The War of the Warts

Albert grew warts on his hands ten years ago.  Big, ugly growths that challenged even the most well-bred among his acquaintances to look into his eyes during conversation instead of down at his hands in fascinated revulsion.  Worse still, small children recoiled when the otherwise beloved Mr. Wall reached down to tousle their hair.

This picture shows Albert’s hands about three years ago when the warts were quite small compared with how they looked six months ago.

Albert's warts

A friend advised him to bandage the warts in duct tape to get rid of them.  Albert readily complied; duct tape as a fix-all is habitual with him and a redneck naturally inclines to a redneck solution to his problems.  It didn’t work.  The warts remained and left me wondering whether the homeopathic principle of applying like to like holds any merit at all.duct tape

Next, Albert underwent cryotherapy in his doctor’s office.  The treatment is aptly named – liquid nitrogen pressed to flesh to freeze it to death can reduce anyone to tears.  He endured twelve treatments over a six month stretch and each time, the freezing produced huge, angry blisters that rendered every task involving his hands an excruciating ordeal.  I would not have considered such pain worth smooth, blemish-free hands even if it had worked but to watch Albert endure such agony to no avail seemed even crueler.  The warts crawled out from under the carnage as though nothing had gone off to interrupt tactical proceedings of Operation Ugly.

Sometime later, an elderly Tante from church telephoned with a new solution to Albert’s problem.  She instructed him to count the warts and then call her back with the number.  She would then cut a length of string into the same number of pieces, tie a knot in each one and bury them in the garden after nightfall.  This, she assured him, had purged many a warty one back in the Mexican Darpa when she was a girl.  She felt certain it would do the same for Albert.

Matthew makes no mention of Jesus tying bits of string into knots when he healed the centurion’s servant and so Albert gently let her know that if this method of distance healing was actually effective, it was owing to Hakjse’rie (witchcraft).  This took the unwitting sorceress by surprise.  It hadn’t occurred to her to wonder how or why her wooly bit of wisdom might work.  On hearing Albert’s position though, she promptly abandoned the scheme.  There was apt to be a cure out there that was every bit as efficient as Hakjse’rie, she reckoned, for we’d none of us better mess with that.

The medical route had proved a dismal failure.  Folklore monkeyshines were out of the question.  Albert turned again to a more homegrown approach, one that, were it to fail, would not be for lack of sheer brutality.

Henry Froese had once offered to boil the warts out with battery acid.  He had successfully rid himself of warts this way, he said, so the prognosis for Albert was very good.  Albert now agreed to the idea, leaving me in no doubt that cryotherapy freezes more than just warts.

First, Henry applied an electric grinder to the warts.  He must cut away the tough outer layer, he explained, to allow the acid to penetrate the roots.  His theory made sense except that after ten minutes, the grinder had achieved no more than buff the warts to a high shine.  Albert’s hands took on a freakishly dapper look, as though groomed to audition as a hand double in some science fiction movie.  James Bond, Molefinger.

Henry attacked again, this time with a pair of shears, and the warts gave way.  His exultant grin widened with each one that capitulated and fell screaming in the blood which pooled in the grass below Albert’s mutilated hands.  A twig lay handy near his feet so he used it to administer battery acid to the amputated warts.  When the bright red blood sizzled, turned black and congealed, Henry declared the operation a success.


And it was a success, depending on how you looked at it.  Battery acid had the effect of Miracle-Gro on a prize-winning rose bush.  The warts, pruned and fertilized, grew back bigger, gnarlier and more obnoxious-looking than the ones pictured above.

Albert’s not one to admit defeat to anything, but I think he gave up on them then.  At least, he stopped trying to do anything about them.  They hurt and bled as he worked the farm but he said little about it.  The warts continued to sprout and spread, eventually threatening to take over his hands.

In January, his little brother Matthew, a mechanic, happened to cure his own warts quite by accident.    The constant exposure of his hands to gasoline, Varsol and the frigid winter air dried and chapped his hands painfully so he turned to Mother Wall for help.  She gave him the remains of a bottle of moisturizer which he sniffed before declaring, “It smells girly.  But I don’t mind” and proceeded to bathe his hands in it every day.

Not only did his wiry hands take on velvety suppleness and the exotic fragrance of cocoa butter, his warts disappeared within a couple of months.002

His testimony was enough to revive hope in Albert one last time.  He examined the bottle, turned it upside down and squeezed about half a cup into his right hand.   No dime-sized pat for him; he slathered more lotion on himself than I’d known human skin could absorb but I underestimated Albert.  He steadily worked it into his hands and as he worked, Mother Wall’s kitchen flooded with the warm, heady scent of cocoa plantations and renewed determination.

Mother Wall studied his single-minded chafing for a while.  “Here,” she said, “take the bottle home with you.”

And he did.  Shortly after, I accompanied Albert to Sally Beauty Supply in St. Thomas.  It’s not the sort of shop he was wont to patronize but his daily embalming ceremony had quickly drained the remains of Mother Wall’s container.  His only hope for expelling those warts resided in a fresh bottle of Queen Helene cocoa butter hand and body lotion, no matter where he had to go to get it.

Its luxuriously smoothing properties exhibited themselves about a month later when Albert attended a viewing at Kebbel funeral home.  He stood in a group of mourners conversing in subdued tones when his buddy Michael walked in.  He and Albert are too close for something so formal as a handshake to feel anything other than awkward but since Michael exchanged the ritual with everyone else in the circle, there was nothing for Albert to do but stick out his hand.

Michael took it.  “I always figured you’d have a working man’s hands.” he remarked in a tone mildly surprised yet loud enough for the corpse to hear.  “They’re soft as a baby’s bum!”

I don’t know what Albert said out loud.  He chose not to say what was in his head.  But even this mortification couldn’t sway his zealous devotion to the queen of cocoa butter and soon, she rewarded his loyalty.  The warts began to disappear.  Not fall off, just shrink and…disappear.  She waved her creamy scepter over blemishes which nitrogen, power tools and battery acid had failed to cast out and banished them without so much as a wince of pain or a drop of blood from her subject.


It was my turn to eye the bottle with interest.  It was disconcerting to think that such power resided in an ordinary bottle of hand lotion retailing at $6 on the shelves at Sally Beauty but Albert didn’t share my concern.  I guess if you let Henry Froese dip a dirty stick in battery acid and stuff it into your bloody knuckles, you don’t much care what’s inside a harmless-looking plastic container so long as it cures what ails you.  So it doesn’t bother me either.  Albert’s hands, Albert’s toil worn, battle-scarred, beautiful hands are healed of the lumpy, painful growths that plagued them for over ten years.  And that’s good enough for both of us.



4 responses to this post.

  1. Last time I saw hands like that I was watching a Nivea commercial.


  2. That’s awesome!! I’m so glad he was able to finally rid himself of them. Warts are such horrible things. I wonder what else that miracle lotion could cure.


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