Within Close Range: short stories of an American childhood – Annie, Annie, are you all right?

Everyone is anxious to be outside when spring comes to the Midwest.

And even though patches of mud-colored snow and ice still mar the school grounds, all I can see is sun and green because I’m sporting a new pair of white, Calvin Klein jeans, and red leather, Dr. Scholl’s sandals.

Making half-hearted attempts to throw a Frisbee to each other during lunch break, Jean, Megan and I are just happy to be breathing fresh air daily denied us in the newly constructed prison we call high school.

This semester, we’re in health class together being taught the basics of CPR. To help us, we have “Annie”, a training manikin in a spiffy red track suit, who inspires far more sexual asides than careers in the health care industry.

The first thing we’re taught when approaching the polyester-clad casualty is to ask:

“Annie, Annie, are you all right?”, while gentle shaking her shoulders; and if this fails to get the proper response – which it inevitably did – then it was time for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

I think.

I haven’t really been paying attention.

None of us have.

So things don’t bode well when chasing the disk in my new, wooden, single-strap, Dr. School’s sandals, they hydroplane on the slippery, spring surface, sending me skimming across the old ice and new grass, into a cold, muddy puddle.

Slamming me hard against the half-frozen earth.

Searching for the wind knocked out of me, I bolt upright to see Jean and Megan racing my way. First to my arrive, Megan kneels by my side, and shaking me vigorously, asks:

“Annie, Annie, are you all right?!”

Then falls into a fit of laughter.

Jean isn’t laughing.

Grabbing me from behind with the strength of an Amazon, she lifts me off the ground and thrusts with all her might at my abdomen.

I don’t know whether to laugh, vomit, or pass out, but manage to signal, “That’s NOT it!”

and for Jean to release her hold.

Exhausted and humiliated, I slip to the ground – grateful to be alive but wishing I was dead.

Arm in arm, in the full day’s sun, we walk across the sparse spring lawn, revealing my grassy, mud-stained ass and “big girl” undies – now exposed – thanks to that lethal combination of white pants and puddles.

When Mrs. Waldeck, the School nurse, looks up from her desk,

it’s hard to tell whether her expression is anger, aggravation, or pity.

It certainly isn’t surprise.

Mumbling something about pinochle as a proper past time and a big bonfire for burning all clogs and sandals, she leads me to the back room where I can wash up; then offers the unsatisfactory suggestion that I slip on my gym shorts for the remainder of the day.

My face says it all, so she hands me the phone and suggests I call home.

Mom, as is the norm, is nowhere to be found.

Apparently, the day’s humiliation is far from over.

And this Annie is feeling anything but all right.

Author: Anne Celano Frohna

I have been writing for as long as I could hold a pencil in hand and would not feel complete without it. And I actually made a meager living at it (and as an editor) for 25 years. I worked for newspapers and magazines, in graphic arts and advertising, and wrote several local history books. But I have also taught English in Japan, been a Nanny in Italy, worked in and for museums, was an Airbnb Superhost for four years, as well as an Etsy shop owner where I sold vintage items I found over the years of thrift and yard sales. After moving to Arizona with my family in 2010, I completed a series of different writing projects, including two books of creative non-fiction: Just West of the Midwest: a comedy (Based on journals I kept during my two years as an English teacher in rural Japan.) Within Close Range: short stories of an American Childhood (Short stories and poems about growing up as the middle of five children in suburban Chicago.) I've also written children's stories and continue to write short fiction, but have recently found my voice in poetry. This blog, however, is where my greatest passion comes alive. I am also a mother of two wonderful girls, Eva (23) and Sophia (21) and wife to one wonderful husband, Kurt.

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