In January of 1998, I was a fairly desperate man. A full-time gig for Comico had turned to “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin”—which is to say that Tim Brown and I came to realize the CEO would never dredge up the courage to actually publish what we’d worked on. And shortly after that, our own independent project stalled out for reasons I might suggest to you over a beer sometime. If you buy.
I still had four daughters at home, from elementary grades to high school, and money was tight. Game design as a career looked dead, unless I either applied to WotC or made the transition to computer game design. Either meant uprooting the family, likely every three to five years from that point forward. And frankly, having moved from Central Illinois to Wisconsin for the TSR job had put my girls through too much trauma. So I knuckled down and looked for other work.
While searching, sending résumés, and doing interviews, for milk money I took a job soldering horn parts at a plant within walking distance of home. (I come from a factory background originally, with 8 1/2 years as a welder and sheet-metal worker for GE.) After work, I’d return home stinking of oil and smoke—or as I put it at the time, “smelling like a french horn.” At 28 days into this job, they asked if I’d do Saturday overtime (day 29), and I eagerly took the opportunity for a few more bucks.
Except I never made it out of my yard. Crossing the driveway—in Army boots even—I slipped on the ice, caught my weight on my left ankle, and fractured the end of the tibia into three pieces.
That was my first broken bone ever. It hurt like hades. I lay there on the ice, gasping pre-dawn air, thinking, “I’m going to freeze to death before anyone misses me.” So I crawled back to the front steps, pulled myself to one leg, hopped upstairs to my second-story apartment, and said to my spouse, “Give me the strongest painkiller you got, and then call the hospital; I just broke my F-ing ankle.”
(For what it’s worth, on the following Monday, day 31 of the soldering job, my insurance would have kicked in. This uninsured fall was truly an “unlucky break.”)
The doctor installed the plate and screws you see above and fitted me with a cast. I attended my next writing interview on crutches, and I’m pretty sure it was a mercy hire. I’ve worked there ever since.
And I’ve had this appliance ever since. But next month it comes out. If you click the image for a larger view, you’ll see that the bottom screw protrudes a bit. It rubs against my shoe and prevents me from lying on that side at night.
So, so long, cyborg ankle!