A few years back, I got this thing on my neck. The skin felt tight, like a zit was forming, and I could feel a bump about the size of a dime. I could never find the right arrangement of mirrors to see it, but Molly assured me that, yes indeed, I had a red bump about the size of a dime on the back of my neck. Thinking it was a zit of some kind, I tried to pop it, but to no avail. I spent a few days telling myself I shouldn't fuss with it, and fussing with it anyway. Pinching it could make it more distended, but it would always return to its original dime shape. Eventually I forgot about it.
But it didn't go away. A few months later, I found myself fussing with something on the back of my neck while lecturing. I realized I was fussing with the same damn dime thing, and that it must look weird to the students, so I thrust my hands in my pockets. For the next week, whenever I got really absorbed in what I was doing, I found that I was unconsciously pinching the weird thing on the back of my neck.
After a while, the weird thing started to hurt. I had decided long ago that it couldn't be a zit. It was too tenacious and too large. Besides, I am finally at an age where one has relatively clear skin. I was beginning to worry that some strange space larva was going to erupt from my neck at any moment. And it hurt. Finally, I decide to call a dermatologist. I’m flipping through the phone book, trying to figure out if dermatologists are under D for “dermatologist” or P for “Physicians—dermatologists,” and I’m pinching the thing on my neck. Then there is an audible “SPLUT” as the thing finally pops. It was a zit after all.
About a thimble full of pus is on my hand. Now in most contexts, a thimbleful is not very much. If you have a thimble full of whiskey, no one will take your car keys away. You can add a thimbleful of garlic to a dish and no one will think it too strong. But a thimble full of pus, that’s quite a lot. I washed my hands, cleaned the blood off my neck, and put away the phone book.