from “The Rule of One”

Apply pressure and elevate.

I know that’s how you stop bleeding. But this is my nose. I just cut it shaving. A careless flick of the razor and I caught the wing of my right nostril. The gore, the gore. I don’t know how to elevate my nose.

“You ready?” my wife yells from downstairs.

Since when is she ready before me? We’re going for an R and R dinner tonight. That’s Rachel and Ron, our friends we told where to go in Italy. They went, they’re back, we’ve seen some pictures online. Tonight they’re going to tell us about it. And now I’ve got this bleeding nostril.

“Almost.” I press a handful of toilet paper to the wound.

“If we leave early we can swing by Newton and look at trees.”

Some weeks ago we planted three cherry trees in the yard. Over night they were denuded of leaves by deer. In crisis mode we set out deer repellent, a particulate poured into leftover pantyhose and hung from the branches. Not attractive, which I guess is the point if you’re a deer. Not attractive if you’re a human, too, which doesn’t matter to my wife. Such is her commitment to trees, while I am Darwinian.

I yell okay. But this thing is not okay. If it would just clot. Stick of piece of toilet paper on it, usually it clots. Not this time.

“Let’s get some of that spray,” she yells up to me. Another repellent, you spray it on the tree. It’s Off for deer. I hear on the steps, she’s coming up.

She pushes through the door into the bathroom, sees the sink full of bloody tissues. “Hey, what?”

“I cut myself.”

“I can see that. Geez it’s bloody. Did you try a band aide? Did you stick a piece of toilet paper on it? Did you apply pressure?”

“All those things.”

“How about ice?”

“That’s for swelling.”


“Swelling, bleeding, not the same thing.”

She opens a door of the vanity. “Gauze.”

I tell her first we have to stop the bleeding.

“Should we go to emergency? Lemme see that.” I lift the toilet paper from my sliced nostril. In the mirror I see a red ribbon of blood trickle down my lip. It’s just like TV.

“Ew,” she says.

“Ow,” I say. It really hurts.

“What about one of those things?”

A butterfly stitch, I think she means. “That might work,” I say.

On the way to the drug store we talk about replacement trees, in case our cherry trees pass away. How about a ginkgo tree? How about a red bud? We could plant another honey locust. Maybe deer prey on fruit trees. All the little trees are dying, she says. That old crab apple won’t last much longer. Two bad winters in a row. I hold tissue to my nose, which continues to seep blood. I’ve got more tissues in my pockets, just in case. She says she hopes we’re not too late for dinner.

The pharmacist, when we ask first aide advice, wants to see the cut. I show him and he says he doesn’t think a butterfly stitch will work, we’re welcome to try, but he recommends an antihemorrhagic.

“Your nose is wet, where the stitch should adhere,” he says. “A butterfly stitch will come loose.”

“His nose is always wet,” my wife says. “He’s like a beagle.”

The pharmacist points at my nose. “Jack Nicholson.”


“Chinatown? The movie? He’s J. J. Gittes. And Faye Dunaway is…someone. Wonderful film. Water rights, skullduggery. Very up to date all of a sudden, wouldn’t you say?” He squints a little, peers at my nose, considers it. He has a reddish nose. He’s balding on top, has longish gray hair, long enough to cover his ears. He’s obviously worn the white coat for quite a while. “Roman Polanski,” he says. “wielding a switchblade. I believe the Nicholson nose required stitches.”

“Gittes,” I say.

He nods.

“He cut himself shaving,” my wife explains, implying, I guess, there is no skullduggery. “Will he need stitches?”

He points us to aisle five. Tells us styptic pencil is our best bet.

I read the package out loud in the car: Anhydrous aluminum sulfate. So that’s what it is.

“Do it.”

“A vasoconstrictor, it says,” I say. “This stuff hurts.”

“Doesn’t it hurt already? You’re bleeding. Do it. Shouldn’t you try it?”

I lean forward, strain to see my nose in the rearview mirror. I’ll do it when we get to Rachel and Ron’s, I tell her. It might be messy.