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True Stories by Steve Keely
Hobo Memoirs


15 March ‘05

A wart is a wishful cancer, benign, often persistent and caused by a virus they say. Mine carried me around on the right knuckle for ten years defying every treatment until I went to India.

A thin guide led me to a doctor down a cobblestone street crammed with shanties in the Bombay shipyard. “This is the doctor,” he revered, and one of the doors opened at his
rap.  A teenager in soiled rags stepped out holding an antique leather medical case that he
opened solemnly after examining the knuckle. Within lay a neat arrangement of scalpels, suction cups, hoses and medicine vials.  He was professional and the case so worn that I gained confidence.

Inquisitive neighbors circled us on the street, kids crawled out windows, and a
cow peeked out a front door.  “This is what wart roots look like,” and the doctor shook a vial of gray slivers that resembled half-inch flukes.  The crowd gasped, so I resisted stating that everyone in the West knows warts have no roots. Nor did I argue when he set the fee at a buck a root.

He pulled a scalpel, demonstrated its edge on a dirty shirttail, and took my finger in a steady hand.  The wart was lopped off without ceremony or anesthesia. Spurting blood threw the watchers back. “Now for the roots!” He produced a suction thimble with a quick hand movement and placed it atop the wound. In-and-out it squeezed until the liquid surged to draw them again. He held high the cup.

‘’Roots!’ he shouted, and poured a thimbleful of blood and gook onto a cobble. “Count them: One, two, three, four…and five!” They wiggled like tiny worms. The scamp extended his other hand as I haggled to $3.00 which he snatched.

“Jungle powder!” he declared and sprinkled black powder from one of the vials onto the wound pressing it in with his own finger.  “Go in peace,’ he said, the wart is gone.”   The crowd removed, the cow pulled in its head, the doctor closed the case and latched the door, and the wart never reappeared.

Twenty years passed… today. The flat scar has migrated to the back of my hand and a sliver protrudes the center like a gray arrow. I pull and hold it to the sun – ‘Root!’ I laugh. However, it resembles what waggled on the cobble.

A potential cancer cure dawned on me over the next hour. The main problem in present treatments is that systemic side effects prove as lethal as the cure. I had held that a local injection into the target organ or region would work except that the medicine – necessarily super-potent – would shortly leak into the circulation and poison the rest of the body. When I saw the gray sliver thinned by two decades of dissolution, I pictured a medicinal shard insert into a cancerous organ or area. It would liquefy over time directly but slowly into the diseased area and not seep into the system.

The Indian dockyard bones where warts are indigenous, in retrospect, used slight of hand to squeeze the suction cup curative ‘roots’ directly into the wart after excising the top. Perhaps more ‘roots’ dissolved during the hiatus; it was a crap shoot which is as efficacious as present cancer therapy that killed my mother and perhaps your loved ones.

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