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A True-Life Theatrical Fish Story

August 31, 2013

True story: at the beginning of this month, I was bit by a dead shark onstage after a Mad Science show, and I had to get five stitches on my right hand.  It was at the Johnson Space Center (yes, NASA’s “Houston”).  Soooooo, “Houston, we have a problem!  One of our performers was seriously injured by a dead shark and is bleeding all over the stage!”  I’ll admit, I’m not actually quoting anything that was stated verbally, though that’s more or less the phrase that ran through my head as I attempted to staunch the bleeding with paper towels before it damaged the less cleanable bits of my equipment.

Let’s tell this story properly, though, shall we?  Once upon a time, at the beginning of August, Elisa was scheduled to do eight Mad Science shows at the Johnson Space Center.  The shows were titled “Animals.  Science.  Who Knew?” and they were booked as a part of the Space Center’s “CHOMP!” exhibit.  The shows basically dealt with A) the science of animal survival and B) how animals inspire and further the cause of scientific innovation.  The Mad Science equipment included a good number of stuffed animals and puppets that were positioned around the stage, and the stage itself was decorated with quite a few skulls and jaws of various carnivorous animals.  Several of the stuffed animals and puppets were leaning against or sitting on the display logs to which the skulls and jaws were permanently affixed.  After my fourth show (the second show of the second day), I was putting equipment away, and when I went to grab a bird puppet, I bumped my hand against a shark jaw.  It was sharp, and when I felt the prick on my hand, my reflex action was to pull the hand back.  That was, in retrospect, a bad move, because the next thing I knew, I was bleeding all over the stage, my lab coat, and the shark jaw display.  I attempted to staunch the bleeding with paper towels and used a good number of bandages from my purse’s first-aid kit, called the Mad Science office to let them know what was going on, and then went to report the bio-hazard to the Space Center powers-that-be.  I wound up awkwardly filling out an incident report (neither of my hands were working very well, probably because I was in shock) and getting a map to the nearest urgent care facility, which was happily just across the street.  After driving across the street, painfully filling out even more paperwork, taking a drug test, and getting permission from the office to file for workman’s compensation, I received five stitches in my right hand.  The cuts took slightly more than three weeks to heal.  They are now scarred over (thank heaven!  That really had me worried).  Still, where I nearly took off the knuckle flesh on my pinky finger it still hurts more than I feel it should, especially when I bump the hand into something in passing.

Aaaaaand this is by far the strangest on-stage fish story I have in my arsenal, and it’s a pretty big arsenal.  This particular fish story is likely to take pride of place for the rest of my career, especially since it actually involves a fish, though it was dead at the time.  As my former room-mate said when I told her the story, “You know, Elisa, you’ve really got to watch out for those space fish.”  Who knew?  -E.G.D.

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