Hey, maybe it’s nothing…

I just took a Lortab. If this entry stops tracking somewhere in the third or fourth paragraph, you’ll know why.

This morning I failed my dexterity roll rather literally. I was playing volleyball, dove for a ball (which I slapped badly), and then tucked into a right-left shoulder roll (lead with the right shoulder, roll across to the left hip). But I failed my roll, both literally and spectacularly. It ended up being a right-side “shoulder furrow,” followed by a rolling flop onto my back. There were funny noises and sharp pains, but no colorful metaphors because I was playing ball with a bunch of nice ladies from Church.

Ask anybody who has worked with me extensively: I’m quite capable of using foul language. I find it base, demeaning, and unfortunately rather expressive, if in a lowest-common-denominator sort of way. So… it’s not that I didn’t curse because I don’t know how, it’s that there was just enough higher function in my brain to override. What came out of my mouth was a grunt, followed by some throat-charring gutteral groaning as I put my shoulder through a quick self-test to see if anything was broken.

I can tell this is going to get long. Here’s the obligatory “More behind the cut” tag.

So… no breaks. I considered getting up and continuing play, but when I stood I realized there was a whole library of pain that needed cataloging, and librarians do their best work in cool, quiet places. I decided to go home.

For those of you waiting for the other shoe to drop, yes, I’ve lost most of the use of my right arm, and yes, that’s the arm I draw with.

Going home was a challenge, because TurboSchlock has a manual transmission. I made it home okay once I decided just to leave it in 2nd gear. It was all residential streets anyway.

The pain kicked in hard when I got home. I called the doctor and made an appointment, and then slammed 800mg of ibuprofen. In short order the pain in my head, neck, back, lower back, and legs had abated, leaving me with a very clear view of the pain in my shoulder.

*sigh*. I’m looking back and reading this, and it’s not coming out funny. Stupid drugs. I’ll try harder to get some funny bits in here. Hold still.

Cut to the doctor’s office: I’ve figured out how not to make the pain happen, and things have been okay. The doc palpates my clavicle, upper traps, and scapula and it just feels to me like a nice massage. No pain. Then he hits the rotating shoulder cuff with a ball-peen hammer (I wasn’t watching — he insists he was using his thumb, but first-hand reports from the nerves on the scene give the lie to that) and the lights go out.

No kidding — my vision went black with pretty stars, and I grunted something non-obscene. Bless you, higher brain, for preventing me from using 32 letters worth of four-letter words to insist that the doctor do something anatomically impossible, and to do it sideways.

Having found the spot that hurt, he sent me off to get X-rayed.

X-raying was fun. The jolt of pain in the doctor’s office triggered an adrenaline rush, followed closely by a short endorphine trip. I’m pretty in touch with my body (not like that, you pervert) and could tell what was happening. The endorphins were nice. For the first time since 10:35am (the time of the failed roll) I was relaxed. With my arm in a sling, I managed to draw a quick caricature of me, loopy on endorphins, on a Post-it note which I handed to the admissions clerk. Yes, it had the schlockmercenary.com URL on it. She seemed very pleased.

Diagnosis: According to the X-rays, I probably separated my shoulder, but it’s too swollen to really get a good palpation (sweet leather hot-pants of mercy THANK YOU) so the doc gave me two prescriptions, a sling to take home, and instructions to “take it easy.”

It’s been a rough afternoon. I’m a type-A personality. “Taking it Easy” means spending some time doing the dishes in between inking a week of strips and scanning them in for coloring. What the doctor really WANTS me to do is “convalesce.” I’m not very good at that. Case in point: I’ve been typing now for 20 minutes or more, and my shoulder is starting to ache. What I SHOULD be doing is sleeping.

Oh, funny bit. The doctor knows I’m a cartoonist (I asked him about healing times, and told him why I was interested) and ended up with my last URL card (which is why the cute admissions clerk downstairs got a Post-it note, but I digress). When I came back upstairs from admissions, he and the visiting RN had both read the first week of Schlock Mercenary. I groaned in a new kind of pain.

“Doc, I figure that if I have to learn to draw with my left hand, I’ll be able to get up to the level of quality seen in those early strips in about 90 minutes.”

It turns out that he and the nurse really liked them. After all, of the first four strips, three feature a doctor giving a physical.

So, on to answering the big question: “What does this injury mean for you, who need your daily Schlock fix?”

Answer: Nothing, yet. I’ve spoken to some other cartoonists, and if I can’t get healed up before July 23rd (a week from Friday), we’ll put something together that does not involve me drawing. Why July 23rd? Because that’s the end of Book IV, and would make a very natural place in which to insert a short mini-story scripted by me and drawn by other cartoonists.

It may not come to that. I don’t want it to — I’m a proud, proud person, and I have the first week of Book V drawn and ready to go. I’m sure I can heal up in time to get more material online. But if I can’t… well, I want you folks to keep coming back every day, so I’ll make sure there’s a compelling reason for you to do that.

Now you know. I’m sorry that wasn’t funnier. There have been some very, very funny moments today. I told a really good one about how I got my ass handed to me by a bunch of nice ladies from Church, and it had the radiologists rolling in the aisles, but I was high on endorphins at the time and can’t remember what I said. Yeah, those Church ladies really, REALLY handed it to me. Sideways.


36 thoughts on “Hey, maybe it’s nothing…”

  1. Aw, man, don’t worry about the comic. I damaged my rotator cuff in a car accident in my early 20’s and, like a fool, did not follow the doctor’s orders about resting the arm, immobilizing it, etc. I’ve ended up with a bad shoulder now and it’s only going to get worse. About the only thing that’s going to fix it is sports star priced work on it and I don’t have that kind of cash laying around. Do you? What about 10 or 20 years down the line? Any time you start feeling your type A personality taking over, just picture what Doctor Bunni would say to you, if she was treating you. Most likely, she’d laser off your feet so that you’d have to stay in bed. She could always re-grow them later.

    As for your fans, if tearing your arm from you socket means you have to miss a few strips, I think we’ll understand.

    Take. It. Easy!
    (and get better 🙂

    1. Seconded! As somewhone who has dislocatd both shoulders (I don’t ski anymore), I highly recomend R&R for the healing. Read and Relax. Heck, the new Harry Potter book is coming out this weekend. Heal, you heel, or I’ll call Sal and the Aegis crew and sick them on you.

      Git Well wishes from Michigan.

  2. Ouch! I agree with the previous poster, a few days without Schlock won’t bother us a bit, as long as we know you are behaving yourself and letting that shoulder heal! And I bet you have enough stuff laying around that you could scan in and put up a “sketch o’ the day” to keep us, (and you!) happy for a while. Just don’t push it, do what Sandra tells you, and learn to type one-handed for a while!

  3. You’ve managed to roll with the punchies, from the sound of it.

    I hope you are able to get your art out of the sling quickly, and be back on your hands with an abasolute minimum of pain and grief.

    Best wishes!

    ===|==============/ Level Head

  4. For a strip that has never had filler in the over five years of running, I think you’ve earned a short rest. Heal thyself.

    If it means filler, so be it. Your health is more important then pleasing your fans, frankly, and if they are any sort of people who care, they won’t mind the reason.

    Having eaten my pride before (had it handed to me on the metaphorical silver platter, actually), I can honestly say: mine needed salt, but was rather tasty.


    What’s all this “don’t worry about schlock” crap? I’m his BROTHER and I’m not gonna let him off the hook. Rotator cuff, schmotator schmuff!

    I mean, feel better. I was worried at the start of the post that it was a ‘shoulder-pain-and-some-heartburn’ story.

    I about gave you a heart attack.


      Not to worry. I’ve already told Howard that if the buffer ever does run out, I’ll be right there to draw stick-figure weeks until he gets better. And since I’m one of the backup admins for the website, I can even upload ’em, so there’s no need to worry.


        One of my other favorite cartoons is stick figures. He also hurt himself recently and had to take a bit of time off. If you did draw stick figures, somehow the circle would be complete!

        Just random thoughts … makes me think it’s probably time for bed!


        I second that motion and will be glad to draw, so long as nothing on par with vector-level coloring is involved.

    2. OK, worry about Schlock

      But I’d still rather he recovered completely in a couple of month with guest artists drawing Schlock, than pushed himself now and made the damage irreparable. 🙁

      As a sidenote: I think it’s a lot more important to continuity of the story to have the same author than the same artist. As long as Schlock is still written by Mr. Tayler, I’m not going to mind too much if it’s not drawn by him. “Drawn by another artist” is far, far superior to “stick figure week” or “dead artist day” or “guest filler week”. 😛


      Don’t worry about it, Randy? as soon as he’s better we’ll move in for the kill and complain loudly and bitterly that’s he’s got no excuse now so what is he playing at.

      Currently this is the softening-up phase.

  6. Oww!

    It’s not much of a silver lining, but at least it wasn’t your hand. I can at least envision drawing with an immobilized shoulder… “it’s all in the wrist”, hmm? Yeah, I know, not much help.

    All the same, get well soon!

    (I hope it doesn’t have to happen, but should it come to that, I humbly submit myself as a volunteer for guest comics.)

    (Oh, and incidentally, I did find this fun to read, apart from the fact that it wasn’t a particularly “fun” occurrence – particularly in your restraint from using obscenity, and the descriptions of such restraint. I only have to assume that which 32 letters of four-letter-words you were thinking of is an exercise left to the reader. After all, it sounds like you’ve already had enough exercise today.)

  7. What is it lately with some of my favorite cartoonists injuring themselves in ways that inhibit their drawing? (That’s not actually meant to sound selfish — I’d rather the artists take several weeks off than hurt themselves more!)

    Plain and simple: Rest up, get well, feel better!

  8. Owww! Poor Howard.

    You know, you could always do a thing you’ve never done before…


    Quick, how soon can we get Gabe and Tycho to draw?

  9. Ouch! That doth sucketh most mightely!

    Hope your shoulder heals quickly. If not, let me know and I might be able to work a “cut & past theater” version of your strip… Nothing like recycling old images in new and interesting ways. ^_-


  10. As someone who has had his shoulder buggered up once in a bicycle accident, I am very much in favour of you healing up properly even if it means some filler art.

  11. Rather competely off topic, but…

    For the last week or so, each and every [expletive] comic has had me actually laugh out loud. In any grade of exposition, this is pretty much unprecidented (Pratchett, one of my favorite authors, rates a laugh every hundred or so pages the first time I read him, just for comparison). For epilogueish encapsulations of exposition, it’s amazing!

    Like I said in the subject, off topic. As a short on-topic digression, I do hope you feel better: I am consistantly amazed at your buffer-fu and it would be unfortunate for you to break the trend after 5 years.

  12. In short order the pain in my head, neck, back, lower back, and legs had abated, leaving me with a very clear view of the pain in my shoulder.

    *sigh*. I’m looking back and reading this, and it’s not coming out funny. Stupid drugs.


    Howard, even drugged up, you made me laugh out loud with this one. Of course I’ve dealt with the, “Aaahhh, all the other distracting pain has gone away, now I can focus on the masterpiece” kind of pain before.

  13. First off, I’m really sorry that you got hurt.

    That being said, think of all the material you’ll be building up while you’re recovering and relax. The world will understand, mostly.

    And next time you go in for extreme sports, try something less dangerous than volleyball with church ladies. Even Vin Deseil doesn’t do that one!

  14. Huh. Let’s think about this. During the comic’s entire multi-year run, Howard has not missed a single day. Each and every day, seven days a week, 365 a year and all that, he has posted a brand spanking new comic in full color (with no throw away gags on Sundays), and did this while working forty hours a week, plus traveling extensively, plus holding down church-related jobs, plus spending time with his family.
    He has now inflicted horrible damage on himself (those “nice church ladies” can play hardball, man, let me tell you) and is worried he won’t be able to provide us with free entertainment.
    You know what?
    He should be! We are entitled to our free Schlock, each and every day, no excuses! We require, nay, deserve to have our Schlock handed to us on…
    Um, sorry. I mean, get better, man. We’ll wait.

  15. I’m sorry to hear you’re hurt, and I hope you heal soon! You just get better. You’ve been bringing years of Schlocky joy to us, and we won’t mind a few days.

  16. Commiserations and all that.

    Here from metaquotes. Never seen your strip before. Just spent a happy half hour reading and giggling. Lovely stuff.

    As a veteran of shoulder injuries, (And the way it works, my left shoulder is the one that always loses because I’m left handed. You, being a righty have naturally damaged the right.) I second all calls for R&R.

    When I broke my clavicle in an unscheduled departure from a motorcycle some years ago, like you I was attempting the roll thing, the lovely man from the London Ambulance service warned me that the endorphins from the accident would wear off and it would get “pretty lively in there”. He was not wrong.

    The only pain I’ve found to compete with this is standing up less than 24 hours after total knee replacement surgery 30 seconds after taking the 2 hours late percoset. That black place with the stars is very pretty, isn’t it?

    Find a comfortable position and stay there with a good book or the TV remote.

    1. Re: Commiserations and all that.

      Hurray for metaquotes!

      As for the black place with the stars being pretty, consider: If the only time you ever went to Maui, you had to walk on the beach with bamboo splinters shoved under each of your toenails and a sandpaper-wrapped corncob packed up your poop-chute and held in place with staples, how pretty would you find Maui?

      I’m just askin’.

      1. Re: Commiserations and all that.

        Oh, it would still be just as pretty… You just wouldn’t find me there!

        The whole seeing stars like in the comic books thing is fascinating. Or would be if it didn’t hurt like the aforementioned sandpaper-wrapped corncob being inserted sideways into orifices not designed for insertion.

        With the post-op knee thing I discovered that the pain-o-meter goes to 11: I saw the needle reach 10 and was still conscious (and still standing). So it must, therefore go to ll, if not further. I’m going to have the other knee replaced in the fall. I will report back.

      2. Re: Commiserations and all that.

        Well, that was a disturbungly graphic image… It’s sad that poopchute has more impact than ass these days. Over-usage, I guess.

        1. Re: Commiserations and all that.

          “Ass” is that pretty place where legs go when they grow all the way up.

          “Anus” would have been too clinical.

          There are any number of descriptive terms I could have used that would have had more impact than either of those two words. I chose “poop-chute” because of the, umm… assonance.


  17. here via ~metaquotes…

    I so feel your pain. I did about that when I was 20, taking a header off my bike. It was the followup to the part of the fall where I dislocated and fractured my elbow, so it didn’t get quite the attention it deserved.

    However, 15 years later, I am still dealing with the consequences. I have not-carpal-tunnel-syndrome, namely a knot-from-hell around my shoulder that causes me not to be able to use my right hand properly. Being “invincible” when I hurt myself, I never went to a Dr again for it after the initial x-ray of the elbow and application of the splint/binding, which I threw in the bin after 36 hours of annoyance. I think they gave me a shot of testosterone, not painkiller, I swear.

    Take care of yourself. Soft tissue injuries are a BITCH. Back away from the computer and desk, put ice on it, and check with a physio or occupational therapist after it heals. Then you won’t end up like me, unable to plunge yourself into debt because you can’t sign a credit card slip and forced to spend every Monday morning having a pretty girl rub her hands all over your shoulder and arm so you can write and draw again. …not making a good case for myself, but you get the point. 🙂

  18. Visiting from Metaquotes, and I can also relate to the shoulder injury! Mine isn’t as extensive as yours – but I can agree with you on the pain level. (I’d successfully managed to re-injure an old injury … how, I don’t know!)

    Of course they’ll come at you with the ballpeen hammers – and harpoon-size needles full of cortisone. I sometimes think that doctors do it for their own amusement. Or, maybe that’s just my doctors. 😉

    In any case – here’s hoping that you’ll have a speedy recovery, with plenty of good drugs and friends around to keep you in good spirits.

  19. Dang, Howard. You take care of that shoulder and get it well! A week or so of guest artists would be much better than losing my regular fix of Schlock because the artist permanently injured himself.

    you’re still funny, though

  20. Hello sir!

    I wandered over from to offer my sincere sympathy and commiseration, as I broke my left ankle in 3 places about 2 weeks ago. I may not feel your pain, but I feel more than enough for the both of us on my own.

    I too am not the most resty type. I broke my ankle doing takedowns in kung fu, and the next day I was wondering how in the hell I was going to manage my daily pushups. But I’ve found the one true solution to this problem: Percocet. It makes you sleepy and dizzy and a fair bit numb. Therefore you can sleep. A Lot. So there’s my unlicensed medical advice for today!

    p.s. Nice Comic.

  21. Ow. Take it easy and get well. That has to be a, indeed the priority. This is long term repair we need to ensure not a quick and dirty bodge that lasts a year or so.

    And congrats on not using profanity. I would have, I know.

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