When my father was in medical school, he did a rotation in the emergency room of a hospital in rural South Carolina. He saw some seriously weird and horrible stuff during his time there, but one of his stories in particular has stuck in my head.

There was a local guy who showed up with a bullet wound in the middle of his forehead. It was a small-caliber, soft lead slug that hit and spread out across the bone in a nickel-sized circle without breaking it. It was accompanied by a powder burn, which indicated he'd been shot at very close range. The doctor cut the bloody lump of the bullet out, cleaned and bandaged the wound, and sent him home with a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers.

Several months later, he showed up at the ER with the same kind of gunshot wound. And again, a few months after that. And again and again.

It turned out that this guy had been going into crowded honky tonks and getting people to bet on whether he could shoot himself square in the head and walk away from it. Figuring they wouldn't have to owe any money to a dead man, people ponied up hundreds of dollars.

Once the pot was big enough, this guy would go out into the parking lot with the crowd of blood-lusty drunks in tow, pull out his pistol loaded with underpowered, soft ammo, and shoot himself point-blank in the forehead.

My father guesses that the first time, the guy was drunk and suicidally desperate. When his ploy worked, he turned it into a regular bar bet moneymaking scheme. My dad examined the guy after his fifth or sixth trip to the ER -- he said that the skin of his forehead was thickly scarred, and that the bone was starting to build up in response to the repeated bullet impacts. He also figured that he'd probably destroyed most of the pain nerves in his forehead (though of course the impact gave the guy a killer headache).

None of the ER doctors could convince this guy to stop shooting himself in the head. It wasn't just the money; this was apparently the only thing this guy was really good at. He liked the charge of cheating death. And he loved the expressions of horror, amazement, and frustrated anger he got from onlookers who'd paid their hard-earned cash to see a parking lot suicide.

I would fervently hope that none of the noders here would be thick-skulled enough to try a hugely dangerous stunt like this ... or thick-skulled enough to succeed.

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