it down to here, so that we can split the cast and grab it.  You think you know where it is?”

“Yeah, it’s right here,” he says, pointing.  “I can feel it.  Right here.”

“Are you ready then?”

“Yup.”

I turn and open a drawer, one dirtied by years of plaster, revealing a treasure chest of torture devices.  Splitters, cutters, shears, giant bolt cutters – a whole stack of big metal things, with smooth handles at one end, and sharp bits at the other.

“Cool!” says Zeb.

* * * * *

We start with the shears.  It chews the fibreglass ineffectively.  I get about five centimetres in, before I give up.

“This is more like a crusher than a cutter,” I say.  I feel sweat on my forehead.

“You’ve got a long way to go,” says Zeb.

“Thanks for the reminder.”

“I’m just saying’s all.”

I look him in the eye, and then put down the shears.

“I’ll be back.”

I walk next door and return, wheeling in a machine on a cart.  I plug it into the wall, and the machine revs up.  From its end emerges a snaking neck, a buzz cutter on its tip.  A circle of teeth sits on the end of a rotor, a dangerous circular saw.  Zeb’s eyes pop.

“It’s okay,” I say, “it can’t cut you.”  I turn it on, the circular blades vibrating.  I place it against my skin.  I feel its vibration.  Zeb’s mouth drops wide.  “See?  The blade zigs back and forth – it doesn’t spin right around.  So it won’t cut skin, because skin’s not fixed.  Your skin just wiggles against it.  See?”  I put it against my arm once more.

“Cool,” he says.

We start.  I work my way down, the satisfying squeal of an electric saw with each stroke.  Each time it makes it through, I check Zeb’s face.  He’s freaked out, in a boy kind of way.  He doesn’t know if he’s thrilled, or filling his pants.  Or both.

We get to near his elbow, when I ask for guidance.

“Where is it again?”

“Right here.”

“I don’t want to cut the pen lid in half, do I?”  I pause.  “In fact, why didn’t I just cut out a window at the start?”

“That’s what I thought,” says grandma.

“Me too,” says Mum.

“I wouldn’t have minded suggestions, guys,” I say.  “I guess I’m so used to taking plaster off from the top, that I didn’t even think of that.  It’s not like I go fishing for pen lids in casts every day.”  They all laugh again.  “Where is it, Zeb?”

“Right there.”

I cut a hole, 4cm by 3cm.  I peel back the plate of fibreglass, it’s final fibres cracking.  I feel like an archaeologist.  I stick my hand in and fish around, finally feeling my finger against something round.  My eyes widen.  Everyone else’s do too.  I pull, trying to free it.  And finally, out comes the lid.

“There you go,” I say.  Grandma claps.  “I didn’t know that I’d find it that easily.”

“Why not?”

“The story is just such I good one, Zeb, I guess I didn’t know what I’d find in there.”  I hand the lid to Mum.

“Can I have it?” he asks.

“I think Mum should keep it,” I say.  He rolls his eyes once more.  All this family does is laugh, raise their eyebrows and roll their eyes.  It’s like they’re all having seizures.

“So what about fixing it up?”

“This will do for now,” I say, wrapping a crepe bandage, and taping it up, “just for overnight.  “But come back to tomorrow morning when the plaster techs are in.  Then you’ll get to choose a colour.  If I did it now, you’d only get white.”

“White, like, sucks man.”

“Like, I know.”

He rolls his eyes at my poor attempt at teen speak.

“Later,” he says.

“Hopefully not,” I say.

“Right.”  He jumps off the bed.  “You’re all right, man, you know that?”

He walks out the door.

“He never says that to anyone,” whispers grandma as she passes, shuffling her plastic bags between shaky hands.  “Especially not to men.”

I nod, watching Zeb walk off ahead, his mother and grandma in tow.  I catch him, looking back occasionally, making sure he doesn’t get too far ahead of his mother or grandma.

* * * * *

Valium

By , May 11, 2010 3:57 pm

“Give her some Valium,” I say.

“Really?”

“Sure.”  I look up from my page, and across at the nurse.  She looks at me blankly, shifting awkwardly from side to side.

“What for?”

“It’s a really good muscle relaxant.  Great for muscle spasms.”  Her eyes widen.  “It’s okay in a fifteen year old.”

Eric nods his head beside me in consensus.  With this, the nurse walks away to complete the order.

“Thank you, Sir Eric,” I say.

“As you wish,” he replies, without looking up.

* * * * *

Fifteen minutes later, I walk into the cubicle.  The first thing I see is the red markings on the teenage girl’s face.  There are layers of skin peeling from her forehead, down her cheeks, and off her chin.  My heart leaps, as I compute, attempting to understand why triage had neglected to let me know that this child’s face had been through a cheese grater.

A mother stands at the girl’s side, holding her hand loosely.  The girl is otherwise dressed in sporting gear, her singlet top and limbs free.  There is blood down her arms too.  The only thing left unstained is the white blanket;  a temporary bandage over gaping war wounds.

“Lauren?”

The girl smiles broadly, her glazed eyes trying to open.  The kid is stoned.  If I’d been given Valium at fifteen, I probably wouldn’t have minded my face being torn off either.  “How are you?”

“Pretty relaxed now, I think,” says her smiling mother.  She pats at her hand as only a parent can.  She turns back and looks at me, as proud as a soccer mum.

I stare back down at the record, checking that I’m in the right cubicle.  Right hospital.  Right planet.  In my world, Mum’s don’t smile when their daughter’s faces have been torn off.

I take another step closer, and Lauren grins widely.  Another bit of her face falls free.

“Is that?”  I can’t help but touch the bit that fell.

“Don’t,” warns her Mum, slapping at my wrist.  I recoil like I’m four.  “It’ll stain, and then you’ll never get it off,” she coos, her best impression of a Stepford wife.

“Right, right,” I say, rubbing absently at the back of my hand, “I get it.  What’s the name of your school house?”

“Red House.”  Lauren rubs at her face, some more war paint falling.  Literally.  It isn’t blood all over her, it’s coloured zinc cream.  “Have I still got some on me?”

“Just a little bit.  You look like you’ve been through a mincer.”

“You silly sausage!” her Mum says.  With that, she lets out a little yelp, puling her hand to her mouth, like she’s broken a self-imposed bad-joke ban.

“Is the diazepam helping?” I ask.

“I think so,” Lauren says, her falling closed, “I can’t feel the spasm anymore.”

“Can’t feel anything anymore,” whispers her Mum.  The hand returns to its rightful spot.

“So what happened?”

“Well, I was finishing the race, the fifteen hundred metres.”  Lauren stops to take a breath.  And I was coming up the straight,” she continues, her arms starting to pump, “and I felt pain down my side, all down here…”  She touches her right loin, the only part not covered in red.  “The pain just kept building, and building and building.  Until I collapsed.”

“DNF,” says her Mum.

“Right,” I say.  They both stare at me.  “Which is code for?”

“Did not finish,” says Lauren, yawning slightly.

“Bummer.”

“Yeah, bummer.  But it’s all good now.”

“I’ll bet.”  She looks at me and giggles.  “Let’s have a look at your side.”

* * * * *

I lean Lauren forward.   “Tell me where it’s sore.”

“Yeah, right there,” she says.  I notice her singlet, a synthetic thing – probably made of recycled plastic bags.

“Fancy looking singlets they get you guys in these days, aren’t they?”

“Nah, that’s not from school, that’s indoor-cricket.”

“Right.”  I look across at Mum, still smiling proudly.

“So what time did this happen?”

“About one-thirty.  Just after high jump.”

“Right.  Was that your only other event?”  Both of them laugh.  I stand back, waiting.  For the gold.

“Ummm,” says Lauren, scratching her head and grinning.  More red flakes fall.  “No, there were others.”

“Go on.”  Lauren looks at her Mum, who smiles politely.  Like it’s shrink wrapped on.

“The one hundred, the two hundred, the four hundred.”  She stops and thinks for a moment.  “The high jump, the long jump, the eight hundred.”  She looks across at her Mum.

“The discus,” she continues.  They both think for a moment more.  I expect Mum to pull out a list.

“Shot put,” Lauren says.

“And then the fifteen hundred.”

They look at me, like it’s my turn.

“Is that it?”

“Well, then this happened, she couldn’t go on.”

“No, I guess not.”  They frown with disappointment.  “I’m joking.”   Their eyes light back up.  Even Lauren’s.  “I think we know how you got the muscle strain.”

“How?” says Lauren.  I look at her, and after a couple of seconds, she laughs.

“Have you been hydrating today?”

“Yeah.  I had an apple and some chips.”

“You had an apple and chips?”  I hear the disbelief in my voice, but I can’t help myself.  “Deep fried chips or crisps.  Chips?”  She nods.  “When did you have time for chips?

“Just before high jump.”

“And then you did the fifteen hundred metres.”

“Yep.”

“Doesn’t anyone else at your school do sports?

“Yeah.”

“Are you the only one in your house, then?”

“No,” she says, laughing, “I just like sports.”

“You like sports?  Really?”  She breaks into a full Valium-giggle.  “What else do you do?”

“Cricket, and footy umpiring.”

“She wants to play football with Melbourne Uni,” says her Mum, suddenly officious, “but we’ve said she’s got to leave it to umpiring at the moment.”  I look at this slight girl, swimming around in an oversized tank top, her wiry frame falling against the bed, flakes of red peeling off.

“You want to play footy against fully grown women at university?”  She nods.  “I mean, these aren’t just fully grown women.  These are the ones who like to play football.”

“You should see the size of some of them,” says her Mum.

“I really don’t want to.  I see the size of you.  You’re fifteen.  Why would you want to play against them?”

“I like sports,” she says plainly.

All I can do is nod.


* * * * *

I walk into the office, where Eric looks up.

“This girl had a muscle strain after running the one hundred, the two hundred, the four hundred, the eight hundred, the high jump, long jump, discus and shot put.  She did it during the fifteen hundred.”

“She strained a muscle?”

“Yep.”

“Geez, that’s bad luck.  Some people are just unlucky, aren’t they?”

“It was just after she had a steak and chips.”

He stands up, looking through the window and into her cubicle.

“How big is she?”

“Fifty kilos.”

“Shot put?”

“Yeah, she was born to do it.  And she wants to play footy against Melbourne Unis women’s side.”

“Jesus!” he says, “they’ll kill her!”  He sits back down.  “I played touch-footy against a mixed team that included some of those women.”   He shakes his head with sorrow.  “They didn’t understand the concept of touch.”

I look around the office, and see the nurse heading our way.

“How’s she doing with the diazepam?” he asks.

“She’s flying,” I reply.  “I think it’s the only thing that will stop her from training tonight.

We both stand and look through the window, this mother helping her daughter with her stretches.

“Did you tell her to do that?” he asks.

“Absolutely,” I reply.  “If she ever expects to win, she’s got to get back out there and throw herself into it.  Kid’s these days, I don’t know.”

“Did she win any of the events?”

“Nup.  Best she did was a third in the shot put.”  He looks at me and frowns.  “I know, the girl who came fourth is also in the waiting room.”  He looks at me, daring that its true.  “The worst thing, though, is that this girl was winning the fifteen hundred.”

“Oh no!” he cries, “gutted!”  We sit back down, and the nurse walks past, watching Eric as we do.  I catch her, and she blushes.

Eric returns to his notes, oblivious to this interchange.  I do too.  We both write for a couple of minutes.

“How many instruments does she play?”

“Sorry?”

“How many musical instruments does she play?”

I smile.  “I haven’t asked yet,” I say, getting up, “I’ll go and find out.”

I walk out through the door.  “I’ll be back in an hour,” I yell, as it closes behind, leaving Eric and the nurse in the office alone.

* * * * *

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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